Orthodox to Reform: Losing my neshama?

I attended a bar mitzvah in Jerusalem on Saturday. At Kol HaNeshama, the Reform synagogue in Baka where I used to pray – or, more accurately, join in the singsong and close my eyes and pretend to meditate while other congregants were meditating (or pretending to) – after making Aliyah, 14 years ago.

And it really was very pleasant.

The “bible” Bible for Reform Jews is apparently W. Gunther Plaut’s The Torah: A Modern Commentary (right). And its preface, describing the Torah’s origins, certainly made a lot more sense to me on Saturday morning than any account I ever heard during my Orthodox upbringing, either in Britain’s United Synagogue or (even more certainly) at Hasmonean Grammar School for Boys.

Plaut asserts, I think (an attractive congregant was interfering with my concentration), that while the Torah is neither the word of God nor written by Moses – it is a continuing source of amazement to me that so many, otherwise normal, friends and acquaintances actually believes that it is – its several authors chronicle the Jewish peoples’ perceptions of and relationship with (their notion of) the Deity.

Progressive synagogues – or temples, as they often seem to be called – possess an air of serenity, goodwill and even universal love that, if not entirely absent from their Orthodox equivalents, is far less apparent. The difference in atmosphere is best summed up by the split-screen dinner scene in Annie Hall, in which Alvy Singer juxtaposes the decorum at the Halls’ table with the noisy vulgarity at his family’s (though I do not employ the analogy to suggest either that Progressive Jews are more akin to WASPs . . . or that Orthodox Jews are coarse!)

On Shabbes mornings at Raleigh Close (Hendon United Synagogue) – where congregants would continually approach my grandfather, considered something of a “stag”, for tips on new share issues – I would learn more about the stock market than Torah. And the backbiting and intrigue for which Orthodox shuls are renowned was one of the primary factors in the continual refusal of my father, a constitutional anti-macher (big shot), to accept nominations for its board of management.

Progressive synagogues, on the other hand, have always felt to me fundamentally un-heimish (homely and warm) and – in spite of all the meditating and happy-clappyness – seem to suffer from a deficiency of true neshama (soul). In fact, they cause me to feel a sense of alienation similar to that experienced by Alvy at Annie’s parents.

Indeed, for those of us who are “FFB” – Frum (Orthodox), or in my case frumish, From Birth – the transition from Orthodox to Reform may be fraught with difficulty and discomfort. So, whilst I am far more ideologically aligned with Progressive forms of Judaism these days – even experiencing a sense of dissonance in Orthodox shuls – I have found the conversion process to be far from straightforward.

Whilst I haven’t yet concluded whether being able to hug one’s partner or massage his or her back as they recite kaddish (the memorial prayer) – which Progressive synagogues’ mixed seating enables – is beautiful or unnecessary (I am veering towards the former), I am now entirely used to increased female participation in services (which even some Orthodox shuls are now fostering).

But, on Saturday morning, there was the odd appearance of a mobile telephone (perhaps Hashem now accepts text messages), and – just when I had thought that that was as inappropriate as it could get – the woman in front of me pulled out a pen and paper, and started scribbling away frantically (perhaps the winning Lotto numbers had come to her during her meditations).

Whilst a Kol HaNeshama regular later assured me that such behaviour could only have come from a visitor, the same cannot be said of the female congregants who had donned a tallis (prayer shawl) and/or – what, for some strange reason, winds me up more than anything else in Progressive synagogues – a kippa (skullcap). In fact, the latter appears no less alien to me on a female head than a strap-on protuberance does – or rather would (“I have never seen one, Your Honour”) – between her legs.

But who am I, a self-declared and unabashed apikores (heretic), to judge any of my coreligionists? Especially since, at the same time on your average Saturday morning, I can usually be found on Rothschild Boulevard doing nothing more spiritual than indulgently licking the foam off my hafuch (latte).

What it boils down to, I guess, is that while you can take the dat’lash (acronym for dati le’she’avar, formerly religious person) out of Hendon, Menorah and Hasmo (and notionally Gush), it is far more difficult – perhaps impossible – to take the Hendon, Menorah and Hasmo out of the dat’lash (for a recent, interesting article on the dat’lash, see The ties that continue to bind).

And, to all readers of melchett mike – whatever you practise or believe . . . or not – a happy, healthy, and healthily irreverent 2010!

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257 responses to “Orthodox to Reform: Losing my neshama?

  1. OMG … I can hardly believe my eyes! All I have to say is mazal tov … a gutte gezogt … kol tuv. Barukh haba — welcome to the real world! :)

  2. Rather cryptic, our Greg . . .

  3. Greg, I think you may and Mike may have your wires crossed.

    While I too have often misunderstood the author of this excellent blog, I believe him to be saying that even though he agrees theologically with your church he still finds no place for himself there because it is so devoid of soul or “neshama”. Therefore at the risk of mixing a methaphor, I’d hold my horses before popping open the Champagne corks.

  4. That may be, but Mike, in his own inimitable manner, captures & even lauds the essence of Reform’s understanding of the true nature of Torah & it’s place in our lives as Jews (in shul — not church). IMHO he does it more effectively than anything I’ve posted, & does it in a manner which, I hope, many readers of this blog will understand … probably because of the trad background from which he comes.

  5. Well Greg, you certainly managed to put a positive spin on that one!

    Like the guy who boasts that his wife sleeps with the neighbor because he’s really good in bed, but intellectually her inner essence is with her husband.

    Okay, we’re about to embark on a in-depth search into questions that are at the very heart of Jewish identity. Things may get nasty and Greg and I might even end off calling each other names.

    However, beforehand, let me say that we both have the utmost respect for each other and all are arguments (like those of Hillel and Shamai) are in the name of heaven.

    Naturally, other posters are more than welcome, as both Greg and I are deep believers in pluralism and free of expression.

  6. you wouldn’t object if she was wearing a nice yellow, blue and white kippah though would you?

  7. Or if she had big tits.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist!

  8. Anthony Mammon

    did someone mention big tits!!!

  9. Greg,
    This is not a declaration of war on a fellow Jew however this does hint of very strong disagreement.
    What strikes me as a failing of Reform Judaism is that the people concerned put their beliefs into practice in face of thousands of years of Jews continuously doing otherwise. I can agree with all the sentiments expressed by Mike, but still abide by the existing framework. That does not mean keeping everything orthodox Judaism has to offer but it does mean accepting the status quo is not a recent invention ripe for change every election year or even in between.

    Not abiding by the existing framework with all its apparent contradictions, inconsistencies and loopholes would leave me feeling like I’m losing touch with pure gold (or neshama as Mike suggest).
    Junk Jewellery (no negative implication intended) is fashionable, fun, accessible and can be changed readily but I wouldn’t plan to inherit my parents’ JJ or pass mine on to the next generation. I see Judaism from the perspective of history and the future, not what makes sense to me now.

    Steffy

  10. well i have finally done it and posted my first ever comment on melchett mike. i always thought my first post would relate to a cypriot p.e. teacher at hasmo rather than a heavy weight debate on reform judaism.
    anyway i have no doubt that that there were some very warm and engaging people at the reform shul. you would no doubt find such warmth in a church or mosque as well!!
    i could take you to many engaging orthodox organisations in north london including tikun, chabad and the jle to name just 3. lets not forget 1 thing reform judaism was basically invented in the same way as coca cola came up with diet coke or caffeine free coke. its better to make it half way up everest than to the top of a mole hill. yes orthodox judaism is tough and we (I) break many laws, but at least when i keep a mitvah i am making another step on everest. reform judaism is a bit like a buffett with meat and chips and no boring salad – but as we all know you have got to get your 5 a day. anyway great blog and please give us some more hasmo stuff

    clive

  11. Reform is no flash in the pan nor is it some passing fad. It has its origin in mid-19th century Germany & is an outgrowth of the haskalah. Just because much of orthodoxy has regressed to the 17th century does not condemn the rest of us to live there nor does it prevent us from living in the 21st century.

    As far as neshoma or heimishness or whatever you choose to call it, of course walking into a new shul — of any kind — will, by our nature, feel different. It takes time to adjust to any new situation. That is a hallmark of human behavior. Each cong has its individual qualities which cause us to be the ones who have to adjust. With time comes acceptance & comfort.

  12. This is not a rhetorical question:

    What has more “neshama” a bowl of non-kosher chicken soup with kneidlech or strictly kosher sushi?

  13. There is no right answer to that question. It depends completely on the feelings & mental patterns of each individual. I hate sushi & love kneidlach, so for me, it’s the soup. ;)

  14. I agree that there’s no right answer. However my question was not; “Which do you prefer?” but “Which has more neshama?”

    To the halachic Jew there is no dilema. He will bless G-d for the sushi and eat it.

  15. Kneidlach is (are) in my blood, so yes, that’s the neshoma. And guess what … we liberal Jews do recognize the Source of sustinence for all life & therefore express our eternal gratitude.

    BTW God blesses us — we don’t bless Her. That’s the kind of misunderstanding that happens when one takes the words literally. God is blessed (& a lot of other things) regardless of our words or actions. The act of saying a b’rakhah changes US not God.

    Rather than focusing on the shoresh of b’rakhah as meaning knees — the position in which our ancestors prayed (until we gave it up lest we violate the ridiculous concept of chukas hagoy) — I (among many) prefer to think of it as breaking the water in a swimming pool. Just as our perception changes as our eyes & bodies move from water to air, our perception of the world changes as we say b’rakhot.

    Saying a b’rakah doesn’t change God — it changes us. I believe that is a most crucial undertsanding, one which is very difficult for kids to grasp. It is unfortunate that most people end their religious instruction @ the end of childhood. That is why adult Jewish education is so important. It enables our understanding of our religion to grow commensurately w/ our ability to grasp larger worldly concepts. That’s why all too many people exist in a state of stunted growth religiously — because they stopped learning & growing in the realm of religion while the rest of their brains & lives continues to expand.

    That’s the breakthrough for which I praise Mike for discovering. Welcome to adult Judaism!

  16. Daniel and Greg, I am honoured that you are fighting to have me in your respective clubs!

    I think the logical conclusion of my post, however, might be that the status quo – hafuch on Rothschild – is the best of all possible Saturday mornings.

    And to correct your wife analogy, Daniel, I believe that I am neither shagging my husband nor the neighbour . . . but, instead, going self-service!

  17. Daniel Marks

    So, I guess that’s the next question.

    From an Orthodox standpoint is it better that you go to the Reform on a Saturday morning or to Rothchild.

    Most of my “dati” friends would, without hesitation, say that the latter is preferable. That as long as you realize that you aren’t in G-d’s house (metaphorical, Greg) you may decide to go. Once you think you’re already there, there’s no chance. They claim that the Reform does more harm than good. I’m a little undecided here.

    I’m also late for shul!

  18. Daniel, sounds like you meant to write that (your friends would say) the former, i.e., the Reform – a different type of “hafuch”! – is preferable.

  19. Avraham Reiss

    If I wanted to open a fast-food restaurant, I would have (for the sake of this example) 2 options:

    1. Start alone, take a few years to build up a good
    name, and hence a clientura.

    2. Take out a franchise from Burger-Ranch or
    some similar outfit.

    Option 2 gives me immediate customage, because the name Burger-Ranch is well-known, BUT I have no free choice in most of the
    restaurant’s aspects: the food, decor, staff-uniforms and more, are dictated by my contract with Burger-Ranch. So I’ve gained a few years on my customer build-up, but I’ve also given up on many options I may have liked.

    And that’s the way with Judaism. The religion has hard and fast rules, inside of which there is plenty of room for disagreement – the Talmud is full of arguments – but again, only within the rules.

    A legalist and philosopher accepted by all –
    Maimonides – laid down 13 Principles of the Faith (which can be found in most sidurim following shacharit).

    Principle no. 8 states that the entire Torah currently before us, was given to Moses on Sinai.

    Principle no. 9 states that this Torah will never be
    altered or replaced.

    What the Reform movement has done is thus basically dishonest; it has hitched a ride on the waggon of Judaism, but has made changes that even Burger-Ranch would consider breach of contract.

    As long as the matters remain between Man and G-d, freewill perforce prevails, and everyone will be judged by his choices at the end of time (or earlier for some – hashgacha pratit, but that’s another discussion).

    However when the Reform movement condones
    activities that are physically damaging to authentic Judaism, the matter is different. I refer explicitly – but not exclusively – to condoning mixed marriages, which result – when a Jewish male marries a non-Jewish woman – in loss of Jewish descendants, for the children of such a marriage are not Jewish.

    I would also like to create a new religion; it would be identical to Judaism in every way except for one thing:
    you would be allowed to have a cup of coffee on Yom Kippur morning before davening. But I would have to be honest and not try to claim that this new religion is Judaism. (Maimonides, Principle 9.)

  20. That’s called thinking inside the box & it doesn’t always work.

    As far as never changing the torah, what do you think takanot are? Every time the revered rabbis of old made a decision to make Judaism fit their current circumstaces, they “changed” the torah. So what it really comes down to is whether or not you choose to allow our contemporaries the freedom to do what the rabbis of old did. Please recognize that at some point in the future, today’s shapers of Judaism will be thought of as “the rabbis of old” &, I presume, they will then be as revered as those you choose to venerate now.

    As far as creating a new religion, I assure you that Abraham, Moses & Solomon, etc. would probably have a conniption were they to set foot in ANY present-day shul.

    So what this whole machloket really is about is when — in time — you choose to draw the line, the 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th or 21st centuries? I choose not to draw that line. I believe what keeps Judaism alive is the continuing efforts to define & redefine it. But if you choose to bury your head in the sands of time, be it far from me to attempt to stop you.

  21. Avraham Reiss

    Greg,
    I quote from your post:

    That’s called thinking inside the box & it doesn’t always work.

    As far as never changing the torah, what do you think takanot are? Every time the revered rabbis of old made a decision to make Judaism fit their
    current circumstaces, they “changed” the torah. So what it really comes down to is whether or not you choose to allow our contemporaries the
    freedom to do what the rabbis of old did.
    [end quote]

    I disagree with you on a number of points:

    1. “thinking inside the box” – the box, i.e. the world, was created according to the Torah – there is no “outside of the box” (including
    Martians, Venusians etc) from the Toranic vantage. Anyone possessing a full, Toranic weltaunshung, has points of reference that cover anything and everything.

    2. I’m surprised that you would claim that takanot are proof of changing the Torah; it is with Toranic authority that such takanot were made: the Torah fully recognizes the advance of Man, and his requirements of living according to the Torah in widely varying situations. It is probably far easier for me today to observe the Torah than it would have been say 1,000 years ago.

    3. Our contemporaries just do not have the authority to do what our sages of yore did. Judaism was never a democracy. (the Greeks appear to have copied our system with rule of the sages, whereas we had the Sanhedrin.)

    I once heard a nice definition: a camel is a horse designed by a commitee; that’s what could have happened over 3,000 years had not Judaism been so rigid, or to put it another way, so totally and clearly defined. Today in Israel, for example, just imagine what the irreligious would have done to Judaism had they been allowed to. Just one example, is when a non-Jewish Russian immigrant is killed in action while serving as an IDF soldier. You often hear voices insisting that he be buried in Jewish burial ground – against the halacha – “because he served in the army”. In other words, IDF service as an alternative to giyur (traditional conversion), would make you a Jew.

    Let me add that I am proud of my service in the IDF, and I also see a non-Jew killed in IDF action as one deserving special consideration, but
    there’s nothing innovative here vis the time of the 2nd Temple.

    I don’t understand your point about “drawing a line”; I don’t need one. There is a definitive line drawn for imposing halacha. If someone doesn’t
    like the positioning or content of the line, he has one option: create a new, Burger-Ranch religion, and don’t call it Judaism. Judaism is not, and never was, a democracy.

    I, for example, opted not to create a new religion, so I fast fully on Yom Kippur (and other fasts).

  22. Avraham Reiss

    Greg,
    one more point: you wrote:
    ” Please recognize that at some point in the future, today’s shapers of Judaism will be thought of as “the rabbis of old” &, I presume, they will then be as revered as those you choose to venerate now.
    ” [ed quote]

    Totally wrong; no age of Judaic history has adopted the position held by Chazal – the sages of the Mishna and Gemara.

    We fully recognize the contributions of the Geonim, Rishonim, Achronim, but each group holds its specific place within a set hierarchy.
    Mamonides, one of the all-time greats (to use a modern term) is not placed with the Geonim, Amoraim or Tanaim.

    NONE of these have ever been thought of as “the rabbis of old”

  23. See, that’s the thing … only if you choose to accept the myths which you derive from torah are what you (& others) have written true. If one understands that TaNaKh is a human product, then torah is the original starting point, but from there on — in time, meaning over time, meaning evolution, Judaism has developed & changed.

    That’s what I hope Mike discovered in the Plaut torah commentary. What I’m saying is that there is a line, but it exists in time & it continues to (I hope) advance (& not regress).

    I notice that you did not challenge my example of Abraham, Moses & Solomon feeling totally out of place in all modern shuls.

    That’s important. That means that Judaism really did & continues to change, which is a natural process unless & until it is choked off by the hareidim, et al.

    If one accepts the concept that Judaism evolves (read Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan), then it doesn’t matter what any & all of those long-dead rabbis are called. They, all, are part of the evolution of Judaism, therefore making it possible to call them “the rabbis of old.”

    I’m not saying you’re wrong or that you ought not believe what you believe. I do not say the understanding I’ve presented is the only true & valid way. You, however, do.

    You can present what you believe are proof, but so can I. Neither of us, however, is willing to accept those proofs. But that’s OK. I have no problem w/ that.

    What I do have a problem w/ is when your side dictates what all of us must believe or do. Like the disgusting behavior of the men @ the kotel do to women there. That wall belongs to all of us. & as I understand Jewish erhics, their behavior stands in violation of our long-held principles. Or when 1 group of Israelis tries to segregate the buses. Or, or, or …

    OK, I know y’all are gonna say I’m not an Isreali citizen & therefore have no right to say what should or should not happen. However, the orthodoxification (or haredification) of Jerusalem does, indeed, affect me.

    Regardless of what you might say, I declare that I am a Jew. I had a bris (done by an ortho rabbi) when I was 8 days old, I went through Jewish education (regardless of what you think of it), I did/do a million other things Jewish & had my family not come to the US when they did, Hitler would have killed me, too — as a Jew. So I have just as much right to pray @ the wall alongside my fellow women hazzanim as you do in your way.

    You can attempt to legislate (secularly & religiously) Liberal Judaism out of existence, but it will be in vain. We’re not going anywhere!

    I am happy to agree to disagree, but I insist that I have as much right to call myself a Jew as do you.

  24. Having returned from Shabbes morning קריאת הארץ on Rothschild . . .

    Stefan writes: “What strikes me as a failing of Reform Judaism is that the people concerned put their beliefs into practice in face of thousands of years of Jews continuously doing otherwise.”

    But is it a “failing”, Stefan, if it updates, even corrects, beliefs and practices as antiquated as, for example, the world being flat or not admitting Jews into golf clubs? What a lot of this boils down is precisely that: Orthodox Jews saying “Don’t dare tamper with our beliefs and practices, however irrelevant to modern life. This is our club.”

    In terms of Avraham’s Burger Ranch analogy, if we know – or should, if we are good enough food scientists and brave enough to stand up to the franchise holder and his unfair contract – that processed burgers are no good, shouldn’t we (as McDonald’s have done) strive to move with the times and introduce fresher and more healthy options? There is nothing “dishonest” about that, Avraham. It should rather be considered a noble movement.

    Stefan continues: “That does not mean keeping everything Orthodox Judaism has to offer but it does mean accepting the status quo.”

    But why, Stephan? You might be happy to pick-and-choose – your right (I do too!) – but many intellectually honest and brave Reform Jews have tried, and are trying, to build a more consistent and modern framework within which they can “keep everything”. And unlike you, Stefan, I would like to “see Judaism” as something that “makes sense to me now”.

    When I daven with Chassidim, it is more uplifting than anything I experience in Reform synagogues. But this “neshama”, as I choose to call it, can be explained by factors – my upbringing, the rhythm of the davening, etc – other than the Divine. And it doesn’t take away from my opinion, that anyone who believes that the Torah is the word of God as written by Moses is burying his head in the ketzef (foam) of my Shabbes morning hafuch.

  25. Greg, do you think we are cheating by getting all our arguments in while the frummers can’t respond?!

  26. LOL … I’m sure they will weigh in after they see 3 stars. ;)

  27. Avraham Reiss

    Greg,

    1. I sure didn’t miss anything by not writing on Shabbat.

    2. Nobody (that I know of) is challenging your right to be called a Jew. Quite the opposite: if I didn’t think you were a Jew I wouldn’t involve myself in discussion with you – what would be the point?

    3. Regarding Israel, I do think that your right to criticize what is going on here re religion- and -other wise, is open to question, in the same way that my criticisms of Obama are of dubitable validity.

    4. You keep on talking about change as if you have innovated something. Quite the opposite, Judaism has always been prepared for change, the proof is its survival for over 3,000 years – WITHOUT the Reform and Liberal movements, I might add, for 99% of the time.

    If orthodox Judaism has managed to stay orthodox for so long, the system obviously contains self-preservation mechanisms. That work!

    Electricity for example (vis its use on Shabbat) is legislated from Talmidic precedents (there are 2 differing opinions as to which precedent is the correct one, but since both lead to the same halachic conclusions, we’re still on the highway of adaptability to change).

    What, exactly, has the Reform movement given Judaism that it didn’t have before? And this, against the LOSS of thousands – if not more – of Jews to Christianity by Reform-supported mixed marriages?

    5. Rgearding Abraham, Solomon, etc in a modern shul – that is pure conjecture on your part, with not even a suggestion of proof. As was your earlier conjection regarding how this generation will be regarded in the future.

    Personally, I think that those august figures would probably be more interested in the novelty of fluorescent and other lighting fixtures in moder shuls. True, prayers written by 2nd Temple sages would be new to them, but I really don’t think that Abraham and Solomon would turn to Reform shuls because of these details …

  28. Avraham Reiss

    Mike,

    [start quote]
    In terms of Adrian’s Burger Ranch analogy, if we know – or should, if we are good enough food scientists and brave enough to stand up to the franchise holder and his unfair contract – that processed burgers are no good, shouldn’t we (as McDonald’s have done) strive to move with the times and introduce fresher and more healthy options? There is nothing “dishonest” about that, Adrian. It should rather be considered a noble movement.
    [end quote]

    I don’t see disgreement between you and me on this point; if Mcdonalds (yich!) think they can do better, let them do it. The point is that they call themselves Mcdonalds, not Burger Ranch. Nobody is mislead here.
    In the same way that someone “altering” Judaism should call his religion by some other name.

  29. David Kornbluth

    Gregk, at al. Shavua Tov the stars are shining.

    You are a jew! Whilst it is good that you define yourself as such, amongst others on the basis that Hitler would have so defined you, I would like to propose a Question to you.

    Would it not be more meaningful and powerful to be defined a Jew on the basis that G-d would so define you. If i may i’ll give you an example of what i mean by this, whilst in Yeshivah i started wearing a gartel a belt worn during tefilla or prayer. This was because i decided that my family that was changed sadly a lot by the Holocaust, prior to that crime we were Chassidish and post we were not.

    So i decided that Hitler was not going to have succeeded in changing my religiosity in anyway and i put on the Gartel. However as an adult, with wife and children a man has to make decisions that are more than just reactionary and i decided that i would not wear the Gartel for my own religious reasons. I view myself as a Jew who any of our co-religionist ancestors would be welcome in my house and not feel out of place, as yes despite your comment to the contrary we have a tradition going back to all those ancestors and thus have a deep meaningful common ground.

    Are you not better of at this mature stage of your life to ask yourself questions as to what G-d wants of you, and avoid purely reactionary answers.

    Mike, i feel for what you write and would like to say several things.

    1. You can find warm congregations in Jerusalem without having to turn to reform – i will be happy to host you for shabbat if you are willing to try.

    2. Our King wrote two contradictory things in Mishli – that nothing is better than a wife and nothing worse than a bad woman. The difference between the two sentences is the way woman is written, in the latter it says Ha’isha or “the woman”. It is explained that Ha’isha adding Hey with gematria or numerical value 5 gives woman the same gematria as man. Ish and Isha. So a woman who thinks she is the same as a man is bad for man, perhaps this is why so many people find it strange when seeing women who have good intentions taking on a role that is simply not theirs.

    The key to our religion is Mesorah loosely translated as “tradition”, when the Rabbis enact any decree they do so within the framework of this Mesorah, and thus it is proper and legal.
    However when someone enacts a ruling that does not follow the Mesorah it no longer can be described as orhtodox Judaism, so without touching on the question of what is a Jew, we can touch on the Question of the “Ratzon Hashem” or will of G-d. That will was revealed to us at Sinai and tells us to believe in the Rabbis who you have problem with and their rulings.

    Any breach of this belief, you can call what you want, but it is not what G-d wants as He has revealed to us.

    Mike have a room waiting for you where the coffee shops are close but the chicken soup is first rate.!.

  30. Avraham Reiss

    Mike,

    “anyone who believes that the Torah is the word of God as written by Moses is burying his head in the ketzef (foam) of my Shabbes morning hafuch.” [end quote]

    You of course realize that Maimonides – the good old Rambam – is one of those so described by you.

    From the Sea of the Talmud to the foam of a hafuch – some difference in both quantity and quality …

  31. Shavua Tov Greg et al,

    If I was a demagogue I would say that there is something pathetic about the fact that a self-confessed atheist like Mike goes to a Reform synagogue and comes out feeling there was not enough “nesahama” for him. However, that would be to miss the point.

    Mike may correct me if I’m wrong but when he says it lacked neshama, I believe he meant that he didn’t get the same warm emotional feeling that he got in a Religious synagogue as a boy. That was why I asked about trefah kneidlech or kosher sushi. I’m sure that Mike feels that the former have more neshama too.

    However, this neshama business is an irrational, subjective emotion. I feel that feeling when I hear Kol Nidrei in an Ashkenazi synagogue but a sephardi Jew doesn’t. He’s moved to tears when he hears slichot in Ellul but the same tunes bore me to the same tears. A schmaltz herring and gefilte fish appear to me as though they have come straight from the heavenly throne. They revolt him, but he believes that G-d is in stuffed vine leaves. I could go on but you get the idea.

    I think it was Rav Hisda who said that from the day that the temple was destroyed, we have nothing more than four “amot” of halacha.

  32. Did I confess to being an “atheist”, Daniel? When?

    Avraham, the Rambam – who died over 800 years ago – is not “one of those so described by” me. I was referring to people who ignore everything we know about the Universe today.

  33. Avraham Reiss

    Daniel,
    wrong again – on 2 counts: it was R’ Chiya bar Ami, Berachot 8a. And its not “we have nothing more”, but “G-d has nothing more…”

    Mike,
    what you actually said was “Anyone who believes …”.

    You are within your rights to alter what you said, but that’s how it stood before your correction.

    And I don’t think that even the most charedi “parech” “ignore everything we know about the Universe today.” It just isn’t possible.

  34. Avraham, Shavua tov, I stand corrected. Thanks.

  35. Gee — I’m confused here … on 1 hand y’all agree that I am a Jew & on the other you say that Reform is Burger Ranch. Methinks you can’t have it both ways.

    Re Avraham’s #4: I’m not claiming I invented anything. In fact I’m saying the same thing you say — Reform is part of the development, the evolution of Judaism throughout history. I guess you’ve forgotten about all the infighting between the various sects that took place over the centuries — Pharisees v Sadducees, the Hellenizers v the Hasmoneans (l’havdil), the chassidim v the misnagdim, etc. — some of which were quite violent … just like Jerusalem today. It just so happens that orthodoxy eventually won, more or less, or perhaps more correctly evoloved more successfully … until the haskalah which spawned Reform. And if orthodoxy is so successful, how do you explain the strength of all the Liberal branches? Remember, no hareidi would daven in your shul — so you’re orthodoxy is not acceptable to them. Welcome to Burger Ranch!

    Reform has given quite a lot to Judiasm — so much that it is not possible enumerate everything w/o writing a whole book — which I do not intend to do.

    1 example however: the growth of Reform & Masorti in Israel has brought a great many Jews (remember they are just as much Jewish as you say I am) back into shuls & Jewish practice.

    Actually, I’m quite certain that Abe, Moe & Sol would not recognize t’fillot written duirng 2nd temple times & most probably would not accept them as valid in place of the holy Bar-B-Q. BTW, Abe’s BBQ was very different than Moe’s was. Remember, the torah is filled w/ examples of bad stuff happening to anyone who did anything other than what Moses is alleged to have required. (Alleged because he did NOT write the words we all read.) And while Korach, Nadav & Avihu were goners, to the best of my knowledge God has not struck down any modern shul — of any kind. (The only thing that comes close was when the LA headquarters of Aish Hatorah burned to the ground. aish … fire … get it?) One can only conclude, therefore, that S/He likes what we all are doing. Maybe God likes variety?

    Of course I don’t have proof, but it just seems logical. They might even be freaked out by our flourescent lights & padded seats. I don’t remember reading about people sitting down in the miskan hamidbar or either Temple. While I can’t truly tell you what their reactions would be, neither can you say w/ complete confidence that they would not choose a non-ortho svc.

    Remember as well that if you stuck to only those t’fillot that came from the 2nd temple or even siddur Rav Amram, your svc would be a whole lot shorter than it is. Hmmm … maybe we should roll back the clock — then, at least, people might not complain about how long svcs are!

    As long as I’m at it, remember that it was MY predecessors — the original hazzanim — who improvised a great portion of what is now accepted & codified in our modern siddurim. Oh, & what about the difference between Ashkenazic, Sephardic, the chassidish nusach s’farad (which is different than the real Sephardic texts) & nusach Roma? (Please forgive me if I left out your favorite t’fillah text.)

    Sure, given the extent of your mastery of Hebrew, you would understand all those variations, but you would not find the neshoma Mike wrote about because it won’t have the comfort of being what you’re used to.

    Actually, Daniel, I almost agree w/ you. Call it neshoma or tam (ta’am) or tradition, but logical or not, that’s the measuring stick almost everyone uses. However, one of the characteristics we humans possess is the ability to adapt to new situations. Let me be so bold as to posit that if Mike (or any reader here) were to go to a Reform shul, sooner or later a sense of comfortability would emerge.

    And don’t forget about what we hazzanim call nusach — not the words but the music. Mike commented on how different — even unsettling — the happy-clappy crap is. Yeah, I’m not a big fan of happy-clappy. I’m a well-trained hazzan who grew up in a very trad Conservative shul w/ a great, knowledgeable hazzan. Not much gives me more pleasure than davening w/ a great hazzan — vocally, who uses correct nusach & who understands the meaning of the t’fillot & is able to communicate that to his/her kahal.

    As another aside, David, ich veys fun a gartel. But do you know that it made its way into Christian practice? It is called a “cincture” which is a cord tied around the waist of Christian sacerdotal garments. So much for chukas hagoy!

    As far as what God wants from me, I’m happy to feebly attempt to fulfill the words of the Prophet Micah (6:8) God wants us “Only to do justice, love goodness & walk humbly w/ your God.”

    I’m sorry, but the torah does not tell us to follow the rabbis. The torah didn’t know what rabbis are. And if you are able to discern what God actually wants, you are far better than any other human in all of history!

    Sure, you can show me quotes that promote your view & I can do the same — ad nauseam, ad infinitum. Our tradition even teaches that — turn & turn the torah & all things can be found in it, so let’s not go there.

    1 (probably not) final note: whether hareidi or hassidic or orthodox, it’s a matter of degree as to how deeply one chooses to bury their head in the sands of time. I prefer to breathe the clean air (good luck finding that in SoCal!) of reality rather than the dust of time.

  36. Avraham Reiss

    Greg,

    I didn’t say exactly that Reform is Burger Ranch; Burger Ranch is an enjoyable experience. :-)

    What I said was that your personal Jewish identity is not in question, whereas that of the Reform movement is. You and the Reform movement are two separate entities, just as my good self and Orthodox Judaism are two separate entities. YOUR Reform entity, by my reasoning, has plagiarized its identity.

    I’ll relate to your other points later in the day.

  37. Daniel Marks

    “Let me be so bold as to posit that if Mike (or any reader here) were to go to a Reform shul, sooner or later a sense of comfortability would emerge.”

    - That was exactly my point. That is also the reason why we only have (or as Avraham corrected me G-donly has) four amot of halachah. Everything else is uncountable, untestable subjective feelings.

    I’m sure that you know, Greg, that halachah is not learnt from the book of Michah. We are directly commanded to listen to the Torah “as it will be instructed to you” which in our (traditional) minds means rabbanim. Naturally, they don’t all agree about everything, so we choose one and hope for the best.

    All the best,

  38. Daniel — you wrote: “We are directly commanded to listen to the Torah “as it will be instructed to you” which in our (traditional) minds means rabbanim.”

    Perfect. You get to choose your rabbanim & I get to choose mine! See how easy that is?

    BTW please explain just how you can justify excluding 1 of the n’vi’im, 1 chosen by the human editors of TaNaKh, from the list of acceptable instructors? Are you now taking the personal prerogative of editing TaNaKh?

    Avraham — you wrote: “YOUR Reform entity, by my reasoning, has plagiarized its identity.” I think the key phrase here is: “by my reasoning.” Sure, you’re entitled to your opinion, but that does not make your unsupported value true.

    I may be mistaken, but I don’t think that anywhere in our discussions have I pointed out where the interpretations of orthodoxy go against the principles of torah. I’m NOT going to do that here! However, I believe that I am as justified in my position as you are in yours. Actually, we’re probably both wrong, but we won’t find out at least until olam haba — if it even exists. ;)

    For the record, I cannot say I am totally a Reform Jew. I’m a Liberal Jew who draws from the widest variety of Liberal Jewish teachings. So I’m a mutt — there’s bits of Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Jewish Humanist, Renewal & New Age running around in here. I’m a self-made camel. ;) … Just so you know …

  39. “BTW please explain just how you can justify excluding 1 of the n’vi’im, 1 chosen by the human editors of TaNaKh, from the list of acceptable instructors?” -

    What I said was:
    “…halachah is not learnt from the book of Michah..”

    Nothing to do with instruction or being an instructor.

    Of course the judges and the prophets were/are our instructors. They brought the word of G-d to their and every generation.

    However, their sayings alone cannot usually be used as a tool of with which to make a halachic judgement. When the gemara uses what they said it’s usually as evidence (raaya) not as conclusive proof. For proof it uses a variety of analytical tools largely, but not exclusively, based on the Torah or Chumash.

    To the best of my knowledge the Shulchan Aruch. Yaad Hachazaka, Mishna Brura etc never use sayings of prophets or judges as a means of learning halachah. Avraham has recently corrected me regarding the identity of ’ Chiya bar Ami – he may find an exception or two here but broadly speaking this is correct. The book “Not in Heaven – The Nature and Function of Halakha by Eliezer Berkovits does much more justice to the subject than I could.

    Finally, could I please ask you not to refer to characters such as Moses out Teacher and King Solomon by Nicknames. Needless to say, they are historically incorrect, but more than that, we wouldn’t make up names about leaders of Islam or Christianity because we have respect for them and their beliefs, so why not have the same respect for ourselves? :-)

  40. Avraham Reiss

    Daniel said:
    “To the best of my knowledge the Shulchan Aruch. Yaad Hachazaka, Mishna Brura etc never use sayings of prophets or judges as a means of learning halachah. Avraham …. ….. may find an exception or two here but broadly speaking this is correct. ”

    No exceptions. What you wrote, Daniel, (IMHO)
    is TOTALLY and universally correct. On occasion prophets are quoted in supportive roles (the Hebrew term is ‘asmachta be’alma) but a prophet has no halachic authority. The Gemara in Baba Batra (1st chapter) says ‘a sage is preferable to a prophet, for the heart of a prohet is his wisdom’.

    The essence of the role of a prophet is to pass messages from G-d to the Jewish Nation; when things are going well G-d rewards us with good rains, fodder, crops, success in business and in life in general. (See 2nd chap. the the Shema). When things are bad, and we are about to be punished – for not observing halacha – that’s where the prohets come in, as an Early Warning System.

    Something like the legislative and enforcement branches of goverment being separate.

  41. Avraham Reiss

    Greg,

    [quote]
    For the record, I cannot say I am totally a Reform Jew. I’m a Liberal Jew who draws from the widest variety of Liberal Jewish teachings. So I’m a mutt — there’s bits of Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Jewish Humanist, Renewal & New Age running around in here. I’m a self-made camel. … Just so you know …
    [unquote]

    That makes discussion between us a lot less worthwhile from my point of view; instead of holding a fixed position with which I can take issue, you are moving around like a sniper, firing from different positions (once Reform, another time Liberal, etc etc).

    Its much like being an Israeli chiloni: chiloni is a negative term, defining what one does NOT do: there is no chiloni book of rules by which I can judge a chiloni, and no two chilonim are the same. One keeps kosher but travels on shabbat, another sleeps with nidot, etc etc. So I can’t hold a meaningful discussion which would compare the two ways of life (religious/ireligious).

    When I was young and studying in yeshiva there was an America Jew who came to the yeshiva intending to get smicha and become a rabbi.
    After some time he told me he was leaving and returning to the States. When I asked him why, he said: “Getting orthodox smicha is too difficult for me. I’m going to become a conservative rabbi”.

    He probably did.

    I think that’s basically the essence of what you are living: Judaism-made-easy. No tough rules, go to shul on shabbat by car, no strict obligation to marry a Jewish girl, no deep understanding of Judaism at the scholarship level. Keep changing the rules to continually adapt to the music of galut, until there’s nothing left.

  42. I suppose it’s easier to use the term Reform, but Liberal best descibes what works for me. Paint it negatively if you wish. However, I take what I consider to be the best of each. It works for me. It’s not amorphous, it’s what makes sense. Why be stuck in a single mold when you know it’s wrong?

  43. Avraham Reiss

    Greg,

    ” Remember, the torah is filled w/ examples of bad stuff happening to anyone who did anything other than what Moses is alleged to have required. (Alleged because he did NOT write the words we all read.) ”

    If you watch some of those police/legal episodes on TV, you’d hear very often “you can’t prove a negative”.

    I can “allege” that Greg does not exist, he is the product of a sophisticated computer program.
    What has been accepted as true for 3,000 years, can’t be knocked down by an alleged person who may in fact be a computer program.

    Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi says in the Kuzari: “Man does not pass on lies to his children; the story of Moses has been passed down from generation to generation.”

    When you look at some of the great legal and philosophical minds over the last two thousand years of Jewish history in exile, the mind has difficulty in accepting “they were all wrong, suddenly Greg has found the truth”. Just doesn’t ring true.

  44. Avraham Reiss

    “Why be stuck in a single mold when you know it’s wrong?”

    I have no problem with that; you have freedom of will and choice. But your stance of one who is attacking (or disgreeing with) orthodox Judaism, is that of a maverick by your own admittance.

    It just makes discussion difficult.

  45. “Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi says in the Kuzari: “Man does not pass on lies to his children …”

    What? Really? Where the f*** do you think anti-semites — & all bigots — get their hatred from? Does hatred rise anew in each generation? Not! BTW unfortunately women also pass on hatred to their children. It’s not only Man’s work. :(

    While I generally have great respect for HaLevi, this quote is a total falsehood!

  46. Daniel Marks

    I think that Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi meant that a man doesn’t INTENTIONALLY pass on lies to his children. The stuff that Anti-Semites pass on, they believe to be true.

    So what is the difference between the sighting of the receiving of the Torah that we pass on from generation to generation and we believe to be true, because parents don’t lie to their children, and their lies?

    Our sighting at Sinai was by hundreds of thousands of people who passed that on. You can’t make a conspiracy of so many people and expect them all to lie without someone telling the truth.

    Their lies, that we murder Christian babies for matzot etc are all small so-called events that someone could have begun off with just a single lie.

    Anyway, the Kuzari isn’t my favorite book either, but on this matter Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi does have a point.

  47. “your stance of one who is attacking (or disgreeing with) orthodox Judaism, is that of a maverick by your own admittance. It just makes discussion difficult.”

    Perhaps, but just as Liberal Judaism is not one single set of beliefs, the same is true of orthodoxy. Is your belief system exactly the same as the hareidis? I think not.

    Many Christians think we Jews have 1 single belief system so when I teach them about & enumerate the many different branches of Judaism, I also tell them that Judaism can be broken into 2 streams — orthodox & liberal.

    The same is true of Christianity — or Islam, for that matter. For better or worse, often there is more similarity between the orthodox forms of all religions than there is between the orthodox & liberal streams of any particular religion.

    It has to do w/ one’s mindset. E.g., how one approaches such concepts as eternal truths or whether one believes in the literal or interpretive nature of sacred texts. It’s the overarching concepts, not the specifics.

  48. OK, so even if intentional lies aren’t passed down & as you say the haters believe their demented ideas are true, so too is it w/ those who pass on the “lies” that arise from a literal understanding of our so-called sacred documents.

    I don’t know about hundreds of thousands @ Sinai (it is thought the the biblical count is greatly inflated — see Plaut), but what about Oberammergau, home of the Passion Plays (that ran (& run) around Easter time = pesach) which inflamed large numbers of people to go out & murder Jews? How many millions of Germans believed Hitler & passed their hatred on to their children?

  49. Daniel Marks

    “For better or worse, often there is more similarity between the orthodox forms of all religions than there is between the orthodox & liberal streams of any particular religion.”

    There’s certainly more similarity between wishy-washy Judaism and wishy-washy Christianity. I’m not sure any of this applies much to Islam.

    I have two brother-in-law Conservative “rabbis”. A few years ago one of them told me that he was going to a conference of Jews and Christians. I asked him which side he was on and he laughed and answered, “Depends who’s paying.” It was a joke but Greg is right here, I can’t imagine a similar conversation with an Orthodox rabbi.

    When you both don’t have too many laws, too much “doctrine” or too many “holy cows” it’s not hard to agree about all kinds of stuff.

  50. “I can’t imagine a similar conversation with an Orthodox rabbi.”

    Probably not, but that’s because orthodox rabbis refuse to acknowledge those similarities.

  51. Avraham Reiss

    Greg,
    “Perhaps, but just as Liberal Judaism is not one single set of beliefs, the same is true of orthodoxy. Is your belief system exactly the same as the hareidis? I think not.”

    Disagree. Our differences (Orthodox, Charedi) are in approaches to life and in specifics, to the State of Israel. But the basic belief system is the same one. Orthodox and Chareidi both accept Maimonides 13 Principles of the Faith.

    The Chareidim think that holiness is achieved by separating material and spiritual, church and state, and in this they are copying Christianity, which in itself AFAIK was influenced by the 2nd Temple Essenes.

    (Hebrew, in the chareidi world, is a language that should be used only for holy matters, such as study of the Torah, so material matters are discussed in Yiddish).

    But still, Orthodox and Chareidi have the same belief system.

    Pluralism in Orthodox (and Chareidi ) Judaism is possible only within the set of boundaries with which you are familiar. Of course, chilonim HAVE TO insist on pluralism – they have no choice – because they are negative-based, no two chilonim have the same set of values and laws.

  52. Daniel Marks

    “…orthodox rabbis refuse to acknowledge those similarities.”

    It’s hardly really a point worth arguing, and this is yet another area where my expertise is extremely limited. Returning to my two brothers-in-law, they’re both nice guys, they did the course where they learned some courses in Talmud, Philosophy etc and they both know quite a lot of trivia about Judaica but that’s about it.

    When it comes to halachah, which is what rabbis generally discuss, it seems to me that their knowledge is better than my 5th grader but below that of my 11th grader.

    I’m not saying that every Orthodox rabbi is the Gaon of Vilna and I’m sure that there are some scholars but by and large, in Israel at least, they don’t live on the same planet. Maybe I’m just lucky but all the rabbis I know (not crackpot haredi fraudsters) have finished the shas (Talmud) several times and study many hours every day -to them learning is their real profession and all the rest is what they have to do to make a living.

    In contrast, I’ve honestly never seen either of my two Conservative rabbis studying since they graduated. They both have stayed with me in recent years, when I asked them if they wanted to come to shul in the morning (weekday) I got the same answer from both, “I’m on holiday.”

  53. David Kornbluth

    As pointed out by Greg liberal streams of all religions are very similar so the question that i pose is what makes your liberalism Jewish?

    Greg will not change so why waste your time, however Mike i await a response as to your coming for shabbat!

    How sad it is that at least that misguided chap tried to start a new religion the Davidians wasn’t it, but did not try to claim it was Judaism.

    Yoshki deserves and gets nothing but contempt for adulterating the one true religion and the same should be had for all dead liberals/reformers who try to legitimize turning away from the word of G-d. He was also well versed in everything before he left the right path but knowledge alone does not save one from evil. So Greg before its too late repent and see the error of your ways.!

    I reject any notion that your Liberalism is Jewish, just as you reject that my stream Orthodox Judaism is the word of G-d as written by man.

    Stick that in your pipe or up something!

  54. Avraham Reiss

    “I don’t know about hundreds of thousands @ Sinai (it is thought the the biblical count is greatly inflated — see Plaut), ”

    - why would I want to see a “Plaut”?
    And by who exactly is it “thought the the biblical count is greatly inflated” – this Plaut person?

    There is a rule in Judaism:
    הרוצה לשקר, ירחיק עדותו
    - if you want to lie – then generalize, don’t get into specifics.

    When the Toorah says 600,000 men aged between 20-60 left Egypt, Itake that as accurate. This assumes the same number of women, and if I add a conservative (sorry for that word) estimate of 800,000 children, although I’m sure there were far more, then we have altogether 2bout 2 million people leaving Egypt.

    I remember that when I climbed Mt. Sinai some 25 years ago, I looked down and found a large area that could have held 2M people.

    I think that Plaut is greatly inflated …

  55. Avraham Reiss

    David Kornbluth ,

    you aren’t achieving much by berating Greg. It’s the chareidi way , I know, which is one of the characteristics that make them so detestable. (I must admit that I have similar lack of tolerance for the left, but that’s not a matter of relgion …)

    It is far more productive to discuss matters with Greg, gradually bringing him to the realisation that he is moving around between streams, and has no basic, solid ideology that has been tested by time and place.

    Because bottom line, Greg is as Jewish as you or I.

  56. Daniel Marks

    “How many millions of Germans believed Hitler & passed their hatred on to their children?”

    Please reread what I wrote, or better still read the Kuzari. I didn’t say that millions can’t believe a lie. I said that thousands or even hundreds can’t make up a lie together (from scratch) and keep it a secret. It would be like trying to convince people that there had been a war between France and the US in the 1950s.

  57. David Kornbluth

    A Reiss..

    I didn’t discuss anyones Jewishness on a personal level, i did however link the adulteration of the religion as done by Yoshki to the reform or conservative movements, may they end speedily and in our days.

    Be the aforementioned Jewish or not, we know where he is now according to tradition.

    I am not Charedi, volunteered for the army and am an open minded Jew, i hope, perhaps more than any of you, i like the occasional happy clapy minyan as much as anyone else, can tolerate some Chazzanos but not too much as it seems they really are full of hot air, and as the saying goes chazzanim are ….

    To clarify my belief, we are not Jewish because it has a basic, solid ideology that has been tested by time and place. Rather the fact that Abraham acknowledged by all three monotheistic religions discovered G-d guides my belief, as the world could not have been created by chance, guides anyone with an honest brain to acknowledge the truth that there is a G-d.

    Once that has been accepted it is a big jump away from Judaism to say that Abraham lied about all the rest as did his children and theirs.

    Now to remind you of the Medresh that my 6 year old has known for about 2 years, Abraham saw a beautiful Palace and said lets look closer, the closer he looked the more beautiful. He said who made this lovely Palace and the designer said me – then contemplating this he looked around at the magnificent world and said who made this beautiful world as nothing so perfect could be created by chance without a creator and eventually G-d revealed Himself to Abraham.

    Bottom line being Jewish isn’t enough! Acting Jewish is what makes all the difference, so i’ll say it again what makes Gregs branch “Judaism”

  58. David Kornbluth

    ps It’s the chareidi way , I know, which is one of the characteristics that make them so detestable.

    that is detestable, in england we say if you havent got anything nice to say keep shtum

  59. Avraham Reiss

    David,

    I didn’t say that Gregs branch is “Judaism”.
    I said that Greg is as Jewish as you or I.

    I did not condone his beliefs.

    You said to Greg: (quote:)
    Stick that in your pipe or up something!
    (unquote)

    - in england we say if you havent got anything nice to say keep shtum

  60. David Kornbluth

    i dont see how anyone can equate calling a group of people that numbers in the tens if not hundreds of thousands detestable is morally equivalent with telling someone to stick that in your pipe a well know expression even with the extension, if you can mr. A Reiss then you have some serious moral equivalency issues.

  61. David Kornbluth

    In case you need clarification of the difference the your comment is Lashon Hara if true and Rechilous if not and a terrible slander either way, and my comment is not by any definition of the crimes one of them and is by most normal people clearly an attempt to get Greg to weigh in on the subject matter and you, to lets just say, give him a chance to explain his position.

  62. Avraham Reiss

    Greg,

    You wrote earlier today:
    “I may be mistaken, but I don’t think that anywhere in our discussions have I pointed out where the interpretations of orthodoxy go against the principles of torah. I’m NOT going to do that here!”

    Please do so – that is one I’d like to hear …

  63. Daniel Marks

    Okay, now it’s my turn to agree with Greg.

    Reform Judaism has been exhaustively discussed on this blog and I don’t think anyone wants to go there again.

    I think the subject of what a “Jewish neshama” is and why Mike didn’t feel its presence in the Reform place of worship is more interesting.

    By the way I read David Kornbluth’s all to brief autobiography with fascination. What did he mean when he said that he “volunteered” for the army? I thought subscription here is compulsory.

  64. David Kornbluth

    Its not compulsory if you make Aliya beyond a certain age something that i was lucky enough to make.

    ps for a small fee i can send you a more detailed autobiography that is a fascinating deeply insightful work of non fiction. :-)

    ps as i am having fun now.

    The Husband Store, a store that sells husbands, has just opened in Boro Park, where a woman may go to choose a husband from among many men. The store is comprised of 6 floors, and the men increase in positive attributes as the shopper ascends the flights.

    There is, however, a catch. As you open the door to any floor, you may choose a man from that floor, but if you go up a floor, you cannot go back down except to exit the building. 

    So a woman goes to the shopping center to find a husband. On the first floor the sign on the floor reads:”Floor 1 – These men have yichus.” The woman reads the sign and says to herself, “Well, that’s better than my last shidduch date, but I wonder what’s further up?” So up she goes. The second floor sign read:”Floor 2 – These men have yichus and love kids.” The woman remarks to herself, “That’s great, but I wonder what’s further up?” And up she goes again. The third floor sign reads:”Floor 3 – These man have yichus,love kids,and are extremely handsome.” “Hmmm, better.” she says. “But I wonder what’s upstairs?” The fourth floor sign reads:”Floor 4 – These men have yichus,love kids,are extremely handsome, and help with the housework.” “Wow!” exclaims the woman, “very tempting. BUT, there must be more further up!” A again she heads up another flight.. The fifth floor sign reads:”Floor 5 – These men have yichus,love kids,are extremely handsome, help a lot with the housework, are wealthy, know how to learn, are tall and broad-shouldered and go to a 5:00 a.m. hashkoma minyan, where they learn before davening, daven 3 times a day with minyan, warm,generous and know how to lovingly treat a wife.” “Oy, Gevaldig! But just think what must be awaiting me further on!”

    So up to sixth floor she goes. The sixth floor sign reads:”Floor 6 – You are visitor number 3,456,789,012 There are no men on this floor. The floor exists solely to prove that some women are impossible to please!!

  65. David Kornbluth

    p.s. MR Reiss,

    I write this in the hope of reducing some of your dislike for more black co religionists.

    You write, in another blog,

    “Mr. Ultra told us of a very good flat in the area, but NOT to go see it, becaus the woman owning the flat was “impossible” to deal with.”

    According to the Halacha which as a Jew should be the only thing that matters to you, if you were not aware of the flat from another source you would owe the Charedi commission of about 1.5 %, i myself have won a case in bet din on this very matter.

    Now the said Charedi may well not have known that you had prior knowledge and thus no obligation to pay him – however the fact that he had done no work as argued by my literally Persian co Din Torah participant is totally irrelevant.

    However, if you know, that he knew, that you had prior knowledge of the apartment from other sources, than i apologize for bringing it up as clearly your hate is justified.

    ps my Parsi is Charedi but i dont blame that aspect of his make up rather his Persian nature, sorry any Persians i am sure that there are exceptions to the rule however they are to be respected all the more.

  66. Avraham Reiss

    Mr. Kornbluth,

    You are not my rabbi, and I did not solicit any halacha from you. What you wrote contradicts halacha I received at that time, from a Rosh Kollel, a talmid chacham, which it is clear you are not (neither am I).

    Despite what you claim, you are obviously charedi.

    I was tolerant of charedim for many decades, thinking “there are enough chilonim who hate them, why should I assist them?”.

    Until the charedim started interfering in my affairs , namely those of the national religious population.

    CASE #1 was when the charedim influenced the selection and election of the current joke known as the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, Metzger. The charedim got him the job in return for his promise to cancel the ruling of Rabbi Abraham Kook regarding use of land during the year of shmitah.

    The charedim do not recognize the rabbinate, and so this was blatant interferance in affairs that are mine but not theirs. (BTW, Metzger failed to do what he had promised. No surprise there).

    CASE #2 was when a second rabbinical ignoramous, Sherman, decided that Rabbi Chaim Drukman’s conversions were not valid. Rabbi Chaim Drukman is one of this country’s greatest educators.

    As for Sherman … he used to live opposite me, when he was a chaplain (a military rabbi). When I began army service for the 1st time there was a problem with kashrut at the base. Sherman was the area rabbi, and thus was called in to settle matters. He couldn’t. He didn’t know what to do. So he had to call in a higher authority to give a psak on the matter. This on a simple matter of kashrut, which is chiefly what one studies for smicha.

    This ignoramous, who got into the rabbinical court on a National Religious ticket, wanted to please the charedim so he could advance his position, decided to void all the conversions performed by Rabbi Drukman.

    So this is a second case where the charedim have interfered in an institute which they themselves do not recognize.

    G-d’s policemen!

    BTW, Mr. Kornbluth, what colour kipah do you wear?

  67. David Kornbluth

    Your Rosh Kollel Talmid Chacham friend is totally wrong as i am rather well versed in the laws of Tivuch, and as i said have been to bet din myself and immersed myself in the matter – which is something that a mere Rosh Kollel would not have expertise in,. As i said it is clear that you were not obliged to pay him but one can understand that he may have thought you were perhaps so obliged if you had not known about the apartment prior to his telling you about it.

    I suggest you pick up the Sefer, Hilchot Tivuch which is written so that anyone with basic Hebrew can read – i was fortunate to have a black bearded Rabbi help me with shiurim. If you have any doubt that what i am saying is true. Alternatively if you send me your email, i would be happy to send you numerous piskei din from the bet din.

    But that is irrelevant – hate is always the bad choice to make.
    I myself used to be a pink kippa wearer, at times brown and at times all sorts of other colors until the disengagement, which made it clear for me that the “camp” i felt most inclined to was wrong!
    PS whats on your head really doesn’t matter a kippa costs all of 10 to 25 shekels it’s what’s in your head and heart.

    Just to help me understand, the Drukman issue is not something that i know about so i will unlike my usual m.o. refrain from comment, however i am curious to know how Metzgers role affect you.

    PS you are totally wrong. The Rabbinat affects every single charedi in this country in many ways be it marriage or divorce etal. Being divorced means going to bet din which is populated by dayanim choosen from a pool but ultimately the responsibility of the rabbinate..this is to say nothing of the matter of who is Jewish which affects every single Jew regardless of their “camp”.

    BTW which G-d do you think we all pray to –
    Shame you gave into your baser instinct.

  68. David Kornbluth

    p.s. a more thoughtful question would be what type of school do i send my son to and that would be Mamlachti Dati, that son who will be very much affected perhaps by who is considered a jew, and which products are marked kosher and who determines if he marries or divorces.

  69. Who cares about Orthodox vs. Reform . . . on the day that the famous Leeds United beat the Filthy Munich Scum at Old Trafford?!

  70. Avraham Reiss

    Mike,

    that’s not much of a win … Leeds came in one before the last, and Manchester took 2nd place!

  71. I don’t have Plaut’s CV (curriculum vitӕ) on hand, but he was chosen to spearhead the torah commentary issued by the CCAR (Reform rabbis). “The Torah” is the book Mike referred to in his original post.

    In his article on B’midbar, Plaut explains that elef may have had a different meaning when the torah was written. It’s a position accepted by a number of sources (too numerous to list), including the Conservative Movement’s newest chumash, Etz Chayim, although Plaut goes into much greater detail. (see below)

    He writes that elef may have meant “some local tribal unit, representing a value far below 1,000.” So he translates it as “contingents.” He compares it to r’vavot which is “taken to convey ’10s of thousands’.”

    Where it says Reuben had 46 elef 500 usually thought of as 46,500, but: “reading elef as “contingent,” we would translate verse 21 as: “Those enrolled from the tribe of Reuben: 46 contingents [=] 500.” He goes on to do the same for all the tribes arriving @ a total for “the Israelite fighting force (=) 5,550 men.”

    Elsewhere, he notes that elef “is a term for a military unit … 10 men.” He goes on to compare that number w/ other contemporary ancient texts, concluding that the men numbered “just under 600 platoons & 600 men.”

    Finally, he writes: “This theory, while it does not solve all other difficulties, would suggest a total of about 20,000 Israelites in the desert. … We may no longer fully understand their meaning (nor, in this case, was the meaning fully understood when the Bible was committed to writing), but we do well to take the tradition itself seriously.” Note: “the tradition” meaning defining elef as contingent or platoon.

    Plaut, W. Gunther, The Torah, pp 462, 1019, 1034 &1035.
    Etz Hayim (from the Conservative Rabbinical Association (RA) & pub by JPS): note on v 1:46, p 773.

    Also, in Etz Hayim, p 388, the comment on v 12:37 (600,000): “Women, children & the elderly are not included. This number of men on foot would mean there was a total Israelite population of more than 2 million.The eastern part of the Nile delta or the peninsula of Sinai could not sustain such a vast population w/ water & food, not to mention the logistics involved in moving 2 million people together with their cattle & herdsacross the Sea of Reeds w/ the Egyptian chariots in hot pursuit. In response to these problems, it has been suggested that the Hebrew word elef, usually rendered “thousand,” here means “clan” or that it signifies a small military unit–the number of men levied from each tribe.”

    There’s more detail in the 5 vol “The JPS Torah Commentary. I won’t quote it except to note that they connect elef w/ alluf — clan leader — as being from the same root.

    Yes, I know these commentaries are very careful to state that these interpretaions are not absolute statements, but I think they would hardly spend so much time on them if they are only conjecture. There’s no right answer — yet.

  72. “So Greg before its too late repent and see the error of your ways.!” LOL

    “I reject any notion that your Liberalism is Jewish, just as you reject that my stream Orthodox Judaism is the word of G-d as written by man.”

    At least you recognize that TaNaKh & TSBP are man-made. ;)

    BTW “men,” specifically, which, therefore, excludes women. However, since women constitute approximately ½ of the population, we just might benefit from their voices! Refrom publishes a Women’s Commentary, but unfortunately for the lack of funds, I don’t have it as yet. :(

  73. “I said that thousands or even hundreds can’t make up a lie together (from scratch) and keep it a secret.”

    Sheesh … ain’t you never heard of the conspiracy theory? ;)

  74. Abraham did not lie. However, he lacked the scientific knowledge we now have. That does not negate the value, the essence of his teaching.

    But since we’ve agreed ;) that TaNaKh is man-made, most of Genesis is midrash — not just the things you do rscognize as midrash.

    Other words for midrash are: bubbe meise & fairy tail!

  75. PS: the definition of “acting Jewish” is open to interpretation.

  76. Avraham asks where — in my words here — orthodoxy departs from torah. I offer this 1 quickie …

    Torah says not to cook a calf in its mother’s milk. From this you get no cheesburgers? (Do they serve cheeseburgers @ Burger Ranch?)

    That particular fance around the torah misses the point entirely! If (as it is here in the Colonies) one’s beef comes from Kansas & the cheese comes from Wisconsin, just who’s calf are we cooking in whose milk?

    The true essence of that half-pasuk deals w/ having compassion for even a lowly cow. Your family mother cow should not have to suffer the pain of seeing her offspring not only killed, but cooked in the essence of her own body. I think it’s an extension of tsar balei chayim.

    Its kinda like what makes the pain of Hannah (having to wacth as her sons were put to death 1 by 1) all the more despicable. (w/o the milk part)

  77. I know I really don’t belong in this discussion, but for my 2 shekels, this is why there needs to be a separation between religion & state. People deserve a choice — if someone wants to be more strict,then let them ask more questions, but if one wants to be less strict, they can’t do it unless the religious fanatics have the control of secular law taken away from them. Even here in the US, where the principle of separation between church & state is built into the Constitution, we still must be vigilant to preserve it. :(

  78. Avraham Reiss

    Greg,

    “Other words for midrash are: bubbe meise & fairy tail! ”

    Quite apart from the fact that the word is spelled ‘tale’ and not ‘tail’ (unless you really ARE interested in some ‘fairy’s “tail’ ‘, in which one or two people here may be able to assist you), the sentence is insulting to the religious beliefs of many. Your refraining from such future occurences would contribute to continued discussion here.

    Thanks.

  79. I take it all back . . .

    Good can win out over Evil . . .

    The Abishter exists after all!

  80. Avraham Reiss

    Greg,

    separation of religion and state is a Christian idea, one of many influencing Reform, Liberal et all believers.

    To briefly summarize an idea by Rabbi Abraham Kook, the analysis that material means death – because all material things eventually die – creates one of 3 possibilities for Man:

    1. Escape the material world entirely. That’s Buhdism.

    2. Build a separate, spiritual world, leaving others to maintain the material world – that’s Christianity.

    3. Uplift, enhance the material world by making it holy – that’s Judaism, which has practical mitzvot that relate to the material world. That is why Christianity has no mitzvot.

    Galut Judaism is greatly limited – only 192 mitzvot out of 613 can be performed in Exile (authority: the Chafetz Chaim). In Israel, ideally, the Sanhedrin relates to all worldly matters. A king, for example, requires Sanhedrin permission to wage war.

    America is a Christian country (and since my very enjoyable visit there last June, I’d say a country deservedly blessed by G-d), so separation of religion and state is the right course for it.

    But let’s not try to drag Christian ideas into Judaism.

  81. A gentle reminder, Avraham . . . I set the rules here, no one else.

    And before you start giving spelling lessons, “occurrences” has two r’s.

  82. Avraham Reiss

    Mike,
    no argument about who sets the rules, but I think one participant can point out that another’s use of some phrase could be insulting to others.

    And when I write “occurences”, only one ‘r’ occurs …

  83. But not suggest “refraining from such future occurences”.

  84. Avraham Reiss

    OK. But that creates a problem, because I cannot correct my previous statement by saying
    “please do NOT refrain from such future occurences (one ‘r’).”

    What to do next? :-)

  85. Avraham Reiss

    Mike,
    I don’t know what your earlier reference to Munich re Manchester U. meant, but I have been a Manchester supporter since 1959, when an air crash in Munich decimated almost half the team, the same year Bert Trautman the goalie broke his next, and a year later they when on to win the FA cup. THAT is a team!

    What’s one loss against eternity?

  86. Avraham,

    1. I think you will find that the Munich Disaster was in 1958.

    2. Manchester United next won the FA Cup in 1963, and last but not least . . .

    3. Bert Trautmann (two n’s) played for Manchester City!!

    All of which makes you a typical Man Utd fan!

    You are not having a good day, are you Avraham?!

    I hope you are more accurate in your exchanges with Greg.

  87. Avraham Reiss

    Well, that’s what happens when you have to compress your memory to make room for more memory …

  88. Please feel free to delete this.

    I think this has become the worst page of all time. The topic was extremely interesting until it became Reform-Orthodox again. I hate football but if I have to choose Leeds Vs Man U or Avraham vs Greg it’s not even a close call.

  89. Avraham Reiss

    I agree with Daniel. Please feel free to delete his latest post.

  90. Avraham Reiss

    Friend Daniel,

    is it possible that you didn’t like the page because you weren’t at its center? Or that the material discussed was a tad too difficult?

  91. I have to agree with my Scum-supporting cousin on this one, Daniel . . . you sometimes turn into the child who, no longer at the centre of things, turns over the game screaming “I don’t want to play this anymore!”

  92. david kornbluth

    Greg,

    Sweetie, how are things over the pond.

    We believe that all tanach is written down physically by a man the original scribe but they are all written with at least ruach hakodesh, and the torah itself which is straight from G-d.

    Yours

    David

  93. You believe, David. I don’t. But I will take you up on your kind shabbes offer, nonetheless.

  94. Dearest David,

    Thanks for your interest in our well being. While a great part of this country is suffering a nasty bout of winter, things here in SoCal are quite balmy.

    I’m painfully aware of your insistence upon holding onto disproven beliefs, & you’re absolutely entitled to hang onto that position even though some of the world’s best scholars have shown how, exactly, how the text could not have been written by 1 man. Scholarship also shows where various different streams — multiple stories — have been stitched together.

    1 example — the 2 different creation fables in Genesis. I won’t go into all the differences, but in the 1st, the authors have the character “God” creating humanity — both male & female, while in the 2nd Adam is created 1st & Eve later — in the earliest known written tale (I spelled it right, this time) of surgery.

    Also, by comparing literary styles & word usage, it becomes obvious that at least 2 different individuals wrote the book attributed to someone known as Isaiah.

    There’s no way I’m going to give a class in the documentary hypothesis of biblcal authorship here, especially because there are others who are more qualified than I am, so echoing some famous words, the rest is commentary, go & study. :)

  95. Daniel Marks

    “is it possible that you didn’t like the page because you weren’t at its center? Or that the material discussed was a tad too difficult?” -

    Yes, those are both possibilities and I’m honestly not ruling them out.

    Also there were some extremely long postings without any clear focus of the discussion.

    Maybe I’m wrong and it was all really great. I’m often wrong.

    Actually, documentary hypothesis of biblcal authorship might liven things up. I like it very much. Anyway Greg, since when has ignorance stood in our way of “giving classes”?

  96. “Actually, documentary hypothesis of biblcal authorship might liven things up. I like it very much. Anyway Greg, since when has ignorance stood in our way of “giving classes”?”

    I defer to the experts, some of the best being in Jerusalem. Perhaps you could audit some classes @ either:

    The Schechter Institutes affiliated w/ JTS (Conservative): 4 Avraham Granot St., Jerusalem, Israel, 91160, tel: 972-747-800-600, pr@schechter.ac.il, http://www.schechter.edu, or

    HUC-JIR (Reform): 13 King David Street
    Jerusalem 94101, Israel (02) 620-3333, FAX (02) 625-1478.

  97. Avraham Reiss

    Mike,
    did your comment “Scum-supporting cousin” refer to my one-time agreement with Daniel (that his previous post be deleted), or to my life-long support of Manchester United?

    If the latter, I protest!

  98. david kornbluth

    Greg dearest I hope the heat isn’t too opressive, but if you can read you will see that I wrote that the tenach is written by various men all inspired with ruach hakodesh.

    Your reaponse makes me wonder what if anything gives your “stream” the right to the name Jewish, are you not in truth much more akin to Christianity vol. 2

    No offence is intended and I hope none taken.

  99. Avraham Reiss

    Greg,
    “I’m painfully aware of your insistence upon holding onto disproven beliefs”

    Oxymorons are usually cynical in nature (such as “military intelligence”), but you’ve created a real non-cynical oxymoron: disproven beliefs.

    The moment a belief can be proven, it’s no longer a belief, so by its very nature, a belief is always unproven.

    “some of the world’s best scholars” – I challenge that claim.

  100. Mark Goldman

    David wrote:

    “We believe that all tanach is written down physically by a man the original scribe but they are all written with at least ruach hakodesh, and the torah itself which is straight from G-d”

    Please can you clarify the above, and also your last comment:

    “the tenach is written by various men all inspired with ruach hakodesh”

  101. No offence taken.

    I’m glad you understand human authorship. Too many readers do not.

    While it is quite difficult to define what makes one a Jew, it is very easy to determine who is a Christian. Christians believe in Jesus as their personal Savior.

    So in the most simple terms, Liberal Judaism — of all stripes — certainly does not teach the divinity of Jesus, therefore we cannot be called Christian.

    That major difference aside, it can be said that liberal Jews have more in common w/ liberal Christians than w/ orthodox Jews. The reverse is also true — that those who are orthodox share a similar outlook — be they Jewish or Christian.

    Liberals are less likely to argue w/ liberals than they would w. orthodox, & orthodox are less likely to argue w/ orthodox than w/ liberals — be they Christian or Jewish.

    It’s all about approach & world view.

  102. Avraham, in spite of your “Cousin” status, I am afraid that your days on this blog may well be numbered if you continue to bait my respected reader from Ma’ale Adumim. In the past, you have used the “He started” argument to defend your provocations . . . but it one which is starting to wear thin.

    I have just returned from (the pleasure of) meeting David Kornbluth for the first time, after he called during a visit to Ir HaKodesh. David caused confusion on Rothschild, with his black velvet kippa and hanging tzitzis contrasting strikingly with his pink Crocs and his “hitting on” every remotely attractive Tel Avivit under the pretence of needing a light!

  103. Avraham Reiss

    Mike, Daniel as well,

    Apart from what I wrote re Daniel’s suggestion to end this thread, everything I’ve written today that touches on Daniel has been intended in good-natured humour. (I certainly didn’t use words like ‘scum’).

  104. Avraham Reiss

    ” David caused confusion on Rothschild, with his black velvet kippa and hanging tzitzis ”

    that’s what I asked in the first place.

  105. David Kornbluth

    Mike at al.

    It was a pleasure meeting you, and only more pleasurable was the well behaved little cute dogs that you let me lead. Despite my fear of Tel Avivian canines.

    That said we did ask for kippa style and color to remain confidential as mr. Reiss has such problems with the style of head covering warn or not by commenters on your marvelous Blog.

    That said, if it was going to become an issue i would have hoped for more than a mere comment and more like a developed masterfully written piece like your Hasmonean writings…
    When is the next one due our prolific writing family member.?.

    P.S. on a slightly more worrying note if you think that asking someone for a light is hitting on a “Tel Avivit” that may explain your single status and i would be happy to provide tips on actual dating technique :-)

    In case any readers are wondering i would never actually hit on someone describable as “remotely attractive”. :-) for fear of rejection. :-) :-)

  106. David Kornbluth

    Mark,

    Hi, i will try to answer your question if it is that,

    Orthodox Jewry believes in the Orthodox Rabbis who all agree that the Tenach as a whole was written by men it did not fall from heaven but that the men who put pen to paper or more likely quill to parchment did so using divine inspiration as to what to write.

    That said the Torah the first section of the Tenach, standing for Torah, Neveim and Ketuvim was written by moses although it is also clear that the part up until the giving of the Torah at Sinai was given to Moses by man.

    Now the most sensible explanation for how the rest was written by moses and then Yehoushua is that at Sinai all the remaining letter were also given to Moses our greatest leader, but without any spaces. Thus as time went on it was evident where the spacing was to go and the torah became the finished masterpiece, this explanation ties in with the view that the Torah has always existed, before time itself.

    Sorry if this was too simplified or some such, just trying to answer your question as best as i can with my limited knowledge.

    If your comment was a remark on my comments not being clear i hope this is clearer.

  107. David Kornbluth

    Sorry spotted that man should say G-d;. at the end of the paragraph

    That said the Torah the first section of the Tenach, standing for Torah, Neveim and Ketuvim was written by moses although it is also clear that the part up until the giving of the Torah at Sinai was given to Moses by man.

  108. David Kornbluth

    Greg.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    I get as this is your second time writing that you have more in common with liberal Christians, and do not believe in Yoshki.

    However the question was really asking what makes you cling to the belief that you are practicing a valid form of Judaism.

    If as you say you believe that much of what i for one consider holy is buba meissess, then why on earth do you cling to the title Jewish?

    So your approach and world view are liberal very commendable unless you believe that liberals are the cause of all the divorce, thus crime and broken homes, thus drugs, lack immigration thus islamification etc. etc. of the western world.

    But your questionable but laudable world view is not at issue. The issue is your religion.

    Do you have one and is it in any honest form Judaism.

  109. Avraham Reiss

    quotes:
    1.
    David caused confusion on Rothschild, with his black velvet kippa and hanging tzitzis

    2.
    That said we did ask for kippa style and color to remain confidential as mr. Reiss has such problems with the style of head covering warn or not by commenters on your marvelous Blog.
    That said, if it was going to become an issue i would have hoped for more than a mere comment and more like a developed masterfully written piece like your Hasmonean writings…
    When is the next one due our prolific writing family member.?.
    unquotes

    What I object to is someone appearing as what he is not.

    Let’s keep this at the theoretical level, and not make it personal; should I ask some imaginary correspondent (Mike: note – 2 ‘r’s this time) if I am correct that from his style of preaching I deduct that he is charedi, and he blows up clouds of smoke and pink kippot but does not admit to wearing a black kippah, and I subsequently find out that he does in fact wear a black kippah, then I must assume that he is exploiting the anonimity of a blog, for purposes left to each reader’s imagination.

    I personally don’t have any problem with whatever color kippah a person wears. I do have a problem with disguises.

    Israel was at birth a tribal nation, and it still is today. I just want to know to which tribe each person belongs.

    Wearing a kippah is probably one of the most insignificant mitzvot, if it is in itself a mitzva. Its chief characteristic is that of “customs accepted by Israel become law”
    מנהג ישראל דין הוא

    When I see someone wearing a black kippah, I know that I have ideological differences with him
    that result in differences in his and my daily behaviour and routines.

    The same can certainly be said when I see a bare-headed person.

    The type of kippah and the very act of wearing or not wearing one, is thus also a social statement, a declaration of belief. It enables me to adapt to the relevant reaction required for each person.
    With Mike, for example, I understand that women is a good subject for discussion, and with a charedi I’d have to talk about … money. (I don’t say that charedim aren’t interested in women, but they aren’t supposed to talk about them).

    it would not be difficult to enter a blog under an assumed name, to present weak arguments from the side opposite to that which I believe in, so that they could be “knocked down” by others, and thus weaken the opposing side’s “case”.

    It’s not much different from what I began talking about here.

    When I read “we did ask for kippa style and color to remain confidential”, it does raise cause for thought.

  110. David Kornbluth

    Sirs,

    A wise man perhaps once said

    A fool contributes nothing worth hearing and takes offense at everything. ( Aristotle)

    Now you may and will object to someone appearing as he is not with pleasure. But i respectfully suggest you try to determine who people are by more than the kippa on their head.

    Now i am not Russian at all, but they have an expression which bears ample consideration – When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart.

    Good day to you sir.

  111. Avraham Reiss

    Greg,

    [quote]
    Also, by comparing literary styles & word usage, it becomes obvious that at least 2 different individuals wrote the book attributed to someone known as Isaiah.
    [unquote]

    Remonds me of the claim that Shakespeare did not write the works attributed to him, rather they were written by another man with the same name …

    [quote]
    Avraham asks where — in my words here — orthodoxy departs from torah. I offer this 1 quickie …

    Torah says not to cook a calf in its mother’s milk. From this you get no cheesburgers? (Do they serve cheeseburgers @ Burger Ranch?)

    That particular fance around the torah misses the point entirely! If (as it is here in the Colonies) one’s beef comes from Kansas & the cheese comes from Wisconsin, just who’s calf are we cooking in whose milk?
    [unquote]

    (For a continuation of Greg’s words here, see what he wrote on January 4, 2010 at 3:11 am)

    - Greg,

    I’m not going to invest the time required to give you a detailed answer to the above (to be honest I won’t know the answer unless I look it up), but very basically you apparently do not accept the basic tennet of Judaism that the Oral Law was given on SInai together with the written law (the Torah, the 5 Books of Moses).

    The Oral Law was Oral until exile was imminent, and was then written in the form of the Mishna.
    The Talmud, the Gemara, developed from this. Answers to the questions you have posed here – which are IMHO valid questions – would be found at the various levels of the Oral Law.

    One example (from Maimonides) regarding what I have said here is the subject of Tephilin.
    Without the Oral Law, we would not have the faintest idea what Tephilin were supposed to look like, or how to make them.

  112. You write that at least part of the torah was given to Moses by man. OK, I buy the man part.

    As for the rest of everything given to Moses as letters w/o spaces, by me that’s meshuggas. If you were to look @ it logically, it just doesn’t hold water.

    I believe that there was a man known as Jesus who probably was some kind of teacher w/ a new twist on Judaism that pissed off the authorities. The details may or may not be true & I’m quite sure that the church fathers who heavily edited the Christian scriptures put lotsa words in Jesus’ mouth — things he probably wouldn’t hqave said. What I don’t believe is his resurection & claims to divinity.

    Liberals are not the cause of all the evils in today’s society which you list. Many of them also exist in traditional communites (even if sub rosa).

    You’re correct — I do not believe that the TSBP was given @ Sinai.

  113. David Kornbluth

    All the evils are present in mans nature its liberals who have encouraged them to run rampant and out of control. Perhaps :-)

  114. Avraham Reiss

    Greg,

    “You’re correct — I do not believe that the TSBP was given @ Sinai.”

    - in which case we have no base for further discussion, but I would ask you: do you put on tephillin in the morning; if so, from where do you learn how they should be made?

  115. Mark Goldman

    David, thanks for your response to my question, where you wrote:

    Now the most sensible explanation for how the rest was written by moses and then Yehoushua is that at Sinai all the remaining letter were also given to Moses our greatest leader, but without any spaces. Thus as time went on it was evident where the spacing was to go and the torah became the finished masterpiece, this explanation ties in with the view that the Torah has always existed, before time itself.

    Sensible? Really?

    Please don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not trying to be antagonistic. Just trying to fathom how a smart and reasoning adult, can think this explanation is in any way “sensible”.

  116. David Kornbluth

    Mark,

    I see that you didn’t like the posed explanation i will try to explain why I find it poetic and sensible, it is an explanation that explains how the latter portion of the Torah was in existence before being written by Moshe, but how Moshe was still able to lead the people in a way that was not like listening to a broken record, (as otherwise he would have known what was coming had he been the recipient of the entire Torah like the spies sin !)

    Now there are other explanations too, however this is my personal favorite. To help clarify there are a lot of examples in Tenach where prophecy to a Profit was withheld on personal matters, as not to do so would make life untenable.

    Mark, Judaism is a belief one that i think is well based in the mere survival of such a hated bunch that can be no small fluke, we say on Pessach that in every generation they rise up to kill us, and the stories of people like Rav Moshe Feinstein can hardly fail to make an impression on even the most agnostic, if studied. However the Torah itself is also beautiful and reasoned and deep so without further proofs study of it will enrich ones life even without a commitment to be “religious”.

    If one considers archeological finds and visible sites around Israel and Egypt it makes one think, how can one for example see the cave of the Machpela in Chevron and not feel emotionally that this is proof all is exactly as written, or the Kotel for that matter a wall that defies logic by standing where war knows no end, simply as G-d has given us a little help to believe.

    I really don’t want to discuss brains as normally i feel like a silly kid (something i really recommend) and einstein was an agnostic so all that brains can do is help you jump further from the truth in the smallest number of steps. I will ask you this how is it that a person can believe that the world was created by chance.

    If i thought that the world was created by chance i would personally see no point in life as indeed there would be no point. Why if there is no meaning to life and purpose be a good person at all? Why claim to be moral if one is merely the product of one big bang and lots of procreation down the line? I hope this is worthy of discussion and not a stupid question, not being very smart i find it interesting ((Despite graduating law and an MBA top of 2 classes, i never appear overly intelligent)

    This perhaps it was why Voltaire wrote, If G-d did not exist it would be necessary to invent Him.

  117. David,

    It seemed to me you were looking for a “big bang” on Rothschild, yesterday afternoon.

    And if it wasn’t for the orange jumper/black velvet kippa/pink shoes/hanging tzitzis combo – not to mention the slightly transparent (since it was used on almost every female we passed) “Have you got a light, please?” chat-up line – I think you’d have been in with a reasonable shout!

  118. Daniel Marks

    Biblical Analysis

    Firstly, Avraham, I didn’t take offense at being called “scum”. Especially not by someone of your caliber.

    Secondly, Greg, I have been to some lectures on biblical analysis and the documentary hypothesis and I’ve even read a book or two on the subject. I too am no expert on the subject though among those who know absolutely nothing about the subject I can usually bluff it.

    Basically, I accept most of its basic tenets as they’re quite hard to disprove if you keep an open mind. I once went to a lecture where a religious professor (or doctor, I forget) from Bar Ilan argued that it is possible to both accept the hypothesis and remain a G-d-fearing Jew, ten years later I can’t really do justice to everything that he said, but I remember that various commentators (possibly Ibn Ezra was among them) also did not discount the possibility that the latest parts of the Torah, concerning the period after Moshe Rabeinu’s death were written, not by Moshe but another prophet.

    On the one hand I have long concluded that either the documentary hypothesis is correct or that G-d went out of his way to write the Torah in a way that we would think its is. However, I’ve always had problems with the “Our G-d is a Prankster” theories.

    On the other hand I try to remain a God-fearing Jew by not mixing up between theology and science, archaeology etc which today don’t always reach the conclusions I’d like them too.

  119. David Kornbluth

    Chaps,

    Biblical bangs aside, and it is well known that Moses didn’t write the section of Torah relating to the time after his death, Yehoshua Bin Nin did.

    The real question is not who wrote what or when.

    A person must ask himself is there a G-d or is this life one random fluke.

    Now if you think its random and we are originated from monkeys i can only offer you a banana.

    However if you believe there is a G-d, what pray tell was his purpose in creating the world.

    Know we know as a certainty that G-d can’t be proven or disproved – but we also know there is a bible, and a tradition of Judaism that goes back to the dawn of man – the first Holy book of Kabballa was written by Adam Harishon, or given to him by the Malach after who it is named, Azriel Hamalach.

    Now if there is a G-d and you were fortunate enough to be born into a religion that dates back to the dawn of time, doesn’t it make more sense to actually study those books that have stood the test of time and scrutiny of scholars for certuries than the thoughts of some 21st century academic?

  120. David Kornbluth

    p.s. who would have thought that getting a light would have proved so difficult..

  121. “….the first Holy book of Kabballa was written by Adam Harishon, or given to him by the Malach after who it is named, Azriel Hamalach.”-

    David, As I hear that you ” graduated law and an MBA top of 2 classes..” I have no doubt that you are talking from a historiosophical standpoint.

    It would be wrong for any less informed readers of this excellent blog to go away with the impression that Orthodox Judaism believes every midrashic story or line of Kabbala to be factually true from a historical point of view.

    For example, we don’t really think that the mountains argued over who would receive the Torah or that G-d, Moses, the Egyptians and the Canaanites all shouted “Viy” when the children of Israel left Egypt.

    Nor is there any evidence that the authors of these intended them to be taken literally. Commentators usually distinguish between pshat (simple or literal meaning) and drash (what else can be learned) too.

    Philosophically there may be some Jews who maintain that Adam wrote parts of the Kabbala. This is not mentioned in the Torah, or to the best of my knowledge in the Talmud either. However, even though you graduated law and an MBA top of 2 classes, I think you’d be hard pressed to either prove it or to convince, say the Rambam, that this is correct.

    Regarding “chat-up lines”, the venerable Nick Kopaloff was fond of using, “Hello, I’m Nick. Do you want to get off with me.” It even worked once with a very attractive young lady. You may want to say “David” rather than “Nick”, however, and leave the “graduating law and an MBA top of 2 classes” till afterwards too. It’s a bit of a turn off.

  122. David Kornbluth

    Daniel,

    You write, “It would be wrong for any less informed readers of this excellent blog to go away with the impression that Orthodox Judaism believes every midrashic story or line of Kabbala to be factually true from a historical point of view.”

    The authorship of Azriel Hamalch is not a matter of midrash or kabballa it is a purely historical question and the only answer we have to that is the attested authorship as passed down over the centuries and not contested by anyone else.
    So from a technical standpoint what other standpoint is there than a historical one.?

    Thanks for the tips on getting (un)”lucky” however i am not a chat up line user, never have been and never will be. Its in the smile for those readers who need tips in this area.

    That said you my co-commenter are now talking from your own beliefs when it comes to the Rambam, sure i can’t prove anything about him but nor can you.

    Why are people unable to discuss the deeper questions here?

    Much as i am most interested in your views on whatever chat up technique i may or may not have, sadly having not met you i call into question your ability to form a view at all at this time, however i think that we should be able to have a discussion on the meaning of life despite that little lack in my life.

  123. Avraham Reiss

    Daniel,

    [quote]
    but I remember that various commentators (possibly Ibn Ezra was among them) also did not discount the possibility that the latest parts of the Torah, concerning the period after Moshe Rabeinu’s death were written, not by Moshe but another prophet.
    [unquote]

    A scholar of your ilk surely must have learned the 1st chap. of Bava Batra, wherein is discussed the identity of of the author of the last eight sentenses of the Torah, decribing Moshe’s death and its follow-up. The question is: how could Moshe have written them?

    The Gemara offers two solutions:

    1. Moshe did in fact write them, under prophecy, and in tears.

    2. Joshua wrote the last 8 sentences.

    [quote]
    On the other hand I try to remain a God-fearing Jew by not mixing up between theology and science, archaeology etc which today don’t always reach the conclusions I’d like them too.
    [unquote]

    That’s a good approach, although – again – a scholar of your ilk can go deeper. Rabbi Avraham Kook says explicitly that there cannot be a contradiction between science and Torah. What appear to be contradictions are unproven scientific theories. Even Darwin’s Theory is not a problem for Rabbi Kook – although he points out that this is also an unproven theory – because if Man is descended from apes etc,then we see that:
    1. there is a program of improvement, the world is gradually ascending, and
    2. if there is a program, perforce there must be a Programmer.

    (The limited charedi intellect cannot fathom such an approach: try expounding Darwin in a charedi shul …)

    Rabbi Kook says that Man’s understanding of his universe, i.e the laws of science, are revealed to him gradually, in stages, in parallel to his increasing wisdom. For example, had the Law of Gravity (the only law fully obeyed by all in Israel) been known two thousand years ago, Man would have understood it in a primitive fashion, would not have built tall buildings, etc.

    Interesting to note that the Zohar – the Kabalah – written 2K years ago, states explicitly that the world is round, that when in one place it is nighttime, in another it is daytime, and that there are places where there are only a few hours of darkness or daylight (the poles).

    1500 years later, Columbus set out and proved this to the world.

    Germs are also mentioned in the Zohar: (quote from memory): “the air is filled with tiny, invisible things, that were we able to see them, we would say ‘how can we possibly stay alive?’.

  124. David Kornbluth

    PS. Sometime a light really is just a light.
    :-)

  125. David Kornbluth

    Hope you all have an inspirational day :-)

  126. David Kornbluth

    Does anyone know a good shrink, i think i am addicted to this Blog ! :-(

  127. Avraham Reiss

    [quote]
    Biblical bangs aside, and it is well known that Moses didn’t write the section of Torah relating to the time after his death, Yehoshua Bin Nin did.
    [quote]

    “It is well known ..” – rhubarb!

    I refuted the above in my previous post, quoting the Talmudic source. Namely, that one possibility was that Moshe wrote under prophecy.

  128. David Kornbluth

    Thank you Mr. Reiss

    I also followed the logic of your earlier exceptionally well written and researched piece and its meaning for my earlier post which follows that section of your quoted Gemarah that personally i prefer.

  129. I wonder how many Haredim would go to a doctor whose knowledge of biology was not based on the assumptions of evolution.

    “The authorship of Azriel Hamalch is not a matter of midrash or kabballa it is a purely historical question and the only answer we have to that is the attested authorship as passed down over the centuries and not contested by anyone else…”

    1. The Kuzari was discussed on this page earlier. When the Kuzari asks the rabbi why he begins Jewish history from Egypt and not the creaton of the world, his answer is that at the time of creation there was no tradition or witnesses. It is just speculation. The Ramban in his first verse of Genesis where he also explains that up until the flood the stories can’t be taken literally.

    There is no non-kaballistic tradition that I know of stating that angels wrote the Kabbala.

    If you say that you know an angel wrote the Kabbala because it says so in the Kabbala and you know that to be true because it was written by an angel, then you’ve reached a classic situation of circular reasoning.

    There is a tradition of Kabbala within Judaism which, unlike halacha, is not universally accepted among rabbanim at any level and can thus not be deemed to be a fact.

    Finally, I have no good pick-up lines of my own to offer you as I’ve been out of the game so long and I wasn’t great at it then either. I would recommend Malcolm Myers as a great expert but he’s now a Vishnizer chossid and has long forgotten all about the pleasure of the flesh.

    As far as finding a good shrink, my only word of advice would be not to waste your money on Avraham Reese’s, he’s useless.

  130. David Kornbluth

    LOL, Marks you killed me.

  131. Avraham Reiss

    Marks,

    “As far as finding a good shrink, my only word of advice would be not to waste your money on Avraham Reese’s, he’s useless.”

    The name is spelled Reiss, but otherwise I agree with Marks. HIS shrink has brought him up to the capability to write simple sentences, and join in the more simplistic discussions held here. Excellent professional work!

    “I also followed the logic of your earlier exceptionally well written and researched piece ”

    - thank you, but it wasn’t researched. It’s all part of my basic knowledge and hashkafah.

    ——————————————————————————————
    my days may be numbered, but my nights are never-ending

  132. david kornbluth

    Mr. Reiss

    Something tells me though doest protest too much.

    Good day Sir

  133. Daniel Marks

    Sorry about spelling Reiss erroneously. PG It won’t happen again.

    My only excuses are my own senility, and your having so many names that and it’s hard to remember them all.

    How is Adrian? We haven’t heard much from him, of late.

    Back to Dave Kornbluth’s pick-up lines, I did remember one.

  134. Adrian Reiss

    “How is Adrian? We haven’t heard much from him, of late.”

    I’m trying to work on a principle similar to that of Yediot Achronot: bad news in red headlines, good news in blue.

    “Avraham” is for the serious stuff (those converstaions you sometimes have difficulty following, Daniel) and “Adrian” for the frivolent stuff – like this post ..

    I don’t guarantee consistency.

  135. David wrote:

    “I will ask you this how is it that a person can believe that the world was created by chance”

    David, in no way did I mean to infer that the world was created by chance. I was merely commenting on your explantation of the Torah being in existence before being written by Moshe. As you wrote:

    “the most sensible explanation,,, all the remaining letters were also given to Moses our greatest leader, but without any spaces”

    If we’re being honest, I think that the theory that the Torah was written by different scribes at different times, i.e. a human endeavour seems much more sensible.

    As Daniel wrote:

    “…either the documentary hypothesis is correct or G-d went out of his way to write the Torah in a way that we would think it is”

    Of course, you’re entitled to your belief that the Torah was written (directly or not) by God. However, I think you’re being less than intellectually honest when you attempt to resolve obvious contradictions with fantastical explantations.

  136. Avraham Reiss

    quote]
    If we’re being honest, I think that the theory that the Torah was written by different scribes at different times, i.e. a human endeavour seems much more sensible.
    [unquote]

    - on such glib, unsupported comments, the Maharal of Prague (who created a golem centuries before the Hasmonean went into mass-production) would probably have commented:
    ‘sensible’ attributes the limited capabilities of the Human mind to a deistic work.
    One cannot question if the Torah was or was not created dictated by G-d using only
    subjective human capabilities.

    To which I would humbly add the Medrash: הסתכל באורייתא וברא את עולמו
    - the world was created from the blue-print of the Torah.

  137. Daniel Marks

    “One cannot question if the Torah was or was not created dictated by G-d using only subjective human capabilities…”-

    I agree. However, the Torah was written for us (not for heavenly angels) and in the language of man.

    I don’t think that documentary hypothesis is a “glib, unsupported comment”. I think that most people who read it with an open mind and without the preconceived notion that they can’t acknowledge the possibility of it making sense, without becoming apostates will come to the conclusion that it has a strong internal logic and is for the most part consistent.

    I also think that Christian fundamentalists who have fought against it have influenced mainly haredi, but sometimes some modern-orthodox Jews too, to believe that it cannot be reconciled with a belief in a living G-d.

    In the same way as we don’t expect our kids’ teachers in science class to teach Yad Hahazaka and our medical schools don’t exclusively teach the cures offered in the gemara, why should we deny the progress that G-d had given the wise the intellect to discover and teach?

  138. Avraham Reiss

    Daniel,

    the sum of your posts that I have read until now leads me to assume that you are – like myself – an orthodox believer. It on this assumption that I comment on your last post.

    Last week, when I posted my “Burger Ranch” example, I wrote as follows:

    A legalist and philosopher accepted by all – Maimonides – laid down 13 Principles of the Faith (which can be found in most sidurim following shacharit).

    Principle no. 8 states that the entire Torah currently before us, was given to Moses on Sinai.

    Principle no. 9 states that this Torah will never be altered or replaced.

    This negates all possibility for an orthodox believer to credit a theory attributing authorship of the Torah to ‘a number of scribes’.

    I repeat my statement that documentary hypothesis is an unsupported claim. I haven’t seen proof (I don’t believe there can be proof) of this. So for the sake of consistency I would expect you to disassociate yourself from this theory. (I’m not saying that I think you suscribe to it in the first palce).

    However, I do agree – to a modified extent – with something else you wrote:

    [start quote]
    I agree. However, the Torah was written for us (not for heavenly angels) and in the language of man.

    …… I think that most people who read it with an open mind and without the preconceived notion that they can’t acknowledge the possibility of it making sense, without becoming apostates will come to the conclusion that it has a strong internal logic and is for the most part consistent.
    [end quote]

    I would modify the above by clarifying that The Torah having been written for us -
    לא בשמים היא
    - it was given in a way that does enable the discussion currently open.

    The Lubavitche Rebbe – I am not a follower – is credited with saying that if G-d decided overnight to suddenly place a mountain in the center of town, and people would wake up next morning and see it for the 1st time, any subsequent geological examination would give results saying that the mountain was some 2 million years old, because that is the way it was created overnight.

    The Torah was thus given in a fashion that enables such discussions, making belief a matter of free will and not an obligation.

    So it doesn’t weaken my belief that the ‘number of scribes’ theory has – in your words – ” a strong internal logic”. I’d even go one further, and say that my belief may have less internal logic than the discussed theory.

    Which all points to the relationship between logic and belief, and the proportions each control in our lives.

  139. Daniel Marks

    Avraham,

    “Principle no. 8 states that the entire Torah currently before us, was given to Moses on Sinai.

    Principle no. 9 states that this Torah will never be altered or replaced.”

    As a religious Jew I fully accept the Rambam’s articles of faith. Incidentally, I also accept the Rambam’s attitude to sacrifices and that of the Ramban that contradicts it.

    I accept the little I know about Jewish mysticism and the Rambam’s negation of it. I accept the authenticity of the Guide to the Perplexed and that of those who wrote books leading to it being burnt. Both these and those are the words of a Living G-d.

    All that, in my mind has nothing to do with documentary hypothesis. Would be excommunicate a religious archaeologist if he declares a find to be 10,000 years old? Would we criticize a biologist who claims that lice can reproduce as opposed to the gemara’s contention that they don’t? Would we call a doctor who tells uncles and nieces not to marry as prescribed by the gemara an apikorus? Jewish astronomers who claim that the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth? We both know all the examples.

    For haredim it’s easy. They don’t teach their children modern sciences. If they need a doctor they go to a hiloni, one of us or a haredi who studied abroad.

    We don’t have that luxury. We believe in the sanctity of the State of Israel and encourage our children to learn all these subjects.

    How do we do that without feeling that we’re in a constant struggle with the gemara or the Rambam?

    We compartmentalize. When we’re learning about biology we forget about Genesis, when we’re learning Midrash we forget about archaeology. When we study documentary hypothesis we forget about the Sforno and when we study read Nehammah Leibowitz we forget about documentary hypothesis.

    The funny thing is that, based on everything you’ve written recently, I’m sure you already knew everything I just wrote.

    Regards,

  140. Avraham Reiss

    Daniel,

    Since we’re basically in full (theological) agreement, I’ll just take up two of the points you
    brought up here.

    1.
    [quote]
    Would be excommunicate a religious archaeologist if he declares a find to be 10,000 years old? Would we criticize a biologist who claims that lice can reproduce as opposed to the
    gemara’s contention that they don’t? Would we call a doctor who tells uncles and nieces not
    to marry as prescribed by the gemara an apikorus? Jewish astronomers who claim that the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth? We both know all the examples.
    [unquote]

    (i) A religious archeologist would correctly state: ‘according to the rules of our science,
    this find appears to be 10,000 years old’. That places the onus of proof on the relevant science, not on the archeologist.

    However, Harav Kook relates to this (Igrot HaReiyah), recalls the medrash “G-d created
    worlds and destroyed them” – that could have happened on this physical world, which would then be much older than 5770 years.

    When I saw for the first time a close-up photo of a small rock on Mars, taken by the 1st landing-craft, I couldn’t help wondering if G-d had maybe enabled science to achieve this amazing photograph, to reveal the desolation of Mars as a ‘previously destroyed civilization’, as some kind of ‘hint’ to Mankind. Far-fetched, I know, but … maybe …

    Again, the Acts of Creation (Maasei Bereshit) are foggy; the sun and moon were created on
    the 4th day, so the 1st 3 days could have been millions of years each – if the sun hadn’t yet been created, Mother Earth had nothing to revolve around for the 1st 3 days of creation …

    (ii) Biologist and reproducing lice – easy to say that two different types of lice are being
    discussed. But in general, on materialistic points
    הודו חכמי ישראל לחכמי אומות העולם
    - our sages accepted the superiority of the knowledge of non-Jewish sages, on (some)
    materialistic matters.

    (iii) Doctors, uncles and nieces – observing a medical chumra is acceptable. Given that
    (according to Rashi) Rivka was 3 years old when she met Eliezer at the well, Man could have
    changed physically – it’s accepted that one does not use the medicines and treatments
    prescribed in the Gemara. (This includes me, even though I have Kupat Cholim Mushlam!)

    (iv) As for Jewish astronomers – if their knowledge is not Toranic in source, they do not
    oblige in any way. Joshua told the sun to stand still – some feat, when it wasn’t actually

    moving …
    (דיבר יהושע בלשון בני אדם)

    But what I really wanted to comment on is your point about compartmentalizing. It’s an excellent working solution, and that’s how people think, but not an ideal solution.

    Man’s striving should be towards total harmony. Compartmentalizing is the separation of opposing matters so that both can exist side by side, as you well demonstrated.

    The striving for the future is to get them living side by side all in one sphere. The Tanach talks about the wolf living with the lamb, and that is an extreme example of the whole concept.

    ביום ההוא יהיה ה’ אחד ושמו אחד

  141. Daniel Marks

    Yup, I just don’t think we’ve reached the generation of the wolf living with the lamb yet.

    You probably know the story of the American visitor who, back in the 50s, was amazed to find an Israeli zoo with a wolf and a lamb in the same cage:

    “How do you guys do it?”, He asked in amazement.

    “That’s easy,” answered his guide, “we just change the lamb three times a day.”

    I think that for the moment compartmentalizing them into separate cages is the wisest course.

  142. Avraham Reiss

    “I think that for the moment compartmentalizing them into separate cages is the wisest course.”

    - you’ve just described the basis of our political system …

  143. Daniel Marks

    Hey, we all seem to be agreeing. You, me, Mark, Greg and my excellent self….yawn!

    It’s time for the author of this excellent blog to write a new page so we’ll have something to argue about.

  144. Daniel Marks

    Oh no! I mentioned myself twice. I really am becoming a little arrogant. Please correct.

  145. Avraham Reiss

    I was also beginning to think that its getting a little boring here ..

    where’s that guy with the dogs who likes to rattle our cages (mine, at least ..)?

  146. Avraham Reiss

    Zippi Livni? Dalia Itzik? Melchett Mike? A palestinian state? (Note: small ‘p’ in palestinian; anyone who objects can go take a small ‘p’). Burning people?

    There must be something to argue about …

  147. Daniel Marks

    Maybe we could try with the wife thing again? That wasn’t bad.

  148. Adrian Reiss

    I disagree. Livni and Itzik are sweet, sweet ladies. Melchett Mike is a renowned dog-lover and Blog-Master. A palestinian state would be ok – say, in Uganda. OR, under the ground, since Hamas seem to be very good at spelunking (and that’s a word you don’t hear too often. Thank you, Hamas).

    Burning people? Let’s leave that to the wog who brought it up …

  149. Adrian Reiss

    Tell you what, Daniel, we could start afresh with Mike’s wife. She doesn’t exist as yet, so it leaves plenty of scope for the imagination …

  150. I don’t know about “rattling [y]our cages”, Adrian . . . I’d rather just let you both sleep in them!

    Anyway, I am glad that it finally seems to have dawned on both you and Daniel that you have more in common than you thought . . . most notably, egos the size of Eylat’s thighs!

    As for me, I am putting the finishing touches to my latest masterpiece, Hasmo Legends XVIII . . . one has to give to give one’s public what it wants, hasn’t one?!

    At lunch with Mr. Kopaloff yesterday, the two best writers on this blog came up with the idea of a melchett mike shabbaton. Perhaps in Kibbutz Lavi, or somewhere on the coast (Nahariya?) What do you think?

    Anyway, Adrian and Daniel, give your fingers a rest for the night . . . or, at least, let them give some much-needed attention to the poor Mesdames Reiss and Marks.

    Laila tov,

    Mike

    PS How come there has not been so much as a single reference to my “strap-on protuberance”? You pervs normally love that stuff.

  151. Mike,

    are you running a Blog or a Pub.

    “give your fingers a rest for the night ” – you now have closing hours? :-)

  152. … forgot to add … I’ll have a glass of what that man on the floor is drinking …

  153. Right, Adrian, new rule . . .

    Think before hitting “Submit” (to get everything into a single post).

    Thanks.

  154. Could you fix up a weekend sans people who are allergic to some uses of empty paper bags?

    think … think … think …

    SUBMIT

  155. Mark Goldman

    Daniel, thanks for the great discussion. You wrote:

    “How do we do that without feeling that we’re in a constant struggle with the gemara or the Rambam?

    We compartmentalize. When we’re learning about biology we forget about Genesis, when we’re learning Midrash we forget about archaeology. When we study documentary hypothesis we forget about the Sforno and when we study read Nehammah Leibowitz we forget about documentary hypothesis”.

    So, bottom line, broadly speaking, from a rational perspective you find the documentary hypothesis convincing -i.e the Torah was not written by God. Nonetheless, you desire to set logic aside, and remain an orthodox Jew by “compartmentalizing” the rational from traditional Jewish belief. In essence, you ignore reason and logic. Do I have that right?

  156. Adrian Reiss

    No, you don’t.

    Daniel wrote about the theory that “it has a strong internal logic and is for the most part consistent” – that doesn’t make it conclusive, or force abandoning reason and logic.

    If it were that logical and conclusive , everyone who is not bound by religion would believe it. That certainly is not the case.

  157. Daniel Marks

    “….from a rational perspective you find the documentary hypothesis convincing -i.e the Torah was not written by God. Nonetheless, you desire to set logic aside, and remain an orthodox Jew by “compartmentalizing” the rational from traditional Jewish belief. In essence, you ignore reason and logic. Do I have that right?”

    Yes, and no. Firstly, I don’t think that there is only one form of logic. The gemara, for example, has its own rules of logic which must be used to understand it but may seem quite irrational in a different context. Learning a law from a superfluous word in a New York Times article may be a case in question. A banker may look at a rare coin but see just its face value, an artist may judge it by the design on it, a scientist may see it as just a piece of metal an historian may learn something completely different from it. Is one of them wrong? Of course not. A banker who understands history may compartmentalize and say that as a banker it’s a One Dollar coin worth 62 Pennies but as an artist it’s from the early part of Queen Victoria’s reign.

    We all compartmentalize. A gynecologist may look at naked women all day and then go to a strip club in the evening. How does he avoid seeing the stripper as just a piece of meat and his patients as sexual objects? He compartmentalizes. Incidentally, I think he will even be using different parts of his brain. Even our brain compartmentalizes. We are not yet capable of finding what Avraham has called the harmony between all types of knowledge and we don’t always have the time to try.

    So, once again. As a orthodox Jew I believe with a complete faith that the Torah was composed by G-d who dictated it to Moses our teacher. I also think that most people studying the documentary hypothesis with an open mind would be convinced that it has a strong internal logic and is for the most part consistent.

  158. Daniel Marks

    “At lunch with Mr. Kopaloff yesterday, the two best writers on this blog came up with the idea of a melchett mike shabbaton. Perhaps in Kibbutz Lavi, or somewhere on the coast (Nahariya?) What do you think?”

    Judging from the compliment Nick received I can guess who paid.

    I’d (We’d) be happy to come. Because Shabbat comes in early and we work on Friday, somewhere central would be better, but as ever I’ll accept a majority decision.

    Please try and persuade either Avraham, Osher, Shuli, Ex-Hasmo or David Kornbluth to come, so we’ll have someone to beat up on. If Mark flies in, he can be the Hazan. Greg can be our religious leader and if we have a problem with the minyan we can use one of Avrahams alter-egos for the tenth man.

    Kopaloff will be in charge of aliyot, as he’s thoroughly researched the question of late and Ellis can do his world renowned drag act.

  159. What aboutMike’s two dogs for making up the minyan? They’re probably no less religious than some of the types I’ve seen on this blog so far …

  160. Mark Goldman

    Daniel in response to my question:

    “Nonetheless, you desire to set logic aside, and remain an orthodox Jew by “compartmentalizing” the rational from traditional Jewish belief. In essence, you ignore reason and logic.”

    You wrote:

    “Yes, and no. Firstly, I don’t think that there is only one form of logic. The gemara, for example, has its own rules of logic which must be used to understand it but may seem quite irrational in a different context. Learning a law from a superfluous word in a New York Times article may be a case in question”.

    Daniel, I don’t believe your argument holds water.
    The gemara and the NY Times aren’t related in any way. The logic involved in studying either doesn’t invalidate the other since there’s no relationship whatsoever between the two. Two non intersecting realms if you will.
    If you’re saying ‘something can be logical and illogical at the same time’, then I think you’re substantiating my earlier comment “… you desire to set logic aside, and remain an orthodox Jew…In essence, you ignore reason and logic”.

    You continue with:

    “A banker may look at a rare coin but see just its face value, an artist may judge it by the design on it, a scientist may see it as just a piece of metal an historian may learn something completely different from it. Is one of them wrong? Of course not”.

    Again, forgive me, but I don’t think you’re being intellectually honest.

    A coin maybe seen as a piece of metal, or as a rare artifact depending upon ones perspective or interest. However, one perspective doesn’t in anyway negate the other. Not the case with the documentary hypothesis and orthodox Judaism. They ‘live’ in the same realm and do in fact negate each other. The can’t logically both be correct.

  161. Daniel Marks

    I disagree. I think that they can both be logically correct in the same way as the Torah has 70 sides to it which often contradict each other but they are all sides of the same diamond.

    We read every day in Shacharit about two writings that conflict with each other until the coming of the third that determines (or maybe synthesizes) between them. We just haven’t yet reached the state where we know the final truth to every question so in the meantime we study each area individually to the extent that our intellects allow us, and occasionally take of time, with good friends, to try and reconcile them too.

    Have to go, but if I have time I’ll write again before shababat.

    Shabbat shalom to all our readers and to all those in the galut may we be sacrificing together next shabbat in Jerusalem with all our contradictions sorted out by the Mashiach.

    I remembered that Mark is a Cohen, so try to get there early if you can.

  162. Nick Kopaloff

    I have been disinclined of late to submit to this excellent blog. On the one hand, I did not want to be seen to mock or disparage this gripping Halachic debate by what might be viewed by many of the learned contributors, as all too shallow heretical postings. On the other hand, I did not want to further jeopardize my already rocky minyan-counting eligibility status, which has already been called into question by certain orthodox elements, and which has aggrieved my good self in no small measure.

    Intimidation may also be part of my exile. Having not been accepted to the law department of the Hebrew University in 1983-84, I might have also become unsettled by David Kornbluth’s enviable marks in his law exams, which he felt the need to recall to us lesser mortals. Perhaps I was also jealous that Mike double-timed me, by having lunch with our above legal expert.

    Talking about lesser mortals, Ellis strangely has not felt the need to broadcast his thick resume of achievements, such as his uncanny ability to hot-wire a hooky car in seconds while blindfolded on shabbas without fear of criminal or heavenly retribution.

    I am reminded of a Hasmo trip to a modern art museum.
    The art expert was extolling the excellence of an unintelligible painting. I seem to recall that the translucence of the work was discussed, as was the continuity of line, the light, color, and the apparent psychology of the artist. In an inspired moment of indelible intellectual honesty, the great Hasmo hall-of-famer Philip Green shouted aloud. “I think it is a load of shit.”

    So thank you Philip, for green-carding me back to the blog, and an in-depth analysis of Daniel’s compartmentalizing theory will follow in which I will desist from making snide references Daniel’s new best buddy, the Double “A” Reiss himself, Adrian Avraham, my Man of the Year for 2009.

  163. Simon Kornbluth

    Can anyone help me with the following related question:

    If the Torah was written by man, what reason do we have to think it is in any way special? In other words, Reform Judaism becomes nice but not necessary.

  164. Jeremy Cohen

    Compartmentalization of contradictory notions does not render them harmonious. It is quite often a device to alleviate cognitive dissonance and the associated psychological discomfort.

    Two Notions:

    1) God dictated the Torah on Mt Sinai
    2) Humans wrote it without reference to God’s dictation.

    According to the systems of logic familiar to me, only one of these can be true. Of course I may be uncertain which is true and then both can coexist as possibilities. But to believe both are true flies in the face of every kind of logic I have ever encountered outside of “1984″. I have never seen anything in the Talmud that encourages us to believe in an Orwellian logic that permits mutually contradictory ideas to be simultaneously true.

    Certainly Rabbi Yishmael’s mishnah* does not allow us to make use of Doublethink.

    I grew up believing what I was taught at Menorah Primary School (Torah min haShamayim etc.) and was only later exposed to the ‘documentary hypothesis’ (DH). My initial reaction was to assume that there was a flaw in the DH logic that I was not clever enough to spot. That was comfortable for me as it allowed me to hold on to my existing beliefs (like Daniel Marks’ compartmentalization). It took some soul searching and some excruciating honesty to accept that the DH is not fundamentally flawed and that my beliefs were in need of scrutiny.

    At no point did I ever believe that both could be true. It just doesn’t make sense.

    The DH is compelling and those of us who believe in the divinity of the Torah would do well to take a leaf out of Daniel Marks’ book and admit that. But to take the notion of shiv’im panim laTorah and abuse it to justify a blatant contradiction is dishonest.

    Jeremy

    *is it a mishna? I am unsure. Someone please enlighten me.

  165. Mark Goldman

    Jeremy,

    Thanks for your post which I understand to be in total agreement with my earlier entry, and in rebuttal of what I feel is Daniel’s flawed logic. As I wrote:

    ” the documentary hypothesis and orthodox Judaism… ‘live’ in the same realm and do in fact negate each other. The can’t logically both be correct”.

    You conclude with:

    “At no point did I ever believe that both could be true. It just doesn’t make sense.

    The DH is compelling and those of us who believe in the divinity of the Torah would do well to take a leaf out of Daniel Marks’ book and admit that. But to take the notion of shiv’im panim laTorah and abuse it to justify a blatant contradiction is dishonest”.

    So, now I’m confused, which do you accept, the DH or the divinity of the Torah?

    Thanks so much in advance for clarifying.

  166. Daniel Marks

    Mark, Shavua Tov!

    I said it before but it bears repeating. We all compartmentalize. We just don’t all call it by name.

    I understand that you are a Reform cantor. Do you believe all the prayers that you sing? Do you refuse to sing the bits that you don’t believe in?

    Of course you don’t. You say, “Those are beliefs and this is my job.”

    Now back to 70 faces of the Torah. Let’s take a well known example:

    At the beginning of this week’s parsha Rashi reminds us that Rav and Shmuel disagreed as to whether the new king of Egypt was really new or as to whether he just renewed his decrees.

    From a historical point of view it seems that Rav and Shmuel cannot both be right. However, the Torah is not a history book and both Rav and Shmuel have lessons to teach us.

    Abraham Joshua Heschel a Conservative rabbi eloquently makes this point in his monumental work “The Insecurity of Freedom” (I paraphrase) that the biggest problem in studying the Bible is that we have forgotten which question the Bible is answering.

    Its purpose is to explain what G-d wants from Man.

    Biblical analyses seeks to answer other questions and uses different tools to do so.

    Simon wrote:

    “Compartmentalization of contradictory notions does not render them harmonious.”

    That is correct and neither is it supposed to. It’s supposed to provide a means by which a man (like myself) who is not an expert in many fields but has a smattering of knowledge about all of them can live in more than one world without forcing himself to choose either or.

    Most experts in the documentary hypothesis (both Jews and incidentally Christians too) are religious scholars who see it as a way to add another face to the 70 faces of the Torah. They know that the documentary hypothesis does not offer a way of life or an alternative to the Shulchan Aruch or Mishna Brura.

    There are also some whom for reasons of their own wish not to observe halacha and are happy to believe that the documentary hypothesis offers them a justification for doing so. “If it wasn’t written directly by G-d, why should I keep it?”

    That question is a deeply intimate one between them and their Maker and, naturally, I will express no opinion on the matter.

  167. Adrian Reiss

    Jeremy Cohen,

    [quote]
    I have never seen anything in the Talmud that encourages us to believe in an Orwellian logic that permits mutually contradictory ideas to be simultaneously true.
    [unquote]

    I can’t think off-hand of a Talmudic example (but I am no Talmid Chacham), but in theological mysticism – in one case at least – mutually contradictory ideas HAVE to be simultaneously true.

    I refer specifically to a sefer titled “Nefesh HaChayim” by Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin.
    There he discusses the Creation of this world, and asks as follows:

    Before the Creation of the world G-d filled the entire existance. If so, In order to create a physical world, he had to change some part of him to allow “space” for the physical world. So it looks as though G-d has changed … How is this possible?

    The answer is that 2 mutually contradictory ideas are simultaneously true. There are 2 aspects of looking at G-d since the Creation: from G-d’s point of view, he never changed, but from our point of view he did.

    The 2 ideas coexist.

    I don’t think that such exalted ideas should be discussed in places containing frivolous content of the type pushed upon us by Kopaloffs, maybe we can request from Mike the opening of a serious thread on Religion?

  168. Avraham Reiss

    Jeremy,

    Another thought on coexistance of contradictory ideas …

    A simplified explanation of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity by Russian scientist Lev Landau,
    runs as follows:

    A man is sitting in a moving train. He throws a ball up in the air and catches it as he falls.
    This happens as the train is passing thru a station, and thru the carriage window an observer watches the ball being thrown and caught .

    For the man sitting in the train, the path of the ball was directly up and down, in a straight line.
    For the observer on the platform, between the time the ball was thrown and the time it was caught, the train has moved some 10 or 20 yards, so its path was diagonally upwards, and then diagonally downwards.

    What was the true path of the ball?

    (Einstein’s innovation, of course, was that there was no true path – everything is relative).

  169. “I don’t think that such exalted ideas should be discussed in places containing frivolous content of the type pushed upon us by Kopaloffs…”

    If I’m not mistaken was the French writer Joseph Joubert who said, “There is always some frivolity in excellent minds; they have wings to rise, but also stray.”

  170. You’re barking up the wrong tree, Avraham. I’m all for frivolity. And not much for religion.

  171. Mark

    You said: “So, now I’m confused, which do you accept, the DH or the divinity of the Torah?”

    I did not say which I accept, just that both can’t be true simultaneously. And if you compartmentalize them to avoid cognitive dissonance, that’s fine as long as you don’t kid yourself that that means they’re both true.

    I had noticed that with the exception of Daniel Marks the Orthodox commenters here mostly had trouble accepting anything without a hechsher as true. I was admiring Daniel’s honesty in that he at least admitted that the DH made sense, even though he appears to continue believing in the divinity of the Torah notwithstanding the evidence.

    And to answer your other question, my personal belief is that the Torah was written solely by human beings and that God exists only by virtue of our belief in Him/Her. At least that’s my current position.

    Jeremy

  172. Daniel:

    My name is Jeremy, not Simon, athough I have a younger brother Simon in Ra’anana who also went to Hasmo. I digress.

    You said: “It [compartmentalization] is supposed to provide a means by which a man (like myself) who is not an expert in many fields but has a smattering of knowledge about all of them can live in more than one world without forcing himself to choose either or.”

    I think it is probably safe for you to evaluate your Jewish beliefs against the DH without worrying that the conclusions you reach will limit the worlds you may inhabit. If you don’t believe it safe, would you please articulate the dangers for me. My position is that if one world (in this case, the Torah min haShamayim world) is verifiably spurious, I do not want to inhabit it.

    Jewish sages do not ask us to ignore our senses or to distrust our intellects. Daniel, it seems that when you are faced with evidence that contradicts one of your beliefs, you recommend placing that belief out of reach of your analytical faculties. I think I understand why you like to do this but from my perspective, that is not the Jewish way.

    Jeremy

  173. Avraham Reiss

    Mike,

    “You’re barking up the wrong tree, Avraham. I’m all for frivolity. And not much for religion.

    OK, I do frivolity as well. But since our law-school reject promised us that [quote] “an in-depth analysis of Daniel’s compartmentalizing theory will follow” [unquote] it looks as if we’re in for a frivolous post on religion …

    That’s if he keeps his word …

  174. Dear Jeremy,

    I seem to have utterly failed to explain my view about compartmentalization, but I’ll try one last time.

    1. Different areas of study seek to answer different questions. Whilst the job of the scientist is to explain how things came about the job of the man of G-d is to explain why and in the case of Judaism, at least, what are the implications to man.

    2. In order to answer different questions, different tools of study and analyses are used. The same tools that are suitable for one area of study may be meaningless in another.

    3. The Torah makes no claim at being a history book, but a book explaining what G-d wants from man. Sometimes it is clear that G-d is talking in allegories, (like when G-d says that he will bring us on the wings of eagles) other times G-d makes use of anthropomorphism (G-d is a Man of War) and other times we get the impression that real life, maybe even historical situations are being described. There are also times when these distinctions are not clear. For example the Rambam claims that almost all the miracles described in the Torah were in fact dreams, not everyone agreed with him.

    4. The contention that the Bible is not a history book is not a recent invention to explain apparent contradictions. It is as old as halachic Judaism. For example, we all know the adage that the Torah was not written in chronological order. The first Ramban of Genesis is also a good case in question.

    5. This does not detract from the fact that the Torah is a true document, the basis of our written law and the most important document from which much of our oral law is learnt from.

    6. G-d also gave many of his creations the wisdom to explore the world and learn new truths that benefit mankind both directly and indirectly. We bless him for this.

    7. We believe that the more these sciences progress the more potential there shall be to understand G-d and his world to the limited extent that we can. We are grateful for this too.

    8. Science progresses and develops. Many things that were correct 50 years ago are considered wrong today. Likewise, we know that many truths of today will be refuted in the future and replaced by others. This does not mean that they are not true today. No rational person would refuse medical treatment today arguing that in 100 years it will be considered wrong. We make use of the truths that we have.

    9. Archaeologists don’t always agree with historians and psychologists don’t always agree with psychiatrists or with each other. This does not mean that one is correct and the other wrong.
    Rather than telling them to argue with each other until someone admits he’s wrong, we usually just let them get on, each one, with his job.

    10. This was quite a long posting and together with everything else I’ve written, I hope I have explained myself and what I mean by compartmentalization. I’m sure that many are unconvinced and that’s okay too.

    Shavua Tov

  175. I’ve been away @ a conference, so it’s taken me quite a while to respond …

    I have no problem wearing t’fillin made in the “tradtional” manner, but I do so because that is the way Jews lay t’fillin. Period.

    BTW you might be amused if not intrigued by this twist: there are some very liberal folk who are vegans (they eat no animal products whatsoever). I was @ a conference once where it was suggested that since they don’t eat cows, they ought not wear them. For that reason & because they raised the question of why “God’s words” should be hidden in a sealed box, they suggested that the batim be made of Lucite & tied on w/ colored ribbons.

    While I don’t subscribe to that notion, it does raise points at least worth considering.

  176. Avraham Reiss

    Greg,

    the only way you can know about tephillin having to be made as a sealed box, is from the Torah She’Baal Peh, the Oral Law, i.e. Mishna, Gemara and Halacha.

    The Gemara (Sanhedrin) even has one sage saying that the Hebrew word ‘totafot’ is actually African in origin. You don’t get much operational detail out of ‘frontlets’, and this is one example Rambam brings to prove how the 2 Torot – Written and Oral – are interwoven and inter-relying.

  177. If the whole torah, etc. were given to Moshe, how do you explain the variances that exist in the various codexes & the Dead Sea Scrolls?

    The need for moral guidance does not depend on whether the world was created by chance or by intelligent design. Simply because we are here, we all need moral guidance, if for nothing more than to make our pitiful existence more tolerable.

  178. This reminds me of an interview with a Likidnik a few years ago who said that he had never believed much but then he was in a building in Lebanon which was bombed, his life was saved and now he lays tefillin every Shabbat (!?)

    I gather they were getting laid during the week – hope you were too :)

  179. Avraham:

    Until now I had been labouring under the misapprehension that you gave no credibility at all to the DH. But your relativity analogy implies that you think we should believe in both the DH and TMH. In other words as well as believing in TMH, at any given moment you also believe in the DH, depending on which of Daniel Marks’ worlds you inhabit.

    If that is true, then when you encounter a contradiction between science and a currently held faith-based belief, do you feel you should analyze the situation to arrive at the truth? Or do you think you should mentally note the new information and compartmentalize it (as Daniel says he does) somewhere it can’t touch your faith? Please understand, I am not trying to challenge you personally; I am just fascinated by the way highly intelligent religious people handle the philosophical complexities thrown up by a religious life in a modern world.

    But if I was not wrong and you only believe in TMH, then by encouraging me to believe in both, you are necessarily encouraging me to believe in at least one philosophy you believe to be false. So why would you do that?

    Daniel:

    My name is Jeremy, not Simon, athough I have a younger brother Simon in Ra’anana who also went to Hasmo. I digress.

    You said: “It [compartmentalization] is supposed to provide a means by which a man (like myself) who is not an expert in many fields but has a smattering of knowledge about all of them can live in more than one world without forcing himself to choose either or.”

    I think it is probably safe for you to evaluate your Jewish beliefs against the DH without worrying that the conclusions you reach will limit the worlds you may inhabit. If you don’t believe it safe, would you please articulate the dangers for me. My position is that if one world (in this case, the Torah min haShamayim world) is verifiably spurious, I do not want to inhabit it.

    Jewish sages do not ask us to ignore our senses or to distrust our intellects. Daniel, it seems that when you are faced with evidence that contradicts one of your beliefs, you recommend placing that belief out of reach of your analytical faculties. I think I understand why you like to do this but from my perspective, that is not the Jewish way.

    Jeremy

  180. Indeed it is wise not to attempt to intertwine science & faith too closely, but there is a connection between the order of Creation as expressed in Genesis & Darwin’s theory of evolution — both purport that the world & everything it came to be in stages, w/ humanity coming into existence last.

    The authors of the book & movie “Oh God” have George Burns say, the existence of such things as the avocado indicate that God does, indeed like to play jokes. Besides, if God encompasses everything, why shouldn’t s/he have a sense of humor … & therefore use it? ;)

    David writes: Now if there is a G-d and you were fortunate enough to be born into a religion that dates back to the dawn of time, …”

    Excuse me, but Judaism does NOT go back to the beginning of time. Only some of it’s legends (fairy tales, myths, bubbe meises) pretend to do so. Even if you choose to claim that Abraham was the 1st Jew — he wasn’t — he was the 1st monotheist (who we know about) — The Ivrim, the b’nei yisrael — didn’t become Jews until Sinai. Otherwise, the 10 C’s and the taryag mitsvot would already have been known (at least by some) so the God of Genesis would not have had to give Noah 7 C’s. I don’t see how you can dispute this if you believe that every word of torah is fact, since under that theory, Noah (& company) were the only humans to have survived the flood & if they were Jews, they would have known all the chukim. If they didn’t know that, they can’t be considered Jews — right? Because according to you, a Jew must be shom’rei mitsvot. Hmmm … Noah got a discount? Now THAT sounds like a Jewish thing! ;)

  181. Daniel

    I posted my last comment to Avraham before I had read your last post (the enumerated one).

    I think I have been misunderstanding what you meant by compartmentalization to some extent at least. I do still find myself wondering how I would react – if I were still frum – to encountering convincing evidence that the Torah was written by people. In reality when that happened I was already not frum. I would like to think that I would react by analyzing the apparent contradiction in an attempt to find the truth. So I was particularly interested in how you handled that situation, but felt that sequestering the idea in an area of your mind that didn’t touch your faith was dishonest. I now see that what you do is a lot closer to being undecided than anything else. No offence.

  182. Sorry Avraham, but “Namely, that one possibility was that Moshe wrote under prophecy.” strikes me as shtus. Also a fariy tale-bubbe meise.

    Daniel writes: “the Kuzari asks the rabbi … his answer is that … It is just speculation.”

    Takeh, but it applies to far later than the flood!

  183. Okay last time, then I’m going to bed! I feel like I’ve already answered this “contradiction” and I’m running out of different ways to explain it. I’m not telling you what to believe or how to be a Jew. That’s between you and your Maker.

    Documentary Hypothesis is not a philosophy. It has never claimed to be. Nor do any experts in DH claim to be philosophers or see it as their way of life. Most Israeli experts on DH are orthodox G-d-fearing Jews. I believe that most non-Jewish experts are practicing Christians (whatever that entails)

    DH is a way of examining and analyzing the Torah or more accurately the Bible. There are many ways of doing so. In school we learnt of Pshat, Drash, Remez, Sod. They often reach radically different conclusions about given Biblical stories or even whole books. None of them are wrong. They’re just different ways of examining the same document.

    There are many new ways of examining the Bible too. Rabbi Elchanan Samet is a highly original modern day commentator who often reaches wholly different interpretations than anyone before him has. Nobody claims hes’s wrong, nor does he claim that he has the only truth.
    Dr Micha Goodman is another excellent example of a radical modern day teacher of Bible.

    The Rashgbam often argues with Rashi as does the Ramban and he and Ibn Ezra often disagree too about fundamental issues. Nehama Leibowitz brings ten to twenty commentators, some she agrees with and some she doesn’t. Nobody is:

    “…necessarily encouraging me to believe in at least one philosophy you believe to be false….”

    I guess that part of becoming an adult is the understanding that there can be more than one correct answer to a given question and more than one correct understanding.

    Choose whichever interpretation you wish Those and Those are the words of a Living G-d.

  184. “the Maharal of Prague (who created a golem ”

    Really? Do you believe there really was a golem? Then Superman & Batman et al. must also exist.

    So from a writer of science fiction you justify finding rational answers?

    Oy! :(

    “To which I would humbly add the Medrash: הסתכל באורייתא וברא את עולמו
    - the world was created from the blue-print of the Torah.”

    What is this … which came 1st, the chicken or the egg? So now God wrote the torah because he needed a written plan? Does that mean you believe that even God couldn’t hold all the instructions in his mind? That means you are willing to limit the limitless God. How inconsistent!

  185. Did Moshe also prophecy that Korach would start a political rebellion and hundreds (?) of people would be killed as a result? I can see Moshe Rabbeinu crying his eyes out, knowing that he would err and forfeit any chance of seeing Eretz Yisroel and then living through it and doing it anyway…PERHAPS. But can you imagine knowing that with a few well-placed words in the right ears you could prevent a rebellion that would ultimately cost so many lives and just standing by and letting it happen? I find it impossible to believe that that is what Moshe did.

    Jeremy

  186. Greg, I’m not sure you read the thread.

    David wrote claiming that Adam or an angel had written the first book of the Zohar and I used the Kuzari to show that events at this time (Adam time) can’t be used as evidence.

    As far as your question:

    “Do you believe there really was a golem?”

    I believe that there was, there is and he is just about to post on this excellent blog.

  187. “Burning people? Let’s leave that to the wog who brought it up …”

    Please, let’s not even joke about burning people since we ought to know all too much about our people being burnt.

    “If the Torah was written by man, what reason do we have to think it is in any way special? In other words, Reform Judaism becomes nice but not necessary.”

    Simon — unfortunately that’s where liberal Judaism gets misunderstood. Just because something is man-made, does not negate it’s eternal worth.

    It seems to be an unfortunate aspect of human behavior that when the number of humans (population density) increases, the more laws we need to keep us civil. (That’s why I’m not a Libertarian — they believe in almost no laws.) (An oversimplification.)

    The fact that TaNaKh has survived for as long as it has & has been accepted or revered or looked to by so many disparate people & faith communities shows it’s intrinsic worth.

    What liberal Judaism has done is to focus on it’s teachings, the life-lessons that can be gleaned from it w/o getting tied up in it being an absolute mandate. An important principle of Reform is that torah has a voice, not a vote. Which really means a controlling vote or veto. (Hmm … anagrams, anyone?) Reconstructionism teaches that Jews do Jewish things (i.e. mitsvot) not because they are commanded by God, but because they are the folkways of our people. That is, the way our people have done things for thousands of years.

    There certainly is something to be said for the value of survival. Torah is special because it has withstood the crucible of time & the otherwise transient nature of human society.

    “Before the Creation of the world G-d filled the entire existance. If so, In order to create a physical world, he had to change some part of him to allow “space” for the physical world. So it looks as though G-d has changed … How is this possible?”

    If God is omnipotent, God can do anything She wants to. Remember in Italian (or any other language), “La donna è mobile.” ;)

    “And to answer your other question, my personal belief is that the Torah was written solely by human beings and that God exists only by virtue of our belief in Him/Her. At least that’s my current position.”

    Or, to turn a phrase, God did not create man in God’s image, men (plural & only men) created God in man’s image.

    Why? Because they had questions for which they had no answers. Therefore, all the unanswerables were put in God’s realm. As our scientific knowledge increases we push the “God did it” answer further & further back in time.

    Daniel wrote: “The Torah makes no claim at being a history book, but a book explaining what G-d wants from man.”

    I’m glad to hear you say that! Unfortunately all too many people do believe in the bible as history which can make things very dicey for the rest of us.

    Someone wrote about not knowing which question the torah is answering. Perhaps your question more properly is what does humanity seek & value as being in our highest good? What goals are we attempting to achieve? Looked at this way, torah certainly is a most valuable guide w/o it having to be absolute.

    Avraham — I understand where the details of t’fillin come from. My point is that I use them not because TSBP mandates them, but because that’s the way our common ancestors agreed it should be. I suppose if I had a gripe w/ their conclusion, I would find — & justify — an alternative. (c.f. my vegan friends.)

    Hmm … who amongst us is the golem? ;)

    I was waiting to see if Mark answered Daniel’s question: “I understand that you are a Reform cantor. Do you believe all the prayers that you sing? Do you refuse to sing the bits that you don’t believe in? Of course you don’t. You say, “Those are beliefs and this is my job.””

    I, too, am a Reform cantor … or more correctly, I have served as Cantor in a nominally Reform shul. Neither I nor my shul are strictly Reform.

    Indeed, I do not take our t’fillot literally. They are the expressions of those who went before us, a variety of attempts to understand, describe & organize the world around them. It is the essence of the t’fillot that I try to communicate, musically, to my cong. That, I think, is the meaning of iyyun t’fillah in the talmudic passage (known as Eilu D’varim).

    Piyyutim can be the most thorny. Un’tane Tokef presents a whole host of images that I absolutely do not accept. But when I offer that, my kavvanah is to shake people up to the idea that we all need to examine our deeds & make the necessary changes. Musically, I try to paint a picture that makes those words leap off the page & come alive in the ears & minds of my listeners.

    When it comes to asking for things I can’t ask for — e.g., the rebuilding of the Temple & the restitution of the scarificial cult (I refuse to say “ishei yisrael”) — usually the editors of the prayerbooks we use have altered the texts. If I find myself davening from a traditional text, I will emend it myself. (Sorry to disappoint all you who are looking forward to a restored Holy BBQ.)

    When the text is missing something I think ought to be there — e.g., what we refer to as the imahot i.e., mentioning the matriarchs in addition to the patriarchs — again, either the editors or I include it.

    For a very long time, universalized text has been added to Sim Shalom — sim shalom tovah uv’rakhah ba’olam chein vachesed v’rachamim aleinu v’al kol yisrael v’al kol yosh’vei teivel …

    As a Hazzan, I believe I am completely in consonance w/ my predecessors who improvised text as well as melody.

    I see my “job” as stirring the soul (read: subconscious mind) of those who listen to me & to move them from wherever they are to a (hopefully) higher realm.

    The rabbi speaks to the intellect, but I am able to go much deeper because music is in direct communication w/ the emotions, the subconscious, the very soul. It is an awesome power & responsibility. I hope & pray I use that power wisely.

  188. David Kornbluth

    Greg Judaism as a nation was born officially, at the leaving of Egypt and as a religion at Sinai you claim to be Jewish if so it is perhaps due to the former rather than the latter, as you clearly don’t subscribe to the challila “buba meises “that are the religion.

    However we have a tradition that there was a Yeshiva of Shem and Ever and that the knowledge that is Torah dates back way earlier.
    Now even though there were 7 commandments for Noach’s descendants i.e. mankind, there were also those in the know who accepted a more spiritual life such as the decendents of Avraham and Shem and Ever etc..

    No one religious claims that the dead sea scrolls have anything to do with Judaism.

    Your arguments make little sense – you do something because it has stood the test of time, i suggest going to more conferences.

    p.s. Greg who do you pray to?

    After all you write

    “Why? Because they had questions for which they had no answers. Therefore, all the unanswerables were put in God’s realm. As our scientific knowledge increases we push the “God did it” answer further & further back in time.”

    I am saddened by your seemingly nonsensical contradictory approaches. There appears to be no intellectual honesty in your life,

    You wear Teffilin and claim to pray but fail to ask yourself why and find reason other than a belief on the necessity for morals. However you cannot define what is moral without reference to G-d who you push back further and further.

  189. Nick Kopaloff

    A blog break on the Holy Sabbath and I come back Sunday morning shocked to see tomes of profanity.

    Daniel’s advocacy of compartmentalizing is reminiscent of George Costanza’s “Colliding Worlds” theory. There are two Georges: Independent George and Relationship George. Independent George is the one that hangs out with Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer. Relationship George is the one that has to spend time with his wife. Since Elaine has invited George’s wife into their circle of friends, the worlds are on a collision course and this spells the end of Independent George, the George we all know and love.

    Mark Goldman and now Jeremy Cohen and of course Greg, have doubted the intellectual honesty behind compartmentalization, and notwithstanding Daniel’s neo-metaphysical answers, I admit to being too small and unworthy to understand how contradictory matter can coexist simultaneously with equal validity in the same space and time and whatever.

    In his call to outlaw frivolity, intellectually challenged Adrian makes an unusually compelling argument in support of Daniel with his Einsteinian ball in motion on a train trajectory paradigm. Is the ball really here or there?
    Adrian can name his Sphere High In-motion Trajectory theory by its acronym, SHIT.

    Then again sometimes numbers and even alpha numeric strings which seem to totally contradict each other, can be explained in terms of their catalytic numerical system, such as binary or decimal, after which congruence is restored and everything is neatly resolved. Sometimes when we want our cake and eat it as well, and are loath to sacrifice either or, we put all our eggs in the basket of an elusive logic which is unavailable to us at present, but one which we believe will do a good job of reconciliation once it is discovered.

    Costanza however did not really compartmentalize. He lived a life of deceit and chose to lie at every opportunity to avert the collision. Miraculous divine intervention of the smiting variety, in the field of toxic glue, ensured the George we all know and love, lived on.

  190. Avraham Reiss

    Jeremy,

    [quote]
    Avraham

    Until now I had been labouring under the misapprehension that you gave no credibility at all to the DH. But your relativity analogy implies that you think we should believe in both the DH and TMH. In other words as well as believing in TMH, at any given moment you also believe in the DH, depending on which of Daniel Marks’ worlds you inhabit.
    [quote]

    Sorry – misunserstanding; I give NO CREDENCE WHATSOEVER to the so-called DH theory. I regard it as spiritual anarchy. To go further, if you look it up under Wikipedia, you’ll find that it’s a theory that is followed by at least 95% non-Jews. Greg, who is influenced greatly by the Christian world in which he lives, would find it easier to accept.

    What I said earlier – or meant to say – was that DH doesn’t negate logical thinking. Thinking logically one can reach this belief.

    However, Belief is the operational word here.

    I wasn’t even thinking of DH when I wrote about Relativity (actually, when I wrote that I was thinking of the Heinz baked beans I was going to heat up as soon as I’d hit SUBMIT on the Relativity thing).

    The Relativity analogy related to physical matters, not thoughts, and I don’t see the connection with DH. Prbably, neither did Einstein.

    As for Daniel Marks, most of what he writes on this subject (when he’s serious) is good for me as well.

  191. Well, David, at least you got the origins of Judaism correct, but then you spoil it w/ the overlay of mythology, claiming that it existed before it existed. That’s not fact, that’s myth. Believe it if you so choose.

    If the Dead Sea Scrolls are so unimportant why has Israel spent so much money preserving & promoting them (if nothing less than a tourist attraction) & even attempting to keep the world’s larger academic scholars from gaining access?

    Of course, their importance is rejected by those you call religious because they fall outside the circle you do accept & therefore cause problems which you are hard put to solve.

  192. I’m glad George Costanza has finally been referenced on this excellent blog and by no lesser writer than the evergreen Kopaloff who has once again found his way to our impeachable author’s heart and mind with business lunches, the kashrut of which are, as yet, unknown.

    I slept but little last night as the times of my postings will attest, but as I showered this morning could not help but ponder how I suddenly seem to have found myself in a great measure of agreement with Greg and Avraham, whose views are as dissimilar as Rabbi Roberg’s handsome (seehttp://melchettmike.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/masters-21.jpg ) 1956 face and Ellis Feigenbaum’s much abused buttocks.

    The author of this excellent blog hates it when I sum up, so I beg his forgiveness in advance, a great deal has been said that if nothing else than for my own sake I shall try to make a little order.

    Greg in his frank answer to the chazanut question, that Mark ignored or avoided, acknowledged the truism that we all compartmentalize. This is our way to live in more than one world without having to ask every day which is bigger, better or righter.

    Jeremy Cohen, who initially impressed me as genuinely curious about the subject later caused me to doubt whether he may not know less about the Documentary Hypothesis than even I do. Our conversation never seemed to reach inside the theory and to discuss specific Biblical events etc but at many points reminded me more of the Monty Python Sketch:

    “Oh I’m sorry, is this a five minute argument, or the full half hour?”

    Perhaps next somebody should ask whether G-d can create a stone that’s so heavy that He can’t lift it, where was G-d during the Holocaust or “What about Evolution?”

    If we began with George, why not conclude this discussion of the Documentary Hypothesis with the unforgettable words of Ali Gee when concluding a theological debate of no lesser depth:

    “Yo, so me just wanta say this has been well interesting, it’s been deep, it’s been everything, there’s been times when it’s been boring, but that’s life innit? And that’s deep.”

  193. Avraham Reiss

    Kopaloff,

    [quote]
    In his call to outlaw frivolity, intellectually challenged Adrian makes an unusually compelling argument in support of Daniel with his Einsteinian ball in motion on a train trajectory paradigm. Is the ball really here or there?
    Adrian can name his Sphere High In-motion Trajectory theory by its acronym, SHIT.
    [unquote]

    After reading that crap, I have to ask: who here is intellectually challenged?

    Wasn’t my theory. As I was honest enough to say, it was Lev Landau (Russian Nobelist)’s explantion of Einstein’s Theory for the simple man. Obviously, the kopaloffski’s of this world don’t even understand simple explanations.

    No wonder law-schools have minimal applicant standards … just imagine this guy in court defending Arab terrorists … although maybe that’s what we need?

  194. David, I suppose I can enrage you further by saying I’m not praying to anyone. Be it far from me to give you a Hebrew lesson, but the root of t’fillah is p-l-l which means to judge & the tav that precedes it makes it reflexive. Therefore, our t’fillot really are a vehicle for each of us to measure ourselves against 1 one humankind’s most time-honored standards.

    While I’m sure you vehemently disagree, I think that’s a lot more intellectually honest than praying to a man-made cosmic QVC (home shopping via TV in the States).

    Not that numbers mean anything … in the US, Jews comprise less than 2% of the population, so it matters not what the percentage of DH adherents claim as their faith communities. We Jews are small in number but far outweigh the rest of the world in intellectual, artistic & inventive contributions. I’ve seen reports that Israel far surpasses all other nations in tech innovations & start-up companies. Kol HaKavod!

    Regardless, DH is very clearly taught @ JTS — the Conservative Seminary I attended, which, of course, influences the thinking of almost all contemporary Conservative rabbis & scholars. While I never studied @ HUC-JIR (Reform), the Reconstructionist seminary or ALEPH (Renewal), I’m quite sure DH is an important aspect of their curricula, as well. Thus, I believe that I am able to say w/ complete confidence that most non-orthodox Jewish scholars follow the DH. That really is a significant number.

  195. Nick Kopaloff

    My life-long friend Daniel Marks has made no secret of his suspicion of those who seek his confidence by concurring with him. His comfort zone towards his protagonists, ranges somewhere between disagreement to belligerent hostility. I am therefore concerned that his newfound adoration from the motley representatives of our Judaic schism, must have him swimming in a sea of fear and paranoia.

    It is amazing what a little compartmental theorizing can do for once popularity. All at once, he has become the bastion of the believers, the Gladstone of the godless and the darling of the doubters. He has bridged diverse camps and narrowed our religious divides.

    Bless him.

  196. David Kornbluth

    Greg,

    Based upon what you write i can understand you saying “you hope” that you use that power wisely, but with the meaning of prayer that you have expounded why hope and pray – if prayer is only a chance for you to measure yourself then it is the same as your hope.

    I to agree that prayer is for the prayer and not G-d, however what you describe is not prayer but retrospection, which has its place in our religion more than some would acknowledge perhaps, but its not the entire basis for prayer.

    For example I believe in the sanctity of the words as formulated and followed for generations and the undeniable power of prayer to G-d.

    Prayer changes the person praying and thus enables them to benefit from the kindness of our Creator.

  197. Anyone remember The Muppet Show? Specifically, those two old jerks at the end of the show, Waldorf and Statler, who used to sit and snipe without really understanding what was going on.

    That’s the law-school reject for you.

    He’s promised us that “an in-depth analysis of Daniel’s compartmentalizing theory will follow”
    - he’s obviously intellectually incapable of even approaching such a task, so he sits in the balcony and snipes

  198. Okay a case study in Compartmentalization:

    Yediot Aharonot of Shabbat reports that a piece of writing strongly resembling the Torah has just been found, apparently dating back to the reign of King David.

    http://reshet.ynet.co.il/%D7%97%D7%93%D7%A9%D7%95%D7%AA/News/Domestic/EducationSociety/Article,35176.aspx

    Potentially this discovery could mean that one of the most important conclusions of the Documentary Hypothesis (and most schools of history) namely that the Torah as we know it was written at the time of Ezra the Scribe could be wrong.

    An anticompartmentalizationist neo-fundamentalist may now argue that this means that David Kornbluth and his mates were right all along and there really were yeshivot (as the midrash describes) at the time of Abraham learning about stories that had yet to happen. Jeremy Cohen must now either prove the discovery to be without basis or go back to being frum.

    I, however, as an exponent of Intellectual Compartmentalization would argue that Professor Gershon Galil should be left to continue with his research without daily having to ponder the theological implications of his discovery, the DH departments at various universities will continue with their teachings without worrying whether Galil will reach differing conclusions or not. Greg will go on singing prayers he doesn’t believe in, David will carry on mixing up between Torah and its midrashim (“Despite graduating law and an MBA top of 2 classes”) Nick and Avraham will carry on slagging each other off and I will continue writing absurdly pompous posting on this excellent blog.

    This is the dawning of the age of Compartmentalization!! Let the good times roll.

  199. David Kornbluth

    Marks,

    Thanks for the excellent summation.

    I am glad that i am not the only person who found it interesting that a Reform Chazzan does not believe that Prayer is to G-d.

    I wonder if they pray in Hebrew, his earlier postings quote Hebrew wording, which makes me wonder, what form a reform perspective is the point of prayer in a strange tongue?

    PS Midrash is part of the TORAH.

    Unless you mean Torah as in Chumash without nach or mishna or anything other than the five books of the Oldest Testament.

  200. “Unless you mean Torah as in Chumash without nach or mishna or anything other than the five books of the Oldest Testament.” –

    Yup that’s what I meant.

    By the way I wasn’t intending to knock Greg. I identify with much of what he says.

    On Mussaf of Yom Kippur I cry like a baby when reading of the Harugei Malchut, even though I know that, historically, the event as described never took place. Before anyone jumps all over me read Art Scroll or the commentary of the Birnbaum Machzor.

  201. Avraham Reiss

    “If the whole torah, etc. were given to Moshe, how do you explain the variances that exist in the various codexes & the Dead Sea Scrolls?”

    - I don’t have to explain why some scribe 2 millenia ago made copying mistakes. And it doesn’t impinge in any way on the original credibility of the Torah.

    “Sorry Avraham, but “Namely, that one possibility was that Moshe wrote under prophecy.” strikes me as shtus. Also a fariy tale-bubbe meise.”

    Greg, I’ve mentioned this before: if you want to discuss anything with me, you won’t belittle my beliefs.
    Our continued discussion is conditional to this.

    “the Maharal of Prague (who created a golem … Really? Do you believe there really was a golem?”

    - Sure I do; I’m corresponding with one right now :-)
    The Gemara says that Rava created a man. The basic idea is that the Torah is the blueprint of the world, contains all its secrets.

    “What is this … which came 1st, the chicken or the egg? So now God wrote the torah because he needed a written plan?”

    Why is it so difficult for you to accept the logic that the world was created according to a plan (the Torah); the plan was written for humans to inherit, not for G-d.

    “Please, let’s not even joke about burning people since we ought to know all too much about our people being burnt.”

    - that was a frustrated, bored and boring ex-municipal reporter, venting his anger at wanton destruction of a blameless – and subsequently proven harmless – paper-bag. He showed a selective and callous indifference to life, for said paper-bag had started out as a tree, and such was its ignominous end. He got a bit hysterical, and started quoting some german (small ‘g’) about burning people.

    It takes all types …

    “And to answer your other question, my personal belief is that the Torah was written solely by human beings and that God exists only by virtue of our belief in Him/Her. At least that’s my current position.”

    1. Well, let us know when the new position arrives.

    2. That’s not a belief, its a lack of belief.

    “Avraham — I understand where the details of t’fillin come from. My point is that I use them not because TSBP mandates them, but because that’s the way our common ancestors agreed it should be. I suppose if I had a gripe w/ their conclusion, I would find — & justify — an alternative. (c.f. my vegan friends.)”

    - I don’t see any consistency with you: some things you do because of our ancestors, but on the basic essentials you reject our ancestors totally. You and others. And each of you differently. No consistency.

    “When the text is missing something I think ought to be there — e.g., what we refer to as the imahot i.e., mentioning the matriarchs in addition to the patriarchs — again, either the editors or I include it.”

    - Do you add trailing zeros to your paycheck as well ?

  202. Nick Kopaloff

    It takes a muppet of the caliber of Adrian Avraham Reiss to even know the names of Waldorf and Statler.

    This trivial fact, the names of two cantankerous octogenarians, was one of the few he has not needed to Google in his repeated efforts to carry over an air of intellectualism. A mild dose of intelligence however, would complement his ruggedly good looks, as his Facebook profile picture attests, and which was woo enough in his younger years to entice the would-be Mrs. Reiss into his loving caress.

    Your turn.

  203. Avraham Reiss

    Greg,

    “We Jews are small in number but far outweigh the rest of the world in intellectual, artistic & inventive contributions. I’ve seen reports that Israel far surpasses all other nations in tech innovations & start-up companies. Kol HaKavod!”

    Well put it this way, there are very few nations that can launch satellites into space, and can “see” by night as well as by day, or destroy 400 enemy planes in one day of war, or have ex-municipal journalists to remind us about burning bodies …

    More than 15 years ago, before the Internet and when BBS forums were the ‘thing’, I threw into a Jewish forum the opinion that the number of Jewish Nobel laureates was exceptionally high.

    The suggestion ‘took hold’ of a Jew residing in Washington. He spent 2 months researching in libraries, and then presented us with results of research into the number of Jewish laureates for the first 90-odd years of the Nobel prize.

    He researched 500 candidates, and concluded that 23% of the laureates were Jewish or of Jewish origin. This he said, was 64 times greater that the Jewish representation in the world’s population.

    Still waiting for that “in-depth analysis of Daniel’s compartmentalizing theory” …

    Low on intellect are we today?

    Nick,

    I understand how frustrated you must feel about not being intellectually capable of contributing to serious discussion in this blog, so the following gem is for you; it should bring you back fond memories of how you met Mrs. Knockabollockoff …

    I was transfering materials from HDD to HDD, and made the occasional spot-check. That’s how I came across this Seinfeld gem:

    He was discussing how ridiculous the system of keeping scores in tennis sounds.

    “30, love”, he said, “sounds like an English call-girl!”

  204. Mike requested I limit the frequency of my posts, so I combine them here.

    David — my choice of words inadequately explains what I’m trying to say, so your 1st staetment is correct. I often use “hope & pray” as a manner of speech.

    The retrospective (even introspective) basis of prayer is contained in the very word we use for it — t’fillah. That is its essence.

    Bakashot are nothing more than asking daddy for a new teddy bear (or Porsche). A devout member of a church choir once told me that she was so tzedreyt (my word, not hers) that she couldn’t find her car keys. In exasperation she knelt in the middle of her livingroom floor & prayed to Jesus that he find her keys. When she opened her eyes, there were her keys & she was convinced that Jesus put them there. That’s using God as a cosmic QVC & for the most part that’s what our bakashot are. Of course what really happened was that she stopped running around like a chicken w/o its head, she stopped, centered herself & calmed down, thereby allowing herself to find her keys.

    Hodaot present a different problem. Since we know we didn’t create or make everything around us, good-thinking people naturally find a need to appreciate them & so turn to the God they created as the place (makom) to address those thanks. Like it or not, I do not think God needs our thanks — we do.

    I agree partially — prayer does change the person — but not to benefit from God. Prayer changes people by helping them choose to do good things in this world. I see my “job” as a hazzan as helping people have that changing experience.

    Avraham — what I forgot to say was that Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionism, lived his life in an orthodox-like manner, i.e., he was, at least outwardly, a shomer mitsvot. But he did not do that because he believed that God commanded those actions, rather he did so as a result of their being the folkways & customs of our People. I can’t explain it anywhere near as eloquently as his teachings, so I would encourage you to read some of his writings.

    Would that I could add zeros to my checks … but words added to our prayers fill the need we feel to express the beliefs we hold. Again, Kaplan can explain far better than can I why he made some quite radical emendations to the matbei’a shel t’fillah.

    Scribal mistakes are k’ri/k’tiv. Actual textual differences reflect the understandings of each community of our People, their chain of masorah. The fact that “our” version of torah survived just might be a fluke of history.

    If Gemara means that Rava actually created a man, it is engaging in heresy. While men were able to create God, only through the process of evolution did humanity develope. (Or as you might say, only God has the power to create people.) BTW there are those who teach that we each create ourselves.

    Perhaps you draw the wrong conclusions from the blueprint. If it has secrets, perhaps your decoder ring needs to be recalibrated.

    Your comments about Jewish Nobel laureates makes my point. It makes no difference if 95% of those who accpet DH are not Jews. What matters is the great numbers of Jews who believe & teach it.

  205. ““And to answer your other question, my personal belief is that the Torah was written solely by human beings and that God exists only by virtue of our belief in Him/Her. At least that’s my current position.

    1. Well, let us know when the new position arrives.

    2. That’s not a belief, its a lack of belief.”

    Avraham…

    It is amusing to me that what I consider to be a strength, i.e. the ability to change one’s mind regarding a long held belief when confronted with convincing evidence, is regarded by some as a weakness.

    So I pose a question to all the orthodox contributors to this (excellent) blog.

    Bearing in mind the important difference between belief and knowledge, what would you do if you saw convincing evidence that your belief in TMH was false?

    As far as point (2) is concerned, I think that is just silly (and a bit suspect too). Belief, lack of belief, what difference does it make?

    Jeremy

  206. Oh my G-d! Am I the only one who realizes what is going on here? Behind the facade of detesting each other and squabbling like girls in a school yard Avraham and Nick are having a sordid affair.

    They are sleeping together and using this excellent blog as a cover for their dirty deeds, cunningly keeping the secret from their trusting spouses.

    I too was taken in at first but the clues were too many. Why would Kopaloff be so jealous of Mrs. Reiss? How would Adrian know how boring Koplaoff is if they hadn’t done it? That’s a secret that Nick has managed to keep even from us!
    Now that your secret is out I think I can say on behalf of this whole excellent blog, “Get a room!” We don’t want to be part of your grubby alibi anymore.

    I dare you challenge you both to deny it.

  207. Daniel

    I think it is probable that you know more about the DH than I do. It was not the DH that convinced me to relinquish frumkeit (it was mostly the increasingly urgent and magnetic pull of Whitehart Lane on a Shabbes morning – kidding) and I do not claim to be any kind of expert on it (the DH).

    The reason we never “reached inside” the theory is that our discussion focused on what people do when their beliefs are challenged, not the intricacies of those challenges themselves. I agree with the point you made (many posts ago) that it would be interesting to discuss the DH here in detail. I for one would certainly have a lot to learn.

    I am sorry that you are no longer impressed with my ‘genuine curiosity’ – despite your doubts, I am still genuinely curious (without being snide) how frum people manage to maintain belief in a modern world.

    Additionally, the argument sketch is one of my favourites. And to clear up any doubts, I really AM arguing in my spare time :-)

    Lastly, why does Isaacson care if you sum up from time to time? Your somewhat arch commentary is dryly amusing and the precis itself helps me avoid excessive scrolling, and by extension RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) and CTS (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome).

  208. Daniel wrote:

    “Greg in his frank answer to the chazanut question, that Mark ignored or avoided, acknowledged the truism that we all compartmentalize”.

    Daniel, I wasn’t ignoring or avoiding. I have a life outside of this (brilliant) blog!

    Of course, we all compartmentalize. I think it’s a question of degree of compartmentalizing. To use your example of:

    “A gynecologist may look at naked women all day and then go to a strip club in the evening. How does he avoid seeing the stripper as just a piece of meat and his patients as sexual objects?…He compartmentalizes”

    If the stripper, one day became his patient, that might pose too great a contradiction.The walls of compartmentalization would begin to crumble. He’d find a new object of lust, or he would refer her to another doctor.

    Apparently you’re able to accept both the DH & TMH simultaneously. Your walls of compartmentalization are sturdy indeed.

  209. Avraham Reiss

    Jeremy,

    “It is amusing to me that what I consider to be a strength, i.e. the ability to change one’s mind regarding a long held belief when confronted with convincing evidence, is regarded by some as a weakness . . . Bearing in mind the important difference between belief and knowledge, what would you do if you saw convincing evidence that your belief in TMH was false?”

    Just a few words can’t cover this properly. Your question immediately brought to mind the most acid test of Belief of the 20th century, the Holocaust.

    Surprisingly few stopped believing as a result, relative to what could have been expected.

    The point I wish to emphasize here is the question of knowledge of your religion; Abarbanel says regarding the 1st of the 10 commandments that there is no mitzva to believe in G-d – you cannot command it. So, he says, when you DO believe in G-d, the 1st commandment instructs you to study His ways.

    I say this because a very frequent subject is raised amongst orthodox Jews when the Holocaust is discussed: the question of Hester Panim (I won’t translate this, for those who don’t recognize the term, this is not the place to learn about it – IMHO).

    Anyone possessing knowledge of Hester Panim was/is far better equiped to relate to the question “how could G-d let it happen?”. Anyone not knowing of this, had an unanswerable question – which made his remaining a believer even more laudable.

    To get back to your question: “Bearing in mind the important difference between belief and knowledge, what would you do if you saw convincing evidence that your belief in TMH was false?’
    - you can’t prove a negative!

    Were an occasion to arise that deeply challenged my belief, I would search for the knowledge relevant to confront it, and if not succeeding I would conclude that my search had failed, but my belief would remain steadfast.

  210. Right, a few new commenting rules for this (excellent) blog . . .

    1. Condense all your thoughts into a single comment. This is not f*cking Twitter or instant messaging (or, for the benefit of Avraham, shooting at Arabs with your M16 on “Auto”).

    2. Before hitting “Submit”, take a few minutes to be sure that you have nothing further to say.

    3. Anyone who posts twice in succession under the same post will have his later post deleted.

    4. When quoting someone, use “inverted commas” like so. Don’t leave gaps between them and the text (including placing them on separate lines).

    5. If there is a break within a quote, place three dots (” . . . “) between them, which should not be on a separate line.

    6. Avraham, post under one frigging name!

  211. David Kornbluth

    As an orthodox jew i can only hope, (that if the impossible occurred, and thus its only theoretical,) that should my belief be proven wrong – those same beliefs would hold strong.

    However to claim to know this as a certainty i cannot and bow to Mr Reiss’s ample answer!

  212. Jeremy,

    I add the following quote to your question about challenged beliefs. The write married relatively late in life, and his wife died young following an accident, leaving him a young son.

    He writes:

    I could not understand it; my soul cried out in anguish against this apparent injustice…

    After a time I began to understand that G-d works out all these things in His own way, and it must be His will; there must therefore be no complaint, however hard it may seem at the time.

    … and so after a few weeks I began to live again …

    This is probably be one of the finest examples of simple belief I have ever seen.

    The writer? Field Marshal Montgomery,
    ‘Monty’, a man to whom many of us born in Britain owe our lives, in his autobiography (Fontana Ed.) p.44.

  213. The God described in the Torah is simultaneously merciful and bloodthirsty, kind and cruel. I am presuming that no one requires quotes to support the “merciful” or “kind” assertion so here are some others:

    “Adonai ish milchama” – while drowning thousands of His children in the Red Sea.
    “Timche et zecher Amalek mitachat hashamayim.” – preaching genocide to Bnei Yisrael.

    That this same God would “allow” the Holocaust to happen is entirely consistent. He destroyed the entire world save a few animals and Noach’s family (if you believe parshat Noach) just for not believing in Him. All through history innocent people have been abused and tortured by evil men (usually not women btw) – it still goes on today. Unless your idea of God is a benign old man sitting on a cloud with a laptop, playing the universe like a massive cosmic video game where everything that happens is under His/Her control, bad things happening to good people should not shake your faith. Or at the very least, it ought to have shaken your faith a long time ago because it has always been this way.

    I believe that Hitler killed Jews because of Hitler, not because of God. Tomás de Torquemada killed Jews (and Muslims) because of Tomás de Torquemada although he used God as a justification. The closest I would come to blaming these events on God is to say that He gave everyone free choice and Hitler and Torquemada used that free choice for evil rather than good.

    Jeremy

  214. Avraham Reiss

    Mike,

    “. . . (or, for the benefit of Avraham, shooting at Arabs with your M16 on “Auto”).”

    I don’t have an M16, only a Browning FN 9mm, (I upgraded from a 7.65 Beretta when Rabin z”l became PM in the nineties, in anticipation of things to come, which, boy, did they come!); I do NOT shoot at Arabs on “Auto”, it’s a waste of bullets, and I shoot very well ‘bodedet’. (I may review this policy should I ever meet Mr. Knockabollockoff).

    Could you please show a diagram of where inverted commas are on the keyboard? :-)

    Think … Think … Think …

    SUBMIT

  215. Oh yes, and for the benefit of Avraham . . .

    7. Silence is, sometimes, golden.

    Most of my Reiss great uncles – especially your late father z”l – were men of few words.

    What happened?!

  216. Avraham Reiss

    Mike,

    “Most of my Reiss great uncles – especially your late father z”l – were men of few words. What happened?!”

    - I’m making up the loss …

    Jeremy,

    “He destroyed the entire world save a few animals and Noach’s family (if you believe parshat Noach) just for not believing in Him”

    I won’t discuss with you the post containing the above quote, other than to say that the above quote is totally, totally, untrue.

    I suggest that you either bring a source, or withdraw the comment.

  217. Avraham

    Are you actually asking me to bring a source to confirm the mabul? To be fair, my only source is parshat Noach. If you don’t believe parshat Noach, that is your right.

    Or are you saying that the inhabitants of the world at the time were guilty of more serious crimes than ‘not believing in God’? If so, fair enough. I am guilty of providing insufficient detail. The inhabitants of the world were also totally corrupt.

    Or have I misunderstood your criticism entirely?

    Jeremy

    P.S. The Browning FN 9mm is a semi-auto handgun and does not have a fully automatic setting. Does it?

  218. Avraham Reiss

    Jeremy,

    “He destroyed the entire world save a few animals and Noach’s family (if you believe parshat Noach) just for not believing in Him”

    Not believing in G-d was NOT the reason for the flood. Offhand, I can’t think of any case of mass destruction due to lack of belief in G-d.

    So you were correct in saying “fair enough. I am guilty of providing insufficient detail.”

    I don’t want to get into this further, just wanted to clear up this point.

    Mike:
    You obviously never met my mother …

  219. Bloody hell! Over 220 comments! Time for a Marks-style summing-up . . .

    The God of the Bible did not create humankind. We created Him.

    - The End -

  220. I DO want to get into this further. Avraham, if you don’t want to reply that’s totally cool – I’ll discuss the issue with other people.

    The thrust of my point was that God is on the one hand merciful and kind and on the other hand warlike and cruel. I am not the first person to notice that by any means.

    I referred to the mabul as an example of an extreme amount of killing by God and only when you criticized me did I even realize that I had omitted the fact that people were suffused with corruption. I did not omit it to make God seem crueller than He already seems – my argument does not need that kind of reinforcement.

    By reacting only to that minor omission one misses the point entirely.

  221. Avraham Reiss

    Jeremy
    you are correct: the Browning FN automatic 9mm does NOT have a fully automatic setting.

    To get into any discussion, I have to know with whom I am conversing: what are you religiously? Reform, Liberal, other?

    I think Mike wants this subject closed, let’s hear what he says.

  222. No, Avraham (last warning to stop switching names), I don’t “want this subject closed”. My last comment was in jest.

    But why the f*** do you “have to know with whom [you are] conversing”?!

  223. Mike,

    “But why the Nick do you “have to know with whom [you are] conversing”?!”

    - It’s a Gemara in Sanhedrin, 23a.
    כך היו נקיי הדעת שבירושלים עושין לא היו חותמין על השטר אלא אם כן יודעין מי חותם עמהן ולא היו יושבין בדין אלא אם כן
    יודעין מי יושב עמהן ולא היו נכנסין בסעודה אלא אם כן יודעין מי מיסב עמהן

    -(transl.) Those of clean minds in Jerusalem would not sign documents, sit in judgement or dine with others, unless they knew with whom they would be sitting.

  224. I don’t have a problem with telling you about my background but I have a couple of comments about the gmara.

    1. It doesn’t say you mustn’t talk to people unless you know them. It says that was the habit of clean minded people, from Jerusalem, at that particular time.
    2 Even if you decide they are talking allegorically, and this is an actual halachic restriction, why was it mutar to talk to me up to now?
    3 And if it was mutar up to now, how exactly did you decide that now was the time you had to say “this far and no further”?
    4 The gmara is vague inasmuch as what “knowing” someone means. Up to now I have revealed the following information to this blog:

    My name and age (40)
    That I went to Menorah Primary
    That I went to Hasmo
    That I have two brothers who did the same
    That they live in Israel
    That I live in New York
    That I used to be frum
    That I now believe that Torah was written by men
    That I now believe human beings invented God
    That I believe in that God.

    and if you (quite reasonably) include all information about me on my website (not a massive jump to add dot net to my name) you already know a lot about me. You probably know more about me than those clean-minded men in Jerusalem did about those with whom they sat, dined and signed documents.

    Since I said I didn’t mind telling you, I will tell you. I grew up kippah srugah frum in NW London, and now I take my daughter to a Conservative shul in Manhattan. I can’t stand the way Orthodox communities treat women (segregating them etc.) and occasionally the text is faintly nauseating (shelo asani isha is the best example). These are mostly missing from Conservative siddurim but they usually stick to the traditional nusach (musically speaking) and that is very important to me. I keep my home kosher not because I believe that there is anything spiritually wrong with mixing meat with milk, but because Jews have done it for thousands of years and I like feeling part of that tradition.

    And I reckon you now know enough about me ;-)

    Jeremy

  225. “…things here in SoCal are quite balmy.”

    Some of the spelling here is execrable.

  226. Avraham Reiss

    Jeremy,

    The Gemara was not giving a halachic restriction of any kind; it was showing how exceptional people behaved, possibly as a recommendation – but nothing stronger – for the general public.

    I do think that the advice is good today as well.
    If I sign as a guarantor for a mortgage loan, I’d want to know if the people who sign before me are trustworthy, because this relates to the chances that my signature may in the future be realised.

    I wouldn’t sit in judgement together with an unreliable person, and I certainly won’t eat lunch with someone whose opinion is likely to give me indigestion.

    In general, people who leave religion fire off in all directions, throwing off beliefs left, right and center. There’s no generalization to be made here beyond that: no two behave the same way.

    When you say “That I now believe that Torah was written by men, That I now believe human beings invented God” then I see no basis for discussion of religion between us, or maybe I’d put it another way and say that I personally have no interest in such discussion. I’m not a missionary, it’s not my job to correct what I consider are your theological mistakes.

    As you can see I am affording you the respect of a fully detailed answer, and can discuss other matters with you. But your statement which I have just quoted, negates and opposes basic Judaic tenets head-on (13 Principles – Rambam) and I have nothing to gain from such conversations.

    It would not be much different from my conversing over the web with an anti-Zionist; I would do so only to cause him bother and that is not the purpose of this blog, whose friendly nature on the whole I would not wish to damage.

    (I’m not suggesting that you are anti-Zionist in any way – it was just an illustration).

  227. In referring to “clean minds in Jerusalem”, even by the widest interpretation, I hardly think that the Gemorah could have meant someone who appears to wax nostalgic about innocent human being made to tread on suspected bombs, or one with such a seemingly detailed knowledge of Olga and Sveta!

    Anyway, Avraham, if you truly believe that Gemorah, perhaps you have the wrong blog.

  228. Avraham Reiss

    Mike,

    “Anyway, Avraham, if you truly believe that Gemorah, perhaps you have the wrong blog.”

    I fail to understand that comment: I would expect you personally, as a lawyer davka, to make such a recommendation to any client signing any contract – I gave full reasoning for my thinking. Would you enjoy lunch if Ivet Lieberman suddenly came and sat down besides you?

  229. Personally, I have nothing against Lieberman, I even voted for him. A student of mine who works in his ministry told me that, as opposed to his predecessor, he sits with everyone else in the cafeteria and is a very affable person indeed.

    On a personal note, the pages of this excellent blog will attest to the fact that I have been as vitriolic as any in my verbal assaults on those with whom my opinion differs. This is no matter of pride to me and I regret many harebrained utterances that I have nonchalantly tossed off , alas only to have them preserved in the unforgiving archives of cyber-space for all eternity.

    My sins are many and my merits few – by right I should be the last poster to be calling upon others to moderate their language.

    However, recent exchanges culminating in an implied threat on the life of another Jew have caused me to break my silence, if it means that I will (rightly) be called a hypocrite, so be it.

    Whilst Nick Koplaloff and Adrian Reiss may not agree on every point, they were both created in the image of Almighty G-d and are both the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Without entering any kind of debate or discussion as to who started or who is to blame, I ask them both to cease and desist from the mutual verbal abuse and to turn their obvious talents to creating the type of postings that have made this blog so great and its author so respected.

  230. Daniel,

    1. I personally have nothing against Lieberman, I support him fully. My remark was addressed to Mike, whom I assume feels differently.

    2. Regarding Nick, if he keeps his mouth/pen shut, so will I.

    3. What threat on life? I don’t remember such a remark. Unless you refer to a remark I made about moving to “auto” – if it was that, I am far enough from thoughts of murdering anybody at all, that I can make the occasional humorous remark, which is what it was.

    If anyone doesn’t like my humour – tough titty (I knew you’d like to see that word in print …)

  231. Avraham,

    1. You misjudge me in assuming that the thought of brawny breast, a muscular mammary or indeed a s nipple as hard as nail would be to me a source of delight or cause for celebration.

    2. Far be it from me to offer council to a humorist as eminent as you excellent self in the field of intendment and banter, but it does occur to one that there are certain prerequisites that ought be met in order that joke or witticism might be considered to be realizing its intent.

    a. It should be recognizable as a joke not only to its author, but also to its intended audience, if not all of them, then at least many.

    b. While silly is often good and can often enhance, in and of itself it is not enough and a joke should be FUNNY as well. Broadly speaking this means it should cause its readers the pleasurable feeling of amusement.

    3. It’s not so much a matter of “If anyone doesn’t like my humour..” as much as the more fundamental question whether silly names, on the one hand and death threats, on the other, can when offered either individually or even combined be rightfully considered worthy of the loft term “humor”.

    Finally I hope nothing I’ve said has caused offense. Was it not Max Eastman who said, “It is the ability to take a joke, not make one, that proves you have a sense of humor.”

  232. Avraham Reiss

    Daniel,
    let’s get 1 thing clear: I am not, and never have been, involved in any death threat.

    Proof: you are still entertaining us freely … :-)

  233. I think you are missing the point somewhat, Daniel. It is precisely because Avraham recognises Nick as a fellow “son of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” that he would accord him the respect of a hail of bullets . . . instead of making him, like an Ishmaelite, dance on a bag of booby-trapped baklawa.

  234. At the time, it was perfectly legal. They called it
    נוהל שכן
    Only much later did the anti-semites on the High Court of Appeals decide that the life of an Israeli soldier was worth less than that of suspected Arab terrorists, and declared it illegal. But at the time, it was SOP.

  235. I loosely translate Nohal Shachen as the neighbor procedure, henceforth NP.

    Broadly speaking, the procedure was developed as a response to the need to knock on the doors of suspected terrorists in order to determine whether they more home or not, in the former case, the intent usually being to interrogate or incarcerate them. The problem was the possibility, which soon materialized, of the suspect endangering the lives of the soldiers firing bullets or even tossing hand grenades.

    The possibility of shooting into the house or taking it tactically would have involved heavy collateral damage, which leaving aside the moral dilemmas, would have caused Israel unacceptable diplomatic harm, probably far outweighing the gains of having seized the suspect.

    Therefore NP was used, its logic being that a terrorist would not be as inclined to shoot his neighbor or relative as he would an IDF soldier. It was successful until a case when Nidal Abu Mahsin (an apparently innocent civilian) was killed. Whilst the IDF claimed that the procedure saved lives on both sides the Israel High Court disagreed and ruled NP illegal. I would guess that many Israelis today would be more inclined to agree with the IDF standpoint, as I was no longer in active reserves service by then, I don’t feel that I have enough knowledge or recent experience to express an educated opinion. In the first Intifada I did take part in arrests of suspects at night, with and without “neighbors” but I suspect that theses were quieter and less dangerous days, so I have doubts regarding their relevance.

    It is hard to equate the paper bag incident, described in an early posting, with NP as it lacks the basic premise i.e . that the situation becomes less dangerous by virtue of the identity of the performer of the action. In other words, while in the case of NP a logical argument can be made that the suspect would see who is knocking on his door and choose not to endanger him, because of who he is, a bomb inside a bag could not make a similar judgment. Furthermore, while the IDF in the former case could argue that NP saves lives for both sides, it would be hard to assert a similar claim in the latter case.

    In conclusion, while there are those who might see the incident regarding the bag as morally justified, in the light of what has been explained, it would problematic in the extreme for them to make use of NP precedent to support this contention.

  236. Avraham Reiss

    Daniel,

    “It is hard to equate the paper bag incident, described in an early posting, with NP as it lacks the basic premise i.e . that the situation becomes less dangerous by virtue of the identity of the performer of the action.”

    The original point was _not_ “that the situation becomes less dangerous”, rather that the situation becomes less dangerous TO IDF PERSONNEL! This objective was certainly achieved “by virtue of the identity of the performer of the action”.

    The original incident described occurred in the Khan Yunis refugee camp, a known Mecca of Hi-Tech in the Arab world, with all sorts of sophisticated irritants to the IDF. One I remember well was the Ninja: you cut off the heads of nails, sharpen both ends, bend each into a 45 degree angle, and weld 2 together back-to-back. When thrown at random into a road, they will always land with one sharp end pointing up, thus presenting a danger to vehicles in particular, and shipping in general.

    Johnny Arab (a turn originally used by Arthur Koestler) lived in Khan Yunis and either he or his friends prepared and
    laid these terror-devices. I was a visitor to the place, and was certainly not obliged to debug the latest creations of local Arab Hi-Tech. Johnny Arab would certainly have been aware of the possibilities inherent in a seemingly harmless paper-bag, just as one of our sharper readers who only read about it 20 years later was, and had _he_ suspected any new Hi-Tech developments, would have refused to tread on it.

    I do agree that meeting an armed Reiss in the middle of the night is an unpleasant situation (OK, OK, wiseguys, during the day as well, and even when not armed), but no coercion was involved here. The entire incident was staged entirely to piss-off the kibbutznik who had chosen the better part of valour and remained under cover in our vehicle, and the recent additional off-pissing here in this venerable blog, were what is termed in financial circles ‘value added’ – a compound interest 20 years later.

    And just to squeeze a little more rage (but please, this time no bodies) from liberal readers, I’ll get back to the Ninjas.

    In principle, standard SOP when finding a street strewn with Ninjas, was to wake the male residents of said street at 2am, and they would come out into the street in pyjamas, broom in one hand, ID card in the other, and sweep until the street was clean.

    One guy in our unit was in the habit of collecting the Ninjas, placing one each in a discarded packet of cigarettes, and placing said packet in the middle of a road at the exit to a turn, at the time of day when the sun would be directly in the drivers eyes.

    Before the hysterics begin, let me say that I had no leading part in either the road-sweeping or the cigarette-packets incidents. I’m just a historian, documenting for future generations, and also to further enrage this generation of bleeding-heart liberals, if there are any.

  237. No one likes a nice bit of Ninje more than me (not even my old Hasmo mate Mark!)

    Even though Twatter might have been a more appropriate forum, Avraham, thank you for bringing us back to the more important things in life . . .

    From dancing on bags to those lovely little boxes!

  238. Mike,
    Please don’t belittle “those lovely little boxes”
    - at that place at that time, they were the essence of local Hi-Tech!

  239. Back top the first Intifada I have quite pleasant memories of the ninjas.

    These were the days before cellular phones and our “base” was a makeshift collection of tents, generator etc but no usable civilian phone.

    However, when our jeep tires were punctured we had no choice but to go have them repaired or changed at a local base which had both telephone lines and an excellent Shekhem.

    Those were crazy days, full of contradictions. Orders seemed to change daily and we would, for example, expend enormous efforts trying to prevent the Fatah activists from putting up their “cruzes” which were notifications, usually not adhered to, as to how to conduct resistance. The absurdity was that these same cruzes were broadcast by Israel radio as we were doing so.

    Basically our job was to drive round Rafiah in open vehicles in order that her residents could try there luck at throwing stones at us. On the occasions that these stone-throwers were caught they were beaten, in detention, by grown men and I am not proud to admit I served with them.

    Unfortunately, I saw many incidents similar to those described by Avraham and to my shame I stood by and watched intervening to prevent immoral acts only once or twice.

    Nothing I saw in any way shook my conviction that the land was ours and to abandon it would create problems far greater. During Oslo I prayed that I might be wrong, as we all know, that was not to be.

  240. The Turkish Ambassador to Israel has just announced that he was trapped in the talk he was invited to at the Foreign Ministry, that he didn’t know in advance what was coming down.

    Had he studied the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 23a, which I quoted a few posts back, he would have known that those of ‘Clean Minds’ don’t enter meetings unless they know in advance who they’ll be sitting with, and by extension, what is coming down.

  241. “…by extension, what is coming down.” – that’s a bit of a stretch.

    In diplomatic meetings like that, no one ever really knows what their opposite number is going to say.

    Personally I think the Turks are making a fuss because complaining about Israeli violence in Gaza might make the EU look favourably upon their bid for inclusion.

    Jeremy

  242. Avraham Reiss

    Jeremy,
    The ambassador was called to the FM because of the anti-Israeli series shown on TV in Turkey.
    He couldn’t have been totally ignorant of the agenda.

    But your comment about the EU is no less valid.

  243. If I’m not mistaken the rebuke took place at the knesset and not at the Foreign Ministry. Apparently this was one of the lesser reasons for Turkey’s anger.

    Personally, and despite the fact that I voted for Ayalon’s party, I think the act was a mistake. If you’re going to do something like that, sit down beforehand, discuss the possible consequences of such an action and make sure that you can handle all eventualities in a way that you’ll be in a better position afterwards than you were before.

    The fact that Turkey would be upset was eminently foreseeable. The next question is, will Bibi and your other colleagues support you in the face of Turkish angry protestations? If the answer is no and you will in that likely eventuality be ultimately forced to backtrack, then again, is you final position better than it had been before you did what you did.

    The strange thing is that for us Shabbat afternoon mediocre chess players it’s all absurdly obvious.

  244. Avraham,

    Before you lavish any further praise on “those lovely little boxes” you may be enlightened to learn that the author of this excellent blog was very likely making use of a derogatory slang term denoting female genitalia.

    Don’t worry, I was too was an ignoramus to the expression prior to intensive exposure to Melchettmike. If that was the only thing you didn’t know, we’d all be laughing.

  245. Daniel,

    thanks for the enlightening ‘heads-up’.

    In Mike’s case, I suppose I should now ask ‘heads up WHAT’?

    But I still don’t see how he got there from Ninjot in discarded cigarette-packets.

  246. Hi Mike, hilarious and interesting. Cheers,
    Shamir… A voice from your probably
    undocumented English teaching experience…

  247. I was wondering whether any melchett mike Ranaanites might be able to shed some light on the following . . .

    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/vandals-desecrate-ra-anana-reform-synagogue-for-third-time-1.356055

    I just hope it wasn’t brought on by our Greg!

  248. I have been grubbing around for an alibi since publication Friday morning but that “darkest hour just before dawn” is always when the Hangman’s noose dangles most menacingly.

    In the meantime, the incident jolted my memory about an occurrence 40 years ago in Hasmonean that puts the Joe Witriol reflexive beatings in truly mild perspective. Out of genuine pity for the victim I am not naming names.

    It was a 2nd Form B Group Non-Yeshiva Stream JS lesson in Joe Witriol’s (my) form room. One of the class, an unfortunate dead ringer for the hapless Smike in Nicholas Nickleby (which, for the occasional ex-Hasmo who gave up on Dickens after Great Expectations, means an absolute Nebech) gave the wrong answer to a question. The Teacher (who was an Israeli Shaliach) approached his desk , literally beat him to the floor and kicked him viciously while screaming “I hate you, you dirty Reform pig”.

    I think that beats screwing kids’ faces into the desk any day of the week.

    What a bloody asylum!

  249. This is the 1st I’ve heard about this. I don’t have much good to say about anyone who desecrates any religious site or institution. I can only hope the local authorities find the perpetrators & punish them accordingly.

    Approx 20 years ago, both churches & synagogues here mostly were immune from graffiti & vandalism. Only the most sick, sociopathic individuals ever did such things. Now we’re all fair game. It’s deplorable.

    Unfortunately, those who tolerate hate language & actions only encourage those who have no self-restraint to act on their yeitser hara. In order to keep society civil, we all bear a responsibility to keep our rhetoric in check. We have too many people here – who ought to know better – who go on TV & say some of the most despicable things & then claim they have no responsibility when someone does what they’ve suggested. The same happens in Israel & all over the world. It’s disgusting!

  250. I wonder whether the Rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch, would have let Elvis have his barmy at the Kotel (John Fisher: switch off before 41 seconds) . . .

    In the case of a similar bat mitzvah, what colour tallis might be permissible?

  251. It was a BARK-mitsvah ;) as for b’not mitsvah, every color of choice is acceptable for tallitot.

    However, the fact that the kotel has become less & less accessible for women & mixed minyanim is a complete disgrace & a shande for all Jews! I’m quite sure that those who fought so bravely & died so that every Jew would have access to the kotel would be horrified to learn how their valiant efforts have been so utterly reversed some 45 years later. My intolerance for orthodox hypocrisy grows in direct proportion!

  252. Rabbi Eliezer Silver was conducting services in one of the camps after the war. One of the former inmates refused to come to the services. He went to him and said, “I hear that you are angry with God.”

    He replied, “I am not angry with God, I am angry with one of his servants.”

    Someone in the camp had managed to smuggle a siddur in. The price for using the siddur was the daily ration of ‘soup’. Many people gave their ration and died in order to be able to use the siddur. The owner of the siddur also died from the immense quantities of soup that he ingested.

    Rabbi Silver replied, “You are angry with that man, but what about the people who gave their soup?”

    The man relented and attended the services after that.

    The purpose of the formality of halachah is to encapsulate the feelings of love and candour which are at the core of Judaism. Hillel said ‘ve’ahavta lereachah komochah zeh kol ha’torah kulah’, however Hillel is still one of the pillars of the details of halacha.

    The goal is the inner meaning of the mitzvot, however the premise is that it is not possible to perceive this feeling without actual observance.

  253. I am not sure you will approve of the analogy, Pinchos – in fact, I am not sure that I do! – but I received the following, by e-mail, this morning:

    “I like Pinchos. He is like a young preacher who walks into a Wild West brothel to try and save the fallen.”

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