28 February 2009

M'ishenechas Adar Marbin B'simcha

Hat Tip - Bishrirus.

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    22 February 2009


    This post by Pen Tivokeish is a must read for hidden skeptics.

    And this video is a must see. I admit that Anka's intent is more noble and overarching than the concerns of hidden skeptics of who are afraid to step out.

    But if the show fits, wear it.

    And it's a catchy tune which I was zoche to see performed live.

    Freedom for you and me

    Look at the madness
    The faces of sadness
    The people who try to survive
    And why is it so
    The children are wondering why.

    We've broken the promise
    The truth is upon us
    Somehow were living a lie
    And why don't we start
    To start being smart
    You and I

    Just look around
    what do you see
    Is this the way we want it to be
    I can't believe
    The way we carry on
    Are we wrong?

    Everybody all over the world
    We've got to get along
    If we don't get together
    We'll be gone.


    Look at tommorrow
    Think of the sorrow
    Think of the price we'll pay
    Look to your heart
    and love will lead the way.

    People are praying
    People are saying
    How long can this go on
    It just isn't right
    To fight for the right
    To belong.

    Everybody All over the world
    Raise your voices in song
    If we don't get together
    We'll be gone

    (Girsa Achrina ---

    'Cause life is too short
    And hey you're gone.)


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    Letter to the editor.

    At least once a month, I get some unsolicited Email, and it's always of some interest to me.

    What's your take of this letter below?

    It included what seems to be a real name, but of course, I won't post that and I edited some other detail (number of kids).

    I have a similar story to yours. Maybe we can compare notes.
    First of all, although I'm really today frummer than I was raised, I do have a netiya to go OTD. When I was younger I was too embarrassed. Today I'm married and soon I'll have _ kids.

    I have always realized that most people don't agree with each other. Chassidim don't agree with Litvaks, different streams in each don't agree with each other. But one thing everyone has in common: EVERYBODY is convinced that he's seeing things straight and if everyone else would just open their eyes they would see that WE are right.
    Litvaks are convinced that every chassid deep inside knows that being litvish is right. Every Modern Orthodox I've ever met thinks that every Charedi secretly wants to be MO.
    And every Satmar KNOWS that the only reason everyone else is not Satmar is because they're letting their taavos in the way. I could go on and on.

    Most people would have decided that they're all a bunch of garbage, but I decided that maybe everyone has some truth and some sheker, and I love everybody and appreciate everybody for what they stand for. And I try understanding them from *their* point of view. I take what everyone says seriously, even after I make a decision I still respect the outlook of others (and to the disgust of some of my friends, I even respect Satmar!)

    I also decided that I wanted to understand people with sfeykos in Emunah from their own point of view. After checking out their blogs I was shocked to see that they also are convinced that if only everyone else would just open their eyes then they would also have sfeykos. Of course, they realize that the people without sfeykos say the exact same thing,
    Really, I shouldn't have been shocked at all. They're just like everyone else, who can't think out of their box. But I also started having sfeykos. Of course, sfeykos doesn't prove anything, and kashyos don't prove anything. Someone who has doubts about his atheism doesn't automatically start believing in Christ.
    Maybe frum people are right that there are answers?
    So what do we do?
    The rabbonim are convinced that there are answers for everything. Have you contacted them? Just because I don't understand their answers doesn't mean that they are wrong. just because I don't understand bilogy doesn't disprove evolution, but neither does it prove it?

    Right now I don't have alot of time for EMail discusions, and even less time to go to Footsteps to discuss this with live people. Do you have any eytzos?

    My response was

    "Have you read my story? I don't think it's similar at all. I had no Netiya to go OTD.
    I'm also not exactly sure what you're asking. I have no eitsos as as evidenced by my blog.

    BTW, are you trying to be Mekarev me?


    I'm almost certain he was trying a Kiruv job. But why does he need to be so sneaky? Why not just come out and say it? Why the subterfuge? Can't Kiruv stand on it's own without deception? I can't imagine Footsteps doing anything as underhanded as this.

    I haven't heard from him again, so I'm pretty sure I'm right.

    Was I wrong? Was I too brusque with him? Is he another lost skeptic soul who needs my chizzuk? I don't think so. I think I had him nailed. I think he was a fake phony and fraud. But then again, you never know.

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    19 February 2009

    Off the cuff review of Kugel at JTS

    Guest post!

    Here's an unedited extemporaneous review from Mark. He gave me permission to post this.

    It's a fantastic writeup, especially, considering he did not mean for this to be posted.

    Here is an overview of last night. The place was packed, must have been at least 500, and the man is worth it just for his humor, and he is a real gentleman.
    The lecture itself was nothing new if one is familiar with his work, he started out by posing the question of the possible reconciliation of Modern Scholarship and Traditional Judaism, and went on to answer in the negative. Despite this, he went on to say that the real bible is not the initial intent of this or that author, rather the way readers have read it over time. So, although the two are irreconcilable in their understanding of the Bible, what's more important is how bible was understood over the centuries, which is the "real" bible, what made the bible what it is. Hence the findings of Biblical Criticism are not as crucially important as may seem.
    OK, that's his regular Shpiel.

    After the lecture I had the opportunity to ask him the question I came for:
    Although Biblical Criticism can't determine if something is divine or not (it's inherently a unprovable claim), which means that technically one may still believe in the divinity of the Torah in light modern scholarship, one who approaches the matter objectively and without any preconceptions would conclude that the Torah, notwithstanding its uniqueness is just a product of its time an the work of a purely human enterprise.
    To which he answered, that he believes in God, and in one who communicates to humanity. Therefore, while granting that there is no reason to believe that anything in the Torah is from God, he does believe that God communicates to us, and that the objective of this communication is that we serve him, which is also the goal of Judaism. He went on to say that even if we were to propose a Torah that only has one Posuk from God (he made sure to qualify that this is not what he believes), for example, to serve God with all our hearts, that would be enough to validate the Torah in it's general sense, since even if the whole Torah is divine, Judaism is still mostly based on human ideas.
    In short, he said that the question of God's existence and communication to mankind is a theological one, and since he believes in those, his approach to the discoveries of modern scholarship is that it a science that doesn't bear on these theological issues. Basically Biblical Criticism is correct in it's discoveries, but we don't know where God could have been in the picture and how he may have acted behind the scenes so to say. Since he believes God does communicate to us and the goal is we serve him, he accepts the Torah which promotes that goal.

    This is what I got out of him, although he was more eloquent in conveying his ideas that I did, but I hope I did them justice.
    What I got out of the man, is that he never did do a total and complete reassessment of his Weltanschauung. He eased himself into the academic world together with his deeply held religious views. (And I must say, that if he was speaking honestly, which I think he was, he is a man of deep faith, almost pious, not exactly what I expected.) He never went through the total destruction of his theological world like we did, and so in the end he does not approach the issue with a complete objectivity. He is truth seeking, otherwise he wouldn't come to write and study what he does, but his approach is that of a religious man, not of a undecided agnostic.

    In the end, it is what it is. I hoped to hear something convincing, something that would make me believe as he does. It was a hope, in my mind I knew it won't be, and it wasn't.

    My beef with this, aside from the unsupported notion that God communicates with us, is in "Despite this, he went on to say that the real bible is not the initial intent of this or that author, rather the way readers have read it over time"

    So why aren't we all Christian? More people read the Bible from a Christian perspective than the Orthodox Jewish way.

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    17 February 2009

    Great Angst Moment

    OK, you know who wrote this? I didn't think so. But take a shot at it anyway (poll in the sidebar). Its multiple choice.

    And let's hear your great angst moment and I'll post it!

    Outside the library, one comes to one's senses: the ....., the .... stores. But still, always lurking, is the Project. What is the Project? It is not mine in particular; many people have worked on it. Perhaps it began for me at the time of the ...... War, or perhaps even before that. Events conspire to put you on the spot, to make some fateful decisions. And just then, facing life's ugly, jagged teeth, you suddenly feel a certain calm and a sense of the realness of things that isn't there most of the time, the realness of yourself as one distinct person, and certain ideas go through your head. A few years pass, perhaps. Then, on a day that you have set aside, sitting alone on a park bench above a municipal lake, you try to smooth things out in your mind, until the surface of the lake subtly starts to seem like an image of your mind, and once again you have a different sense of things. It is then that the Project can present itself most forcefully, reermerging from wherever it may have been waiting. The Project is: to get to the bottom of this, to see how far it goes; not to deceive oneself, not to be sentimental or weak, but to see how far one can go.

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    13 February 2009

    What's this world coming to?

    Within the space of one week, two interesting events occurred that concern the Skeptic Oilam. What makes it interesting is that the events are presented within the Frum Chareidi world.

    Firstly, this past Motsh"k there was the Footsteps interview on the Zev Brenner show. The interview was not handled well at all by the Footsteppers, but even bad PR is better than no PR. You can listen to the Radio show and read more about it over at Hedyot's place.

    And now on Rabbi Horowitz's site there's a great discussion within the Frum world that portays OTDers and skeptics in a decent light.

    I really want to talk more about the Footsteps interview, but I mamesh haven't got the time now.

    A guttten Erev Shabbos Koidesh.

    (Am I speaking Yeshivish enough?)

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    10 February 2009

    Torah - Our way of Life.

    Over at XGH, logician said:

    "Torah - Is the accumulated wisdom of our people. It speaks to each person individually. It is so large a corpus at this point that it contains endless potential for application. People dont look at music and say "hey there are only eight notes here" instead there are infinite combinations that still fit within a traditional framework."

    And in my comments he writes:

    While I can certainly understand your story, I really dont understand why its so vital to you that everything is empirically true in the same way as a scientific experiment. To me, the real crisis of faith is the belief that if one can disprove one particular, the whole ediface is destroyed. Its understandable why you take this view since the prevailing view of reality is very much tilted towards empiracism and inductive reasoning (a la Poppers view that all you need is one black swan to disprove the theory that all are not white).Alas, religion is not like that. Religion is about personal experience and personal ability. It is a broad brush and it presents perspectives for people in each level of development from the child for whom the tales are to be understood literally to the wise man for whom they are merely clothing that represents other things.

    "One particular". Ha. Who is he kidding?

    "Personal experience and ability". What on earth does that have to do with anything?

    After a brief interchange which you should view here, I say:

    It's not a matter of commentary which might fill in details upon an otherwise accurate Torah. If it's been altered, exaggerated, enlarged upon, politicised, analogized, propagandized then it's all a myth, not something that can make a claim on me as to how God expects me to live my life. I could tolerate it if it asked me to celebrate Jewish History and culture. But it presents itself as God's detailed instruction manual, when it (OJ) is really just Sheker Vechazav. Do you hear that? It's another example of a Big Lie. When I think about it, I'm sick over it. When I think about the sacrifice I've made over the course of my life, I get sick over it. When I think of the sacrifice I'm still making because I want to protect my family and social standing, I'm sick over it. When I think about the sacrifice I make because I'm a coward, I'm sick over it.

    Sigh. What's the use.

    All I can say in consolation to myself is that I still have a great life compared to the vast majority of beings that ever graced this planet. And the grass is always greener on the other side.

    So BHB, just make the best of it.

    So what else is new? Did you see that last Touchdown in the SuperBowl? Wow, Just awesome.

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    05 February 2009

    If only I could have been there.

    Many many many moons ago, back in my yeshiva days, I was learning with someone in the Beis-Medrash. The Sugya had something to do with the miracles in the Bais Hamikdosh and I remarked that it would have been amazing to witness that. So my Chavrusah said, "that's what you'd want to see? I'd want to see Krias Yam Suf. After all that's the foundation of our beliefs."

    And rightly so!!!

    However, there is a Gemara (sorry, I'm terrible at details) about a Tanna Chastising a talmud for agreeing with his rav about an unusual event at sea because he witnessed the same thing. And he called him a non-believer because the implication was, had the talmid not seen it with his own eyes, he would not have believed it.

    Looking back now, I can't help but marvel at my own naivete. I can't know for certain, but I suspect that my Chavrusah was displaying some sign of skepticism. After all, when I expressed my feelings about seeing the actual events in the Bais Hamikdosh, there was some skepticism there about everyone bowing down at the same time and not being crowded. You know, like maybe Chazal were exaggerating just a wee bit?

    Yet, I did not project my own feelings upon my Chavrusah because he was talking about undeniable events that I took for granted.

    But now, for me it's "seeing is believing". And I've learned that only seeing is believing. And sometimes even seeing is not believing!

    It's been several years now that I've been exposed to critical thinking and what I find most amazing is how believers, and I include my former self, do not automatically question Jewish Orthodoxy just based on the very existence of other religions. (Maybe it's because we are kept away from people of other faiths, are taught not to engage with them religiously and don't realize just how strong their faith is. But that's a whole nother story).

    Jewish believers like to poopoo the other religions by claiming that Judaism stands up to scrutiny much better than other religions. Let's concede the issue, even though Christians, Muslims, Zoroastrians and Mormons might not. But believers are missing the point! To me, the easily exposed flaws in other religions makes skepticism all the stronger. If people could get snookered in this day and age (a mere hundred and fifty years ago) into following a Joseph Smith, if people in 1978 could be induced into drinking the Kool-aid, then it underlies exactly how credible and unthinking people could be!!!

    I'll stick with seeing is believing. And even then, that's a maybe.

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