Thursday, December 31, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
First and foremost is the problem that the late formulation of the 13 Ikkarim in no way negates the fact that the halchic status of a heretic had already existed for a considerable length of time. Accordingly his inference that we should not be/feel compelled to affirm and particular set of beliefs from the late dating of the 13 Ikkarim is a total non-sequitur.
His statement, "I promise you that almost all the observant people you know would have difficulty if they were asked to verbalize their precise true beliefs and have them compared to the "icarim"." clearly falls into the category of an ad populum fallacy. The success or failure of people to accept something does not negate it's truth, nor does people's lack of faith negate the obligation to have faith.
The truth is that, "rationally" speaking the question isn't whether one should affirm ikkarim when one finds them, well, less than compelling. The much more significant question is why on earth would someone affirm a world view which asserts numerous points which they disagree with even if they are inclined to agree with a skeleton of "fundamental" views? The question isn't whether the ikkarim are sufficient or necessary for being Jewish, it is whether it makes any sense to affirm Judaism when one disagrees with it on any issue up to [and maybe including] the ikkarim?
It is especially perplexing when there is an alternative religion, Conservative Judaism, where such a theology is normative and one's observance is considered acceptable. Don't get wrong, I guess I'm kind of a big tent guy, but that is a matter of wanting to see people closer to the truth rather than farther. From a logical standpoint I just fail to see the appeal for people to affirm a belief system when it requires so many astrixes.
I believe [the] comment raises some significant questions on how to proceed in actualizing a modern day "Rationalist" Movement envisioned. The fact is that many of those most excited by the prospect, and active in the dialectic, are those who have a tenuous relationship to fundamental principles of Yiddishkeit. I'm not talking about those who question the Rambam's enumeration, but those who have effectively dismissed the notion of heresy. This was an issue for the Rambam's version of Rationalism as well, with people who considered themselves his successors denying that which he affirmed (such as creation Yesh M'Ayin), and attributing such beliefs to him.
Such people help with momentum but compromise the theological integrity of a neo-Rationalist movement. And while it may not be exactly a logically inevitable, it is realistically inevitable that the halachic integrity will be compromised. While one might argued that committed orthodox rationalists will conform to kabbalisticly influenced halachos in anticipation of the day when a kosher Sanhedrin returns things to their "proper" order, this strikes me as highly unlikely and unattainable once we introduce a significant number of members who do not really anticipate the coming of Moshiach or are otherwise not ideologically committed. (I do not mean to limit halachic compromise to kabbalisticly influenced psak, but it would be the first.)
I guess what I'm saying is, be careful what you wish for Rationalists.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
R. Micha, while this might not be as extensive of a concession as you might have hoped for, its the best I can do at the moment. :)
44. Al Khazari: It is strange that you should possess authentic chronology of the creation of the world.
45. The Rabbi: Surely we reckon according to it, and there is no difference between the Jews of Khazar and Ethiopia in this respect.
46. Al Khazari: What date do you consider it at present?
47. The Rabbi: Four thousand and nine hundred years. The details can be demonstrated from the lives of Adam, Seth and Enōsh to Noah; then Shem and Eber to Abraham; then Isaac and Jacob to Moses. All of them represented the essence and purity of Adam on account of their intimacy with God. Each of them had children only to be compared to them outwardly, but not really like them, and, therefore, without direct union with the divine influence. The chronology was established through the medium of those sainted persons who were only single individuals, and not a crowd, until Jacob begat the Twelve Tribes, who were all under this divine influence. Thus the divine element reached a multitude of persons who carried the records further. The chronology of those who lived before these has been handed down to us by Moses (Kuzari 1:44-47, 1905 translation by Hartwig Hirschfeld)
The discussion is about the "creation of the world" which would imply the six days of creation preceding and inclusive of the creation (or giving of a soul to) Adam HaRishon. I think this is further emphasized by "the Rabbi"'s response in 1:61 that reliable information that the world was older than 4900 years would challenge his faith, which at very least would be inconsistent with a view that tool wielding hominids roamed the world prior to one of them being given a neshamah.
Does this settle the matter, of course not. But I do think that the Kuzari can be included among those who see no reason for “אֵין מִקְרָא יוֹצֵא מִידֵי פְּשׁוּטוֹ” to inherently exclude the beginning of Bereishis.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The Meiri has three classifications of Scripture with respect to allegorical interpretation, those which must be interpreted only allegorically, those which can have an additional allegorical meaning, and those which may not be interpreted allegorically at all. The Meiri includes the creation of the world in the latter category which is forbidden to interpret allegorically.(Beis HaBechira 3:11, cited in Interpretation and Allegory, page 205)
Meiri's mention of chiddush ha-olam should probably be understood as referring to the fact that the creation of the universe ex nihilo rather than to the specifics of how it was created. (page 115).In difference to the tentative, reserved tone of this argument I will offer a tentative, reserved counter-argument, with my reader's knowing full well my ability to miss the obvious. From a philosophical perspective, I'm sure the practical concern with which the Meiri had in mind was Aristotle's (and/or Plato's) theory of the eternity of the universe. It seems to me, however, that this is not directly relevant for two reasons.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
OTOH I know an OJ Rabbi who just says "Nu, so Chazal were wrong on that point, its not the end of the world".
That's the kind of response that makes me regret that there is no RW Conservative movement for people like that to go to so we don't have Orthodox rabbis who say things like that. Maybe that's a plus of the Maharat phenomenon. There will be a new movement and Modern Orthodoxy can have the courage to be not only Modern but also Orthodox.
I'm not sure if I agree but I know how he feels.
Rock discovered the hottest hair on the market is found in India, where human hair is the number two export behind software. "This is some of the worst poverty in the world," he says. "I don't think [people] know they're walking around with $1,000 on their head."
While in India, Rock witnessed a tonsuring ceremony at the Venkateswara Temple. Every year, more than 10 million people cut their hair off as an offering to the Hindu gods. "In India, hair is considered a vanity, and removing hair is considered an act of self-sacrifice," he says.
"These people have no idea where their hair is going or how much it's worth. The money made at this temple is second only to the Vatican. The hair collected here is auctioned off to exporters who distribute it around the planet."
This is in no way intended to comment upon the permissibility of Indian Hair Sheitel's
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Good question, my point is that while you have [subsequently] used the term "fake history" to describe apparent age, for us there is no nafka mina. I might compare it to the old question, "if a tree falls in the forest." Without direct experiential observation such reality isn't actualized. Nevertheless whether you take the "traditional" approach that this was experienced in time, or the approach which I have dubbed "retroactive existence", I think that their is a purpose for the period in question, but I don't think that the purpose is served any better by the former approach than the later (and in some ways I think the later is better but that is another discussion). I guess my point is that there isn't a significant difference, for the most part, between apparent age and "past".
The first formulation is simply misleading in that it implies that Hashem has a "when".
I'm still trying to absorb this objection. How would you apply this though to the machlokes about whether the world was created in Nissan or in Tishrei, or more specifically the notion of "elu v'elu" regarding the machlokes? (Recognizing that their are different approaches to "elu v'elu", but your thoughts in relation to your objection).
That said, you would be hard pressed to find a rishon who believed in a young universe.
“The result of the application of such a method of interpretation would be that there would not be an item left of the entire story of the creation [of the world] that would not be divested of its literal meaning, which is the creation and origination of things.” ( Rav Sa'adia Gaon, Emunos v'Deos , Yale Translation page 425).
“The second category consists of [those texts] which should be according to their ‘apparent’ meaning…[This category also includes]the story of the Creation, and other miracles” (Meiri, Beis haBechira, Avos 3:11, cited here Bold mine)
I would be very interested in your source. This seems like a very odd subject matter for the Mishnah, no? Furthermore we have already noted that Rav Sa'adia Gaon felt the need to preserve the pshat of this perek. Likewise, when the Rambam cautions that a possible non-literal reason is not sufficient reason to reject the peshat, it is with regard to inyanim relevant to this perek!
Parshas B’reishis: In the Beginning, Brias HaOlam according to the Torah and the contemporary scientific understanding
Parshas Noach: Evidence for a Global Flood?
Here Gosse Nothing
Genetics and Apparent Age
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Any written record will be rejected as a YU-Haskalah forgery, or something that God miraculously created to test our faith, all in order to avoid the conclusion that an authentic Torah scholar taught at YU http://seforim.blogspot.com/2009/10/some-assorted-comments-and-selection.html
Monday, October 26, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I (God) will deal with the fruits of the Assyrian king's conceit, and with the glory of his arrogant eyes. For he said , 'With the strength of my hand have I accomplished (בכח ידי עשיתי)--- It is as if a rod could shake those who lift it; as if a stick could lift one who is not wood! (Isaiah 10:12,13, 15)
Monday, October 19, 2009
B'ezras Hashem, I will have some new posts soon, and have a chance to give R. Waxman's comments their due.
In the meantime, we've been at this for over a year now, so I would like to highlight Parshas B’reishis: In the Beginning, Brias HaOlam according to the Torah and the contemporary scientific understanding and Parshas Noach: Evidence for a Global Flood?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
A Tanna stated: ‘This [that one may read sitting] is not the case with the Torah’. Whence this rule? — R. Abbahu said: Because Scripture says, But as for thee, stand thou here by me. R. Abbahu also said: Were it not written in the Scripture, it would be impossible for us to say it: as it were, the Holy One, blessed be He, also was standing (Megilah 21a, Soncino Tran.)
כביכול נאמר בהקדוש ברוך הוא כבאדם שיכול להאמר בו כן
Yirmiahu then quotes Rambam:The Rambam writes "whenever the words of a person can be interpreted in such a manner that they agree with fully established facts, it is the duty of every educated and honest man to do so." (Guide 3:14, Freidlander translation).
This is quite a remarkable incident of quoting something out of context. Let's look at the paragraph in its entirety:
You must, however, not expect that everything our Sages say respecting astronomical matters should agree with observation, for mathematics were not fully developed in those days: and their statements were not based on the authority of the Prophets, but on the knowledge which they either themselves possessed or derived from contemporary men of science. But I will not on that account denounce what they say correctly in accordance with real fact, as untrue or accidentally true. On the contrary, whenever the words of a person can be interpreted in such a manner that they agree with fully established facts, it is the duty of every educated and honest man to do so.
Let's see. Rambam could have claimed that Chazal were always speaking about the pnimiyus, or some other such contrivance, in order to have their words not be contradicted by science. Instead, he said that they sometimes took positions based on the faulty scientific beliefs of their era. So Rambam is doing exactly the opposite of what Yirmiahu is (selectively) quoting him for!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Nevertheless, it did not take long for my critical side to suspect that the story was somewhat dramatized for effect. It seems to me that the conflict presented by zero to the predominate western philosophy would, at times, require a greater recognition of the zero as a number (rather than merely a place holder), its relationship to nothing, or its relationship to infinity than was currently recognized.
My initial skepticism was at least somewhat supported not even halfway through the work:
Maimonides argued that there were flaws in Aristotle's proof that the universe had always existed. After all, it conflicted with the Scriptures. This, of course, meant that Aristotle had to go. Maimonides stated that the act of creation came from nothing. it was creatio ex nihilo, despite the Aristotelian ban on the vacuum. With that stroke the void moved from sacrilege to holiness. (page 75)
Of course Rambam made no such argument. On the contrary, the Rambam argued that the Scriptures could be reconciled with the idea that the universe had always existed. He explained that Plato's version of the eternity of the universe could be accepted had it been compelling. It was only the ancillary aspect of Aristotle's view view which proscribe miracles that the Rambam felt could not be reconciled with Torah. Even then, as I pointed out in my "Critique of Rabbi Jeremy Weider's "When the Torah Doesn't Mean What it Says" the Rambam doesn't say that the position is wrong because it contradicts Scripture, but rather that hypothetically if Aristotle's view (which negated miracles) were correct it would falsify Scripture and "we should be forced to other opinions.” (Moreh Nevuchim 2:25)"
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
The Lord shall shave with the great razor Heb. (שְּׂכִירָה) , comp. (Jer. 46:21) “Also its officers (שְׂכִירֶיהָ) in its midst,” which Jonathan renders: its great ones.
on the other side of the river Of those who dwell on the other side of the river, and of which of those dwellers? The king of Assyria, the head He will shave and the hair of the legs. Since it is in the construct state, it is voweled with a ‘pattach,’ (שַׂעַר) instead of (שֵׂעָר).
shall be entirely removed Will be destroyed. The shaving is the slaying, and the razor is the sword.
the head This symbolizes the king.
the legs [This symbolizes] his camps [from Jonathan].
the beard [This symbolizes] the governors [from Jonathan]. But our Rabbis said that this literally refers to shaving, and the removal of the beard is by singeing it with fire. “The beard” refers to the beard of Sennacherib, as is found in the Aggadah of the chapter entitled, ‘Chelek.’
It is obvious that Rashi understand the "pshat" to be allegorical in this verse:
Peshat explanations are recognized in many more instances by their appearance next to non-plain comments…The non-plain sense also appears, in the vast majority of instances, linked with its own terminology. In an aggadic context one may also find אגדה (an Aggadah or מדרש אגדה (an aggadic Midrash)…Not infrequently Rashi’s Peshat, though terminologically still undefined, contains a reference to it’s source. In the majority of such instances the source is the Aramaic version of the masoretic text, i.e. Onqelos on the Pentateuch and Jonathan on the Prophets. (Peshat and Derash in the exegesis of Rashi,By Benjamin Gelles, pages 20-23)
We must wonder, if you pardon my co-opting the term, what is bothering Rashi? Most of us would be inclined to understand this verse as allegorical as well, but we tend to think of God as non-corporeal. If Rashi was a corporealist it is not at all clear that he should present the peshat as allegorical, especially when Chazal seem to take it literally. After all Rabbi SIifkin argued regarding Gen. 11:5 which describes God as "descending" to "see" the Tower of Babel, "Rashi is citing the Midrash, which may well have understood Scripture non-literally, but Rashi does not show any concern (as does Onkelos) that one may interpret it literally." (page 96). In either instance God is, as it were, coming to Earth to perform functions which are, or in a manner which is, associated in humans. In our verse, however Rashi does not understand the more corporealist view as pshat even though there is traditional "basis" for doing so. Furthermore, even when citing the midrash found in San. 95b-96a he omits the most corporealist language. This would be entirely consistent with him holding a position similar to the Ra'avad that while he does not accept that God is corporeal, he may not be overly concerned that simple people have such a [mis]conception.
Insofar as I have not dealt with all of Rabbi SIifkin's arguments I do not presume to suggest I have refuted his position (although I'm inclined to believe the passage cited by R. Waxman seriously undermines it). What I believe I have demonstrated is that his initial line of reasoning is flawed and does not support his position. It is an argument from silence based on incomplete research. His arguments for why we should expect Rashi to comment are not conclusive enough to escape this fallacy. Even if his other lines of evidence are solid (or conclusive for that matter) this one is in no way מצטרף such that his position is stronger than the other lines of evidence are on their own.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
page 9, P code tries to sound Mosaic Why wouldn’t D? (and if we were to argue that the switch from the first person account of Moses to a third person account in which Moses is speaking is the work of the redactor the problem is only greater. What motivation could those trying to present a work as Mosaic have for not only presenting the final work as uniformly un-Mosaic in POV but actually edit in such a way that the Mosaic portion is undermined?)
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
"There is no evidence of any Jew being turned over to any Nazi," said Gershman, who is Jewish, from his home in Basalt, Colo. "Seventy percent of the people in Albania are Muslims"
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
and here on April 12th and here on April 13th.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Hasid Goes Undercover To Aid Drug Sting
By Nathan Jeffay
Published April 10, 2008,
A few months ago, Israeli police planning a sting were hard-pressed to find a convincing small-time dealer who could buy large quantities of drugs without arousing suspicion. In the end, they settled on a novel solution: a Hasidic man who would claim he was buying for students at his yeshiva.
The case ended up netting the arrests of 15 men in the Israeli town of Lod. The arrested will face trial next month on charges of possession and supply of illegal substances. The operation was given the name Ketoret Samim, a double entendre referring both to drugs in modern Hebrew and to a talmudic mixing of incense in ancient Hebrew. The operation’s success was thanks to footage recorded from cameras secreted in the long black coat of Shlomo Treitel, a 34-year-old Hasid from Netanya who is a community police officer.
“My wife didn’t know what I was doing, but when I told her, she said that she knows I’m guided by our rebbe, so I won’t come to any harm,” he told the Forward.
On some 30 occasions, and spending $14,000 altogether, Treitel went to dealers in Lod, notorious for its Arab-controlled drug trading. He bought hard and soft drugs. His story was that the students in his yeshiva were ba’alei teshuvah (secular Jews who have turned to more observant lives), and he had come to the conclusion that he could well cash in on their habits by becoming a small-scale dealer.
“We wanted somebody who would not arouse suspicion of being a police officer,” explained Chanoch Yitzhack of Ramle-Lod police, who masterminded the operation. “On occasion we have used a young woman, another time a taxi driver, and for this we knew people are unlikely to think a Hasid is a police officer.”
Treitel recalls that the dealers would say, “You’re religious, we trust you; we don’t mind giving you business.”
Yitzhack and Treitel’s other superiors deemed his dress a safety device: The theory was that religious clothing inspires a certain respect even from hardened criminals, lessening the chance that they would make physical contact and discover recording devices. The superiors also believed that his religiosity would allow him to get away with being relatively unfamiliar with drug culture; any slip-ups in underground etiquette would be considered a symptom of his devout lifestyle.
“It really proved quite easy,” Treitel said. “The dealers just want money, and they’ll take it from anyone. I just handed over the money and took the drugs.” Though Treitel was unarmed, he “wasn’t scared, because there was backup nearby.”
When intelligence chiefs first approached him to go undercover, Treitel was working as a uniformed community officer in Kiryat Sanz, a Netanya neighbourhood in which 700 families from his sect reside. (He has returned to this role since the sting.) Treitel refused to become involved in the sting until he had checked with his religious mentor, the renowned Sanzer Rebbe Tzvi Elimelech Halberstam.
The rebbe met police chiefs for an in-depth discussion about the plans, and then gave them his blessing. “He said that drugs are a problem for the whole of society, and that it was an important task to take on,” Treitel recalled.
The rebbe’s encouragement reflects a long-standing legacy in the Sanz sect of attributing religious importance to initiatives intended to improve society. The current rebbe’s father and predecessor, Rabbi Yekutiel Halberstam, founded Netanya’s Laniado Hospital in the 1970s because of the religious value he attributed to healing. It has been known that when bloodstocks were dangerously low, prayers were actually stopped until enough worshippers came forward to donate and replenish enough for immediate use.
Treitel continued his daily part-time studies in kollel throughout the operation, and kept details from his wife and five children.
He was put through a crash course to teach him about different kinds of drugs and how to talk the talk — not easy for a man who conducts most of his life in Yiddish. He was given phone numbers of dealers and told how to behave when — inevitably — he was short-changed or sold fake drugs.
His superiors held a special ceremony to honor him after the arrests. He spoke, declaring that exchanging his uniformed duties for a career — albeit a made-up one — as a drug dealer had ended up allowing him more time to spend studying Torah.
Now that his community knows of his exploits, he has become something of a celebrity. He said, “My community often feels negatively towards the police, but they know there is a war against drugs that needs to be fought and people are really happy.”
תשובה: שמעתי מהגריש"א שבודאי אסור לעשות זה, (שאסור מדין דינא דמלכותא) ואסור אפי' אם לעולם לא יוכל לעלות לא"י אח"כ
Question: Someone wishes to make aliya to Eretz Yisrael (to fulfill the mitzvah of settling the land of Israel) but has financial difficulties, and is only able to come if he does not inform the United States Government about his income, which many people do regularly, is it permitted for him to do so or not?
Response: I heard from HaGaon Y.S. Elyashiv shlita that it is certainly prohibited to do so (which prohibited because of dina d'malchusa) and it is prohibited even if he will never be able to make aliya to Eretz Yisrael afterwards.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Far worse, however, is misrepresenting the cause being supported, in favor of a more popular one; this practice may enter the realm of theft. (35 Responsa Divrei Yatziv, Yoreh Deah 146; Responsa Yashiv Yitzchak, Yoreh Deah 28; Responsa Shevet HaLevi II, 119; Responsa Shraga HaMeir IV,20:3; Responsa Ateret Moshe, II, 188.)And
In all instances, the overarching concern of the organization must be Kiddush Hashem – Sanctification of the Divine Name, and the avoidance of Chilul Hashem – Profanation of the Divine Name (It is also for this reason that when soliciting donations, particularly in matters of basic sustenance,the focus should be within the Jewish community (See Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 254:1-2 and 259:3-4 and Orach Chaim, 154:11; Responsa Da’at Cohen, 132; Responsa Teshurat Shai, I, 15 and II,51; Responsa Divrei Yatziv Yoreh Deah 142).
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
"Is something wrong?", she said
"Well of course there is."
"You're still alive" she said
"Oh, and do I deserve to be?
Is that the question?
And if so, if so, who answers?...Who answers?"
Monday, June 29, 2009
At the moment there are only four explanations for this mystery. The first two give us little to work with from a scientific perspective. One is simply to argue for incredible coincidence. Another is to say, "God did it," which explains nothing even if true. (Discovery Magazine May 2009 The Biocentric Universe, Page 54)
And so what if it leaves little to work with scientifically? The materialistic assumptions of the scientific method are good tools for understanding nature, but they are assumptions and one should not reject their possible inapplicability a priori. And not every conclusion needs to initiate another inquiry.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
18.While stranded in Jamaica, Christopher Columbus was famously saved by the lunar eclipse of February 29, 1504, which he had read about in his almanac. After a fracas with the locals, Columbus warned that the moon would disappear if they did not start supplying his men with food.
19.When the moon vanished, the locals promptly complied, and Columbus breathed a huge sigh of relief: His almanac was calibrated for Germany, and he was not sure that he had adjusted correctly for local time (page 96).
This story illustrates why I find the view that miracles are natural events significant only because of their timing to be less than compelling.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
While I am not that familiar with the either the classic nor the popular understanding of the "cannonization" of the Gemara, the article argues for a much more active and late oral component than I would have assumed.
It is a descent size article (by my standards, not speaking comparitively)and the terminology was a little tough for me. For example, I think that often time redaction was used to describe an oral process while I have a hard time not thinking of a written one automaticlly. Nevertheless his arguments seemed to have merit, and he was modest enough to admit when they might not be as conclusive as it might otherwise sound.
For me, this article was actually a bit of chizuk. Oral transmission is not an issue I struggle with philosophically, but one that I can't relate to practically. Looking at it a bit more historically may carry the risk of loosing sight of concepts such as emunas chachamim and siyata d'shamaya, which I believe are fundamental to our hashkafa on Oral Torah, but personally it helped bring things down to Earth a little and make grasping those concepts a little more managable.