Thursday, May 12, 2022

J. David Bleich's terrible anti-abortion essay

J. David Bleich has a reputation for being an intellectual. It's hard for me to see how that reputation will survive the publication of this paragraph:

 "Craven political correctness is no defense for the indefensible. We should not seek to curry favor with, or the approbation of, the so-called intelligentsia. I daresay that no Jewish woman died as a result of legal restraints prior to Roe v. Wade. No Jewish woman is likely to die in the wake of its repeal. Abortion for medical need will continue to be available in most, and probably all, jurisdictions. If any lives are lost it will be because of inability to afford the expense of travel, not because of constitutional impediment."

Let's take it apart line by line

Craven political correctness is no defense for the indefensible. 

Craven sucking up to evangelicals is also no defense for the indefensible. Most Orthodox Jews who oppose abortion are just taking cues from Christians about morality. They don't consult authentic Jewish sources. They listen to whatever the preachers say on Fox News.  

We should not seek to curry favor with, or the approbation of, the so-called intelligentsia.

We should also not seek to curry favor with  or the approbation of the Catholic church as Bleich himself does in an earlier paragraph. Why is seeking a smile from the Pope any better or worse than seeking a smile from intelligent people?

I daresay that no Jewish woman died as a result of legal restraints prior to Roe v. Wade. 

I daresay Bleich completely wrong. If no Jewish women died as a result of legal restraints before Roe (extremely doubtful) it was only because abortion was legal in the states where almost all of the Jewish women lived. 

No Jewish woman is likely to die in the wake of its repeal. 

Read that one again. This reassurance that "no Jewish woman is likely to die as a result of its appeal" (almost equally doubtful as the previous claim) is an unbelievably chauvinistic statement. Jewish blood is not cheap but the blood of poor women is?

Abortion for medical need will continue to be available in most, and probably all, jurisdictions. 

Abortion for medical need will not continue to be available in most red states; many plan to allow it for emergencies only - with "emergency" being defined as narrowly as possible. And the fact that abortion doctors will need to hire lawyers to prove in court that the emergency was real after they are sued by state empowered vigilantes will only make doctors less willing to deliver this sort of medical aid. 

If any lives are lost it will be because of inability to afford the expense of travel, not because of constitutional impediment.

If any poor women die its not society's fault for making medical abortions extremely difficult to obtain. It's her own fault for being too poor to afford travel. Just terrible. Imagine saying that about food: If the poor woman dies its her own fault for not being able to afford the food.  Or about any other medical procedure: If the poor woman dies its her own fault for not being able to afford an appendectomy. Does that fly? If you can see clearly why the food example and the appendix example are both morally obtuse, why can't you see it about the abortion example?
 

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Believe it or not, there is a liberal approach to reducing abortions:

Believe it or not, there is a liberal approach to reducing abortions:

1) minimum wage that keeps pace with productivity or at least the cost of living.
2) expanding Medicaid.
3) affordable day care,
4) student loan relief
5) Robust public education.
6) Free birth control
7) Paid family leave

Why don’t allegedly pro life people want to do any of these things? Why is criminalizing a medical decision or imposing on everyone else their extreme Christian idea on when life begins their answer to everything? (because they're not pro-life, they're pro-birth. Once the baby is born then its life is worthless to them)

Consider a more sympathetic understanding of the anti-woke people.

On Twitter, I was urged to consider a more sympathetic understanding of the anti-woke people.
I tried, but I admit I'm stumped.
Maybe you can help? Here are three little sketches of how the anti-woke people look to me.
If you have a better way of understanding it, please let me know.
TRADER SAM.
Here is my POV:
1. Disney sees that Trader Sam offends people and perpetuates stereotypes that hurt people. "Why," Disney says to itself, "should we be in the business of helping people think that minorities are X,Y, and Z.?"
2. Out of compassion, Disney removes Trader Sam
3. People who value their own nostalgia over everything else in the world scream "woke!!"
TRANS PEOPLE
Here is my POV
1. People see suffering in the world
2. People try to mitigate that suffering with compassion. Some examples of that compassion may include using words that make people experience less suffering.
3. People who are insecure in their own identities and value nostalgia over everything else yell "woke!!"
DR SUESS.
Here is my POV
1 The owner of Dr. Suess sees illustrations that perpetuate stereotypes that harm people. "Why", the owner asks itself, "should we be doing anything to help small children accept stereotypes about Asians and Africans?"
2. The owner takes the books out of publication
3. People who value their own nostalgia over everything else in the world scream "woke!!"
Do you see this differently? Great. Give your POV

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

What's so great about being UOJ?

What's so great about being UOJ?
"In our country, they say that he who wishes to tell a lie has his witnesses live far away." That's the Ramban at the Disputation explaining why the claims of Christianity mean nothing to him.
What good is it, he continues, to say that Jesus has saved us from sin, or given us eternal salvation? These claims are impossible to falsify. What you say may be true, or not, but who can tell?
An identical charge, alas, might be made against some of the claims of Ultra Orthodox Judaism.
Go to a BT seminar, or question your local Haredi believer, and you'll be told that there are three primary reasons for living the Ultra Orthodox lifestyle.
In this post, I attempt to discuss them with the bombastic lack of nuance for which I am quite unjustifiably famous.
First up, the claim that **This is God Wants.** Oh, really? And how exactly do you know that? How do you propose to prove that God wants you to wear strange headgear, mutter old poems three times daily, and gorge yourself on meat and potatoes on the weekend? The only proofs are circular (the book says so and the book is true because the book says its true) and far too many UOJ behaviors that are considered essential and original are really nothing of the sort. None of these more recently added Ultra Orthodox affectations can honestly be said to be what God wants, not when perfectly spectacular Jews did otherwise for thousands of years. Did the Rambam say Kabbalat Shabbos? Did he know from upshurin? Where was his kippa? In fact, a halachic conservative Jewish lifestyle -- one that features scrupulously ethical behavior together with non-glat kashrus, regular mikva trips, and the contours of an observant shabbos - is just as plausibly What God Wants, but with none of the accoutrements, and a tenth of the difficulty. Why not do that instead? (Answer: Superstition, ignorance, fear of neighbors)
Second, **It Will Make You Happier. ** Yeah, says who? Admittedly most of my social contacts are Orthodox Jews, so I don't have much basis for comparison, but my cronies don't seem especially joyful. Many are downright miserable. Working extra hard to pay exorbitant tuition bills, and feeling forced by society to pay for obscenely lavish smachot will do that to you. As for the UOJs as a whole, well, lets play amateur sociologist: Ultra Orthodox Jews are less educated, make less money and have larger families. None of these factors are traditional indicators of happiness.
If UOJs are happier, perhaps it is a result of the smugness/sense of certainty that comes from thinking of yourself as God's Special Guy, or from the satisfaction acquired from completing our daily maze of religious rituals and obligations. The former is available to the LWCJ/OJ, too; indeed its available to anyone - Jew or gentile - who lives right, according to his or her own standard of right. As for the latter, well, I agree the real world offers nothing quite like the satisfaction of making it through Yom Kippur, or starving through a flight when no kosher food is available, but this isn't necessarily an indictment of the real world.
Third, **It Will Make You Smarter**. At the BT seminars, this claim is too often backed up with bogus bible codes. Your local heredi true believer is more likely to say that everything scientists know is contained in the Torah, and attempt to prove it via the famous, but undocumented, Chazon Ish anecdote, or by pointing to some medieval commentary who, when read in just the right light, seems to presage Einstein.
I agree that UOJs generally have much more candlepower than most, but too many of them just don't seem to know anything. Is it because their schools teach them nothing, or are they just not taught modern modes of thinking? My friends who practice medicine in Lakewood and Williamsburg have a new story every month about some cockamamie treatment plan that everyone seems to swear by. Once it was crystals, another time garlic in the ears. The fact that these methods don't work, and are endorsed by no one save the neighborhood yenta seems not to matter. Over and over again, we see UOJ people falling for scams like segulot, and blessings for money. Over and over again we see UOJs shutting off their brains once it seems clear a "Rabbi said so". And of course I've acquired countless grey hairs, stress lines and stomach ulcers attempting to explain to the so-called smartest of the smartest how history works, what midrashim are, and why blindly relying on authority is a lousy way to acquire knowledge. These are all things that ordinary non-UOJ creatures of the 21st century just seem to know, in the same way that ancients just seemed to know that dragons were real. So why are the UOJs lagging so far behind?

Monday, May 02, 2022

Zionists be like...

Them: CANCEL CULTURE IS TERRIBLE AND THE WORST. The woke people are RUINING America! 

Also, them: Heyyyy.... I don't like how Jews or Israel were depicted in that media!! HOW OFFENSIVE. WE MUST BOYCOTT THEM NOW!!

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Points of disagreement between me and the Orthodox Jews

Points of disagreement between me and the Orthodox Jews

  • I don't think Zionist Israel is special
  • I don't think hasidut is special
  • I don't accept any kind of witchcraft
  • I don't accept any kind of magic
  • I think the reward for a mitzvah is the mitzvah (and I try to embrace all consequences thereof)
  • I reject ATM Judaism*
  • I reject gold star Judaism*
  • I refuse to treat God like a hired hand
  • I refuse to treat our great Rabbis like Catholic saints
  • I think the call for us to "storm the heavens with our prayers" suggests some rather awful things about God
  • I realize it's blasphemous to suggest God enjoys listening to us chant and sing and wave around our arms
  • I think Uman is a joke
  • I think what Israel is doing in the West Bank is disgusting and immoral
  • I don't think we're ever obliged to believe Midrashim
  • I think were often obliged to accept that the authors of midrashim believed exactly what they said
  • I think education is more important than chinuch
  • I don't think black hats or Zionism or sitting and learning is michaper kol avonot

ATM:
You go up to God with a card and a pass code (=zechuyot) and you get cash and prizes

Goldstar
Mitzvoth have no intrinsic value. They don't make you better. They just add to your collection of gold stars which you can sell to other people in things like a zevulen/yissacher deal or trade in (hey God here are ten gold stars, please save Moshe from cancer)

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Trans People Shouldn't be Lectured About Anything, Including "Biological Reality"

Biological reality is not the only reality that matters when we talk about trans people. There is also the reality of how trans people see themselves. Why is one reality more important than the other?

Let's say your family and your community all expected you to adhere to certain norms. Let's say they all expected you to wear a reckle and a beard and become a Torah scholar. Would you be "denying reality" if you wanted to wear jeans and become a pilot instead? Of course not.

Same here. All of society is expecting a trans person to act and dress and live one way but the trans person doesn't feel it and wants to live another way instead. You can call it denying reality if you want but I think it's actually called "being true to yourself"

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

What about Vashti's Tail?

Let's talk for a few seconds about Vashti's infamous tail.



First the source material:

״וַתְּמָאֵן הַמַּלְכָּה וַשְׁתִּי״. מִכְּדֵי פְּרִיצְתָּא הֲוַאי, דְּאָמַר מָר: שְׁנֵיהֶן לִדְבַר עֲבֵירָה נִתְכַּוְּונוּ, מַאי טַעְמָא לָא אֲתַאי? אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹסֵי בַּר חֲנִינָא: מְלַמֵּד שֶׁפָּרְחָה בָּהּ צָרַעַת. בְּמַתְנִיתָא תָּנָא: בָּא גַּבְרִיאֵל וְעָשָׂה לָהּ זָנָב .

The verse states: “But the queen Vashti refused to come” (Esther 1:12). [The Gemara asks] Since we know she was immodest - as the Mar said above: The two of them had sinful intentions - why didn't she come to the party? Rabbi Yosei bar Ḥanina said: This teaches that she broke out in leprosy, Or, alternatively it was taught in a baraita: The angel Gabriel came and fashioned her a tail.

Now the stray observations:

1) This midrash isn't a lesson, or a message. Its just an attempt to work things out in light of things we think we know. In this case, we know (from the verse) that Vashti refused to go to the party which we know (from another midrash) was basically an orgy, but we also know (from other midrashim) that Vashti was not averse to orgy-ing - so (here's the problem) why did she refuse the invitation?

2) So, the sages seem to think the answer is that something was wrong with her body.

3) Leprosy, the first attempted answer, is hinted to via the words "אשר נגזר עליה" which are used both to describe Vashti later in the megilla, and to describe King Uzziah who suffered leprosy. But what about the tail?

4) Answer #1: According to Tosafot HaRosh אשר נגזר עליה means a "tail was decreed upon her" which wokd if you spell the word עָלֶיהָ with an aleph instead of an ayin. That can be read as אַלְיָה which means tail.

5) Answer #2: Any appendage can, theoretically, be called a זָנָב so perhaps what the baraita means, when it used the word, זָנָב , is something like some extra weight or a zit or something else that made her embarrassed to join the orgy.

6) We don't have to believe that any of this happened, of course, but it seems clear as day the sages are struggling to understand why noted-party-girl Vashti was uneager to join the bacchanalia. According to Rabbi Yosei bar Ḥanina she passed because she had, really and truly come down with leprosy, while according to the baraita the reason was she sprouted a זָנָב whatever it might have been.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

About the mall robbery in Yonkers

I am sick unto death of the caterwauling that has been polluting my news feed regarding that daylight robbery in Yonkers. Half of the idiots are blaming democrats and George Soros and any other left of center bogeyman they have heard about on Fox News for "empowering the criminals"; the other half are mad the rent-a-cop didn't perform a criminal act and gun the felon down right there in the food court.

I've tried to explain to these worthless people that Tennessee vs Garner makes it unconstitutional to use deadly force on a fleeing criminal. I've tried to explain that neither the shop, nor the mall, nor the other tenants would agree that a wild west gunfight is good for their brand or their business. I've tried to explain that losing stock is sometimes simply the price of doing business, and a huge international chain like Louis Viton sees the loss as a rounding error, not something over which to risk the life of a bystander.

But what I really want to say is "Boo hoo a rich guy lost something he had insured and that didn't cost too much in the first place. Oh agonies. Where are you law and order people when cops are gunning down black people on the streets? Where are you when a mob of insurrectionists are trying to hang the vice president? Cheering along, that's where you are. So don't waste my time with your rehearsed yet equivocal pieties about law and order and the decay of society.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

ANYONE SHOCKED: YWN has a victimization complex



I think that this video probably does show a cashier mistreating a Hasidic Jew, but I also think that this minor offense barely qualifies as "News" and that maybe such a popular site should commit itself to doing something other than making Jews feel insecure, assaulted and angry. Is this the new world? Every argument between a Jew and a non-Jew is going to be labeled HATE and plastered all over the Internet to reinforce our feelings of vulnerability? Not to go all arm-chair Freud on you, but how much of this has to do with having survivor grandparents?

(I also think that its hysterical when YWN tries to act all journalistic by saying "Sources Tell Us" as if he's in touch with some kind of official spokesman, when really its Yoeli down the block via WhatsApp. )

(and while we're pointing out funny things, what about this: People like YWN tend to de-emphasize racism against black people, or claim they deserve it, yet this ANYONE SHOCKED headline seems to be saying that its all anti-Semitism all the time. If a black person said it was all racism all the time, would YWN buy it?)

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Some responses to the "top" kiruv arguments

Over on the social network, someone identified the following three arguments as top proofs used by kiruv experts to prove the truth of the Torah. My responses provided below. 

a) Shemitah - How could human beings possibly give themselves assurance that they'd have enough food to last with one year being unable to use the land? They had to have had a divine promise to even think of initiating such a thing.
Well, there are two problems here... (1) we don't know for sure that anyone actually kept shmita during bayis rishon or sheni and (2) other ancient cultures seem to have had similar fallow years (at least on paper, we don't know to what extenet those were kept either) But it seems to be represented in Ugaritic texts as a four year cycle and in Assyrian texts as a 7 year cycle. So "how could Assyrian and Ugaritic human beings possibly give themselves assurance that they'd have enough food to last with one year being unable to use the land? They had to have had a divine promise to even think of initiating such a thing." Right?
b ) Aliyah LeRegel - How could a nation mandate days for everyone, presumably including guards, to leave their usual posts for such occasions. It would be prime time for their enemies to attack! The only thing that can truly offer assurances of protection during that period is Hashem.
Again, who says guards left their posts? You're assuming something as true for which no evidence has been shown. Besides which, look at Kings! The Northern Kingdom as a whole gave up the pilgrimage festivals a good 400 or so years before the destruction; the Southern Kingdom was led, usually, by idolatry-loving Kings who had no use for God or his holidays; and the people, for the most part, were sinners who ignored God, and his festivals. We're even told that from Solomon to Josiah Passover was pretty much ignored. Given this description, I rather doubt that any borders were left unprotected.
And as for the second temple period... well, unfortunately, the Second Temple Kings were largely corrupt, and largely Hellenized. Many had Greek names, tolerated High Priests who weren't, in fact, priests, and demonstrated an indifference to God that was protested by the people and decried by the Rabbis. Do these sound like men who would trust a divine promise and abandon their borders?
ALSO Ancient campaigns were launched in the late Spring, when the weather was good, and when food was easier to find. An ancient army marching in winter would quickly starve, or freeze. Therefore, almost all ancient campaigns began after Passover, and by the end of the summer, ancient armies were almost always settling in for the winter. Based on this, it is HIGHLY unlikely that any ancient country -divine promise or not - was attacked at Passover or Sukkot.
c) Kashrus - The four animals listed in the Torah as having split hooves that don't chew their cud (I might be mixing it up) are the only four species ever discovered for that to be the case with. It's one thing to argue that the Biblical authors only knew the animals in their neck of the woods, but how could they have known for the whole world?
Um they didn't.
1) A hippo and peccary have the same foot structure as a pig, and like a pig, do not chew cud.
2) The llama and alpaca chew their cud and have no split hooves (well, they do, but the torah doesn't consider the camals split hoof to be a "real" split hoof)

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Why is Efram Goldberg allowing an avowed missionary to speak in his Boca Raton shul?

Why is Efram Goldberg allowing an avowed missionary to speak in his Boca Raton shul? What good does he expect will come from this? And how much does his own blind devotion to Donald Trump have to do with this terrible decision?

*What maga crazies sound like to the rest of us*


Maga crazy: Jim, I think you're a cow.
Jim: Are you for real? My wife says I am a man.
MC: She's part of the conspiracy.
Jim: Well, here is a signed note from my doctor attesting to my being male.
MC: He's just afraid of being canceled.
Jim: But there is no evidence at all suggesting I'm a woman.
MC: Its definitely out there, only the media is covering it up.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Judaism is polymorphous

"I dwell among my people,” said the Shunamite woman, one of the most affecting incidental figures in the Bible, to Elisha. She had no need of any intervention on her behalf with the political or military powers, she told the prophet; the people with whom she lived, the group in which she was a member, was sufficient to her needs. (She was the mother of civil society.) I have always cherished the concreteness of her statement. It is a lucid and elemental affirmation not of an ideal community, but of an actually existing community. The objects of one’s allegiances should not be imaginary, or made unreal by fantasy or ideology. One may differ with, and even despise, aspects of one’s society, but solidarity is premised on a generosity of attitude, on a warm inclination to commonality. Every community has a boundary, but the boundary must not be so wide as to be hollow or so narrow as to be ugly. The search for perfection in love is a prescription for a loveless life. There are conservative American patriots whose contempt for the mores of their fellow Americans is so great that they may be accurately described as anti-American.
But it is not my country that provokes these reflections, it is my people....
The American Jewish community is the sum of the identifying Jews who live in America. In one way or another, and simply for not surrendering or disappearing, they are all saving remnants. In this sense, sociology is identity. And the political and religious variety of the Jews of America is the most obvious fact about them—but it pains the nostalgists and the dogmatists, who see no glory in a plenitude of Jewish dispensations and regard diversity as a historical and ideological disappointment. They prefer to delude themselves with legends of a lost uniformity of opinion that never existed. Quarrel has always been a Jewish norm, and controversy a primary instrument for the development of Jewish culture and Jewish religion. But there are those, the heresy hunters and the truancy hunters, the real Jews, the true Jews, the last Jews, who refuse to accept the community as it empirically is, to engage with the cacophony and its causes, and instead they haughtily promulgate definitions of inclusion and exclusion, certifications of authenticity and inauthenticity. Most of their fellow Jews are, for them, for one reason or another, traif. What sort of expression of peoplehood is that? We are a people, not a sect.
The orthodoxies and the bubbles and the closed loops and the echo chambers are everywhere. Every current of thought, right and left, cleaves to its own—and what dissidents we all are!. Brothers and sisters, get used to it. Whether or not we are perverse, we are polymorphous. The exclusion of an opinion is not a refutation of it. There is honor in the mainstream and there is honor in the margins, if a view is held with intellectual integrity and with a sentiment of belonging—which is not easy to do, since the reason of the mind and the rapture of the heart often compromise each other. Even the man who denies that I am his brother is my brother. That does not make me a fool. It makes me a Jew.
By LEON WIESELTIER