Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Israeli Government Shows American Jews its Middle Finger

As reported first at the Jewish Channel, the Israeli government has commissioned a series of ads designed to discourage its citizens from  becoming romantically inter-tangled with American Jews. The danger, see, is that Israeli citizens might choose to settle with their new spouses in a place that has neither terrorists nor Taliban Rabbis. If too many Israelis take this route Israel will be short on cannon fodder, and the demographic advantage already enjoyed by the more fecund Palestinians will increase.

But, of course, the ads can't say "Stay in Israel or the Arabs will take over"; instead they say "Marry a stupid American and your kids will be Goyim."

Here's one heavy handed example:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Touching Moment In Waterbury

A Guest Post By E. Fink

The Yeshiva High School in Waterbury CT suffered a double tragedy a few weeks ago when two young men were killed in a car crash. The yeshiva fields a basketball team that competes with other local (non-Jewish) high schools. I think it's great that the boys can play competitively against peers from other walks of life. It's a great outlet and a great opportunity to learn about interacting with other groups, religions and faiths.

Offensive Billboards

A Guest Post by E. Fink

A couple years ago I wrote a blog post about billboards for Sex and the City 2. (What Am I Supposed To Tell My Son?) The billboards were giving me some parenting issues. My son was 7 and he was able to read the signs but could not be expected to understand what the word means in the context of Sex and the City. And I could not be expected to explain the words.

Recently, a new crop of billboards found their way into Los Angeles. The ads are for a gay hook-up app. I think it's an app that tells you if any likeminded men are in the area and are willing to do the deed with no strings attached. The ads feature a couple of strapping young men posing very provocatively mere centimeters from a very sensual kiss. 

Two cheers for chabad

Observer says:
I have to admit, having watched video segments from both the Chabad and Agudah meetings, it was like watching a wedding versus a funeral and I'll let you guess which was which. One was upbeat, positive and rejoicing in what hashem has done for Judaism and will continue doing and the other was a nonstop cry of "Gevalt yidden" and how we've all gone off the derech and need to do major league tshuvah. Maybe next year, the Agudah will simply cancel their convention and attend as guests of Chabad (I'm sure the shalichim will enjoy the opportunity of doing some really heavy duty outreach).
Heh. I have serous philosophical problems with Chabad, but I can't disagree with this statement. Chabad, unlike Agudah, isn't about making people feel bad. Chabad, unlike Agudah, isn't about knocking people down. Chabad  wants to bring people together, under the aegis of Lubovitch. Agudah just wants to purify itself by leaving dissenters behind. See proof after the jump

Huff Post Publishes a Godol's Top Secret Anti-Gay Document

Apparently, a noted and famous RW Orthodox Rabbi has signed and circulated a well-written argument against homosexuality, together with a request that other Rabbis sign it. The document was not supposed to be publicized yet. Unfortunately, our all knowing leaders still do not quite get the Internet. Someone leaked their top secret document to Huffington Post, and now their millions of readers have been reminded yet again that RW Orthodox Judaism hates gays. Nice going guys.

My view? After the jump

Wow, these dudes really hate....

... secularism, modernity, technology, common sense, FaceBook, Twitter, isms, blogs, the Internet, and smart phones (aside from the guy @10:41 who doesn't seem to have much of a problem with his own personal blackberry)

Is it a coincidence that every speaker seems to have directed his rantings against the Internet? Was there a pre-meeting where this was arranged, or do we really have a situation where all of our so-called leaders individually think the Internet is the biggest problem facing klal yisroel?  And why does it seem the only counterargument they have in their word-quivers is a scowl and the exclamation rachmanalitzlan?

Best juxtaposition (via Ksil) 

@3:25 we hear:  "Blackeberrys destroy the ehrichkeit of klal yisroel. RACHMANALITZLAHN!! " 
@ 10:41 we hear "pull out my blackberry, and read the following...."

Do as I say (not as I do): Profiles in Agudah hypocrisy

At the 12 minute mark, CD Zwibel, Executive Director of Agudas Yisroel, takes out his blackberry and reads an email from the podium. According to Rabbi Schorr, who spoke at the same conference,  shouldn't Zwiebel have invited the audience to join him at the neighborhood technology center?

Given the fevered anti-internet and anti-smart phone rhetoric to which convention goers were subjected from that same podium, isn't this a little like lighting up a joint at a DARE  convention?

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Was Aqedas Yishmael Originally a Jewish Idea?

An unendorsed guest post by BRAY

A few recent posts on DovBear probing X-tian borrowing of Aqeda themes got me thinking about Islamic borrowing of Aqeda themes.

Based on the Quran rather than the Torah, the predominant Islamic belief is that while an Aqeda indeed took place there never was an Aqedas Yitzchok. Instead, it was Avrahams older son, Yishmael, who was bound up and nearly slaughtered as a burnt offering. Here are the salient points from the Wikipedia article on the topic:

The Charedi Aseres Hadibros

a Guest Post by FENCE SITTER

1. I am the Lord your God who took you out of Egypt. You must therefore believe in me, the authority of the Torah, and all rabbinic law that came after.

2. Do not have any other gods before me. Therefore, one must not engage in any secular activities that are not absolutely required. The rabbonim who have never worked get to decide what is absolutely required.

3. Don't make any images of females, graven or otherwise

4. Keep the shabbos holy by not doing any melacha, eating all of the shabbos foods in the correct order, and learning Torah at every spare second of the day.

5. Honor your rabbis and teachers. This includes your parents if they teach you Torah, therefore you may not deviate from the minhagim of your parents even if the reasons for the minhagim no longer apply

6. Do not murder, however beating-up dissenters is permitted

7. Don't do anything "not tznius"

8. Do not steal anything from anyone who isn't the government or a large corporation

9. Do not lie when speaking to the rabbonim, only when doing kiruv.

10. Do not covet your neighbor's freedom, because it will lead him to gehenom anyway.

Fence Sitter is a married secretly OTD mother-of-three who is trying to figure out how to balance her beliefs, abilities, and family in the way that is the least painful to all involved. She blogs at

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Rabbi Sherer at the Agudah Convention

When last we heard from Rabbi Shimshon Sherer of Brooklyn, NY, he was being ridiculed on The Godol Hador for saying that M.O and Y.U Rabbis were the misyavnim of our time. The post, in which the Rabbi's own words were faithfully reproduced,  generated more than 300 comments. By the standards of the Jewish blogosphere in 2005, this was a post heard round the world. For Rabbis and other public figures, the takeaway lesson seemed obvious. To quote Ethics of our Fathers: "Consider three things, and you will not come to sin: Know what is above you, a seeing eye, a hearing ear, and all of your deeds written down in a book." Or, to put it less obscurely, watch your mouth, Rabbi, because someone is always listening. [See Harry's post about the famous post here]

Obvious as it may have been, the lesson did not sink in. Instead of complimenting the blogs for exposing Rabbi Sherer's inappropriate remarks, his friends went on the offensive. At the Monsey anti-Internet Asifa in 2006, Rabbi E Waxman told the story of Rabbi Sherer's humiliation as a way of proving how scary-dangerous the Internet is. Instead of being mad at Rabbi Sherer for articulating a hateful statement against other Rabbis, we were supposed to be mad at the blogs for telling everyone about it. Instead of thanking the blogs for making it harder for other Rabbi's to commit the same types of sins, Rabbi Waxman defended the sinners, and declared the blogs their tormentor. It was the old story of blaming the messenger for the message.  Shut down the Internet, Rabbi Waxman seemed to say, otherwise Rabbis won't be able to continue saying stupid and hurtful things.

The other day, Rabbi Sherer took the podium at the annual Agudah Convention and proved that he has learned nothing. The subject of his speech was an op-ed written by Natan Slifkin for the Jerusalem Post.  The problem, according to Rabbi Sherer, was that in defending what he called "Post-Charedism" Rabbi Slifkin said something about Roshei Yeshiva that was less than perfectly deferential.

Unfortunately, Rabbi Sherer entirely misrepresented and blatantly misquoted Rabbi Slifkin's argument.

How's that for irony? After being humiliated by blogs that quoted him accurately, Rabbi Sherer goes to a public forum and inaccurately quotes another Rabbi. After whining about the sin of loshon hara, he takes a microphone and commits the sin of moitzi shem rah. After sending his supporters to criticize the shortcomings of a new form of communication, he conclusively demonstrates that old forms of communication are susceptible to the exact same problems. If there was any justice, Rabbi Waxman would convene an Asifa to rail against Aguda conventions. What a hotbed of loshon hara they are!

All of this should convince you that when Agudah types complain about blogs, their real objection is not to the message itself, but to the fact that they no longer control it.  Consider what this sad episode has taught us:

(1) Criticizing an M.O Rabbi is fine, if its done in the privacy of your own shul; what's not fine is using your blog to share that criticism with a global audience.

(2) Loshon hara, when its spouted from the podium of the Agudah convention is also okay, just as the lohon hara that appears on Torah-true blogs like Cross Currents is okay. What Aguda can't tolerate is blogger loshon hara and not because its loshon hara per se, but because it is anti-Aguda loshon hara, as opposed to pro-Agudah loshon hara.  

I'll leave it to others to criticize Agudah for making an attack on Natan Slifkin the subject of their convention's keynote address when the Jewish people have so many other real problems. 

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Agudah Convention highlights

Quick run down of the conventions very best moments, aside for one, which will be addressed in the next post:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sforno vs Rashi: Did the Patriarchs keep the Commandments?

Did the patriarchs keep the Torah?

  • The mainstream view: Yes. The verse says
    עֵקֶב, אֲשֶׁר-שָׁמַע אַבְרָהָם בְּקֹלִי; וַיִּשְׁמֹר, מִשְׁמַרְתִּי, מִצְו‍ֹתַי, חֻקּוֹתַי וְתוֹרֹתי
    ...because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws. The last word in the verse, וְתוֹרֹתָי, is plural. So, the ancestors kept two Torahs, the written and oral. (Rashi, Midrash)
  • Sforno says: The passage refers to the Noachide laws, not to laws that were revealed later, and not to the oral laws.
  • The appeal of Sforno's reading: We're spared the incongruity of imagining forefather who kept laws, and celebreated rituals that developed contingently in response to historical events. Matzo, for example, is eaten because the Jews rushed out of Egypt. Amelek is despised because they attacked us. The lulav and esrog are waved for seven days because R. Yochanan Ben Zackai wanted to keep the memory of the Temple alive after its destruction. Before these events occurred, the rituals that developed in response to those events did not exist, and there was no reason to perform them. An Abraham who celebrated Pesach, therefore, makes us much sense as an Abraham who commemorated the Satmar Rebbe's yartzeit. 

What do other Rishonim say about this? See it here

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sforno and the mythical schoolhouse of Shem and Ever

What were the "tents" in which Jacob sat?

The traditional interpretation These were the tents of Shem and Ever who ran some kind of proto-yeshiva where Jacob studied. Each founder had his own tent, thus "Jacob sat in tentS" (Beraishis Raba, popularized by Rashi)

Sforno's interpretation Jacob had two different tents. One was his shepherd tent, where he lived while he was with the flocks; the other was a meditation tent where he studied and prayed.

The merit of Sforno's interpretation At first, I preferred this reading because it does not rely on new information. Instead of introducing somthing foreign to the story, and pre-supposing an ancient yeshiva, it responds to the words on the page. The word tents is plural, and Sforno tells us why without getting too creative (or falling back on the creativity of the Sages). However, I must point out that Sforno does mention the mythical Yeshiva later in his commentary. He seems to have believed it existed, and he he seems to have believed Jacob studied there. Unlike Rashi and the Sages, however, he does not agree that the multiple tents of our verse are a reference to that institution.

More Sforno later.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How can we be certain?

As you may remember, Genesis 24 tells the story of Abrahm's servant and his journey to Haran without ever giving us his name: He's always called the "man" or the "servant". According to the Sages, the man/servant is Demessek Eliezer, the person identified in Genesis 15:2 as the steward (Ben Meshek) of Abraham's house.  Demessek Eliezer is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible.

Most of the Orthodox Jews I know are 100 percent certain that Demessek Eliezer was the man who found Rebecca. Some are not aware that the Torah fails to state this outright.  To them we "know" it was Eliezer, case closed, though some of the more thoughtful ones will puzzle over why the Torah chose not to state this outright.

I come at this question, and others like it, from a different perspective. Unlike my friends, I posses no certainty that the servant is Eliezer;  indeed I'm not even certain that the Sages were certain. Instead, I hold that the view that Eliezer was the servant is an interpretation, and like all interpretations it was created by men, at some moment in time, to achieve some purpose or solve some difficulty.

My friends find this disturbing. They want to be certain. But certainty is often a crutch, and so much about the Sages and their interpretations defy certainty. For instance:

- the Sages often disagree about historical facts. For instance, some say that Abraham's third wife was Hagar. Others say it wasn't. One of these views is wrong. Until time travel is invented, we can't know who is right. So how can we be certain?

- the Sages often tell the same story in different ways. In some cases you can see how the story changed and developed over time. For instance, the story of Sarah's death is told no less than four ways. In one Midrash she dies of shock after the Satan tells her that her son was killed (Pirqe de Rabbi Elazer); in another she's told of Abraham's plan and later dies of joy upon learning that her son wasn't killed (Sefer Hayasher); in a third version Issac arrives and tells Sarah the whole story causing her to die of shock (Vayikra Rabba); in a fourth the Satan disguises himself as Isaac and tells her what happened, and the shock kills her (Tanchuma). Again, no time machine means no certainty.

- the Sages often repeated interpretations that are known to us from other, earlier sources, including Ben Sira, Jubilees, and Josephus. Does this suggest that the Sages, in these cases, were simply repeating folk wisdom, in the same way a Rabbi today might declare that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree? Or, did those earlier sources receive their information from unnamed Sages who lived in their own time? Impossible to know, and therefore impossible to be certain.

In the case of Genesis 24 and the servant, none of these concerns apply. To the best of my knowledge, there are no dissenting views on the servant's identity, and no evidence that the idea originated from outside of the Bes Medrash. Moreover, there's very good textual evidence that the chapter is speaking of  Eliezer. In Gen 24:3, the servant is called the elder of Abraham's house. If we accept that Ben Meshek in Gen 15:2 means something like chief steward, and realize that Gen 24 is set several decades after the events of Gen 24, "elder of the house" takes on two meanings: The servant of Gen 24 is both the chief servant, and the one with the most seniority. Both descriptions fit Eliezer.

Nonetheless, nonetheless, certainty escapes me. I find myself unable to call the servant Eliezer without hedging and qualifying. Why? Perhaps because I'm trapped by the notion that interpretations, even persuasive interpretations, are not proofs. 

Switching to Disqus or blogger comments

Tomorrow, I intend to switch my comments to either Disqus or blogger's own commenting system. It will mean the old Haloscan comments will no longer be available to you directly from the blog. (I will continue to archive them at a cost of $10 per month; if you want to see a specific thread, I will be able to provide that on request.)  

A Response to the Barrage of Articles on CC on Modern Orthodoxy

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Originally posted on my home blog: and

Lately it seems like everyone is trying to define Modern Orthodoxy. The purpose of these attempts revolves around one specific institution and its graduates, Yeshiva Chovevei Torah (YCT).

Four articles (1234) on a prominent Centrist-Orthodox blog tried to tackle the YCT issue (see links below). Three of the articles called on Modern Orthodoxy to disaffiliate with YCT. One article explained that YCT deserved to be included in the Modern Orthodox tent. Much ink has been spilled over YCT and the more that is written, the more things stay the same. Platitudes and proclamations have done nothing to stop YCT. Indeed, they serve a need within Orthodox Jewish community. They tend to those who would like to be Orthodox but find some its social constraints too limiting. There is a place for YCT. However, there is no place for the articles calling for its demise.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cell Phones and Sects

Were our forefathers encouraged to burn their land-based telephones? I ask because a yeshiva in Telshe Stone ran an event last week, at which students were encouraged to toss their mobile phones into a bonfire.

Here's the story via TWBITW*
After a schmooze from the mashgiach of the yeshiva, HaRav Yerucham Schechter, the talmidim collected their cellular telephones and placed them in a collective fire to remove the evil influence from their midst.

According to Chadrei Chareidim, rabbonim of the yeshiva took part in the event, labeled a Seudas Kiddush Hashem.

Rav Zechariah Gruenwald, the founder of the yeshiva added, “A number of years ago, I was involved in a serious vehicular accident and I was spared. On my way here I wondered what saved me. I immediately received the response, that Hashem merited me to see just how students are MeKadesh Shem Shomayim”.
(I'd provide a link to the YWN story, but you're likely to get a seizure from all the Flash animation on that site. I can't be responsible for your medical bills.) 

I think events like this announce the surrender of what is politely called authentic Judaism. When Jews burn cell phones, what they are really doing is waving a white flag and saying, "We can't live in the world." Such a statement, is of course, permitted, but let's not pretend there is anything "authentic" about it. Jews, going back to our earliest stories, lived in the world. Abraham couldn't imagine a righteous person dwelling anywhere but "in the midst of the city" from where he might influence non-believers; Bar Yochai was criticized and banished to a cave  for disrespecting ordinary work-a-day compromises; and the great Levi Yitzchak of Berditcher earned his immortality by framing those compromises as expressions of piety and devotion.

The fierce denunciation of anything secular or electronic is something new under the Jewish the sun. Those who make such denunciations are the fathers of a new Jewish sect. Though I agree that the emergence of new sects are, in some ways, a sign of the mother religion's health and vigor, I must point an accusing finger at anti-sectarian men like Yitzchak Alderstan and Avi  Safran. The two of you are quick to complain when Judaism inclines toward the left. Where is your protest when similar, if not identical, forces cause it to lean to the right? If OpenOrthodoxy crosses into the category of Kariasm and Saduccism the moment an OpenOrthodox Rabbi announces he no longer intends to say a blessing, what rabbinical act takes CharediJudaism into the same place?

*The Worst Blog in the World

Additional point: Rabbi Greunweld arrogantly believes God reached into the world and saved him from death so that he might live to see his students destroy their phones. Does the fool not understand that cell phones also save lives? Maybe God really wants him to spread the gospel of responsible cell phone use. Maybe God wants him to, you know, function as a spiritual leader and teach his students how to withstand temptation and make responsible choices. For that matter, maybe God wants him to retire to a beach in South America with a harem of super-models. How would we know in either case?

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Praise God, The Kosher Camera is Here!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Some Great Anecdotes about famous New York Jews

Once a Realm of Stars, a Temple Is Now Bereft of Them, and Their Money

The Actors’ Temple was once a spiritual home to countless entertainers.  Money quote:
Here is how the Actors’ Temple went from being an Orthodox synagogue to a Conservative one — at least for a time.
Sophie Tucker, the self-proclaimed “Last of the Red Hot Mamas” who was famous for her vaudeville renditions of “Some of These Days,” and “My Yiddishe Momme,” was sitting in the women’s balcony during the High Holy Days and spotted a wealthy woman she was acquainted with enter the men’s section below to pray with her husband, causing something of a stir. The formidable Tucker rose, marched downstairs and joined her, making an emphatic statement that the rabbi was loath to challenge. This was Sophie Tucker, after all. From then on, more women and men sat together in the Conservative custom, or so goes the story as told by the congregation’s current rabbi, who happens to be a woman, Jill Hausman.
Read the rest:

A Humble Proposal, by UNDERCOVER FRUM

A Humble Proposal, by

Unlike baby-killing liberals, we in the Pro-Life movement respect the sanctity of life. We take our motto from the Bible and proudly "choose life". And as we all know, life begins at conception. A fertilized human egg is human same as any other human and as such is entitled to equal rights, most especially the right to life.

Friday, November 18, 2011

New Chumra: Non-Jews Can't Celebrate Thanksgiving Either

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Despite the fact that many great rabbis sanctioned the celebration of Thanksgiving, the holy schools of New York, Lakewood and even in Los Angeles have at least some school on the holiday.

In Lakewood, the schools are in session and they want the bus companies to drive their children to school and back home after school. The drivers are not Jewish. Needless to say, this creates a serious hardship on the bus drivers who want to celebrate with their families.

The hardliners will just say that if they knew about the possibility of working on Thanksgiving then who cares if it annoys them. This may be true but it is not the way a nice person acts.

The right thing to do is to give the drivers their day off. The politically prudent thing to do is to give the drivers their day off.

For years, Jewish activists have tried to gain acceptance of Jewish holidays in the public sphere so that working Jews would be able to take their holy days and holidays without discrimination. Now that orthodox Jews are the majority in Lakewood it only seems fair to reciprocate.

Sforno v. the mainstream view (Chayyei Sarah)

What's this? Some kind of new DovBear feature? Why yes. Read about it here

Why did Lavan run to greet Abraham's servant?

  • The traditional interpretation: Because Lavan was a greedy SOB, who saw the jewels Rivka received, and wanted to get his hands on more of same (Rashi via Gen Rabbah)
  • Sforno says: Lavan appreciated the gift his sister's received, and out of a sense of gratitude wanted to extend hospitality to the man.
  • The merits of Sforno's reading: Protects Lavan's reputation; demonstrates a willingness to judge people favorable.

Read my famous Chayyei Sarah ParshaNotes here

A yeshiva guy says

Yesterday, we pointed you to A Sem Girl Says, a new FaceBook page that proposes to compile some of the stupid things Seminary Girls are overheard saying on the streets of Jerusalem. Well, what about the Yeshiva Guys? They say stupid things, too. So in the interest of fair play, here are some of the stupid things I've heard yeshiva guys* say with my own personal ears (not verbatim):
  • Who was the Bnos Tzlafchad's father?
  • The Ari wrote the Zohar (yes, the Ari)
  • Rishonim don't really disagree; we're just not smart enough to see the reconciliation
  • K'vayachol is one of God's name... you know: Hashem, k'vayochol.
  • How did the ibn Ezra learn Rashi?
  • The universe is exactly 5771 years old
  • All of the midrashim were given at Sinai.
  • Liberalism/Feminism/Anything I don't like is an avoda zara 
  • Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh/Pat Robertson/anyone I do like is "mamish" a tzadik
  • Black people are our spiritual/intellectual inferiors.
  • Chazal knew how to cure cancer, build rocket ships, and spontaneously generate food
  • Lice are generated from sweat
  • "Furthermore, according to midrashim, [the kotel] may very well be the original wall from shlomo which herod later renovated." /verbatim
  • Giving fortunes of money to some old guy who, in exchange, mumbles some Hebrew words on your behalf is a great guarantee of health,wealth and happiness. 
  • The Ramban is not from our mesorah
Add your own...

*The actual @yeshivaguy has said plenty of stupid things, too, only his Twitter account is now protected so I can't mine his timeline for winning remarks. 

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A sem girl says

Cain on Libya

So GOP Jews, which of your presumptive front-runners is the biggest moron, Cain or Perry? And why is it that no one with both a brain and a modicum of sanity is pursuing the nomination?

See Jon Stewart laugh and point here.

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More on Isaac's resurrection

After yesterday's post, the great Miriam Shaviv contacted me with some additional sources that speak of Issaac being brought back from the dead following the Akeida. She says they were (for the most part) compiled from The Last Trial: On the Legends and Lore of the Command to Abraham to Offer Isaac as a Sacrifice, by Sholom Spiegel

As I mention on yesterday's thread, this line of interpretation seems to begin with Genesis 22:19, where only Abraham is described as having returned from Moriah:
וַיָּ֤שָׁב אַבְרָהָם֙ אֶל־ נְעָרָ֔יו וַיָּקֻ֛מוּ וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ יַחְדָּ֖ו אֶל־ בְּאֵ֣ר שָׁ֑בַע וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב אַבְרָהָ֖ם בִּבְאֵ֥ר שָֽׁבַע
And Abraham returned to his attendants and together they set off and traveled to Be'er Sheva. And  Abraham settled in Be'er Sheva.

Indications that Jewish tradition embraced the idea that Abragam returned alone because  Isaac was actually killed at the Akeida and later resurrected include the quote from Pirqe de Rabbi Elazer I cited yesterday, as well as the following additional sources provided by Ms. Shaviv:
[When the generations that returned from the Babylonian exile began to build the second temple,] “How did they know what to do with the altar? Said R. Eleazar: They beheld the altar all built and Michael, the Great Prince, stood by it sacrificing on it. But R. Isaac Napha said: They beheld Isaac’s ashes, that these lay on that spot. - Zevachim 62a
The suggestion here is that the ashes were literal ashes and that they remained on the spot as a sign for the Returnees from Exile. Indeed Rashi picks up this idea of the ever-lasting ashes on Leviticus 26:52, where God is said to remember Abraham and Jacob, but not Isaac.
And why is the expression “remembering” not used with Isaac? [Because] Isaac’s ashes Bereishith Rabbah 56:9; Tanchuma Shelach 14) [always] appear before Me, gathered up and placed upon the altar“ [and therefore, God does not have to ”remember" Isaac, for Isaac is never forgotten].
The Midrash Lekach Tov (11th century) develops the idea further
“The God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac: for Isaac was in the grip of fear as he lay bound on the top of the altar, and his soul flew out of him, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, restored it to him by means of the dewdrops for Resurrection of the dead”
Shibboley Haleket Hashalem (13th century)adds:
“When Father Isaac was bound on the altar and reduced to ashes and his sacrificial dust was cast on to Mount Moriah, the Holy One, blessed by He, immediately brought upon him dew and revived him. That is why David, may he rest in peace, said: ‘Like the dew of Hermon that cometh down from the mountains of Zion’ etc [Ps. 133:3] – for he is referring to that dew with which [the Holy One, blessed by He] revived Father Isaac. Forthwith the ministering angels began to recite, Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who quickens the dead
Another clue comes from the Rabininc commentary on Genesis 27:27, the verse that tells us the Issac caught the scent of Jacob's clothing prior to blessing him, and was reassured, saying: Behold, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field, which the Lord has blessed!

The midrash Tanchuma says that Isaac is, in fact, referring to the scent of Gan Eden. Can a man recognize the odor of a place he's never visited?

Cold water, however is provided by ibn Ezra who says:
“And Abraham returned: And Isaac is not mentioned… But he who asserts that Abraham slew Isaac and abandoned him, and that afterwards Isaac came to life again, is speaking against scripture”
I am not sure what ibn Ezra intends to convey with the phrase "speaking against scripture" but I will point out that on several occasions ibn Ezra is accused by others of speaking against Chazal and their interpretations  It would appear that his denial of Isaac's resurrection is another example of this habit of his.

Conclusion: I am ready to say that the Christian idea of resurrection was co-opted from our Isaac stories, stories that were cast aside and forgotten as Christianity became prominent. Who agrees?

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Was resurrection originally a Jewish idea?

The Akedah, the story of the death and 'resurrection' of Isaac was, at least by the first century CE fairly easily taken over into Christianity from that source.
The suggestion is that ancient Jews believed that Isaac was killed at the Akeida, and then resurrected by God, and that this idea was co-opted by Christians who saw the whole of the Old Testament as a foreshadowing of Jesus's life. Certainly, the Church fathers understood the Akeida as a prefiguring of the crucifiction. Here's one example from St. Ephraem: c300s
In the ram, which was hanging from the tree and was sacrificed in place of Abraham's son was prefigured the time of Jesus, who was hung from a tree llike the ram and tasted death for the sake of the whole world.
And here's another from the Epistle to the Hebrews, a much earlier work (c60s, but possibly much later) which establishes the idea that Isaac was brought back from the dead:
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son,  even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
Was this idea of Isaac's resurrection an original Christian idea, or was it borrowed from older Jewish sources? Did we also once think Isaac has been killed at the Akeida, and then restored to life?  At least one Jewish source says, "yes".

 Here's Pirqe de Rabbi Elazer:
Rabbi Jehudah said : When the blade  touched his neck, the soul of Isaac fled and departed, (but) when he heard His voice from between the two Cherubim, saying (to Abraham)," Lay not thine hand upon the lad " (Gen. xxii. 12), his soul returned to liis body, and (Abraham) set him free, and Isaac stood upon his feet. And Isaac knew « that in this manner the dead in the future will be quickened. He opened (his mouth), and said : Blessed art thou, O Lord, who quickeneth the dead
Dating this material is notoriously difficult. Though some of Pirqe de Rabbi Elazar is beleived to have been written in the 8th century, parts of it are much older. Traditionally the entire work is ascribed to the Tanna Rabbi Elazer ben Hyrkanus. (c 100) but some of the ideas contained in Pirqe de Rabbi Elazar echo ideas found in Jubilees, a much older work. As such, dating the reference to Isaac's resurrection found in Pirqe de Rabbi Elazar might be younger or older than the reference found in Hebrews. Determining which of the two came first is not in my skill set.

Aside from the hint in Pirqe de Rabbi Elazer, another clue that suggests Jews once saw the Akeida as a story of resurrection is the choice of Haftarah for Parsha Vayerah. The reading is from 2 Kings 4:1-36 which tells of Elisha's resurrection of the Shunamite's son. Though it is not known when this chapter was chosen as the Haftarah for Vayerah, Jewish tradition says the practice of reading Haftarahs was established c200 BCE in response to the banning of public Torah readings by Antioches. Several references to Haftarah-reading in the New Testament tell us the practice was well established by the end of the Second Temple period.

On the basis of the Haftarah, I'd guess Jews were linking the story of the Shunamite's son with the story of the Akeida before Christianity came into existence, and before the Church fathers started pointing to the story of the Akeida as a typology of the Jesus's resurrection. However, it can't be ruled out that the Haftrah was chosen because it contains other themes that link it with Vayerah, for instance the hospitality shown to Elisha, and the promise he gave the Shunamite that she would bear a son.

Find out where the resurrection idea came from at

Monday, November 14, 2011

New, awesome niggun

This Hasidic fiddler is incredible! And such kavana! Look at the fervor in his eyes! Can you feel the holiness? Only what, exactly, is he playing?

Find out after the jump!

Oy Gay

Orthodox rabbi marries gay couple in historic wedding in DC
For the first time in history, [sic] Steve Greenberg, an openly-gay American rabbi ordained by the Orthodox movement, has officiated at a same-sex wedding ceremony.
On Thursday night at Washington DC’s “Historic 6th and I Synagogue,” Greenberg stood under the chupah, a traditional Jewish wedding canopy, as newlyweds Yoni Bock and Ron Kaplan tied the knot before some two-hundred guests. Recognizing the unique – and controversial – moment, Greenberg’s voice notably cracked when near the end he stated, “By the power invested in me by the District of Columbia, I now pronounce you married.”
Quick thoughts:
  1. Anyone, Jew or gentile, straight or gay, can choose to be married under a chuppa.
  2. Anyone, Jew or gentile, straight or gay, can choose to wear a kittle at his wedding.
  3. Anyone, Jew or gentile, straight or gay, can choose to be married by a Rabbi.
  4. Anyone, Jew or gentile, straight or gay, can create any wedding liturgy he likes. 
  5. State and federal law should make no distinction between gay and straight weddings.
  6. Religions can make any rules they like (so long as no one gets wounded or killed.)
The above points are inarguable and self-evident. Also inarguable and self-evident is the fact that this wedding was not an Orthodox Jewish wedding. Though, there's nothing "wrong" in a written-in-the-sky way about a gay couple choosing to wed with all of the accouterments of an Orthodox Jewish wedding, the use of such accouterments do not turn the wedding into an Orthodox Jewish wedding. The same, by the way, is true for straight weddings. A ceremony isn't "orthodox" by virtue of the kittle or the chuppa, or the type of yeshiva that ordained the minister, nor should we get hung up on defining the difference between an Orthodox Jewish wedding, and a non-Orthodox Jewish wedding: If the groom gives his bride something of value and a ketubah, I think that's enough in the eyes of Judaism.  What seems essential, though, at least from the perspective of Judaism, is the presence of a bride.

Though I won't say the marriage shown in this video is illegitimate or false or undeserving of legal recognition and common courtesy, I don't think it qualifies as a Jewish wedding. Likely, the grooms don't care. Likely, they were marrying in a style that they recognized and one that made them comfortable, without also claiming that their ceremony was a Jewish one.  If so, fine. If not also fine. Which brings us back to the old, vexing question: Is Judaism a matter of what Rabbis say, or a matter of what Jews do?

See them leave the chupa. I confess to finding it odd that they chose to be escorted out to Od Yisahma, a song that speaks of the happiness shared by a bride and groom,  but again, this is what they're used to, and the style they found meaningful. Who does it hurt? 

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Let Shmarya be Shmarya

Hershel Tzeig is very upset that Shmarya Rosenberg of Failed Messiah has, as yet, written nothing about the Penn State. Last week, he voiced his anger with an outburst on behalf of every Jew in the world:
It's been a week since the scandal broke at Penn State. In that span of days we've heard from a certain "crusading" blogger about Meal Mart Salmonella, battered Jewish women, Reb Shmuel Kamenetzky telling people not to go to the Police when they see abuse, more abuse in the Jewish Community, Israeli Haredis being male chauvinists, the Kletzky murder trial, Reb Nosson Tzvi, but only because his mother was from his neighborhood in S. Paul, and a host of non-issues. Including a very important story about a Ethiopian Jew being named Israeli Ambassador to ----- Ethiopia. But not a word, not one single, solitary word, about the abuse that went on there for years, not just abuse but violation! of young children by the No. 2 man in the University's Athletic Dept. (as far as I'm concerned, as well as the rest f the world.) The fact that America's very bright, non-Haredi students rioted in support of old JoePa, even though he did nothing to stop the violation of young children, also gets no mention. NOT. ONE. WORD. I guess he cares only about Jewish children being abused. Gentiles mean nothing to him. They can all go to hell, huh? Are they not G-d's children, Scotty? Imagine, just imagine if we would do that, support a Rosh Yeshiva who was fired because he did nothing by rioting and flipping over cars. I've been very patient, Mr. Rosenberg. I shall wait no longer.

You are nothing but a two-bit hypocrite, liar, ingrate - yes, ingrate, and worse.

And most of all, you're an embarrassment to your people.
Well, I dissent. I don't think Shamrya is an embarrassment to his people. I think he's a national treasure.  The corrupt, thieving, phonies who are daily described on the pages of Failed Messiah are the Jewish embarrassment.

Tzeig's line of reasoning seems to be that Shamrya shouldn't report about Jewish scoundrels unless he also reports about every other type if scoundrel. But is that really fair? Shmarya is a one-man show. He has to specialize. He can't be expected to comment on every scandal, and because his time is limited he shouldn't comment when he has nothing new to add. The Penn State scandal has been covered ten different ways from Tuesday. Nearly two weeks later, Google News returns over 4100 results. What might Shmarya say that hasn't already been said? Why spend time rehashing a scandal that's been properly covered, when he could instead spend time investigating the scandals that no one is covering?

In his comments, Tzeig suggests that Shmarya doesn't care about protecting children, rather Failed Messiah's real motive is "to make Jews look bad." [Reminds me of Avi Safran c:2007] I'd counter that its the Jews who are making themselves look bad. Its the old story of blaming the messenger for his message. In any event, why are Shmarya's motives relevant? Why is he being judged based on some biased and speculative guess as to what his motives might be, rather than on his actual accomplishments? Let's say Shmarya really does hate Jews. Let's stipulate that he brought his blog into existence for the sake of embarrassing them. So? He still runs his blog responsibly, he still demonstrates journalistic integrity, and he still gets credit for the scoops he's uncovered and the reporting he's posted, scoops and reporting that have made it harder for Jewish criminals to escape justice, and harder for organizations like Agudah to continue pretending that hemlines are the biggest problem facing klal yisroel. Its only after our communal problems have been publicized by bloggers like Shmarya, that the work of solving them can begin. This is why the J-blogosphere matters. 

It may disturb Tzeig that Shmarya has, in the style of an Old Testament prophet, chosen to focus on Orthodox  Jewish malfeasance, but it bothers me that such a focus is possible. If Jews were as great as we say we are, Shmarya would be out of business. If you want Shmarya to go away, fix the problems. its as simple as that. Silencing Shmarya so that we can continue keeping our heads in the sand  is dishonest and counterproductive

[This is a response to one post. It is not a commentary on Tzeig's blog, as a whole, or his blogging career. I do not read Circus Tent, and have no knowledge of Tzeig's overall style or his opinions on other matters.]
[Update Shmarya posted on Penn State yesterday, three days after Tzeigs complaint, but his take was: "What can Haredim learn from it?"]

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Yeshivas Penn State

Think you've seen a child molester? According to Agudas Yisroel, you're required only to report your discovery to a rabbi, who will decide on your behalf if what you saw should be brought to the attention of the police. Officials at Penn State, we've recently learned, followed Agudah's advice to perfection. 

Surrounded by some talmidim

When Mike McQueary caught Coach Jerry Sandusky raping a 10-year old in the team showers, he should have intervened. But instead of overpowering Sandusky and rescuing his victim, McQeary went home and made an appointment to see his rebbe, the head coach Joe Paterno. Though Paterno carries great stature at Penn State, he's not the community godol. That role belongs to the University president and a few days later Paterno reported what McQeary had seen to two of the president 's gabbaim: Tim Curley and Greg Schultz. Schultz, in turn, notified university president Graham Spanier.

After what I presume must have been deep deliberations the hanhala at Penn State decided that the matter did not reach the level of raglayim l'davar and Sandusky was not reported to the police. Though the record of those deliberations have not been made public, its seems logical to assume that the gedolai Penn State took meta-halachic considerations into account and decided that though Sandusky had been caught red-handed, dealing with the crime internally was preferable to causing a chilul Penn State.

Could the same thing happen in a Yeshiva? Absolutely. Its easy to imagine the directors of Jewish schools, and the leaders of Jewish communities behaving precisely in the same way that their counterparts at Penn State behaved. Jewish officials worry about money, glory and reputation just like University officials. In fact, we've already has a similar case in our community. At Torah Temimah a school president put his institution's reputation ahead of his responsibilities to child safety and allowed a child molester several decades of uninterrupted access to children. We now know Graham Spanier did the same thing for Jerry Sandusky, on what I must presume were similar grounds.

The difference, Agudah apologists will be quick to point out, is that Grahman Spanier is not a Torah scholar. Though he made a serious error, the apologists insist that no Torah scholar could do the same. By definition, anything a Torah scholar decides to do is the right thing to do. If McQueary had gone to a rebbe, instead of a head coach, he'd have received infallible advice.

Unfortunately, there is nothing in their record to suggest that gedolim are equipped to hand out such infallible advice.They are are men, not angles, and men make mistakes. Such mistakes have already been made, as Kolko's victims will unfortunately attest, and they will continue to happen so long as we continue to behave like Penn State and put the glory of our schools and community ahead of the safety of our children. This is what Agudah is asking us to do when the organization tells us to delay reporting molesters to authorities until after a rabbinic review. Though Agudah insists that the delay is required only to ensure that the case meet the halachic status of raglayim l'davar the reality is that men, being men, will also evaluate meta-halachic concerns such as how the case affects things like cash flow and reputations. They should not be given that opportunity.

PS: Maaminim at Penn State reacted to the news the Paterno had been fired by rioting. Sound familiar? Superstitious faiths all produce the same pathologies.

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Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Change in response to tragedy

A guest post by BerelShain

This week, the New York area saw 3 horribly tragic deaths as a result of motor vehicle accidents. In Monsey, 9 year-old Moshe Grubman lost his life when he was struck by a van as he was running towards his school bus. The Flatbush community was devastated by the deaths of Dani King and Eli Schonbrun when the vehicle they were traveling in rolled down an embankment as they headed back to their yeshiva in Waterbury Connecticut. Investigations in both cases are ongoing and the speculative conjecture of bloggers and posters notwithstanding, determinations as to the causes of the accident and mechanisms of death have not yet been made. Ultimately, professional accident reconstructionists will reach their conclusions.

In response to these tragedies, many well-meaning folks have made all sorts of suggestions as to how the community should react - shmiras halashon hour, tehilim, increase tzedaka, improve our concentration during davening, etc. I find these suggestions upsetting. While improving our spirituality is always commendable, I would have hoped that the community would have been more practical in its response.

This past summer, our community endured the unspeakable horror of the Leiby Kletzky story. Immediately after the murder, people took practical steps. Video and audio presentations by educators and professionals were widely disseminated and everyone that I know had talks with their children about safety, strangers and the like. Although by all indications it appears that the Kletzkys properly prepared Leiby for his first taste of independence, the community still took the event as a wake-up call to take measures and have discussions that were sorely needed. Nobody took those steps as criticism of Leiby's parents as well nobody should have. Rather, the horrific incident was the catalyst for the community to take practical steps to prevent future tragedies, even if the Kletzky tragedy itself may not have been prevented by those steps. Unfortunately, the fatalities of this week elicited no such reaction.

In my view, in addition to any religious improvements we may choose to accept upon ourselves, it is imperative that we follow our own example from the Kletzky case and take practical steps to improve our safety. An informal poll among my friends revealed that many people admit to texting, tweeting and emailing while driving, failing to use seat belts especially for back seat passengers, driving while tired and so on. Changing these lethal habits is as important as any ruhcniyusdikeh kabbala if we wish to avoid future horrors. Therefore, in response to the events of this past week, I'd like to suggest that each of us accept one or more of the following:

  1. No use of the hands for anything other than the steering wheel while driving - no texting, tweeting, emailing, talking etc.
  2. Never pass a school bus even if all children are entering the bus from the opposite side of the bus.
  3. No vehicle should EVER be in motion unless ALL passengers are properly belted.
  4. If a driver suspects that (s)he is too tired to drive, (s)he will not drive.
  5. Absolutely no alcohol will be consumed prior to getting behind the wheel - not even a sip of wine.
  6. The next "tzedaka" check you write will be to purchase a hands-free device if you don't already own one.
  7. Vehicle owners will regularly inspect their tires to ensure that they are safe for continued use.

Tragic circumstances such as those witnessed this week should serve as a wake up call to all of us. Improving in areas of bein adam lamakom is always a worthy endeavor. However, practical everyday changes must also be undertaken - especially when they may well save lives.

Perry is finished

At the debate last night, Rick Perry forgets the top line, #1 bold face detail of his own plan.

Afterwards he appeared in the spin room with what Slate called a hideous talking point: “I may have forgotten Energy, but I haven’t forgotten my conservative principles.” Ye gods.

So, I see apple throwing is a very rebish behavior

In Sans Klausenberg, Hasidim demonstrate the table manners for which they are justifiably famous.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Belzer Baseball

I suppose dipping those apples in some honey was just too much trouble.


The Niklesburg rebbe shoots arrows at his Hasidim

Jewish Wedding Video

I confess to being unable to catch what the speaker is saying through her mumbley brit accent, nor do I quite understand how the three people standing between the bride and groom are related, but doesn't the video make for an interesting slice of Jewish life?

Three about Israel in Slate

Slate, this week, published three excerpts from Gershon Gorenberg's new book The Unmaking of Israel.

My favorite is the one that describes how Israeli style Ultra-Orthodoxy is something new, rather than something "authentic."

See them all after the jump

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Harav Finkel: Then and Now

Here's the side matter that accompanied this picture:

This is what I mean by inspirational. Rav Nosson Tzvi was a regular American boy who came to learn at the Mir after spending his childhood in Chicago. He became the Rosh Yeshiva of the largest Yeshiva in the WORLD, with over 6000 students. The Rosh Yeshiva is the epitome of a role model for everyone on how to aspire to greatness, even with the most distressing physical limitations. He NEVER missed a Shachris at the Yeshiva! His 68 short years on Earth impacted hundreds of thousands of people. And he wasn't a Gaon at age 5. He was an "ordinary" bochur who became an extraordinary Rosh Yeshiva. Believe in yourself! Gedolim are made, not born
The yearbook shot was published on S's blog last year.

  • He was class president. So the leadership skills appeared early.
  • He played baseball. I wonder if he ever missed it, or thought it might be nice if his students could play, too.
  • The aphorism he chose is perfect for someone who went from a modest start to lead the biggest yeshiva in the world.  It's from a poem by Tennyson that says character trumps yichus. Here it is in full:
From you blue heavens above us bent, The gardener Adam and his wife

Smile at the claims of long descent. Howe’er it be, it seems to me

‘Tis only noble to be good. Kind hearts are more than coronets,

And simple faith than Norman blood.-

This isn't the Torah way

As if any were needed, here's yet more proof that 21st century morality is on the decline:
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Joe Paterno’s tenure as coach of the Penn State football team will soon be over, perhaps within days or weeks, in the wake of a sex-abuse scandal that has implicated university officials, according to two people briefed on conversations among the university’s top officials.
In the good old days, when everything was morally superior, Paterno would have survived this scandal. Thank God, within the bastions of the Torah fortress people who are complicit in the monstrous abuse of children are still protected from the consequences of their errors.

More of Menken's Mendacity

Like you, we've often wondered why responsible people don't speak out against Kupat Hair and other organizations that promise miracles to those who make charitable contributions. Yaakov Menken, writing at Cross Currents, has the obvious answer:
It is my impression that the Tzedakah itself does great work, the Gedolim give it much deserved haskamos, and given that they neither see nor can read the English-language ads produced here in America, are not speaking out against them.
This makes perfect sense. After all, we have no English-speaking gedolim. Indeed there is no one in the entire world who is capable of translating into Hebrew the bogus and fraudulent promises made by these organizations. Should some Hebrew-speaking zealot bring the ads to the gedolim, and provide a loose and misleading summary? Maybe, but now that Leib Pinter is in jail, who is available to do such a thing? Anyway, as Rabbi Nosson Slifkin and Rabbi Nathan Kamenetsky might explain, it is entirely inappropriate for the gedolim to object to a piece of writing they can't examine in its original language.

So what are we responsible people supposed to do? Nothing of course.  Until the gedolim come out against the flim-flam artists, we should just sit quietly, say nothing, and continue to allow these dishonest people to publish their snake oil promises in respectable magazines. After all lots of "great work" is being done, and in Judaism the goal always justifies the means.


HT Baruch Pelta

Monday, November 07, 2011

Some Sforno on Vayerah (or places where he disagrees with our first grade teachers)

Long time readers know I enjoy finding and sharing non-traditional bible readings, and  I especially like it when the non-traditional reading is produced by a classic commentator. Recently, I've begun re-acquainting myself with Ovadia Sforno's commentary on the Pentateuch. The Sforno (as he is known) has a reputation for such non-traditional* readings, and so far I've discovered an overabundance of examples.

I intend to share some of them with you each week. The first batch is after the jump.

[* Yes, I recognize the irony of calling his interpretations "non-traditional." I hope you do, too.]

Mayim Bialik & dinosaurs

A guest post by Philo

Jew in the City has a new video that’s been making the rounds, featuring Mayim Bialik, neuroscientist, actress, and increasingly observant Jew, asking a question about how to believe in both Torah & science. Allison Josephs, in a cute video, answers her. See my reaction below the video.

While Allison’s explanation is certainly more palatable than Biblical literalism, I have a problem with science/Torah reconciliations as well. It’s basically a struggle to try to mash together two systems that are often incompatible. For example, her equating of “taninim gedolim” with dinosaurs is weak at best.

I prefer to view science & Torah as two separate spheres, utilizing views of the Rambam & others only insomuch as providing a precedent for one to view the Torah allegorically, but not attempting to shoehorn the details together.

Science tells us how the world works, and is based on observation, theories, and peer review. Torah, on the other hand, is about the spiritual realm. The historicity of Torah is irrelevant. The fact that these things may not have happened, that science tells us there was never a worldwide flood, is unimportant. The Torah informs our worship of Hashem, not of science.

The world was not created in 7 days. That’s obvious. We now know the universe is around 14 billion years old and the earth is 4 billion years old, and that we evolved from earlier primates.

Meanwhile, the Torah tells us stories, but those stories are meant to be related to spiritually and emotionally. It’s a separate sphere entirely. Trying to reconcile the two diminishes and harms both.

The further you go down the reconciliation path, the more compromises you are forced to make. When you study the Ancient Near East, you begin to realize that much of the Biblical narrative cannot be literally true, and even the authorship of the Torah comes into question. Tying oneself into knots to painfully reconcile details is a losing proposition.

But if you simply view the Torah as a sacred text, whose literal truth and even authorship are irrelevant to one’s spiritual life, then there’s never a problem, and the richness of one’s relationship with Hashem remains strong.

Update 11:15 am: Re-reading my post, I realize that someone might come away thinking that I'm indifferent to Biblical criticism or scientific problems with the Torah's narrative. On the contrary, I find it fascinating and can't get enough of it. I practically inhaled James Kugel's "How to Read the Bible." I LOVE this stuff. It makes Judaism all the more richer to me when the pieces of history begin to come together for me. But I don't let it lessen how much I cherish the Torah and how much I see it as a sacred document that is pivotal and central to our tradition. That's where I place the divide.

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