Monday, November 30, 2009
I'm determined, bl"n, to have at least as many posts as there are days in the month until such time that I decide I'm done with blogging for good. Counting days that I'm AFK or otherwise busy this explains why, some days, I post multiple times. Today is such a day. Call it filler or bloggish spam but this is my thirtieth post for the month of November. In that vein I guess you could call my earlier offerings today my 28th and 29th . respectively.
May the new month bring a host of new ideas and higher quality writing.
Look... I have no idea whether or not Tiger's SUV smashed up due to an accident or due to a domestic dispute but, more to the point, I have no interest in finding out. When Oh when will we stop looking at sports and entertainment figures as anything more than people who maximized their G-d-given gifts to entertain the rest of us? Not only are these folks, by and large, NOT paragons of virtue but everything about their development and ultimate lifestyles encourages moral turpitude. As soon as they exhibit a precocious genius or outsize talent they are groomed for a "rules are for little people" life. Grades are fudged, allowances are provided, groupies and roadies swarm, entourages of sycophants, dzuliks and enablers spontaneously generate and the athlete's every whim is catered to. This is not exactly a healthy regimen for good character development. Our sages put it thus when allegorically comparing HaShems loading Jews with gold from the Egyptian booty to a father leaving his perfumed and coiffed young son in a red-light district with a purse full of gold: מה יעשה הבן ולא יחטא ?= "How could the boy NOT sin"?
And so I am deeply skeptical of the few and far between athletes and entertainers who, for some strange reason, want to maintain a squeaky clean public image even in an age where criminality sells. I think this snarky piece sums it up best. If an athlete retires and dies and the muckraking biographies reveal even a modicum of mentchlikhkeit, if they didn't cheat at their sport, abuse substances, beat their significant others, fornicate like tomcats on Spanish fly...now THAT'S news. But if they did? Ho-hum. Been here done that!
As this is Cyber-Monday it still feels like last weeks "special" Erev Shabbos. In that uber-consumerist spirit I propose renaming the Friday following Thanksgiving Black and Blue Friday. It is a day of national cultural shame when the countries image as a benevolent giant takes a brutal beating. Not to mention many shoppers and sales clerks!
Nothing belies the USAs reputation as a מדינה של חסד quite so well as the greedy rapaciousness of Black Friday. The revolting scenes of shopping mall parking lot gridlock, shoppers/deal-khoppers camped overnight outside the doors of major chain stores and, most of all, the hordes of shoppers rushing in pell-mell the moment the stores doors open (and, often,BEFORE the doors open) demonstrate beyond any shadow of a doubt that the current American zeitgeist is: "It is far better to receive than to give."
Our sages teach us the difference between the sins/crimes of גזל and חמס . The former consists of taking the property of others without offering any monetary compensation while the latter, derived from the tenth commandment: לא תחמוד is transgressed EVEN if full compensation is offered for property the "seller" has no desire to part with/sell.
I used to wonder whether or not חמס is even possible in a wholesale or retail setting. But when considering the sellers POV on days like Black Friday I think that the inescapable conclusion is that חמס is possible even when every last piece of merchandise is for sale.
What with the loss-leaders, the frenzied, pushing and shoving customers, the salespeople on the floor who endanger life and limb battling crowds fired by cultural memories of "the Who" concert how could this be anything other than khomos? Who can forget last years story of 34-year-old Long Island Wal-Mart worker Jdimytai Damour who died in a Black-Friday stampede? And, as that event is indeed unforgettable, who but the greatest daredevil of a salesclerk, an Evel Knievel of retailing, could not HATE selling merchandise on Black Friday? I understand that for many businesses, especially retail businesses , the pre-X-mas sale season makes or breaks their bottom line for the entire year. But can anyone imagine that they really enjoy selling their merchandise this way? Are these sales good-will exchanges between seller and buyer or are they more like legalized larceny?
In his קונטרס החסד Rav Dessler points out that all humans must be both givers and takers. However, the measure of a man is determined by the interplay between these two imperative components within a given personality. Are you mostly a "giver" who takes the minimum in order to return and give much? Are you someone who hates gifts, sales, handouts and inheritance bequests? Then you are an איש חסד . But if you love all of those things then you are the very antonym of an איש חסד .
And so I am underwhelmed and unimpressed by America's pretensions to being THE מדינה של חסד with the ה"א הידיעה= The definite article . Perhaps we are indeed a society that gives, but if Black Friday is any indication then we give as little as possible in order to TAKE the greatest possible return on our "giving".
As a kid in primary school I remember learning about the cooperative spirit of early 19th century America, of , among other altruistic acts, barn raising's. In Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation the author paints a picture of America as late as the mid-20th century informed by a selfless, giving and heroic spirit. maybe some of you historians out there can inform the rest of us as to when the tide began to change. When and why did we go from being a nation willing to lay down our lives for the good of our neighbors to one that would trample our neighbors to death for that HD flat screen TV deal?
Qedusha-Havdala....Have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Thursday, November 26, 2009
How is a Saturday any different from a Friday or a Sunday? Other than the likely absence of inclement weather how is a week in the spring when we eat unleavened bread any different than a week in the fall when we sit in booth? What is it about the 10th of Tishrei, NOT the 9th nor the 11th that compels us to fast? Yet it is in z'manim that the Creator of both soul, time and space chose to implement his Havdala program for the cosmos...יד וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, יְהִי מְאֹרֹת בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם, לְהַבְדִּיל, בֵּין הַיּוֹם וּבֵין הַלָּיְלָה; וְהָיוּ לְאֹתֹת וּלְמוֹעֲדִים, וּלְיָמִים וְשָׁנִים.14 = 'And God said: 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years;" Moadim are a uniquely Jewish concept as Rashi comments ad locum : For seasons.55[This is said] concerning the future. For Israel will be commanded concerning the holidays which are reckoned by the new moon. Time as measured and governed by the celestial bodies is about havdala and creating "space" for sacred times, time to commune with G-d and with one another.
We already have a Thanksgiving Holiday...It is called Khanukah וקבעו שמונת ימי חנוכה אלו להודות ולהלל. We already have a Family-get-together-around-a-big-festive-meal Holiday...It's called Pesakh. So when we observe Thanksgiving today as something with some religious significance, we rob those others of their uniqueness. We reschedule our appointed times/dates (Moed) with G-d and with one another. We declare non equations to equate.
Most perverse of all the true Jewish Thanksgiving -Khanuka's- major subplot is the havdala bein Yisrael L'amim by vanquishing the Greeks who were hellbent on erasing this havdala. So when Turkey=matzah and cranberry sauce= Marror then Matzah is not Matzah and Marror is not Marror.
Qedusha-Havdala-Have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
We offer no thanks to a country and culture- that has served as an enabler for the most rampant intermarriage rate in Jewish History.
We offer no thanks to a country and culture- that has caused more Jews to assimilate and at a rapider pace than at any other time in Jewish History.
We offer no thanks to a country and culture- that has provided the most fertile soil in which so-called Jewish movements (Reconstructionist and Humanist Judaism to name a few) antithetical to Torah Judaism have taken root and flourished.
We offer no thanks to a country and culture-that is so sex-saturated that people have been reduced to walking, talking libidos and where the sexualization of children rages unabated. This causes overcompensation among Shlomei Emunah manifesting itself in increased actual and cultural ghettoization and onerous and absurd chumras.
We offer no thanks to a country and culture-that so glorifies conspicuous consumption that the culture, including Jewish subculture, grows ever more selfish, narcissistic, tasteless, showy and grotesque.
We offer no thanks to a country and culture-that is more secular than a supermarket . Whose intellectual elite broadcasts explicit and implicit messages that ALL deists of any stripe are, by definition, abject, ignorant morons unfit to partake in society or in dialogues that concern public policy
We offer no thanks to a country and culture-that lionizes and aggrandizes empty-headed and soulless entertainers, mafiosi and sports figures and marginalizes teachers, Doctors and soldiers.
We offer no thanks to a country and culture-that eats drinks and abuses drugs way too much and that has created legions of the obese and the addicted while draining the resources of third world countries, over-fished and treated food-source animals inhumanely in the process.
We offer no thanks to a country and culture- that is addicted to fossil fuels and stubbornly refuses to develop alternative energy sources thus strengthening the hands of Israel's worst enemies.
We offer no thanks to a country and culture- that has created a culture of entitlement providing social welfare programs that rob our youth of initiative and industry and that tempts them with lives of indolence and fraud .
We offer no thanks to a country and culture- who's credo is "You are what you owe" and who's easy access to credit coupled with the above mentioned conspicuous consumerism has contributed mightily to a generation of Jews saddled with crushing debt and faced with the sad dilemma of deciding whether it is nobler to be פושט יד= schnorring for handouts or פושט רגל= absconding from fiscal responsibility by declaring bankrupcty.
We offer no thanks to a country and culture-that insists on having the perennially awful Detroit Lions be one of the two permanent host teams for it's Turkey Day NFL Football offerings. The games are NEVER competitive and this is bad for the football fans, Jewish and non-Jewish alike!
While I am no Reverend Wright shouting an angry "G-d D**n America" I think it is high-time that we reassess this land and it's culture as an unmixed, unmitigated blessing. While it is a land and culture abounding in eclectic blessings it is our historical job as Jews to make holy havdala and distill the pure good from the bad dross currently mixed into it.
Of course the USA is an undeniable מדינה של חסד= a Country of Loving-kindness, but maybe it's time for us to recognize another level of meaning and translation of the word " חסד= as in the following passage:
יז וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-יִקַּח אֶת-אֲחֹתוֹ בַּת-אָבִיו אוֹ בַת-אִמּוֹ וְרָאָה אֶת-עֶרְוָתָהּ וְהִיא-תִרְאֶה אֶת-עֶרְוָתוֹ, חֶסֶד הוּא--וְנִכְרְתוּ, לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי עַמָּם; עֶרְוַת אֲחֹתוֹ גִּלָּה, עֲוֹנוֹ יִשָּׂא." And if a man shall take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness: it is a shameful thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people: he hath uncovered his sister's nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity. "
Sometimes love and kindness misdirected to targets one is too closely related to can have disastrous results. The resulting children are afflicted with an Appalachian imbecility. Odd that this nation that is so tolerant and embracing of it's Jews has produced the most illiterate, imbecilic, havdala/qedusha oblivious Jewry of all time.
Qedusha-Havdala-Have you had YOURS today? Hmmm???
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Torah Judaism is a jealous lover. It tolerates rivals for affection poorly.
Agreed. Cp Khovos HaLevovos in Sha'ar Habekhina
On the other end of the religious spectrum, some among the ultra-Orthodox deem it un-Jewish to celebrate a non-Jewish holy day.
What could possibly be un-Jewish about that?
Monday, November 23, 2009
...to maintain Havdala Consciousness.
I never fail to marvel at those parents who seem to provide nothing for their children in terms of Torah education or cultural identification and then expect them to have enough self-respect and Qedusha consciousness to maintain their havdala min ha'Amim = separation from the nations, i.e. not to be seduced into an intermarriage.
Where Torah education or cultural identification are absent the only arrows left in the parents, or, in this case grandparents, quiver are those of guilt-tripping, coercion through monetary threats or threats of violence and/or direct interference into the child’s most personal relationships. These methods are seldom effective and even in the increasingly rare cases when they are these are almost invariably Pyrrhic victories.
Recently the case of Max Feinberg’s will has been making the news. Upset that his grandson was taking a non-Jewish girl as his date to the junior prom the grandfather revised his will "stipulating that any grandchild to marry a non-Jew should be considered 'deceased' and would be deprived of his or her inheritance." This approach to stopping intermarriage reminds me of the old joke about the tony French restaurant with no prices on the menu;
Tom: "How do I know what the entrées cost if there are no prices listed?"
Francois: "Mon dui monsieur!!! if you must know the prices in advance then you obviously can't afford to dine here".
Any parent or grandparent who must resort to the threat of disinheriting their offspring to avoid intermarriage has already lost the intermarriage battle.
What makes Max Feinberg’s codicil even stranger is that, apparently, it was his little secret. According to the Chicago Tribune, it is not even clear that the grandchildren were aware of the requirement before Feinberg’s widow died in 2003. "In official court papers one grandchild stated that his grandmother had attended his wedding and not warned him that the marriage would cost him his inheritance." Now this is a real head-scratcher. If 'ol Max was really serious about using economic leverage to keep his offspring from interdating and intermarrying it was something he should have made abundantly clear to them every time that he met or spoke to them. Why in the world disinherit them for intermarriage and then not bother to warn them NOT to intermarry? Was this some of bizarre sort of passive-aggression? A way of covering himself for when he met his Maker- "You see Ribono shel Olam...I disapproved of this"? Was he determined to disinherit his grandchildren for some other petty family squabble reason and, adept at gauging which way the cultural winds were blowing, the scoundrel decided to seek refuge in wrapping himself within the flag of Jewish nationalism/piety?
I'm no legal beagle but the claim of the family members who sued, as well as the lower courts rulings (now overturned) that; "such a stipulation promoted religious intolerance and was comparable to encouraging racial discrimination " seems to me like so much stuff and nonsense. Unless we as a society are now in a place where we are ready to label racism/ racial intolerance not just a character flaw, not just a hateful and mistaken philosophy but an actual mental disorder, since when can't a person who is of "sound mind" include a discriminatory stipulation in his/her will?
In any event if Max’s serious intention was to thwart intermarriage the he was demonstrably unsuccessful as, according to reports, four out of his five grandchildren married out.
As far as I can see only two positives emerge from Max Feinberg’s will 1. The Agudah, the NCYI and the Orthodox Union actually agreed about something for once as the three umbrella organizations jointly " filed a friend-of-court brief last spring in support of upholding the will, arguing that 'the clause that the deceased placed in his will was an expression of sincere religious belief, reflecting both the Jewish religious tradition and well-founded concerns about Jewish assimilation.' " 2. That the more exposure and national play this story receives the more it raises the consciousness of the Havdala oblivious that, even within their ranks, some diehards still maintain some vestigial Havdala-Consciousness and the will to enforce it.
Sadly, this unknown and red-tent blog will NOT be among those media outlets keeping the story hot and in the public marketplace of ideas.
Qedusha-havdala...Have you had YOURS today? Hmmm??? C'mon just today at least...win one for Old Maxie!"
Friday, November 20, 2009
Type the characters you see in the picture above
Do you know how sometimes, when people get lonely, they'll start conversing with their pets or even plants and inanimate objects as if they were human beings? Well considering my oneliness and loneliness here in the 'ol red-tent blog I wouldn't mind comments from a computer at all. Not one bit. As for the moral turpitude of said computer...I don't think I'm ready to serve as a character witness for any of my human readers or commenters either.
So tell me...where do I sign on the dotted line?
Qedusha-havdala...Have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm?
If you were shipwrecked on an Island and could bring along only one Jewish Book would it be a khumash/set, a siddur, a tehillim or a gemara/shas? Why?
Oy vey iz mir, I don't know why I engage in these masochistic exercises. All I'll need to do is compare the comments I got back then to what I'll get now to see how my banishment from the mega-blog has been a fall מאיגרא רמא לבירא עמיקתא for me.
Have you had YOUR Qedusha havdala today??? Hmmm???
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Along these lines I submit this insight for your consideration:
Yitzchak Avinu was the first Jew that was born and not made. His parents were both converts. There is an extra element , a unique dimension, to Qedusha and Havdala that is innate rather than Qedusha that is developed and acquired. But the dark underbelly of being born with a congenital, innate advantage is the danger of viewing it as an end in itself rather than as a demand for further progress and growth. It is great to be "born" but awful to be "finished" at birth. This is the very essence of our estranged brother and arch-enemy Esav. Rashi explains that the etymology of "Esav" is based on עשוי= done...finished. Esav was not born a child but a miniature man, hirsute and with a full set of teeth. For Esav, being born as a finished product there was no room at all for growth, maturation and development. The dross of the midah in Qedusha of being "born" is the entropic, only-one-direction-to-go-once-you've-reached-the-top of being "complete" and "finished".
Jewish Folklore developed a demonology in which Esav, the disinherited son, becomes the ultimate "Goy" and that everything Goyish and Esav-dik is to be avoided like the plague. What's odd is that while superficial and external trappings of Esav-keit are indeed eschewed, the essence of Esav-keit, the smug and sanctimonious notion that being born with a madreiga is enough, is embraced by all too many. It's time to reassess our national yikhus. We must understand that the chosen-ness of being born Jewish is a great departure point. It puts us, as it were, ahead of the game. But the game must still be played and the race, won by the diligent and not the swiftest, must be run. If Jewish birth is misinterpreted as the finish line then we will be guilty of national sui-infanticide, in which our cradles become our graves. In a brief epigram:
דער מדה בקדושה פון יצחק אבינו איז אז ער איז א "געבארענער"-און דער פסולת פון דער הייליגער מדה פליסט ארויס דורך'ן פעטער עשו- דער "פערטיגער
Qedusha -Havdala...Have you had yours today??? Hmmm??? Well this is the Parsha for it...get a move on!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
DovBear has really gone over the line this time. The self-anointed repository of all that is still clean, rational, and wholesome in Judaism has yet again, in his inimitable OCD way, thrown thousands of his brethren under the bus. This time for no apparent reason better than the fact that it segued nicely with a post that he'd written Monday.
The man in the Golden Bear Suit, who apparently mistakes Bloggish popularity for moral superiority, makes the same dumb mistake that Qofrim have been making for generations and that is, paradoxically, the obverse of the dumb mistake that shlomei emumah often make. Dovie smugly presumes that being "good" בין אדם לחבירו is the be all and end all of Judaism. In living his smug and self-congratulatory mistake to the fullest he has made common cause with his fellow American citizens and annihilated within himself the slightest feeling of kinship with less than perfect Jews. Every other posts reeks of his rabid desire to disassociate himself from the evil kharedim and to declare that he is SOOOOOOOOOOO unlike them and a free agent independent of K'lal Yisrael.
The post is not only scurrilous and reprehensible but ironic without intending to be so. While sarcastically dismissing any charges of anti-Semitic motivations on the part of his hero, the crusading DA Tom Zugibe, he links to a post which shows what Der Shturmer like stereotypes this prosecution evokes in the minds of John Q. Public. Here are just a few of the gems from the comment thread on the original article:
you know y they dont go to israel??? because Israel doesnt want these lowlives there!!!! they're not stupid!! they know what they are about!
THESE PEOPLE LIKE ARABS AND A FEW OTHERS DO NOT FIT IN OR ASSIAMILATE INTO OUR SOCIETY,WJY DONT THEYT GO TO ISREAL,IM SURE THEY WONT BE MISSED. )
The first thing one must do is stop regarding them as legitimate Jews. They are not. They're Russian and Eastern European Gypsy thieves...That's just it. These people are essentially one large organized crime community. Unlike Jews who are no different than the rest of us - good people - these thieves hide behind a fabricated religious front, very similar to the way white supremist organizations committed crimes while claiming to be Christians, etc., in the 80's. They weren't tolerated and frankly I don't know why these Hasidics aren't being targeted by the feds for stealing federal money
O and this one...from a Jewish writer:
I have no white robe or hood and I despise hatred of a group for no reason other than what you are born. When you become a cult listening to the advise of one person (leader,Rabbi) and do their bidding, when you marry a cousin and do not register that marriage with NYS to defraud the welfare system and because the marriage to a cousin is illegal in NYS then you become a cult hiding behind religion. They marry relatives with no concern for the children born of that union. They teach those children do hate "outsiders" including other Jews that don't measure up to thier "standards". I grew up in a Jewish family in a mixed neighborhood and we all respected each other. No one was on welfare and everyone worked to suppport their families.
That's all I can tolerate for now without chucking my cookies. Way to go Dovie boy. Real nice company you've been keeping. Hope you prefer these impartial intellectual giants with pristine ethics and morals to those Gypsy Hasidim that you've disowned.
And your last two paragraphs...what a kicker. I want to thank you in advance on behalf of the DAs office for doing the Internet research and legwork for him.
The only shame is that you haven't had earlier and more ample opportunities for מסירת ממון ישראל לעכו"ם because you sure as hell have the soul of a מלשין, בוגד ומוסר . How laughable that one such as you should "sit on a scoop" because you scruple about Lashon Hara ethics and then post this drek the very next day.
For all those of you who may not have grasped, unlike the title of Jean Paul Sartre's book ...the title of this post is talking about one individual.
Addendum: Lest anyone want to curse me with the traditional כד אָרוּר, מַכֵּה רֵעֵהוּ בַּסָּתֶר; וְאָמַר כָּל-הָעָם, אָמֵן= "Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour in secret. And all the people shall say: Amen.." please understand that I would have loved to have posted this by way of rebuttal ON the DovBear Blog but that my posting privileges have been revoked. Failing that I would have loved to have jumped onto the comment thread but I have been banned from commenting there. I emailed this post to DovBear before posting it and told him that if he would spike the offending post that I would spike this one but received no response.
Qedusha-Havdala...have you had yours today? Hmm??? Because DovBear has sure as hell not had his...
In the prolonged night and fog of the age of anti-heroes and heroes with clay feet, when all revealed saints are hidden sinners and all prostitutes have hearts of gold, the heart yearns for the sunbeams that sanitize and define. When the moral climate is clouded by vast gray patches of subtlety, nuance and ambiguity the mind pines for the good 'ol days of good guys in white hats and bad guys in black, for the verities of a bright sunny environment where clearly drawn lines of heroes and villains are thrown into sharp relief.
For many Kharedim hagiographies and oral traditions of Gedolim both living and dead (and, in the case of Lubavitch and Breslov...the living dead) or the study of "last-word-on-the-subject" Halakhic works satiate this deep-seated need. But for J-Bloggers, the overwhelming majority of whom are skeptical of Gedolim both living, dead and undead, this need is met by the cause of the frum molestation catastrophe. This is the engine that drives the J-Blogosphere and the platform mounted by the most famous and infamous J-Bloggers from which to vent their righteous indignation and fury. But, subconsciously, it also affords them the comfort of clearly drawn friends and foes, good guys and bad guys in an increasingly uncertain and insecure world.
or does it?
I'm no mental health care professional but as a layman I've absorbed the received wisdom message that pathologies are often cyclical. That children of alcoholics are more likely to battle alcoholism themselves than children of teetotalers . That battered children are more likelyto become violent and mismanage their own anger as adults than those who grow up in loving homes . And, most tragic of all, that many pedophiles were sexually abused as children themselves.
The ongoing pedophilia scandal demands an organization of reality simplified by the confidence that everything can be reduced to this basic, unambiguous equation: The molesters and their enablers= evil and that their victims and their advocates= good. Thus, conventional (wisdom) [passion] dictates that we exhibit zero tolerance for the molesters, that we "out" them, shame them, unemploy them, incarcerate them, chemically or surgically castrate them and even kill them while simultaneously demanding only supportive love of and, in cases where they step forward and confront their tormentors, awe for, the victims.
But what sayeth conventional wisdom when the line is blurred between abuser and abused? When the abused child turns around and starts abusing other children has Jekyll suddenly become Hyde? When do we stop extending understanding and sympathy and bankrolling therapy and start demanding ostracizing and incarceration? Is age the crucial factor? gender? number of victims? the therapists assessment on the risks of recidivism? the abusive abused's IQ? Is absolute condemnation of even the oldest of pedophiles really just? Or ought justice be tempered by mercy for the oftentimes abused "child within" who was just never able to work out the mess some ancient abuser made of their lives?
These have always been troubling questions but the events and swirling rumors of recent weeks ought to give us some pause to consider them more dispassionately even as we are swept up yet again by the righteous whirlwind of this most just cause.
SAVE THE CHILDREN!
"Maimonides, however, says, “It is a positive requirement to bury all those who are executed by the court on the day of death” [Laws of Sanhedrin 15.8], which implies that this includes those who have been condemned to burning. This leads us to conclude that even though cremation is against Jewish tradition, nevertheless if the body has been cremated there is still a positive mitzvah to bury the ashes."
Apparently the august Rabbi who penned this, ahem, " responsum" is unaware of the halakha that Jewish capital punishments do not include auto-da-fes and burning at the stake. The "burning" that the Torah mandates involves pouring molten lead down the convicts throat. The body remains intact externally and even internally except for the digestive tract. A body was then buried..not ashes. As such, Rashis observation about שלא היה בית דין של אותה שעה בקי = "That the court that burned an adulterous bas-kohen at the stake was ignorant" i.e. that they were Sadducees, is near prophetic- as many Orthodox thinkers have compared the Reform and Conservative movements to that ancient order of Biblical-literalistic schismatics.
While the rest of my Bloggish colleagues progress towards tweeting and facebooking if this responsum is any indication I might be able to abandon blogging and make a full time hobby out of laughing myself silly over the Conservative Rabbinate's Halakhic scholarship.
Qedusah Havdala...have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
HaShem revealed His will to humans twice. Once in מעשה בראשית = "the works of creation" and once during מעמד הר סיני = "the revelation @ Sinai". There are many havdolos separating these two revelations. The one relevant to this posts title is this: On a conscious level Sinai was a one-time sensory perceivable revelation for the דור יוצאי מצרים = generation that made the exodus from Egypt. For all subsequent generations of Torah students and Mitzvah performers the Torah is passed down through a Mesorah = a tradition, but is not immediately nor sensory perceivable.
The revelation through nature/creation is qualitatively different. As humans were themselves part of creation ex-nihilo it is an oxymoron to say that humans might’ve perceived G-d’s revelation-through-nature while it was still a work in progress. And so the first moment that a human could’ve seen that which G-d reveals of His will in nature was only after the work of Creativity was complete. Nature/ the Cosmos are as present, revealed and sensory perceivable today as they were the moment night fell the first Friday. AAMOF our liturgy says that G-s is המחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית = "constantly renewing the works of Creation".
Ralph Waldo Emerson began his first essay (Nature 1836) in part as follows: “The foregoing generations beheld G-d and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should we not also enjoy an original relation with the universe? Why should we not have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?”
To me his last line smacks of Qefira, as though calling for a rejection of all previous traditions and starting from square one with the 19th century sensibilities of the essayist and his coevals. Yet I found his rhetorical questions challenging and invigorating. Indeed, why not? Why should we not also enjoy an original revalation ?
We ourselves own to the fact that there is a relative advantage to revelation over tradition אַתֶּם רְאִיתֶם--כִּי מִן-הַשָּׁמַיִם, דִּבַּרְתִּי עִמָּכֶם.= "Ye yourselves have seen that I have talked with you from heaven" (see Rashi ad locum and Shemos 19:4) and that the study of nature is one of the valid paths towards the fear and love of G-d . Rambam Yesodei haTorah 2:2 [ב] וְהֵיאַךְ הִיא הַדֶּרֶךְ לְאַהֲבָתוֹ, וְיִרְאָתוֹ: בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁיִּתְבּוֹנֵן הָאָדָם בְּמַעֲשָׂיו וּבְרוּאָיו הַנִּפְלָאִים הַגְּדוֹלִים, וְיִרְאֶה מֵהֶם חָכְמָתוֹ שְׁאֵין לָהּ עֵרֶךְ וְלֹא קֵץ--מִיָּד הוּא אוֹהֵב וּמְשַׁבֵּחַ וּמְפָאֵר וּמִתְאַוֶּה תַּאֲוָה גְּדוֹלָה לֵידַע הַשֵּׁם הַגָּדוֹל, כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמַר דָּוִיד "צָמְאָה נַפְשִׁי, לֵאלֹהִים--לְאֵל חָי" ). Emerson’s mistake was that this is not an either /or proposition. We can and should enjoy both a direct revelation where possible and one transmitted to us through tradition and history as well.
I qualified my opening remarks by saying that on a conscious level Sinai was a one-time sensory perceivable revelation for the דור יוצאי מצרים = generation that made the exodus from Egypt. But that's only on a conscious level. On a subconscious level, one that accesses the repressed memories of our suppressed and oppressed souls, we are supposed to remember not only the tradition of the revelation of Sinai but the actual experience @ Sinai.יד כִּי אֶת-אֲשֶׁר יֶשְׁנוֹ פֹּה, עִמָּנוּ עֹמֵד הַיּוֹם, לִפְנֵי, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ; וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר אֵינֶנּוּ פֹּה, עִמָּנוּ הַיּוֹם 4= "but with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day-" i.e. that all Jewish souls for all generations yet unborn at the time, were present at Sinai.
I forget which great 16th-18th century godol who headed a great Yeshiva it was whose one question farher =entrance exam consisted of “Close your eyes and tell me…can you remember the revelation @ Sinai?”
Perhaps if we work harder on perceiving the Divine Revelation that is immediately and consciously perceivable by our minds and senses we can develop ways and means of infusing the revelation that for us is, sadly, merely traditional, with new life and vitality.
To put new teeth on an old saw of Khazal כל המלמד בן בנו טבע כאילו קרבתו לפני הר סיני ="Anyone who takes his grandson for a nature walk it’s as if he brought him close to the foot of Mount Sinai. "
Qedusha-Havdala. have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Saturday, November 14, 2009
It may be 64 years since the Holocaust ended but here's someone who shared the life of the Qedoshim and, ultimately, shared their deaths/ post mortems.
An official cause has yet to be determined. But Fire Marshal Vincent McManus says the victim had a reputation as a careless smoker. McManus says relatives told him Rafalowicz, who was 86, was a Holocaust survivor and a retired physician.
-From 1010 WINS radio
Friday, November 13, 2009
There are many ways to die and many ways to dispose of/ deal with human remains post-mortem. And not all corpse-treatments are created equal. מען ברויכט האבען מזל אין טויט פונקט ווי אין לעבען ="One needs luck in death just as in life". There are watery graves , cremation, mummification and being cannibalized. There are elaborate mausoleums in prime real estate and unmarked graves in potters filed. Whether it's my my soul or the body that clothed and served it during my this-worldly sojourn I, for one, get extremely squeamish when considering what will happen to me posthumously.
I know that Halakha prohibits cremation and that there are many compelling reasons to resist cremation. Among these is not treating Jewish bodies as they were maltreated by our most scurrilous enemies...the Nazis. I also know that irreligious Jews have an affinity for cremation and that many a family feud between BTs and their secular siblings surround whether or not to honor deceased Mom's or Dad's wishes to be cremated. And yet, I myself am sometimes fascinated by it. Here's why:
In the spring of 5570, Rebbe Nachman’s house was destroyed in a fire that consumed a large portion of Breslov. He was invited by influential people in Uman to relocate to their town immediately. Since it was clear to him that Uman was going to be his burial place, Rebbe Nachman saw this invitation as a heavenly sign that his death was imminent. In 5528 (1768 C.E.), Uman had been the scene of the massacre of tens of thousands of Jews by the Haidemacks. Rebbe Nachman explained to his followers ...that being buried among all of those holy martyrs was a great privilege.
If being buried among martyrs is "a" privilege perhaps being unburied among 6 million unburied Qedoshim is the greatest of privileges. These Jews were so Jewish, so otherworldly, so "in but not of" this world while they still breathed that having shucked their mortal coils, even their "earthly" remains never became part and parcel of עולם הזה. Their fiery non-graves evoke images of how our nation and faith -community would've been stillborn had Avraham Avinu not withstood the first of his tests and how Khazal view Yitzchak Avinu ( אפרו צבור על גבי המזבח = "his ashes are heaped upon the altar") after Avraham had withstood his tenth and final test. It also is reminiscent of the holy martyrdom of Rav Khanina ben Tradyon immolated while wrapped in a Torah scroll declaring with his final breath אמרו לו תלמידיו רבי מה אתה רואה אמר להן גליון נשרפין ואותיות פורחות =“I see parchment being consumed, but the Torah letters are flying through the air.”
Like the קרבן עולה = "the ascent offering" the martyrs of the Nazis were כליל תקטר=entirely burnt (parenthetically, the word Holocaust is of Greek etymology (ὁλόκαυστον) and means to be completely consumed by fire. So, through the standardization of a single word in the popular vernacular, the cremation of the Qedoshim had become a metaphor for the totality of their experience.)
Call me hopelessly romantic or someone severely warped by his G2 upbringing but when thinking of the Qedoshim of the war the pesukim that come to mind are: תָּמֹת נַפְשִׁי מוֹת יְשָׁרִים, וּתְהִי אַחֲרִיתִי כָּמֹהוּ. =Let me die the death of the righteous, and let mine end be like his(theirs)! and יז בַּאֲשֶׁר תָּמוּתִי אָמוּת, וְשָׁם אֶקָּבֵר ="where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be (un)buried; "
On second thought, it would be he height of hubris and chutzpah for me to cast my lot in death with them. No one who did not bear their sufferings in life is entitled to so purifying an immolation post-mortem. The sof pasuk is more apropos: כִּי הַמָּוֶת, יַפְרִיד בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵךְ = death will divide me from you.
In this vein I'll add yet another novel, perhaps deranged, argument against Jewish cremation: Cremation is prohibited not because it is too demeaning a way to treat a body wrought in the image of G-d. On the contrary, it is too exalted a way to treat all but the most privileged of bodies. Only bodies that had been ultra spiritualized while still serving as soul-coils, either through ecstatic constant Dveykus or through agonizing hellish suffering... deserve the honor of cremation.
Stay tuned Motzi Shabbos for a spooky Adendum
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Someone ought to tell New York Jets wide-out Braylon Edwards that this Braydom ain't big enough for two Brays. And while we're at it what's up with this Irish shtet'l ???
“It would be a shame — as great a tragedy as this was — it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well.”
"Hmmm." said I to myself. "He may have something there...Sounds sober and dispassionate...Indeed!!! What a tragedy , what a Dam**d crying shame it would be, if the קדוש יאמר לו Diversity were to be another casualty of the Fort Hood massacre. OY VEY GEVALT !!! Diversity Ubber Alles! "
But as the days and hours have passed since the Ft. Hood massacre and I've gotten a better grip on myself I now declare, loud and proud : IS HE OUT OF HIS COTTON PICKIN' MIND? THIS IS MEANINGLESS PABLUM! HE HAS SAID NOTHING. HIS WORDS ARE A MIRAGE. DEVOID OF CONTENT AND MEANING. THOUGHTS UNCLOTHED AND UNSUITABLE FOR MINGLING IN PUBLIC! HE IS, IN FACT, WORDLESS.
.. two approaches:
1) Complete isolation. Live in a bubble and avoid contagion entirely (sin).
2) Inoculate against contagion (sin) by exposure to lesser contagion or things that may lead to contagion.
#1 is the approach of the Chareidim which try to isolate themselves from society. #2 is more of the approach of the modern Orthodox, which embraces aspects of society.#1 believes any exposure is inherently dangerous (don't vaccinate, just keep the mask on and use tons of purell). #2 believes the greater danger lies in forbidding everything, that exposure to minute amounts provides better protection from serious disease.
Both have pluses and minuses.#1 is more radicalized and forces itself to become more and more strict as the perceived exposure to disease becomes more imminent or serious. We this in tzniut and kashrut for example as more and more "fences" (siyag) are set up - more and more barriers against disease as it appears the previous barriers are no longer enough.#2 may fall victim to the slippery slope. What do you embrace? What do you shun? Where is the line drawn? The danger is falling off the cliff as one compromise snowballs into an avalanche of compromises.
A beautifully penned synopsis describing the differences between two competing Weltanschauungs . I just have one major quibble with JS’ analysis: Is there really a MO theoretician who believes that a fine secular education and exposure to high culture is "a measured dose of poison/ disease"? OTC in the MO philosophy these are boons and blessings in there own rights meant to complement and augments those of the Torah. No self-respecting MO householder would want even trace amounts of porn and addictive recreational drugs in their home. No self-respecting MO parent would want their children clubbing at a hip-hop nightspot. IMO the argument between Kharedim and MOs is NOT about resisting even the smallest amounts of spiritual disease, but in identifying WHAT those diseases are.
Qedusha-Havdala...have you has YOURS today??? Hmmm???
I understand the sentiment. I empathize with the suffering. You may call me a pedant but, what can I say, I found this slogan very off-putting.
It’s been taught that מלכותא דארעא כעין מלכותא דרקיע = "earthly kingdoms are analogous to the Kingdom of Heaven" and, reading the placards, I couldn't help conjuring images of the storming of the Bastille. Another memory this headline evoked was the sin of that most sinful “Generation of the Dispersion” AKA “the tower of Babel” whose objective per Rashi was נעלה שם ונעשה עמו מלחמה = “we will ascend there (to heaven) and wage war against Him”. Finally, and this is no doubt related to my G2 baggage, I couldn’t help thinking about Blitzkrieg when seeing battle described in meteorological terms.
Tehilim is always a good thing. The power of a tzibur reciting psalms in heartfelt and heartrending ways is incalculable in terms of fostering an eis ratzon. But whatever happened to : תַּחֲנוּנִים יְדַבֶּר-רָשׁ; וְעָשִׁיר, יַעֲנֶה עַזּוֹת. ="The poor uses entreaties; but (only) the rich answers impudently." ?
I can’t help thinking that the ubiquitous culture of segulah-ism with its implicit message of horse-trading with G-d, of tit for tat arrangements, has made inroads into even our most august organizations. For what is “Storming the Heavens” other than mounting an attack, one redolent of a rebellion fueled by righteous indignation, against "injustices" rendered? And while historically there may have been supernal tzadikim who prayed in a נוטל בזרוע = “I’m here to take what’s mine” manner, they were, after all, supernal Tzadikim. For us it’s good form not to storm the heavens like marauders but to keep on knock-knock-knockin’ on heavens door supplicating for a handout like the spiritual mendicants that we are.
A more fitting lead in would’ve been “Let’s Beg on Bended Knees at the Gates of Heaven Together”.
Qedusha Havdala. have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???