26 December 2006

Wonder of Wonder - Miracle of miracles



There's somewhat of a discussion happening now in one of my prior posts. I find the believers don't really listen to the thrust of my arguments, or at least it seems that way to me. My basic contention is that the Torah does not seem divine, the miracles therein are farfetched and that there are many kashias on JO. Sure, each individual question, but I say the burden of proof has shifted to them. The only fallback they have at that point is the Kuzari & the mesorah, neither of which is rock solid.

I keep on stressing that our belief systems are too easily manipulated and can't easily be trusted.

Her's an example of what's wrong.

Every now and then, I visit a relative. In his shul, as in many shuls, they have some divrei Torah sheets hanging around. In this shul, it's kept to a minimum and the quality is pretty good.

One of them I particulary like is a publication called "Torah Tavlin". They have different sections, the first being Divrei Torah in Lashon Kodesh followed by Divrei Torah in English. One of the English sections is a weekly series entitled "Maaseh Avos - Siman L'bonim." Events that ocurred to our ancestors are premonitions of events that occur to us (Loosely translated). Usually it's a contemporary or recent story of Hashgocha Prutis that has some tie-in to the weekly Parsha.

This goes back to Parshas Chayei Sarah and is in reference to Kefitsas Haderech that occurred to Eleizer the trusty servant of Avraham Avinu.

Here goes:

"Every Erev Yom Tov, the Kalever Rebbe, R'Yitchok Aizek Taub ZT"L, would disappear for many hours; no one knew where he went. One year on Erev Sukkos, the Rosh Hakohol (community president) of Kalev, R' Yankel Fisch, was determined to discover the tzaddik's secret. While the rebbe was occupied, R' Yankel hid himself in the wagon, where he remained undiscovered until the Rebbe was well on his journey. When R' Yankel revealed himself, the Rebbe became visibly distressed. He exclaimed, "what can I do with you now?". He made the stowaway promise not to ask any questions; not of himself nor of anyone else.

Soon they arrived at a city which R' Yankel did not recognize. The Rebbe abrubtly stoppped the wagon near a Mikveh and instructed his passenger to wait while he immersed himself there.

R' Yankel waited in the wagon until he was overcome by curiosity and impatience. Forgetting the tzaddik's warning, he hopped off the wagon and began questioning the people nearby. "Excuse me," he asked the first man he saw, "but where am I?"

"You don't know where you are? Where do you think you are?"

"Well I was just in Kalev (Hungary) a few hours ago.

"Kalev? Well you must be mad, how can you get from Kalev to Tzefas in a few hours?"

"Tzefas?!" cried R' Yanke, you must be crazy..


The argument intensified and in the heat of the debate, R' Yankel forgot to get back in the wagon before the Rebbe reappeared. To his dismay, he arrived as the Rebbe's wagon was pulling away. Here he was now, stranded in a town of crazy people who thought they were in Tzefas. He had no choice but to ask someone to take him in for the Sukkos holiday.

At some point during the Yom Tov, R' Yankel finally realized that he really was in Tzefas and he understood that the Kalaver rebbe, using the Holy name of Hashem for Kefitsas Haderech, came there every Yom Tov to immerse himself in the Mikvah of the Arizal. He also realized that due to his lack of resources, he was compelled to remain in Tzefas until the Rebbe would return the following Yom Tov.

Meanwhile back in Kalev, the Fisch family was frantic about R' Yanke's sudden disappearance and turned to the Kalaver Rebbe for advice. He assured them there was no need for concern, promising that R' Yankel would return by Erev Pesach.

Six months later, R' Yankel was delighted to see the tzaddik's wagon arriving at the Arizal's mikveh on Erev Pesach. This time he made sure not to miss his ride back home. The Rebbe extracted a promise from R' Yankel not to reveal the incident in his lifetime; it was only revealed after the Rebbe's passing."



Note the story supplies the exact identities of the participants, which gives it every illusion of being a clearly verified story that is to be taken at 100% face value.


There is absolutely no indication that the story is in any way different than the rest of the Torah M'sinai that is in the publication.

Need I say more?

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    186 Comments:

    At December 26, 2006 3:06 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    If I am the guilty party to whom you refer - what elements of your argument do you believe I'm not listening to?

    I do appreciate your questions and the difficulties you raise. But I feel that the questions have satisfying answers and that the many of the difficulties emerge from a certain perspective on Judaism, and not from Judaism itself.

    The story you cite is a case in point. It is a story I would laugh at, just as you do. It has nothing to do with Torah per se, although it is associated with a certain Jewish subculture with which we are both familiar. The Rambam would laugh with us, no doubt.

    Religious Jews are no less susceptible to silly beliefs than anyone else, I agree. Many are superstitious and anti-science. Those in Tanach worshipped idols. But does this mean the mesorah is inherently flawed? Does this make the ideas of Torah any less profound or revolutionary?

    I don't mean to beat a dead horse here. I am sorry if I am dragging this dialogue along for longer than you are interested.

     
    At December 26, 2006 3:46 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    bhb
    now would be a good time to trot out my nissim post!

     
    At December 26, 2006 3:48 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Rabbi Maroof,
    >But does this mean the mesorah is inherently flawed?

    Actually, yes. Sure I gave a small example, almost childish example even. But it goes to the point, we can't take anything we read at face value. There's no reason for me not to apply critical thinking when reading "Torah Tavlin", "Gemorah" and even the Chumash.

    It has to pass the blink test. Is it reasonable? If it's not, then prove it to me.

    >Does this make the ideas of Torah any less profound or revolutionary?

    Not at all.

    > I don't mean to beat a dead horse here. I am sorry if I am dragging this dialogue along for longer than you are interested.

    There's certainly no need to apologize.

    Yes - Torah is beautiful, Learning Torah is beautiful, Judaism is beautiful, and the Frum lifestyle is, for the most part, beautiful (onerous, but beautiful).

    And if someone is fortunate enough to believe, good for him/her.


    But, unless there's something novel to be said, I think I've heard it all.

     
    At December 26, 2006 3:51 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    rabbi maroof,
    i thought it over.
    i would prefer to see you debate lakewood yid.

    once he is modeh that he can buy your version, i can then discuss where i have issues.

    im curious if you ever thought doing a piligrimage to the gedolim and see for yourself first hand (and report back) wether they are completely independant of their handlers, and how they recieved your views.

     
    At December 26, 2006 4:04 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Happy, I just saw your comment on my blog, and it brought a smile to my face. I doubt that the original questioner will see it though.

    Like I said, the Gedolim of the Charedi world are great Talmudists and poskim, but I don't feel bound by their views of hashqafa. I can rely upon classical sources for that. So it wouldn't be profitable for me to approach them.

    In terms of Lakewood Yid, I am more than willing to have a discussion with him if he's interested.

     
    At December 26, 2006 4:11 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

     
    At December 26, 2006 4:13 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    BHB, so let's agree to disagree for now. Just to clarify, I do use critical thinking to understand Chumash, Talmud, etc. The same kind of critical thinking I would use to understand mathematics or science. And I operate under the same premise - that it is a field of knowledge that I am in the process of comprehending. I don't assume that simply because something seems unreasonable on the surface, it doesn't ultimately make sense. After all, most scientists thought that the theory of atoms made no sense, until they discovered it was true.

    To me, the miracles of the Torah are no more unbelievable than the existence of the universe, or its lawfulness, or the presence of intelligent life on earth. Why wouldn't God intervene in history to educate mankind, He already orchestrated countless miracles in the process of bringing us here?

    Meanwhile, I will continue to visit and enjoy your blog, and if the dead horse is resurrected somehow along the way, then so be it.

    And let me once again acknowledge the very positive and cordial tone you set throughout our exchange. It is very impressive and should be an example for other bloggers.

     
    At December 26, 2006 4:30 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Rabbi Maroof,

    >Like I said, the Gedolim of the Charedi world are great Talmudists and poskim, but I don't feel bound by their views of hashqafa. I can rely upon classical sources for that.

    As an aside, why can't I say that I don't feel bound by the Perushim (Pharisees), and instead see things as the Tsedukkim saw them?

    > BHB, so let's agree to disagree for now.

    Certainly.

    > And I operate under the same premise - that it is a field of knowledge that I am in the process of comprehending. I don't assume that simply because something seems unreasonable on the surface, it doesn't ultimately make sense.

    True, but I believe we'd call it Occams' Razor.

    If Tosfos rendered a simpler phsat than Rashi, we'd favor that. (Of course, we'd spend three hours trying to explain what was really bothering Rashi ;) but we'd really favor Tosfos. Likewise, I find a better model of the world.

    > Why wouldn't God intervene in history to educate mankind, He already orchestrated countless miracles in the process of bringing us here?

    We can get it a whole discussion here that we're both pretty familiar with.

    >Meanwhile, I will continue to visit and enjoy your blog, and if the dead horse is resurrected somehow along the way, then so be it.


    You're always welcome.

    > And let me once again acknowledge the very positive and cordial tone you set throughout our exchange. It is very impressive and should be an example for other bloggers

    Likewise, it's a pleasure.

     
    At December 26, 2006 4:33 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >now would be a good time to trot out my nissim post!

    Happy, I'm not in a position to do that until tomorrow night.

    V'hamavin Yavin.

     
    At December 26, 2006 4:56 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    rabbi maroof
    im sure he threw you for a loop.
    when i read his comment, i fell off my chair laughing.

    seriously, do we simply resort to the supreme court test about pornography? you know it when you see it?

    i think xgh is arguing that there isnt a difference between believing in divinity of torah, and believing one can channel the dead.

    lakewood yid beleives bilaams donkey talked. so did many rishonim.
    if they told me this today i would say the same two words:
    "seek help"

    lakewood yid believes maharal could of made a golem.
    i find that claim just as absurd as someone who claims to channel the dead.

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:15 PM, Anonymous tayqoo said...

    read what the ramban says about why a nida is assur (parshat achray mot). i'd say seek help too if he would say the same today.

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    >The story you cite is a case in point. It is a story I would laugh at, just as you do. It has nothing to do with Torah per se, although it is associated with a certain Jewish subculture with which we are both familiar. The Rambam would laugh with us, no doubt.

    Rabbi Maroof,

    Do you believe in angels? The Rambam did. Do you find that laughable too? Why not?

    How do you understand - Tzadik Gozer HKBH Mekayem? R'tzon Y'rayov Yaaseh?

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    To me, the miracles of the Torah are no more unbelievable than the existence of the universe, or its lawfulness, or the presence of intelligent life on earth.


    Yea, but “the existence of the universe” isn’t really debatable, we observe it. We know it’s here. You can’t say the same for the miracles in the Torah. Something can only be described as “unbelievable” with respect to a set of preconceived notions. For me, that set of preconceived notions is what I observe. As such, the existence of the world, which I observe, is really not a shocker.


    And let me once again acknowledge the very positive and cordial tone you set throughout our exchange. It is very impressive and should be an example for other bloggers.


    Let me second that notion.

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    >lakewood yid beleives bilaams donkey talked. so did many rishonim.
    if they told me this today i would say the same two words:
    "seek help"

    You're the one who needs serious help. At first, you refered to the Charedim as Taliban. Now its the Torah which is Taliban. You pride yourself that you took off your blinders. Why don't you then take a good look at yourself and see where you are heading? The next thing you know, you'll be in XGH's shoes full of bitterness and anxiety, not being able to believe anything, yet, not wanting to leave your whole family.

    You don't stop for a second harping about belief in Golem , and in the interim, you totaly forget about the vast amount of Chesed and Torah that the Charedim accomplish. So they believe in Golem. So what. At least, they don't consider Chazal dumb fools or call the Torah Taliban.

    Your shameful skepticism doesn't expound your intelligence. To the contrary, it screams your ignorance.

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:35 PM, Anonymous tayqoo said...

    you totaly forget about the vast amount of Chesed and Torah that the Charedim accomplish.
    -----------------------
    there would be much less need for chesed if they concentrated on tzedek instead.

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    >Yea, but “the existence of the universe” isn’t really debatable, we observe it. We know it’s here.

    Yes, but you have no idea how we got here, other than senseless evolutionary theories riddled with holes.

    So as much as we can accept that we got here via God who is above the laws of nature, it isn't any less believable that God bends those laws at his will -hence miracles.

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:37 PM, Blogger Avi said...

    One of my very super frum nephews once said to me, uncle Avi Gan Eden is so wonderful you dont wanna miss out on it ( in other words, he wants me to be more frum like he is ) I said to him, how do you know that Gan Eden is so wonderful, have you ever seen it ? He said no, of course but the rebbeim and tzadikkim of previous generations did see it in a " nevooa " a prophecy or a dream. What can anyone possibly say to that. I cant argue with miracles and a nevooa. But they seriously believe this stuff They believe every word that the rebbeim in the yeshivas tell them. NOO ?

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    >there would be much less need for chesed if they concentrated on tzedek instead.

    PLease explain why.

    Olam Chesed Yiboneh...

    Al Shelosha Devarim Haolam Omed...
    .... V'al Gemilus Chasadim

    lakewoody yid

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    >But they seriously believe this stuff They believe every word that the rebbeim in the yeshivas tell them. NOO ?

    Whats wrong with that?

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:47 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >Yes, but you have no idea how we got here, other than senseless evolutionary theories riddled with holes.

    Granted, I have issues accepting evolution. However, science has a great track record of explaining things, predicting things and progress. And that is why I can get over my issues about evolution. But i can't say the same for Torah.

    > So as much as we can accept that we got here via God who is above the laws of nature, it isn't any less believable that God bends those laws at his will -hence miracles.

    It's believable in theory. But if I don't personally experience it, the burden of proof is not on me.

    Had science not accomplished what it did in the past 500 years, I agree with you. I'd laugh at evolution, at the notion of E=MC2, at heliocentricity, etc.


    LY, please also see my response to your comments about the Rambam and Chareidim.


    Little Foxling, thanks! and I'm glad you explained the difference between open miracles and the universe as we see it. I could not do so.

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    LY said


    >Yea, but “the existence of the universe” isn’t really debatable, we observe it. We know it’s here.

    Yes, but you have no idea how we got here, other than senseless evolutionary theories riddled with holes.

    So as much as we can accept that we got here via God who is above the laws of nature, it isn't any less believable that God bends those laws at his will -hence miracles.


    It’s not that miracles are hard to accept, it’s just that, from what I have observed, that’s just not the way the world works. I’ve never seen any.

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



    lakewood yid beleives bilaams donkey talked. so did many rishonim.
    if they told me this today i would say the same two words:
    "seek help"



    What you have in Chumash is essentially a book that on every other page, a miracle is happening. Sure, you could go through it, as you did, and explain away every line. The donkey is an allegory, the ages in the hundreds of years are really hundreds of months, the sun didn’t really stop, noach is a response to Gilgamesh. But, eventually you’ve got to ask yourself: if every other page has this sort of miracle, isn’t it just more likely that it’s meant to be taken literally, that miracles can happen?

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:57 PM, Anonymous tayqoo said...

    >there would be much less need for chesed if they concentrated on tzedek instead.

    PLease explain why.

    Olam Chesed Yiboneh...

    Al Shelosha Devarim Haolam Omed...
    .... V'al Gemilus Chasadim
    ---------------------
    ly
    instead of shooting from the hip, why don't you give it some thought?

     
    At December 26, 2006 6:14 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    What you have in Chumash is essentially a book that on every other page, a miracle is happening.

    This is actually not true, and it's one of the things that differentiates the Torah from other literature of its era. Sefer Beresheet, for example, has almost no supernatural material. The lives of the Avot, with the exception of the birth of Yitschaq, are pretty normal.

    Miracles came into play to help the nation of Israel get onto the right track, but there is no indication that miraculous intervention is an ideal situation that we should hope to see regularly. It's a deviation from nature that is designed to enable mankind to recognize God's existence and providence in nature.

     
    At December 26, 2006 6:16 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    If miracles are theoretically possible, then the fact that we've never directly observed them shouldn't make them any less possible. Especially if there is good reason to assume we wouldn't see them - first of all, they only occur in tandem with nevuah, which we don't possess today, and second of all, they are violations of nature's laws, which are not preferable to begin with.

     
    At December 26, 2006 6:27 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    ly

    you would be perfectly happy under the taliban. why do you think they are bad? forget the anti israel part. just focus on their customs.
    they are very frum, and nearly identical laws as the torah.

    so dont twist my words, im not saying the torah is taliban the political movement, but it reads like a taliban manual.
    you yourself said its our western values that blind us to the beutiful values of the torah, like amalek, sotah, ben sorer umorer, polygamy, pilegesh, killing idolaters, etc.

    they believe the same.
    if thats ok with you, then fine. but take it like a man. you want me to simply suspend belief so that i should be like you and believe in fairy tales, just to be happy like you?.
    do you think once one begins to think that they can shut their brain?

    re malachim, i also thought the rambam specifically said any instance of malachim in the torah is a dream.
    where is your source?

     
    At December 26, 2006 6:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    Sefer Beresheet, for example, has almost no supernatural material.


    Yes, you are right. Beriesheth is relatively miracle free. But, why are we limiting this to Berisheth? Are you saying then, that Berisheth is true and the rest is not? I assume you specifically single this book out since you yourself realize you could not say the same about Exodus where literally every page is another miracle. In that way, it’s not so much an example. It’s the acceptation. Anyway, Beriesheth is far from miracle free. Here’s a small list that comes to mind immediately, but there are tons more.

    1. People living into the 900’s
    2. The Mabul
    3. The sons of God
    4. As you say, Yitzchak’s birth
    5. The destruction of Sedom
    6. The angles appearing to Avraham after the milah
    7. The angles appearing to Lot
    8. Paroh’s dreams
    9. The sar Haofim and Sar hamshkim’s dreams
    10. Yosef’s dreams
    11. A talking snake
    12. The Keruvim outside of the Garden of Eden
    13. The dispersion of the Tower of Babylon
    14. The angle appearing to Hagar

    To name a few, but there are much more.

     
    At December 26, 2006 6:28 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

     
    At December 26, 2006 6:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    Miracles came into play to help the nation of Israel get onto the right track, but there is no indication that miraculous intervention is an ideal situation that we should hope to see regularly.



    Read the section of Elijah and Elisha. They regularly perform miracles, not for the nation’s good, but for their own personal convenience.

     
    At December 26, 2006 6:34 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >Sefer Beresheet, for example, has almost no supernatural material.


    God (constantly) talking to the Avos, Avimelech, & anyone else who was willing to listen :)

     
    At December 26, 2006 6:36 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    -lots wife turning to salt
    -a talking sex maniac snake
    -according to lakewood yid, avrohom avinu did metzizah bpeh on himself
    - avrohom knowing about eruv tavshilin, before chazal invented it
    - yaakov fighting with malach
    - yaakov neck turning to rock (the original The Thing from Fantastic Four)
    (this is the torah lakewood believes)
    - the lord of the kings adventure with avrohom playing the role of gandalf

     
    At December 26, 2006 6:39 PM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    happy,

    stop complaining :-)

    when did you start being so unhappy with your lot?

     
    At December 26, 2006 6:40 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    bhb
    reminds me of the tales of besht stories someone was trying to convince my 11 year old was true.
    nearly every shmo in those days was able to go to heaven and talk to moshiach, or meet moshiach on the ground.

    there were so many visits by moshiach that moshiach met moshiach one day. that was a problem.
    so they assured any more moshiach sightings.
    thats why we dont see moshiach in our times. but we got people who could make a golem. not too bad.

     
    At December 26, 2006 6:45 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    bspinoza,
    be happy, you guys did a great job on me! ; )
    honestly, no complaints.
    me and ly are friends.

     
    At December 26, 2006 6:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    happy,

    LOL!

    That’s a great little summary of berisheth.

    Try not to be funny or people will get suspicious that I am reading a kefirah blog.

     
    At December 26, 2006 7:13 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    little foxling
    and they wouldnt figure that out from you blog!

     
    At December 26, 2006 7:49 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    I don't consider prophecy (i.e., God communicating with people, dreams, visions of angels, etc.) to be miraculous, strictly speaking. This eliminates most of the examples from Beresheet.

    Many of the miracles you cite are either occurrences in a prophetic vision and/or so obscure that it is unclear what is going on altogether (ex., bnei elohim.)

    The Mabul and dispersion were not necessarily miraculous (and no, I don't think the flood was global). Even Spinoza (I mean the original one from the 17th century) observes that the Tanach often attributes natural events to God in order to make a point. Several mefarshim agree.

    I also take the first couple of chapters of Beresheet to be allegorical, especially matters related to Gan Eden, including the keruvim, snake, etc.

    Happy, you already know I don't take any of those midrashim literally.

    Miracles performed for a prophet's benefit I can accept for the same reason I accept miracles performed for the nation - they play an essential role in the unfolding providential plan.

    I don't think it's possible to progress much by this method of inquiry. Simply listing the problems and then going back and forth doesn't add much to our knowledge. That's why I prefer to focus on the general issues instead.

    My basic approach is this: The Universe is governed by Chochma. God is the source of Chochma. The Torah is an expression of that Chochma, I see that with my own mind. I recognize in the Torah a vehicle for liberating mankind from primitivism in religion, philosophy and morality, and guiding us toward a life of wisdom and justice. This purpose is manifest in the Tanach, Chazal and all the works of the classic Baale Hamesorah. Anything outside of this framework, such as the stories BHB cites, I dismiss out of hand. This is the criterion I use for making these judgments.

    But if a person were a tremendous Chacham and possessed a highly refined character, and they claimed to be a prophet, I would give them the opportunity to prove themselves by making predictions about the future, as Rambam instructs. If they can, then I'll believe them, and I won't dismiss the possibility that they could perform a miracle.

    In terms of tsadik gozer and HKBH mekayem, or retson yereav yaaseh - these are deep concepts and not simple, superficial ideas. If we take them at face value, we should assume that no sick person that a tsadik ever prayed for would die.

    The point of these statements is that Hashem's providence accomodates itself to the understanding of the great tsadikim, because its purpose is to enlighten and direct them. If they see a certain path as correct, Hashem may allow it to be successful, even though that path might not have been ideal "klape shamaya". This is an extremely short explanation of a very complicated topic that requires lots of elucidation...

     
    At December 26, 2006 8:04 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

    RJM,

    So what's the thing that convinces you the Torah is min hashamayim and not the work of man? Is it God's word?

     
    At December 26, 2006 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    The Mabul and dispersion were not necessarily miraculous (and no, I don't think the flood was global).


    That’s exactly my point. Of course, you could reinterpret every other verse, but why do that when the book seems to believe in miracles? A local flood is far from an easy read in the text. Why two of every specie? Aside from that, the text states explicitly that it was a global flood.


    I also take the first couple of chapters of Beresheet to be allegorical, especially matters related to Gan Eden, including the keruvim, snake, etc.


    Again, you only eliminate the miracles by reinterpreting many many verses.



    Miracles performed for a prophet's benefit I can accept for the same reason I accept miracles performed for the nation - they play an essential role in the unfolding providential plan.


    Then why don’t we see more miracles nowadays? LY might say we do, as in the story BHB posted about. But, since you don’t believe these stories, you’ve got some explaining to do (I know you mentioned that point about nevuah. To me, that sounds like apologetics.)


    I don't think it's possible to progress much by this method of inquiry.


    Yes, little of substance goes on in blogs altogether. But, it’s fun.


    The Universe is governed by Chochma. God is the source of Chochma. The Torah is an expression of that Chochma, I see that with my own mind.


    Have you spent significant amounts of your time studying other religions that you can conclude that the Torah has more chochmah then they do? At the risk of sounding rude, were you born Jewish? Is it just a coincidence that you came to the conclusion that the religion you were born into has chochmah and not another one? Could you be biased? I don’t mean to insult you or anything. I’m just saying, these are some very subjective questions and everyone really has to think long and hard to make sure they are being fair and objective.

     
    At December 26, 2006 8:54 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Littlefoxling,

    As a general principle, I don't feel bound to interpret things literally if Chazal themselves did not. This approach to the Mabul appears in Saadiah Gaon, for example.

    (I know you mentioned that point about nevuah. To me, that sounds like apologetics.)

    Rishonim offer this explanation for miracles, even in the "pre-scientific era." The theory fits all examples of miraculous intervention in Tanach, and it makes perfect sense too!

    Again, you only eliminate the miracles by reinterpreting many many verses.

    Chazal took the same approach in midrashim.


    Have you spent significant amounts of your time studying other religions that you can conclude that the Torah has more chochmah then they do?

    To be completely honest...Yes. Very, very significant amounts of time on several other religions. And, in the end, the conclusion was inescapable. No other religion literally revolves around study and learning. No other system of religious practice is completely based upon knowledge and scholarship. No other religion holds the chacham as its "hero", and the experience of intellectual joy as its highest aspiration.

    That is not to say that there are not positive aspects of other religious systems though. Thinkers of all traditions have contributed meaningful ideas to human discourse.

    You are correct that bias can be a problem when investigating such potentially sensitive and personal subjects.

     
    At December 26, 2006 8:57 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Orthoprax,

    I believe the Torah is Divine based upon two things:

    1) The strength and trustworthiness of the mesorah

    2) Its content

    Phrases like "God's word" smack of Bible-thumping evangelicals. I avoid them because they oversimplify the process of nevuah and what it means for knowledge to be "min hashamayim".

     
    At December 26, 2006 9:00 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

    Ok, so let's carry this one step further. What convinced you of the trustworthiness of the mesora?

    The issue of content is subjective.

     
    At December 26, 2006 9:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    RJM,

    To be completely honest...Yes. Very, very significant amounts of time on several other religions. And, in the end, the conclusion was inescapable.


    To be completely honest…. I am very impressed. Kudos to you. I’m not sure how many could say that. Of course, there’s still the problem of bias, but that’s beyond your control. You can only try your best, which it seems you have.


    No other religion literally revolves around study and learning.


    Ah, that’s what you meant by chachmah. Why is that a reason to assume the religion is true? Because it values intelligence? Why does that mean it’s right?

    About Nevuah

    1. The reason I say it seems like apologetics is that since every other page in the chumash has a navi, you of course get away with this answer. How convenient. Which, leads to another question, why is there no nevuah nowadays? It seems a little suspicious that in the Torah every guy and his mother is a navi, but then you have a 2,000 year dearth of prophets? Of course, we all know what chazal have to say about it. But, isn’t a little suspicious that in tanach the supernatural is common place, but, conveniently, whenever you expect a miracle nowadays there’s some clever way to explain why it shouldn’t happen. How convenient.
    2. Not all miracles are limited to prophets. A few examples:
    - the superhero Shimshon (his father was prophetically informed of his birth, but I think that hardly counts as saying the miracles are related to prophecy)
    - Shaul calls up Shmuel from the dead
    - the sorcerers in Egypt
    - the countless Gemorah’s about amoraim doing miracles

    Chazal took the same approach in midrashim.

    We are debating whether or not traditional Judaism, or chazal, are right. You can’t quote them here. The text sounds like it’s miracles. So, Rasag and Rambam had the same problems we do and came up with the same apologetics, but they are still just as forced in the text.

     
    At December 26, 2006 10:04 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    rabbi maroof,
    of course i was teasing lakewood yid with my list.

    by the way, i posted a link Iin the comments of the other post) to your statement about we obviously have souls.
    did i misunderstand you?
    i really dont think its obvious.
    i think you meant to say, we obviously BELIEVE we have souls

     
    At December 26, 2006 10:20 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Orthoprax,

    The reliability of the mesora is something I have commented on recently here, on XGH's blog and on my own blog two months ago extensively. I think it is beyond reasonable doubt. Time doesn't permit me to review my reasoning right now, I will try to in the near future if you're still interested.

    I disagree that the content issue is subjective. This is a common claim but it's not true.


    Littlefoxling,

    I'm short on time, so let me try to respond quickly...

    Maybe I didn't express what I meant about Chochma clearly enough. It's not about valuing intelligence alone. It's that Judaism points man in the direction of the highest reality accessible to us - the reality of Chochma, which even scientists are beginning to realize is the very foundation of the cosmos. Abstract ideas literally move the universe. And Judaism attempted to liberate people from a idolatrous, materialistic, superstitious viewpoint and orient them toward perceiving that reality - through Shabbat, Tefillin, Talmud Torah, etc. This is what Tehillim 1, 19, 119 and the entire Sefer Mishle are all about.

    I disagree with your assertion that there are so many neviim and constant miracles in Tanach. That is not really true at all.

    With regard to Nevuah: In Sefer Shmuel we read that "eyn hazon nifratz", there had not been an established prophet for some time. This is pretty clear support for the idea that becoming a prophet is not so simple, as Chazal state. Once there were neviim around, they could train others to attain prophecy as well. This seems clear from Tanach, in support of the Chazal.

    In some cases, it is unclear whether a "revelation" is from an angel/prophecy or a navi conveying a message.

    Tanach is not a comprehensive history. It is a collection of important events and highlights. Decades and even centuries can be skipped. The fact that it mentions lots of miracles is only because the purpose of Tanach is to give a theological perspective of history, so it draws our attention to these events. Everything else at those times, and in between, was functioning normally!

    The other questions you raise are good, not so simple and require a more thorough response. But again, the existence of questions should be expected with any theory. It is not inherently a strike against the theory.

     
    At December 26, 2006 10:25 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Happy,

    The main thrust of my statement there was not about souls. I was trying to point out that all human beings have the same nature (I used "soul" to capture this idea), so it is erroneous to claim - as I believe Schroeder does - that only a segment of the population descended from the divinely "ensouled" Adam who was "created" 6000 years ago.

    Such a view would lead us to the belief that a significant portion of the human population of today was not "ensouled" and was therefore somehow less human than the great grandchildren of Adam. And this belief is contradicted by our experience that all homo sapiens have the same human nature, i.e. rational faculties, etc.

     
    At December 26, 2006 10:27 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    rabbi maroof
    thanks for the clarification.

    i didnt realize schroeder is such an apikores. i thought he was in the same league as rabbi gottlieb and tatz.

     
    At December 26, 2006 10:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Happy,

    Here's a story for you. I owe someone for some time now a $1,000. He wasn't really bothering me that much for repayment, but I felt stupid every time I saw him. I really wanted to pay him back, but I didn't have the cash on hand as I have many expenses and the cash flow isn't as I would wish it to be.

    For some time now, my Tefillin needed some attention. Some of the corners had worn out and needed some blackening. I kept telling myself that I need to fix it, but it kept on getting pushed off. Sometimes the thought flipped through my mind that who knows if perhaps my 'not 100% Kosher Tefillin' was a cause in my financial tightness. So last week, I went to buy those special Tefillin Magic Markers which are filled with special ink which is Kosher for Tefillin (with a Hechsher, of course). But I didn't get around to using it. Today after davening, I said - thats it. I took out the marker, and filled in the needed spots. After it dried, I put them away, and went to work and totaly forgot about it. When I arrived home, I checked my mail. There was a letter from my mortgage company, stating that they overcharged me on my taxes (escrow account), and a refund of $998.67 will be shortly mailed to me.

    Co-incidence?

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 26, 2006 10:40 PM, Blogger Avi said...

    Who is this guy Joshua Maroof, and what does he see in the torah that is the saviour of mankind? If the torah was such a wonderful book that would save mankind and bring perfect sense to this crazy world, by now everyone would know it. The torah may make Joshua happy and he clearly thinks very highly of our fearless leaders the Chazal but to everyone else, the torah is a very small fish in a very big pond. It;s a book written by men for other men filled with fairy tales. Avi

     
    At December 26, 2006 10:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    >The torah may make Joshua happy and he clearly thinks very highly of our fearless leaders the Chazal but to everyone else, the torah is a very small fish in a very big pond. It;s a book written by men for other men filled with fairy tales. Avi

    Tell us Avi. Have you ever finished Shas? B'iyun? With Rishonim?

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 26, 2006 10:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    >It;s a book written by men for other men filled with fairy tales. Avi

    Was the big Tsunami a couple years ago a fairy tale? Had that been written in the Torah that from a little wave, 250,000 people died, no doubt that Avi would have laughed it off.

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 26, 2006 10:50 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    ly
    the check was already in your house.
    so if anything, that means it was decided to give you the money BEFORE you fixed your tefilin.

    you also said this was overtax from an escrow account. when is the normal time for them to check these things? end of year?

    i wonder how you would of felt if you had waited till tomorrow, and come home to see the check.
    I bet you would of said
    "wow, i thought about fixing my tefillin, and hashem rewarded me"

     
    At December 26, 2006 10:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    LY,

    A true inspiring story.

    It also reminds me of a sad story. I have a friend who published some pamphlets filled with stories about how fixing your tefilin, mezuzah, etc. can cause miracles. Stories about people getting better from illness etc. He told me point blank that he invented the stories himself. I then lost much faith in these stories.

    Now, since you are a blogger you are probably honest, and I assume your story is not made up. But, in a vast world as large as our own, a certain number of Co-incidence's are expected. Think about it. We all go through hundreds of events, every day. There's hundreds of days in a year. There are billions of us. The number of events is staggering. This is especially true when you consider how many events could be attributable to divine providence. Someone misses a train on 9/11 and survives and it's a miracle. But, of course someone dies when a wedding hall collapses and that's a miracle too of God punishing the sinners.

     
    At December 26, 2006 11:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    As far as supernatural things in Bereshis, aside from the things that were already mentioned, there's also a couple of miracles regarding sheep genetics. I also wonder just how Avrohom escaped with his life when he got back home from the akedah and Isaac told his mom what happened. If that's not a miracle I don't know what is. Also I don't really understand exactly what it was that the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever taught, or why anyone at that time would have gone there.

    LY, glad you're back, although every time I read your comments I understand why there are skeptics. Just wish you'd engage the skeptics more on their arguments than on what they would have said if only they'd actually said it.

    Another anon

     
    At December 26, 2006 11:19 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    little foxling
    if it wasnt the tefillin, ly would of found 10 other things to point to.
    i bet he is thinking, im missing the point. the amount was the same.
    how can that be coincidental?

    on that detail, i need ly word that indeed the difference was 2$.

    of course many people all of sudden find money they needed to pay for that trip to vegas.
    anyway, im fine with this story, since we all have these things happen.

    people win the lottery, sometimes more than once, and they arent jewish, and they prayed to jesus to win.

     
    At December 26, 2006 11:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    people win the lottery, sometimes more than once, and they arent jewish, and they prayed to jesus to win.


    Good point. There’s actually nothing in this story to imply the $$ had to do with the Tefilin. Perhaps it was Jesus giving the money to LY to reward him for visiting skeptic blogs. Perhaps it was Mohamad and he was trying to test LY. Perhaps it was Buda rewarding the lender by giving money to LY because the lender had recently covertly been visiting Buddhist blogs.

     
    At December 27, 2006 12:03 AM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    Ly
    Isn't it a miracle that the day BHB posts a miracle of miracle entry, you go ahead and have a miracle happen!

    BHB, are you setting up times for people to get brochos?

     
    At December 27, 2006 12:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Perhaps little foxling is the Satan.

    Happy, Mamesh Min Hashamayim. I'm now even more convinced.

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 27, 2006 12:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    Just wish you'd engage the skeptics more on their arguments than on what they would have said if only they'd actually said it.


    At least he’s out here talking to us. Think of all the thousands learning it up in kollel, yet only one person who is willing to help those who have trouble with their faith. I went through years upon years of Jewish education and my issues of faith were rarely even addressed. If we’d only have more LY in the world, we’d be better off (even if he does think I am the devil).

     
    At December 27, 2006 12:53 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Rabbi Maroof,
    > Sefer Beresheet, for example, has almost no supernatural material. The lives of the Avot, with the exception of the birth of Yitschaq, are pretty normal.

    >I don't consider prophecy (i.e., God communicating with people, dreams, visions of angels, etc.) to be miraculous, strictly speaking. This eliminates most of the examples from Beresheet.


    You started with the premise that Bereishis was not supernatural. While you may not consider speaking with God a miracle it is certainly supernatural.

    So if you discount Bereshis & Noach as being allegorical, I can see the slippery slope beckoning to say God's communication was more like inspiration. Why not?

    Happy, Brachos are the domain of GH. But since you're asking, I bentch everyone with peace of mind.

    Another Anon,
    > Also I don't really understand exactly what it was that the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever taught, or why anyone at that time would have gone there.

    Welcome, (and grab a real handle).
    That question of Shem V'ever was about the only skeptical thought I had growing up. I could not understand for the of me everyone seemed to understand it. And it seems to be accepeted as fact, by all adult.


    >

     
    At December 27, 2006 1:10 AM, Blogger e-kvetcher said...

    Wow, the last time I saw the term "Kefitsas Haderech", I was reading Dune :)

     
    At December 27, 2006 1:14 AM, Anonymous tayqoo said...

    ly
    was it postmarked before you blackened the tfilin?

     
    At December 27, 2006 1:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Foxling,
    Yes, I'm glad he's talking to us. I just scratch my head at what he's saying.

    BHB,

    I'll grab another handle if you want (it's your blog and I'm a guest, so you get to call the shots on this), but I'm the same person who's been posting all along here and on other Jblogs as Another Anon. But nu, if it makes you happy, I can change. How about Cole Nidray?

    Another Anon

     
    At December 27, 2006 7:16 AM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    re the yeshiva of shem vever
    my father joked, who attended their annual dinners?
    and like you bhb he asked my charedi rav, how could there be a yeshiva, there wasnt anyone around to learn there.
    what seforim did they have (shas, with all references to the avos blacked out?)

     
    At December 27, 2006 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Foxling, I sure hope you understood that my calling you satan was a retort to your comment, and not that I think that you are the devil.

    guys, of course my story isn't an absolute PROOF. When ones objective is not to believe, nothing will convince them. But to a believer, the timing of it is striking....

    Re: Shem V'aver

    God punished the Dor Hamabul for their thievery. If God never communicated such laws (via Adam etc) how could have God punished them?

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 27, 2006 8:33 AM, Anonymous tayqoo said...

    maybe humans should know that thievery is wrong without god telling them that. maybe that is exactly what god expects.

     
    At December 27, 2006 8:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Yes, tayqoo. But for God to so severely punish them for it without ever communicating the laws to them?

    I believe there's a source that God gave the laws to Adam who passed them on.... Shem V'aver took those laws, studied them, analysed them, and applied them to all various "Shaalos" that arised.

     
    At December 27, 2006 9:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I sure hope you understood that my calling you satan was a retort to your comment, and not that I think that you are the devil.

    Yes, I was kidding. Though, the comment is pretty funny when you take it out of contest. Perhaps I should put up a “what people have to say about LF” wall like dovbear has. I’ve got my first quote

    : “Perhaps little foxling is the Satan” – LY

    guys, of course my story isn't an absolute PROOF. When ones objective is not to believe, nothing will convince them. But to a believer, the timing of it is striking....

    No one ever admits they are wrong. You are never going to get the satisfaction of us retracting in a debate. The question is, when we reflect on this in a few months from now, will any of our minds have changed? I’m thinking no, but, who knows?

     
    At December 27, 2006 9:55 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    LY,

    > guys, of course my story isn't an absolute PROOF. When ones objective is not to believe, nothing will convince them. But to a believer, the timing of it is striking....

    Proof of what?

    Why don't you apply the dictum of Schar MItsvah B'hai Alma Lecka?

    (and I'm not even going to address everyone else's issues of timing, etc)


    >God punished the Dor Hamabul for their thievery. If God never communicated such laws (via Adam etc) how could have God punished them?

    By that logic, Adam and Chava would have had to go to yeshiva as well, if not how could they have been punished for the Eits Hadaas?

     
    At December 27, 2006 10:11 AM, Blogger Avi said...

    LY. If you believe in the fairy tales that are found in the torah as absolute proof of something, how can I argue the point. Oh yes I did learn torah, including the commentary. You wanna fher me ? Hamayvee get mimdinas hayam, tzareech..... Oh wait I am not applying for the position of your Rav or your son in law for that matter. But to be honest most of my learning I have forgotten as I dont bother to open a gemara anymore, except maybe to air it out a little.

     
    At December 27, 2006 10:11 AM, Anonymous tayqoo said...

    Anonymous said...
    Yes, tayqoo. But for God to so severely punish them for it without ever communicating the laws to them?
    -----------------------------
    maybe the message is that a societies where theft/violence is rampant self destructs.

    I believe there's a source that God gave the laws to Adam who passed them on.... Shem V'aver took those laws, studied them, analysed them, and applied them to all various "Shaalos" that arised.
    ------------------------------
    why do you believe that?

    December 27, 2006 8:45 AM

     
    At December 27, 2006 10:20 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Another Anon.
    >I'll grab another handle if you want (it's your blog and I'm a guest, so you get to call the shots on this), but I'm the same person who's been posting all along here and on other Jblogs as Another Anon.

    Interesting, you know, I never realized that there was a consistent handle. I bet I'm not the only one. Either way, Mea Culpa.

     
    At December 27, 2006 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    Maybe I didn't express what I meant about Chochma clearly enough. It's not about valuing intelligence alone. It's that Judaism points man in the direction of the highest reality accessible to us - the reality of Chochma, which even scientists are beginning to realize is the very foundation of the cosmos.


    1. If someone says two statements, A & B. The fact that I may agree with him on A does not mean that B is not accurate, especially if B is hard to believe. Watch this:
    1 + 1 = 2
    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the lubaveter Rebbe.

    So, do you believe me that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the lubaveter Rebbe?

    2. many cultures value wisdom. As you say, science does. I’ll confess I don’t know much about other cultures, but from the little I do know, it doesn’t seem to be unique to Judaism. The pagan Greeks valued it as well.

    3. Personally, I do not see why chochma is the “highest reality accessible to us,” so while that may work for you, it’s not going to help me

    4. I don’t see such a strong focus on chuchma in Judaism. Sure, you can quote sources that support that, but I think when you like at the religion over all, that’s not the dominant motif.

    With regard to Nevuah: In Sefer Shmuel we read that "eyn hazon nifratz", there had not been an established prophet for some time.

    Yes, but that is one example. The passuk has to tell it to you because it is the exception, not the norm. We haven’t had a prophet in 2,500 years! Besides, it’s not saying there were no n’viem, it’s saying prophecy was rare This means there were prophets. After all, Eli was alive then and God revealed himself to Eli before that incident (I Samuel 2:27). The judge before Eli was Shimshon. There was a revelation associated with his birth (Judges 13:3).

    In some cases, it is unclear whether a "revelation" is from an angel/prophecy or a navi conveying a message.

    Same difference. The point is that we haven’t heard from God, in any way, prophecy miracle, angel, etc. for thousands of years.

    It is a collection of important events and highlights. Decades and even centuries can be skipped. The fact that it mentions lots of miracles is only because the purpose of Tanach is to give a theological perspective of history, so it draws our attention to these events.

    1. The impression Tanach gives off is that such events were not rare at the time. For example, there are many stories that seem to imply that going to a prophet was a fact of life. Shaul got rid of the witches, implying there were many before he did this.
    2. The entire period of time of the Exodus to the destruction of the temple, was about 900 years. We haven’t seen a miracle in 2,000 years!
    3. It is simply not true that there is much time skipped. We are told the story of most of the judges and nearly all the kings. Many, many of the stories contain super natural events.

     
    At December 27, 2006 1:02 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >The entire period of time of the Exodus to the destruction of the temple, was about 900 years. We haven’t seen a miracle in 2,000 years!


    Perhaps that is why many believers are still so susceptible to miracle fever. They look for miracles as a way of answering why there haven't been any lately. I was shocked when the talking fish incident in Square initially had so many people signing on without any critical thinking at all.

    But for people like R. Maroof, who are not so gullible, they have to take the other tack. That is they minimize the extent to with Tanach and Gemara contains supernatural material.

     
    At December 27, 2006 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    But for people like R. Maroof, who are not so gullible, they have to take the other tack. That is they minimize the extent to with Tanach and Gemara contains supernatural material.


    Right. I would never have posed that question to LY. My question was promted by RJM saying he laughed at your story. Though, there's things in story you could laugh at besides the miracle.

     
    At December 28, 2006 8:34 AM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    But for people like R. Maroof, who are not so gullible

    Thanks. I think that's the nicest compliment I've gotten all week.

     
    At December 28, 2006 8:47 AM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Yes, going to a prophet was a fact of life in the era in which prophecy was more common. And clear manifestations of Divine providence were much more frequent as well. Since I perceive a direct connection between prophecy and the miraculous - and I didn't arrive at this understanding as an "apologetic" - I am not surprised at the absence of miraculous intervention today.

    Furthermore, the lack of prophetic communication today doesn't surprise me in the least. When there was a prophetic tradition transmitted from teacher to student - a "mesora", if you will, of achieving prophecy - it was far easier to qualify as a prophet. As in any field of skill or knowledge, it is quite difficult for anyone to achieve mastery without guidance from a competent teacher.

    Nowadays, reaching the prerequisite level of spiritual development for prophecy seems like an insurmountable challenge, even to those who believe in the possibility of prophetic inspiration.

     
    At December 28, 2006 9:01 AM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    >Nowadays, reaching the prerequisite level of spiritual development for prophecy seems like an insurmountable challenge, even to those who believe in the possibility of prophetic inspiration.

    Is this something you work on in any particular way?

     
    At December 28, 2006 9:28 AM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    B. Spinoza,

    I am a great fan of your namesake's work...

    Yes, see the Rambam in Yesode HaTorah and Moreh Nevuchim, as well as Ralbag in Milchamot Hashem, who elaborate on this a great deal. There are several other sources to consult, but these are the most comprehensive.

     
    At December 28, 2006 9:43 AM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    >I am a great fan of your namesake's work...

    me too (obviously). Have you read any of his works?

     
    At December 28, 2006 9:45 AM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    I notice you choose the rationalists as your examples and not the mystics. Do you think mysticism has any place in attaining a higher understanding?

     
    At December 28, 2006 10:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I would describe the entire interaction here as the exposition of a Gamma trap between an old and invalid alpha state and the new one that is coming into being. Old and new Memes are colliding and the reason for the fundamental disagreement and failure to communicate is that some of the Memes are closed

     
    At December 28, 2006 10:24 AM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Mr. Spinoza, how could I have become a fan without reading his work? It's a shame he was niftar at such a young age without writing much material.

    Have you read the new book on him and Leibniz, the Courtier and the Heretic? It's very engaging, though I'm not sure I agree with the author on all of his interpretations.

    I am not sure what mysticism means; it is too amorphous a concept for me. But the kabbalists basically agree with Rambam's approach to nevuah; they incorporate kabbalistic elements where they deem it necessary.

     
    At December 28, 2006 10:29 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    R. Maroof,

    > I am not surprised at the absence of miraculous intervention today ;)

    Neither am I.

    >Furthermore, the lack of prophetic communication today doesn't surprise me in the least.

    Me too. :)

     
    At December 28, 2006 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Rabbi Joshua Maroof said

    I disagree with your assertion that there are so many neviim and constant miracles in Tanach. That is not really true at all.


    Rabbi Joshua Maroof also said

    Yes, going to a prophet was a fact of life in the era in which prophecy was more common. And clear manifestations of Divine providence were much more frequent as well.


    Huh? Is that a retraction? How do you reconcile those statements?

    As to the prophecy thing, it really all boils down to cynicism. I understand what you are saying about why prophecy would have stopped. It just seems a little too convenient. It's like when there is a boring task at work and all of my subordinates are conveniently busy that day. Of course, it could be true. But, to the skeptic, when someone arranges circumstances to their benefit, you are always skeptical.

     
    At December 28, 2006 10:49 AM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    There is a difference between constant (an absolute term) and much more frequent (relative to today). And I didn't necessarily mean miracles, strictly speaking, in the latter case.

    If evolution is true and occurred in the past, how come we don't see any monkeys evolving into humans now? Convenient.

    If life emerged spontaneously in the past, how come we don't observe any additional instances of this, ever? Convenient.

    BTW, I am not anti-evolution. I'm just using an example for argument's sake.

    If there is a good reason for assuming something would be rare to begin with, then the fact that it doesn't occur today is not a proof that it never occurred in the past, when conditions were different. What is supposedly convenient can be true.

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    There is a difference between constant (an absolute term) and much more frequent (relative to today). And I didn't necessarily mean miracles, strictly speaking, in the latter case.


    So, it wasn't constant. It was just …em…er… a fact of life?

    After Izevel had committed genocide on the prophets, there were still 100 left for Ovadya to hide in a cave. That suggests that there were generally more than 100 alive at once. that's pretty frequent.

    If evolution is true and occurred in the past, how come we don't see any monkeys evolving into humans now? Convenient.

    Clever. Let’s run with your analogy. Evolution is saying that in the past, a given species might see a new species evolve from it once ever few million years. It's thus not surprising that in the past 200 years monkeys haven't turned into another species. The Torah is saying that in the era of the Bible, there were hundreds of prophets in each generation. We haven't seen even one in 2,500 years!

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:21 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    R. Maroof, to further expound on LittleF. Had our history from Bereishis to Today had only one single set of miracles (YT"M), I would be more inclined to believe that it was a one shot deal. But the fact that it was constant and supposedly lasted for two thousand years, and then stops happening when sophistication sets in (or continues happening when there is no critical questioning such as in Rebbesha Maasos of 100 years ago) leads one to conclude that society back then was just simply gullible & superstitious.

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:26 AM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    bhb
    the soncico press published a guide to chazal, and one of their claims is that chazal knew that the people of their time were extremely superstitious.

    that is why they allowed kameahs to be carried because they knew people believed in them.

    they would talk of witches and abandonded buildings as being real in the sense that people believed they were real.

    however, i dont buy it, since chazal in many cases seemed superstitious on their own right.
    (see the whole zugim discussion in shabbos, i think)

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "If evolution is true and occurred in the past, how come we don't see any monkeys evolving into humans now? Convenient."

    We havent seen Monkeys evolve, but so what? The fact that some species evolve at some times but not at every moment in a programatic way is not proof that there is not a process.

    Example of evolution: Viruses

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:33 AM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

    "Yes, going to a prophet was a fact of life in the era in which prophecy was more common. And clear manifestations of Divine providence were much more frequent as well."

    And having wizards in your army was a fact of life when hobbits were common during Middle Earth.

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:35 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Happy,
    >however, i dont buy it, since chazal in many cases seemed superstitious on their own right.
    (see the whole zugim discussion in shabbos, i think)

    Zugim is not superstition. Only Kameahs.


    R, Maroof, another example of evolution - Check out sickle cell anemia and balanced polymorphism, that is Genetic evolution within the past few hundred years.

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I prefer a battle of wits with an unarmed man.

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:51 AM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    BHB, I disagree. During the times of Ezra and Nehemiah, there were no miracles, but there were prophets. During the times of Hazal, which I assume you assign to the era of gullibility and superstition - oracles were still consulted among the Greeks - there was no prophecy among the Jews. So there is no simple, historical explanation for the shift.

    Do you think that all of a sudden, with the return from Babylonia, all of the Jews became more skeptical?

    I don't think that Judaism is a supernaturally oriented religion in general. It is based on the events of YT"M, etc., and it is open to the possibility that a transcendent God can perform miracles when He sees fit and communicates such to the prophets, but the greatest emphasis is on Shabbat every week, the lawfulness of creation, not the miracles of history, which are commemorated on Yamim Tovim only.

    (Don't ask about the miracles in the Gemara. They are aggadata, and, following many rishonim and acharonim, I take them as hyperbole.)

    LF, I said miracles/divine intervention wasn't constant. I distinguished between that and prophecy, which is just a very high level of intellectual apprehension that is extremely difficult to attain without (and even with) proper training. Prophecy could theoretically be a constant phenomenon, and all indications suggest that this would be ideal. Miracles, by contrast, occur when necessary, and are "aberrations".

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:58 AM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    the soncico press published a guide to chazal, and one of their claims is that chazal knew that the people of their time were extremely superstitious.

    This is obviously based on the Rambam and Meiri's approach. The Meiri expounds on this when he discusses the sugya of zugot.

    This is not necessarily as far fetched as you think. Great thinkers of all ages have hidden doctrines from the masses that they believe the common people will be unable to handle. Leo Strauss tries to read this motivation into every philosopher that ever lived, debatably in some cases, convincingly in others. Could Hazal have adopted this MO? Perhaps we'll never know.

    And having wizards in your army was a fact of life when hobbits were common during Middle Earth.

    Funny and cute, but not really relevant....

    I knew choosing evolution as an example was a bad move...I think I made my point, we can argue about the details of whether we observe evolution or not today. But the main concept I was trying to convey is that whether I experience something today or not is not a sign of whether it may have occurred in the past. This is especially true in the case of something for which there is a good explanation for its absence, such as speciation, spontaneous generation of life, and prophecy!

     
    At December 28, 2006 12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I think the basic problem here is one of language. Language is inadequate in changing either arrested or closed VMemes. People who have a preconceived belief in something can use all sorts of sophistry to explain something to someone who doesnt have the same preconcieved belief. It doesnt necessarily shake the ediface of belief in either person. It as if they are speaking in a foreign tongue to each other since true understanding is lacking. Only when people are in Open condition can they understand each other. Most people dont like Open, its too scary. Just ask BHB.

     
    At December 28, 2006 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    but the greatest emphasis is on Shabbat every week, the lawfulness of creation

    This is simply fallacious. In Torah and niviem Rishonim, the miracle of creation is rarely mentioned after Gen 2. You've got a few times it is mentioned in conjunction with shabbos such as Ex 20:10, 31:17. However,
    1. Even with regards to Shabbos, you have many p'sukim that do not reference creation, such as Deut 5:14
    2. With the exception of shabbos, creation is virtual a non issue. On the other hand, Yetziat mitram is mentioned in ever other page. Some examples:

    1. Ex 20:2
    2. Ex 29:46
    3. Lev 22:33
    4. Lev 26:13
    5. Nu 20:15
    6. Deut 5:6
    7. Deut 5:14
    8. Deut 6:12
    9. Deut 11:3
    10. Deut 16:3
    11. Josh 24:5
    12. Jud 2:12
    13. Jud 6:9
    14. Jud 19:30
    15. I Samuel 4:8
    16. I Samuel 6:6

    Of course, that’s just a sample. There’s dozens, if not hundreds, more. It’s on every other page. Can you produce a list half as impressive in the Chumash or Niviem Rishonim having to do with creation? I think not! It’s barely even mentioned. The latter books are different because they are poetic ones. In these books though, you see that the focus of the religion is the Exodus, not the creation. I realize some of this list may be explained away, but the point is not the specific examples, but the general trend.


    LF, I said miracles/divine intervention wasn't constant. I distinguished between that and prophecy, which is just a very high level of intellectual apprehension that is extremely difficult to attain without (and even with) proper training. Prophecy could theoretically be a constant phenomenon


    Yes, but before you said that prophecy was also not constant. Let's review: I asked why no miracles now? You said, that was an unfair question because all the miracles in tanach are associated with nevuah and there is no nevuah now. I said that was a cheap answer since in Tanach everyone and their mother was a navi. You said I was wrong cause nevuah was rare in tanach. If you are now retracting, then I stand by my original point that your answer that miracles need a navi is cheap since in Tanach everyone and their mother was a navi.

     
    At December 28, 2006 12:28 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    rabbi maroof
    "oracles were still consulted among the Greeks"

    im assuming you mean, there were prophets but they were essentially the tony robbins of our times.

    they didnt have supernatural power just amazing insight to the human condition?

    i hope youre not saying the oracles were literally seers in the mythological sense, or like in the matrix.

     
    At December 28, 2006 12:32 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    bhb
    "Happy,
    >however, i dont buy it, since chazal in many cases seemed superstitious on their own right.
    (see the whole zugim discussion in shabbos, i think)

    Zugim is not superstition. Only Kameahs.
    "

    cmon, bhb, you got to stop being so skeptical. ;)

    or are you trying to usurp XGH as the skeptical achron hador according to LY?

     
    At December 28, 2006 12:32 PM, Blogger David Sher said...

    Can we all agree that debates over supernatural powers and literal understanding of Jewish source documents has been contradicted by some of the greats including Maimonides? Why bring them up as fodder, when they dont amount to much except in our brain dead day and age. Since the great intellects of our past saw fit to try and reconcile them with the science of the time, why dont we?

     
    At December 28, 2006 12:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    In Torah and niviem Rishonim, the miracle of creation is rarely mentioned after Gen 2


    Let me retract that. I should have said Gen 11, which is the end of the set of creation stories.

     
    At December 28, 2006 12:52 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

    RJM,

    "But the main concept I was trying to convey is that whether I experience something today or not is not a sign of whether it may have occurred in the past."

    Not the real point though. Those scientific theories are still working within the same principles of nature which we see today. They've merely extrapolated backwards.

    Supposing miracles and prophecy actually assumes that our current understanding of nature is very wrong or that nature has changed somehow. That requires a much higher burden of proof.

     
    At December 28, 2006 12:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    Supposing miracles and prophecy actually assumes that our current understanding of nature is very wrong or that nature has changed somehow. That requires a much higher burden of proof.

    Very well said

     
    At December 28, 2006 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    People who have a preconceived belief in something can use all sorts of sophistry to explain something to someone who doesnt have the same preconcieved belief. It doesnt necessarily shake the ediface of belief in either person. It as if they are speaking in a foreign tongue to each other since true understanding is lacking. Only when people are in Open condition can they understand each other. Most people dont like Open, its too scary. Just ask BHB.


    I don't agree with you. As someone (forgot who) mentioned before, most frum skeptics are very distraught by their findings and would be happier if God did exist. I know for myself, I am both convinced that I am going to burn for an eternity in Hell for my hashkafos and am also scared to death that there is no after life, all at the same time.

    RJM also claims to be open minded and have considered the other side fairly and I see no reason not to believe him at his word. On top of that, he is here and has claimed to be going through the old godolhador blog. That's got to count for something

     
    At December 28, 2006 1:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "I don't agree with you. As someone (forgot who) mentioned before, most frum skeptics are very distraught by their findings and would be happier if God did exist."

    Little Foxling. I dont disagree with your statement, but it doesnt adress mine either. Im saying that once somone has a preconcieved notion or belief its hard to get them to truly accept something that directly contradicts it...because to do so would implicity mean that they can argue both sides with a kind of Bill Clinton like equanimity. Most people cannot convincingly believe one thing at one moment and then convincingly believe the opposite at another moment so the eqaunimity is not there. When someone says, I respect your belief but disagree that is a falsehood, because you do not understand the belief unless you share it.

    The only time true dialogue can occur then is when someone genuinely DOESNT know...Doesnt believe...they are then open to trying to understand anything that comes their way.

     
    At December 28, 2006 1:33 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

    Anon,

    "When someone says, I respect your belief but disagree that is a falsehood, because you do not understand the belief unless you share it."

    You can't understand a belief unless you share it? Say what?

     
    At December 28, 2006 1:39 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Anon,
    > Only when people are in Open condition can they understand each other.

    True!

    >Most people dont like Open, its too scary. Just ask BHB.

    Sure, ignorance is bliss, my Tag-Line. But once you're there, you need to learn to live with it. I like to say now, that people's past prevents them from being receptive to "open". Check out my post

    http://baalhabos.blogspot.com/2006/09/armchair-analysis.html

    LittleF,

    > I don't agree with you. As someone (forgot who) mentioned before, most frum skeptics are very distraught by their findings and would be happier if God did exist.

    That would be me.


    > I know for myself, I am both convinced that I am going to burn for an eternity in Hell for my hashkafos

    That will pass.

    > and am also scared to death that there is no after life, all at the same time.

    That one still bothers me.

    >RJM also claims to be open minded and have considered the other side fairly and I see no reason not to believe him at his word. On top of that, he is here and has claimed to be going through the old godolhador blog. That's got to count for something

    What? You expect him to turn around and say "you know what, maybe the Skeptics are right?" Not in a million years. He's got too much at stake, like maybe his job?

    He's here and he's reading GH to try to rebut it, not to consider it.

     
    At December 28, 2006 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    You can understand belief through analogy. That is the limit. When someone says they believe in God for example, you can create an analogy such as I believe the earth is round...therefore I understand what belief is. You know what it feels like...you understand belief. However, that doesnt mean you understand what Belief in God is. In order to understand it, you must share or have shared that belief at one time.

     
    At December 28, 2006 1:42 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    > When someone says, I respect your belief but disagree that is a falsehood, because you do not understand the belief unless you share it.

    Anon, what if you've actually been there? I understand Emuna because I was there. And truthfully, I'm shocked and almost embarresed I'm on the other team now..

     
    At December 28, 2006 1:43 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Anon, I see you re-stated that. Never mind.

     
    At December 28, 2006 1:47 PM, Blogger David Sher said...

    BHB. Love your blog. Unlike other blogs that deal with this subject you are very respectful of all views. That is admirable and rare.

    My perspective on things is more from a science background than a religious one. Ive made a study of systems and how they operate and the limits of those systems. There is a great book on the subject called Godel, Escher, Bach; an eternal golden braid that got me turned on to the whole idea of systematic representations of ideas and their limits. Kurt Godel came up with the concept that all systems are limited by their inability to self-referentially prove themselves. These are called Godelian knots. In other words, every system conceived of by man requires a higher level system of thought to prove the less complex system. So mankind is always tinkering with the existing system and creating patches. Sometimes the patches are not enough and you have a regime change...a shift to a new higher level more complex system. Perhaps faith is the belief that there is a never ending spiral of such systems where order and symmetry can be regained.

     
    At December 28, 2006 2:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Anon,


    In order to understand it, you must share or have shared that belief at one time.

    Most people cannot convincingly believe one thing at one moment and then convincingly believe the opposite at another moment so the eqaunimity is not there.


    A deep statement. You are right. My point does not rebut this. I guess I sort of agree with you. On the other hand, most readers of this blog have probably changed their opinion on God at least once in their life. Some may shift every few years. Others, every few months. Others, every few days. You know, there are no atheists in foxholes, emergency rooms or delivery rooms.

    BHB,

    and am also scared to death that there is no after life, all at the same time.

    That one still bothers me.


    So, what’s the solution, live it up now, or gain immortality in some other manner, such as kids, good deeds? Or, maybe just get over it. From my experience, it’s only people who grew up thinking there was an after life that are bothered by this. People that grew up atheists are not bothered by it. It’s a fact of life for them.

    What? You expect him to turn around and say "you know what, maybe the Skeptics are right?" Not in a million years. He's got too much at stake, like maybe his job?

    Are you saying that he knows we are right but can’t admit it because he has too much at stake or are you saying that he convinces himself we are wrong through cognitive dissonance? Due to cognitive dissonance, it is really not possible to trust what anyone in the rabbinic profession has to say about these things. Though a friend of mine who was recently at a Jewish educator conference told me she was surprised at how many of the educators admitted point blank to having very very shaky faith. Does anyone know what % of the Rabbinate is apikorsim? What about the general OJ population? I’m reading “sliding to the right now.” An excellent book. But, I was disappointed the frum skeptic world was not really addressed. I would still recommend it for anyone that has not read it yet.

     
    At December 28, 2006 2:17 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Supposing miracles and prophecy actually assumes that our current understanding of nature is very wrong or that nature has changed somehow. That requires a much higher burden of proof.

    This is not true. All a belief in miracles means is that the same Being who created the Universe and its laws can alter them for a purpose. It doesn't have any scientific implications at all. And prophecy is just an extraordinarily high level of intellectual apprehension. Not really a subject of scientific study either.

    In terms of the Creation vs. Exodus debate, I would say this: We observe Shabbat every week, and the main purpose of Shabbat is a commemoration of the creation. It is associated with the exodus in one place, true. But everyone would acknowledge that its primary function is to recall creation - that is why it is on the 7th day, involves complete cessation of melacha, etc. So, from the perspective of observance, Creation takes a much more central role in our lives than miraculous events.

     
    At December 28, 2006 2:24 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    In response to those who are debating about my motives for participating in the discussion and reading the blogs:

    Honestly, I am interested in the perspectives of others. I am open to new ideas and to challenges. I have always been an avid reader of philosophy and literature of all kinds, and have never sheltered myself from the world of intellectual discourse. I am not attached to my beliefs for professional or financial reasons - if I were to change my beliefs, I could easily conceal that, and I wouldn't be here registering my opinions in this forum.

    I don't see myself as here to refute or debunk anyone else's views. But I have often felt that the Judaism many skeptics reject is not really the Judaism I believe in and practice. That is why I keep trying to articulate my position and receive feedback. This helps me to determine whether the skeptical objections are really relevant to my convictions and therefore require me to reconsider or refine them.

    As an aside, I remember having a discussion with a family member of mine years back - also a Rabbi, very LW MO - in which he stated that, were he to discover that the Exodus never happened, he would continue to be religious in order to maintain the tradition. (I believe this conversation took place in the aftermath of the Wolpe affair some years ago).

    I responded that this was absurd, and that, according to his logic, Avraham Avinu should have continued worshipping idols in order to maintain the false tradition that he inherited. If something is false, it cannot be helpful to carry it on. It is a disingenuous waste of time and life.

     
    At December 28, 2006 2:34 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    i disagree.

    there are many traditional beliefs in judiasm that are obvious falsehoods.

    why do them? because they are nice to do.
    we should have judiasm that people are happy to be part of, not because someone scared them into it.

    the idea of not working on shabbos is fabulous one. it shows we arent slaves to our selves (that is the tie in with mitzrayim). when we become slaves to ourselves, we are idol worshippers. shabbos makes us focus on family and life.

    almost everyone i know keeps shabbos, but nobody makes themselves crazy with all the nitty gritty. its always been understood that those minutia are for the rabbonim.

    i remember my satmer cousin telling me that the litvaks ruined every kiddush on shabbos by assuring opening up soda on shabbos. some of our leaders have got caught up with the practice over the reason for the practice.

    practice for practice sake is also disingenous and waste of our life.

     
    At December 28, 2006 2:36 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    following up,
    maybe the worst thing that happened to judiasm is that it became so accessible to the masses.
    when the masses so what they needed to do, it made them wonder, what were they smoking!

     
    At December 28, 2006 2:38 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Happy, you're right. There are mitsvot that would be beneficial and positive even if they were not based on historical realities. Shabbat observance is a good example. I stand corrected.

     
    At December 28, 2006 2:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    But everyone would acknowledge that its primary function is to recall creation


    Not everyone. I would not. I do not think you will find many passages in chumash that link the two. What's more, I would say that all of the passages that do link the two are of a relatively later date than those that speak of shabbos without creation. But, of course, a premise of your position is probably that Moses wrote the entire Chumash, so I'll concede that that argument is not relevant in this context.

    But, in any event, why should this only be about shabbos? The fact is you've got dozens of p'sukim about the Exodus and two on creation. I could say, we say shema every day. I could say, we put on tefilin every day. In fact, the entire religion revolves around the Exodus. Creation, in contrast, is rarely mentioned. True, you’ve got one mitzvah that mentions it and comes up every week, but you’ve got hundreds of other mitzvas many of them come up every week also, or more frequently.

    Moreover, ALL the verses that contain reference to creation are much later. This suggests that the original religion had to do with Exodus and creation was a later innovation. This assertion is in fact likely when you consider likely patterns for the development of the religion.

    I won't try to substantiate my claim that the creation verses are later, since I assume anyway you think all verses in chumash were written at the same time. But, if others would like, I’d be happy to do present a complete analysis of this question in my blog.

     
    At December 28, 2006 2:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    RJM,

    I hope you were not offended by my comments. They were indeed perhaps a little over the top. In fact, I am very glad that you are here and you seem to be debating with logic and reason and not hand waiving or kugel.

    I am also honestly interested in hearing the other side of things. Unfortunately, the jblogosphere seems to be dominated by skeptics. It's nice to have you around. There should be more of you.

     
    At December 28, 2006 2:46 PM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    >Mr. Spinoza, how could I have become a fan without reading his work?

    I don't know, perhaps you read secondary sources. Which translations have you read and do you have any preference?

    >Have you read the new book on him and Leibniz, the Courtier and the Heretic? It's very engaging, though I'm not sure I agree with the author on all of his interpretations.

    yes, I read parts of it in the book store. It was interesting but not a scholarly book

     
    At December 28, 2006 2:48 PM, Blogger David Sher said...

    There are those that need to prove to others and to themselves that they are right. That is ego pure and simply an assertion of the self. Many are the discussions in the Jblogsphere that are those kind of discussions. When the need to be right intrudes greatly upon your freedom of choice it becomes pathological.

    Judaism is about action, it is about living in the moment. It is about doing things that give the moment meaning. Its not about drudgery or dogmatism...that is for sure. We have a wider tradition now then ever, we can reclaim the Rambam and the Ramban and Luzzatto and Mussar and everything and we have the power and the ability to transmogrify it...to add our own generational stamp to it. our own truths. We dont have to know all the answers and we dont have to have perfect faith. We can have vague fuzzy faith in a couple of key correllaries and then enjoy the mitzvot without making the ritual itself into our God.

     
    At December 28, 2006 2:49 PM, Blogger Moshe Kappoya said...

    The story with the Kaliver zt"l is absolutely true! I know because Reb Yankel told me so himself. I know, I know that would make me 183 years old, and I don't look a day over 97. So here's my secret to longevity - shmaltz herring.
    Yes sir, I guarantee you, if you eat shmaltz herring each morning for ninety five years you too will live a long life. Try it for yourself, you'll see. In a clinical study, over 85% of the participants in the double blind study, out lived the placebo group by at least 10 years.
    So that proves the Kaliver story is true and ipso facto all the miracles in the Torah are also true.
    (for you PhDs out there, .............)


    > And let me once again acknowledge the very positive and cordial tone you set throughout our exchange.

    Me too, much continued hatzlocha

     
    At December 28, 2006 2:50 PM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    >From my experience, it’s only people who grew up thinking there was an after life that are bothered by this.

    I grew up with this belief but I was never bothered by it. Maybe it was never really something I cared about to begin with. It was just something that that I was required to believe in, but not an essential part of my being

     
    At December 28, 2006 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Happy said why do them? because they are nice to do.

    Sure, i could see lighting Chanukah candles or having a Christmas tree for cultural reasons. But, come on. You are going to pay Yeshiva tuition, keep kosher, taharas hamishpacha, asser premarital sex, not visit BHB blog on shabbos or yom tov, fast 5 times a year, etc cause it's nice. That's an argument to support conservative Judaism perhaps. But, I stand with RJM's original position on this. If you could refute the Exodus, you really shouldn't keep OJ the way it's generally kept. Some parts might still be nice. But, most would go.

     
    At December 28, 2006 3:07 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Spinoza,

    I read the Tractatus T-P first in Elwes translation, then I acquired the Shirley-Feldman version and reviewed. The Ethics/TIE, I started in the Elwes and happily switched to Shirley-Feldman when I found it. I subsequently purchased the Oxford edition of the Ethics - I believe the translator's name was Parkinson, but I never read straight through it, just dipped in here and there to get a flavor for any differences. I read the Principles of Cartesian philosophy in the Shirley translation.

    I am currently plodding through the Ethics in the original Latin. Slow going, given my "emergent" Latin skills, but I hope to finish by the summer. It helps that I am already familiar with the content.

    The Courtier and The Heretic is not scholarly, but it is entertaining. It also highlights a lot of the characteristics of Spinoza that always impressed and inspired me personally.

     
    At December 28, 2006 3:08 PM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    >If you could refute the Exodus, you really shouldn't keep OJ the way it's generally kept. Some parts might still be nice. But, most would go.

    not necessarily. Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim tries to explain the Mitzvos in practical terms. It is possible to see real value in halacha without belief in Exodus. For example, a person can see how holiness and tahara can bring oneself closer to God and the halachic system as a good way to bring these values to the community

     
    At December 28, 2006 3:09 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    LF,

    I think that from a theological perspective you're right. But from a personal enrichment perspective, Happy makes a good point. Many aspects of observance are quite rewarding, separate and apart from their Divine mandate.

     
    At December 28, 2006 3:11 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    LF, you are right, in terms of the reasons for Shabbat - I am looking at the Torah as an integrated text, so I see the empasis on creation as primary. Biblical criticism doesn't appeal to me intellectually at all.

     
    At December 28, 2006 3:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    RJM,

    Of course, one who sees the Torah as Divine must see shabbos as connected to creation since shabbos is clearly patterned after the 7 days of creation. Of course, the heretic has the option of saying that the creation myth was created as a way to explain shabbos, and there's much evidence that supports that if your premise is that the Torah is not divine. In any event, I still stand by my other point. Even if shabbos relates to creation, it's only 1 of 613 and most of the religion is about Exodus.

    But from a personal enrichment perspective, Happy makes a good point.

    True. I'm just saying the price for it is too high.

    Biblical criticism doesn't appeal to me intellectually at all. I’d love to debate that with you but this is not the time or place. If you are interested, check out my blog. It’s my hobby.


    RJM & Spinoza,

    Why you guys are really intellectual and smart. I never read these sort intellectual books. Are they good? Do you recommend them? I just know what Torah I was taught in yeshiva and think about it. That's about it. Oh, yea, and i read blogs.

    spinoza,
    not necessarily. Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim tries to explain the Mitzvos in practical terms. It is possible to see real value in halacha without belief in Exodus. For example, a person can see how holiness and tahara can bring oneself closer to God and the halachic system as a good way to bring these values to the community

    Oh, come on, you would buy that stuff if the Exodus was disproved? I have a hard time buying those sort of stuff in my most frummest moments. If the Exodus was disproved, I'd never buy that at all.

     
    At December 28, 2006 3:35 PM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    >I am currently plodding through the Ethics in the original Latin. Slow going, given my "emergent" Latin skills, but I hope to finish by the summer.

    well, I'm impressed. I'd like to hear some of your thoughts on Spinoza's philosophy.

    >It also highlights a lot of the characteristics of Spinoza that always impressed and inspired me personally.

    I agree

     
    At December 28, 2006 3:37 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    LF, if you are into Biblical Criticism and skeptical musings about Judaism, how can you have skipped Spinoza's Theologico-Political Treatise? It's practically the founding classic of the field.

     
    At December 28, 2006 3:37 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    lf
    "True. I'm just saying the price for it is too high. "

    i agree that the price is too high in charedi circles, where they have gone and made themselves meshiggeh obsessing about every detail.

    its OCD on steroids.

     
    At December 28, 2006 3:39 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    b. spinoza,
    youre impressed he read it in the original latin?

    you intellectuals!

     
    At December 28, 2006 3:39 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Spinoza, I'd love to discuss your namesake...But this wouldn't be the best context. We'd be trespassing on someone else's blog and steering it in an unusual direction. Any suggestions for a better venue?

     
    At December 28, 2006 3:40 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    lf
    i grew up in charedi schools, but my father made sure i didnt make myself crazy.

    when i started pulling out the measuring charts for matzoh, he said enuf.

     
    At December 28, 2006 3:41 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    rabbi maroof,
    start a google or yahoo forum.
    i want to observe.

     
    At December 28, 2006 3:49 PM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    >Any suggestions for a better venue?

    you can email me b.spinoza.42@gmail.com

    If you want you can write a guest post on my blog

    happy, there's already a Spinoza yahoo forum:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/spinoza/

     
    At December 28, 2006 3:59 PM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    >If the Exodus was disproved, I'd never buy that at all.

    LF, I'm not saying that the average person would buy it, clearly not. My point was that there is nothing logically inconsistent with having that view. Personally, I do see the value in kedusha a tahara, although I don't know if I understand it fully

     
    At December 28, 2006 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    LF, if you are into Biblical Criticism and skeptical musings about Judaism, how can you have skipped Spinoza's Theologico-Political Treatise? It's practically the founding classic of the field.

    As I said, I do not have any rigorous or formal knowledge of what the smart, famous scholars and philosophers have to say. I generally just accept the religion on face value as it was presented to me in yeshiva and have done some musing about it. I'm not particularly knowledgeable about what philosophers say. Of course, it's probably my loss since I assume these people have some good insights. I should probably spend less time bloging and more time reading people like Spinoza. On the other hand, in generally, most of the times I’ve read any book written more than 150 years ago (except for technical books about math) I’ve found them to be rather lacking. I haven’t read a lot, but my experience has not been good.

     
    At December 28, 2006 4:11 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    I think Spinoza was one of the most brilliant and intellectually honest philosophers of all time. As a human being, he towers over practically any other modern philosopher. He is worth the effort to read, even if you disagree with his conclusions, he is inspiring.

    Older works have some disadvantages to them. But most of the insights of the great philosophers are essentially timeless.

    For a simple, straightforward intro to philosophical subjects in laymen's terms, almost anything by Mortimer J. Adler is excellent.

     
    At December 28, 2006 4:15 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Boy, I leave for a short meeting and the blogs go wild with activity. I can't respond to every thing , just a few points.

    Rabbi Maroof, selectively referring to two books out of the whole Tanach, that might have both been authored by the same author and are both certainly of the same time period, does not mean take away from that the fact that the evast majority of Jewish Ancient literature has a supernatural bent to it. And it started up again with mysticism after 1100(?).

    David Sher, thanks. I remember GEB (IIRC nice cover with the recusive drawing?) So sure, there may be unknowns, hopefully even a loving caring God,, but that doesn't make the Torah believable.


    LF, I had a post about the issue, that lack of Olam haba might be more bothersome to people that grew up expecting it.

    How to manage it? I wish I knew. I'm struggling with that. I try to seek a balance in life. I'm still Orthoprax and don't see much reason to stop now. Your mileage may vary. There's also Pascal's insurance. Who know's I might need it.

    No, I am not saying R. Maroof or any other believer is faking it. But Chazal claimed "lo Uvdoo Avodah Zara ela L'hatir Lahem Arayos and I *know* that's not true. But maybe the reverse is true. They retain their Emuna because of CD. I read SLiding to the Right and I don't see the relationship to this.

    R. Maroof. what's wrong with me stating that your motive here is to debunk skepticism and promote Torah. And I'm not saying you're really a non-believer. It's just the law of inertia. It doesn't seem that you're open to a belief change, you are debating the other side and debaters don't usually swap. I think belief change comes about when the material hits you "Meseeach Lfi Toomo". I don't see it as so absurd to keep on practicing even in the face of dis-belief. I do it. Check Orthoprax blog, That's his forte.

    As to my interest in hearing other sided of the argument, I think I've heard it all. I'm hoping something new will come along. Like the Messiah.

    MK, I think a bottle of JB works just as well ;)

     
    At December 28, 2006 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    oh, and i forgot to mention. I would never read spinoza. That's kefirah :-)

     
    At December 28, 2006 4:19 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    I just started with Bibilical criticism and I think it's fascinating. But I have to admit, a lot of it seems just as bad (or as good) as some of the Shalosh Seudas Torah I hear.

    Philosophy, mysticism, etc don't really appeal to me.

     
    At December 28, 2006 4:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I read SLiding to the Right and I don't see the relationship to this.

    I just meant in that he had a lot of demographic information about Judaism. What % is orthodox. What % is chareidi. etc. It made me wonder, what % of orthodoxy is frum skeptic?

     
    At December 28, 2006 4:24 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    > I just meant in that he had a lot of demographic information about Judaism. What % is orthodox. What % is chareidi. etc. It made mewonder, what % of orthodoxy is frum skeptic?

    That's a great question.

    First you'd need to define Skepticism. Questioning of confirmed.

    When I first joined the blogosphere I thought it was in the thousands. Now, I'm not so sure. I see the same few names over & over. There are around 400 people signed up in TFSG. So that's as good a number as any.

    It's not nearly enough for me to be able to come up to my Rav and say, "I'm a skeptic"

     
    At December 28, 2006 4:33 PM, Anonymous tayqoo said...

    shabat is nice but skila for carrying a handkerchief in reshut harabim isn't.

     
    At December 28, 2006 4:35 PM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    LF,

    Spinoza's A Theologico-Political Treatise is must reading for you. It's not very philosophical and you could read it in a few days

     
    At December 28, 2006 4:37 PM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    >skila for carrying a handkerchief in reshut harabim isn't.

    fortunately skilla is not practiced anymore and neither are any of the other penalties

     
    At December 28, 2006 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    BHB,

    When I first joined the blogosphere I thought it was in the thousands. Now, I'm not so sure. I see the same few names over & over.

    The blogosphere has many more silent listeners than you know. I was a silent listener of the blogosphere for years (except an occasional anonymous comment or something)and I have many friends who do the same. And, there are plenty of frum skeptics not on the blogosphere.

    On the other hand, from my experience, most of frum friends are not in the least bit skeptical.

    LF, I had a post about the issue, that lack of Olam haba might be more bothersome to people that grew up expecting it.

    Oh, right. I remember that now. That's actually where I got it from. I guess I am guilty of plagiarizing. Mea Culpa.

    I just started with Bibilical criticism and I think it's fascinating. But I have to admit, a lot of it seems just as bad (or as good) as some of the Shalosh Seudas Torah I hear.

    I'll sway you yet! When I first started studying biblical criticism I was completely convinced it was total BS and was an outspoken critique of it. It took me approximately 1.3 years of intense study and thought, but eventually I was convinced.

    I'm not sure what exactly you are referring to by biblical criticism, but if you mean DH, the problem is that DH essentially makes a very far out claim, the division of the Torah, based on a staggering amount of evidence. The issue is that the far-outness of the claim is obvious the moment you start thinking about the issue. On the other hand, the evidence is a union of thousands upon thousands of little pieces of evidence. Ultimately, the evidence is enough to justify the claim, but it takes a tremendous amount of time till you've really seen all the evidence.

    Either that, or it's circular seductive reasoning and after hearing it enough you just accept it.

    But, either way, I will convince you.

     
    At December 28, 2006 4:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Spinoza's A Theologico-Political Treatise is must reading for you. It's not very philosophical and you could read it in a few days

    Will do, and I'll report back to you on your Spinoza forum if it ends up happening

     
    At December 28, 2006 5:00 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    lf
    i agree, many many people are sort of skeptical out there.

    they certainly skeptical of all bubeh maasehs.
    they certainly are skeptical of being slavish to the details of the practice.
    they believe in the framework, but not in the very nested, method overriding, (to employ some oo into this discussion), that our rabbonim have done to the design and architecture of judiasm.

     
    At December 28, 2006 5:01 PM, Anonymous tayqoo said...

    fortunately skilla is not practiced anymore and neither are any of the other penalties
    ---------------------------
    but the fact that skila is the penalty would indicate that shabat was not something that was instituted because is was "nice".

     
    At December 28, 2006 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Go the Machon Mamre site and read the Mishneh Torah. Reboot. Forget everything that came after and reboot. Thats your baseline a rational exposition of all of the Mitzvot. Make your own minhagim from there.

     
    At December 28, 2006 5:10 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    LF, The blogosphere has many more silent listeners than you know. I was a silent listener of the blogosphere for years (except an occasional anonymous comment or something)and I have many friends who do the same.

    It's nice to know.

    > And, there are plenty of frum skeptics not on the blogosphere.

    I was like that for 8 years. I have no idea how I was so oblivious. I just used the web for banking and work.

    > On the other hand, from my experience, most of frum friends are not in the least bit skeptical.

    That's what I say about my friends. And I still think that's true, though some would claim, that you never really know. Just like we're hidden, so are they. But I'm not so sure. My skepti-antennae are up and looking and I get no hits.

    >I'm not sure what exactly you are referring to by biblical criticism, but if you mean DH, the problem is that DH essentially makes a very far out claim, the division of the Torah, based on a staggering amount of evidence.

    I'm referring to the popular books now (Richard E. Friedman). (I know you Emailed me some books, but I have as yet to get into that, there's only so much reading I can do). I'm sure I will not be studying it to the depths you have. I do find it fascinating, but there seems to be little evidence.

    > The issue is that the far-outness of the claim is obvious the moment you start thinking about the issue.

    In what way do you find it far out?

    > Either that, or it's circular seductive reasoning and after hearing it enough you just accept it.

    > But, either way, I will convince you.

    If it's not credible at all, then where did the Bible come from? A single Author?

    Spinoza,

    > A Theologico-Political Treatise is must reading for you. It's not very philosophical and you could read it in a few days .

    OK, I'm sold too. I'll try to get a hold of it. It may take a while though.

     
    At December 28, 2006 5:11 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    tayqoo
    i look at it as a way to scare off the saduccees and keep people in the rabbinic camp.

    it was a political battle.

    there is no doubt in my mind that no one every got the punishment.
    its a theological device.

    i think the mekoshesh eitzim was part of early rabbinic invention.

    i just dont believe any being that is good would stone anyone or let the trauma of stoning be inflicted on those watching it, just because of hankerchief carrying without the rabbinic legal fiction of a eruv.

     
    At December 28, 2006 5:14 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Happy,

    >they certainly skeptical of all bubeh maasehs.

    Abosultely.

    > they certainly are skeptical of being slavish to the details of the practice.

    I don't see that. No in my circles anyways.

    Anon, that does sound intriguing (Machon Mamre). But that doesn't make Torah itself (history, science) more rational. In other words, If the Rambam would be alive today, he might be like Slifkind or he might be like XGH.

     
    At December 28, 2006 5:15 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >i think the mekoshesh eitzim was part of early rabbinic invention.

    huh? that's in the Torah, no?

     
    At December 28, 2006 5:22 PM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    >OK, I'm sold too. I'll try to get a hold of it. It may take a while though.

    do a google search. it's online for free

     
    At December 28, 2006 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    happy,
    without the rabbinic legal fiction of a eruv. In cases of skeilah (reshut hurabim) Eruv does not help. But, i get your point.

    That's what I say about my friends. And I still think that's true, though some would claim, that you never really know. Just like we're hidden, so are they. But I'm not so sure. My skepti-antennae are up and looking and I get no hits.

    Yea, i don't agree with that either. You can tell. When your friends gets mad at you for saying that rebbeshe mayeseh didn't happen, you know they are not skeptical. There's a certain minimum amount of beliefs you have to have to be considered frum. When someone annunciates a belief that is more than that minimum you know they are not a skeptic.

    I'm referring to the popular books now (Richard E. Friedman).

    Yes, that was the 1st book i read on the topic too. Problem he presents the theory and none of the evidence. Of course he won't convince you!

    In what way do you find it far out?

    The fact that they are just randomly assigning who wrote what in order to make the theory look good.


    If it's not credible at all, then where did the Bible come from? A single Author?


    Either a single Author, a single author, or it developed over time and each piece comes from somewhere else.

     
    At December 28, 2006 5:40 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Spin, thanks, I foound in in Gittenberg site. I hate reading on-line and it's too much to print. I'll try for the library.

    LF,

    > When your friends gets mad at you for saying that rebbeshe mayeseh didn't happen, you know they are not skeptical.
    ROFL, you know how mant times that happened to me? I get this look and they say "what do you mean"?


    I had relatives that thought I was koyfer just because when the Square fish thing happened, I claimed "no way". And same thing with the now debunked Dybbuk.

    >>In what way do you find it far out?

    >The fact that they are just randomly assigning who wrote what in order to make the theory look good.

    It does seem that way. But for now, I'm really trying to get an understanding of the theory itself.


    > or it developed over time and each piece comes from somewhere else.

    But that's still multiple authorship, whcih seems to be the case. UNless you're saying that B'reishis was one author, Shmos another? Instead if intermingled, etc?

     
    At December 28, 2006 7:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Anon, that does sound intriguing (Machon Mamre). But that doesn't make Torah itself (history, science) more rational. In other words, If the Rambam would be alive today, he might be like Slifkind or he might be like XGH.

    I'm not so sure that Maimonides would be XGH (no disrespect to XGH). Slifkind is a different matter. XGH is on a personal quest for truth...but what is original in his quest? Slifkind is different, he is trying to reconcile facts with Torah Facts. A different task entirely although I get your point.

    Rambam on the other hand responded to the challenges of his time (equally challenging to our own) with a titanic original work. He took the optimists path. He used his incrediblec abilities to create a new reality in the Jewish world. He looked through everything with a Yad Hazak and pruned away the leaves that he felt were dead. He believed in HIMSELF. Maybe that is your quest.

     
    At December 28, 2006 7:53 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    BHB

    I believe story of mekoshesh is in Sefer devarim.
    Many claim this is written later than others.

    Lf and BHB
    I agree about certain lines in the sand.
    A family member called me an apikores because I told him the world is older than 57XX years.
    I told him I'm not charedi, and he said what, you're not frum?

    The Rambam rationslist view is not taught in Yeshiva and we are bringing up a generation of rebbe worshipping Jews.
    and these rabbonim would bring us back to dark ages.
    See rav ovadia talking now about legalizing polygamy in Israel.

    On the other hand, in my circles there are many people who think for themselves.
    In fact they introduced me to Slifkin. Before that I had no idea about blogs or any other truth than avigdor Miller.

     
    At December 28, 2006 9:06 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    I am surprised that none of you know where the story of the Mekoshesh is. It's immediately before the mitsvah of tsitsit, in Parashat Shelach!

     
    At December 28, 2006 9:22 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    Oops
    Sorry.

    Got confused.
    With what, I don't know.

     
    At December 28, 2006 9:55 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

    RJM,

    "This is not true. All a belief in miracles means is that the same Being who created the Universe and its laws can alter them for a purpose. It doesn't have any scientific implications at all. And prophecy is just an extraordinarily high level of intellectual apprehension. Not really a subject of scientific study either."

    Once upon a time the world was full of prophets and miracles and sorcery and giants and angels and hobbits but today they are all gone.

    Either the world as it really exists is like this fantasy reality or it is really like the very naturally-bounded world we appear to live in today. I don't believe magic world is well supported by any evidence. But then again, maybe God just quit doing 'em - or maybe all the elves left after that final battle when Men dominated Middle Earth.

    Or - most likely - these are stories passed down by our unfortunately ignorant ancestors and have become our legends.


    "I don't see myself as here to refute or debunk anyone else's views. But I have often felt that the Judaism many skeptics reject is not really the Judaism I believe in and practice."

    Perhaps, but how many Jews do you think follow your conception - or like conception - of Judaism? There are far more OJs who believe in exactly the kind of magical world I described and who are more comfortable compounding miracles (think Noah) than they are in minimizing the fantastical in Judaism.

    Funny things is, you hardly hear anyone calling those folks apikorsim. After all, there's nothing wrong in believing in more miracles, right? How does that square with your belief (I think you said this previously, correct me if I'm wrong) that Judaism was designed as a program to reduce superstition in humankind?

     
    At December 28, 2006 10:15 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Anon,
    > He looked through everything with a Yad Hazak and pruned away the leaves that he felt were dead. He believed in HIMSELF. Maybe that is your quest

    Sounds nice, but I can't truly say that is my quest. It's a very fair question, you basically reversed my question to you and I was sitting in shul in shiur tonight and thinking about it. All I can say is we're in different times with access to different knowledge that was not available to Rambam (of course, I'm not a Rambam, etc). But my first inclination remains with me. Rambam could just as well be GH as Slifkind. As for me, it just does not ring true anymore.

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:36 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    ortho
    excellent point.
    i never thought of that. judiasm got corrupted to worship men who could make mofsim.
    i think its not only chassidim, but sefardim also have their fair share of superhero rabbis. i think once islam stop being enlightened, we have an upsurge in superstition in sefardic jews. i say i think this is so, because i postulating the theory.
    now i will do some scientific research to correlate the rise of mysticism in judiasm from r yosef caro and on, and how enlightened islam and christianity were.

    interestingly, it seems there has been an upswing in the capabilities of the rebbes of the past couple hundred years. they all could talk to moshiach, make it rain inside or outside their sukkah, an nowhere else, travel at speed of light, and make golems.
    they really give chazal a run for their money.

    i think the analogy to middle earth is an excellent one. bereishis has that story of the giants who fell from the sky, and they married the daughters of man. its right out of a fairy tale.
    some people explain this away as knocking the so called heroes of yonder, and hashem showing ultimately, god is the true god. its a very nice pshat. but did rashi believe that?

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    interestingly, it seems there has been an upswing in the capabilities of the rebbes of the past couple hundred years. they all could talk to moshiach, make it rain inside or outside their sukkah, an nowhere else, travel at speed of light, and make golems.
    they really give chazal a run for their money.


    I think it's more that you are seeing the Rebbe's coming out of a bear market. Remember, the Rebbe's could do miracles in Tanach. And, even the Gemorah has plenty of miracles. But from, say 500- 1400 how many miracles did you have? On the other hand, when you read the Rebbeshe Mayseh books, you've got miracles in that time too. The Ramban, for example, could also travel at the speed of light.

    some people explain this away as knocking the so called heroes of yonder, and hashem showing ultimately, god is the true god. its a very nice pshat. but did rashi believe that?

    Rashi prob didn't believe it because it's a tough sell in the text, and that's the reason we shouldn't belive it either.

     
    At December 29, 2006 12:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    bhb,


    And same thing with the now debunked Dybbuk.


    I've got fond memories of that fiasco.

    >The fact that they are just randomly assigning who wrote what in order to make the theory look good.

    It does seem that way.


    That's cause Friedman doesn't give you the reasons in the book

    ortho,

    I agree with you some of the stories in the Bible seem tolkienesque, but we should keep in mind the distinction between a work that is presented as fiction by the author and a work that we can not say that about.

     
    At December 29, 2006 8:29 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Orthoprax,

    >Or - most likely - these are stories passed down by our unfortunately ignorant ancestors and have become our legends.

    Exactly! It seems SO SO likely. And even if not true, even if that age was really rife with miracles, I fail to see how even the most fervent believer can't at least understand our viewpoint.

     
    At December 29, 2006 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Orthoprax,

    First of all, like I said earlier, I don't see prophecy as something supernatural. And I don't see any connection between miracles and magic. A transcendent God should be able to override the laws of nature when He deems it necessary. Both prophecy and miracles are understandable if one posits a metaphysical dimension to reality, as most philosophers of antiquity did.

    You seem to confuse the world of Tanach with a "magical world" as opposed to a naturally lawful world. But the Tanach is the source from which we got the whole idea of a lawful Universe! All of modern scientific inquiry originally proceeded under the assumption that the world must make sense and be consistent because it reflects an underlying unity. No pagan idolaters or animists believed this.

    The fact that most religious Jews believe in nonsensical things is neither surprising to me nor does it contradict my approach to Judaism in general. Otherwise, you would have to argue that the fact that the idolatrous behavior of the Jews of Tanach times "disproves" the interpretation of Judaism held by the prophets. I see the attitudes and orientation of Jews today as a carryover of the past; the Jews who believe in magic and superstition today, and somehow reconcile it with Torah in their minds, would have done the same with Baal and Ashera worship.

    Yes, Judaism was supposed to eliminate the primitivism of magic, superstition, divination, idolatry, fetishism, totemism, etc., etc. It introduced the idea that everything in the universe is governed by a unified system of Divine wisdom which should also be the source of man's values. Does the fact that it was unpopular say anything about its original objective? I don't think so.

     
    At December 29, 2006 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "Sounds nice, but I can't truly say that is my quest. It's a very fair question, you basically reversed my question to you and I was sitting in shul in shiur tonight and thinking about it."

    BHB, I wouldnt presume to tell you what to do with your views of faith. They are yours and yours alone. What I can say is that I believe in a functional description of the human brain allows for both gradual change and quantum leaps of thought. Things appear to be going along as always and then a tiny event creates a new neural pathway and a completely new way of thinking (new from that persons perspective) is created. I believe that people exist on many levels and that what is new and different for some is old hat for others. When I suggested a reboot, I wasnt suggesting slipping back into the old way of thinking. You would tell me that it would be impossible. What I might suggest is that ahead of you, past the crucible is a new undiscovered country where there is order and where all of the things that trouble you now can be adressed at a higher level of understanding.

    that our brains are capable of much more than

     
    At December 29, 2006 9:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I'm sorry I don't have time to read all these comments, they're probably very interesting and insightful.
    I just wanted to use this forum to express my feelings towards these seemingly "miraculous" occurences.

    The story that I used to turn over in my head, was the Babba Sali (maybe it was someone else) and his never ending bottle of wine.

    Personally, I don't have trouble with the thought that the physical world can be played with. Obviously I am a believer that there is another realm of life that exists, and I imagine this concept would be difficult to swallow if I was of a different mind.
    However, if the physical world is really something that can be manipulated (kind of like the Matrix) then who cares if I'm in one city and end up in a different one, or if there's a way to create more wine in a covered bottle.
    It's not magic, it's just dealing with our reality.

    There are people who perform such feats and are not believers in our G-d, people who believe in many gods yet understand ways to tap into the unphysical physical world.

    Or something like that.

     
    At December 29, 2006 10:15 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Anon, 9:03

    > What I might suggest is that ahead of you, past the crucible is a new undiscovered country where there is order and where all of the things that trouble you now can be adressed at a higher level of understanding.

    Extremely unlikely. Of course anything can happen. But right now, there's no way on earth I can call *your* understanding a "higher level".
    It would mean switching from belief in "reality as we know it" to belief in the "unprovable". It would take some sort of personal revelation. And not one of co-incidence, which you would call Hashgacha Pratis, and not one of Nes Nistar; rather something that is clear and open. And why should God favor me with that over the other 5 billion people on this planet?

     
    At December 29, 2006 10:19 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Anon, 9:27

    >There are people who perform such feats.

    There are? Like who?

    >and are not believers in our G-d, people who believe in many gods yet understand ways to tap into the unphysical physical world.

    So why be Jewish, why not be Hindu?

    Anyhow, If you're just joining the game and did not read prior posts and the comments, you must understand that my dis-belief and skepticism about OJ is not based on the di-belief of Rebbe Stories.

     
    At December 29, 2006 10:21 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Coming up soon, switch to new blogger and Haloscan. I hope my blog survives. Any advice?

     
    At December 29, 2006 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "Extremely unlikely. Of course anything can happen. But right now, there's no way on earth I can call *your* understanding a "higher level"."

    I am not in any way trying to imply that MY personal understanding is a higher level...just that there IS a higher level of understanding beyond what I can now concieve.

    Its not an article of faith to believe that there is more "out there" than I currently understand. In fact I assume a lot more on faith than the assumption that I dont know everything. I would say that it is highly likely that I dont know all that I will ultimately know.

    So I have faith that the flaw is not with the structure itself but with my understanding of the structure. I hope though study and experience to understand more about things than I do now. But I do so from the perspective that there is more out there.

    There is a story about the blind men and the elphant that is instructive. The blind men all touch parts of the elephant, one touches the leg and thinks its a tree, one touches the trunk and thinks its a snake. Etc.

    From each persons limited perspective it is observable and provable to an extent. The problem is their limited perspective.

    In talking with each other they may come up with a better understanding of the whole elephant and be able to explain it some day.

    Lets use physics, a hard science as an example. Newtons laws of physics are so incredibly accurate that we can use them to build skyscrapers. Einsteins theory of relativity is a multiple sigma solution to the same problem that "revolutionized" our understanding and yet it is only relevent on a scale insignificant to our senses.

    The world of physics is built largely upon two foundational theories: Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity that are among the two most rigorously tested scientific hypotheses in history. Both theories are accepted fact in the scientific community. The only problem is that they are mutually conflicting theories and there is no current way of reconciling them.

    Is it an article of faith for me to believe that there is a reconciliation that exists and that we just need to find it?

    Now come Supersting Theory and its later incarnation M Theory. More complex explanations than both Relativity and Quantum Mechanics and based upon the same logical and rigorous scientific systems, only in this case both Superstring and M Theory are in all senses articles of faith because we do not have the technology to prove them.

    I guess my postulate is that until we know everything, we can make the assumption that there is always a higher level system out there waiting to be discovered.

     
    At December 29, 2006 11:44 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Anon, 11:13.
    Your analogies are somewhat flawed. Sure there are things we don't understand. But I venture to say, the only reason you believe, that a 1 pound ball falls as fast as 10 pound ball is that it's been experimentally proven. Likewise, you believe in Einstein's relativity and Plank, and EPS (possibly) and quantum mechanics because they're been proven. You don't believe in String theory. So why would I believe in mysticism and miracles?

     
    At December 29, 2006 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I actually didnt really make an analogy, I said that I believe that there is an infinite series of systems of increasing complexity that can explain the percieved inconsistences of the one immediately below it. It would be an article of faith to say that there is a theory to explain it all, but what the hell...Ill believe that its out there too.

    Now I think your statement is better phrased as "what does this have to do with the subject of this blog". Thats the anology portion and I'm glad you asked.

    Lets look at Judaism as a system, a communal enterprise that has a different goal than science. Science has a goal the quest for knowledge...religion has as a goal the quest for meaning, but om the case of Judaism its not an individual quest, its a communal quest.

    Within the community there are people who are on different levels of understanding while essentially going on the same quest. I accept as axiomatic that my 6 year old son is on the same quest, but is not capable of understanding everything so I purposely limit myself to teaching him what are basically simple versions of what I believe to be true. From an enlightened perspective they are fairy tales, but at the level of understanding they can be accepted as true without much harm.

    And yet, when he is ready he will question the fairy tales and move on to a higher level of understanding.

    Since Judaism is a communal enterprise, there are differing level of development of all people but there are some basic common axioms to the system. We accept those agreements in order to be part of the club, we may disagree with them or not believe them, but we accept them. There are people who feel its their job to enforce the axioms and others who push the bounderies of the community into uncharted places. The important thing is the quest itself. Just as Physics quests for the Theory of Everything that reconciles the Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity, the Jewish person quests for meaning within the community.

    Why Judaism in particular and not some other religion? I happen to believe that its the religion that actively encourages the communal quest in the best way...through question and debate.

     
    At December 29, 2006 12:20 PM, Anonymous B. Spinoza said...

    >Lets look at Judaism as a system, a communal enterprise that has a different goal than science.

    ok, fair enough

    >Science has a goal the quest for knowledge...religion has as a goal the quest for meaning

    what is the quest for meaning and how does it differ from knowledge? Is meaning objective or subjective? Does your ideas agree with the Rambam who states that the highest goal of Judaism is to have knowledge of God?

     
    At December 29, 2006 12:29 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Anon, Can I trouble you to use a handle? Any handle? Also, I'm trying to switch to Haloscan. There's another comments button, right below and to the left of the Blogger comments, if you like you can continue there, but I'll follow your lead if you want to stay here.

    I follow what your saying. And it's all sharp. And I do agree, one day we will hopefully find the unifying theory of the four forces (I believe it 4 as Hawkins described it).

    There is a great search for meaning going on. And Judaism is great as a search for meaning. But, did God Split the sea as a clear miracle for 3 million Jews? How about 3,000? Was there really any great miracles and revelation? Did it happen like the Meor Eynaim claims? Is the Torah meant to be literal? Is it allegoric? The brightest of those who study it don't agree. That itself is kind of odd.


    Or maybe nothing happened.

    Are the fundamentals of Judaism true? Or are they just the Alchemy of meaning?

    There is no evidence to suggest there is any truth to it and there is rason to believe otherwise.



    Can you be so kind as to what exactly you believe, besides the fact that Judaism is a search?

     
    At December 29, 2006 12:42 PM, Blogger littlefoxling said...

    11:53 PM and 12:20 AM are me. Don't know why it says anon.

     
    At December 29, 2006 12:46 PM, Blogger littlefoxling said...

    Hey, it wasn't just those 2. Like all my comments are now Anon. Why did that happen?

     
    At December 29, 2006 12:56 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    LF, I don't know. Was 12:05 today also you? I don't think so? LF switch to the haloscan on my
    post

     
    At December 29, 2006 12:58 PM, Blogger littlefoxling said...

    12:05 not me.

     
    At December 29, 2006 1:46 PM, Anonymous Centimus said...

    "what is the quest for meaning and how does it differ from knowledge? Is meaning objective or subjective? Does your ideas agree with the Rambam who states that the highest goal of Judaism is to have knowledge of God? "

    The quest for knowledge is the quest for objective facts as I define it. The quest for meaning is the quest for the "ontology" of these facts, one way to describe this would be to call it a quest for God, or a quest for an underlying framework or Order.

    These quests overlap because they sometimes use similar tools and sometimes completely different tools. Scientists use a system called the Scientific Method but scientists dont always (in fact almost never) choose to conduct their science according to a strict "hypothesis - test - recalculate hypothesis" methodology. In other words they introduce subjectivity into what is essentially a simple method that in a perfect world would be used dispassionately. In such a "perfect" world, they might be given things to study at random rather than choosing things that interest them. (Science can also be OCD)

    On the other hand, relgion crosses over into science world (inadequately i might add) when it tries to "prove" its mythos. Mythos that may or may not (but generally do) have at least some basis in historical fact.

    "Can you be so kind as to what exactly you believe, besides the fact that Judaism is a search? "

    As I said, to me Judaism is a valid search for meaning within a communal framework. If I strip away everything else, I come to a couple of base unprovable axioms...I make no attempt to prove them...I accept them axiomatically.

    I believe in an underlying order to the universe, one that was designed by a creator.

    Can I define the creator? No. Can I prove the creator exists? No. Do I have to? No. I do not take XGH's bait which says that if I make a claim I have to prove it or have to make a good case for it.

    I dont have to just like he doesnt have to make the opposite case...if forced at gunpoint I would say String Theory, the incredible sheer wonder of the universe, the elegance of mans capabilities all vaguely suggest a creator, but I do not feel the need to prove it. It is a postulate.

    I believe that The creater is way beyond my current capabilities, but that I can get closer to understanding, asymptotically perhaps but closer, by learning and by interacting with people who are on a similar quest. Other Jews are on a similar quest. Some at different levels.

    I believe that Science and religion use some of the same tools and some different tools. Both use logic although not exclusively. Science uses EXPERIMENTAL methods in the sense of creating a series of repetitive tests, religion is less keen on this. Religion uses prayer, and personal discipline, and behavioral limitations and ritual and other EXPERIENTIAL methods to try and exist in the NOW.

    They are different tools in quality and substance and are not comparable within our existing understanding of science and religion. This is not to say that they cannot be reconciled within a higher level system. I believe that human kind will find this reconciliation and then face other challenges ...(more if you want it).

    As for miracles etc. I view them as historical in the sense that there are people who are recognized by others to have EXPERIENTIAL knowledge that is greater than other people (usually through hard word and deep prayer and concentration), those people are what we might call prophetic, but not magic.

     

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