Friday, February 26, 2010

The First Time This Blog Has hosted Torah From R. Shlomo Carlebach
What about giving aliyot (being called to the Torah) to women?

I’ll tell you an unbelievable story. I gave a concert in Paris. After the concert, a beautiful young lady came up to me and said, “I want to tell you my story, I come from a Chassidic home in Boston. I like to paint, to draw. I managed to get to college, despite my father, and I got a scholarship to Paris. I left and didn’t write to my parents. I had no money, so when a non-Jew asked me to move into his house I did. I lived with him for four years, and he asked me to marry him. This non-Jew asked my to marry him, and I was overjoyed. Sunday morning, I was supposed to be baptized, and Sunday night, the wedding. For me, Shabbos didn’t exist anymore, so the Shabbos before, I went shopping. Crazily enough, I passed by the Reform Synagogue, the same Reform Synagogue that, three years ago, was bombed by the P.L.O. I passed by that synagogue and, I don’t know why, I walked in. They were just reading the Torah. Suddenly, the shammos (beadle) came to me and offered me an aliyah. I want you to know, I was religious when I was young. Nobody ever gave me an aliyah. When they called up my name to the Torah, it was clear to me that G-d was calling me. When I made the bracha (blessing) over the Torah, I swore to G-d that I’ll be a Jewish daughter again. I came out from shul, I called up my boyfriend, and I told him that I was just in shul, and I heard a voice from heaven tell me that I shouldn’t do it. And I didn’t.”

It’s all very beautiful to say that we should not give women aliyot. The Satmar Rebbitzen doesn’t need an aliyah. But, there are a lot of holy women today who need an aliyah...

...At the House of Love and Prayer, in California, as a rule I did not give aliyot to women, But, when girls asked for an aliyah, I give it to them. I saved many girls from the abyss of assimilation because I was strong enough to give them aliyot.

Purim is when we realize that Torah is not only food. Torah is medicine. On Purim I am getting drunk with the Torah, The difference between food and wine is very simple. When you eat food, you don’t have to be happy. But, when you drink wine, you glow with it. On Purim you glow.

All year long, I learn Torah. It gives me life; like food, it keeps me going. On Purim, I want different Torah. I want Torah that touches every secret in my heart. I want Torah that connects me to every Jew. I want Torah that strengthens my friendships, my relationships with every Jew. “Go and gather together all the Jews.” That is the essence of Purim.

My dearest friends, I hope you understood what I said to you. In order to keep Yiddishkeit alive, we desperately need synagogues that do not give aliyot to women and we also desperately need synagogues that do give aliyot to women.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

This One is For Aish,, Et Al.
"In addition to the prevalent grievous misunderstanding of the nature of divinity beliefs, there presently persists an equally grievous misunderstanding of the ground on which they are believed.of the cheapest shots in the entire science/religion discussion is the one that goes: science is matter of observation and reason while religion is blind faith. I call it cheap because it is made in the face of centuries of explanations to the contrary. To cite only Christian thinkers (and only a few of them) it is contradicted by Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Pascal. How anyone could ignore all of them and still claim to have correctly described the Christian idea of the grounds for belief in God, I do not know. But it is done with appalling regularity by people who hold prestigious positions in major universities, some of whom have notable accomplishments in one or another science. All I can say about that is to note how often success in one area tempts those flushed with such success to proclaim (with great confidence) the most ludicrous mistakes in another area of which they know next to nothing.

So let’s get this much clear right away: there is not, and never has been, a religion on earth whose scriptures ever asked anyone to believe it on blind faith. Neither have the scriptures of any religion attempted to prove its doctrines as though they were theories. Rather, the ground that every religion has pointed to as the way to know the truth of its teachings is the direct experience of their self-evident certainty.
For that reason it is doubly absurd first to mis-describe divinity beliefs as based on blind faith, and then dismiss them as epistemically substandard unless they are proven. That makes no more sense than it would to demand of mathematics that it prove its axioms or declare them blind faith in the absence of such proof. Moreover, these twin mistakes are usually conjoined to a third, namely, the egregiously false claim that if a belief has no proof then the only alternative is that of blind faith. Many participants in the science/religion dialog have asserted this position without noticing that it would not only make the axioms of math and logic blind faith, but also all beliefs derived from normal sense perception! None of these are provable, but they are not therefore blind faith! Nor do they need proof; nothing that is believed because it is experienced as self-evident needs proof. And please notice that it will not do to reply to this last point by saying that when it comes to logic, math, and normal sense perception everyone agrees as to what is self-evidently true, whereas the disagreements over what is divine render its alleged self-evidency spurious. That isn’t even close to being correct. There are as intractable, head-butting, longstanding disagreements about axioms of math and logic as there are about divinity beliefs. What this shows is not that self-evidency is not a proper ground for belief, but that although it is often the ground (and the only ground) for a belief, it is not infallible.

Roy Clouser is professor of philosophy and religion (Emeritus) at the College of New Jersey. He holds an BA from Gordon College, a B.D. from Reformed Episcopal Seminary, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Along the way to the Ph.D. he studied with Paul Tillich at Harvard Graduate School and with Herman Dooyeweerd at the Free University of Amsterdam. In 1997 he won one of the Templeton Awards for his course in science and religion. He is the author of The Myth of Religious Neutrality (University of Notre Dame Press, revised 2005), Knowing with the Heart (IVP, 1999), and numerous articles.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In Punjabi, "Rabbi" means "God-facing"...
A high-spirited devotional kafi (poetic composition), performed by a Punjabi Sikh.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Dangers of Proclaiming Explicit Miracles in Our Day
A post from 2006;
In yeshiva at Aish [I, II, III, IV, V, comments following here], it was given over more than once that the number of Jews lost to intermarriage, apathy and assimilation since the Holocaust surpasses the number of Jews murdered during the Holocaust...I’m more interested in the spiritual/philosophical consequences of the statement more than the practical use to which it may be put.
Provided this is a true statement, the consequences are enormous. The great number of religious Jews certainly don’t speak about the current situation as if it were true [that we are in a spiritual Holocaust; since 2006, "Out of the Ashes" has been seen by many, and plenty do speak of "spiritual Holocaust"], nor for that matter are there any university degree programs devoted to [“Post-War experience” as] Holocaust Studies; I had to put in lots of brackets, italicization and quotation marks to keep it sufficiently PoMo….Clearly the emphasis in the statement is on “lost” and “Jews”, where the definitions derive from religious pre-suppositions. Like most people, Jews are physical and spiritual beings (unlike most people in the particular relationship of the soul to the body - but that’s another post probably never to be written), with Aish implying that the loss during the Holocaust and the era of loss since should be viewed as matters of spiritual as well as physical-genetic loss – trumping the view of them as mere “body counts” or cultural/existential loss, as materialists would likely propound. Similarly, when committed Jews talk about the quantitative, empirical differences between the suffering of Other vs. Us, when we throw out “our” statistic slogan, “Six Million” - we often find ourselves at least thinking “Six Million…souls” – a more-than-quantitative loss, not merely Jewish bodies or genes alone.
...Within the context of “holocausts”, we treat survivors of holocausts who lose faith or have serious crisis of faith qualitatively different from how we treat similar suffering on the part of those not in the given holocaust. In regards to victims of the Holocaust, the ultimate fate of Jewish victims - as well as all who died “as Jews” over history* - is treated as though they died as a conscious Sanctification of the Divine Name, and their place in Heaven is a great one.
Even if this Aish statement is correct, we do not treat the ultimate fate of victims in this horrific soul-loss and rampant assimilation anything like how we treat survivors of the Holocaust (this would apply even Aish because I think they miss the point due to the usefulness of the statement), I muddle victims with survivors here not out of any disrespect, but because - assuming Aish is correct - we are still in the throws of this Holocaust, which is to say that not all who are to pass on have passed on yet - nor are all those thought lost necessarily lost; there must always be hope – with honesty (Again, I’m not making a direct comparison of degree between the “Holocausts”, I’m making a comparison of kind – and I think the difference of kind is a mix of the spiritual and genetic shared by both).
...Provided the “Aish statement” is true, we treat as qualitatively different, loss that occurred in one context from loss that is occurring in another – even though both are more qualitively similar (of shared spiritual/genetic nature), than not, and where the latter is more extensive by comparison and is ongoing. We are not merely observing this loss - we are experiencing it and regretably prolonging it in some ways.

If we take the 'metaphor' more seriously than we are comfortable doing, we are not only moved towards the Aish goal of mobilizing the Rabbim to do/say/believe something, anything to make a difference (the "War of Love" in which all is doubly fair) - we also risk considering that we all, who live to see these days, are spiritual Holocaust survivors and living victims - and there will be victims among survivors (and more distressing - Shoah Survivors who are now also spiritual Holocaust Survivors as well) - those who lose faith, experience fractured faith, the Orthoprax, etc, and we may have no more a place criticizing the Jewish survival efforts of anyone, or denying place in this world or the next for those despondent than we do the Holocaust Survivors and victims and their means of survival. Here, tolerating those who survive outside Establishment Orthodoxy by involvement with other movements might be considered too great a risk of sanctioning the movements. I can already hear comparisons to Jewish children who survived in Christian settings during the War and Shoah - and someone who makes such a comparison needs to think about the frame of mind that so easily declares non-Orthodox Jewish institutions comparable to Christianity.

In addition, I remember also that there were voices raised, claiming that the Holocaust occurred during a time when there was already Hester Panim (NOT that it began with the Holocaust), a time without clear and explicit evidence of God's Hand in history. Even by the mid to late 1800s, much of European Jewry was not observant, decades on by the time of the Holocaust. In such circumstances, the strict societal treatment of non-observant simply did not apply - according to the Chazon Ish - and the Holocaust itself could not be considered an act of direct Divine Retribution;

"(Such laws) only applied at times when the divine presence was clearly revealed such as in the days when there were open miracles, and a heavenly voice was heard and when the righteous would operate under direct divine intervention which could be observed by anybody. Then the heretics were of a special deviousness, bending their evil inclination towards immoral desires and licentiousness. In such days there was (the need) to remove this kind of wickedness from the world, since everybody knew that it would bring divine retribution to the world...But at the time of "divine hiding," in which faith has become weak in people, there is no purpose in taking such action (harsh measurements against heretics and violators), in fact it has the reverse effect and will only increase their lawlessness and be viewed as the coercion and violence (of religious fanatics.) ...God's presence is no longer as exposed as it was, and much of what happens to man and mankind seems to be random, without any indication that it is the work of the Lord of the Universe. Therefore, one can no longer call heretical views the result of deliberate viciousness. These views may, in fact, be the honest consequence of careful deliberation which is clouded by the confusion of not knowing how to see and understand the workings of history and matters such as personal tragedy.

For several centuries, so-called "academic studies" of the Torah have undermined the authenticity of the Torah, convincing a great number of well meaning people to believe that there was proof that the Torah did not reflect the will of God. As such, there was no longer a reason to live by its precepts. This is no longer deliberate heresy but intellectual confusion.

As such, it is difficult to argue that the Holocaust was caused by divine anger for the violations of Torah precepts and deliberate heresy. The curses in the Torah are meant to come down on those who against better knowledge and with the full understanding that they were violating the will of God decided to do so -- not on those who are confused or the victims of others' misunderstandings.

Rav Yehuda Amital further removes the guilt of the curses from even those who "against better knowledge and with full understanding" become non-religious, based on Rav Kook's view of formerly-religious Jews of even his pre-Shoah days. It would seem such inter-nesting frameworks would apply to our generation as well, following the "true metaphor" of Aish; we were as then likely experiencing the natural outcome of the societal mechanisms of the world, and as so many religious Jews (the last remnant who could receive tochecha, guilt and punishment), are in such desperate straits, so many despairing of their very religious lives - are becoming non-religious and "orthoprax" at best.

But since 1967 and the rebirth of Israel in the Land, claims by Religious Zionists and Charedim have included implications that we are now, while in the throws of a new Holocaust, no longer in an era of Hester Panim - the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in Israel proves it! God has shined his countenance upon us! Rav Kook, who witnessed neither the Holocaust nor Israel - saw in the settling of the land in his day, the Hand of God - and since the Holocaust, his disciples seem to treat the Holocaust in the "traditional" manner as some measure of divine retribution - and Israel as proof the Hesder Panim is over.

But what are we to make of such resoundingly different perspectives on the present State of Israel - and hense our present state? Has God's Face remained turned away or not? Are we all blameworthy or not?! This is no small thing if Aish is right about the depth and degree of the disaffection from Torah since the Holocaust, since 1967. Since even the aftermath of the first-wave of the Baal Teshuvah movement, a response to the Post-Holocaust, generations of Jews who came to Torah in the aftermath of the Holocaust and Israel are now becoming disaffected amidst the response to the Spiritual Holocaust.

If we affirm Hester Panim, we undermine so much basis for spiritual hegemony in our day in the "explicit miracles" so extolled (Rise of Medinat Israel, the Yeshiva world, etc). But if we deny Hester Panim, we risk having to explain this Holocaust as direct Divine Retribution - no mere resignation of mankind (oops, sorry...just Jews), to the whims of nature - and this 'holocausts' supposed 'victims' are merely willful and misguided fools...

THANK GOD, Rav Yehudah Amital has written on the question of God's role in Israel and the Holocaust in his "World Built, Destroyed and Rebuilt" and elsewhere, and R. Aryeh Klapper has written about such events from a non-messianic Orthodox approach.

But amidst all these competing precedents for action to which we may appeal, we may be missing one (though one also not uncontested); mitzvot need not be intended to be fulfilled...granted, transgressions are engaged in - at times disinterestedly by the formerly-religious, in ignorance by the non-systematically-observant - but Jewish actions, normative "moral" acts can indeed cumulatively count for ALL Israel, when ANY of Israel do them. We may be further along Redemption amidst the spiritual Holocaust, where Jewish bodies can still, albeit unconsciously, do mitzvot - than the physical and spiritual Holocaust - which now maintains its horrific place and character. But would this approach sell to Aish, et al?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Monotheism is a fabrication..."
"Monotheism is a fabrication of gentiles, an imprecise translation, a sort of self-contradictory comprehensible infinity, and therefore can lead to nothing [the limits of the "God of the Philosophers" in leading anywhere but the the self-referencial limits of a given rationality]. This is not the source of the Name of the God of Israel, the Infinite, the incomprehensible root of all existence, in Whom the entire world exists, Who can be comprehended and spoken of only through the nuances of colors, through His many deeds and abundant peace, His profusion of love and courage[.] (?) Only Israel, who proclaims "this is my God and I will adorn Him," can say this, not the barren wilderness of Islamic monotheism, nor Buddhism's negation; only the highest existence which brings joy to all and gives life to everything, revealed through the subjective revelation of all hearts who seek and comprehend him, "And each and every one will point with his finger: ‘Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him that he should save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; we shall be glad and rejoice in his salvation.'" "Happy is the people who has it thus; happy is the people whose God is the Lord."

From the footnotes;

...idolatry and atheism stem from the same root - relating to the object only. Idolatry attributed the Divine essence to objects, and thus brought about the anthropomorphism and vulgarization of faith. Modern philosophy only acknowledges the object because it does not know more than what is comprehended through rational human sense-perception. The foundation of modern atheism is the denial of anything about which “This! Zot!” cannot be said. Kant understood that the perceived “this” is only the world of phenomena and that unperceived being lies beyond it; however, the idolatrous root caused man to ignore that being or to be unable to understand the relationship between that which is beyond awareness and the revealed and familiar world. Thus, idolatry and modern atheism are two sides of the same coin.

Monotheism, which many people mistakenly consider Judaism to be, speaks of Divine existence as being an infinite entity, a perfect metaphysical Being, that is directly grasped by religious-philosophical consciousness. Monotheistic religion is based on relating to that entity, and not on relating to its manifestations. This theistic concept, as it is often called, contradicts itself, for what is a concept cannot be infinite. Medieval theology is full of linguistic and philosophical games whose goal is to solve this problem, but according to Rav Kook, the theological contradiction remains in force.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

David Gelernter

Monday, February 08, 2010

Just Like I've Said

Working Israelis will foot the bill for the many Charedim who live off the state, precipitating their collapse - probably to niggunim and dancing in the streets in Mea Shearim. They will probably celebrate their return to explicit Dhimmitude as well, while everyone else packs up and makes aliyah to America. If we can imagine it, it can happen. Americanize Israeli I say; pack it with people who want to be there, with free enterprise and bodies and souls steeped in self-conscious freedom and opportunity and whatnot. But Dear God we can't leave the future to the people who can't even get their own past right, but demand that it be the future Klal Israel must live in.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

"World's Strictest Parents" (BBC); ISRAEL!!

FINALLY someone posted them on Youtube...there was much talk about how swell the family was towards them, etc. They could really have chosen a Dati sabra Sephardi family for more entertaining culture clash - and Gemma would probably have ended up being m'giyur and marrying some Zahal stud.

Pashkavils and Social Control
Theodore Dalrymple on Political Correctness;
"In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control."
I see a not-too-unfair correlary to pashkavilim as seen in Haredi towns and neighborhoods in Israel (sporadically elsewhere), many communities with roots planted before Mandate Palestine under the yoke of Islam, melding imposed Dhimmitude with their native halachic interpretations of self-in-exile. I wouldn't call members of these communities "emasculated liars" - self-deceiving maybe, but they have their many, thoroughly-chronicled sociological reasons. Pashkavils are very occasionally informative, but are designed largely to maintain social control by fostering deep guilt in the quiet recesses of the soul created in such settings, by impugning individuals, ideas or institutions that may be ignored or insufficiently-opposed by many within the community, or quietly tolerated or even supported on the opposite fringe. They are often abstractions of reality, a window into how people "should" see the world outside the confines of the community ; propaganda. Similar to communist regimes and secret police, the effect is of an "all seeing" human force that is Granted by "Daas Torah", access to your inner stirrings and will privately shame you by making shamefully public the content of your private thoughts or tolerances (or apathies). The people who produce and distribute them are few and on the fringe of the fringe (and inflict their works often on the other fringe of that fringe), yet the acquiesence on the part of the larger community they are within gives such personalities direct influence where they have no actual power to enforce. They are freelance KGB.
With more of these complacent, tolerant [of the RW extremists] communities merging into the "working Charedi" realm, the personality type that is now the fringe of a fringe will then become only a fringe - their methods will likely be "digitized" (as they move into the technically-feasible and mandatory for Charedi communities walled-in Jewish virtual ghettos), and viral pashkivils will likely follow, tolerated by many "modern Charedim" due to the presence among them of the Dhimmitude-perpetuating community members. Dhimmitude was a factor in an early and long battle in the Chiloni/Daati war for the State of Israel, a war that began even before the state, with the Zionist picture of the "Galut Jew" vs. the "New Jew", etc.
The memories on both sides of this battle will taint how people see this Dhimmitude, and even raising a comparison between these communities and Jews under Islam will be dismissed as an anti-religious connard. I think the diffused Dhimmitude of these communities, which Sephardi Jews thought they'd escaped by escaping Islam, will be brought closer to the range of accepted dispositions within Judaism by the modernization of these Ashkenazi sects. A Dhimmitude having flowered and grown more complicated in these communities so often "suffering" under the presence of the Jewish State of Israel. These are the same communities having made overtures for years towards the Islamic authorities in and about Israel, openly discussing a "shared" future in the region once Medinat Israel is out of the picture (even Chardal rabbis in Israel have participated in these meetings). links to coverage of these meetings added later.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Death of Ideologies

We've been yotzei "observance" and "belief" through ideological filters for so long, we now have profound trouble even comprehending observance and faith outside of the "sanctioned" set of competing and faltering institutions and affiliations - that have existed for a juvenile 200 years, "Orthodoxy" included. How is it possible that we've given mere ideology the authority and responsibility to regulate Torah? The filters are failing, people are gagging, spiritually and psychologically, on what slips through - even if it's just fresh air! "Insipid and meaningless" are terms bantered around about all facets of Jewish public life ("denominations") ; frum rabbis kids say it about their "Carlebachian" dad's shul, Conservative and Reform kids the same, everyone's kids and not a few adults are wondering off to other Jewish settings - or none at all. As a believing person, I can't despair of Whom I believe is Divine. But humans - and human institutions - have definitely lost their grip.

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