Monday, September 15, 2014

The intelligence veterans' letter

Here, read the letter written by 34 elite Israeli soldiers in which they confirm that Israel commits the injustices so many of you have dismissed and disavowed.


Read the letter from 34 reserve soldiers who have served in Unit 8200 explaining why they refuse to serve in Palestinian territories

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Adrienne Peterson

This morning, a caller on one of the morning show attempted to defend Adrienne Peterson using language and arguments I found eerily familiar. He argued that Peterson beat his kid without malice, and that such beatings were culturally acceptable in the African American community. "My own great grandmother beat me the same way," he said, "and I loved her dearly. It taught me discipline and respect." 

I have friends who were slapped around by their grade-school teachers and many of them describe the abuse they endured in the same way. In fact I have in my possession a private letter in which the writer, a well known figure in the Orthodox community, describes his own abuser as follows "When I was a young boy, in XXXXX, my beloved rebbe would occasionally XXXXX for infractions. I never considered it abuse, and frankly even now don't consider it to have been abuse, and have no ill feelings, only wonderful ones, toward the rebbe" [Redactons made to protect the writer's identity]

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

The great Ohr Hachaim on Ki Tavo's opening verses

Credit to the great Ohr Hachaim for his clever reading of the first several verses in Ki Tavo. Ingeniously he reads it as an allegory for death and our entrance into heaven. This seems like a prime example of how new interpretations can refresh and revitalize verses making them meaningful after circumstances have rendered their plain sense irrelevant

See the full discussion after the jump.

Now, I agree this all belongs to the category of "sod" But what is sod? Do we say that sod came from Sinai, and was passed on in secret for thousands of years before being revealed? Or do you agree with me when I say the sod was created at a particular moment in time to solve a particular problem or to advance a particular (religious or whatever) objective? Consider what the OC does here, and see what you think.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A few small points about the Ray Rice fiasco.

1) The Ravens and Nike are business entities that are only interested in protecting their own bottom lines. They didn't sever ties with Ray Rice because they wanted to punish him. They cut ties with Ray Rice because their marketing staff believes that keeping Rice around tarnishes their brand and threatens their profits.

2)That said, DovBear recognizes the right of Nike and the Ravens to pursue their own interests and to exercise any clauses in their contracts that might apply here. But don't fool yourself into think that Nike or the Ravens care about women or domestic violence. They'd both run "Beat Your Wife" promotions if the marketing data suggested it was profitable.

3) DovBear agrees that Ray Rice deserves public shame and financial loss and jail time.

4) DovBear believes that Ray Rice's wife/victim is entitled to stay with her husband and support him if she wishes. All we know is he hit her once. While that appears to be one excellent reason for her to throw him out, she might also have 10 million excellent reasons to stay with him. That's her call. We don't have enough evidence to disagree with it.

5) However, DovBear does not support the NFL's decision to hit Ray Rice with an indefinite suspension. The man is a football player. Its all he knows how to do. While knocking out your fiancee is a terrible crime, taking away the man's livelihood is a disproportionate response. Also, if we wish to protect his wife and rehabilitate her attacker is increasing Rice's resentment and frustration really the best course of action?

6) Its also cruel to leave him floating in the wind wondering if the suspension will ever be lifted.

7) B''deved, I'd support a lifetime ban from professional football. If Goodall thinks his league of gangsters and white color criminals is too upscale for a wife beater, he should say so now, and allow Rice to get on with his life.

8) L'chatchila, I think Goodall should give Rice a definite suspension - say 6 games, or even a full season - and then allow the NFL teams to decide for themselves if they wish to pay for Rice's services. My bet is that many teams (such as the always classy NY Giants) will stay away. But if, following the suspension, some desperate, degenerate team such as the Eagles of Philadelphia or the never-classy NY Jets think adding Rice to their roster makes business sense, they should be free to do so.

9) In short, Goodel should inflict a reasonable, fair, defined punishment - Rice did embarrass the league and that carries a penalty - and then allow the market to decide for itself if Ray Rice belongs in professional football.

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Rashi and the Persian loan word in Dueteronomy

Maculation alert! Here's Rashi in this week's parsha:
"You shall not keep her as a servant: Heb. לֹא-תִתְעַמֵּר בָּהּ. [This means:]“You must not use her [as a slave]” (Sifrei 21:16). In the Persian language, the term for slavery and servitude is עִימְרָאָה [the term used here]. I learned this from the Yesod of Rabbi Moses the Darshan."
Is Rashi saying here that the Torah contains a Persian loan word? And if this is indeed what he's saying, how does he suppose it got there?

Here's my take: Rashi didn't recognize the word, so via his source he uses what he imagines to be a cognate from a related language to help us see what it means. What Rashi doesn't seem to realize is that Persian is an Indo European language, while Hebrew is a Semitic language. Languages from two different families don't have cognates with each other; therefore what Rashi observes is either a "false friend" (a coincidence) or evidence of a loan word. 

Now it may be true that the loan went from Hebrew to Persian rather than the other way which is is why we need to hear from a linguist

Things to do:
1) Check the word and see if the professional linguists agree that it entered Hebrew via Persian

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Its Elull! And Pinny Lipschutz Hates Everyone!

See Pinny Lipshutz rant and rage about evil bloggers and people who are mean to Rabbis - without providing any examples - after the jump

Bonus Joy: After raging about people who mock Rabbis, Pinny tells a long story about a Cossak and uses it to insult a Rabbi. Not kidding!

HT: Chaim Shapiro

The founding Rabbis

Ysoscher Katz writes:

>> Likewise, I don't accept the Divinity of the Torah because of Maimonides' eighth principle. As a matter of fact, I sometimes have trouble with Maimonides' arguments, I don't always find them compelling or convincing. Instead, I believe that the Torah is Divine because I chose to believe that; because believing in the Divinity of the Torah adds a spiritual dimension to my moral and religious pursuits, something it otherwise would not have 

I disagree here: You can believe in the Divinity of the Torah without also accepting Maimonides 8th principle. Its not a choice between one or the other. You can, for example, discover a spiritual dimension in your religious and spiritual pursuits if you believe, as I do, that - irrespective of what Moshe received - the Rabbis had the authority to create halacha and that they succeeded in creating something majestic and eternal.

By way of analogy, consider how a certain type of patriot views the Constitution and the Founding Fathers. Everyone knows that Constitution is a historic document created by fallible, limited men. No one thinks the enlightenment values upon which the Founders based the Constitution came down from a mountain.

Nonetheless, a certain type of patriot assigns a spiritual dimension to their success. He's reluctant to modify their teachings, forever attempting to uncover their original intent, and hostile to suggestions that what they created might be flawed. He believes that the world would be made better if all people accepted the truths of their teachings. He'd go to war to defend their values, and  he might even be willing to support a George W. Bush sponsored crusade to deliver the Good News to infidels.

 I am not that type of patriot but I am something like that type of Jew.


This is an analogy, meaning its not going to match up on every point. I am only trying to make it match on the following point: People can know something is man made and still get romantic, and passionate and spiritual about it. Therefore, pace Ysoscher Katz, you don't need to recognize the Divinity of the Torah in order to get romantic and spiritual and passionate about the halachic system.
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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Let's collect some maculations

According to the theory of the "maculated Torah" the Torah was once revealed to Israel at Sinai, but over time fallible human beings introduced errors, additions and other corruptions (=maculated).

Today, I want to collect your favorite examples of these maculations. At the same time, I'd also like those of you who are familiar with the Rabbinic writings to suggest solutions and explanations. And let's see where it goes, OK? 

Please add your examples in the comments, and please number them so that we can refer back to them easily.

Brief background:
The premise is either that (1) Israel sinned, that is they failed to adequately protect the text and transmit it accurately during the First Temple years of Baal worship[Halivni] ; or (2) they did not view the revelation in the same terms that we do, that is they saw nothing wrong with adding explanatory glosses or attaching history or other material to the revelation; or (3) Israel returned from exile without any good reliable copies of the Torahs (not inconceivable in those days before the printing presses) so the returnees did their best to recreate it; or (4) some combination of the above.

My own view is that God surely anticipated that His revelation would be corrupted. After all, He presented it to fallible, subjective men without demanding that we take any safeguards or precautions to protect the integrity of the document or its transmission. He had to have known that scribal errors were inevitable. Without a rule to the contrary, He had to have known that we'd gloss the unfamiliar words or attach what we considered "accepted history" to the material. He had to have known that competing interpretations and competing theologies would develop around the text and that some of this would be inserted into the document by well-meaning, piously-motivated transmitters. He created us. He knew what we would do. God, as we understand Him, must have anticipated the maculations; as such the inevitable emergence of such corruptions had to have been part of the system as He originally conceived it.

In fact, that Rabbis recognized that such adjustments were part of God's plan when they announced "lo bashamayim he" during the Oven of Akhnai episode. Once the revelation left Sinai, it belongs to us. And they let us know that God, in their view, approved when they told us He reacted to the conclusion of the episode with laughter. This is why I am able to authority of the Sages and Rabbis to make Jewish laws, while simultaneously confirming that the revelation developed historically and contingently once it was in our hands

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Worst Hasbara ever

In response Bernie Madoff announced, "Hey guys, of all the money stolen in history I've stolen less than one percent of it! So how about some love?"

Meanwhile, Israel has unveiled a new hasbarah slogan: Israel: lots of countries kill more Muslims then we do 

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Another stab at a creed

My creed...

I believe in the God of history, the God of nature, the God who created us all with a word, and set the finished world in motion to develop contingently, with the promise that what He had made would always be "very good."

I reject seclusion, and draw strength from what Samson Rephael Hirsch wrote: "the righteous ones must be the ones who fear God not only in the safety and privacy of their homes, but in the midst of the city -- playing a prominent part in public life and exerting their influence against evil forces."

I condemn all superstition and wish to see Judaism made clean of irrational beliefs like amulets and other segulot. There are no powers outside of God.

I do not hold with those who say that truth is the only fundamental, because truth is fleeting and can be known to us only in part. Instead, basing myself on Hillel who said: "That which is despicable to you, do not do unto others: This is the whole Torah," I insist that love is the highest value, because it is only through tolerance, respect and the give and take of self -confident conversation, that the truth can be apprehended.

I affirm that all Jews, and the righteous of other nations, too, have a place in the world to come.

I believe, finally, that heaven and earth once intersected at Sinai where God made a revelation to Moses, a revelation that over time has developed historically and contingently with the fingerprints of Sages and laymen alike appearing on it to this day. I declare my acceptance of the authority of the Sages and Rabbis to make Jewish laws, while simultaneously confirming the view of our Rabbis who said that the science and history contained in the rabbinic writings are not part of the revelation and are subject to correction as new facts are discovered.
(This is a modification of something I wrote in 2006)

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Orthodoxy and Bible Critcism

Summary:  In what follows, I argue that the Rambam's 8th ikkar unnecessarily and unfortunately became a litmus test of Orthodox Judaism and that the time has come to abandon this idea and let the chips fall where they may. While I believe the Torah developed historically, I also believe in God and in an initial revelation on Har Sinai. Therefore, I don't think abandoning the 8th -- an idea that itself developed contingently and was not accepted by many great Rabbis - can harm anything legitimately and authentically necessary to our religion.

Great moments in marketing: Zara's shirt

Zara, a Spanish retailer is actually selling this monstrosity

UPDATE: Zara is appeasing the Jews and other people with taste who protested. The shirt is no longer being offered.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

A West Bank Freedom Summer?

In Haaretz, Peter Beinart is urging American Jews to stage a Freedom Summer in the West Bank in opposition to the settlement program.

Here is what he says: [Screw you Haaretz paywall]
"It’s time for American Jews who support Israel but oppose the occupation to commit to large-scale, direct action of our own. And the most important place to do so is in the West Bank. Palestinians in villages like Bil’in and Nabi Saleh have been protesting, unarmed, for years against the theft of their land. But their efforts receive little attention in American Jewish circles or in the American press. Few American Jews have any idea that under the military law that governs Palestinians in the West Bank, Israel routinely criminalizes freedom of speech and assembly. Or that peaceful protesters can be held in detention for years without trial.
But if thousands of American Jews joined those protests, American Jews would know. Protesters would return home with videos to show their synagogues; hawkish parents would be appalled by the treatment meted out to their children. And the American media, which covers Jews far more intensively than it covers Palestinians, would follow. The model would be Freedom Summer, Robert Moses’ campaign to bring white college students to help register voters in Mississippi in 1964, and thus draw the nation’s eyes to oppression that garnered little media attention when practiced only against blacks."

-- Direct, peaceful action #FTW!  Its sexy and it works.

-- American Jews need to be woken up to the fact that West Bank Arabs are being denied basic rights because of their religion/ethnicity. I like anything that threatens to do this.


-- I'm not going to march alongside BDSers or Hamasniks. No Common Cause with them, period.

-- There's zero chance that such a West Bank demonstration will remain peaceful. I don't know why it worked in the American South, during the Freedom Rides and Freedom Summer, because had I been a Southern black living under Jim Crow you damn well better believe I would have thrown stones - or worse. But for some reason when blacks marched and protested in the 60s they (when it mattered) responded to the worst provocations with love. The Arabs simply won't do that - which kills Beinart's idea in its crib.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Do we who whine about anti-Semitism experience anything like this?

Today's bad news:
Scholars have found that blacks and Hispanics treated by doctors for a broken leg received pain medication significantly less often than white patients with the same injury. School administrators suspend black students at more than three times the rate of white students. Police arrest blacks at 3.7 times the rate of whites for marijuana possession, even though surveys find that both use marijuana at roughly similar rates. 
Two scholars sent out nearly 5,000 résumés in response to help-wanted ads, randomly alternating between stereotypically white-sounding names and black-sounding names. They found that it took 50 percent more mailings to get a callback for a black name. A white name yielded as much benefit as eight years of experience, according to the study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. 
Joshua Correll of the University of Colorado at Boulder has used an online shooter video game to try to measure these unconscious attitudes (you can play the game yourself). The player takes on the role of a police officer who is confronted with a series of images of white or black men variously holding guns or innocent objects such as wallets or cellphones. The aim is to shoot anyone with a gun while holstering your weapon in other cases.

Ordinary players (often university undergraduates) routinely shoot more quickly at black men than at white men, and are more likely to mistakenly shoot an unarmed black man than an unarmed white man.

Do we who whine about anti-Semitism experience anything like this?
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Our European Summer

While they are certainly an outrage ,I can not decide if the events in Europe this summer are cause for worry. And this NYT oped by a bright woman from Georgia does nothing to help me clarify my thoughts.

PS For those inclined to worry about European Jews let me state that all of this seems foretold by the commentators on Parshas Reeh who warned that bad behavior by Jews living in Israel spells danger. Not that I put extra super faith in such predictions, of course.

NYT:Why Jews Are Worried
Europe isn’t on the cusp of another Holocaust. But the situation is still pretty bad.
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Furgeson Jews

The stupid things Jewish racists say about Ferguson continue to grate on my nerves. So two quick announcements:

:: Jews riot, too, when they believe the police have mistreated one of their own. It's happened in Boro Park and Meah Shearim. And the fact that some riots are more or less violent than other riots does not erase the fact that Jews riot, too.

:: It's only possible to say blacks are "prone to rioting" if you forget the daily injustices the black community puts up with at the hands of the police. Stop and frisk. Driving while black. Choke holds."Resisting arrest" as an excuse to knock someone's head in. As professional and competent as most policemen are, such injustices are committed against blacks at a frequency Jews would never tolerate. If hasidim were subjected to even an eighth of the crap the black community endures, the hasidim would riot and their far more competent leaders would work behind the scenes to ensure the police department reformed itself.

(I'm aware that there is far more criminal behavior in the black community and in general I am not criticizing cops. All the same it can't be denied that police misconduct affects the black community more than it affects any other; moreover if such misconduct were to be directed at, say, Satmar hasidim, you'd have riots and behind the scenes "askonus" carried out by lobbyists and negotiators who are far more competent than Al Sharpton)

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