Saturday, October 31, 2009
My current project is Hakthav Vehakabala on the parsha. He offers a number of interesting perspectives, including why Avram was called "Ivri." He explains the 3 (concurrent -- not mutually exclusive) definitions to the word. One is a reference to family -- Ever -- Avram's ancestor. The second refers to geography and language. Avram is identified as coming from ever hanahar,the other side of the river and speaking Hebrew.
The third approach, though, is more concerned not with where Avram is coming from but with what he stood for. Ever refers to one of two opposing sides, as in a legal dispute. The whole of civilization was on one side -- fixed in their false beliefs -- and Avram was on the other -- believing in the one true G-d. Hakthav Vehakabala declares that without a doubt, this last idea that the description of Avraham standing alone in the world on the opposing side of all the people of his generation who denied G-D, is the most most honorable description and so most fitting.
Consistent with Avraham's position as public enemy number one, Hakthav Vehakabala explains that it was no accident that Lot was taken captive during the war. Lot there is identified as ben achi Avraham. His capture was designed to lure Avraham into coming after him, so that his enemies would get to kill him. Who are these enemies? Those on the side of Amarphel, who was Nimrod. The Midrash identifies Nimrod as the area leader who sought to throw Avrahma in the furnace for refusing to capitulate to idolatry. Nimrod did not have to be open-minded about another person's point of view. Avraham only had two choices: recant the position that offended the religious sensibilities of the town or die. Avraham was willing to die, but emerged from the furnace miraculously unscathed. Avraham's brother, Haran, thought he would be saved, as well, so claimed to be on his brother's side. As he was not sincere in his belief, he was not miraculously saved. Years later, Nimrod was still seething over his humiliation at the hands of Avraham
Here is my question, as well as food-for-thought: Many people date for ages, and nothing happens; all of a sudden they are engaged - how do they "decide" that this boy/girl is "the one"? I have noticed in personal experiences as well as with friends; sometimes things "click" and sometimes they dont; sometimes engagements are, chalilah broken, sometimes divorces occur (unfortunately the number of frun divorces has been rising the last decade or so) within months of marriage. How does one go from deciding that their dating partner is their destined spouse to breaking an engagement or getting divorced? And here is a concept that someone told me: Oftentimes, when a couple is on the verge of engagement, and one of them decides he/she is "not ready" and wants to just continue dating, the "ready" partner is suggested to keep some distance, in order to show the other that they cannot continue "just dating"; either move on and get engaged, or call the whole thing off and go their separate ways. Oftentimes this results in a renewed understanding of just how delicate the relationship is, and usually (B"H) proceeds with an engagement shortly afterward. Is this tactic recommended, as I can see numerous ways it can backfire. On the other hand, if it does end up being called off, does that not indicate that it was "not meant to be"?I would appreciate any feedback from your blog readers. Thanks!
Friday, October 30, 2009
One of the ads generated by the posts is for a site called coolketubahs. It's slogan is: "Not your grandmothers ketubah." It sells $300 ketubahs (all English) with your choice of text. There are actual halachic perameters for the ketubah, so I am somewhat doubtful that what they call "Orthodox" would actually pass muster. Here's the text:
On the ___ day of ___, in the year ___, son of ___, and ___, daughter of ___, join each other before family and friends to make a mutual covenant as husband and wife, partners in life, a bond called marriage. The groom, ___, affirms: "From this moment forward, I acknowledge you as my wife according to the ancient traditions of Israel and the noble laws of Moses. In faithful mind and deed I pledge my life to you.” The bride, ___, affirms: "From this moment forward, I acknowledge you as my husband according to the ancient traditions of Israel and the noble laws of Moses. In faithful mind and deed I pledge my life to you.” With our signatures on this Ketubah we promise to create a nurturing environment in which to share our day-to-day experiences. We promise to endear and protect one another from outside and from within. We promise to support each other in times of sorrow, and relish each other in times of joy. And we promise, of course, to allow each other to blossom into the future that has yet to be. Now, as a couple in the eyes of the world and within our own hearts, to the best of our abilities, and from this moment forward, we are as one.
They also offer "Reform/ Conservative," "Interfaith," "Poetic" and
Poetic (sans G-d)
This ketubah shall bare witness that on the ____day of _____in the year _____ in the community of _____ the covenant of marriage was commenced between the bride _____ and the groom _____. Surrounded by family and friends and the rich consort of acquaintances we call community, we declare our commitment to each other as husband and wife. Our lives shall now be forever intertwined. We will celebrate each day together with reverence, respect and joy. In times of plenty we will cherish each other and in times of difficulty we will protect each other. We will fill our home with generosity and warmth and share freely with all who dwell there. Willingly we commence this promise of companionship and love. Together from this day forward we are as one.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The second comment on the article (not in the article) is worth quoting: "If, like me, you are an octogenarian who grew up in New York City, you expect to be offended by some of the speech directed at you. So what? So nothing."
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
it seems to me that there are many people who identify as Orthodox, who likely spend the extra money on kosher meat, abstain from work on Shabbos, and even crack open a Gemara who seem to regard the religion as something substandard. Now I am not saying that there are no problems in the frum community. There certainly are problems that should be recognized so that they can be addressed. But as for the Jewish faith, that is something that transcends all mutations of time and circumstances. The Torah was true when the people believed the world was flat, and the Torah remains true when people believe it be round. It is not something that can be superseded by the changes in theories of science, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, or politics. Should there be a contradiction between what we take the Torah to mean and what we perceive in the world, then it is up to us to deepen our understanding. To respond to such contradictions by saying that Chazal erred because they were not as advanced as we are with all out technology, etc., is arrogance getting in the way of truth.
If I truly did not believe that Torah is of Divine origin and that the Mesorah of Torah sheBa'al Peh is equally true, then I could make life a lot easier by giving up the restrictions of Shabbos, kashrus, not to mention a number of others that probably top people's list. We don't keep kashrus for the sake of health or because kosher food tastes better. After all, lobster, shrimp, crab, and oysters are considered delicacies. And the supply of kosher substitutes for such indicate that there is something appealing in their taste. But we don't pick up a lobster to boil for dinner because that is one of the things we are forbidden to eat. That's it. It's not rational; it's not scientific; it hardly sounds enlightened. Nevertheless, that is the case. If I didn't believe in Torah min Hashamayim and the obligation of observing all the derabanans, I hardly think I would let these things dictate so much of my life. I also would wonder at anyone who thinks thus devoting hours to study of texts he would consider less valid than secular works of science or philosophy.
Now, let me clarify, I am no newly minted seminary girl. I earned a PhD in English in an environment where the assumption was that religious faith died over a century ago. So a lot of very smart people don't believe that Hashem created the world, lead the Jews out of Egypt, and gave them the Torah on Sinai. That's their opinion, and they are wrong. This is not a debatable issue like gun control laws or tariffs. On certain things everyone's opinion is not equally valid.
But the one right or wrong answer does not apply to pshat -- the literal interpretation of a Biblical text. We have a concept that there shivim panim laTorah -- 70 facets to the Torah. That would still not limit the possible interpretations to 70. There are so many approaches to the pshat of Torah that the super commentaries on Rashi alone number over 300.
I can come up with a pshat that is plausible. But there are, nevertheless, limits to what would constitute a Torah true pshat. When we were encouraged in Michallah to interpret the texts for ourselves, we were still given certain limits. One was not to contradict a Rishon. Yes, people like Ibn Ezra did do it. But when approaching Torah, one have enough humility to recognize that the average Joe or Jill simply is not on the caliber of Ibn Ezra. So the fact that he could doesn't mean I could. Would you attempt a quadruple jump just because you saw an ice skater do it? Do you realize how many years of practice that skater put in to get to that point? To just go out on the ice for the first time and think oneself as capable as a gold medalist would be ludicrous. Yet people have the arrogance to say, well, he did, so how can you tell me, I can't. The fact is that most people will not succeed at a quadruple jump even after years of practice, so the few who do should be regarded as exceptional.
It is perfectly possible to come up with a pshat that does not conform to the Midrashic interpretation, for Midrash is usually not so much about historical events so much as greater lessons. Those who believe there is nothing more to Midrash than what is presented in the Little Midrash Says need to deepen their appreciation with greater study. The Maharal's writings offer many insights into Midrashic meaning. I mentioned before the 70 facets and the multiple meanings that could be found in pshat, but there are yet further levels of meaning in the orchard of Torah. It is called a PaRDeS becaue it contains pshat, as well as remez, drash, and sod. Most of us will never get beyond the level of pshat to explore the further depths of hints, homiletics, and secrets. But our lack of understanding is our own failure. We are not smarter than Chazal. We are stuck on the edge of a the shore with only a limited view of the sea, while they were able to fathom the true depths of the ocean.
If I didn't believe that I really would find it pointless to live as a Jew. Yes, I know that some people find appeal in ethnicity and cherish the coming together of family in Jewish traditions. But you could find similar dynamics in other ethnic groups, such as Greek or Italians-Americans. For me, there has to be a greater truth than merely keeping up tradition for its own sake.
Monday, October 26, 2009
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"A local Jewish newspaper ran an editorial last week criticizing the choice many make to attend secular college. The challenges posed by the environment of a secular college, both ideological and in terms of shmiras mitzvos, present a danger for Jewish youth, especially for those who dorm. According to some studies as many as 25% of those who attend such colleges leave the fold."
25% happens to be the risk of having a baby with Tay Sachs when both parents are carriers. So it seems that odds are good ; after, the couple still has a 75% chance of having an unaffected child. Still the whole purpose of organizations like Dor Yeshorim is to prevent the situation from arising because the heartache of seeing one’s child die – even if there are 3 others who survive – is so devastating to a parent. If a parent conceives of the child going of the derech as a tragedy, 25% odds, or any odds, are not good enough.
Now, I will concede the point that kids can go off the derech even without the befit of a university education. Some go off while enrolled in yeshivas and succeed in hiding things well enough to make it through the system. Sometimes they even seem to meet and marry like-minded pretenders who stray from halacha without openly leaving the fold. Such hypocrisy in society is not at all a good thing. But testing one's child by putting him/her in the way of temptation should be considered very carefully.
See the comments fly fast and furious at
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I recall in one of M. Scott Peck's books, he offers his thoughts on the story. At first blush, he considered it "unChristian" because the hen appears to not care for the other animals. But on further consideration, he considerd it correct (in a Christian sense, as well) because it demonstrates that there is no escaping from personal responsibility.
I agree with the fact that the lack of charity in the story seems harsh and unkind. But the fact of the matter is that the other animals were not needy -- they abstained from work out of sheer laziness, not because they were incapacitated or occupied with other tasks. What right to those who sit back when invited to join in the work and literally earn their bread have to partake of it? The story is the antithesis of the view prevailing today of trying to beat the system -- to get the most money out of the government or other programs -- and take pride in getting free bread.
The modern spin on the story would be that while the hen enjoys the bread she labored over, the other animals go to store and pick up ready-made food with their food stamps. Then they would further boast about their other subsidies for themselves and their children and point out that they actually get far more benefits out of being on the dole than the little red hen can possibly earn on her own.
I have said this before that the whole concept of na'am dekisufa has been forgotten. Now I don't know what reason would be offered for G-d's choosing to create the world in such a way that allows for people to earn their reward. Why earn what you can take for free?
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Of course, from a rationalist perspective, the rainbow is a purely natural phenomenon. You can see a rainbow of colors any time you apply a prism to white light, and the water droplets act as prisms to make the colors appear in the sky. So why should this natural cause and effect be characterized as having any moral significance? Are we not too sophisticated for such superstitious type thinking?
It's all a question of vision and perspective. How do you view the universe? Do you assume, as Hamlet's mother did, that all that is you see, or do you admit the possibility that all that is exists is not bounded by the limits of your vision? From a purely rationalist perspective, even, one would have to concede that we are incapable of seeing everything. On earth, there are objects that are far too small to be seen with the eye or even a standard microscope. There are bodies in space too far away for their light to travel to us. And there are even theories of dark matter in the universe that cannot be seen at all. If someone were to say about, say, quantum mechanics, "if I don't see it or don't grasp it, it simply cannot be," he would not be demonstrating how astute he that he is, in fact, narrow-minded and willfully ignorant. What of metaphysics?
Torah ohr: Torah is light. There are many ramifications for understanding how Torah is light, but I want to concentrate on the relationship of light to the rainbow. A rainbow reveals the spectrum of visible colors inherent in white light. It reveals a glimpse of what is normally hidden, though not all that is hidden. We still cannot see ultra-violet and infrared. When you see the clear light of sunlight, you may think you see all there is to the light. But applying a prism shows there is far more to the light than what the eye sees on its own. Even that does not tell the whole story.
The same can be said of Torah. We learn the basics as children, but there is far more depth and range of color, if you will, then what we glimpsed at first. "Hafoch ba vehafoch ba shekula ba" Pirkei Avos enjoins us to turn and return to the Torah over and over again, for everything is contained therein. Just as there are more colors contained within pure white light than we can ever see, there is more truth and wisdom within Torah than we can ever grasp even in a lifetime of learning. But if are willing to admit that our eyes do not suffice, and apply prisms and other instruments, we can at least begin to appreciate how much we have failed to see.
Lest this is too subtle a point, the way I see it, Chazal had a true appreciation for the range of Torah and they granted us prisms with which we can begin to see what is there but not immediately visible to the naked eye. However, if we disdain the prisms as mere children's toys that show us what is not inherently there, then we are denying the truth of what actually is. Even with the prisms, we won't see everything, but we will, at least, know that there is more to the light of Torah than meets the untrained eye.
So why should a rainbow signify that the generation is unworthy, particularly when it should be the natural result of a rainfall? I have said the bracha on thunder and lightning far more times than I have said the bracha on rainbows, which should be true for most people. I probably could stay on one hand counting the number of rainbows I've seen in my lifetime on my fingers. Given that they are a natural phenomenon, they seem pretty rare. Though the phenomenon can easily be explained scientifically, it still seems to require particular conditions to come to fruition. In fact, though we can predict eclipses, rainstorms, and even volcanic eruptions, I don't believe we can predict rainbows with any certainty. So there is an unpredictable quality about rainbows which could point to a type of hashgacha. Consequently, it is quite within the realm of possibility that Hashem only brings together the conditions for a rainbow when He feels one is warranted. The beautiful colors of the rainbow are always inherent in the pure light of Torah, but we sometimes need a reminder to appreciate that fact.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
drew a lot of comments, including one I thought worth sharing below:
Miami Al said...
The thing that makes this all so frustratingly insane is that Judaism inherently recognizes life cycle events and growing maturation, both with celebrations and responsibilities. In the Yeshiva culture that's been created, those remain for ritualistic purposes but not in reality. The divorce between ritual and reality is at the core of this problem.
A child turns 3 and is now presumed to be somewhat aware of their surroundings. At this age, we expect Kashrut, Shabbat, Tzitzit, and Kippot to be worn, symbolizing that they are now young Jews, which corresponds to ritual responsibility. This is also the age that children are no doubt capable of basic chores like helping set the table, etc., and becoming little people and not infants.
At age 9/10, three years before Bat/Bar Mitzvah, we expect them to start approaching their coming ritual adulthood with partial fasting, Tzniut, etc., which should also correspond to children having more responsibility in "reality" and not just ritual, more serious chores, responsibility, etc.
At 12/13, obtaining one's ritual maturity shouldn't just correspond to ritual maturity, but real maturity. It is at this age that children should be expected to help take care of younger siblings, but also be more responsible for their future scholastic success. This pre-high school age would be a perfect time for parents to talk about high school and college, because they are preparing to enter the years that will help define their adulthood, yet in the Yeshiva culture, we are treating them as children despite treating them as adults under Halacha.
At age 20, a child is responsible, as an adult, before a Beit Din as an adult for their sins. In preparation for this, shouldn't our children be becoming responsible for their adulthood. Part-time jobs, charity involvement, etc., should be part of a 4 year transition into this adulthood. We ritually recognize this age, but for some reason, we aren't considering "boys" at 20 as responsible for any of their living expenses or to be moving in a direction of supporting their family.
Marriage, ritually, creates a new family unit. But as we pushed marriage to an age before the child is ready to run a new family unit, our new "married family" is still financially dependent on parents, and expected to still be cocooned away.
If after 13 years of Jewish education, the child isn't ready to be thrust into the world for either education or livelihood without fear of temptation, then we've failed as parents.
If we looked at these events not as ritualistic, but the reality based Judaism that the Yeshiva world broke off from, we'd be raising young Jewish adults ready to start lives and families.
I think that it behooves parents to take more responsibility for the character of their children and their growing maturity. When I was a kid, with each birthday, I got a party, but also more autonomy (able to go further on my bike, make more decisions) and more responsibilities around that house. That made my childhood an evolution toward adulthood with lots of transitions. In the Orthodox culture, I see no transitions, parents making all the decisions, then wondering why, at 20, 25, 30, whatever, their adult child isn't ready to be an adult and support their family. Exasperated parents are advised to take strong actions like cutting them off, etc., instead of helping transition.
It would be nice to see our world not just pushing people toward ritual adulthood (Kashrut, Shabbat, Talmud Torah) but also toward the realities of growing up.
Summer camp and trips to Israel are a wonderful childhood experience for children, but each year it should be less childhood and more adulthood, instead of childhood until finally your father-in-law stops picking up the tab and you are left to sink or swim.
October 21, 2009 1:19 PM
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
"Stereotypes in the United States." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. October 20, 2009
Sexy now, sorry later: Most women in heels report foot pain -- DailyFinance
Monday, October 19, 2009
Another problematic approach I see is the practice of shipping off boys as young as 13 for high schools that require them to dorm. I understanding the yehiva view on this, but still, it gives parents the opportunity to palm off their children on others and not deal with the day to day -- admittedly very difficult and emotionally draining -- business of bringing up a teenager. In fact, it seems to me, that the more problematic the kid, the further he is likely to be sent from home.
*Note this is my Lefty post to balance out my really RW sounding comments posted other blogs today. Read both if you want to really get confused about how to classify my own peg shape, hmm , perhaps an octagon, that would work nicely with all the Maharalian teachings about the number 8, plus from a limited view it would look square while from another view, it may look more round.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
"I have been dating a young woman for a long time, it is going well and we have decided to get married. But I ask myself: maybe I can find better?"
Rav Aviner's answer is unequivocal:
"No, she is the one. Believe in Divine Providence."
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
[from M.:] Hi, Ariella -
Happy New Year!
Here's my opinion, being from out of town and dating, married,.and divorced in several states. Men and women and their families and shadchanim have always wanted to find out about potential shidduchim, and they have always used whatever resources they could find - word of mouth, letter-writing, phone-calling, internet searches, databases, and so on. They have always tried to organize that information in whatever medium they had - index cards, notebooks, computer, spreadsheets, checklists, videotapes,etc. The websites like JDate have checklists and standard questions that they ask. It makes sense for shadchanim to streamline their information collection and ask for standard information from each prospect as well.The current "shidduch resume" is just a means of gathering information, the newest trend, and just another means to learn about the people available and make informed decisions. it's no better and no worse than any other means of data collection. I don't think it merits its own article - the questions are the same as they always were, the answers still have to be honest and complete, and G-d is still ultimately making the matches, so it doesn't matter which resources we use.
Ariella:I am not writing a “how to” write a shidduch resume. That would be a rather superficial piece that does not interest me. Rather I am interested in how people view them and the possible ramification of boiling down the summation to vital statistics (and in the case of females, it seems, a photo). Most people find them mostly negative, and at best only a short hand tool for the info, as you mentioned. You can see the results of the poll I posted on Imamother, as well as comments in 4 posts on my blog related to the topic. See http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2009/10/anyone-know-history.html
M: I see. Some stuff can be screened out, and some can't.
Ariella: Based on what you say and the historical inception of the shidduch resume – most put it at about 2005 – it is possible that the increased use of the internet is a prime factor in its popularization. It is so quick and easy to email a resume over. It takes less time than dictating over the phone. But I get the sense that they close more doors than they open. I tried to ask someone with a single son if he thought there would be a shidduch possibility with one of my relatives. He replied that he already had her shidduch resume. The way it came across was that he had already rejected the possibility based on the resume, so that was that. Possibly there is no real match possible in this case, but it still sounds to me that people view these resumes the way HR people do the thousands that flood their systems – a list of things you skim over to screen people out. That’s my theory. I wanted to get more feedback from people to see if it holds up.M: Point taken. Yes, any of these forms is a screening tool.If one looks at shidduchim as a job interview and a business transaction, then it makes sense to pre-screen the applicants beforehand. it is kind of cold and heartless and takes the fun out of it. It's also overwhelming to sort through so many people (kayn ayin hora there are so many Jews who want to get married), so one should know what one is looking for and not waste time. I think nothing takes the place of the face-to-face contact. That makes or breaks the deal.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Monday, October 05, 2009
This poll is posted on http://imamother.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=1231890&sid=743d7b7e810fe05f68b49c9755d5246d
|Total Votes : 36 |
Though I don't have the poll set in a functional mode here, you can comment with your vote.http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2009/09/shidduch-resumes-additional-comments.html
Related posts at
Friday, October 02, 2009
Wishing you all a good Yom Tov!