Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Subjective, human-made morality is the only kind of morality there is

When Jews speak about our laws having a "moral basis", what do they mean? I can never tell.

My guess is that are making the same distinction that Catholics make between "ritual" laws and "natural" law.

According to the Church, Jesus canceled the ritual law, but not the moral law which is any law that can be known by reason. Cain, for example, could be punished for killing his brother, though the Torah hadn't yet been given, because murder is wrong under natural law, and Cain was responsible for knowing this through reason. According to Catholics homosexuality is also wrong under natural law, and would be wrong even if the Torah had never outlawed it.

But there are a few problems with this approach. First, Jews do not recognize any distinction between ritual and natural law. We do recognize a distinction between chok and mishpat but no two rishonim agree on what constitutes the distinction. To the best of my knowledge every proposed system has counterexamples. For example, some propose that a chok is a super-rational law, or a law with no reason, but the best example of a chok, the Chukat Hatorah or Parah Aduma, has been explained by Rambam and Rashi (following Moshe Hadarshan)

More importantly, natural law is based on the idea that the rules of life can be worked out through reason, but this idea has been discredited multiple times over. Reason, unfortunately  is notoriously flexible. It can be employed to justify or discredit just about anything. This is why I say that subjective, human-made morality is the only kind of morality there is. Even if we stipulate that God revealed commandments, all subsequent "morality" is based on how we human beings choose to understand, interpret and apply those commandments and/or whatever other sources of morality we have chosen to accept. 

"Moral Law" is just whatever human beings happened to develop through whatever process they happened to use.

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Daas Pope

Pope Francis has ruled that John Chrysostom, Ephraim the Syrian, Pope Paul IV, Pope Paul V, Pope Pius VII, Pope Pius IX, Pope Pius XII among many, many others Catholic saints, fathers, and teachers are "not from our mesorah"

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What do men gain when they prevent women from praying in public?

I've called upshurin a 15th century Hannuka Bush, on the grounds that it is an example of religious syncretism at its finest. The first Jews who did upshurin lived among Aqiqa-performing Muslims. Aqiqa is a Muslim first hair-cutting ritual. And while we will never find a signed note from the Jews of Safed in which they admit that they borrowed the ritual from Islam, the math seems easy: No Jews in the world performed upsherin before Jews lived among people who were already performing a similar rite. Syncretism 101.

Here's why this matters: If it was OK for the men of 15th century Safed to scratch a spiritual itch by copying Muslims, why can't 21st century women scratch a spiritual itch by copying Jewish men?  When did history end? When and how did we decide that all spiritual innovation must cease? 

In point of fact, innovation hasn't ceased. @marksofla reports that someone in his community recited a blessing over the Lag Baomer fire. This is surely something new under the Jewish sun (and where was the rabbi?) Last year, some people delivered gift baskets to each other on Purim Katan. So the problem doesn't seem to be with religious creativity per se, or even religious creativity directed by women. New fangled things like the amen party are female-driven.

So, I think feminists have a point when they say that over-the-top objections to the Women of the Wall are rooted in misogyny. The problem isn't religious creativity. The problem is that in the eyes of the angry men, the Women of the Wall are trespassing. Public prayer is not for women. Its the guy's turf. And though I have not worked out exactly what prerogative the men are protecting (see the title of the post), this theory - that public prayer is men's work and/or beneath a women's feminine dignity - explains both the male reaction to the Women of Wall and also why Haredi communities, in general, discourage women from public praying.  [Discussed here and here]

Monday, April 29, 2013

Let's not protect the Haredim

An essayist at the YU Observer thinks we're too mean to black hatters. You can read her complaint here

About the only thing to recommend the piece is she's asking her members of her own sect to stop disrespecting other sects. Too often, this sort of musser is extramural  Too often we excuse the behavior of fellow sect members while exaggerating the behavior of those who belong to other groups. So, two points to the writer for turning the spotlight on her own kind.(Take note Yated!)

She gets demerits however for giving us the latest contribution to a genre that really must be retired. I could write the exact same article swapping out every noun or anecdote she used for a different one -- did you think Haredim never badmouth other Jews? And the resulting essay would be just as true, and just as meaningless.

Its lame when a child says "why don't you ever yell at my brother" and its lame when an essay writer does the same thing. The message should be "stop making fun of anyone." Singling out Haredim as being deserving of special protections and special privilege is a mistake. If its wrong to rank on them, its wrong to rank on anyone.

Why do you keep picking on Lag Ba'omer?

The question has been asked (on FB):
Last week, FB seemed to be full of people ripping into Lag Ba'omer, its history and observances. I question that value of doing this and wonder where it leads.
Last week? Our Rabbis have been "ripping into" things like bonfires for hundreds of years. And while I can't explain why they did it, I can tell you why I do it. There are three reasons:

(1) Though the truth isn't the only value, or even, in every case, the most important value its still important. I don't see any harm in telling the truth about how things happened and would argue that telling and spreading truth has a value in of itself.

 (2) Using the example of Lag Ba'omer to demonstrate that Judaism develops contingently blunts fundamentalism and other stupid things, like the mistaken and damaging idea that there is only one right kind of Judaism. 

(3) Demonstrating that the Lag Ba'omer celebrations are a creative, human invention lends support to other creative expressions of Judaism. If its okay to scratch some spiritual itch by inventing a bonfire day, other spiritual itches can be scratched with other inventions.

Does anyone disagree with the reasons I've given? 

The responses I've gotten so far, from different people,  have been completely off point. Here they are with my rebuttals.

#1: You get your jollies out of destroying your heritage!
Rebuttal: Lag Ba'omer is not part of my heritage. That's the point, see? 

#2: You have some hidden unstated agenda, or you don't use the right tone, or you sound smug:
Rebuttal: None of that voids an argument. 2+2=4 no matter what tone of voice I'm using and no matter what my intent or agenda might be. So too, Lag Ba'omer is a contingent invention no matter how the point is stated.

#3: You're causing "damage". 
Appeal to consequences don't void an argument either. Anyway, I don't see any damage. I know how the bonfire ritual originated and I still go to bonfires and enjoy myself there. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Lag B'omer is the new Yom Kippur

Fortunate is the eye that saw all of this

I've never made the trip to Rashbi's grave for Lag B'omer, on the grounds that I think its pointless, but taam v'reach. Many of my friends, however, make the pilgrimage every year, and their descriptions of the event have convinced me that the Meron celebration is a modern Yom Kippur. . Many the secular objectives once achieved in Jerusalem on Yom Kippur are now being met on Mount Meron.

To start with, Yom Kippur was not originally about shul or prayers. When the Temple stood, the events of the day revolved around a pageant performed by the high priest. All the individual pilgrim had to do was stand in the fresh air with his friends, and watch your supreme religious official slaughter bulls and sprinkle blood and roast meat. At certain moments, you'd all stretch on the ground in adoration or submission to God and bellow a slogan. I imagine participating as an observer was at once thrilling, and inspirational -- and probably great fun, besides. Aside from the pomp of the ceremony, there was also the unshakable conviction that this was a surefire way to win blessing and favor for yourself. This was the day of atonement, after all, a day when your fate was sealed, a day when your behavior could win sustenance and merit to last the year. And all you had to do was show up.

Now compare this with what happens in our day at Meron. Last Lag B'omer, nearly half a million Jews made the pilgrimage to Meron. The highlight of the show is the lighting of the bonfire, an event that stands in (very) rough parallel to the avoda of the High Priest. The bonfire is lit by the chief rebbe, and often he performs various gesticulations with his hands and the torches that his Hasidim find amusing. Once the pyre is lit, the music starts to play and for the next several hours the people dance.

The Meron celebration occurs in three place: In the tomb itself, at the bonfires of various Hasidic sects, and on the streets leading away from the mountain. What is the difference? Let one of my friends explain: "In the tomb its Yom Kippur; at the bonfires its Simchas Torah; everywhere else its Purim."

Some who congregate inside the tomb itself. say the entire book of Tehillim. One told me, 'Last year, I asked for a shidduch for my daughter. She was married last winter. I'm back to say thank you and to ask for more.' Another told me he believed Shimon Bar Yochai was standing on the tomb with his arms open, dispensing blessings. "All we have to do is ask", he said "And we will receive.'"

Is there another day like this in Judaism? True, most non-hasidim don't think of Lag Bomer as a day of pilgrimage, or a day in which blessings can be won, but many of the 500,000 people who travel to Meron  do see it that way. To them Lag Bomer matters, and for many of the same reasons that Yom Kippur mattered to our forefathers. The forces that bring those believers to Meron are the same forces that once drove our ancestors to to the Temple on Yom Kippur

Thursday, April 25, 2013

We are all Gil Student

Today the Yated doubled-down on its malicious and falsehood filled attack on Gil Student. The new assault came on the letter page, where Gil Student's letter of protest was answered with more lies by Avrahom Birnbaum, author of the original hit piece. You can read it here.


What's this really about? For whatever reason, Gil Student has been made the poster boy for blogs, dissent, free expression, religious moderation, modernity, etc. By attacking Gil, they are attacking all of those things.

What do they hope to gain? Ideally, they want Gil to sell out his friends and bash Modern Orthodox Jews. They probably expect he will do this in exchange for the Yated's tolerance and respect. The fusillade launched against Gil is likely also meant to frighten the rest of silence. Though the Yated says they are simply promoting the idea that all Jews are brothers, we note that they have yet to censure any of the blogging Haredim (eg Avi Safran) who whitewash Haredi misdeeds while trumpeting heterodox sins. If what they want is for all Jews to love each other, its odd that they only speak up when their own sect is under attack.

What did Gil get?
The chance to present his side of things in front of the 12 people who read letter columns and a second thrashing in their response

What did the Yated get?
The opportunity to smack Gil around again, plus whatever good will they generated by providing Gil with an ordinary and obvious courtesy. Also, the Yated may have bargained that publishing Gil's letter would keep him from taking his complaints to the blogs where, he not they, is the 500 pound gorilla. So far it looks like they were right: Gil hasn't, as yet,  posted his own letter on his own blog

Winner: Yated.

Fellow Jews, we are all Gil Student. If the Yated can slander him, it can slander you, too. The only way to respond is to remind these unethical hacks that we are not without recourse. I invite and encourage all of you to take to your blogs and Facebook pages to let the Yated know that this will not stand.

Along with publishing your protests on the web and social media, you can contact the Yated directly at 845.369.1600.

Points to make:

1) We support Gil Student and Harry Maryles
2) We are offended by the Yated's cavalier disregard for truth and accuracy
3) We protest the Yated's expectation that two blogging Rabbis would speak poorly of a colleague in a public
4) We note the Yated's double standard, exemplified by its failure to criticize blogging Haredim who criticize Modern Orthodox and heterodox Jews.

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Fox pundits are almost too stupid for words

Wow, I do get so flush in the face when I hear Fox reporters talk about the Constitution in the manner of a Hasid praising his rebbe's sefer.

But, let's not ignore this fabulous RW logic: If  I can't have an AK-47 you're stomping on my 2nd Amendment rights, but yes, by all means lets toss out the other nine amendments that make up the Bill of Rights in the name of the public safety. 

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

R. Broyde now accused of something much worse but Gil does not wish to discuss it.

With apologies to Fred who is doing this on Facebook
"Over two years ago, I published a letter, quoting a number of Torah sages on the issue of women covering their hair, that I believed was authentic (link). The evidence documented in the following article convinces me that the letter is not authentic. I apologize to my readers and the broader Torah community for my role in this unfortunate incident. Because it is so painful, I will not be discussing this issue publicly in the near future and am closing this post to comments.
- Gil Student

Ok, so let's discuss it here instead!

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Who are you really protecting when you insist the Torah is infallible?

Here's something I said in another forum that I'd like to preserve for the ages:
I am not trying to weaken anyone's faith in the Torah. I am trying to weaken their faith in untenable interpretations of the Torah
This came up in the same old way. We were on Facebook, discussing the famous flood, when someone reacted to a particular argument by suggesting I was out to destroy another participant's faith in the Torah.

Not so. At least not by my lights.

Here's how I look at it: The Torah doesn't say anything. Not really. Certainly not anymore. Instead, claims are made on the Torah's behalf by its interpreters. For instance, the Torah never says "The universe was created 5000 years ago"; rather this is a claim made by an interpreter who's looked at the text, made various assumptions, and arrived at a number. Likewise, the Torah never says, in so many words, that "Noah's flood covered the whole world." As with the other example, this is a claim made by a Torah interpreter.*  So, in almost all cases, when you puff yourself up and declare your loyalty to the Torah what you're actually doing is swearing allegiance to a particular interpretation of the Torah. 

Is there a difference? Yes. Because even if frumkeit demands that you consider the Torah infallible, there's no good reason to say the same thing about Torah's interpreters. And here are a few things to remember about the interpreters: (1) They often disagree with each other; (2) They have in the past made claims that have been proven false and, most importantly; (3) once upon a time it was possible and permissible, even by the standards of frumkeit, to defeat their interpretations with an appeal to facts. ** 

That no longer happens within Orthodox Judaism because our modern standards of frumkeit no longer allow it. Jews and Judaism are weaker for it.

Interpreter claims the earth is 5000 years old. This is the same as predicting that we will never find a tree that is more than 5000 years old, or evidence of a civilization that is more than 5000 years old, etc etc. Those things have been found. Now what? In ye Jewish days of old we'd toss out the claim (plenty of examples) or reinterpret the claim (plenty of examples) on reinterpret the verse upon which the claim was based (plenty of examples) Nowadays we double down on the claim instead. I think we need to stop falling down these kinds of intellectual black holes.

*I'm limiting the discussion here to claims made by the interpreters about history or about the nature of things. Of course, they also make about what God wants. For instance, they and not the Torah are the ones who says "God wants us to keep meat and dairy separate" However, unlike historical or ontological claims, claims about what God wants are not falsifiable, and therefore they are impossible to test or verify.

** and after the interpretation was defeated by an appeal to facts one of two things would usually happen: The interpretation itself would be reinterpreted, or the verse(s) in question would be reinterpreted.

AP Mad Libs


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Brooklyn, NY) (AP) -- When preachers (the Rabbi) told congregants at a mosque (shul) in November that it was appropriate for Muslims (Jews) to celebrate U.S. holidays such as the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving (and Israeli holidays such as Yom Hashoah and Yom Haatzmaut), a man who would later be a suspect in last week's the Boston Marathon bombing stood up to argue, the mosque (shul) said.

The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (shul) on Monday told about that outburst by Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Yankel S.)and provided more details on a second one two months later that the group had previously described.

Both mosque (shul) incidents happened after the older brother returned from a months-long trip to Russia (yeshiva) last year. An aunt there said he was studying Islam (Torah) but struggled to fit in.

The troublesome behavior first came in November, just before Thanksgiving, the mosque (shul) said. At a weekly prayer (shacharis), a preacher (the rabbi) gave a sermon saying it was appropriate for Muslims (Jews) to celebrate American (and Israeli) holidays. Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Yankel) stood up and argued that "celebration of any holiday was not allowed in the faith."

The preacher (rabbi) met with Tsarnaev (Yankel) and discussed the issue after the service.

In January, the mosque shul said Tsarnaev (Yankel) had a similar outburst.

This time, the sermon included praise for Martin Luther King Jr., and this time Tsarnaev (Yankel) shouted, calling the preacher (Rabbi) a "non-believer" (kofer) and "hypocrite" who was "contaminating people's minds." Congregants shouted back at him, telling him to leave, and he did.

Original article from the AP: Here

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Down with the Yated: Defending G and H

Many yeshivish people and to a greater extent Hasidish people suffer from acute persecution complexes. They can't quite accept that MO Jews aren't jealous of their lifestyles or working actively toward its destruction. This paranoia is how they self-justify their disrespect for modern institutions and modern Rabbis and why they imagine Gil Student and Harry Maryles are dedicated to the demise of all things Haredi

I learned, last week, that Gil and Harry are perceived as sworn enemies of Haredism from a hit job carried out last week by the Yated against their blogs. Both were identified as bloggers who frequently publish anti-Haredi posts and cartwheel with glee whenever a Haredi is caught behaving foolishly or criminally.

Having named Gil and Harry as Charedi-haters and spreaders of Heradi damaging gossip, the self-appointed newspaper of Torah Jewry was almost indescribably furious that these two very Jewish blogs had neglected to kick R. Micheal Broyde while he was down. The world needs more loshon hara, the Yated seemed to scream, and how dare two blogging rabbis fail to provide it!

As punishment for his good manners and self-restraint, the Yated, lived up to its name, and dug up a lot of crap, subjecting poor Gil to almost a full-page of slanderous nonsense. He was given the full blog scum treatment as he was accused of the three unpardonable sins of Jewish blogging: (1) showing disrespect, (2) using an unsanctioned tone, (3) and being mean to charedim. (There is a delicious irony in Gil being attacked from his right for the same things he has, in the past, said about the blogs on his left, but we've already sufficiently reveled in that on Facebook. We hope that he will awaken to the possibility that he is as mistaken about, e.g, us, as the Yated was about him.)

Harry got off a little easier. He wasn't beaten up as badly and not as much space was dedicated to his destruction. We're not sure why. Perhaps Harry has been right all along and the Haredim really do consider his sect to be co-equal with their own. Or perhaps they just don't see him, sitting in Chicago, as much of a threat.

To the point:  All charges against both men were baseless   Indeed the Yated, with one weak exception, made no effort to support any of the charges with examples from either man's blog. The writer was so busy calling names, he couldn't be bothered to do any research. To the best of my knowledge, nothing in Gil or Harry's blogging history supports any of the allegations made by the Yated.  In fact, I think both men are lamentably polite. Both use nothing but the most measured and proper (by which we mean boring) tones. If they are guilty of anything it is of being too accepting of  the bad things that go on in the larger Jewish world, and too deferential of some of the responsible parties, MO and Haredim alike. When they should claw, they cower. Instead of thundering, they shrivel. Now that this approach has been so emphatically rejected by the Yated, one hopes that the gloves will be dropped, together with their Uncle Tom routines, and that both men will finally begin to say some of the things that desperately need saying.

UPDATE: We see Avi Shafran has offered Gil and Harry some lukewarm words of encouragement and a weak denouncement of the Yated. Eh. He's been madder about lesser crimes but let's count our blessings.
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Cancelled: Agudah Prayer Rally Against Charedi Conscription

by @azigra

The Jerusalem Post reported that, "Agudath Israel spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran confirmed YWN’s report of the event’s cancellation  but said it was due to “security concerns in the wake of the terrible terror attack earlier this week in Boston.""

Over on N. Slifkin's R.J. blog he wrote about the Agudah's rational for cancelling what would have been a large gathering of Jews "to daven for rachmei Shamayim in the face of this impending gezeira" (-CD Zwiebel).  

Slifkin argues:

"Surely, Agudath Israel, you can't be serious! Why can't their Torah protect them?
...............let's make a comparison. The Boston attack.....was the first such attack in over ten years. The odds of another terror attack taking place......are absolutely minimal.  And yet a concentrated gathering of the top Gedolim in America, accompanied by the avreichim and bochrim of the kollelim and yeshivos, devoutly immersed in tefillah, nevertheless still isn't good enough to merit Divine protection. But they are insisting that their Torah is good enough to merit protection against the ongoing, very real, vastly more serious threat of not just one or two terrorists, but many thousands of terrorists inside Israel and entire armies outside of Israel?!"
What Slifkin fails to understand, perhaps, is that the Lithuanian Torah view is that Jews will only survive and succeed in this world through its observance and study of the Torah. The Chevron Yeshiva is essentially a behind the lines office for the IDF, they are contributing to Israel's safety by ensuring IDF operations succeed by studying and observing. Their view is that if Torah study were to cease, the IDF would no longer succeed in its protection of the State. 

Slfkin's argument makes sense logically, but this debate is occurring on a different plane. He hasn't one upped the Charedim. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Men who read minds

Why does the creator of Cross Currents have nothing but disdain for women who wish to pray at the Western Wall wearing talitot? Because he can see into their souls and perceive their true intentions, of course!. As he wrote in this less than ingenious appeal to indirect consequences:
...is quite naive to imagine that these women simply want to wear a Tallis... Anat Hoffman has a clear agenda to use the Women of the Wall to change the Kotel from permanent place of prayer to a “national monument,” and from there to change how conversion, marriage and divorce are conducted in the Jewish state.  
Amazing! Such a gift. Such a talent. From a distance of perhaps 5000 miles he can discern exactly why women do things. Perhaps because they are so simple minded, am I right? And not only that, but he can tell the future! Permit women to pray in a manner allowed by Jewish law and compel Haredi zealots to stop responding to them with violence and insults and Israel's rules for conversion, marriage and divorce will instantly come undone. That saliva Haredi men expectorate in the direction of worshipful women is the only thing protecting the Jewish character of the state. Why didn't I see this before?

One wonders if  he has attempted to cast his all-seeing eye on men who wish to do new things and take on new obligations Should he address his clairvoyance at men, we expect him to find nothing but pure motives, of course, but when he's done reporting on that adventure, perhaps he can explain something else: Why is Anat Hoffman's secret agenda  thought to be shared by every single women in the world who wishes to pray at the wall in a manner Jewish law calls permitted? If he's right about Hoffman, why isn't she the only woman he wishes to ban?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Your Gay Chavrusa


Many people may recall the December 2009 panel held at Yeshiva University titled "Being Gay in the Orthodox World". It was thoroughly covered event with dozens of print and online sources writing about it, including our gracious host DovBear, see here and here and here.

This week another panel on the same topic will occur at Queens College. It was apparently spurred by an anonymous essay published in a student-run Hillel publication titled Growing Up Gay in an Orthodox World: My Final Game of Tag.
The editors of this student magazine have decided to host a panel discussion on the same topic which will be moderated by Mordechai Levovitz (one of the speakers at the YU panel). Here is the flyer that has been shared around Facebook:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Today's Chilul Hashem

Some moron from Brooklyn got his car on Gothamist this morning under the headline
Photo: Does This Car Have The Most Offensive Bumper Stickers Ever? 

We can't answer Gothamist's question, but we can heap derision and scorn on the owner of the car. First, why can't you keep your flaws and shortcomings private? Must everyone know that you are threatened by self-confident women? Must everyone know you failed to read the definitive post on Hurricane Sandy and its cause? And must you promote all this clodhopper wisdom in the name of Judaism? Second, though all the messages you've attached to your car are risible, I'm going to take issue with one claim that happens to coincide with a pet peeve of mine.

You say, "Modern girls: forget Mincha! Dress modestly" but can't a modern girl do both? Isn't it possible to say the afternoon prayer without also showing an excess of skin?

But this is what really burns: Women have a Torah obligation to pray. According to most authorities, this obligation is equal to the obligation that men have, and therefore, woman must pray "amida" in the morning and afternoon ("Shacharit" and "Mincha") Why, and by what authority, has Charedi Judaism suspended this obligation? There are Rabbis who respond ferociously when women show a bit of knee, but say nothing when women fail to meet their minimum prayer obligations. And while nearly every shteeble has a summer tznius campaign featuring some combination of sermons, lectures, emails and flyers, I can't recall ever seeing a campaign to encourage women to pray.

The root of this inconsistency, I think, is that Charedi men value women only to the extent that they affect men. Charedi girls are raised to be appendages of their husbands. They are taught that they win schar primarily through their husbands. A woman's role is to keep her husband fed, sexed and happy so he can go out in to the world and pick up mitzvah points for the family to share. If this is your view of women, what does it matter if she prays or not? How she dresses is a different matter. That affects men. So of course men feel justified telling women to cover up.

Thanks to Chometz Ben Yayin for the tip

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dennis Johnson's anti Semitic remark

I don't want to hang the guy, because sticks and stones, but let's not pretend Oklahoma Rep. Dennis Johnson isn't an anti-Semite.

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Torture and GWB, i.e, all we used to talk about on DovBear

Remembers the endless, ongoing debates about the righteousness of torture we used to have on DovBear back in 2007 or 8? Other than the fact that it occurred  and that it represents a memorable era in the life of the blog, I don't remember much about what anyone said. But I do know that I was against torture on the grounds that it was immoral and that it served no purpose. Also, I said that George Bush was a monster and a moral midget for sanctioning it.

Looks like I was dead right, which means a whole lot of you were wrong.

Bag man

Some are congratulating the bag man pictured at right for putting his commitment to halacha ahead of any desire to fit in, but I am not sure that's justified. It all comes down to framing. I'd be embarrassed to walk around town in knee-socks and a full beard, but plenty of Jews have convinced themselves that its the absence of the knee-socks and full beard that should embarrass me.

Or consider the yarmulka. Isn't the bag sort of the same thing, a difference of degree but not kind? Wearing a yarmulka doesn't embarrass me, because I've become conditioned to it, and because all the nonJews I encounter are used to it, but suppose I lived in Mongolia. Would I still go around in a yarmulka? Would it embarrass me? Probably not, but only because I think wearing a kippa is important and I don't really care what the Mongolians think. 

So that guy in the picture is in the same situation. He's wearing an ultra yarmulka. The other people on the plane are the Mongolians, and he doesn't care what they think. 

Some of you might say that I'm selling the fellow short, by not recognizing his courage, but where's the courage in doing something you're dead certain God wants you to do? Courage only comes into play if you're not sure about what God wants, but take the leap anyway. Besides, I think I've given bag man  a great deal of credit by suggesting that he's managed to frame the problem in such a way that by his lights WE'RE the ones who should be embarrassed  not him.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Arguments from N’KH Part 1

Submitted by David A

Within Biblical Studies, there are many reasons as to why just about every single biblical scholar, aside from those compelled by faith and religion to believe otherwise, considers the Torah as a composite book, developed over time and authored by different individuals.

One such source of “evidence” is the set of conclusions that stem from analysis of the textual contents of N’kh (i.e. the books of Nevi’im and Kesuvim). Note: I am NOT referring to The Documentary Hypothesis, but simply to the to a plain reading of the text and then noting the factual existence, or non-existence, of certain expressions and types of phrases and what reasonable conclusions can be reached.

In my days at yeshiva, I had a night seder with an older gentleman, a shomer Torah u’mitzvos, a physicist who, I eventually learned, did not believe in a literal TMS. In my early naivete, I had no idea that such an animal existed, (i.e. what they now call orthoprax).

During one discussion on T’N’Kh, he said to me something along these lines:

What type of bomber is better for America?

If the Boston bomber is an Islamist XYZ will happen. If he turns out to be a white American ABC will happen. 

Here Salon argues that for the taxpaying American citizen ABC > XYZ. 

No more free commeting at Hirhurim. Thanks to Broyde (we think) you now have to register

Without really explaining why Gil Student has announced that his blog will no longer allow people to comment without registering.  While he concedes there are workarounds, effectively this means Gil wants to do everything he can to find out who you are before allowing you to comment on his site. Can you say chilling affect?

So far, his commenters seem overjoyed at this invasion of their privacy....

rspolter on April 17, 2013 at 2:09 am
I agree with the policy and commend you for it.

Nachum Klafter on April 17, 2013 at 8:01 am
Wise decision, as always. Yesher Koach

jckaplan534 on April 17, 2013 at 8:54 am
Good decision

... but there is an easy explanation for this. Thanks to the policy, those who object and prefer not to register are not able to voice their objections! (But they can send me emails!)

Why has Hirhurim changed its policy? Obviously, Broyde has something to do with it, but I admit to being unable to work out the thought process. Does Gil think requiring people to register will prevent famous Rabbis from behaving unscrupulously or is it just that he doesn't want his blog to be a party to that particular kind of unscrupulousness? And whatever his motive may be, why is he willing to make his threads more one sided and more boring in pursuit of it?

Some other questions: If he's willing to torpedo his blog to prevent future instance of sockpupettery why is he also acting as R. Broyde's chief spokesman? I understand and admire choosing your friends over principles, and I can understand, while disdaining, choosing your principles over your friends  but Gil seems to be trying to have it both ways. He has to choose: Either he supports Broyde or he steps down as self-appointed high priest of J-blog ethics. One or the other. Not both.

Note below: Those, like Gil's commenters,  who seem to think anonymous writings make the world a poorer place depress me. But I guess, that if you never had an interesting idea in your life, you simply can't understand why people might not want to link their names to their thoughts. If all your brain can do is parrot the party line, what's the harm in putting your name on everything your brain produces? And if forcing people to identify themselves means never having to hear something that goes against the party line, well, so much the better.

Why are some deaths more significant than other deaths?

Why are terrorism deaths considered by American citizens to be so more significant than any other death? We let people die preventable deaths every single day and rarely say boo. But let two people die in a terror attack and suddenly we're shutting down airports and calling for civil liberties to be rolled back. Why?

The answer, I suppose, is that terrorism frightens people and once frightened they are willing to put up with indignities or restrictions on their liberties to make the  fear will go away.  And of course there are craven officials who will take advantage of the situation, and use your fear to augment their power, while other officials will go along with it just to hide their weaknesses.

But let's think about this logically:

People are murdered every day. People die preventable deaths everyday. But only when those deaths are the result of terrorism do we take drastic measures such as rolling back civil liberties. Only when those deaths are the result of terrorism do we gnash our national teeth and act as if a great gash has been ripped in the country's side. Only when those deaths are the result of terrorism do we allocate millions of dollars to ensure nothing remotely like it ever happens again.

People die preventable deaths on the highways every day and no one blinks. There's no national conversation about the things we can and must do to prevent those deaths. No one is asked to suffer TSA style indignities or to pay an extra tax  to prevent more of those deaths. Instead, we cheerfully accept 40,000 domestic highways deaths per year as the price we're willing to pay in exchange for the conveniences offered by the automobile.

But I assure you that if those highway deaths were caused by terrorists we'd see some action. The people who now accept 40,000+ highway deaths wouldn't accept a single one one of  those deaths were they the result of terrorism. Why? In Boston people were forced to put up with closed airports and suspended cell phone service because two people died. You can bet every single public event forever will be handled differently and any one who attends them will be affected. But if two people die on the highway, or because their doctor sucks, or because they can't afford preventive care, what happens? Nothing.

So I don't blame frightened people for demanding changes, and I don't blame frightened people for putting up with inconveniences  But I do blame public officials for assigning disproportionate significance to one kind of death over every kind of death and for spending our money preventing one kind of death at the expense of preventing every other kind of death. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

What are the mainstream midrashim?

I'm trying to compile a list of famous midrashim. Those that qualify will be the sort of midrashim that we learn in school and, as a result, tend to view as historical events or mainstream interpretation of the verses.

Some examples:

God looked in the Torah and created the world
Abraham survived being cast into a furnace
Abraham hid Sarah in a box during the journey to Egypt
Og was the refugee who told Abraham that his wife was captured.
Elimelch and the Plishtim were afflicted with constipation
The servant who found Rivka was Eliezer.
The water rose to meet Rivka
Isaac was 37 at the Akeida, and 40 when he married 3 year old Rivka
When Joseph and Benjamin were reunited each brother cried over the destruction of a Temple that would one day stand in his brother's territory
The daughter of Pharoh's arm stretched out supernaturally
During a trial, and angel intervened forcing Moshe to eat coal.

What are some of the others? Please supply your list!

I hope to trace each of these teachings and determine how they orignated and what they were meant to accomplish while also documenting other points of view on the same issue.

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Some of you have asked, so here's my unimportant, entirely irrelevant opinion on the Broyde Brouhaha

We still have a few days to go before the Internet does the right thing and forgets all about R. Michael Broyde's well-publicized indiscretions so let me get my licks in while there is still time.

Here's my official opinion:
There is nothing wrong with (1) using a fake name to participate on comment boards; and nothing wrong with (2) using a fake name to share, test and discuss ideas. In fact, I strongly encourage everyone to use fake names to share, test and discuss ideas because the anonymity will permit you to explore things your main name can't be caught flirting with (say, via a Google search). However, there probably is something wrong with (3) using a fake name to improve the public's perception of your real name or work -- especially if your fake online name has developed a sterling reputation of its own.

But I'm not sure that (3) is a firable offense, though I concede the rules may be different for someone who is the face of an organization and similar. We may, for example, require more from shul rabbis but only the congregation is entitled to decide that question.

And here's something else:
No one, not even the most ardent Facebooker, shares everything with everyone. We all bifurcate. There are parts of ourselves we share with our spouses, that we don't share our friends. There are things we let our shul friends see that are kept hidden from our work friends -and vice versa. Additionally, there are sub groups of work friends and shul friends who are granted different levels of access to our "real" or "full" selves.*

* I think this is healthy and normal and something the dopes who demand that everyone must always participate in Internet discussions using their real names fail to understand. Why should every potential employer or opponent in a law suit be able to discover with a mouse click that I e.g. like to read Perez Hilton?

More importantly, we all have the right to keep the ugly sides of ourselves private. R' Broyde quite clearly had no expectation that anyone would discover the insecurity - or whatever it was - that brought his sock-puppet into existence. Had anyone been damaged by the sock-puppet, the insecurity - or whatever it was - would be our business. But because I am having trouble identifying a victim this ceremonial tearing of the flesh from R. Broyde's bones feels like a violation of privacy. Just as I don't need to know that famous person so and so visits prostitutes -- unless he's hurting someone (like his wife) or unless he's on the record tormenting others who visit prostitutes, etc. - I don't need to know that a famous Rabbi lacks in self-confidence.*

 *This is not a criticism of Stephen Wise (provided he conducted an ethical investigation) Wise wasn't playing gotcha journalism and Broyde's indiscretion raises legitimate questions about the Rabbi's fitness to serve as community leader. The press is supposed to keep an eye on our leaders (I'd feel differently if Broyde was a private citizen) I just don't think those legitimate questions ought to be examined by anyone other than the Rabbi's own constituents. And I say this because I can't identify a victim and because I can't see how the sockpuppet suggests Broyde is unfit to continue serving as a dayam or law professor. As unrealistic as this expectation might be, I really think the absence of those two factors - a victim or some reason to think that a vain or insecure person can't be a judge - means  public discussion of this affair should have started and ended with Wise's article. 

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Huge, Massive, Inspiring, extraordinary, Tremendously Tremendous Yom Tefilla Being Planned For NYC


This report comes to us via YWN on its zero hits-per-month website:

YWN EXCLUSIVE:  In light of the recent developments against Yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel, a massive Yom Tefilla is being scheduled for New York City.......Sources tell YWN that the event is currently being planned, and organizers are in the process of securing a permit to hold the Yom Tefilla in Lower Manhattan........Gedolim in America would like to create awareness among Frum Yidden in America about the unfolding situation in Eretz Yisroel, where most of the funding for Mosdos Hatorah will be cut by the Government, as well as the possibility of Yeshiva Bochrim being drafted to the Army.

Let me get this straight, the Gedolei America want to raise awareness among frum Juden in this country, so they will disturb, bother, inconvenience,  aggravate, and agitate the many tens of thousands of people who live, work, tour and drive through that area? Am I missing something? (Why don't they do it on Avenue J or 13th Avenue?)

Not only will this not raise awareness, since all the frum Jidz will know about it already by virtue of them having read about it in the Yated, heard about it from their victim rabbis and spoken about it over kugel, it will actually be the platform for the Next Great Chillul Hashem aka all of us will once again be embarrassed by our thoughtless Chradei bretheren. 

Imagine the headlines, countless articles, on Gothamist, Gawker, NY1 News, and all local TV reports: "Local people who sit in plastic bags to protest Jewish Israel's interest in having them get jobs or participate in the country or contribute to the economy or learn a trade or learn math." The story is going to play like this to the casual reader:  Israeli ultra Orthodox Jews take and take and take and dont contribute a penny back and they aren't satisfied with all the free stuff they get they also want more power so they can get more free stuff and take stuff away from other non Ultra Orthodox, and also they want other Jews to protect them from terrorists but if that Jews asks them to do some office work for the IDF that Jew is now the the terrorist. And all the American Jews who are your neighbors and who you sit next to on the train and who you buy your bagels from, they agree with this.

This doesn't play well in realty, it doesn't play well in our Jewish blogosphere, it will play horribly in the greater media. 

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Let's not teach children to be stupid

Earlier this week, one of the budding young scholars who relies on me for room and board brought home the following homework question:
Why did Yosef cry on Benjamin's neck at their reunion?
"Easy," said I. "Yosef loved his brother and was happy to see him. His crying was an expression of his joy, relief, love. You know, stuff like that."

The kid had been taught differently. "No, no," he said with that look young people get when they think they've outsmarted an adult. "He cried because he was sad about the two Bes Hamikdashs that would be destroyed in Benjamin's territory. That's what my teacher said." And he showed me the worksheet where the teacher had indeed supplied this answer to the question.

My issue? That answer strips the verse of its meaning and totally confuses important issues of pshat, drash, the role of Chazal and and the nature of their interpretations.

Here's the right answer (abridged)

Yosef cried because he was glad to see his brother. That's the plain meaning of the verse.

However, the Sages noticed certain anomalies in the verse and on that basis of those anomalies either (1) read the verse differently than you or I might; or (2) derived certain lessons from it.

If (1) we can assume that the reading represents that particular reader's understanding of what actually happened. But if (2) its can be very hard to know if those lessons are (a) an inherent part of the original message that Chazal, with the passage of time, discovered; (b) an inherent part of the original message that Chazal received from their teachers, in a train dating to Sinai; or (c) something that Chazal attached to the text via their own cleverness and ingenuity and for any number of different possible reasons.

In this particular case, a particular Sage (R. Eleazar on BT Megilla 16B) is responding to two things. First he's noticed that our verse can be read as if Yosef cried on two necks (the Hebrew צוארי can, depending on its vocalization, be plural) This suggests something else is intended. Second, he's remembering that in Rabbinic interpretation the neck which links the brain and the body is often used as an allegory for the Temple which linked heaven and earth.

As a result, R. Eleazer's straight reading of the verse is as follows:

Hebrew: וַיִּפֹּל עַל צַוְּארֵי בִנְיָמִן אָחִיו וַיֵּבְךְּ וּבִנְיָמִן בָּכָה עַל צַוָּארָיו:

KJV: And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck.

R. Eleazer: And he fell (or perhaps "he was overcome?" See 2 Chronicles 14:13) on account of Benjamin's necks, by which we mean the two Temples, and Benjamin cried on account of his (brother's) neck, by which we mean the tabernacle in Shiloh.

To me it seems as if R'  Eleazer is providing a straight reading and thus believed that Yosef's was actually crying about the Temples. However, its possible that he would acknowledge Yosef was crying from joy and love, too, or perhaps he was reading in some kind of lesson (though I don't see any evidence of this)

Now... is all of this hard to explain to a child? Of course. But a clever educator should be able to find a way.

And at the very least the interpretation should be taught in a manner that does not close a child's mind to receiving the truth later on. A kid who has been taught that "Yosef cried about the Temple" will have to unlearn this before he can begin to understand anything about how Chazal interpreted verses. (which is why most Orthodox Jews don't understand anything about how Chazal interpreted verses.)

When this issue comes up, I tell my own children this: "A verse cannot depart from its plain meaning but sometimes what you and I take to be the plain meaning was not what the sages took to be the plain meaning. Also, the Sages were sometimes more concerned with lessons then they were with the plain meaning."

This answers has the merit of being true, without prejudicing the child against receiving more of the truth later when he's old enough to understand it.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Another glorious victory for the armchair warriors of Zion!

Awesome job yesterday you guys! I'm sure the media will take you super seriously next time you gnash your teeth and stamp your feet in the manner of George Galloway storming out of a debate. So great!

After Uproar, No One Shows To Protest Jimmy Carter At Yeshiva University www.thedailybeast.com

Aryeh Younger went to Yeshiva University, where Jimmy Carter was to receive an award, and was surprised to find not a single protester bothered to show up.

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Tractate Ohaloth

by @azigra

This picture was posted on twitter by someone who goes by the handle @bprebbetzin. It is of a man sitting on a flight, perhaps upon takeoff, completely encased in a clear garbage bag (find them here on Amazon). It seems this man is of priestly descent (a Kohen) and fears the contamination that comes with flying over the many cemeteries that sprinkle Israel between Ben Gurion Airport and the Mediterranean Sea.

I've heard of this before, a "prominent" Israeli Mir Rosh Yeshiva (initialed NK) does this as well when he leaves israel on his many fund raising adventures to the US, however, he doesn't use a plastic bag but rather a lead bag. The man in the picture is an Am Ha'aretz, plastic doesn't keep out the defilement of the dead, only sitting on a plane encased in lead can protect you from that.

ht @efink for original source on Reddit.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Last night's idiot convention on the Michael Savage show

Last night Grand Rabbi Savage did another segment on metzizah b'peh. After listening to a few minutes of it, I found myself unable to decide who was the bigger idiot: Savage or the members of the mbp fan club who kept calling in to defend their hideous practice

Why Savage is an Idiot
He kept saying "Show me in the bible where it says an old man has to suck the blood from an infant's penis. Show me the verse." A statement such as this displays profound ignorance of Jewish law, culture and tradition. Now, I don't expect Savage to be an expert on Rabbinics but at the the very least he should be able to make the following deduction:

A: No bible verse requires mbp (true)
B: Jews know what the bible says (true)
C: Jews take mbp very seriously (true)


D: Jewish devotion to mbp is not based on a bible verse. (true)

The fact that he can't figure this out is why is in an idiot.

Why the mbp Fanboys are Idiots
You can't defend mbp on its own merits. The practice is hideous. It provides no health benefits. The spiritual benefits it allegedly provides are intangible and can't be discussed without engaging in all sorts of logical fallacies. All an mbp defender can say is this: "We've done it for thousands of years. For this reason alone the practice carries a great deal of historical and cultural significance. We're sorry that you find it hideous, but we don't. Chalk that up to culture and upbringing. So until someone demonstrates conclusively that mbp is more dangerous to infants than, say, riding a crowded bus during flu season, we're going to keep doing it. We respect your right to dislike it and no one is asking you to try it."

The fact that the fanboys instead try to convince Savage that mbp is not only mandated by God but the safest, most beautiful thing anyone can do is why they are idiots.

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Michael Weiner Savage

by @azigra

קול רינה וישועה באהלי צדיקים 

The true Torah True Judaism segment of Klal Yisroel were overjoyed and elated by the great and tremendous Kiddush Hashem which occurred yesterday evening B'rov Am Hadras Melech, on the national radio show of Michal Savage שר"י.

While the vicious Jew Hater host bashed our great and holy Mesorah of Metziza B'peh a Yid and Talmud Chochom called the show to stand up for Kovod Shamayim and Kavod Hatorah by defending our holy Torah from which every Jews draws their life, purpose, and inspiration.

When challenged at 27:11 with Halachos of the adulteress and the known abomination ר"ל to claim that we have disregarded certain laws, the caller, a true Charad L'dvar Hashem, responded with true Ruach Hakodesh that we dont stone adulterers and abomination people because "we can't," he went on to say, "I'll explain you.......they cannot follow the rule unless they have a Jewish court......we cant [kill] without a special court and probably when Messiah (he means Mashiach) comes we will."

 The Kidush Hashem only gets bigger and bigger from there, listen for yourself below on your kosher electronic device.


UPDATE: click through for last night's follow up show.

Evil things evil shuls do for the sake of being evil

This post, like most things, is Heshey Fried's fault. Last night, I was minding my own business, trying to say tikun chazot, when he put this provocative little sentence on his Facebook page.

[W]riting my top 10 most evil things that shuls do

So of course, I had no choice but to provide like fifty dozens examples of synagouge wickedness. Here are the best ones (from the fifty dozen I provided):

Banning people without hats from the amud

Not putting the books away, so that they sit on the tables week after week after week

And then putting them away in the wrong places so no can ever find them again

Setting things up so the Friday night mikva and the shul share a front door.

Ignoring the women

Ignoring the landscaping

Putting up a tone deaf chazan on a day when halel is said


Putting up a baal koreh who's so slow he'd come in third if he was racing a pregnant woman

Calling services for an official time on the official schedule, and then waiting around for twenty minutes

Waiting until the very last possible second to figure out who is going to read e.g Eicha or Koheles.

Requiring a floor to ceiling mechitza at every kiddush

Forcing you to use the most expensive caterer on the planet in the name of "kashrus"

Running "shiurim" for women that are all fluffy nonsense and would insult the intelligence of a moderately intelligent cocker spaniel

When they enforce kashrus rules that leave you nothing to drink but Old Willamsburg and Mayim Chayim soda

The annual spring drasha about how women are sluts who are corrupting our youth by walking outside in whorish costumes which leave a little knee exposed

Combining different varieties of scotch in the same bottle for the purpose of consolidation. Everything until now was plain evil. This one is wicked evil.

Monday, April 08, 2013

James Earl Carter to be honored by Cardozo. People very mad at this. Yay Ugliness!

You may have already heard but former president Jimmy Carter will get some polite applause on April 10. He's going to receive the International Advocate for Peace Award from the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution.  Naturally lots of Jews are very mad about this and they're ganging up on Cardozo, threatening to withhold financial support and so on*.

Only slow down. I may be Internet impaired, but I can't find any mention on the Cardozo website of this event, which suggests rather strongly that Cardoza isn't sponsoring it. (It looks like the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution is running this.) If so, why are the angry Jews wasting their time? If it isn't an official Cardoza event, well, then Academic Freedom and have a nice day. A law school isn't going to stomp on anyone's right to free expression so all you're doing is drawing attention to the event.  And, in case you haven't yet realized it, schools and other groups only honor people for two reasons: Money and Attention.

So, well done Angry Jews. You're giving the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution exactly what it wants, while wasting your political capital applying pressure on organizations  (YU and Cardozo) that can do absolutely nothing about it.

*Fun thought: I wonder how many of these anti Carter Jews run to anti-zionist rebbes for magic blessings? Not many, I bet, but at the same time I am sure more than a few of them do. An anti Cardozo diatribe is currently on the YWN, and this is the same site that records every move made by e.g. the Satmar rebbe in loving detail

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There is no actual reason for Yom HaShoah to be on this day...

Found on Facebook (I'll name the speaker on request)
There is no actual reason for Yom HaShoah to be on this day. Unlike most Jewish holidays, or non-Jewish holidays for that matter, nothing special happened. More specifically, there is not even a claim that anything special happened. It was designated as a day for Holocaust commemoration eight days prior to Israel Independence Day by Ben Gurion in order to further justify the medina's just cause. Yom HaShoah is a Zionist construct, and a particularly glaring example of how Diaspora history is seen only as a precursor to the modern state. To his credit, Menachem Begin tried to remove Yom HaShoah, and put Holocaust remembrance back on Tisha B'Av, at least for now, but he was routed.
So, he's right that nothing happened on Yom Hashoah, but the same is true for many other holidays. What, for example, happened on Labor Day or Memorial Day? He's also right that the Zionists created the day both to honor the victims and to justify the creation of the state. I approve of both goals, but still believe they committed a serious error.

Yom Hashoa should have been established on 10 Tevet*, but certainly not in Nissan.

* Ten Tevet is already a day of mourning, and arguably a traditional day for honoring people with no known death day. 

(Related: Yom Haatzmaut should be on Lag B'omer, but certainly not during Sfira.)

Had they combined their new holidays with our old holidays, Jews the world-over would be able to mourn and celebrate together. And it isn't like there's no precedant for this sort of thing. Our crafty ancestors used this trick when they sabatoged Nicanor Day, and replaced it with Tannis Esther.

It's been suggested by David Williams, an expert on ancient Israel at the University of Georgia, that it was King John Hyrcanus, a descendant of the Maccabees, who shoved Nicanor Day aside in favor of Purim. Why? "Perhaps to deflect attention from Judah's victory to his own time. Or he wanted a wider celebration.''

A wider celebration. If only the early Zionists had thought along those lines.

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Friday, April 05, 2013

The (other) real problem with the Internet Skeptic's question

Our friend, the Internet Skeptic, wrote:

God makes it quite clear that keeping Shabbat is to remember his 6 distinct days of creation and his cessation of creation on the seventh. 
There never was a cessation of "creation." Evolution never ceased
Here's what (else) he gets wrong: The Torah doesn't say evolution stopped on Day 7 It says that Day 7 is when evolution started. God finished creating and from that moment on evolution took over. Or put it another way: No doubt its true that evolution didn't stop on Day 7. But it is by no means clear that the Torah is claiming it did.

TO BE CLEAR: Above I am providing an interpretation. This interpretation is just as reasonable as IS's interpretation. Which is my point. It all comes down to how you interpret.

Do *I* think Genesis is describing evolution? No idea. Genesis 1 and 2 may or not be not from the desk of God. Or people corrupted what they received through revelation. Or its the uncorrupted transcript of what God actually said, in which case its meaning is a mystery I am (probably) not capable of solving, thought (probably)  I should just do my best to work it out (like every other Jew in history did his or her best.)

Also, thee 10 C might be from God only Mr. Exodus explained #4 according to one perspective while Mr. Deuteronomy explained it differently. (The original commandment might have been something unglossed like "Keep Shabbos holy" or something like that.)

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