Wednesday, October 31, 2007
From the She'elot & Teshuvot of the esteemed Mufti Muhammed Zakariyaa Desai:
A: According to Shariah if the rings are kept in the private part while fasting, the fast is valid. However, if the ring is inserted or removed while fasting, the fast will be nullified. Therefore, it must be inserted or removed after Iftaar or before the expiry of sehri time. (Nurul Iddah Pg. 146)
And Allah Knows Best
Muhammed Zakariyya Desai
For Darul Ifta
I can hear your haughty laughter now, full of contempt for this crazy religion, with its endless obsession with these obviously man-made and nonsensical rules and regs.
For either a chair or a bed, incidental, unintentional touch, such as squeezing by the bed or chair or grasping at either for balance, would be permitted.
Bush has been very good to atheism. Compared to the obscurantism that is the doctrine of this government, godlessness has come to seem glamorous, and perfectly obvious. Nothing can make you feel more like an outlaw these days than a smirking shot at one of religion's many crudities and excesses.
There are many things that may be said against contemporary atheism--against its dogmatism, its self-satisfaction, its evasion of the vast history of godless violence, its philosophical shallowness (when our Filene's Basement Voltaires bother about philosophical argument at all); but I am increasingly struck by the extent to which many of the books against God are mainly psychological expressions.
More specifically, a lot of atheism looks to me like just a lot of adolescence. They are always telling you about their parents. They rebel against the false idea that God is the father because they have the false idea that their father is God. (Sometimes the villainous deceiver of young minds who must be deposed is an early teacher, who unaccountably failed to assign Why I Am Not a Christian to the second grade.) When it comes to the articulation of one's view of the world, of one's understanding of what is true and false about the universe, who cares what one's parents believe? The answer is, children care; and there is something childish about the freethinker's pouting critique of his own childhood. Atheism can be as infantilizing as theism, an inverted form of captivity to one's origins, as if biological authority confers intellectual authority. Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothese. In matters of conviction, we are orphans. And there is also, of course, the boyish thrill of naughtiness, the titillation of sinning, that attends the witticisms against religion. Here is Anatole France on Baudelaire, by way of Edmund Wilson: "In his arrogance he wished to believe that everything he did was important, even his little impurities; so that he wanted them all to be sins that would interest heaven and hell." Religion may confer a preposterous cosmic significance upon the individual, but atheism is the true friend of egotism.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
It's been several days, though, since I've seen any of them, and I'm starting to worry.
Perhaps I should make an offering of some kind or slaughter a goat. If they aren't appeased, I fear for the blog...
Yes that is "Esther" with the word Lav on her arm.
Frum jews, believe the Torah prohibits getting tattoos 'kahka' ויקרא פרק יט
כח וְשֶׂרֶט לָנֶפֶשׁ, לֹא תִתְּנוּ בִּבְשַׂרְכֶם
וּכְתֹבֶת קַעֲקַע, לֹא תִתְּנוּ בָּכֶם: אֲנִי ה
Do not make any gashes in your skin for the dead. Do not make marks on your skin. I am God.The issur includes all tattooing according to Tosafos (Gittin 20b).The Rambam writes that regardless of intent, that tattooing is prohibited הלכות עבודה זרה פרק יב
יד (depending on your version of misneh torah or ) יא
כתובת קעקע האמורה בתורה
הוא שישרוט על בשרו וימלא מקום השריטה כוחל או דיו או שאר צבעונין הרושמין; וזה היה מנהג הגויים שרושמין עצמן לעבודה זרה שלהן, כלומר שהוא עבד מכור לה ומורשם לעבודתה. ומעת שירשום באחד מדברים הרושמים אחר שישרוט, באי זה מקום מן הגוף, בין איש בין אישה--לוקה.
The Shulchan Orach YD 180:1,see Beit Yosef (Y.D. 180 "Sh'chayav"and The Rivan Makos 21a For a summary see the Otzar Meforshei HaTalmud, Makos pg. 847,20.) feels this includes all tattooing.
The Chasam Sofer (Gittin 20b) holds that one does not violate a deorisa prohibition if he tattoos his slave in order that he should not escape (the Shach, Y.D. 180:6 agrees).
His talmud the Ma'ram Schick (Sefer HaMitzvos, Mitzvah 254) and Teshuvot Shoel Umeishiv (2:1:49) all agree with the Chasam Sofer.The Aruch LaNer (Makkos 21a), says that it violates a biblical prohibition even if the intention is not for Avodah Zarah.
Though I'm not sure he meant the tattooing of today which is not marked into the skin like it was in Egypt or in India today.
Monday, October 29, 2007
The emblem of the IDF is a sword wrapped in olive branches. Most would consider this an Orwellian mixed metaphor along the lines of a "Peacekeeper Missile" or a "Defense Department". But I quite understand it. To me it says: "we only wage the minimum war required to keep the peace" and/or "we can extend olive branches to those deserving of peace but will wage war against those deserving of battle".
As an overfed Diaspora dwelling quasi-Haredi I make no pretensions to the bravery and self-sacrifice of the soldiers of the IDF. Yet in the spirit of their emblem I offer the translation of a Midrash. I hope that it will pacify those who misconstrued some of my recent posts to mean that I deny the concept of conversion to Judaism, or, that I disrespect gerei tzedek, and that will give offense, or at least pause, to the various skeptics haunting this blog who incessantly heap scorn on our Holy Torah and on our holy brethren.
Akilus (Achilles?) the son of the sister of Adrayonus (Caesar Hadrian ?) wanted to convert to Judaism but feared his Uncle Adrayonus:
Akilus: I want to engage in business
Adrayonus: Do you want for gold and silver? My riches are all available to you.
Akilus: I want to do business and travel abroad among people to better understand them and I seek your advice on how best to proceed.
Adrayonus: Do business with any commodity that you see is lowly and devalued to the floor. Ultimately it will rise and you will profit (oif momma loshon "buy low sell high"-translator)
Akilus came to Eretz Yisrael and studied Torah. After a while Rebee Eliezer and Rebee Yehoshua met him and noticed a change in his countenance. They said to one another "Akilus is studying Torah." Being in the Rabbis' proximity he posed many questions to them, which they responded to.
He went up to his Uncle Adrayonus.
Adrayonus: Why has your countenance changed? Did you suffer a business reversal and lose your investments? Is someone abusing you?
Akilus: Of course not! I am YOUR nephew. Do you think that anyone would dare bother me?
Adrayonus: Then why HAS your countenance changed?
Akilus: I have studied Torah, Moreover I have circumcised myself
Adrayonus: WHO told you to do this?
Akilus: I sought your advice and…. YOU did.
Akilus: When I told you that I want to do business you told me: "Do business with any commodity that you see is lowly and devalued to the floor. Ultimately it will rise and you will profit." I assessed all the nations of the world and I saw none more devalued than Yisrael(AKA Jews translator). It [too] will ultimately rise. As the Prophet Isaiah 49:7 foresaw: "So saith the L-rd redeemer of Israel his holy one 'To the [nation] whose soul is humiliated , to the one despised by nations, to the one that is [presently] a slave to many rulers: Kings will yet see YOU and arise, princes.. will yet prostrate themselves to
---Midrash Tankhuma- Mishpatim
It is done (Bray's head slumps inert on his chest)
But every year I have the same complaint: Why is the fantastic tale of a toddler marrying a patriarch taught as fact, when the matter is far from clear?
Start with the Ibn Ezra. In his comment to Genesis 22:4, he argues, rather convincingly that Yitzchak was not 37 years old at the Akeida. This matters, because the math Rashi uses to prove that Rivka was three, depends on Yitzhak being 37 at the Akeida. If Yitzchak wasn't 37 at the Akaida, Rivka was not three when she got married. If this doesn't convince you there's more: Read about it: here and here and here If you're feeling especially ambitious visit the Tosfot on Yevamot 61b (“v’chen”)
This is the math that Rashi uses to support his claim that Rivka was three when she married Yitzchak. As you'll see from the other materials I posted, Rashi's math is based on some assumptions that other challenge.
1. Per the posuk, Sarah was 90 when Yitzchok was born.
2.Per the posuk, Sarah died at 127. Rashi speculates (though others argue) that her death occurred immediately after the Akeidah; therefore Yitzchok was 37 at the Akeidah.
3. Immediately after the Akeida, Avrohom hears the news of the birth of Rivkah, so she was born when Yitzchok was 37. This is suggested by the text, but it isn't a slam dunk.
4. Per the posuk, Yitzchok was 40 when he married Rivkah, so if all the other speculations are accurate, she was 3 when they married.
by David Foster Wallace
Are some things still worth dying for? Is the American idea* one such thing? Are you up for a thought experiment? What if we chose to regard the 2,973 innocents killed in the atrocities of 9/11 not as victims but as democratic martyrs, “sacrifices on the altar of freedom”?* In other words, what if we decided that a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism is part of the price of the American idea? And, thus, that ours is a generation of Americans called to make great sacrifices in order to preserve our democratic way of life—sacrifices not just of our soldiers and money but of our personal safety and comfort?
In still other words, what if we chose to accept the fact that every few years, despite all reasonable precautions, some hundreds or thousands of us may die in the sort of ghastly terrorist attack that a democratic republic cannot 100-percent protect itself from without subverting the very principles that make it worth protecting?
Is this thought experiment monstrous? Would it be monstrous to refer to the 40,000-plus domestic highway deaths we accept each year because the mobility and autonomy of the car are evidently worth that high price? Is monstrousness why no serious public figure now will speak of the delusory trade-off of liberty for safety that Ben Franklin warned about more than 200 years ago? What exactly has changed between Franklin’s time and ours? Why now can we not have a serious national conversation about sacrifice, the inevitability of sacrifice—either of (a) some portion of safety or (b) some portion of the rights and protections that make the American idea so incalculably precious?
In the absence of such a conversation, can we trust our elected leaders to value and protect the American idea as they act to secure the homeland? What are the effects on the American idea of Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Patriot Acts I and II, warrantless surveillance, Executive Order 13233, corporate contractors performing military functions, the Military Commissions Act, NSPD 51, etc., etc.? Assume for a moment that some of these measures really have helped make our persons and property safer—are they worth it? Where and when was the public debate on whether they’re worth it? Was there no such debate because we’re not capable of having or demanding one? Why not? Have we actually become so selfish and scared that we don’t even want to consider whether some things trump safety? What kind of future does that augur?
1. Given the strict Gramm-Rudmanewque space limit here, let's just please all agree that we generally know what this term connotes—an open society, consent of the governed, enumerated powers, Federalist 10, pluralism, due process, transparency ... the whole democratic roil.
2. (This phrase is Lincoln's, more or less)
The URL for this page is http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200711/wallace-safety.
Friday, October 26, 2007
When the Gemara in Sanhedrin 109B recounts the corruption, cruelty of S’dom society they include this little tidbit:
”and they had a bed. They’d ask wayfarers to ‘climb in’. If the guest was too long (i.e. tall) they would (surgically) shorten him.(decapitate him or amputatehis feet) if the guest was too short they would (surgically) lengthen him.(stretch him on a rack until his bones broke).Before the cultural diffusionists have a cow…yes I’m aware that the Greeks have a cognate to this.
In Greek mythology, Procrustes (the stretcher), also known as Damastes (subduer) and Polypemon (harming much), was a bandit from Attica. He had his stronghold in the hills outside Eleusis. There, he had an iron bed into which he invited every passerby to lie down. If the guest proved too tall, he would amputate the excess length; if the victim was found too short, he was then stretched out on the rack until he fit -DBWhether the Talmudic sages “got it” from the Greeks or vice versa is inconsequential. Our sages including this on S’doms cultural rap sheet imparts a simple lesson. Brutally forcing people to conform, a one size fits all approach, is cruel and tyrannical.
Wachnacht: On the eve of a bris, all of the neighborhood children gather at the infant's bedside and SCREAM shma at the top of their little lungs. For this they are rewarded with peckalahs (Yiddish: "bag full of cholev yisroel/pas yisroel treats, each having at least 3 hashgachas, not including the OU") The very pious put the mohel's knife under the infant's mattress and adorn his crib with garlic.
Restrictions on postpartum women: A postpartum women is prevented from appearing in public until she's answered borchu or kedusha.
No sealing up windows: This is an important iyun (Yiddish: "a thing.") If you seal up a window, say because you're remodeling your house, deep misfortune follows. Every LWHJ has a story about some poor fool who closed up a window, and immediately lost his business and came down with a fatal disease.
The lost and found segulah thingie: I forget what it's called, but all you have to do is say the magic words and poof whatever you've lost is restored. Works every time. Except when it doesn't. (but no one talks about that)
Two meals on Erev Yom Kippur: The faithful eat twice on EYK. I find that they tend to sneer at koferdicka know-nothing one-mealniks, but this qustion is debated by experts.
Sholosh shudos shtick: There are a few, but the most common one is this: In the middle of one of the songs, the rebbelah or some other esteemed elder, stands and screams HASHAYM MAYLECH HASHAYM MOOOOLACH HASHAYM YEEMLOYCH L'OYLUM VOOO'ED (Yiddish "Hashem melekh Hashem molakh. Hashem yimlokh l'olam vo'ed.") And everyone stands and answers.
I'm sure there's more. Fellow anthropologists are welcome to share their own observations. Additionally, those of you who have made similar studies of other subsects of Orthodox Judaism are welcome to share your findings. The best will be published here as guest posts.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Seems that the foreign minister of Israel (along with a former head of the Mossad) believes that potential Iranian nukes are **NOT** an existential threat to the State of Israel. And she is criticizing her boss, Mr. Olmert, for fear-mongering about it.On the principle of "kal v'homer" (if I understand it correctly), that would imply that Iranian nukes are also not an existential threat to the USA, and Bush/Cheney's fear-mongering on the issue is unjustified.
written by C.A
The Typical Path into SkepticismThe tragedy is that this is entirely avoidable. The students descent into skepticism could have prevented if the exchange had gone like this this instead:
1: A Rabbi says something that is obviously untrue. Examples include: "The universe is 5768 years old." or "All aggadot are literally true." or "Chazal were experts at science and medicine."
2: After the student expresses healthy and reasonable doubt, the Rabbi additionally says that anyone who doubts the truth of these statements is spiritually damaged, a kofer or worse
3: The student says, "Hmm. If I have to choose between suspending my common sense and being a kofer, I guess I'm a kofer."
4: The student, certain that either he or the mesorah are damaged goods, goes OTD.
1: A Rabbi says something that is obviously untrue....Most of the skeptics I know started on the path to skepticism after bumping up against a Rabbi who didn't pay proper respect to the Rishonim. [See: GH, Extreme] Perhaps we'd have fewer skeptics, if Yeshiva educators were willing and able to tell the truth about what Judaism actually teaches.
2: After the student expresses healthy and reasonable doubt, the Rabbi says, "BORUCH SHE KEVANTA: there are rishonim who also believed in the old universe/said aggadot aren't literal/agreed that Chazal were experts in law, but not medicine or history."
3: The student says, "Cool. I guess I think like a Rishon"
4: The student, pleased to see that there's room for him within Judaism, stays OnTD.
For at least two centuries conventional wisdom of progressive left-liberal Judaism maintains that we, as a People, fulfill our historical mission of serving as “A Light Unto the Nations” by epitomizing the prophetic tradition of social justice. Why these Jews don’t recognize that positing any unique historical mission for our “People” (re: tribe members) is, itself, a decidedly reactionary notion, is something I’ve never quite understood. (see my post from yesterday) [Actually, it originates with the ARI, (not progressive left-liberal Judaism.) The ARI taught that it was the responsibility of the Jewish people to (in the language of his metaphor) bring about the gradual restoration of cosmic unity via the ingathering of the bits of Divine Being splintered throughout creation during the primordial catastrophe called shevirat ha-kelim, or breaking of the vessels. [Source]This was to be carried out by the acts of individual men-DB] And it begs a more basic question. Is there, in fact, any Biblical/ prophetic basis for this near ubiquitous ani ma’amin?
Apparently it is predicated on the soaring poetry in these verses in Yeshaya 42:6
ו אֲנִי יְהוָה קְרָאתִיךָ בְצֶדֶק, וְאַחְזֵק בְּיָדֶךָ; וְאֶצָּרְךָ, וְאֶתֶּנְךָ לִבְרִית עָם--לְאוֹר גּוֹיִם.
I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and taken hold of thy hand, and formed thee, and set thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations
and/or Yeshaya 49:6
ו וַיֹּאמֶר, נָקֵל מִהְיוֹתְךָ לִי עֶבֶד, לְהָקִים אֶת-שִׁבְטֵי יַעֲקֹב, ונצירי (וּנְצוּרֵי) יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהָשִׁיב; וּנְתַתִּיךָ לְאוֹר גּוֹיִם, לִהְיוֹת יְשׁוּעָתִי עַד-קְצֵה הָאָרֶץ.
Yea, He saith: 'It is too light a thing that thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the offspring of Israel; I will also give thee for a light of the nations, that My salvation may be unto the end of the earth.'
But who is the servant? and who has the LORD “called to righteousness”?
The Ibn Ezra identifies the servant as the prophet himself. Even the “majority of commentators ” that he quotes say that “My servant” refers to the righteous (Tzadikim) of Israel and NOT to the nation as a whole (EUREKA a meritocracy!). The Malbim, Radak and the Metzudos identify him as Mashiakh and Rav Yosef Karo identifies him as Koresh/Cyrus! Even those (Rashi) who opine that the “servant” refers to the nation as a whole define the “light” as an eschatological promise, as yet unfulfilled, having nothing to do with the role of Jews in exile.
Furthermore as per Rashi the “nations” of 42:6 being provided with illumination are not what WE call Goyim but the various tribes of Israel. i.e. the PROPHET serves as a light UNTO THE TRIBES.
Rashi on 49:6 interprets the for a light of the nations not as some call to be standard bearers of high ethical standards but as the bearer of good tidings of the downfall of the Babylonian Empire or, as per Ibn Ezra, the good news of the ultimate salvation of Israel (as in LaYehudim haysah Orah V’Simkha).
In short, the notion of Jews in any pre-Messianic era serving as some kind of high-ethical-standard role models for the balance of humanity (as if they didn’t have enough to do already!) apparently has no basis in Torah-true Biblical interpretation. It is just another petty and patronizing conceit of the progressives. Talk about irrational bigotry!
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
According to Mr. Pedia, "...most Spartan laws were passed down orally and committed to memory..." and "The Spartans had no historical records, literature, or written laws, which were, according to tradition, expressly prohibited by an ordinance of Lycurgus..."
Hmm.. What other cultures transmit[ted] their laws and customs orally over the generations because of a commandment? Anyone? Anyone?
[*]By which I mean that they wish to have it banned, or otherwise restricted, in keeping with the idea that it is an "abomination." (And, ever mind that other abominations such as eating shellfish are gleefully accepted by the majority, and performed without shame in hedonistic pleasure domes all over the country.)
Frequent readers here know that I obsess over Havdala consciousness. I ‘d like to present passages from one of Judaism’s preeminent ethicists and Qabbalists the Ramkha'l in his sefer The Way of God as translated by Rav Aryeh Kaplan. Be forewarned, this is NOT politically correct.
One of the deepest concepts of G-d’s Providence involves Israel and the Nations. With regard to their basic human characteristics, the two appear exactly alike. From the Torah’s viewpoint, however, the two are completely different and are treated as if they belonged to completely different species.
…Man could thus anticipate only a very much lower level, and it was in this state that children were born into this degraded state.
…G-d gave Adam’s descendants a free choice at that time to strengthen themselves and strive to elevate themselves from this lower state to a higher level.
The period of time when this was possible extended..until the Generation of Separation.
… according to the Highest Judgment, it turned out that none of them deserved to rise above this degraded level to which Adam and his children had fallen as a result of their sin…there was however, one exception, and that was Avraham. He had succeeded in elevating himself and as a result of his deeds was chosen by G-d. Avraham was therefore permanently made into a superior excellent Tree, conforming to man’s highest level. It was further provided that he would be able to produce branches [and father a nation] possessing his characteristics… All of them (the other 70 nations)however remained on the level of man in his fallen state, while only Israel was in an elevated state.
Obviously these truncated passages do not paint a fair picture of the Ramkhal’s full thesis. Fair minded bloggers are encouraged to borrow or buy the book and study it, or at least the relevant section, in it’s entirety. Beautiful points are made there about the early narratives in Genesis, conversion to Judaism and the revelation at Sinai.
In the meantime consider: Is this rank racism? Master Race ideology? Or what we intuitively mean when we talk about Jews as the Chosen People? Discuss amongst yourselves.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The transfiguration of Lot's wife into a pillar of salt always struck me as strange*. For the most part, in the first five books, God punishes through natural means. A plauge, a war, but very little obvious magic. And when there is magic, as at the red sea, or the flood, those who experience it recognize the miracle. But here, the lady looks back and -boom!- she becomes a pillar of salt, and life goes on with no comment from anyone else in the scene. Bizarre. The Ralbag must have thought it was strange, too, because his view is that it never happened:
Rabbi Levi ben Gershon (Ralbag) suggests that וַתְּהִי does not refer to Lot's wife, that *she* became a pillar of salt, be rather וַתְּהִי refers to the *city*, which is a feminine noun, so Lot's wife looked back and saw that the city had become a pillar of salt, which was a way of saying it was destroyed.[DB: ie: the whole land was brimstone and salt and burning.]Ahh, so what happened to Lot's wife? She simply perished with the other people of Sodom.
*The Midrash must have also thought the salt transfiguaration was strange. The Midrash's author explains it with that famous story starring Mrs. Lot as a blabbermouth who went around town seeking to borrow salt "for my GUESTS!" But examine the Midrash on its own terms: Why salt? And why assume his wife couldn't keep a secret? Her husband comes across as a pretty decent guy in this story. Would he have married such a klutz?
The apologists snivel: I have no way of knowing whether the story is true, in whole or in part...
The Admar: The Rabbonim of Eretz Yisroel must condemn it! The charedi members of Knesset must condemn it! And everyone should "take a minute and make a phone call, write a letter, or drop an email to the office of every charedi Knesset member" [!!!]
Snivel monkeys: Maybe we should possibly consider thinking about maybe not giving tzedakka money to Bet Shemesh institutions that haven't condemend it. Maybe. Assuming it actually happened. Which I'm still not sure about.
Surprised? Don't be...
The Admar: Eighteen months ago, when a police car was torched in Boro Park after an elderly Jew was treated roughly during a traffic stop, there were clear and unequivocal quotes of condemnation of those illegal acts and calls for us to act as law abiding citizens by the Noviminsker Rebbi shlita and Horav Rosenbloom shlita in a full-page editorial in the daily Hamodia newspaper and many rabbonim condemned those lawless acts in their Shabbos Hagadol speeches.
The snivelers: I will not even begin to speculate what really occurred in Boro Park last night...
Now, I've found that Greek mythology recognized a "Mother of All Monsters." Her name was Echidna, (She-Viper) and she was (surprise!) half woman, half snake. Her children included: Cerberus (the three headed hell dog) Orthrus (the less famous hell dog) Ladon (a snake who coiled under an apple tree. Hmmm), Chimera (the goat/lion/snake) Sphinx (Woman/lion who like riddles) Hydra ((the many-headed dragon), Ethon, Nemean Lion, and Teumessian fox
I'm no linguist, but I hear an echo of Chivya in Echidna. The more learned members of the commenting community are invited to weigh in.
Monday, October 22, 2007
His trained servants. It is written "his trained one," referring to Eliezer whom he trained to observe the mitzvos...Trouble is, that isn't what the verse says. The MT has חניכיו/his trained oneS.
My uneducated hunch is that Rashi's chumash departed from the MT on this spot. This is also my uneducated way of explaining Rashi's mysterious comment on Numbers 15:39 where he produces a gematriah on the word "tzitzit", based on a spelling that is never used in the MT. I think that in both cases, Rashi was using a text that didn't match the MT letter-for-letter.
Alternativly, its possible that this strange comment didn't originate with Rashi. That appears to be the view of the Sapirstein Rashi where the bit about the "trained one" is excluded. We're told in a footnote that the comment is found in just two of the four best-known Rashi manuscripts, leading the author to doubt its provenance.
Here's the back story.
In the 14th verse of the 14th chapter of Genesis we're told: וישמע אברם כי נשבה אחיו וירק את־חניכיו ילידי ביתו שמנה עשר ושלש מאות וירדף עד־דן׃ (When Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained ones, who were born in his house, three hundred and eighteen [men], and went in pursuit as far as Dan)
On this verse Rashi has two comments:
1 - His trained servants. It is written "his trained one," referring to Eliezer whom he trained to observe the mitzvos....
2 - Three hundred and eighteen. Our Sages said that it was Eliezer alone. And it [the number 318] is the gematria equivalent of his name.
Here are the problems:
1 - The verse does not say "his trained one." The verse is written in the plural, (trained oneS) not the singular (a difference of one letter, the yud) [*]
2 - In the following verse it says: "He divided his forceS against them by night, and he and his servantS attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus," making it perfectly clear that the expedition consisted of more than 2 people.
So what gives?
Simple. According to the Gur Aryeh, one of history's foremost authorities on Rashi, nothing written here should be construed to negate the plain meaning. There actually were 318 armed men. Rashi's point, is simply that Eliezer was the power behind them, and that without him Abram's victory would have been impossible.
In other words, this moron teacher has misunderstood Rashi, misled my kid, and opened the gates of heresy under his feet. My kid is not an idiot. He can read and translate a verse. He can see that the plain meaning is that Abraham was accompanied by more than one person. But because this teacher is not only in love with aggadot, but aggadot that he doesn't understand, my kid was forced to choose between his teacher and the words as they appear on the page.
I know from experience that isn't a good place to be.
[*] More on this perplexing comment in the next post
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Conversation has already started here: Click
I hope this story is the top post on every Jewish blog in the world by tomorrow morning.
Friday, October 19, 2007
OK Khevreh, those of you who’ve been waiting with baited breath. Here is my meme.
Yesterday, DovBear called for reconciliation among the various sub-sects of Orthodox Judaism. After another 5 meals, a bath and some reflexology therapy, I'm ready with my recommendations for each group.
Modern Orthodox: [Teaneck, Brooklyn Young Israel, and Much of YU]
Stop: Kowtowing to the radical Religo-feminists in your midst and creating Shul environments that make others intensely uncomfortable.
Start: Learning more in general in your discretionary time (being more affluent than Charedi you have more disposable income AND time). In particular learn Hashkafa s’farim authored by G’dolim other than Rav Kook and Rav YBS
Continue: Maintaining that the approaches of these two giants are valid and to be respected
Liberal Orthodox [UWS, Anywhere there’s egalitarian Orthodox, the rest of YU]
Stop: Mocking and attacking the sincerely held beliefs of people whom you’ve dismissed without ever bothering to analyze in depth. Also Kowtowing to the radical Religo-feminists in your midst as you are headed for the next official schism within Judaism. Keep it up and you will be official anathemas to the balance of Torah Jewry even sooner than the Elokist-Chabadniks
Start: Making it emphatically clear that you respect Talmidei Khakhomim as much as anyone else. Do not fancy yourself cleverer than they ESPECIALLY in THEIR areas of expertise.
Continue: So sorry, not convinced that there is anything legitimate here worth continuing. [I felt the same way about the two types of Hasidim, but in the interest of reconciliation I searched until I found something -- DB]
RW Yeshivish Orthodox [Lakewood, Bensonhurst, South Fallsburg]
Stop: Tolerating youth that smokes, never exercises and is as skeptical and dismissive of all but a few of their “anointed” TKs (e.g. AJ Soloveithcik and Rav Ela Ber) as the most egregious of old time Maskilim were of ALL TKs without exception.
Start: Preparing your children to date for middos Tovos, and even beauty and not exclusively for money in the bank.
Continue: Emphasizing the primary, non-negotiable CENTRALITY of limud torah.
LW Yeshivish Orthodox [Flatbush, Monsey, Cedarhurst]
Stop: Running to copy and embrace thinly veiled knockoffs of Goyishe values and esthetics in your Music, decorating and recreation, especially on Khol HaMoed. Either embrace or completely reject the genuine (Goyishe) articles but maintain your havdala sensitivity instead of the mixed-message mish-mash that you’re bequeathing your children.
Also stop sabotaging your less academically inclined children’s future with the incessant message that if they pursue degrees and/or don’t learn for 15+ tears after the Chasunah that they are abject failures.
Start: learning and teaching Aish Kodesh, Sifrei Rav Tzadok , Nesivos Shalom et al to reinvigorate your Chumros de jour with a little warmth and light. Also doing chesed to those different from you. It’s not for women and Chasidim only.
Continue: Learning the Daf, influencing co-workers and donating time and human resources to Partners-in Torah et al.
Hard-Core Hasidic [KJ, Willy, Boro Park]
Stop: Treating EACH OTHER (Satmar vs. Belz & Ger, everyone vs. Breslov and Lubavitch, Eruv Carriers vs. Eruv non- Carriers) and by extension their customs, teachings and the rest of their traditions, as chazer treif .It is a modest first step but a necessary one before we can ever begin to hope for recognition and reconciliation between you guys and the rest of us.
Start: Decentralizing. Instead of having constant inheritance fights let some of the brothers move out of town and start new urban and suburban Kehillas elsewhere. You should have the institutional confidence to do this by now.
Continue: Learning Tur and Bes Yosef and providing the rest of us with the lions share of our local-look-it-up-in-the-sources Poskim, Shokhtim, Sofrim Mohalim and Bikur Kholim volunteers.
Soft-Core Hasidic [Anywhere there's a rebbelah with a shteible]
Stop: Just stop. You disgust me!
Start: By scrapping everything Heimish and beginning from square one with any of the other groups. You have no legitimate right to exist.
Continue: Deluding yourselves NOOOOOOT!
Kehillarized BTs [Passaic, Baltimore Ramat Bet Shemesh]
Stop: Ostentatious Yuharo external displays of piety. Some of you are the embarrassing spiritual equivalent of the Nouveau riche.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nouveau_riche) Also don’t take the omud before you’re ready. Sadly for some of you this will mean never taking the omud.
Start: By going slower in your ascent up the frumkeit ladders. It is a healthier and longer –lasting way to grow. Learning more before penning your first parenting book and/or going on a lecture tour.
Continue: Reinvigorating the rest of with probing questions, contagious enthusiasm and sublimating (re; raising the sparks) of the educations, skills, sensibilities and hobbies that you acquired in your pre-T’shuva states.
Amnon Yitzchaki-Harav Yagen-niks (KGH, Hancock Park BP Lakewood)
Stop: wearing 2 pairs of T’filin simultaneously shaving your heads and growing long simanim after being mehalelei Shabbat 2 weeks ago. Also stop scaring the rest of us by dressing and thinking like Wahabists who venerate Moshe instead of Mohammed
Start: co-opting the chilled-out calmness and high esthetics of the Syrians and Iraqis.
Continue: Returning to observance in droves. Waht do Amnon Yitzcahk and Harav Yagen know that Chabad and Aish don't?
Yekkes (Washington Heights, Paramus Monsey)
Stop: incessantly correcting the manners and pronunciation of others
Start: Finding a new locale for the Kehillo and a Charismatic new leader. You are losing your youth and minhagim to intra-Jewish assimilation
Continue: Maintaining perfect fidelity to minhagim of the most impeccable provenance.
I DID NOT WRITE THIS. CHAIM G. DID. COMPLAIN TO HIM -- DB
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Reconcile itself with science The evidence is in, and it can't be disputed: the earth is millions of years old. Dinosaurs once roamed the earth. There's no such thing as magic, or demons, and the spells and amulets don't work. To argue otherwise is to announce yourself a backwards fool. Judaism has a real and positive message, but no one wants to hear from a backwards fool. (This includes our own children who know from their first visit to a museum that anyone who says the earth is 6000 years old is lying or hiding something. Perhaps Yaakov Horowitz and his friends at Project Yes would have less to do if our leaders and role models didn't destroy their own credibility by binding themselves to ideas that are easily disproved)
Reconcile itself with modernity This includes many ideas, ideas the rest of the free world has largely accepted, but the most important of these is Freedom of Speech. Please note: I am not advocating some sappy, feel-good, pc-liberal ideal, wherein all ideas are equally respected. I am advocating the opposite: Open war on the bad ideas. And the way to do it is via questions, and arguments, and challenges to the received wisdom. If the received wisdom is right it will win the debate. If it is wrong, why cling to it? Truth has nothing to fear from free speech.
Reconcile itself with the rest of Orthodox Judaism Wouldn't it be great if the masses and leaders stopped obsessing over over the correct way to eat a boiled egg? Nusach is irrelevant. Levush is irrelevant. 72 minutes vs 42 minutes is irrelevant. In fact, all of the petty and silly stylistic acquisitions Judaism has made over the last 2000 years are irrelevant. A guy is Jewish if his mother is Jewish, and it shouldn't matter one drop if his mother covered her hair, or even if she occasionally serves as cantor at the local WPG. I feel so strongly about this that in the first draft of this post, I demanded that Orthodox Judaism dissuade itself from the narcissism of small differences and reconcile itself to the rest of Judaism, but lets get our own house in order first.
Sameach Music just released a new CD produced by Shirei Shmuel, my not-for-profit production company.If you've heard it already let me know and I will link to your reviews.
The CD is a compilation of 10 never-before recorded songs by Shlomo Carlebach. The songs were arranged and produced by Aron Razel and are performed by Razel, Shlomo Katz and Chaim Dovid. The CD is available here or at fine and not so fine Judaica stores everywhere.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.
On the spot Rashi says that shadim, or demons, were included, too. Why? Perhaps, because the verse says וּמִכָּל-הָחַי מִכָּל-בָּשָׂר suggesting that things that were alive, but not flesh, were brought on board as well. Rashi's source for this is Beraysis Raba, and I am quick to note that not all of BR found its way into Rashi's commentary. He includes only what can be used to address a perceived textual anomaly.
by Roger Ailes
...of more interest is the new publisher's description of the [Jomah Goldberg's] tome:
Contrary to what most people think, the Nazis were ardent socialists (hence the term "National socialism"). They believed in free health care and guaranteed jobs. They confiscated inherited wealth and spent vast sums on public education. They purged the church from public policy, promoted a new form of pagan spirituality, and inserted the authority of the state into every nook and cranny of daily life. The Nazis declared war on smoking, supported abortion, euthanasia, and gun control. They loathed the free market, provided generous pensions for the elderly, and maintained a strict racial quota system in their universities [How Nazi is that!?! -- R.A.] — where campus speech codes were all the rage. The Nazis led the world in organic farming and alternative medicine. Hitler was a strict vegetarian, and Himmler was an animal rights activist.The Nazis also hated homosexuals, atheists, women's equality, the right to privacy, contraception, diplomacy, immigrants, communism and the Soviet Union, and loved the military, nationalism, enhanced interrogation techniques, invading other countries [*] and long walks on the beach. The Nazis conducted research into the causes of cancer, too. The party was controlled by of a bunch of white, Christian, heterosexual men. The party's American supporters hated Roosevelt, the New Deal and immigrants. And Hitler owned a dog and bored people senseless talking about it.
Wait, what were we talking about again?
We often forget, for example, that Mussolini and Hitler had many admirers in the United StatesOh, no. I never forget a Bush.
Fascism was an international movement that appeared in different forms in different countries, depending on the vagaries of national culture and temperament. In Germany, fascism appeared as genocidal racist nationalism. In America, it took a "friendlier," more liberal form. The modern heirs of this "friendly fascist" tradition include the New York Times, the Democratic Party, the Ivy League professoriate, and the liberals of Hollywood. The quintessential Liberal Fascist isn't an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.Now it becomes clear. JG is still licking his wounds from all the times he was shot down in his community college days, but he'll show those stuck-up bitches.
Apart from the blatant faslehoods in the publisher's synposis it seems Jonah's argument boils down to "anything I don't like is fascism, and here's a reference to Hitler I found on the 'net which proves it." I'm sure he would claim his analysis is more nuanced, but his own publisher doesn't seem to agree.
Goldberg hasn't forgotten what fascism is; he never knew.
[*] Update (10/13): As commenters have reminded me, I failed to include the abolition of labor unions, domestic spying, patriarchy and the nuclear family as Nazi "turn-ons." Thanks also to Alex of Martini Revolution, filling in at Crooks and Liars, for the link.
1 - I don't care
2 - ie: The babylonian Geonim
3 - v'hamayvin ya'avin.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Look, bird-brain, [Vox Day] I am relatively new thing in the world, I am a Jewish woman who is a full citizen of the country she unfortunately has to share with you. I do not have to sit quietly while you lecture me on the imperfections of my religion. I do not have to tremble when you suggest I am getting too uppity or wealthy. And I do not bar my windows and hide inside come Easter week. There are Christians in the world who do not share these rights, and I weep for them. But their plight does not give you the right to whine about being criticized in an open marketplace of ideas.This is the glory of our nation. So don't think that your thinly veiled snivelly threats are impressive. You ain't no Ferdinand, you ain't no Maria Theresa, you ain't no Edward I, and you sure ain't no Joe Stalin. Us Yidden, we've been threatened by experts. You don't measure up.
Just in case you were wondering whether anthing has changed for the better since Miriam Shear's report of the vicious attack on her on the #2 bus in Jerusalem last November -- or whether this was perhaps an isolated incident -- here is a letter that appeared in last Friday's (Oct. 12) issue of the Jerusalem Post's In Jerusalem section:
I was recently a passenger on a No. 1 bus leaving the Western Wall. During the ride one of the standing passengers became incensed that a woman passenger was seated next to a young man and physically assaulted her -- pulled her hair, pushed and pulled her out of the seat... and took her seat.
The driver did nothing. I wondered whether Egged has any required procedure in place when a passenger is being physically assaulted.
All the best,
Genesis 9: 9-15
After the flood, God demonstrates remorse and makes a deal with the creation, promising never to drown it again. He even puts the rainbow in the sky to remind himself of his promise. Now, whenever God gets angry, he looks at the rainbow and says: 'Oh, yeah.... That's right. I promised not to drown my creations again.' (It may seem like that last line was meant as a joke, but the idea that a rainbow is nothing but a giant post-it-note in the sky is pretty much Gen 9:15 verbatim)
The trouble with this verse is that rainbows occur naturally when light is refracted through water. They've existed for as long as light and water have existed. Are we to believe that there were no rainbows until after the flood? Did the flood change the very nature of light and water?
It won't surprise you to learn that traditional Judaism offers two answers, and, naturally, the nuttier one is more popular.
Nutty Torah-True Explanation: (more popular)
Before the deluge, some kind of vapor or cloud canopy surrounded the earth. 'Before the Flood, the clouds in the sky were thick and dense, obscuring the light of the sun. The Flood, which cleansed and purified the earth, also refined the clouds and made it possible for the rainbow to be observed, a phenomenon caused by the sun's rays' [Source] In other words, before the flood Earth's atmosphere with similar to the atmosphere of Venus. How did the people who lived before the flood survive the super high temperatures that are the physical result of such super-greenhouse conditions? The nutters don't say.
Rational Torah-True Explanation (less popular)
Samson Raphael Hirsch says, simply and specifically that the verses in Genesis shouldn't be construed to suggest that Noah's rainbow was the first rainbow in history. He bases himself on the Ramban, who writes: "As for us, we have no choice but to accept the opinion of the Greeks who maintain that the rainbow is an entirely natural phenomenon caused by the sun's rays striking the moist air after a rainfall. Any vessel of water that is placed in the sunlight will also produce a rainbow-like effect....The term "My rainbow" implies that it had existed earlier. Therefore, we explain the verses to mean that the rainbow that I placed in the clouds from the time of creation shall from this day forward constitute the sign of the covenant between Me and you, for when I shall see it I will recall that a covenant of peace exits between Me and you…(commentary to 9:12-17).]
The Ramban, you'll notice, is not adverse to reinterpreting a verse based on the teachings of science. Unlike too many of my ridiculous commenters, he does not ask us to accept teachings which conflict with empirical evidence.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Not to be confused with the Republicans caught cheating on their wives, engaging in homosexual activity despite denouncing it publicly, or accepting kickbacks and bribes
America is still quite friendly towards Jews, but the incessant attacks on Christianity by the likes of Deutsch, Forman and Abe Foxman have grown increasingly tiresome. Given this irritating behavior, and the historical fact that Jews have worn out their welcome in literally dozens of countries over the centuries, it is the height of foolishness for a small number of misguided individuals to demand that 80 percent of the American population remain silent about the tenets of its religious faith. Christians are dying for their faith in the Sudan, in North Korea, in China, Vietnam and Myanmar; they are not about to shut their mouths simply because a few Jews in the media disapprove of their beliefs.Yeah. buddy cry me a river. We Jews know a few things about dying ourselves, and we're not about to sit quietly while you repeat lies that are both offensive and the proximate cause of the aforementioned dying. We're going to call you on it every time. Every time. And if that hurts your wee wittle feewings, well a good cry followed by a long soak in the tub supposedly works wonders.
Here's what Aish has to say about witchcraft:
When a person matures, three general approaches towards the occult and other outside forces begin to emerge. There are the serious, rational mindsets who laugh it all off. For them the world is rational, quantifiable and anything else is utter rubbish... [second approach... third approach] None of these three general approaches are in keeping with Judaism.And here are the Torah approaches Aish wishes to pretend don't exist:
(1) Rambam, Yad Hachazaka: [Belief in] astrology, sorcery, oaths, lucky charms, demons, forecasting the future, and talking to the dead - all these are the essence of idol worship, and are lies that fools believe to be both true and wise, or were lies made up by the rulers to cheat the public. All these things are based on false beliefs, which have no point or use. He who believes that these are true practices -but forbidden by the Torah- is nothing but a fool. . . . the only person who will use these beliefs is one who is a gullible person who will believe anything, or a fraud who wishes to cheat the public."
(1a) Rambam, Yad Hachazaka: And these things [ie: magic, witchcraft, sorcery, and superstition] are all lies and deception... it isn't proper for Jews, who are wise and clever, to continue this nonsense and it should never enter their minds that there is an advantage or benefit [to'elet] to using these things... any person who believes in these things and imagines that there is truth and wisdom behind them - though the Torah prohibits them (to Jews) - is from among the fools and the stupid people [scholim u'chasrei daa't] and in the category of [people] who have incomplete mental facilities. Those who posses authentic wisdom and pure knowledge know through clear proofs that every one of these things that the Torah prohibited is not wisdom, but nothingness and nonsense [tohu v'hevel] that is continued by empty-headed people [chasrei da'at] who have caused the ways of truth to be abandoned.
(2) Ibn Ezra (Leviticus, 19:31):"Those with empty brains say 'were it not that fortune tellers and magicians were true, the Torah would not prohibit them.' But I (Ibn Ezra) say just the opposite of their words, because the Torah doesn't prohibit that which is true, but it prohibits that which is false. "
(Speaking of witches, I'll be back in a few with some thoughts on Ann Coulter. )
Friday, October 12, 2007
"When they say "Judeo-Christian", they actually mean "Judeo-Christian," and they actually hope it means "Jews-for-Jesus-Christian" someday.
It's all good as long as it translates into more book sales to bigots."
Noah gathers the animals for the ark
The curse of Ham
On his flood
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech: What was it?
An example of idiocy (by Ed)
Thursday, October 11, 2007
The bad news for some of Gil's prospective advertisers though, is that Hirhurim isn't about to be run like Craigslist. Some ads will be rejected. So here's my solution: If Gil says no to your ad, provide me with proof that Gil turned it down and I will I'll run it here for free. [Exclusions: I'm not going to run ads looking for no-tell hookups, for example, and I reserve the right to reject anything obscene.]
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I tired to comment there, but Blogger is bloggered; anyway, responding here might send Josh traffic he richly deserves
So too here, Alter discards the explicit etymology of the [naming] verse, but then wishes to connect it to the narrative anyway. Since there is a serpent in the story, connect her name to the serpent. But who is to say there was any connection to the story at all? For example, connect it to חוה, to express, to state, to experience.
Is he discarding the etymology or is he attempting to understand it on its own terms? The verse gives us a n explanation for Chava's name that fits neither the story nor her name. Nowhere do we see Chava acting as "the mother of all that lives;" and even if she did, wouldn't ChaYa be the appropriate name? (Rashi catches this problem and smooths it out by arguing that the vav and the yud are interchangeable.)
Anyway, it isn't the serpent in the narrative Alter wishes to connect her to, but the Mesopotamian serpent ancients imagined was "the mother of all that lives." He holds that the Garden story is a myth built on older myths, and adapted to suit new times and places. Perhaps he would say that our Garden story was conceived as a response to the older serpent myth, a way of establishing that a woman called Chava, and not a chivya, was the progenitor of all living things.
Next week Secretary of State Rice will travel again to the Middle East — her eighth trip since last October, when she announced her "personal commitment" to the goal of a Palestinian state since there "could be no greater legacy for America."My, my. What was that you silly, easily-fooled, knee-Jerk Zionists were saying about W. being Israel's best friend in the whole wide world? Hmmm? Feel free to submit your retractions to IToldYouSo@dovbear.com.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
וַיִּקְרָא הָאָדָם שֵׁם אִשְׁתּוֹ, חַוָּה: כִּי הִוא הָיְתָה, אֵם כָּל-חָי
Robert Alter notes that Chavah is similar to chivya, the Aramaic for serpent, and wonders if Chava'a name might contain an allusion to an old Mesopotamian myth in which a giant primordial serpent is imagined to be the progenitor of all things, or, in other words, the אֵם כָּל-חָי.
The Zohar also notes this similarity and speculates that Adam gave his wife a name connected to her sin, but does not explain how Adam knew Aramaic back in the early days when all the world spoke Biblical Hebrew.
[Image: Adam, Eve, and the (female) serpent at the entrance to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.]
-- Rabbi Joseph Eisenbach, spiritual leader of Chabad Lubavitch of Litchfield County as reported by the New York Times.
(Rabbi Eisenbach told this wee little lie as part of his efforts to convince the local zoning board to allow him to convert a 19th century Victorian house into a shul.)
Monday, October 08, 2007
This letter was written by Naftuli
Thank you for your response. It is clear, as Tzipporah pointed out in the comments, that both you and I are influenced by our legal and political environments. I want to focus on the major issue at hand, the usefulness of a written constitution, and then make a few points about some collateral matters identified in your post.
You clearly believe that a written constitution would not help Israel. But you don’t stop there. You go on to argue that “written constitutions do not work.” In other words, a written constitution is structurally incapable of working in every single instance (if I’m over-reading, please correct me). I believe this stronger claim is patently incorrect.
You identify a number of flaws of written constitutions, all of which revolve around the “rigidity” of the document. A number of constitutions are rigid, but a constitution does not need to difficult to amend. While the U.S. Constitution is notoriously difficult to amend because it requires an extraordinarily high rate of agreement to make changes, there is nothing endemic to written constitutions that require them to be rigid. Perhaps we could then agree on the value of a written constitution, but disagree on the amount of rigidity required.
However, I argued in my first post that rigidity is valuable. You responded that a rigid constitution is flawed for a number of reasons:
- It takes away important societal disputes from the political branches and places their resolution in the hands of unelected judges.
- The courts are emboldened to make political arguments precisely because their decisions are tethered to an important document.
- “….huge swathes of most written constitutions become redundant the moment they are signed”
Constitutions often contain contradictory clauses and are therefore incapable of resolving disputes.
It allows small groups to hijack the political system (e.g., “gun nuts”)
Ironically, I agree with you on 1, which is a classic problem in constitutional law in the U.S. and the topic of much philosophical debate. Alexander Bickel captured the problem best with his “contramajoritarian difficulty,” noting that allowing unelected judges to co-opt the political system runs contrary to democracy. There are all types of responses to Bickel’s problem, but the one I find the most appealing is that a written constitution is supposed to lock in rights that should not be subject to the whims of the majority. Judicial review is only relevant (with the exception of political market failures) when the majority is trying to take away rights that properly belong to minorities. What you consider a vice, I consider a virtue.
Now, if you’ve read anything I’ve written in the past, you know I do not believe that judges should be given unlimited reign to interpret the Constitution as they see fit. One of the most prominent (although not by any means the primary) defenses of Originalism is that it constrains judicial discretion by tying the text to the understanding of a certain era (by the way the existence of judicial methodologies belies your argument that judges will inevitably interpret the constitution based on their prejudices and mores). And there are other means of limiting judicial discretion, including precedent. Basically, a written constitution is a tightrope between allowing judges too much power and denying minorities the protections the founders believed they deserved. Your argument would have us subject the rights of minorities to the capricious whims of the majority.
Your second argument seems counterintuitive. Because there is a written text, judges are less constrained. But that argument seems to get it backward. Text constrains interpretation by its very nature. A statute that states “vehicles cannot enter the park” will unequivocally outlaw cars in the park if the statute means anything at all. If there was no such statute, however, judges would have a much easier time allowing cars to enter the park. Clearly the existence of a text makes judicial interpretation more limited, not less.
Are judges less likely to be activist in a country like England, which lacks a written constitution? I’ll defer to your greater knowledge of the English system and agree that they are. But England is a unique country, with a millennium of political and legal experiences, a strong adherence to custom (for example, the Queen will still not approach the House of Commons because of the actions of Charles I), and well-settled institutional roles. Very few countries can match England in that regard and certainly not a country like Israel.
3 and 4 are mistaken or at the very least overexaggerated. Again, I only have experience with the U.S. Constitution, but the vast majority of the Constitution is entirely relevant and is subject to massive amounts of litigation even in the 21st Century. Yes, the 3rd Amendment is inapposite given our current political climate, but I fail to see the problem with having clauses that are no longer litigated. And Constitutions are not contradictory per se, but all rights have limitations and those limitations are usually created by the courts and sometimes the political branches. But certainly having limited rights is better than no rights at all.
I don’t really see how 5 is relevant, certainly not in the U.S. The courts have interpreted the 2nd Amendment to be a collective right (every state and the federal government has gun restrictions), so the power of the gun lobby is not based on judicial fiat, but rather strong opinions in favor of gun ownership among a large percentage of the population and a well-organized lobby, headlined by the National Rifle Association. While religious and liberal groups (the ACLU is a good example) use the Constitution as support for their policy preferences, the courts are usually successful at sorting out good from bad claims over time (while Roe v. Wade was a horrible constitutional decision, it has slowly been chipped away). So while there are some negatives to enshrining rights, the positives overwhelm the negatives.
Now onto some collateral matters relating to Israel. You argued that Israel does not have enough respect for the rule of law. On that I wholeheartedly agree. But that’s precisely why a constitution will be useful. Constitutions generally necessitate the agreement of broad swathes of the population and a supermajority requirement will force the inclusion of even unpopular marginalized groups. And rather than allowing every group to force acquiescence to their every demand, it forces compromise on the small things in order to ensure that serious demands are taken seriously.
Later on you identify the problem not as the status of the law, but rather “the definition of ‘Israel’, ‘Jew’ and so forth.” But isn’t agreement on these fundamental terms most likely to take place as part of a comprehensive plan that resolves all the important problems in one fell swoop? A Basic Law that attempts to define “Jew” is going to fail because each side is going to further entrench itself as it has no reason to compromise. But if all the issues are put on the table, each side will be forced to engage in give-and-take, especially if the party is a minority. So the Religious Zionist community might support defining Israel more broadly than the Green Line, but they will have no chance of seeing that happen unless they compromise on other fundamentals. Basically, they’ll have to choose what really are the most important parts of their doctrine.
On the Supreme Court and Disengagement: I never read the opinion of the Supreme Court, but as far as I’m aware the Court has never even ruled that settlements on public property are a violation of international law (in the famous Elon Moreh case it ruled settlements on lands expropriated from Palestinians did violate international law). It has certainly never declared the occupation of Gaza illegal, although it did consider Israel’s presence there (rather than Israel’s rights to the area) to be an occupation, despite the government’s contention that the territory is disputed. So I doubt the illegality of the occupation was the official basis for the Court’s reluctance to deem the Disengagement a violation of national and international law.
One last point: throughout your response you invoke international law. I’d prefer to not have this debate devolve into an argument about the efficiency or justness of international law, but suffice it to say that I have serious qualms with the usefulness of international law given its non-democratic origins (customary law in particular) and the unjustified weight it gives to small non-governmental organizations. Frankly I’m not even sure international law is “law” in the philosophical sense.
"Here's a better rule: Whenever someone says something is "al pi kaballah", it's becasue that something makes no sense, and the writer thinks that by asserting, with no proof, that something is "al pi kaballah', it is allowed to be nonsense. In other words, to any objective modern observer kaballah appears to be all but nonsense, but as orthodox Jews, we are forbidden to say so explicitly.
Eli W. 10.08.07 - 12:16 pm #
There are about 20 million things wrong with this, and from every possible perspective, including (1) theology, (2) history, and (3) human deceny.
A senior American cardinal has asked Jews to reconsider descriptions of Jesus as a "bastard" in exchange for a softening of traditional Catholic prayers calling for Jews to be converted to Christianity.
"It does work both ways. [he said] Maybe this is an opening to say, 'Would you care to look at some of the Talmudic literature's description of Jesus as a bastard, and so on, and maybe make a few changes in some of that?'"
I am working on a post that says more. Stay tuned.
Tip of the Galero: Fred on the Mainline
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
As all God-fearing, segulah-loving frum people know, biting the pitem of an etrog after Sukkot is a segulah for an easy labor. As opposed to the many
Taamei HaMinhagim (p. 621) writes that this segula is based on Genesis Rabbah 15, which states that the Tree of Knowledge which Adam ate from was an etrog tree. To repent for humankind’s original sin, i.e., eating from the Tree of Knowledge, a woman should bite the pitem of the etrog, In exchange, the God of Pain and Suffering will grant her an easy labor. As with all segulot, this only works if the biting of the pitem ceremony is done today, Hoshana Raba. Should you miss partaking of this minhag today, be prepared to undergo 36-hours of painful labor, possibly a breech birth aided with forceps, to be followed by a Cesarean section with no anesthesia.
As with all segulot worth their salt, this one comes with a special prayer. This is the most accurate nusach, which seems to be preferred by the God of Pain and Suffering:
“Master of the Universe, since Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, her sin brought death to the world. If I had been alive at that time, I would not have eaten from it, nor taken any benefit. Just as I did not wish to invalidate this etrog during the seven days of Sukkot, I waited until today when the commandment (of lulav and etrog) is completed…I have enjoyed seeing the Tree of Knowledge, from which God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat. However, I would not have violated His command. Accept my prayers and supplications with good favor…rescue me that I may give birth with ease, and without pain, and that neither I nor my child suffer any harm, for You are the God of Salvation.”
That covers pregnant women. Women who are not yet pregnant, but wishing to conceive a male son, should eat the entire etrog. Preferably raw and not cut with a metal utensil. For obvious reasons, there are no segulot for having female babies. If you're practicing birth control (for medical reasons only, but please check with your local rabbi), the advice given is to double up on your contraception methods during this auspicious time of efficacious fertility rites.
What can you do with your very expensive citron if you’re a man?
The Talmud brings a few methods of nullifying the snake venom in exposed water. One proven method is to make a hole in an etrog, fill it with honey, heat it over coals, and then eat it. Alternatively, one may drink 170 cc of urine which has sat for 40 days. Please call Poison Control for further details.
For the sake of brevity, I will not include any recipes for etrog marmalade, which reportedly has the segulah of turning female fetuses into males.
If you know of any more segulot attributed to etrogim, please be kind and share them with your fellow readers.
Stay tuned for our next post, which will cover 101 Uses for Pop-Up Sukkahs.
And my what an epic disaster that would be.
So well done. Really. And, if you feel like sharing some of the awesome extra schar you've surely accumulated thanks to your helpful disruptions of the service, well, you know where to find me.
Anucha Browne Sanders was awarded 11.6 million dollars for sexual harrasment by MSG and Knicks coach Isiah Thomas. Brown Sanders said, "What I did here, I did for every working woman in America."
Soo... Is she going to share her $11 million with all the working women in America?
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Of special interest in their list of the top 12 piyyutim of all time, and musical renditions of some of the best ones, together with background information and elucidations.
Their top twelve are as follows: (chronologically)
1 - Kel Adon (duh)
2 - Dror Yikra (duh)
3 - Yedidi Hashachachta (eh)
4 - Shachar Avaksech (don't know it)
5 - Achot Ktana (I like it, but find it more difficult, and less accessible than some others on the list)
6 - Yigdal (duh)
7 - Lacha dodi (duh)
8 - Koh Ribon Olam (duh)
9 - Yedid Nefesh (duh)
10 - Adol Hakol (don't know it)
11 - Melech Goel U'moshia (don't know it)
12 - Keli Lama Azavtani (don't know it)
I'd have also included:
Mee Pi Kel