Friday, October 15, 2021

The spoken word and piyuttim


People used to enjoy listening to the spoken word. The headliner at Gettysburg was not Lincoln, but Edwards Everett and his two-hour oration. And there are many other examples. The piyuttim, properly understood, belong to that world, not ours. The point was to *hear* them, not read them and the intent was for the power of the words themselves to affect you in the same way a soulful kumsitz might affect us now.

Perhaps that's why the piyuttim have become a kumsitz. No one actually *listens* to them anymore and I suppose hardly anyone even reads them carefully. Instead, they are sung, or - worse - the congregation chants or hums over them. In such places its nearly impossible for the words to reach you at all.
If the piyuttim are no longer used as intended why keep them? There's no magic to them. They aren't spells. Rambam and ibn Ezra fully opposed them. If we'd rather kumsitz why not reconstruct the service to support that preference just as it was first constructed to support an earlier preference?

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Today's topic is the behavior of some Hasidim on planes.

Today's topic is the behavior of some Hasidim on planes. When they are comfortable they are disruptive. On friendly airlines, like United and El AL, they mass in the aisles greeting friends and neighbors and making minyanim. They ignore crew commands and interfere with flight operations (notably they don't do this on unfriendly airlines. I've flown Royal Air Jordanian and Turkish and the Hasidim take a low profile on those flights.)
What to do? Will their leaders act? No. Not immediately. Not at the request of outsiders.
I don't believe a Hasidic rebbe will ever tell people to miss a minyan, even on a plane, even if it disturbs others or interferes with flight operations. Why?
Because the mind of the typical Hasid will recoil against it. Miss minyan? I've been ingrained from age 3 to never do that!! And Rebbes never do anything that cause the minds of their Hasidim to recoil.
Their business is show business. They make money by playing a role, by standing at the front of the room and projecting confidence, by pretending to be a conduit to the divine, not by telling people things they don't want to hear.
If you want change in those communities you don't go to leaders, you go to kanoim, who via intimidation, propaganda, harassment and other dark arts make people receptive to the idea of doing something new. Once that space is created a rebbe can act.
But please bear in mind what you're seeking is a big change and a tall order. Hasidim daven. Telling Hasidim not to daven is like telling them not to keep Shabbos or not to wear hats. It's a very hard sell. They might agree that their davening shouldn't disturb others but all they will do is blind their eyes to the fact that anyone is being disturbed.

WAIT Before you write a comment accusing me of bashing Jews, read the source material. Its a post written by (someone who posted it in a public group but then after after nods took it down posted it in a private group and now doesn't want her name associated with it) that was picked up by Natan Slifkin here: http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2021/10/chassidim-on-plane.html.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Morality changes with the facts

Irrespective of the origins of the torah and the legal code, men have been using their limited, fallible, and subjective intellects to interpret it for well over 2000 years. At one point, they read the law in a way that permitted slavery and plural marriages; later they imposed new imperatives on the law and decided that neither practice could continue. At one point, they read the law in a way that outlawed interest and required us to forgive debts every 7 years; later they imposed other imperatives on the law and now we charge interest and debts are not remitted during shmitta.

What happened? The convenient explanation is that morality changed so the law had to change with it.

 Unfortunately, the word "moral" isn't a very good one. When we say that "slavery is morally wrong" do we mean that God disapproves of it or that we, the citizens of this time and place, are against it. Do we mean that slavery is always wrong, or that its only wrong when people say that its wrong?

My proposed solution is to abandon the use of the word "moral" and instead speak in terms of facts. 

Its a fact that society works better - people are happier, healthier and wealthier - after slavery is outlawed. At first, human beings did not understand this, just as they didn't understand that drinking sewage water was a health hazard. But in the fullness of time, men came to realize that society could reasonably expect to enjoy better outcomes if slavery was outlawed. 

We can say the same about the economic changes our Sages made. In the fullness of time, after enough data had been collected, they came to realize that society would function more successfully if debts could be collected after shmitta and if Jews could charge each other interest. So the changes had to be made. Not because "morality shifted" but because we acquired new facts and a new understanding about what makes a society more successful.

Doesn't God knows what makes a society most successful? Yes, he does. But we have to figure it out on our own. We have to stumble and lurch towards the truth. And during that process of discovery, we tend to read things in light of our existing prejudices. Once, it seemed crystal-clear that the book of Genesis described a recent creation, and a geocentric universe. Now, we know that neither of those proposals are true and we read and interpret the creation story in light of those new, correct facts. Our morality didn't change; the correct facts merely became known to us making the old readings untenable. 

We can approach the slavery and economic passages the same way. Once it seemed crystal clear that the Torah wanted society to be organized around kings, slavery and debt remittance every seven years. But now that the facts tell us that people are much better off when those policies are not followed, we have found new ways to interpret those passages. The original error was not God's, but ours. We are the ones who misread the book. We are the ones who interpreted the laws in light of our own incomplete knowledge. Now that we know more, and our facts are better, the passages must be re-examined in light, not of new morality but new facts. 

Whether our modern sages choose to lead - as in the case of pruzbal or heter ishka - or follow -as in the case of the Internet which was verboten until we all realized that internet usage was essential to living in the 21st century - this process of reinterpretation in light of new facts continues.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Can you give me one good reason to believe in a young earth?

"Can you give me one good reason to believe in a young earth", I asked.
"We have a Torah", the rabbi replied.
"Ok, but where does the Torah say anything about a young earth? That's speculation. Interpretation. Genesis could just as easily be read in support of an old universe if you were inclined to do so. In fact there are a fortune of suggestions in the Rabbinic literature that tell us the Sages were not wed to the idea of a young earth. In fact a few of our great Rabbis expressly embraced the idea of an old universe.
So, given all of that plus the piles of evidence and peer reviewed studies that tell us the universe is fantastically old what, specifically, obligates us to believe in a young earth?"
The rabbi acknowledged my point, to his credit but left my question unanswered so I'll repeat it here:
Why do otherwise intelligent Jews think that denying the ample scientific evidence for the old universe and rejecting the ample rabbinic support for the old universe is some kind of high religious accomplishment? Isn't it just stupid?

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Susannah Levin Quit her Job at Ben and Jerry: Is She Making a Mistake?


I fear this nice woman may have made a terrible mistake. Ben and Jerry is CONTINUING to sell ice cream in Israel. The only inconvenience for Jews is that those living in settlements will now need to drive a few minutes into Israel to purchase their ice cream. This is something to quit about?

What is really bothering her?

As the great Joshua Shanes tell us a boycott of the West Bank IS NOT the same as a boycott of Israel itself, and we should not equate the two.

Because if you do equate the two, you're putting yourself in a bit of a moral predicament. Here's why:

When people accuse Israel of being an apartheid state, the correct and popular reply is this: The West Bank is the problem, and the West Bank is not part of Israel; however...

When you sit shiva over boycotts of the West Bank, such as this one, you're confessing that you do not actually believe that the West Bank is not part of Israel. And if you say the West Bank is really and truly part of Israel you're also saying the the detractors are correct when they accuse Israel of apartheid.

If you think the Ben and Jerry boycott is something to cry about, by necessity, you also must think that Israel is not a democracy. If you think this boycott of the West Bank alone, constitutes a boycotts of Israel itself you make it impossible to defend Israel against accusations of apartheid. 

So which is it true believers?




Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Hypocrite Netanyahu and hypocrite Deri and hypocrite Smotrich are by accident doing the right thing

The law of unintended consequences is that actions of people, and especially of governments, always have effects that are unanticipated or "unintended."

An unintended consequence of Israel's new and amazingly diverse government is hypocrite Netanyahu and hypocrite Deri and hypocrite Smotrich are now opposing the discriminatory and racist family reunification law they previously championed. 

The law uses "security", a word that in the wrong hands can be used to justify anything, to justify overt discrimination against Israeli citizens who have Palestinian spouses from the Occupied Palestinian Territories from living together in Israel. (Israeli citizens who have *Jewish* spouses from the Occupied Palestinian Territoiree are not similarly burdened which is what makes the law discriminatory)

Previously, hypocrite Netanyahu and hypocrite Deri and hypocrite Smotrich were strong supporters of the discriminatory law on the specious claim that racism makes Israel safer. But now they are going to vote against the law. Not because they have seen the light and now realize that racism actually weakens Israel. No, no. They are opposing the law because they believe that toppling the government is more important than doing what they previously swore was essential to Israeli security. So either they were lying all along about the importance for security of their racist law, or they value their own power more than they value Israel's security. In any event the unintended consequence is that three terrible people are by accident doing the right thing but the voters of Israel should punish them for their mendacity all the same.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

EatUpTheBorders mistreats Israeli food truck in a way that should be familiar to Israelis

There is no good excuse for what #EatUpTheBorders did to that Israeli food truck. The event organizers  entirely and completely overreacted to a security concern and as a result of their over reaction engaged in blatant discrimination against innocent people. 

PS: Overeacting to security concerns causes the IDF to discriminate against innocent people every day so דַּעֲלָךְ סְנֵי לְחַבְרָךְ לָא תַּעֲבֵיד = that which you find hateful don't do to others. 

You can't defend two sets of rules in the West Bank while opposing them in Philadelphia. You have to oppose them in both places.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/m.jpost.com/diaspora/antisemitism/israeli-food-vendor-removed-from-philadelphia-event-due-to-security-risk-671535/amp

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Jake Turx Interviews Trump but Did He Seize the Important Opportunity?

Jake Turx's interview with the ex president for his horrible magazine has just been released. Did Turx, the most visible Orthodox Jew in media, take the opportunity to mention to the former president that it was blatant and overt anti semitism when Trump:

Tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton’s face atop a pile of cash next to the Star of David and the phrase, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”

Released an ad featuring the faces of powerful Jewish people with a voiceover about them being part of a “global power structure” that has “robbed our working class” and “stripped our country of its wealth

Told a room full of Jews they were "brutal killers" 

Suggested that anyone who votes Democrat is a bad Jew

Appealed to Jewish voters by suggesting all they care about is money and only he could protect their wealth. 

Acted on multiple occasions like Jews are a monolith who care only about money and Israel and that he deserves our loyalty and deference because he promises to protect both

The article is behind a paywall so I can't see for myself but I'm not optimistic.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

What I do and do not understand about the Israel Palestinian Problem.

There are many things I do and do not understand about the Israel Palestinian Problem.

THINGS I DO UNDERSTAND

1) Why HAMAS must be fought tooth and nail. These are bad guys, committed to destroying the state of Israel and killing every Jewish Israeli. Anyone who thinks they are freedom fighters who just want fairness and equality for all is at best misled.

2) Why Palestinians are upset. Their parents and grandparents were tossed out of their homes, and got nothing in return. Israel owes them in the same way the US owes the native Americans. 

3) The Central Palestinian Complaint. I understand that perfectly. Imagine a hundred thousand Martians, escaping prosecution on Mars, descended on your city and claimed it as their own on the basis of (a) a book you don't accept (b) stories you don't believe are true and (c) the consistent presence of a handful of other Martians who had been living in your city for thousands of years - that you had never really noticed. I think you'd be upset. I know I would.  You certainly would not like to lose your home because of a few verses written in the Book of Mormon.

4) Israeli Security Concerns. 

THINGS I DO NOT UNDERSTAND

1) Why Israel is called an apartheid state. I agree that there are apartheid-like conditions in parts of the West Bank, and I agree that should end. Its terrible, and I mean that.  But I am also aware that 20 percent of the citizens of Israel are Arabs, and that while they do suffer some of the discrimination endured by minorities everywhere, they also enjoy full voting rights, access to higher education and are employed in plenty of excellent fields - and not as "tokens" either. So anyone who thinks that is "apartheid" can kindly shut up

2) Why Israel's war with Gaza and various displays of very bad behavior are called "genocide" Even the worst police brutality, indifference and corruption isn't "genocide" and no-one fair, honest or  informed can say a war that kills a few hundred people on the weaker side is "genocidal."

3) Why this conflict keeps dragging on. Look, I can agree with anyone who says that the Israeli West Bank cities shouldn't have been built. You are right. That never should have happened. Only it did happen. By the same token, a hundred American cities built on stolen land should never have been built. But they were built.  We aren't going to deconstruct San Antonio or Sioux City and we aren't deconstructing Beitar and Ariel either. The bell has rung. Instead of demanding the impossible, the Palestinians should follow the sage advice Carmine Lupertazzi gave Johnny Sack about the Ginny joke grievance: "Either name a price or get the [bad word] over it!" I know this sounds unfair. I agree it IS unfair. But tossing the 75,000 plus men, women and children of Beitar out of their homes would also be unfair. So that's where we are.

Monday, May 31, 2021

The very inconvenient ancient synagouges of Israel


Quite by accident, I came across a WIkipedia entry entitled "Ancient Synagouges of the Land of Israel". It includes a shul in Bar Am, that is believed to have been active until the 8th or 9th century, and one in Katzin that was used until the 8th century.

The existence of these shuls and others like them is very inconvenient.

First they entirely undermine the famous idion about 2000 years of exile. If there were Jews praying in Bar Am 1100 years ago the exile can't have been longer than that.

Second, they tell us that the exile wasn't perpetrated by Rome (identified with Edom) but by the Islamic Mamluks (Ishmael) This little inconvenient fact defeats all sorts of famous midrashic teachings and well known ideas about  Edom and its metaphysical, supernatural role in the world.

Finally, the presence of these synagouges defeat the precious Haredi notion of an unbroken halachic tradition known and recognized by all Jews at all time. It seems unlikely that the Jews of Northern Israel were aware of the as yet uncompleted Babylonian Talmud and the Savaroaim who finished it up. Perhaps they were in correspondence with those schools, but why would they have respected its authority when they (likely) had their own tradition dating back to the time of the Mishna, when Judaism had flourished in their region.  True, the sages of the Talmud also claimed to be the heirs of that tradition, but communities that are isolated from one another always develop different interpretations and applications of their inherited tradition.
    Search for more information about ### at4torah.com

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Gave us?

God gave us the land of Israel 

What do the words "gave" and "us" mean in that sentence?

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Can Covid Cautious People Now Rejoin a Covid Reckless Shul?

What is the "right" way for people who were Covid cautious to relate to people who were Covid reckless?  For example, let's say you belong to a shul that went back to normal as early as last summer. The shul made no special provisions for the Covid cautious, and many of the members were mask shamers - or worse.  For the last several months, you and like-minded members have been praying outdoors or observing precautions indoors, but eventually, you will have to make a choice. Rejoin, or stand on principle.

The problem for many Covid cautious people in this situation is that they feel betrayed by their synagogues.  As a result, going back is hard. Re-establishing friendly terms with the people who committed this betrayal is hard. From childhood, Covid cautious Orthodox Jews were taught to honor the following ideals:

Rules apply to everyone
Science is reliable
In matters of halacha we follow the scientific experts 
We need to show respect and concern for our neighbors
We should always strive to be mekadesh shem shamayim in our behavior
We should go out of our way not to harm others in any fashion
We should minimize eiva
In religious matters, we should always error on the side of caution (be machmer) 

The Covid reckless, and the institutions that supported them, rejected all of these ideals. 

To get inside the head of a Covid cautious person who belongs to a Covid reckless community, consider the following example: Imagine your Orthodox shul installed an organ. To make it worse, imagine that your shul did this not on the basis of a sound halachic position, but in deference to a trend, and also as a way of showing political support for an immoral, hedonistic, vulgarian who strongly encouraged the trend. 

Would you understand why Jews who were brought up with different Jewish values might now feel betrayed, why they might balk at rejoining such a place, even after the organ was removed? Aren't the Covid cautious who belong to Covid reckless communities now in the exact same situation?

Monday, March 22, 2021

Mushite priests vs Aaronid priests in the Bible.



In Vayikra, the point is often made that the only valid priests are the descendants of Aaron. This is made clear with the formula בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֲנִים or הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן.
The theory of the critics is that Leviticus is the work of Aaronid priests who were protecting their prerogatives. They wanted it made perfectly clear that they, and no one else, were the true priests.

As noted by the critics, outside of the material attributed to the Aaronid priests (specifically Deuteronomy) the priests are often called הַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם, which say the critics, suggests some sort of rivalry between the Levites, or a family of Levites, who thought they were entitled to serve in the Temple and the Aronids who wanted it made clear that right belonged to them alone.

But is there any other evidence of such a rivalry?
Yes, some.

When David first establishes himself in Jerusalem, he has no Temple, but he does have two high priests. This is stated explicitly in 1 Chronicle 15:11, and 1 Kings 4:4 where Abiathar and Zadok are named as co-high priests.

Who were these men?

About Zadok, very little is known. He appears out of nowhere in Samuel, but Chronicles identifies him as a descendant of Eleazer. We know far more about Abiathar.
Unlike Zadok, who is given no clear background story, Abiathar, a survivor of the massacre at Nob, is depicted as David's loyal friend during the dispute with Saul. Abiathar possesses the Ephod and uses it to answer David's questions.
Abiathar is also linked to Eli explicitly in Kings 2:27, and the connection is hinted at in other places.

Why did David need two High Priests?
Several answers are offered, but we will confine ourselves to the one that relates to this discussion.
Frank Moore Cross suggests that there were two religious cults at the time, one controlled by Aaronid priests who traced themselves to Aaron, and one controlled by Mushite priests who traced themselves to Moses.

About Zadok nothing is known, but Abiathar is a descendant of Eli.
In 1 Samuel 2:27, Eli receives a very strange prophecy.
"Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Did I not clearly reveal myself to בֵּית אָבִיך when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh?"
As Chazal knew, God never reveals himself to Aaron in Egypt: the only revelation is to Moses. Moore takes this as evidence that Eli is a descendant of Moses, and a Mushite priest, while Chazal say this verse is evidence that Aaron did, indeed, prophesize in Egypt, though no such prophecy is recorded.
If we accept the suggestion that Eli, and his descendant Abiathar, were Mushite priests the answer to the question snaps into place. David, the shrewd politician, wanted to be seen as legitimate by people who worshipped with the Mushites and by people who worshipped with the Aaronids. Choosing one denomination over the other might be asking for trouble, so took a high priest from each group, and this arrangement continued until Abiathar backed the wrong heir, and was fired by Solomon
Is there any other concrete evidence of a Mushite priesthood?
Yes...
  • Judges 18:30 describes a priesthood in Dan, established by Mushites. The verse reads "Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the time the land went into captivity." which may suggest that these Mushite priests of Dan continued to serve at Jeroboam's temple in Dan.

Is there any other less concrete evidence of a Mushite priesthood?
Yes...
  • In Exodus, Moshe and Joshua act as priests.
  • The old poem attached to the end of Deuteronomy seems to identify Moshe as the founder of a priesthood:

    "About Levi he said: "Your Thummim and Urim belong to your faithful servant. You tested him at Massah; you contended with him at the waters of Meribah."

    Moshe is the faithful man, of Levi, who was tried at Massah and Meribah. The verse says the icons of priesthood belong to him as well.
  • There are several stories of conflict in the Torah, that may be interpreted as polemics against one of the two priesthoods, for example:

    a) In the Golden Calf story Aaron is the one who makes the young bull, and a bull is what was used in place of cherubim in the Bethel Temple. This may be coded criticism of the Bethel rites, which would have been administered by Aaronids. At the end of the story, Moses and the Levites go to battle against everyone corrupted by Aaron's act and as a reward, they are "consecrated to the Lord" and given a "blessing".

    This story also tells us the Levites were congratulated for "slaying their own brothers, companions, and relatives" and, in Deuteronomy, the old poem mentioned above suggests the Levites were rewarded with the priesthood because they "didn't recognize their brothers or children"

    b) In Numbers, the Bal Peor Heresy occurs "before the eyes of Moses" who seems powerless to address it. He fails to act. Instead, Pinchas, the Aaronid, saves the day, and for his actions, he is rewarded with "eternal priesthood" The text can be read as suggesting the priesthood passed to the Aaronites because they cleansed Israel from a Midianite taint, and Moses, of course, is married to a Midianite, and the father of half-Midianites. Eli, it must be remembered, also loses the priesthood because his two sons, like those who were guilty of the Baal Peor heresy,  "lay with women at the door of the Tent of Meeting"

    c) In Numbers 12 Moses is attacked by Miriam and Aaron for marrying the wrong woman (she is identified as a Cushite in this story, but Moses married a Midianite) but the issue becomes "Has God ONLY spoken to Moshe? Hasn't he spoken to us, too?" God answers by telling Aaron and Miriam that Moses outranks them both. The theme seems to be that Moses is superior to Aaron, despite the "mixed" ancestry.
Does this "prove' anything?
Of course, not. There are no proofs in interpretation.

Friday, March 19, 2021

New Intelligence Report on the 2020 Election Reveals All Your Republican Friends Were Wrong About Almost Everything

BOMBSHELL!

Highlights from a recently declassified Intelligence Report:

1) No foreign actor messed with voting machines. (All of your dumb Republican friends who said otherwise were wrong.)

2) Russia interfered massively on behalf of Trump again. China did nothing to help Biden (All your dumb Republican friends who said  it was the other way around were wrong)

3) Trump happily repeated (or let's say "laundered") lies about Biden and his son that were invented and planted by Russian agents. 

This report was completed when Trump was still president and declassified this week.

https://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsroom/reports-publications/reports-publications-2021/item/2192-intelligence-community-assessment-on-foreign-threats-to-the-2020-u-s-federal-elections

Friday, February 19, 2021

Why don't we have a Mishkan today?

Before Jews had access to the Temple Mount they used a temporary structure in Shilo based on an earlier temporary structure constructed in the desert. 

Why aren't Jews interested in temporary structures anymore?

 We don't have access to the Temple Mount today. A rebuilt Temple is, for the moment, impossible. So why don't we set up a temporary Mishkan like structure to temporarily hold us over? 

The answer, obviously, is that animal sacrifice is ridiculous and no one really wants to see it return.

Also, Judaism today is controlled by Rabbis. If we built a new Shilo some control would have to be shared with Kohanim. And no one likes to share control.

Also, the people profiting from major Jewish pilgrimage sites (which operate like a temporary mishkan, with financial sacrifices rather than animal sacrifices required) have zero interest in sharing revenue with a new Shilo.

(The actual Messiah will run into the same problems when he tries to replace Uman with Moriah and installs a young, fit, Kohen as spiritual leader in place of our doddering nonagenarians)

To all those saying there are rules in Nach against bamot I say:

I refuse to believe our religious leaders couldnt find a work around if motivated 

Yochanan ben Zackai certainly managed to work around several rules.

The very fact that people are shrugging their shoulders shows me there is no appetite for animal sacrifice. 

People don't shrug their shoulders and give up immediately when it's something they really want. 

When it's something people really want (like Covid Minyanim and Weddings or sneaking into Uman for Covid Rosh Hashana) there are always people who can make it happen. 

Monday, January 04, 2021

Are we the new Saduccess?

A black preacher opened the new congressional term with a prayer that included a pun, and because the pun suggested some support for "woke" values like  tolerance, inclusion and equality, a horde of GOP Jews, led by Ben Shapiro, are now acting like they don't understand how language works.

Here is how the preacher concluded his prayer:
“We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, [unintelligible], and God known by many names and by many different faiths, amen, and awoman,”
And here is how Ben Shapiro, noted Talmudic scholar, demonstrated his inability to recognize or appreciate puns.
"Amen" is a Biblical Hebrew word: אמן. It is a word simply meaning "may it be so." It has nothing to do with the word "man" or "woman" because it is FROM HEBREW. This is some of the dumbest s*** I have ever seen in my life.
And here is why I think all of this suggests the Ben Shapiros of the world are a bunch of Nuevo Sadducees.

The Talmud, you see, is full of puns. Many of these puns are used to support what men of the ancient world would have considered woke, or progressive values. The most famous example of them all might be the passage on Shabbat 104:
The Sages said to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi: Young students came today to the study hall and said things the likes of which were not said even in the days of Yehoshua bin Nun. T

Alef bet means learn [elaf] the wisdom [bina] of the Torah. Gimmel dalet means give to the poor [gemol dalim].
If there was a sneering Ben Shapiro in the wings, shouting "Those are letters. They have nothing to do with poverty or wisdom. This is some of the dumbest s*** I have ever seen in my life," the Talmud doesn't mention him. This is because much of what the Talmud records is radical, not reactionary. Using a play on language to support and advance messages of love, peace and understanding is radical. Its the 
sort of thing you do when you're the underdog, shut out of the national institutions and rejected by the establishment. Its the sort of thing you need to do when you're a black preacher, and its the sort of thing you mock when you're a comfortable member of the establishment, secure in your privilege, seeing no need for any changes. 

Of course, there were no Sadducees in 250 CE when Yehoshua ben Levi was active , but objecting to novel or "woke" ways of reading scripture is something Sadducees were known to do.  Today, we say they were "denying the Oral law" but what they were actually doing was denying new (or new seeming) interpretations of the written law that threatened their status. Its easy to frame Shapiro's dispute with the preacher in the same terms. The preacher wants people to think about inclusiveness, so he offers a pun on the word "Amen." Sadducee Shapiro feels threatened by ideas of inclusiveness so he acts oblivious to the pun, and instead pretends that the preacher is ignorant of the truths of biblical vocabulary.