Friday, March 31, 2006

Christian Prayers are Mechazek my Emunah

Continuing the ongoing series about issues or phenomonon that are mechazek my emunah, Todays NY TIMES has an article about a study on the efficacy of prayer.

Their conclusion is that it dont work.

Well that is mechazek my emunah for it was christian prayer for (i assume) christian patients.

Now if only they did a study on Jewish prayer and its efficacy.

The problem is whose prayer, and as Harry says, does it depend on what they pray.

As ive said on Harry post, prayer is not about praying to Hashem to help that person. If that was it, why should Hashem care if one choleh gets 100 prayers vs anothers 500.

What prayer is about is that the individual will improve themselves as a zchus for the choleh or the klal. Those that improve themselves will make a difference in the number who do so. That is where larger gatherings is better. BUT only if those in the prayer look to themselves, and not simply paying lip service.

So does Tehilim work. Yes. BUT, only if it works on you, by inspiring you to be a better jew.
That is what all the Bobbys who cry over tehilim are doing. They have inspired themselves, and their inspiration, inspires us.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Nonsense and Stupidities - Gilgul

Continuing my series on supernaturalism vs rationalism

I found this interesting discussion below from Avodah.
Someone quoted the following:
  • R. Chaim Vital writes in Shaar HaGilgulim that he is a gilgul of the Magid Mishneh, who in his life was not machshiv Toras Nistar and therefore came back as R. Chaim Vital to focus on it.
  • R. Yehudah Fatayah (talmid of Ben Ish Chai and author of Minchas Yehuda on Aitz Chaim) says the same about himself being a gilgul of the Nodah B'Yehudah who also was not interested in Toras Nistar.

Someone responded:

How are we supposed to "square" what you have written above with thefollowing:

R. Saadia Goan (882-942) in his Beliefs and Opinions (Emunos VeDeyos)writes,"Yet I must say that I have found certain people, who call themselves Jews, professing the doctrine of metempsychosis, which is designatedby them as the theory of the "transmigration" of souls. What they mean thereby is that the spirit of Reuben is transferred to Shimon andafterwards to Levi and after that to Judah. Many of them would even go so far as to assert that the spirit of a human being might enter intothe body of a beast or that of a beast into the body of a human being, and other such nonsense and stupidities." (Treatise VI , Chapter VIII)

Others who followed R. Saadia Goan and did not subscribe to the doctrine of gilgul are

  • R.Chisdai Crecas ( c.1310-c.1415) and
  • R. Joseph Albo(c.1380-1444).

In the March 21, 2003 issue of the Jewish Press Rabbi M. M. Weiss wrote that "Rabbi Avigdor Miller would not talk about it (reincarnation), since it is not mentioned even once in the entire Talmud Bavli."

My thoughts, again, the yeshivas have surpressed the wacky history of kabbalah and surpressed the rational writings of the geonim.

I read the mvo hatalmud definition of hagaditah, and he (a early rishon) clearly subscribes to reasonableness test. FKM can dismiss Rambam and others all he wants to. To me, see someone write about rationality 700 years from the conclusion of the talmud, should be considered more reliable than someone talking about the mesorah 1800 years later.

Your thoughts?

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Theory of Everything.

Over at GH and Hihurim there is this refrain about not thinking there is a conspiracy of scientist. GH says his sole measure of the truth is if the overwhelming majority of scientist agree with this or that theory.

Well then, why doesnt it work the other way around? Regardless of what science says, from a Theological perspective the Mabul occured. Isnt the more important question WHY it occured rather than WHETHER it occured? Do we have good answers for WHY?

Whether it occured is good for recruiting with a message that the events in the Torah are provably true. But who is making that claim? Is it the Active Kiruv movement?
(you know my opinion on them)

The majority of Gedolim, regardless of denomination in Orthodoxy, believe in Yetzias Mitzrayim. In a Mabul. In Moshe. In the first beis hamikdash. etc.
So Theologically they happened because it is now part of our collective conciousness.

If we believe that Torah can be forgotten, and that a Neis cant bring back torah, we should have the attitude that what is provably shown to be not fact, is simply a issue with our Mesorah having some memory issues. (a Memory Leak from some bad refactored code).
The fact that there is a machlokes, Girsa change, or complete opposite rememberance of a shittah in Shas doesnt damage our emunah? (at least not mine).
Why should the "fact" of no Mabul do so?

What we know:
We know provably that there was a second bayis.
We know provably there was Chazal.
These are the basis for believing in the unprovable. We believe that Chazal prepared us for Galus, and our responsibility is to persist, find inspiration from our Theology and set an example.

We persist by sticking to what we have (stare decisis) from a Legal perspective.
We find inspiration from our Theology by the depth and breadth of it. And i might add, the seeming internal consistency (or maybe some would say jumping hoops, but it still works). I find the Mishnayos a wonderful example of this.
We set an example by being moral and ethical.

Skeptics needing something for everyone:
The skeptics say what about gay rights? I say what about adultery rights? Skeptics say, hey nothing wrong with adultery (its only two consenting adults screwing a third). So I look at Gay sex as 2 adults screwing our ability as Jews to persist - on purpose.

I dont condone their acts as I dont condone adultery.

Skeptics tell me that Gay people are hurt by this. So are adulterers. There is always a line you have to draw. This is our playbook. If Gay people want to be part of this playbook, then play by these rules. If they dont want to play by the rules, then dont try to change them, simply say you have chosen not to play by the rules. Not to worry, all of us do that. The people we honor at dinners are guilty of doing that. Not an issue. Gays want rights, well so do woman. In fact so do men. I hear the skeptics complain about minyan. So i guess they want Men rights as well.
Slavery, not an issue. Just like someone who would have a pilegesh is a navol bershus hatorah.
Or Two wives. The agunah issue, yes its a difficult problem, prenuptials not withstanding. But we need to make sure it doesnt open a pandora box.

The skeptic say if it didnt really happen in the physical sense, then why should I believe any of it? Isnt that hyprocritcal? Skeptics accuse fundamentalist of requiring all or nothing as well.

There is a middle way - Is that Centrist Orthodox?

Finally, I have a theory on the supernatural:
String theory talks about more than one dimension of physical space. This is no longer impossible, nor only merely possible.
Maybe when a neis occurs it happens in another physical dimension.
Purposely so, because Hashem is hiding himself from us.
He doesnt want it to be easy to find him.

Anyway, my theory of everything is like my son told me, if it was obvious, we all would be frum, and whats the point of that?

Stolen Music - A compilation

I saw a video of MBD complaining about people trading and copying music.
We all know that Jewish Music Industry is responsible for plagiarism without attribution.

Id like to start a list to see how large this issue really is.
The list will not include parodies, as those are legal.

Im also excluding all chassidishe niggunim that were waltzs.

My list.
Dedi - Berlin (take my breath away) and Abba (winner takes it all)
MBD - Dschinghis Khan (yidden)
Piamenta - Men at work (asher borah)

It seems short.
Is there really a problem?
Please provide songs in the comments.
Hat tip [Blog DM]

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Probable vs Possible - R' Slifkin's mistake

FKM makes a good point about traditional yeshivas not preparing kids in an adult way for the challenges they may encounter. In my opinion, they leave teenagers with 1st grade level ideas of hashkafa and understanding of the Torah and Sceince conflicts.

Through I came across an article that verified what I had written early on as a blogger. That the Maharal of Prague Golem story is just that, a work of fiction.

Seforim points to the following on the deah vdibur charedi website( )

They make a point that we have to stop teaching kids super hero nissim stories, and focus on the middos, tefilos and good deeds of our tzaddikim.

IMHO, Less rebbe stories about making it rain in the sukkah, and more lessons about not stealing.

Its interesting that the article says, although the maharal probably (note the use of the word probably) did not make one, he possibly could have (note the word possibly).

They also write stuff like certainly there were gedolim who made golems. "Certainly". really? IMHO, the author of the article would otherwise not get it published.

Whats interesting is, before this article, if you suggested to most frum yidden that the golem of prague was fiction, they would look at you like a kofer.

This brings me to Rabbi Slifkin.

Too bad R' Slifkin didnt write in his book that the mysterious creatures probably didnt exist, but possibly could have.
or that chazal probably didnt know science, but possibly did.
or that tosfos probably didnt know that an elephant cant jump, but possibly did.
or that bereishis probably was a moshol, but possibly real.
or that nishtanu hateva is possibly a good reason chazal remedies dont work today.

All he needed to write was the word "possible" and he would of been accepted.

What do you think? Possibly or Probably?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Mishanichnas Adar - Name That Tune!

Click on this link, download the song "Pick a Bale of Cotton".

Sounds like one of our famous Purim songs.
Anyone know how this got started?

Hattip [S]