כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם

כִּי לֹא מַחְשְׁבוֹתַי מַחְשְׁבוֹתֵיכֶם, וְלֹא דַרְכֵיכֶם דְּרָכָי

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Morality Shmorality

When you go to kiruv seminars or if you listen to shiurim of the more moderate voices within Judaism like the one of Rabbi Nathan Lopes-Cardozo (whom I do hold in high esteem), you will always hear the mantra that Judaism is an ethical religion, with the main imperative for this Chosen People® to be a moral light unto the nations.

The facts don't substantiate this claim though:

  • We are commanded not to take revenge or to bear a grudge. However, God holds himself to different standards that he judges other people by, by calling himself a 'El Kanah Venokeim', a jealous and revengeful God.
  • The book of Shulchan Aruch we are being taught most, is the daily ritual part of Orach Chaim. If you learn for Smichah (Rabbinic ordination), you are likely to be taught the dietary laws of Yore Deah. However, how many people do you know that are proficient in Choshen Mishpat (financial law)? This book will most likely contain moral laws. And guess what? These laws are mostly man-made (although they may reinterpret verses to fit them back into the Torah).
  • We are all being taught that, according to one opinion, Rivkah was 3 years old when she married Yaakov. Do you remember being taught that marrying a toddler was disgusting? No, of course not, we will find anything to make the Avos holy. The cognitive dissonance is mind-blowing consider these comments at The Yeshiva World:
    A 3 year old then was not the same 3 year old now. Things were different then. People lived longer, and they did not age. We can already see from the story with Eliezer and the camels that she had high intellect and a high level of functioning.And:
    It's very clear she musta been born during Adar Sheini and therefore as her real birthday didn't come around too often, she was really more like 12 years old.
  • The conquest of Kenaan that butchered the local population in the name of God.
  • The many laws that were perhaps considered advanced in antiquity but are considered by most people to be reprehensible nowadays, such as the laws condoning slavery, death penalty for homosexuality and other 'crimes' such as waiting too long before consuming sacrifices.
  • The position of women in Judaism: whichever way you want to turn it, she is unable or not supposed to bear witness, become a judge, show her hair in public, sing in front of others, study Torah for its own sake, write a Torah scroll, inherit like men do, marry or divorce a man, etc. 

But more than the question of whether certain laws and / or customs are ethical or not is this. The focus of our education is not to be moral and ethical people. What really really counts is what we keep or not. What we wear and how to fit in. The uber-goal is to subjugate yourself to the law and the community and to be 'Shomer Tora uMitzvos'.

Whether this Torah or these Mitzvos are morally inspiring or not.

This, in my opinion, is one of the main points why people are uncomfortable about their Judaism and, eventually, slip out through the back door.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday links

Today's roundup:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Monotheistic Faiths Violent by Definition?

Thanks to Baruch Pelta for directing me to the debate video below on 'Islam is a Religion of Peace', where Ayaan Hirsi Ali says that by definition all monotheistic religions can not be peaceful.

And then it hit me:
  • All 3 monotheistic world religions claim to have the true faith and that God has chosen them as opposed to any other religion.
  • By definition, the majority of people / religions does not believe in what you are saying (the other faiths or non-believers).
  • So there must be some justification as to how your monotheistic religion will still win in the end in order to inspire your people to spread this religion.
  • There are two options on the table (correct me if I am wrong): either they must convince the 'non-believers' about the truth of religion a,b or c, or by forcing it onto them.
  • Since most people tend to follow the beliefs of their parents, regardless of their inherent truth (if one of them were hypothetically to be true, the majority of the people will still believe in the other options), this convincing business will never happen.
  • So a monotheistic must then either rely on subjugation of their opponents whenever they can get away with it actively or by believing in some apocalyptic event, which is violent by its very definition.
I'd be interested to hear about what you have to say in the comments. The debate is interesting although I think that those that claim Islam is a Religion of Peace really meant to say that they want it to turn into a religion of peace.

Would have been way more interesting if a muslim clergyman would have the guts to turn up for these debates:

ISLAM IS A RELIGION OF PEACE from Intelligence Squared US on Vimeo.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Amnon Yitzchak refuses to deal with NuBemet

Here is a classic case of how kiruv clowns like Amnon Yitzchak refuse to deal with questions they are being asked and how condescending and cheap their retorts can be. NuBemet has an excellent YouTube portal where he wipes the floor with their arguments and this makes the likes of Amnon Yitzchak nervous.

In the clip below, a person in the crowd asks Amnon Yitzchak an innocent question. See how the Yemenite kiruv clown with GPS receiver in his turban  answers:

This is Relitainment that frum people watch in order to suppress their doubts. It is cheap and false. I feel a pity for the people that become frum because of him. But then again, I guess I pity all who do so of their free will...

Pass this on to your frum friends and don't forget to note their answers in the comments below.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Selected Kofer Posts

I thought I'd share some post links with you before I take off to Israel for a few days. Not all of them are koferdik, but nonetheless interesting kofer reading:

The Kvetch of the Kolel Wife (Life in Israel blog)
Instead of shortening hours for the overworked kolel wife, we should indeed be looking for a solution where the husband gets up his lazy bum to work for a living.

Getting over the joy of believing? (Jewish Atheist blog)
Losing belief can be like losing an abusive partner; emotions can endure against better knowledge.

Are people saying "I am spiritual" to just appear attractive? (Center for Inquiry)
One explanation why so many people are not honest enough to be agnostic.

A Creator God cannot be a Reasonable Explanation (Center for Inquiry)
Kiruv clowns preach otherwise, but really they have no better explanation for the universe.

Beliefs validate actions, actions don't validate belief (Thinking Bochur blog)
Good quote: "Religious people are religious because overall it works out for them. Then because it works out for them they validate it by convincing themselves it is true." The guy has great potential to become one of us.

See you again next week!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Heaven for Real?

The proof is finally there! Heaven is for real after all, we were all wrong all along the way!

Hmmm…did he really just mention Jesus? He must’ve been mistaken; he probably meant to say Moishe Rabeinu olov haSholom!

Oh wait, they wrote a book about it and are earning money on this stuff.

Dang, disappointed once again.

PS Listen carefully to the slow answers of the child; I don’t think he even believes in it himself. But the father is far better at lying.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hachnosas Kalloh Appeal

Even though I am not a fan of shnorring and definitely not online, especially in light of the recent tzedokah scams, still I found it hard to resist sharing this holy appeal with you.

May we all be zoiche to biyah, each one to his / her own liking, omein.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Oh, Those Heretical Trees!

Tree-ring dating or Dendrochronology is  a reliable, scientifc way of determining the age of trees and, if you combine the results, of the miminum age of the earth.

And guess what? The trees whisper to us that they alone already can refute the myth of the earth being less than 6000 years old. In fact, we can prove, not using carbon or any type of dating, that the earth is at least 11000 years old!

Of course, the earth is way older than that, but that would already border on heresy... No, seriously, we just don't have an unbroken record of trees beyond 11000 years ago, so we can't go back further than that (in the meantime).

Credits: YouTube user cdkoo7. This video can only be found on Dnatube due to featuring music from Sony Music Entertainment (The Final Countdown, by Europe). If the logo in the top obscures viewing, just switch to fullscreen using the icon in the bottom-right.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Taste of Some Warped OJ Thinking

A recent post  called The Long and Winding Road to P'shat -- Part Two by Shel Bassel of the Parsha'l Thoughts blog is symptomatic to the way many OJs think about learning Torah.

He starts off well by saying that:
Any thoughtful student of the Torah is confronted with myriad problems. Even if we can get through some sort of cursory reading of, say, the first chapter of B'reishit, we are then confronted with blatant contradictions to that narrative in the second chapter! One moment you think that male and female were created simultaneously into a world with a whole ecosystem and the next (chapter) you see that a male is created before any female or any trees, for that matter.
This is one screwy story, you might say.
Further perusal of the Torah will yield numerous anomalies including contradictions in the particulars of various commandments, many obscure passages and quite a bit of repetition.
In short, a rather messy book. 
Shokiach, I like it so far. Almost offered him to do a guest post. But then:
If you take the critical approach you'll say that these discrepancies reflect a multiplicity of authors whose stories and versions are stitched together over time. This basic approach leads to the Documentary Hypothesis—and a very fancy hypothesis it is!
Also, to my mind, somewhat dull. 
Is that your criterium for true or false?!
But more than that, it doesn't do a very good job of explaining how we end up with this variegated text. It's all well and good to say that various texts got edited together but then why would anyone put together a text that is so full of problems sometimes even within the same paragraph?
This hypothesis seems to assume that if God had written a book it wouldn't be so messy. 
Oh boy, I am starting to wonder what stuff this guy was smoking?!

It doesn't do a good job explaining how we came up with such messy text? Well, it is a much better explanation to say that this mess is written by God! That sounds blasphemous, keveyachol!

Science does not concern itself with God and that for obvious reasons. Just like that it doesn't concern itself with Santa Claus. The hypothesis is not at all about why God can't have written the text. It tries to understand how such a 'messy' body of text came about from a scientific point of view.

He then goes on to ask us to accept the premise that God wrote the Torah (premise 1: that there is a God, premise 2: that he wrote the Torah). And here comes the crux of his piece. He wants us to believe that the universe is messy as well and maybe we just have the mistaken view that all should be perfect but that God does not work that way.

The same applies for the the Torah, of course:
Maybe it is precisely those parts of the Torah which seemingly contradict or don't fit in with each other very well that point to deeper meanings on other planes?
This is essentially the rabbinic approach.
When one puts his or her mind to it, and struggles with the text, one can actually, albeit usually briefly, hold the contradictory passages simultaneously and see something beyond.
OJ logic at its best. We have a messy Torah and no real good answer as to why. Instead of answering that its Author is imperfect, it is actually a sign of how perfect and unfathomable He really is!

(But I guess we can't expect much from a guy that posted a YouTube video called Why The Destruction of the Temple Was Worse Than The Holocaust...)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Hand of Hashem?

A relative of mine is a tmimusdika (gullible) person with a good heart that sometimes sends me stuff that I just need to defuse.

His latest mail showed a picture of a 'photo taken in Alabama:

The mail was forwarded and labeled as "G"D PARTING THE SKY". It was accompanied by the following text:
Bob Frew sent this out.
"I took this picture on Int.20, traveling to Leeds , AL . It has given me strength in the times of trouble. I feel I should share it with the rest of the world. I hope it is an inspiration to you. It just goes to show what we already know...We have a God, and he's watching over us.
I e-mailed this picture to News Channel Fox 6. I was contacted by Meteorologist James Spann. He said that this picture of the sky is showing up in all states and around the world. He wanted to know where I was from and where I took it. He saw a similar picture taken in Texas. He said this is amazing to him.
Would you look at this picture? It reminds me of that song 'He's got the whole world in his hands.' He is definitely in control. I needed this today more than ever.. Enjoy and pass it along!"
First thing you need to do when you read any forwarded frum mails is to check your facts. Just go over to Snopes and enter 'Hands of God'. It will quickly lead you here.

The original picture looks like this:

The picture was doctored by someone for www.shacknews.com and doctored with Photoshop in 2 minutes.

Interesting points:
  • This is clear proof that someone deliberately misled others in order to make people believe in God.
  • Wonderful how fundies always try to make their claims credible (in this case a meteorologist)!
  • WTF does the picture prove anyway?!?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Nira on Noach

Nira’s rant on the flood, now also in English!

Enjoy and share with others!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Artscroll Censorship Unmasked

From On The Main Line, a curious case of zealous censorship. Rabbeinu Artscroll has released an English translation of Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin’s ‘Oznayim Latorah’. And guess what? A remark about Robinson Crusoe, seems to have gone missing.

The original:

The new Artscroll holy version, censored and all:

The following lines are missing after the paragraph that ends with “…and talk with him.” and before the paragraph starting with “Sitting in isolation…”:
I found the agony of solitude described in the book "Robinson Crusoe" where the tale is told of a man who survived a shipwreck by landing upon a small, desolate island without another soul. It described his great difficulties until he was able to find something to eat and drink, and to shelter himself with the skins of animals. After dwelling for a long time on this island, he began to forget how to speak and almost lost his mind. The writer portrayed with vivid colors the man's longing for another person to speak with.
Because a godol will, of course, never read any chol books!
PS I heard of this kind of thing before where a psak of Rabbi David Zvi Hoffmann got censored, to do with kol baisha ervah but perhaps that was the Tzitz Eliezer.

Update: Failed Messiah posted it, with a hat tip. Thanks Shmarya! And don't forget to vote for Shmarya!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Exaggerations? How about ‘Lies’!

I ran into a nice article this week on The Skeptical Review Online, just in time for parshas Noach, called The Numbers of the Book, by Fred Titanich (now how ironic is that name?!).
He introduces his article as follows:
Every now and then, I run into someone who believes that every word in the Bible is true. If the Bible says that men lived for 900 years and that 5 linear miles of water fell on the earth, then it must have happened. There is really no way to prove that these events did not happen, since by definition, a "miracle" is something extraordinary.
However, sometimes the Bible writers slipped up. When they told a story, nothing but superlatives would do. More than anything else, the numbers that are tossed around in the bible show this to be true. Apparently, mathematics was not their strong point, because on numerous occasions, the Bible writers made statements that simply could not have happened. The following are some of the Bible’s numerical claims that are physically impossible.
He goes on to speak about Solomon’s offerings, the Temple’s gold and silver, the quail (‘slav’), the size of the city of Nineveh and the wall of the city of Aphek. Read more here.
His conclusion fits well to this week’s parshah as well:
So when the Bible says that Methuselah lived to be 969 years old, can we really take it at face value? In fact, if it can be conclusively proven that the Bible is filled with exaggerations, we have to wonder what else it lied about.
PS Subsequently, I found an article called Those Amazing Biblical Numbers, on the same website. Read it.
Update: Nira sent me the following required watching in preparation for your Shnayim Mikra ve’Echad Targum for the week:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Little Goodie to Start Off the Week

One of the sweetest discoveries I have made lately is the availability of a Open Yale Course on the Introduction to the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible. This means that you can actually inform yourself on the scientific aspects of the ‘Hebrew Bible’ for free on a university level. Something that I love. I am already through the sixth lecture.

Class sessions can be found here. Click the picture below for the first class:


I’d be interested to know what you think.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Recommended Holiday Reading: Some Mistakes of moses

Robert G. Ingersoll.
A few months ago, I came across a book called “Some Mistakes of Moses” by Robert Ingersoll.
There are not too many books out there that systematically criticize the religion (Christian in this case, but the parallels to Judaism are striking) and the Hebrew Bible, so my curiosity was aroused. I decided to buy a print version, despite the fact that online versions are also available.

I was not disappointed.

Some quotes:
  • Until every soul is freely permitted to investigate every book, and creed, and dogma for itself, the world cannot be free. Mankind will be enslaved until there is mental grandeur enough to allow each man to have his thought and say. 
  • Why should a believer in God hate an atheist? Surely the atheist has not injured God, and surely he is human, capable of joy and pain, and entitled to all the rights of man. Would it not be far better to treat this atheist, at least, as well as he treats us?
  • You can hardly expect a bishop to leave his palace, or the pope to vacate the Vatican. As long as people want popes, plenty of hypocrites will be found to take the place. And as long as labor fatigues, there will be found a good many men willing to preach once a week, if other folks will work and give them bread. In other words, while the demand lasts, the supply will never fail.

    If the people were a little more ignorant, astrology would flourish -- if a little more enlightened, religion would perish!
  • Nearly all authors of sacred books have given an account of the creation of the universe, the origin of matter, and the destiny of the human race. Nearly all have pointed out the obligation that man is under to his creator for having placed him upon the earth, and allowed him to live and suffer, and have taught that nothing short of the most abject worship could possibly compensate God for his trouble and labor suffered and done for the good of man. They have nearly all insisted that we should thank God for all that is good in life but they have not all informed us as to whom we should hold responsible for the evils we endure.
Online versions are available in PDF format, HTML format, Online Book, Kindle, etc.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy 5771th Birthday, World?

"The Lion Man",
dated 32'000 years
According to our Sages (who were much smarter than you are, so don’t even start to doubt their eternal words of wisdom!), the world has a birth date that can be precisely determined. If we may take their word for it, the world will turn 5771 this Rosh Hashana.

Except…that this can not be true, because the world is around 4.5 billion years old (and the universe around 13.75 billion years, by the way). I don't think we had a calendar around that time.

Of course, there are always people who are willing to bend any logic and verses in the Torah to support their irrational beliefs, such as Dr. Gerald Schroeder. Others remain steadfast in their primitive opinions (Rabbi Dr. David Gottlieb, e.g.).

However, there is clear proof that there were intelligent human beings walking around on this earth, showing signs of high sophistication. As Wikipedia reads on the topic of Evolution of Human Intelligence:
Between 170,000 to 120,000 years ago Homo sapiens first appears in East Africa. It is unclear to what extent these early modern humans had developed language, music, religion etc. 
They spread throughout Africa over the following 50,000 years or so: around 100-80,000 years ago, three main lines of Homo sapiens diverged...
...The "Great Leap Forward" leading to full behavioral modernity sets in only after this separation. Rapidly increasing sophistication in tool-making and behavior is apparent from about 80,000 years ago, and the migration out of Africa follows towards the very end of the Middle Paleolithic, some 60,000 years ago. Fully modern behavior, including figurative art, music, self-ornamentation, trade, burial rites etc. is evident by 30,000 years ago. 
The oldest unequivocal examples of prehistoric art date to this period, the Aurignacian and the Gravettian periods of prehistoric Europe, such the Venus figurines and cave painting (Chauvet Cave) and the earliest musical instruments (the bone pipe of Geissenklösterle, Germany, dated to about 36,000 years ago).
So if we are able to date human art from 36'000 years ago using Radiocarbon dating, it means that indeed our ancestors lived much longer ago than the kiruv clowns make us believe.

On that note, you will surely enjoy the video below, called Response to INCONVENIENT SCIENCE THE AGE OF MAN by YouTube user thisis3d.

Happy 'New Year' to you all!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

How To Keep Your Kid 'On The Derech'

Rabbi Horowitz, in his latest column, listed a “Top Ten Things Parents Can do to Keep Their Children on the Derech”:
A charming twenty-something Chassidic fellow pushing a baby carriage containing a newborn child floored me with his response. “Rabbi,” he said, “My son is two months old. Just tell me what I should do so [that] he doesn’t go off the derech.” And he wasn’t kidding.
That comment reflects the deepest fear that parents have nowadays – that their adorable child might c’has v’shalom (G-d forbid) morph into an unruly teenager who veers off the path (derech is Hebrew for path) to a successful life, abandons Yiddishkeit, and falls into a sub-culture of antisocial and self-destructive behavior.
Disregarding the obvious bull-shit of ”and falls into a sub-culture of antisocial and self-destructive behavior”, it is interesting to note that there is such a deep-rooted angst for one’s kids to go off the derech.
Why do you think is that?

(Interesting detail is that a haredi Rabbi is willing to acknowledge the issue in public. Is the teshivah movement not about to bring Moshiach? On the other hand, he is spearheading a ‘kiruv krovim’ outreach organization called Project Yes, so this probably serves his cause well.)

RH thinks the problem lies mainly with the way parents deal with the children.

The ten things he suggest for parents who seek to prevent their kids to get into antisocial and self-destructive behavior are (some comments in square brackets):
1. Belong to a kehila with a Rov who can guide you, and live spiritual, meaningful and inspired lives where you are true role models for your children. [Get a guru to control your family unit]
2. Create a happy and nurturing home environment; avoid corporal punishment and refrain from sending them to settings where it is condoned.
3. Spend quality time and nurture your relationships with your children and seek help should you find yourself exuding negative energy with them.
4. Be flexible – treat them as individuals and allow them to chart their own course in life. [This advise is obviously necessary in frum circles but mostly superfluous in secular families]
5. Protect them from abuse and molestation.
6. Live in a forbearing community where the members have good Torah values and guide your children to develop friendships with peers who have good middos and share those values.
7. Provide them with a good and broad-based education – in Judaic and general studies. [I thought the gedolim think that secular studies will cause people to go ‘off’?]
8. “Stay in the Game” – never give up on them no matter how bumpy the road educationally or socially, and professionally identify and address any learning disabilities.
9. See to it that your values and those of their schools are consistent and maintain congruence between your words and deeds.
10. See that they exercise (very) often and have varied hobbies and interests.
And … always and above all, daven to Hashem for siyata dishmaya.
OK, so these are actually 11 points :)

Notice how the majority of these points concern issues that are not related to OTD but ensure the emotional well-being of the child, such as creating a safe environment, stimulating emotional and physical health, as well as ensuring proper education

However, IMHO, Rabbi Horowitz missed out on at least five points that may well keep people in the cozy nest of frum and heimishe yiddishkeit:
  1. Stop teaching kids the literal and fundamentalist understanding of the Torah and other ‘holy writings’. Every child with a half a brain will sooner or later figure out that the stories of creation, the flood, etc. are etiological at best.
  2. Stop this nonsense of gedolim being super heroes. They are all normal people who can be manipulated by askanim (see here).
  3. Stop teaching these ridiculous midrashim from The Midrash Says; kfitzas haderech and the moon being shrunk are an insult to a youth’s intelligence.
  4. Stop forbidding masturbation; everyone does it, will subsequently feel terribly guilty, and then start to resent Judaism.
  5. Start saving marriages by teaching children in puberty about sex and leaving room for pre-marital, consensual sex. Many divorces can be avoided like this.
Whereas RH thinks that the problem lies (besides the factor of ‘siyata dishmaya’) solely with the way the parents treat their kids, the ‘problem’ lies with the product he is trying to sell: authentic / antiquated Judaism.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Eye Opener

I am currently reading Richard Dawkin's The Blind Watchmaker". Although Dawkins' style does not really conform my taste, still he makes many good points that totally change my original anti-evolutionary bias. After all, how could an eye suddenly grow on someone's head and how can random change bring these changes about in such a small time scale of only a few billion years?

I still have many questions (how did the first DNA get created, e.g.) but I have 'evolved' in the meantime and I am looking forward to the rest of the book.

In the meantime, I came across a website with an article called "Top 10 Signs Of Evolution In Modern Man" (hat tip: NuBemet). It has 10 good arguments against the idea of a perfect Creator.

It shows some 'mistakes' of creation. All these fuckups faux passes can be ascribed to remnants of evolution. They also concern a favorite item of the kiruv clowns and evolution bashers - the eye:

If you watch a cat blink, you will see a white membrane cross its eye – that is called its third eyelid. It is quite a rare thing in mammals, but common in birds, reptiles, and fish. Humans have a remnant (but non-working) third eyelid (you can see it in the picture above). It has become quite small in humans, but some populations have more visible portions than others. There is only one known species of primate that still has a functioning third eyelid, and that is the Calabar angwantibo (closely related to lorises) which lives in West Africa.

If you still wonder how it could be that the eye evolved, even though half an eye doesn't do much, I invite you to watch the below video (a true eye-opener!):

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nira's Parsha Rant: Bereishit

Nira is currently redoing some of her old videos, with a vengeance. Join Nira as she explores with us the secrets of the universe...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It Ain't Always That Simple!

a Torah scroll
Last Shabbos, while I was getting bored during davvening, I peeked into the Gutnick edition Chumash and found the following on Parshas Re'eh (11:26): רְאֵה, אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם--הַיּוֹם:  בְּרָכָה, וּקְלָלָה. "Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse".

Onkelos translates: חֲזוֹ, דַּאֲנָא יָהֵיב קֳדָמֵיכוֹן--יוֹמָא דֵּין:  בִּרְכָן, וּלְוָטִין (no deviation from the original).

Targum Jonathan ben Uziel explains a blessing and a curse as בירכתא וחילופה, "a blessing and its opposite".

In the Sparks of Chassidus section, the following commentary is brought:
How could God, who is the very essence of good, issue a curse? Are we not taught, "No evil thing is issued from Above"? (Bereishis Rabah 51:3)

In truth, however, God does not issue curses at all, and only blessings are "issued from Above". The problem lies "below", in our ability to receive God's blessings. If a person is not a fitting receptacle for the goodness which God bestows upon him, he will simply be unable to accommodate God's blessings. The result will be that after its downward path through the spiritual worlds, the blessing is received in a way that appears, to our human eyes, as a curse (See Shaloh, Re'eh 374b). At least that is how it appears in the spiritually dampened moments of exile.

Thus, Onkelos, who authored his work amid the Babylonian exile, interpreted the word קללה as "curse" (see Classic questions). However, Targum Yehonoson wrote his commentary in the land of Israel during Temple times, when the average person could easily appreciate that "no evil thing is issued from Above". Thus, he rendered קללה as "substitute" (חילופא), indicating that God Himself only issues blessings, but that His blesings may later become "substituted" by something else.

And this also explains why, in the Messianic Era, we will not only forgive God for the sufferings of exile, but we will thank Him (see Isaiah 12:1), for then it will be evident how even God's "curses" were in fact blessings in disguise.
(Based on Likutei Sichus vol. 19, p. 13ff; vol. 4, p. 1091)
 Right? Wrong!

There is no Targum Jonathan ben Uziel on the Torah, only on the prophets as testified in the Talmud. The Targum Jonathan that we know is in reality the Targum Yerushalmi (the Jerusalemite Targum). The reason why the two got mixed up is probably a copyist error: he thought that ת"י (T"Y in English) was Targum Jonathan and not Targum Yerushalmi (both have the same abbreviation in Hebrew). That is also the reason why, in the academic world, this Targum is called "Pseudo-Jonathan".

So the whole shtickl Torah from the Rebbe was made out of whole cloth. Nice try, still. And a nice fantasy about the times of Mashiach, explaining away the age-old problem of how evil can exist in the face of a benevolent God.

During that same Shabbos, I had to sit through a shiur which had a surprising moment.

In Devarim 13:2-6, it says the following:
If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams--and he give thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke unto thee--saying: 'Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them'; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or unto that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God putteth you to proof, to know whether ye do love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. After the LORD your God shall ye walk, and Him shall ye fear, and His commandments shall ye keep, and unto His voice shall ye hearken, and Him shall ye serve, and unto Him shall ye cleave. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken perversion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of bondage, to draw thee aside out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee.
The good old passage about the commandment of killing false prophets, i.e. people that don't believe in your crap and decide to prophesize some more crap.

If you look up the Baal Haturim entry to כִּי-יָקוּם בְּקִרְבְּךָ in our chumashim, it says that בקרבך in Gematria is equivalent to זו האשה, which would mean that the false prophet in your midst is the woman.

Now, before we all start bashing the sages again (which they do deserve in e.g. the story of the garden of Eden where Eve is blamed for all our sorrows and in many passages in Tenach / the Talmud), the female discrimination in this case boils down to Christian censorship.

In the more elaborate Peirush haTur al Hatorah of the Baal Haturim himself, a note is made that the original gematria reads: כי יקום בקרבך נביא - זו האשה ובנה, 'THE woman and her son", obviously referring to the false Messiah Jesus and his mother Maria.

So to both the Rebbe and the Chazal-bashers: it ain't always that simple.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nira's Mishpatim Rant Now Online

And here is Nira's latest mussar drasha on parshat Mishpatim:

More videos of here can be found here.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Motze Shabbos Meditations

As I was waiting for maariv to start at the local Chabad shteeble, I leafed through one of their chassidus publications.

In the obviously nicely sponsored magazine, the Baal Shem Tov explained the difference between mussar and chassidus. He likened it to a burglar that wanted to steal something. The baal mussar screamed: "You are a filthy thief!" and scared him away. The chassid  held the thief so strong to his chest that he wouldn't leave anymore.

Kach hee darkah shel Torah: These are also the two ways Orthodox Judaism deals with people on the fringe: either they are being castigated and chased out of the camp, or they are being blackmailed emotionally and thus choked until they wants no freedom no more.

Meditate on that!

Another thought as I was saying "Atta chonantanu" during the evening prayers:
Blessed are You LORD our God, King of the universe, who distinguishes between the holy and the profane, between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations, between the seventh day and the six days of work. Blessed are You, LORD, who distinguishes between the holy and the profane.
 Note how there is this continuous contrast: between holy and profane, between light and darkness and Shabbat and the weekdays. Likewise, Israel is compared to light and the nations (read: non-Jews) to darkness.

Now let the kiruv clowns meditate on that!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nira Amit on the Parasha: Yitro, Part I

After her well-received first post on Parshat Yitro part II, I decided to translate part I as well. Nira Amit is an upcoming star in the Kofer world! ;)

Monday, July 26, 2010

OTD Depression and The Blame Game

It’s a common phenomenon that needs no further introduction: People who turn their back on Orthodox Judaism are often faced with depression. This is easily understandable, as they are often lonely and are left to their own devices.

However, they are often told that they brought their depression on themselves by distancing themselves from God and Klal Yisrael. It’s they who are messing up their lives and God who knows where they’ll end up (drugs, suicide, etc.). In short: It’s all their fault!

Alice Miller (in her book The Drama of the Gifted Child), defines depression as follows:

Depression consists of a denial of one’s own emotional reactions. This denial begins in the service of an absolutely essential adaptation during childhood and indicates a very early injury. There are many children who have not been free, right from the beginning, to experience the very simplest of feelings, such as discontent, anger, rage, pain, even hunger – and, of course, enjoyment of their own bodies.

Religion is all about denying true feelings, redirecting emotions and controlling the natural child within. Laws are ruling the orthodox person’s every step, even in the bathroom (how much you are allowed to uncover yourself, with which finger not to wipe yourself off, etc.).

Orthodox Jews are told what to read, what to believe, what to think and what to feel, what to wear and what to eat. Everything else is kfirah.

No wonder that many people have the inner need to rebel! To put it a little more blunt: if an Orthodox person did not rebel against OJ during their youth, I doubt it that they were really given the opportunity to experience their youth. After all, who wants to voluntarily let his inner self die?

The critical voices that so conveniently blame the victims also conveniently forget that people like them may have been the root cause for the heretics’ depression.

And that by ostracizing them from their communities, they are standing idly by the blood of their (former) brothers.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tisha Be’av Headbanger: Burn Baby Burn

It surely beats the hell out of Eicha…

Oh yes, and these are my favorite Tisha Be’av posts for this year:

May we merit next year to have the fast of the ninth of Av be turned into an unorthodox hell of a party!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

An Eye-Opening Moment

I read some Kugel last night and then it hit me: The Torah does not for one pasuk claim that God was its author or that it was inspired by anybody. For someone who was indoctrinated into the belief that God directly wrote / dictated every single verse of the Torah, this is totally new information.

Actually, the evidence seems to be on the contrary: the very first pasuk suggests already that it was written by someone not God as the creation story is written in the third person:

"In the beginning, God created heaven and earth."

Or, in the 'original':

בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ

Notice that it says "God created" and not "I created"!

To which I can only say: "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things from your Torah"!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Oxymoron of the Day: A Meaningful Fast

My wife's niece, a young and idealist OM, wished me an 'easy and meaningful fast' (tzom kal vemashmauti) on this day of 17  Tammuz.

But how meaningful can a fast day be if we commemorate:
  • the beginning of the destruction of a city that now, after so many years of exile, has become a city that is more vibrant than in biblical times (ever)?
  • that Apostomus burned a Torah scrol, when we have had so many other book and Torah burnings at other times: why is this Torah different from all the other ones? 
  • that Moses broke the first set of tablets but we received a new set of Ten Commandments afterwards?
  • that we were not able to sacrifice anymore in the Temple because there were no animals anymore: who needs animal sacrifices anyway?
  • that an idol was placed in the Temple, but what does that matter if the Temple itself got destroyed anyway?
Needless to say that the Turkish showarma today was dedicated to all those fools who think the fast day is meaningful, just because they were told to bellieve so.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Amitnira's Posting on Parshat Yitro, now with English Translation!

My first experiment with translations. And since I am a fan of amitnira, here is her weekly parasha!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sign of the Times

My thoughts about the latest child molesting scandal

The old sign:


The new sign:


I love my Photoshop! ;)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Textual Variations in Tenach

I vividly remember the time when a friend of mine, at that time studying Semitic languages, told me about textual variations in the Torah.

The example he gave me was Parshas Korach (this week’s Parsha for those ammeratzim that didn’t know ;):

וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח, בֶּן-יִצְהָר בֶּן-קְהָת בֶּן-לֵוִי; וְדָתָן וַאֲבִירָם בְּנֵי אֱלִיאָב, וְאוֹן בֶּן-פֶּלֶת--בְּנֵי רְאוּבֵן

The translation somehow doesn’t seem to flow since vayikach (and he took) does not seem to refer to anyone else than Korach since it doesn’t say “Korach, the son of Izhar took Datan and Aviram the sons of Eliav and On ben Pelet the sons of Reuven took” but it says “Korach, the son of Izhar took and Datan and Aviram the sons of Eliav and On ben Pelet the sons of Reuven”.

So what did they take? Where does the verb (‘took’) act upon?

Rashi says:

He took himself to a different side, to be disassociated from the community and to cast aspersion on the kehunah. This is why Onkelos translates, he separated himself from the rest of the community in order to maintain the dispute. Similarly, "why does your heart take you?"--- (i.e.,) it takes you to separate you from other people. Another interpretation [of] "Korach took": He won over the heads of the Sanhedrin among them, with flattering words, as it is said, "take Aharon,"  "take words with you."

So it either would mean “he took himself” or he convinced the Sanhedrin (‘caused to be taken?), which either way is problematic.

He showed me a different version of Chumash where it said ‘vayakom’ (and he got up), which seemed to fit in better:

And Korach, the son of Izhar stood up, and Datan and Aviram the sons of Eliav, and On ben Pelet the sons of Reuven”.

Now, we were taught that there are hardly any chilufei girsaot (different readings) of the Torah except for 9 differences between our scrolls and the Yemenite scrolls.

However, there are many more manuscripts that can shed light on different verses in the Torah. And I didn’t know about it! I remember how uncomfortable I was in this situation and how I tried to talk myself out of it.

Of course, things are a bit different at the moment.

In light of the above, I can warmly recommend an interesting article on the website of the Biblical Archeological Review by Harvey Minkoff (professor of linguistics at Hunter College in New York City) called “Searching for the Better Text - How errors crept into the Bible and what can be done to correct them”.

Happy reading!

Friday, June 4, 2010

OJ and Schools for Suicide Bombers: A Comparison

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy gave a presentation for TED called “Inside a school for suicide bombers”.
TED introduces her speech like this:
Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy takes on a terrifying question: How does the Taliban convince children to become suicide bombers? Propaganda footage from a training camp is intercut with her interviews of young camp graduates. A shocking vision.
Here is the excellent video:

After the video, I could not help but seeing some disturbing parallels to the insular world of Orthodox Judaism.
Some excerpts from her presentation:
“I, in my research, have seen that the Taliban have perfected the way in which they recruit and train children. And I think it's a five step process:
Step one is that the Taliban prey on families that are large, that are poor, that live in rural areas. They separate the parents from the children be promising to provide food, clothing, shelter to these children. Then they ship them off, hundreds of miles away to hard-line schools that run along the Taliban agenda.
Step two: They teach the children the Koran, which is Islam's holiest book, in Arabic, a language these children do not understand and cannot speak. They rely very heavily on teachers who I have personally seen distort the message to these children as and when it suits their purpose to. These children are explicitly forbidden from reading newspapers, listening to radio, reading any books that the teachers do not prescribe them. If any child is found violating these rules, he is severely reprimanded. Effectively, the Taliban create a complete blackout of any other source of information for these children.
Step three: The Taliban want these children to hate the world that they currently live in. So they beat these children. I have seen it. They feed them twice a day dried bread and water. They rarely allow them to play games. They tell them that, for eight hours at a time, all they have to do is read the Koran. The children are virtual prisoners. They cannot leave; they cannot go home. Their parents are so poor, they have no resources to get them back.
Step four: The older members of the Taliban, the fighters, start talking to the younger boys about the glories of martyrdom. They talk to them about how, when they die, they will be received up with lakes of honey and milk, how there will be 72 virgins waiting for them in paradise, how there will be unlimited food and how this glory is going to propel them to become heroes in their neighborhoods. Effectively, this is the brainwashing process that has begun.
Step five: I believe the Taliban have one of the most effective means of propaganda. Their videos that they use are intercut with photographs of men and women and children dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and in Pakistan. And the basic message is that the Western powers do not care about civilian deaths, so those people who live in areas and support governments that work with Western powers are fair game. That's why Pakistani civilians, over 6,000 of whom have been killed in the last two years alone, are fair game. Now these children are primed to become suicide bombers. They're ready to go out and fight because they've been told that this is effectively their only way to glorify Islam.”
OK, OJ is not that extreme. But there are many parallels that can be found on ‘this end of the extreme’. Let’s go through the steps in our imagination and replace for one moment the Taliban movement with Orthodox Judaism…
Step 1: If you ensure that families are large and therefore poor, they are more likely to become extremists. This is almost a prerequisite to the politicizing of religion. You cut their funds and they become dependent on you. (“Rebbe, I have financial problems, what should I do?”. “Pray harder, my son! And are you sure you gave 10% of your money to tzedokah?”) As a side effect, large families create a political time bomb that will ensure political influence.
Step 2: One does not learn how to rely on his own interpretations. Pesukim are distorted, raped by the Rabbis (we call that midrash, btw) and taken out of context altogether. Also, we are supposed to avoid sforim chitzoiniyim, radio, television, Internet, etc. and are warned to be careful not to befriend off the derech and non-OJ people (unless for kiruv purposes).
Step 3: We were taught that we are different from the goyim, that we should not mingle with them, to hate their aveiros and machshovahs. We are taught that Kach hi darkah shel Torah: Pas bemelach tochal. Frum people are encouraged to go to Kolel and be poor (or marry rich in-laws). We are supposed to learn Torah day and night. We are virtual prisoners of the system.
Step 4: Brainwashing starts at a very young age. My toddler son already knows that goyim are different from us and that we have mitzvos (boruch Hashem) and they don’t (nebbach). The earlier, the better!
Step 5: We  believe that there is almost no holier thing than to die, like Rabbi Akiva, al kiddush Hashem, with Shema on our lips. But thankfully, it is not a Jewish thing to actively peruse this martyrdom.
This is where the comparison ends. For now.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ostrich Politics

Two friends that I have come out to carefully avoid the subject like a plague and act as if nothing happened.

One is a longtime friend of mine who is modern orthodox but knows in his heart that he only keeps what he feels like (shabbos, kashrus, etc.). He is very self-righteous about kashrus, possibly because he once was a mashgiach and may have to again once he loses his managerial position that he mostly owes to his father-in-law.

He is the one who invites me to davven for the chagim in his institution and has asked me again to davven for the yamim noraim (and noraim they are!). Now am I crazy here or do you only ask deeply religious people that are fitting (‘hagun’) for this job? The only conclusion that I can draw is that he doesn’t really care, as long as I am not too open about my kofer thoughts so that he would be forced to turn his back on me.

Another friend is currently getting out of a depression. He’s got the right meds and he seems to be faring well: he cuts his hear, grooms his beard and wants to lose weight. He seems to be acting as everything is fine and, who knows, may join the shidduchim scene soon again.

One small caveat: he confided in me that he does not feel at home anymore in the frum world.

Now I don’t think you can wish these things away like that. I expect him to have a real breakdown soon and I hope it is just not as bad as last time where I had  to bring him to hospital for an overdose on sleeping pills.

Sticking your head in the sand apparently is more comfortable than embracing the inevitable….

Friday, May 21, 2010

Erev Shabbos Tznius Update

Shoes can be dangerous. Just imagine: your wife is wearing black, closed, medieval grandma shoes in combination with thick brown stockings and then you come across one of these yummy, photoshopped legs with open shoes? Don’t you just vant to shqueeze them?!?

For more Taliban-inspired gezeilah pictures, click here. And, if you are zealous enough, feel free to join the Tznius Police Facebook group!

Hat tip: Life in Israel

Shavuot Post-Mortem

So I survived this Shavuot feeling like a wreck. But then again, who doesn’t?

Erev Yom Tov, we had fleishigs and after my late ‘lunch’ (sandwich and a bag of roasted peanuts – needless to say that they had forgotten to put a hechsher on the products, those damned ammaratzim!), I was already cracking. Due to my heartburn and my wife’s pre-yomtov burnout, we decided to only make kiddush and have some cake with it. No washing, no bentching, yaye!

I stayed up late for the first night, learnt a bit (prepared some Daat Emet ‘maamarim’) and then decided Facebook chat was a worthier way to bide my time and went to bed at 2:30 AM. Thank God for cell phones and SG for the great chat. Now I know why the yidden at Matan Toire overslept! ;)

The next morning, davvening was at 10 AM, thanks to Chabad®. I was a chazan for Mussaf (which I like doing and I tried my best not to think about Facebook chats, clipping finger nails and polishing my shoes on Yom Tov) and then we had guests for lunch until 3:30 PM. By then, I was really, really exhausted and bursting from all the milchigs.

After the traditional nap, we ate again with the kids before the second night since our kids can’t stay up that long. I then walked to Chabad again for minchah with my neighbor and walked back for a maariv in the area. Which, of course, started after nightfall (10 PM!) and then some person who never comes to davven with us had a ‘chiyuv’ (read: his wife had Yahrzeit!). Now if only he had a decent voice and knew the nussach well enough…

The second day we were invited and I tried to restrain myself (no seconds and not too much challah). I was getting quite proud of myself…that is, until I surrendered when dessert was served: 3 diferent types of cheesecake, a chocolate cake and a pudding cake. I was filled to the brim of my black hat! Can you feel the spirituality come out of my ears?

In the afternoon, I did not manage to sleep (but I was able to read some kofer literature from Isaac Bashevis Singer’s ‘The Magician of Lublin’), then another Chanad mincha-maariv (forewent the meal with bagels and salads and instead read in one of Rabbi Wein’s history aka propaganda books).

I came home exhausted. Luckily, the end was near and we made havdalah, followed by hours of dishwashing, laundry and preparing for Shabbos (we are having guests sleeping over).

I am floored. I feel disgusted. I experienced Shavuos.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Holy Sages' Opinion on Breasts of Twelve Year Old Girls

Another great 'Daily Pilpul' by Daat Emet. Feel free to donate to them on their website for all the wonderful work they are doing by exposing the falsehood of Orthodox Judaism.

The post is called "What size breasts are required for a girl to be an adult?":
According to Halacha a female has three legal stages to her life, based on age: girl, youth, and adult. The legal status is determined by two parameters: age and physical maturity. In terms of age: a female is a girl until the age of twelve, a youth from twelve to twelve and a half years of age, and adult after the age of twelve and a half years. In terms of physical maturity: a female is a girl as long as her breast are immature, a youth when her breasts are as a fruit in the process of ripening, and an adult when her breasts have grown.
The sages were divided on the size of an adults breasts. One said that her breasts were large enough that a sort of crease was formed beneath her breasts, and Rabbi Akiva said that her breasts had grown enough that they incline. Another sage said that the aureole around the nipple begins to darken. A different sage said that her breasts are large enough that if one flattens the nipple is takes time to rise again.
One of the scholars, Samuel, clarified the opinion of the sage who said that a sort of wrinkle is seen beneath the breast. This does not mean that the breasts are very large and so a wrinkle is seen, but that if the girl puts her hands behind her back, a wrinkle is noticeable beneath her breasts. 
To authenticate his idea, Samuel examined the breasts of his 12 and a half year old maid. After he examined her he paid her 400 zuz for having caused her embarrassment by forcing her to expose her breasts to him. Samuel was extremely careful about causing embarrassment to his slaves and maids, so he did not give his maid for strangers to sleep with, only his own slaves. In contrast, Rav Nachman was not careful about causing embarrassment to his maids and would give them to others' workers for sex. Rav Sheshet would even give them to gentiles for sex.
Other sages defined the adult woman's physical maturity needed to determined her legal standing. The sage Rabbi Elazar son of Tzadok ruled that her breasts must be large enough that she could sway them. Another sage, Rabbi Yochanan son of Baroka, said that she is mature when her breasts take on a silver tinge. The scholars asked: Is this not a sign of old age and not newly-gained maturity? Therefore he explained his words as meaning "When the top of her nipple splits" (an unclear definition). Another sage, Rabbi Yossi, said that her breasts must sprout a thick nipple with an aureole around it. Another sage, Rabbi Simeon, gave a clue about the adult woman's physical maturity based on her sexual organ: when the flesh of her sexual organ swells and can be noticeably bent, as though it were a spoon.
(Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Niddah 47a-b)
Two observations from someone living in the 21st century:
  1. What business did Shmuel have to examine a 12 year old's breasts and what do the sages spend time discussing little girls' breasts in such detail?
  2. Why did these kedoishei elyoin give their underage shiksah maid to other men for sexual enjoyment?
My conclusion: Pedophilia and underaged sexual exploitation is not only condoned in halachah. The 'infallible' Amoraim even had their underaged maidservants exploited. So why is everyone so surprised when frum people are into sex with minors?!

Loshon of the Gemorah itself:

‎"מתני'. משל משלו חכמים באשה: פגה, בוחל, וצמל. פגה - עודה תנוקת, בוחל - אלו ימי נעוריה. בזו ובזו אמרו: אביה זכאי במציאתה, ובמעשה ידיה, ובהפרת נדריה. צמל - כיון שבגרה, שוב אין לאביה רשות בה. איזהו סימנין? ר' יוסי הגלילי אומר: משיעלה הקמט תחת הדד, ר"ע אומר: משיטו הדדים, בן עזאי אומר: משישחיר הפיטומת, רבי יוסי אומר: כדי שיהא נותן ידו על העוקץ והוא שוקע ושוהא לחזור. 

‎גמ'. פגה עודה תנוקת כדכתיב (שיר השירים ב') התאנה חנטה פגיה. בוחל אלו ימי הנעורים, כדתנן - התאנים משיבחלו, ואמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר רב: משילבין ראשיהן. ואיבעית אימא מהכא: (זכריה י"א) ותקצר נפשי בהם וגם נפשם בחלה בי. צמל כמ"ד - יצתה מלאה. 

‎ואיזהו סימנים? ר' יוסי הגלילי אומר: משיעלה הקמט. אמר שמואל: לא משיעלה הקמט ממש, אלא כדי שתחזיר ידיה לאחוריה, ונראית כמי שיעלה הקמט תחת הדד. שמואל בדק באמתיה, ויהב לה ד' זוזי דמי בושתה. שמואל לטעמיה, דאמר שמואל: (ויקרא כ"ה) לעולם בהם תעבודו - לעבודה נתתים ולא לבושה. שמואל מייחד להן, רב נחמן מחליף להן, רב ששת מסר להן לערבי, ואמר להן: אזדהרו מישראל. 

‎רבי יוסי אומר כו'. מאי עוקץ? אמר שמואל: עוקצו של דד. ת"ר, אלו הן סימני בגרות? ר"א בר' צדוק אומר: משיתקשקשו הדדין, ר' יוחנן בן ברוקה אומר: משיכסיף ראש החוטם. משיכסיף? אזקונה לה! אלא א"ר אשי: משיפציל ראש החוטם. ר' יוסי אומר: משתקיף העטרה, ר"ש אומר: משנתמעך 

‎הכף. וכן היה רבי שמעון (בן יוחי) אומר: שלשה סימנין נתנו חכמים באשה מלמטה, וכנגדן מלמעלה. פגה מלמעלה - בידוע שלא הביאה שתי שערות, בוחל מלמעלה - בידוע שהביאה שתי שערות, צמל מלמעלה - בידוע שנתמעך הכף. מאי כף? אמר רב הונא: מקום תפוח יש למעלה מאותו מקום, כיון שמגדלת מתמעך והולך".

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Follow-up on Coming out to my Wife

I have already wanted to write this post for quite a while, but never found an ‘auspicious’ time for it. However, some of you have been asking me about this issue and I think it is only fair to post some more on the topic of coming out to my wife.

For many weeks after my first coming out, there was radio silence on my wife’s side on this topic which made me uncomfortable. Why was she not mentioning me unfrumming anymore, what is going on in her head?

A little while ago, I finally was able to discuss with my wife, in a quiet moment before the end of Shabbos when our kids were already sleeping, what went on in my head, what my thoughts were on Orthodox Judaism and what she feels about me kofering out.

She asked me what my ‘doubts’ were about and I explained her a few things: How I believe that the creation story is not plausible, about the documentary hypothesis, about the mabul, the stuff in the Gemorah that is clearly wrong, etc.

What amazed me is that my wife did not seem to be bothered in the least about the fact that the Torah could have been written by a human being. Or that some parts were just plain impossible.

Another astonishing fact was that she somehow believes that people in their religion should follow in the footsteps of their ancestors by following their religion, be it Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc. My attempts to explain that they are sometimes mutually exclusive and that this had nothing to do with truth or not fell on deaf ears. Or perhaps I just did not understand her correctly.

What is clear to her is that there is a God and that ‘he looks after us’ (I wisely skipped the Holocaust topic). She is also very determined about sticking to kashrus, Shabbos and Taharas Hamishpochah.

Perhaps one day, we will find a way for me to respect what is important to her while at the same time giving me the freedom I need.

Some big wins:

  • My wife understands that my critical examination of Judaism lead me to disbelief the Divine nature of the Torah and that the words of Chazal were not infallible. I think this would make it more acceptable for my wife to accept my ‘kfirah’ some day.
  • We both agreed that we both feel that Haredi Judaism is not for us and it pretty much means that our kids will either go to a more MO or a non-Jewish school (with extracurricular Jewish classes since we both don’t want our children to be am haaratzos).

Our talk did bring us closer together and an open approach is definitely the way to go. I still had no courage to tell her about me eating non-kosher stuff and breaking Shabbos, though

(Of course there is a lot more to say on this matter, but I will keep that for another post. Until then, I would be happy to hear your opinion in the comments.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Good Step in the Right Direction?

This whole business about one Jew being better than the other one is definitely something that has to stop.

Project ‘Ani Yehudi’, sponsored by Professor Linda Allen and started by Lenny Solomon of Shlock Rock, tries to unite religious and ‘hiloni’ Jews by sharing a unified message in We Are The World style:

When I ask myself, who am I?
I’m a little Sephardi, a little Ashkenazi
a little Israeli, a tiny drop galuti (exiled)
Maybe religious, maybe secular, but between you and me

The result is something that will appeal to many Jews, regardless of how religious we may be (or not):

Having said that, do you also feel that something is still awkward about this project? This is what I think spoils the broth somewhat:

  • There are no female soloists on the project.
  • Is anyone there haredi?
  • The lyrics are overtly religious:
  • Nothing will succeed to break me my brother
    my soul,  is a part of a high external light
    to fix the world that is my motto
    I was born like this, I am a Jew.

    Simply a Jew - like in other religions
    we have; festivals, Shabbat, customs and mitzvot.
    To say that everyone is sure in his righteousness
    at the end we're all Jewish, before the chair of His Holiness.

Still, I think it is a step in the right direction, erasing that righteous smirk of those who believe they are on the side of God.

(On a side note, Aish has used this campaign for their kiruv purposes, but you can bet they do not play this mixed music on their campuses!)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Powerful piece by new, talented writer

From "If I Forget Thee" on Scribbler on the Roof, by Rebecca M. Ross (a fellow OTDer and contributor to Unpious.com):

The rabbi’s house. Cold white stone with thousands of years of history, waiting for the imprints of the present to smooth it into the sand that blows in the windows with the five o’clock gusts. Cold stones to cool daytime skin hot from the relentless sun. Hostility is this place. It remains God’s center and yet it is godless at its core.

Every thought creases her face and overwhelming loneliness crowds out her smile. Each day they come to her, asking for tzedaka. “You have so much and I have nothing.” And she knows they’re all charlatans, begging the foreigners who aren’t yet immune to their ruses and ultimately bringing home hundreds to families who are morally poor. She doesn’t give and they curse her, sending her imaginary ailments, harsh pregnancies, destructive children, poverty, cruelty of loss and the violent horrors of brutality. She holds her ears when she hears these words because even knowing they hold no power, they still make her shudder.

Read further...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Can’t Get Rabbi Nachman Out of my Head

An obviously nicked Rabbi Nachman song by Gad Elbaz:

The original:

But wait a minute, is that not kol isha? Oh oh, tikkun time! LOL.

PS Do you guys think for one moment Gad Elbaz asked Kylie Minogue for permission for using her music?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

King Yehoyakim had a Tattoo on his Penis

Translated from a Daat Emet article:

Yehoyakim's was THIS big!
The early sages (Tannaim) listed evil kings that have no share in the World to Come: Yerov'am ben Navat, Achav and Menasheh.

One sage (Rava), asked another sage (Rabbah bar Mari): Why did the early sages (Tannaim) not list king Yehoyakim as an evil king who has no share in the World to Come? Behold, scripture points out that he was evil: "Now the rest of the acts of Yehoyakim, and his abominations which he did, and that which was found upon him, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah; and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead." (2 Chronicles 36:8)

The sages explained the words "and that which was found upon him" to mean that he had a tattoo of idolatry on his penis, and there are sages that derive from the words above that they found a tattoo with the name of God on his penis in order to jeer at the God of Israel. We see from here that Yehoyakim was a very evil person. If so, why did they not list him with the evil kings of Judah and Israel? Answered the sage: I didn't hear it and I don't know the answer to it. (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 103b)

In the language of the Talmud:
Raba said to Rabbah b. Mari: Why did they not count Yehoyakim [amongst those who have no portion in the world to come], seeing that it is written of him, "Now the rest of the acts of Yehoyakim, and his abominations which he did, and that which was found upon him, etc.?  (What is meant by that which was found upon him? — R. Yohanan and R. Eliezer differ: one maintained that he engraved the name of an idol upon his penis, and the other held that he engraved the name of Heaven thereon [as a gesture of contempt])? — He answered: I have heard no explanation concerning the kings [why Jehoiakim was not included]: but I have heard one concerning the commoners.