כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם

כִּי לֹא מַחְשְׁבוֹתַי מַחְשְׁבוֹתֵיכֶם, וְלֹא דַרְכֵיכֶם דְּרָכָי

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!