Sunday, October 31, 2010

Best signs spotted at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

From here

I support Barack "Who's Sane" Obama
I don't think we'd ever poop at a rally.
Patriotism is using your inside voice.
Masturbation cures hysteria
Sane people for fear of bears
Bring back Crystal Pepsi
Down with this sort of thing!
Hurry up, I've got a sitter.
Gay marriage will extinguish the sun.
I'm Xena-phobic
Socialism: putting your kids through school since the late 19th century.
Pudgy white men know best (Deuteronomy 22:10)
Hyperbole is the greatest threat of all time!!!
My taxes aren't as high as I am!
Less rhetoric, more cowbell.
I am against picketing, but I don't know how to show it!
Restore Santa!
The hand of the free market touched me in a bad place.
The Rent Is Too Damn High.

Early unconfirmed reports are the hippie rally beat Beck's march by a landslide. Good.

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Chayyei Sarah Notes

What everyone should know:
The Talmud presents a view that Abraham had a daughter, based on the verse: "And the Lord blessed Abraham with everything." And what's everything without a daughter? The same Talmud also presents the view that "having everything" means that he had no daughter. See more here

Famous Argument
- Did Sarah die right after the akeida? Unclear. Those who say she did have Rashi and the juxtaposition of the stories to hang their hats on; also the verse says "Abraham came", and the Midrash says he was coming from the akeida. Others more plausibly point to the verses that say that after the akeida Abraham and his entourage "rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba," while Sarah died in Chevron. [more]

- Was Keturah another name for Hagar? Probably not, though an often unremarked upon bit of evidence is this: when Yitzchak meets Rachel, we're told he's just returned from Bear Lachi Ro'ee, but no reason for his trip is given. Hagar's last known place of residence, per the text, is Bear Lachi Ro'ee. This is a great example of midrash at its finest. The unnecessary detail of Yitzchak returning from a trip supports the possibility that Yitzchak was the agent who brought Hagar back to his father.

Famous Rashi:
Genesis 24:39: Per Rashi, Abraham's servant wanted his own daughter to marry Isaac. How did Rashi know this? See my explanation here and here

Famous Vort
- During Abraham's negotiation with Ephron, the phrase "Kvor maysecha/ bury your dead" is used six times,while the words "v'es maysicha kvor/ and your dead go and bury" is said once. This corresponds to the seven people buried in Machpayla. The first six - the Patriarchs and their wives - were righteous, and the righteous never really die; correspondingly six times burial is mentioned before death. The last to be interred in the cave was Esav, who, arguably, was non righteous. The mention of death before burial refers to him. (Vilna Gaon)

Abraham has been assured again and again that all of the Land will be his, yet he's forced to bargain for a death plot with the Hittites. This, I suppose, is why Rabenu Yona considered this episode Abraham's final test.

(1) Gen 23:5-6: וַיַּעֲנוּ בְנֵי־חֵת אֶת־אַבְרָהָם לֵאמֹר לֹו שְׁמָעֵנוּ אֲדֹנִי נְשִׂיא אֱלֹהִים אַתָּה בְּתֹוכֵנוּ בְּמִבְחַר קְבָרֵינוּ קְבֹר אֶת־מֵתֶךָ אִישׁ מִמֶּנּוּ אֶת־קִבְרֹו לֹא־יִכְלֶה מִמְּךָ מִקְּבֹר מֵתֶךָ׃
Gen 23:14 וַיַּעַן עֶפְרֹון אֶת־אַבְרָהָם לֵאמֹר לֹו אֲדֹנִי שְׁמָעֵנִי אֶרֶץ אַרְבַּע מֵאֹת שֶׁקֶל־כֶּסֶף בֵּינִי וּבֵינְךָ מַה־הִוא וְאֶת־מֵתְךָ קְבֹר׃
In both places the MT gives "lo / to him" which is a problem because nowhere else in the story in the formula "לֵאמֹר לֹו" employed (see verses 8,10, and 13 where its לֵאמֹר alone) Alter suggests that in the two instances where the MT gives lo, the word isn't lo but "lu / pray." He notes that "lu adoni / Pray, my Lord" is a formal, polite way to introduce negotiations.

(2) Gen 25:8 ויגוע וימת אברהם בשיבה טובה זקן ושבע ויאסף אל־עמיו׃
The MT has only "sated." The Peshita, the LXX and the Samaritan give us the more common "sated with years"

(3) Bethuel is present at one point in the story but missing at others. Rashi, following the midrash, tell us he died during the night. Using ANE documents which describe how bridal negotiations were conducted in that time and place, Robert Alter gives another view.

(4) Gen 25:6: Rashi "[The word pilagshim] is written lacking [ie, with no yud, to denote] that there was only one concubine, [ie Hagar]" In the MT the word is malay (spelled with a yud.) Even the Saperstein chumash concedes this can only mean that Rashiw as working from a text that was, here at least, different from the MT.

Historical Accuracy
-Abraham weighs out the payment for the cave and field. This is accurate for the period, which predates the use of coins.
-When the servant propositions Rivka he presents her with a nose ring.

Motif Alert
The first of many betrothal scenes appears this week, all of which have the following elements in common: A well, a heroic act, someone rushing to deliver the news to others, and a meal. The scene in Chayyei Sarah is unique in that a surrogate appears for the groom, and the woman, not the man, draws the water and performs the heroic act. This portrayal is in keeping with how Isaac and Rebecca are characterized: In other stories, he is weak, bedridden, and withdrawn, while she is active, scheming and dramatic.

Changed Midrash
After  Yitzchak brings Rivka into his mother's tent, he's comforted. Rashi tells us the comfort came from the fact that three miracles that Sara enjoyed reappeared. Rashi says three practices were resumed. The Midrash, however, says there were four miracles. four practices that resumed when Rivka arrived: (1) A cloud was over the tent; (2) the poor were always welcomed (3) Candles burned from one week to the next and(4) The dough received an unspecified blessing. Rashi makes no mention of #2.

Camels in Genesis, the critics allege, are a problem as they were not domesticated until many years after the Patriarchal period. If so, how can they feature prominently as a prop in the betrothal scene at the well? See my solutions 1 and 2

Buy my book. (please)

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Friday, October 29, 2010

What are Israeli settlers doing to Arab olive trees?

It says in the Torah that fruit trees are not to be destroyed even during  a time of war. This article, which is biased of course, makes it seem like Jews are poisoning Arab owned olive trees. What gives?

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And Lord blessed Abraham BaKol

וְאַבְרָהָ֣ם זָקֵ֔ן בָּ֖א בַּיָּמִ֑ים וַֽיהוָ֛ה בֵּרַ֥ךְ אֶת־ אַבְרָהָ֖ם בַּכֹּֽל
Abraham was now a very old man, and the LORD had blessed him in [BaKol] every way.
-- Gen 21:1

What does the word BaKol mean?
  1. With a voice, that is a kol (@Jyuter)  (He was kidding)
  2. Abraham was blessed that he had no daughter, (presumably because this spared him the  impossible task of finding her a husband) (Rabbi Meir)
  3. The final blessing, the blessing the meant he had everything, without exception, was a daughter (Rabbi Yehuda)
  4. The blessing was a daughter and her name was "BaKol" (Acherim, or "others"; understood to be students of the Tannaim, or alternatively, Rabbi Elisha ben Avuya)
  5. Wealth, possessions, honor, long life, and children (Ibn Ezra)
  6. Land. This is why Abraham was not said to be blessed with "everything" until he purchased the Maarat Hamachpela
  7. A mystical attribute called bat (Ramban)
Great moments in Torah commentary: Ibn Ezra argues that Acherim must be wrong, because had the Torah meant to tell us that the daughter was named BaKol, it would have written B'BaKol, ie with Ba|Kol. In response, the Ramban says, 
"Now had the commentator who prides himself in knowing Torah secrets known this one (i.e. the mystical bat attribute) his lips would have been silent, and he would not have derided the words of the Rabbis. Therefore, I wrote this (i.e several paragraphs about the bat attribute) to shut down the moth that speaks against the righteous ones." 
What a good thing the Ramban didn't own a blog. Had he spoken that way against Ibn Ezra online, everyone would have lined up to scold him about his nasty tone.

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The problems of Orthodox Jewry in one picture

(or a picture is worth a thousand blog posts)

A guest post by: MarkSoFla

Someone on twitter posted a link to this book saying it is interesting. I went to the link and read the table of contents, introduction, and the first chapter (which is provided on the book order page). It seemed interesting, and perhaps is a worthy idea to help bridge the divide between Orthodox Jewry and non-Orthodox Jewry. And if not quite "bridge", at least explain the divide somewhat.

But then I suddenly realized that the cover alone illustrates a different divide, a divide between the different groups of Orthodox Jewry. Looking at the photograph of the book cover, I realized that the family on the right is what the book is referring to as the non-Orthodox family and the family on the left is the Orthodox family. And then it struck me, MY family looks a lot like the one on the right (except with more children, and me and the boys usually wearing shorts and sandals)! Do they, certainly the author, think that my family is not Orthodox?

And the cover really does say it all. The family on the right is very likely to be completely Orthodox and is what is commonly called Modern Orthodox. It is clear that the man and boy have their heads covered, and the woman is dressed modestly (from what we can tell in the photo). The author could have certainly picked a MUCH better illustration of a non-Orthodox family if one was really needed for the cover of his book. Even the verbiage on the cover shows that the author thinks that all Orthodox Jews do the same things, wear the same clothes, and think the same thoughts. And that is definitely not universally true. We surely share the same beliefs about many things, we all follow the mitzvot that God commanded us, but we DO NOT all dress alike, do not think alike, and so not all do the same things. Sorry David Baum, the book may be great, but the cover stinks.

DB: Update: The chapter on homosexuality also stinks. If this account is accurate, the book and its author are completely discredited.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

What happens when Pugsley goes off the derech?

Most of you, I expect will not have time to watch this, and many of you may also find it a little dull. It's an old Addams Family episode in which Fester, Morticia, and Gomez panic when their son, Pugsely, gives up the family's way of life in favor of what he finds attractive in the outside world.

As a dark parody of Charedi superstitions, though, I think it works rather nicely.

P.S This isn't the only time that the Addams have reminded me of our world. The 1964 Halloween episode depicts practices and habits that reminded me of Purim in the holiest homes.

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A fine example of Liberal and Jewish values overlapping

Elana Kagen has cast her first vote as a member of the United Stated Supreme Court. Though the cynical side of me says she was merely registering knee-jerk opposition to the death penalty, I can't help noting that in practice her opinion is textbook vahavta lrayacha kamocha as per BT Sanhedrin.

So, of course, mighty-moralist GOPJews hate it and are mocking her for it.


Background after the jump

Breaking the non-kosher cellphone rule

A Guest Post by Rafi G

When I first read this story, I had decided not to write about it. I didn't see it as much of a story.

The story is that various news media reported this week that 9 girls from Bais Yaakov Yashan (BJJ as it is known in English, but BJJ is really an American girls program. This incident happened in the Israeli Bais Yaakov Yashan) were caught using non-kosher cellphones. They were expelled form school as a result.

They were caught because one of the girls received an SMS during class that her friend had gotten engaged. She told her other friends, and the teacher figured out that she got the message via a non-kosher cell phone. After her phone was confiscated, the principal figured out, by going through her contact list on her phone, which other girls had non-kosher cell phones. he then threw them all out of school.

So, I wasn't going to write about it, but then Jameel wrote about it (and he's got a cute pashkevil at the end of his post), and his post made me think about it some more and I decided to write something.

I think the rules in the haredi community that are for the purpose of controlling people, be they the kosher cellphone, he forced internet filters or webchaver or no internet, or any of the other ones (read a school takanon to find some more), are all stupid.

I have no problem with an individual doing any of these things, if he chooses to do so - I dislike the community imposing it on the people. People should be treated as adults, and they should be able to choose what to do and what not to do, they should know their own weaknesses and be educated enough to find solutions to protect themselves. Society imposing it on everybody because they trust nobody to think for themselves is stupid and demeaning, in my mind.

That being said, the school has a rule, and the kids studying in that school have to follow it. If the school threw the kids out because they found the parents had non-kosher cellphones, that would be completely wrong. To throw the kids out because they themselves broke the rules is not so bad.

Throwing a kid out for breaking one rule is pretty harsh. Perhaps the phones should have been confiscated, kids suspended for a day, parents spoken to, etc. To throw them out for one infraction seems overly harsh. However, maybe they were kids who regularly break the rules, or have already been warned about this or other things. I do not support throwing them out for this, but perhaps in some universe it was warranted, for reasons we are not aware of. if this was the only infraction, it seems too harsh to me.

Jameel made a point to me, in the comments of his post, that the principal violated their privacy by searching through the contact list. I agree, but principals regularly do that if they suspect violations of rules that they consider bad. It might not be right, but I dont think the violation of their privacy changes the issue.

I tell my kids all the time, even if the issue at hand is a rule I disagree with, that as long as they are in the school they are in they have to follow the rules. While on a societal level I think the non-kosher cellphone ban is stupid, these kids broke a school rule and should be punished in some way, albeit expulsion is probably too harsh.

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Here are the tweets I posted as Obama was being interviewed last night on The Daily Show with John Stewart. Those of you who care about one thing, and one thing only, can move along: Israel wasn't mentioned.

Overall: I thought it was a pretty good interview. The president bragged a lot, and fielded his share of softballs, but Stewart, almost to the point of whining, did push the President on failed campaign promises, and timidity.

You can see the whole thing here

MY TWEETS (with some insignificant edits) 

Applause, applause. POUTUS on TDS. First joke is about the crazy D.C. set. Reminds JS of the convention.

Says: Toughest two years since depression Economy that was shrinking is now growing and nine months of job growth #obama on #tds

Ends first segment credibly braging about achievments of first two years "under difficult circumstances" #obama #tds #fb

Stewart asks "If you achieved so much why aren't any Democrats running on your record?" (See how's its done Oreilly?) #obama #tds #fb

BHO says this is what we ran on and that's what we did. Seems surprised millions who came out in 08 have switched on him #obama #tds #fb

Calls Health Care Reform most significant legislation in history and says pls focus on 90 percent we got not the 10 we didn't #obama #tds #fb

Stewart criticizing Obama again for being timid, not enough reform of process (OReilly this is how non lapdog media behaves) #obama #tds #fb

BHO making point now he's not as much in pocket of lobbyists as Bush was. #obama #tds #fb

Stewart continuing to criticize health reform flaws. Obama (figuratively) slaps him with a smile #obama #tds #fb

BHO: "If you're trying to say we didn't reform the US health system overnight that point is made" #obama #tds #fb

Back from commercial Stweart continues to whine not enough change, reform or "rooting out of corruption" #obama #tds #fb

BHO says Larry Summers did a heck of a job. Place cracks up. Blooper? #obama #tds #fb

BHO argues less spent as percentage of GNP to fix recession then was spent on savings and loans. He's still bragging #obama #tds #fb

BHO now says most jobs were lost BEFORE his economic policies were put in place or had effect. #obama #tds #fb

By the way people who are hypersensitive to meaningless symbols BHO is wearing a flag pin #obama #tds #fb

Big finish: Promises energy and immigration reform and more job growth #obama #tds #fb

Finished. Blah interview Was glad Stewart pushed him. #obama #tds #fb

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I thought Meg Whitman was smart...

.. so what was she thinking when she inadvertently endorsed her opponent Jerry Brown?

Really too funny. Meg confesses that California was at its best when Jerry was Governor, and doesn't even seem to realize it.

And this is representative of a larger problem: Republicans have this knee-jerk, reflective, glossy, nostalgic view of the past without seeming to realize that THE ERA THEY ROMANTICIZE WAS TO A CONSIDERABLE EXTENT CREATED BY LIBERALS!

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Tea Party Values* = Head Stomping

Excellent personal responsibility from a thuggish Republican here:

Rand Paul Head-Stomper To Victim: ‘I Would Like For Her To Apologize To Me’

Read the ThinkProgress item after the jump

A closing argument for the Democrats

Facts discussed in this article:

1: The recession was Bush's responsibility. His policies exacerbated the problem, and the collapse started on his watch.
2: Obama's policies,m on the other hand, arrested the decline, and a Depression; however
3: He will get no credit for this achievement because people still suffered, and the suffering occurred during his presidency

People generally don't realize any of this because Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly and Co. are inveterate liars, who blame Obama for everything, and lie about his record, his background, and his intentions. Also, the inveterate liars are responsible for making this election about issues that just don't matter.  As one commenter on this blog  put it, we have a "job crisis, a deficit crisis, but instead of addressing those things, [the Tbaggers, their media lap dogs, and moron RW bloggers are] pushing...  to remove church-state separation/ Abolish the 14th Ammendment/ push matters of employment discrimination back to the States/ repeal the 17th Ammendment, etc.")

Read it after the jump

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A message to my friends in Colorado

Dear Colarado, please don't let idiot Teabagger Ken Buck win your Senate seat.

Here is what he recently said:
I disagree strongly with the concept of separation of church and state. It was not written into the Constitution. While we have a Constitution that is very strong in the sense that we are not gonna have a religion that’s sanctioned by the government, it doesn’t mean that we need to have a separation between government and religion. And so that, that concerns me a great deal. So I think there are cultural differences, I think there, we are as strong as we, our culture, our culture gives us our strength, I guess is the best way to put that. And, and I am worried about the fact that we seem to be walking away from culture. And, and one thing that President Obama has done that I would certainly speak about is calling the Christmas tree, which has historically been called a Christmas tree in Washington DC, a holiday tree. It’s just flat wrong in my mind.
Why this statement proves Ken Buck is less intelligent than paint:

(1) The Air Force isn't in the Constitution either.
(2) In 1801 Thomas Jefferson said the 1st Amendment "codified the concept of the separation of church and state". For 200 years this is how we've understood the Amendment, and also how the courts have always interpreted it.
(3) Is it just me, or can every one else tell that Ken Buch wishes to toss the 1st Amendment only for the sake of Christianity. The over-under on the number of cows he would have if the US government made public shows of Islamic or Hindu faith is 87. He speaks so passionately about how we don't need a separation between government and religion but its clear Christianity is the only religion he cares about.
(4)Why are these Constitution lovers so ready to rewrite their favorite document? It seems like every Amendment other than the cherished and beloved 2nd is fair game.
(5) Can the super patriotic Republican party please stop telling lies about the President during a time of war, please? Obama did not refer to the tree as a Holiday Tree. This is a lie sent by treasonous Republicans via email that our very serious candidate for US Senate seems to have swallowed whole.
(6) And, anyway, Obama can call the tree anything he likes. There's no established religion in this country. Why can't these kooks wrap their heads around that?

Anyway, Colorado, I'd appreciate it if you could soundly defeat this jerk.


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The Blame Game

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Have a look at the "pinned" article on (link)

Mishpacha Magazine has an article about frum youth who are "fleeing the fold" (somehow VIN manages to created new idioms by mixing metaphors all the time. I think they meant "leaving the fold". FYI - leaving the fold generates 7.6 Million google results, "fleeing the fold" generates 350k).

Two noteworthy things jumped out at me.

1) The article claims that more youth appear to frum on the outside but on the inside are not. They will break Shabbos in private or be lax with kashrus if no one is looking. The article seems to think this is a new phenomenon. It isn't. But more importantly, there is an obvious reason that this would happen. There is so much focus on external / social Judaism in the frum community. The message has been sent and received. How we are perceived by others is so important in frum circles teens are just mirroring the priorities of their parents and role models.

2) As the VIN post indicates, the article basically blames the "secular world". For example: "Every inappropriate billboard and secular entertainment show shouts to our children: ‘Leis din v’leis dayan’— live life as you please!". (And no this is not even remotely true - the point is that the frum world believes this!). The article makes the point that today's culture and technology are the reason so many frum Jews are "fleeing the fold".

This bothers me. First of all, there have always been "temptations". The modern era just makes them more accessible. But they have always been there. That is exactly why God gave us the Torah. To help us avoid temptation. Second, the article makes the case that we need to be more insulated to prevent youth from "fleeing the fold". If that were the solution then God would have simply commanded us to live in caves and not interact with the rest of the world. Obviously, this is not the case. The Torah was given to assist us in living in this world and yet resist temptation. The solution is not to avoid contact with the world, the solution is to use the Torah as a basis for making good choices within that world.

Of course, it is easy to blame the "morally bankrupt secular world" and not think critically about our own observance. People have always left Judaism. For some it is too hard, for others an all knowing God is too fanciful to believe in, for others temptation for prohibited things trumps all. There are many reasons people leave.

The point is, that the solution is not to avoid the competition, it is to BEAT the competition. If a frum lifestyle is so great (and I think it is) then no matter how enticing other lifestyles may be, one won't want to leave because they are happy. And there is the rub. If one is happy with their life, they won't make drastic changes and leave that life. But does today's frum Judaism value happiness? Are teens happy within the yeshiva system? If they are not, then preventing them from seeing the outside world is not a solution. It is just torture.

I believe that a healthy frum lifestyle can and should be satisfying enough that the beck and call of secular society does not trump the pleasure of a frum lifestyle. I think presenting them as completely incompatible will only serve to exacerbate the problem and might be causing the uptick in disenfranchisement.

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The Other Citizens of Israel

Ahmad Tibi, an Arab Israeli, and deputy speaker of the Israeli Parliament had an op-ed published recently in the New York Times (Save your complaints; Jewish Israelis have also, in the past, contributed op-eds to the New York Times)

The opinion article argues that non-Jewish citizens of Israel are being marginalized.

I repost it here, without comment (I'm sure I'll have what to say on the thread.)

Read it after the jump

Monday, October 25, 2010

My first answer

A guest post by by LeftWingPharisee

Through an accident of birth, I have close, personal access to many of the Yeshiva World's Gedolim. While I have used these connections to learn and grow, I've also used these connections to try to help the Yeshivishe Velt expand its perspective as well. I've enjoyed telling them that I got my gorgeous esrogim from the internet, as well as the fact that I would neither be Frum, nor married to a Jewish woman, were it not for the internet. I've taken to asking them "What would you do?" in the following situation; I've recently gotten my first real answer, from a Chabad Rabbi in Tampa, Florida:

A Jewish couple, both secular, want to become Ba'alei Tschuva, the whole nine yards. They have a son that they want to put in Yeshiva. G'valdik! Only one problem: the boy is obviously gay, to the point where he wears girls' clothes. What do you do?

This would be a very difficult question to answer for a Rosh Yeshiva. Obviously, the boy wouldn't be able to express his nature in a Yeshiva, but the boy is still chayiv Mizvos. Rock, meet hard place.

Most of the G'dolim I asked this of said nothing, which I completely respected. Better to say nothing than to say something wrong. R' Matisyahu Salomon said, I'd have the boy and his family to my tisch, but I'd ask that the boy wear boy's clothing. Fair enough, I love that guy. The Chabadnik said, the boy would need to be home schooled, which to my mind, is the right answer.

So B'nai Dov Bear, put yourself in the place of the theoretical Rosh haYeshiva. What would you do?

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bonus Parsha Notes for Vayerah

These have all been added to the main Parsha Notes post.

A very clever gloss
Rashi, following the midrash, says just one of Lot's daughter's is deserving of praise. The other is criticized because she calls her son Moav, which puns on "from the father." Sforno disagrees (with Rashi and, ahem,  CHZL) and says both women were sinners, both acted for the sake of heaven, and both women were rewarded with offspring who joined the Jewish people ( Na'amah of Ammon marries Shlomo; Ruth of Moav marries Boaz).*  Rav Moshe Feinstein additionally credits the women for not claiming the child was fathered by a god. Instead of prefiguring the Christian claim they told the truth. In the merit of this honesty, the actual moshiach will be from Moav (i.e. the child "from a (human) father")

* This idea of sinning for the sake of heaven was a touchstone of the early Hasidim, i.e., the idea of "descent for the purpose of rising up."

Neat Ideas
- A heh hayediah (the letter hay as definite article) is used in the word ha'kivshan in Genesis 19:28 [He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from the furnace.] Perhaps this is what pointed interpreters to Nimrod's furnace, and the famous story of Abraham's trial. [Support: Why does the midrash say Nimrod threw Abraham into davka a furnace, ie, a kivshan? Wouldn't it have made more sense to burn him at the stake?]

- Genesis says Sodom and the other cities were destroyed with gafris and ash (burning sulfur). When Moshe refers to the event in Deuteronomy 29 he says the cities were destroyed with gafris v'melach (salt and sulfur.) Could this be an early example of intra-biblical interpretation on the part of Moshe? In the Torah, salt is only mentioned in reference to Mrs. Lot.

- The men/angles were provided with food and water. The water was brought by someone else and Abraham offered only a small amount (Yukach noh m'at mayim); meanwhile the meal, which he prepared with his own hands, was superfluous. Lesson: Don't overwork people for your own glory.

- Abraham moves to the isolated southern part of Canaan in anticipation of his son's birth, yet he's also a resident of Grar. (Vayeshev bein kodesh u'vein Shur v'yagar b'Grar) Though he wishes to protect his son from Caananite influences, its not Abraham's plan or desire to entirely shield his child. From time to time they visit Grar. Lesson: You can't raise a child in a bubble. You have to show him the word, and teach him how to respond to it. [Source: SRH]

Bogus BibCrit
Did Abraham actually kill his son? Some solid observations on the part of the critics produce an altogether specious conclusion.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Parsha Notes Vayerah 2010

Mostly from 2008, but with some additions from 2009 and 2010. 1 Internal Parallels (and antithesis)
(a) The angles visit to Abraham vs. their visit to Lot - The guest are eagerly welcomed and fed (duh) (p) - Both men are sitting at an entrance when the guests appear (p) - Abraham's guests arrive at midday; Lot's arrive at twilight (a) - Abraham is at the tent flap; Lot is at the city gate (a) - Abraham feeds his guests the best of the best; Lot serves them nothing but the "poor man's bread" (a) - Sarah laughs; the sons in law of Lot laugh (the same verb is used) (the laughter itself is a parallel, the reason for the laughter is an antithesis.) (Sarah laughs in disbelief; the sons in law laugh out of scepticism.) - Following the visit Abraham asks God to spare a city and fails; Lot also asks for divine mercy but succeeds (a) (b) The destruction of Sodom vs. destruction of the world  - The word himtir appears in both places; both are destroyed by precipitation (p) - In each case, moral perversion is the reason given for the destruction (p) - In each case, one family is marked for survival (p) - In each case, the hero becomes drunk immediately afterwards, and is involved in an illicit act. (p) (c) Yishmael's trip to the desert vs Yitzchak's trip to the mountain
- Abraham "rose early in the morning" both to send Hagar away, and to begin his trip with Yitzchak (p) - Both moments of mortal danger occur in the wilderness (p) - Yitzchak is accompanied by his father; Ishmael goes with his mother (a) - He first puts bread and water on Hagar; next he puts wood on Isaac (p) - In each case an angel intervenes at the moment before death (p) - At the last moment, eyes are opened. (p) - The angel fondly refers to the boy as a na'ar in both cases (P) - In each case the angel promises that the boy will produce a great nation (p) (d) Abraham's grandson Yaakov has 12 sons: so do his brother Nahor (and his first son Yishmoel) 2- External Parallels (a) The sin of Sodom vs the crime of Procrustes (b) The Lord's visit to Abraham vs. Kothar's visit to Dan'el [*], a judge in the Ugaritic epic of Eqhat - Dan'el sits by an entrance - He "lifts up his eyes" to apprehend the divine visitor; and - tells his wife to prepare a meal with the best of the best. 3 - Motifs (a) This week we see the first of several annunciation scenes, all of which share a promise from a divine entity that a child will be born "at this season." The annunciation to Sarah is different in three ways: (1) The promise is delivered to the husband; (2) the woman is post-menopausal; (3) the child appears not in the very next scene but after the intervention of other events. (b) The sister-wife motif returns this week. Based on discovered documents, Sarna argues that "sister-wife" was a category of marriage in the ANE, distinct from concubines, and ordinary wives. (c) Important elements of the angelic visit to Sodom are echoed in the story of thPilegesh b'Givah suggesting this is also a motif. Ramban notes this and seems of the opinion that the story in Shoftim was written to deliberately echo the divine word in Genesis. 4 - Anomalies (a) Gen 20:13: ויהי כאשר התעו אתי אלהים מבית אבי ואמר לה זה חסדך אשר תעשי עמדי אל כל־המקום אשר נבוא שמה אמרי־לי אחי הוא - The verb is plural, suggesting Abraham is speaking not of God, but "the gods." This is, perhaps, a dodge in deference to his pagan host, but not something our modern sensibilities would expect. (Rashi notes the anomaly and explains it away) (b) Gen 22:2 וַיֹּאמֶר קַח־נָא אֶת־בִּנְךָ אֶת־יְחִידְךָ אֲשֶׁר־אָהַבְתָּ אֶת־יִצְחָק וְלֶךְ־לְךָ אֶל־אֶרֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּה וְהַעֲלֵהוּ שָׁם לְעֹלָה עַל אַחַד הֶהָרִים אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ׃ - Scholarship suggests the second term should be yadidcha (your favored one) rather than yechidcha (your only one) (a difference of one letter; the chet and the daled are similar in ktav ashuri.) Alter rejects this, following Rashi, and argues that in Abraham's mind each son is an "only" son of his own mother. (c) Gen 22:13 וַיִּשָּׂא אַבְרָהָם אֶת־עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה־אַיִל אַחַר נֶאֱחַז בַּסְּבַךְ בְּקַרְנָיו וַיֵּלֶךְ אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקַּח אֶת־הָאַיִל וַיַּעֲלֵהוּ לְעֹלָה תַּחַת בְּנֹו׃ - The MT has achar (behind) Scholars argue achad (one) better fits the verse and the facts, and note that in ketav ashrui the raysh and the daled are similar. 5 - New understandings (a) We were taught that Lot's wife became a pillar of salt. Following the grammar of the verse, the Ralbag argues it never happened. (b) The Rambam says that the visit of the three angels never actually occurred. All of it was a vision, happening only in Abraham's head. [See famous Ramban below] Neat Ideas - A heh hayediah (the letter hay as definite article) is used in the word ha'kivshan in Genesis 19:28 [He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from thefurnace.] Perhaps this is what pointed interpreters to Nimrod's furnace, and the famous story of Abraham's trial. [Support: Why does the midrash say Nimrod threw Abraham into davka a furnace, ie, a kivshan? Wouldn't it have made more sense to burn him at the stake?] - Genesis says Sodom and the other cities were destroyed with gafris and ash (burning sulfur). When Moshe refers to the event in Deuteronomy 29 he says the cities were destroyed with gafris v'melach (salt and sulfur.) Could this be an early example of biblical interpretation, on the part of Moshe? In the Torah, salt is only mentioned in reference to Mrs. Lot.  6 - Misteachings (a) Small children are taught that Abraham's aishel is an acronyn for Achila (feeding), Shtiya (drinking), and Levayah ("escort") when they should instead be taught that this is Rashi's gloss on the Talmud in Sotah and the Talmud itself says something else.  7 - Mussar - Lot offers his virgin daughters to the mob, but ends up deflowering them himself (mida kneged mida) - The famous point made by SRH about Avraham's use of the word's "midst of the city"- - The famous point made by SRH about how we are to view non-Jews - Two strange men visit Sodom and are accosted by the mob; a strange couple come to Gerar but are treated with respect by the king (Lesson: Not all Gentiles are created equal)
- Following the akeida we're specifically told that Abraham returns to the men he previously left behind with donkeys. Lesson: Our great moments of inspiration should not set us apart, even from gentiles. Rather we should return to them, with our new discoveries, and attempt to share them. - The men/angles were provided with food and water. The water was brought by someone else and Abraham offered only a small amount (Yukach noh m'at mayim); meanwhile the meal, which he prepared with his own hands, was superfluous. Lesson: Don't overwork people for your own glory. - Abraham moves to the isolated southern part of Canaan in anticipation of his son's birth, yet he's also a resident of Grar. (Vayeshev bein kodesh u'vein Shur v'yagar b'Grar) Though he wishes to protect his son from Caananite influences, ts not his plan to entirely shield his child from the world. From time to time they visit Grar. Lesson: You can't raise a child in a bubble. You have to show him the word, and teach him how to respond to it. [Source: SRH] 8 - Famous Parshanut discussions (a) The mocking of Issac. What was Yishmael's sin? Attempted murder? Rape? Or, something else? Alter cleverly concludes from Sarah's reaction and the appearance of the word metzachek that "we may also be invited to construe [metzachek] as Issac-ing -- that is Sarah sees Ishmael as playing the role of Issac... as presuming to be the legitimate heir." (b) The age of Yitzchak at the AkeiadWe were all taught that he was 37 (and therefore Rivka was three at their wedding) The Ibn Ezra and the Balei Tosfot strongly disagree. (c) The punishment in Gerar. Was it plague of infertility or a plague of constipation that afflicted the people of Gerar? Both sides have textual support. Those who say it was constipation ask how a plague of infertility could have been immediately noticed, as the verse tells us it was. The other side points out that this story of infertility is immediately followed by the notice that God had "singled out (pokad) Sarah" to have a child. Singled out, how? Moreover, the plague of infertility guarantees that Issac is Abraham's son.
(d) The treif eating angels When the angels visited Abraham he served them milk, butter and beef, in violation of the kosher rules. Is we assume Avraham kept all Torah laws, how is this possible? Rashi, on the basis of a redundant "asher asah" concludes (the source is the gemarah) that Abraham served the course ones at a time, and because milk is permitted before meat, there was no mixing of foods (In the verse, the milk dishes are listed first.) Daas Zakenim quotes a midrash in which God upbraids the angels for eating milk and meat together. Apparently its author did not agree with the position collected in the Gemarah. A third view is recorded in the Malbim, where he cites a tradition that Abraham served the angles a cow he created using magic powers; thus the cow was no considered meat and mixing it with milk was allowed.
(e) How omniscient is God?  Ibn Ezra vs. Ramban and Rashi on what exactly the verse means when it says God had to come down and look at Sdom before deciding how to punish them. Ibn Ezra says it means God doesn't pay close attention to the details unless He wishes. Ramban calls this "foreign philosophy," and the Avi Ezer goes to war in the Ibn Ezra's defense. Meanwhile the Ibn Ezra's two super-commentaries explain Ibn Ezra in a manner that might be acceptable for a rishon, but not for 21st century Orthodox Jews. See Josh's elaboration 
9 -Famous Ramban - "God forbid a child raised in the house of Abraham could be raised to murder or worship strange gods" (paraphrase) This is how the Ramban angrily dismisses Rashi's idea that Ishmael sinned by worshiping idols, or by making an attempt on Issac's - Ramban also angrily dismisses the Rambam's famous idea about the angels visit being a prophetic vision, and not an actual, observable event.
10 Famous Rashi - It's excluded from anything ArtScroll publishes, but the Gutnik edition is nice enough to include the Rashi comment that seems to say that scribes edited troubling biblical verses to make them more palatable. [and here] 10 - Anachronism - Gen: 21:34 וַיָּגָר אַבְרָהָם בְּאֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים יָמִים רַבִּים׃ The Philistines didn't settle on the west coast of Canaan until many centuries after the Patriarchal Period. 11 Plot holes - Where did Lot's daughters find wine? 12 - Unanswered questions - Why is the Davidic line born in sin? Both his lines are the products of illicit acts. (Lot and his daughters on one side, and Yehuda with his daughter-in-law on the other.) A very clever gloss Rashi, following the midrash, says just one of Lot's daughter's is deserving of praise. The other is criticized because she calls her son Moav, which puns on "from the father." Sforno disagrees (with Rashi and, ahem,  CHZL) and says both women were sinners, both acted for the sake of heaven, and both women were rewarded with offspring who joined the Jewish people ( Na'amah of Ammon marries Shlomo; Ruth of Moav marries Boaz) This idea of sinning for the sake of heaven was a touchstone of the early Hasidim, i.e., the idea of "descent for the purpose of rising up." Rav Moshe Feinstein additionally credits the women for not claiming the child was fathered by a god. Instead of prefiguring the Christian claim, they told the truth, and in the merit of this honesty, the actual moshiach will be from Moav (the child "from a (human) father")  Bogus BibCrit Did Abraham actually kill his son? Some solid observations on the part of the critics produce an altogether specious conclusion.
-- [FN] Incidently, some speculate that the third person mentioned in Ezekiel 14:14 is Dan'el, the Ugaritic Judge, not Daniel the lion tamer (Reasons: The other two listed are gentiles, and the book of Daniel was written long after Ezekiel) As Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) has also told me: "Daniel is actually Daniyyeil, with a pronounced consonantal yud. Yehhezqeil mentions DN’L (=Dan’eil), without the important *pronounced* yud that should be there for Daniyyeil."

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Today's O'Donnell

In this clip, Chrstine O'Donnell is asked to name a sitting senator from the other party she thinks she can work with. Her answer: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

After her opponent Chris Coons points out that Deleware can't afford to "elect someone who literally cannot name a single currently serving senator in my party with whom she would work", O'Donnell blurts out the name of a prominent former Democrat, the Independent Joe Lieberman.

Coons, unfortunately, missed the second gaffe and failed to point it out.

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A great post no one will read (though it was fun to write)


As long time readers of this blog know, I'm on something of a crusade for the unlucky midrashim, by which I mean the old interpretations no one studies or remembers. As a corollary, I'd also like people to stop thinking that the lucky midrashim are the sole Torah Truth when other, equally valid, midrashim take other positions, or when Rishonim object outright to the lucky midrash.

One very famous lucky midrash tells us Rivka was 3 on her wedding day. Its a terrible teaching for all sorts of reasons -- Why should we think of the Patriarch as a pedophile? -- and one I'd like to see defeated, instead of glorified.

As this post will explain, there are good, Torah grounds to retire "Rivka was 3" (1). It  is contradicted by another, unlucky midrash, and at least one rishon objects to it on logical grounds. Also, as you will see, the text of the lucky midrash itself is questionable.

See more after the jump

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Something For the Islamophobes and Islamophiles

A Guest Post By E. Fink

I saw this video posted by Rabbi Adlerstein on Cross-Currents. It is worth posting here as well as there is a more open forum for discussion (v'hamayvin yavin).

The Tomb of Ezekiel is in Iraq. The shrine above it is being refurbished by Muslim clerics.

No doubt, the Islamophobes will see evidence that the Muslims are taking over a Jewish Holy Site in their quest to take over the world.

I, and the NY Times, and the Clerics themselves see it differently. It seems to me that this is a wonderful gesture of tolerance and respect.

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Which politician does this describe?

Al me neemar?

The following describes the background of a famous politician. Who is it?;

Mr. X was born poor and out of wedlock in the desert mining town of xxx. His father was a hard-rock miner who didn’t get through the eighth grade; Mr. X hints broadly that both his parents were drunks. Their house was a wooden cabin, built out of smelly creosote-treated railroad ties instead of fragrant logs. There was no indoor plumbing. “We had a little tree in our yard for a while,” Mr. X writes. “It died. The yard is just rocks—things don’t grow.” Sometimes in the evenings, he and his younger brother Larry (there were four brothers in all) sat outside their parents’ bedroom door, “listening to what goes on on the other side”—which, Mr. X indicates, was something violent.

When a boy from another town moved to xxx, Mr. X admits, “the first thing I did was pick a fight with him. He was new, and I was jealous of him. He probably dressed decently, was probably well spoken.” Mr. X beat another kid so savagely that he permanently flattened one of his own knuckles. One day, Larry fell off his bike and broke his leg. Although he screamed in pain, Mr. X thought he was faking it and initially refused to help him. Another time, Mr. X took a .22 rifle and went out to shoot a rabbit for dinner. With his last bullet, he merely wounded the rabbit, so he gave chase on foot for “what seemed like hours,” he wrote. “I got that rabbit. Took it home. Skinned it. Took it to my grandmother. . . . Best rabbit I ever ate.” At fourteen, Mr. X had a fistfight with his father (because he was beating Mr. X's mother). At nineteen, he had a fistfight with his future father-in-law (because he opposed his daughter’s marriage).

-- text taken from the current New Yorker

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Hypocrites on display

Yesterday I wrote a post in which I expressed disgust at George W. Bush's childish, self-centered behavior. The post was short, and written quickly, and was, in every sense, a cheap shot -- not because George Bush is actually a mature adult*, but because I didn't choose the best example of his smallness.

Predictably, the comments criticized me for being unfair to dear old George. They are right. I was unfair to dear old George, but I was unfair to him in a style that's quite common in the blogosphere. Go to any RW blog, big or small, and you'll find a never-ending series of posts like mine, only those are directed at Democrats.

I've of course taken note that those who complained about my post, seem never to be found on a RW blog complaining when Obama is attacked in similar fashion., nor do they object when cheap shots are taken at Democrats here. Some (Garnel!) take such cheap shots themselves.

If I am guilty of something, it is of being a blogger. The lot who cried foul about my post, however are a bunch of phonies, faking indignation about a style of posting, when really their objection is to a style of posting that happens to attack their favorite guy.

* See, for example, how he occupied his time as governor of Texas

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Around the horn

Some noteworthy posts from around the blogs:

Should Judaism excommunicate a woman who appears on TV in a bathing suit? This appears to be the view of some of the visitors to Fink or Swim. The issue is Esther Petrack, the OJ high School graduate who is now a contestant on America’s Next Top Model. In her first appearance, Esther flashed her bra, was filmed in a bikini, and appeared to state that she'd violate Shabbos for a chance at winning the competition. Like E-Fink, who hosts Fink or Swim, and disagrees with the anti-Esther comments, I don't see why everyone is so upset. Jews violate halacha all the time. You're entitled to disagree with Esther's choices, and criticism of her behavior is legitimate but don't throw her under the bus. She's still a member in good standing of the Jewish people.

After the angle interrupted Abraham's attempt to slaughter his son, did the patriarch see one ram, or a ram behind or afterwards? Those who've memorized this blog may recall a short post, and long discussion from last year about Gen 22:13 which reads וַיִּשָּׂ֨א אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֶת־עֵינָ֗יו וַיַּרְא֙ וְהִנֵּה־אַ֔יִל אַחַ֕ר נֶאֱחַ֥ז בַּסְּבַ֖ךְ בְּקַרְנָ֑יו וַיֵּ֤לֶךְ אַבְרָהָם֙ וַיִּקַּ֣ח אֶת־הָאַ֔יִל וַיַּעֲלֵ֥הוּ לְעֹלָ֖ה תַּ֥חַת בְּנֹֽו׃. As most of the world must know by now, three ancient texts have the word echad/ one, where the M.T has Achar / after or behind. Now, the very great Josh of ParshaBlog has contributed a very, very long discussion of many different sources after which he reaches the same conclusion we did last year, i.e., that this a legitimate issue, with solid evidence on both sides (though, he thinks the evidence is stronger in favor of the M.T., while I say the evidence is inconclusive.)

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Poor baby Bush

At a fundraiser the other night George W. Bush admitted:
 "...he misses certain aspects of the presidency.  “I miss being pampered; I miss Air Force 1; I miss being commander in chief of an awesome group of (people),”  
Ye freaking' Gods. And you people looked up to this idiot and thought of him as a decisive leader?

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Tikun Sofrim: Did Rashi think Scribes changed the Torah?

Genesis 18:22, with Rashi

And the men turned from there and went to Sodom, and Abraham was still standing before the Lord.כב. וַיִּפְנוּ מִשָּׁם הָאֲנָשִׁים וַיֵּלְכוּ סְדֹמָה וְאַבְרָהָם עוֹדֶנּוּ עֹמֵד לִפְנֵי יְ־הֹוָ־ה:
And [the men] turned from there: from the place to which Abraham had escorted them.ויפנו משם: ממקום שאברהם ליוום שם:
and Abraham was still standing, etc.: But is it not so that he did not go to stand before Him, but the Holy One, blessed be He, came to him and said to him (above verse 20): “Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, etc.,” and it should have been written here: “and the Lord was still standing beside Abraham?” But this is a scribal emendation (Gen. Rabbah 49:7).ואברהם עודנו עומד לפני ה': והלא לא הלך לעמוד לפניו אלא הקב"ה בא אצלו ואמר לו (פסוק כ) זעקת סדום ועמורה כי רבה, והיה לו לכתוב וה' עודנו עומד לפני אברהם, אלא תיקון סופרים הוא זה (אשר הפכוהו ז"ל לכתוב כן):

See the discussion after the jump.

Worst political ad of the year?

Despite its high production values, this disgusting bit of propaganda gets my vote for Most Despicable Ad of the 2010 Campaign Season

Politics Daily reports that “that Amendment 62 would ban all abortions, without exceptions for rape, incest or to save a mother’s life. It also would ban stem cell research and birth control other than ‘barrier methods.’

What these fanatics can't accept is that there are legitimate differences of opinion about when life begins. Since the question, and its answers, are theological, the government must not get involved, My religion, for example, allows abortions under certain circumstances, and in some cases even encourages them. Were the government to ban abortions, I'd no longer be free to do something my religion permits and teaches is moral. The fact that non-halachic abortions are also legal doesn't concern me. Lobster and pork are also legal. Just as I'm not forced to eat at a treif restaurant, I'm not forced to abort babies; in both cases I'm merely being given the freedom to make my own decisions, and because the question of "When does life begin" has no one answer, its fully appropriate for the government to grant me that freedom. Though the ad's dehumanization of a sitting president, and the lies about his record, are obviously egregious, I'm more deeply offended by the claim that pro-choice people as hate liberty, when the very opposite is true.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Renew our days as of old

A great comment about traditional Judaism from "Igor:"

I'm a graduate student in medieval Jewish philosophy. This kind of position was quite common among educated Jews in Spain, Italy and the South of France, including many in the rabbinical elite, and the Rambam comes quite close to it in the Moreh Nevukhim (Guide of the Perplexed). It's just an unfortunate fact that after the gerush from Spain and the rise of kabalah traditional Judaism became increasingly ossified. It's also unfortunate that some of the best philosophical writing by otherwise popular medieval authorities-Ibn Paquda, Ibn Ezra, the Rambam, the Ralbag-is no longer taught. In 13th century Italy they actually taught secular science and philosophy at yeshivot:

- Thanks.

One reason philosophy and science are no longer taught in Yeshivot is this: In the 13th century the facts of science and the facts of Torah were nearly identical. You weren't likely to learn anything in science class that undermined the old interpretations. Following the development of more reliable methods for acquiring information about the natural world, the facts of science and the facts of the old interpretations no longer coincide. Instead of disregarding the old interpretations, which to a large extent, were never "Torah" but simply deductions and interpretations based on bad facts, the Orthodox community has chosen to disregard the new facts (*). And as the Sages warned, one sin leads to the next. The sin of ignoring the truth leads, alas, in many schools, to institutionally sanctioned cheating on science regents, and to lies to Board of Education authorities about curriculum. 

(*) The facts are disregarded when convenient. Flu vaccines, for example, which testify to the truth of evolution, aren't banned by the Orthodox, nor are any technologies which undermine traditional understandings of cosmology.

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Audience of Law School Students Roar With Laughter at Christine O'Donnell

Is Delaware on the verge of sending an extremely ignorant person to the Senate?
Republican Senate Candidate Christine O'Donnell today challenged her Democratic opponent Chris Coons on his statement that the Constitution disallowed the integration of religion into the federal government, asking, "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?"
The exchange, which prompted laughs from the studio audience, came during a debate this morning at Delaware's Widener School of Law, which was aired by WDEL radio.
When asked point blank by Coons if she believed in evolution, however, O'Donnell reiterated that her personal beliefs were not germane. "What I think about the theory of evolution is irrelevant," she emphasized, adding later that the school of thought was "not a fact but a theory."

See it, and read more

The relevant bit is @2:50, and the students absolutely roared with laughter. It lasted nine seconds.

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Why do Gutnick and ArtScroll suggest Rashi had a different Torah text?

Genesis 14:14, with Rashi
And Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, and he armed his trained men, those born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and he pursued [them] until Dan.יד. וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָם כִּי נִשְׁבָּה אָחִיו וַיָּרֶק אֶת חֲנִיכָיו יְלִידֵי בֵיתוֹ שְׁמֹנָה עָשָׂר וּשְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת וַיִּרְדֹּף עַד דָּן:

His trained men:  Heb. חִנִיכָיו It is written חִנִיכוֹ [in the singular], his trained man. This is Eliezer, whom he had trained to [perform the] commandments, and it [חִנִיכָיו] is an expression of the initiation (lit. the beginning of the entrance) of a person or a utensil to the craft with which he [or it] is destined to remain, and similarly (Prov. 22: 6):“Train (חִנ‏ֹ) a child ;” (Num. 7:10):“the dedication of (חֲנֻכַּת) the altar ;” (Ps. 30:1):“the dedication of of (חֲנֻכַּת) the Temple,” and in Old French it is called enseigner [to instruct, train].חניכיו: חנכו כתיב זה אליעזר שחנכו למצות והוא לשון התחלת כניסת האדם או כלי לאומנות שהוא עתיד לעמוד בה, וכן (משלי כב ו) חנוך לנער, (במדבר ז יא) חנכת המזבח, (תהלים ל א) חנכת הבית ובלע"ז קורין לו אנציניי"ר [לחנוך]:

The problem:

The verse says חֲנִיכָיו, which means "trained men". In his comment, Rashi says חנכו כתיב or "it is written his "trained man." Did Rashi have a different text? Why does he say the word is written "trained man" when its clearly "trained men?"

The answer:

There are four early editions of Rashi. The problematic text, reproduced above, appears in just two of them: Rome and Venice. The other two, including Reggio de Calbria the first printed Rashi edition, make no mention here of Eliezer, or of a variant Torah text. Instead, they give:

His trained men:  Those that he trained in the commandments....

Which variation corresponds to the original Rashi? Impossible to know. In the 200 or so years between Rashi and the Reggio de Calbria edition, words and even sentences could have been added and removed from manuscripts a dozen times over.

The question, then, is on contemporary publishers.

On Genesis 14:14  we have two different versions of Rashi's comment, one of which suggests quite strongly that Rashi used a Torah text that was different from the one we have today. For some reason, this is the version that appears in my Mikraot Gedolot, and its also used in ArtScroll's Stone edition, the Gutnick edition [which you can review here] and many others. How was this decision made? Why did so many different editorial committees choose to include a Rashi variation which so strongly suggests that the father of all commentators based himself on a different, perhaps flawed, text of the Torah?

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Kiruv: A noble goal or sticking noses in others’ business?

A Guest Post by Philo

Is kiruv a noble goal? Or is it just some Jews poking their noses in other Jews' business and telling them how to live their lives?

The mainstream Orthodox Jewish community certainly sees it as noble. Kids are taught from a young age that anyone who's not religious is missing something, and it's our "job" to bring it to them. Another goal is bringing the geulah. A lot of frum kids are taught that if all the Jews in the world kept two consecutive shabbatot in a halachically observant manner, the Mashiach would come immediately. I was certainly taught that. So it becomes a numbers game, so get as many people into the fold as possible. This is a major motivation for Chabad, though within that context they do seem to show genuine caring for individual Jews.

But what if someone's living a happy life, has a husband and kids, is well-adjusted and is generally a good person? She may not have a deep knowledge of her heritage, but she goes to shul once or twice a year, and likes it. There's nothing missing in her life. Then some kiruv rabbi comes along and tells her that she's living her life wrong and has to change entirely. That she's missing out on something beautiful (and for the more hard-core kiruv rabbis) that she's sinning. How is that different from missionaries coming along and telling her that she needs to accept Jesus to be saved? (I know that kiruv people will explain that they target only Jews, so they're not missionaries, but really, from the perspective of the targeted, what's the difference?)

Essentially, if she's happy, who are we to come and mess that up?

Some close relatives of mine drive to a Conservative shul every shabbat. They love the shul and he lains the parsha there on a regular basis. Is there something deeply wrong with their lifestyle because they drive to shul?

And yet, in another case, my gut tells me another story. Not all non-Orthodox Jews are the same, despite what I thought when I was twelve years old. So let's look at the case of an entirely unaffiliated Jew. He grows up knowing that he's Jewish and not having any problem with that. But for him it means mostly Seinfeld or Bagels & Lox. Like the woman above, he also is well-adjusted and happy. But he knows virtually nothing about his heritage. From my perspective, he has the perfect right to that lifestyle. But there's a deep part of me that feels it's a shame that he knows nothing about the incredible heritage of his ancestors, knows no Hebrew, has never sat in a sukkah or heard a beautiful Adon Olam, and never experienced the serenity of a Shabbat (to whatever level of observance.) He doesn’t know of the wealth of halachic, aggadic, and poetic literature that has been produced by his people for 3,000 years. While I personally feel I have no right to intervene in his happy life, if he comes to me asking questions, I'd be happy to give him information and invite him to a shabbat meal, while putting no demands on him, to show him this gift he’s missing out on.

Then there are the unhappy non-Religious Jews. They are unhappy in their lifestyles and are desperately searching for something. They tend to be easy targets for kiruv “professionals”. Some are genuinely searching for religious truth and Orthodoxy does end up making them happy. But for a large minority of them, their problems just come with them into their new lifestyles. I’ve met far too many people who should have never become frum. They should have sought therapy instead. So they were miserably unhappy unaffiliated Jews, and now they’re miserably unhappy Orthodox Jews. Some are worse than unhappy, and are emotionally disturbed. Yet the frum community counts them as success stories as soon as they start keeping Shabbat & Kosher.

I know that Orthodox Jews are supposed to feel that anyone who’s not Orthodox is a lost soul that needs to be brought to frumkeit. And as a kid and a young adult, I deeply believed in kiruv. But now, as an Orthodox-ish Jew who has decidedly heterodox ideas and believes in Jewish pluralism, here’s a sum-up of how I see the correct approach to the various types of Jews I mentioned above.

1) The happy, and religiously involved Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal, etc, Jew:

Leave her alone. She’s happy. She’s a good Jew, just as good as I am, perhaps better sometimes. They fact that I don’t use electricity on Shabbat and she does doesn’t mean anything. Become friends with her as an equal, not with any ulterior motive.

2) The happy but entirely unaffiliated Jew who thinks Seinfeld is what Judaism is about:

I would also leave him alone, other than becoming friends with him as an equal. I’m not better than he is either. However, if he asks me about Judaism, I’ll be happy to speak to him about it, without pushing. I’d even invite him to a Shabbat meal unprompted, but without any motive other than that he enjoys himself. If he takes something deeper away, that’s great, but that’s not my motive. But I’d be extremely happy to guide him if he expresses further interest. And despite the fact that I would in no way feel better than him if he never expresses interest in religiosity, there would be a small part of me feeling like his kids are missing something important. But I’d respect his choices, nonetheless.

3) The unhappy heterodox Jew, of any stripe, who may have emotional difficulties:

I would NEVER try to get him to become Shomer Shabbat. Instead, I’d try to get him the help he needs. It’s no service to him to encourage him on his way into becoming an OCD ba’al tshuva (and no service to Orthodox Judaism either, for that matter – that’s where many new chumras are born) or becoming a severely depressed person in a community where some segments still neglect emotional illness. Shmirat Shabbat does NOT equal happiness.

Summary: Kiruv is all very well & good in theory, but the kiruv missionary machine doesn’t respect Jews and their choices.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Pastor Anderson's Wife Hates Jews

Mrs. Piss-on-the-Wall Preacher 
The piss-on-the-wall preacher has a wife, and she has a blog, and on that blog she has shared some fascinating ideas about Jews and  circumcision:
[Question from someone]: I was wondering if you circumcise the boys?

No. To quote myself from another Q&A where I was asked the same question: 
We do not have our children circumcised. There is no Biblical mandate for us to do so; rather, the Bible makes it clear that it was a symbolic OT law that never extended to the Gentiles. Historically, circumcising all males in America became common during World War II, when mostly Jewish doctors stayed behind from the war and advocated for it. In Europe, this is not common practice. The American trend toward circumcision was further fueled by a fascination for Judaism and Zionism, both of which are contrary to true Bible doctrine. The Jewish religion teaches works salvation just like ever other false religion, and I have no desire to emulate their customs any more than those of Catholics, Muslims, or other false teachers.

My husband preached a sermon on this issue, you can listen to it here. [DB: Listening to it now. Don't know about the wall, but I'm close to pissing my pants.]

Another question is the motive behind doing this entirely unnecessary surgery. Of course, as always, the love of money is never far off. Many, if not most hospitals sell the tissue for various uses, such as making cosmetics, stem cell research/cloning/animal-human-hybrids, and other perverted uses.

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The Ibn Ezra's "valid" approach for solving difficult verses

The post about the problems with Noah's flood, and how Orthodox Jews should address them, produced some great dialog.What follows, is an example

A Guest Post By YEEDLE
When I first read  DovBear's post about how he reads the flood story I was skeptical. I never heard of the Rav Se'edyah Gaon you quoted, and I never thought that such a line of thought was ever accepted by traditional Judaism.

DB: To review the reference is to Sa'adya Gaon in Emunot v'Deyot 7:2 where he says there are four conditions under which the Torah is not to be taken according to its literal meaning (1) When the plain meaning is rejected by common experience, or your senses; (2) When it is repudiated by obvious logic; (3) When it is contradicted by scripture; or (4) When it is opposed by tradition. Though Sadya Gaon wrote this more than a thousand years ago, his position is not well known among "traditional" Jews. 

I was shocked into realization when I came across the second version of the Iben Ezra's commentary on Parshot Breishit, Noach and Lech Lecha.

In the introduction to the second version, IE writes about five approaches to interpreting the Torah. The first three (which he calls The Christian Approach, The Tzdokim's approach and The G'eonim's Approach) he denounces.

The other two (one of which is The Talmud's Approach, and the other his own) he praises calling each a "valid" approach. In explaining the Talmud's approach he raises an interesting point. Let me quote him:

הרביעית, היא דרך סלולה לקדמונינו, היא הרשומה בתלמודינו ... כי פעם יפרשו הכתוב כמשפטו על דרך פשוטו, ופעם ידרשו בו דרש לסוד עמוק או מפורש.

והנה אומר כלל בתורה, גם בדברי המקרא גם במשנה, ובכל מסכתות ובכל ברייתות ומכילתות. שאם מצאנו באחד הנזכרים, דבר שיכחיש אחד משלשה דברים, כי האחד שקול הדעת הישרה, או כתוב מכחיש אחר בסברה, או יכחיש הקבלה הנגמרה, אז נחשוב לתקן הכל כפי יכולתינו, או בדרך משל, או תוספת אות או מלה על דרך לשונינו. ואם לא נוכל לתקן אל האמת, נאמר כי זאת החכמה ממנו נעלמה, כי יד שכלנו קצרה, ודעת בני דורינו חסרה. ... וחלילה לנו לומר שהוא שקר וכזב, גם לא נאמין שהוא כמשמעו, רק נאמין כי הכותב זה הסוד ידעו, כי יש בדברי הקדמונים סודות, על דרך משלים וחידות, שלא יבנום כל השומעים, ולבעל המחקר יהיו נודעים.

In English:

A rule regarding interpretation of Torah, Mishna and Chazal: Whenever you find something that contradicts one of the 3 following: common sense, logic, or our Mesora, we have to reinterpret, either in an allegorical fashion or by adding a letter or a word. And if we can still not interpret the passage in a way that it doesn't contradict the aforementioned three things, we won't say that the passage is untrue and false, but neither will we say that it has to be taken literally. But we will say that there is a secret that our shortness of mind can't grasp, and it was written in such a way that only those who have to understand should get it.

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