Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Poor Arguments

Every now and again,  you come across an argument put forth by someone and wonder how it is possible that they don't see the refutation to their very own argument.  A good example of this was found on Rabbi Lazer Brody's website earlier this week.  He writes:

My simple mind asks a question - How is it that the scientists purport to know what happened millions of years ago, yet deny the hard historical fact that 2 million men, women, and children saw the revelation of Hashem on Mount Sinai a mere 3323 years ago? This latter fact has been passed down from father to son and from rav to talmid (teacher to student), so that's why I go with the simple faith of our forefathers. Also, if it was good for the previous generations' spiritual giants, it's certainly good for me.

The answer, of course, is very simple -- (1)  Events that happened millions of years ago left behind physical evidence that can be examined today -- fossils, geological formations, layers in ice cores and the like.  Mattan Torah, on the other hand, did not leave behind any physical evidence.  That's not to say that it did not happen -- on the contrary, I believe that Mattan Torah occurred.  But you cannot express dismay at the fact that scientists are willing to rely on physical evidence and not on historical retellings that have one root source.

Another factor to consider is that there is a qualitative difference between "hard" evidence (such as the physical evidnce I mentioned earlier) and "soft" evidence (traditional retelling of historical events).  The latter type of evidence is far easier to manipulate than the former.  Just to give an example, ask any two random people to tell you the story of Little Red Riding Hood without referring to a written text.  In the vast majority of cases, the people telling the stories will not relate them exactly the same way.  Some people may choose to play up or embellish one part of the story more than the other.  Or put it this way -- did your father tell over the story of the Exodus by the seder EXACTLY the same way every year?  Do you tell it over to your kids EXACTLY the same way?

Lastly, of course, there is an additional difference.  Rabbi Brody may have this tradition passed down from father to son and from rebbe to talmid -- but the scientists don't.  If Rabbi Brody is willing to accept this, then that's fine -- but he cannot insist on forcing those same views on others -- not unless he's willing to accept the ancient traditions passed down by other religions as well.

Rabbi Brody continues in his post:

It's utterly absurd to think that anyone could have been capable of pulling the wool over the eyes of such intellectual and spiritual giants as the Ramcha"l, the Vilna Gaon, Rebbe Chaim Volozhiner, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev or the Chofetz Chaim. Stories do change and develop over time, no one can argue with that. But the holy Zohar warns that our Torah is not a mere collection of "stories", G-d forbid, but precision Divine wisdom. That's why our sages throughout the generations believed in every iota of Torah

I don't necessarily know that the scientists would agree that it's "utterly absurd" that the wool could have been pulled over the eyes of the tzadikkim he mentioned above -- but let's put that aside for the moment.  The real problem with his argument here is that he's assuming something that's not in evidence -- that a deception is being perpetrated.  His argument (as I understand it) is as follows:  if Mattan Torah is false, then someone lied.  If it's a lie, the above named people would never have fallen for it.  Hence it can't be a lie.

However,  Rabbi Brody is engaging in the fallacy of the excluded middle.  There is another possibility -- that the people who transmitted the historicity of Mattan Torah to these tzadikkim actually believed in these events.   As such, when (for example) the Chofetz Chaim first learned about Mattan Torah from his father, he has no reason to doubt his father's word, because his father believed in the historicity of Mattan Torah.  There was no deception being perpetrated against the Chofetz Chaim because his father presented the facts as he believed them to be and as he received them from his father.  I don't know anything about the Chofetz Chaim's father, but for the sake of argument, let's say that he, too, was an extraordinary man who would never knowingly accept or transmit false information.  But could you say the same thing about his father?  His grandfather?  And every person in the chain back to whichever son of Aharon (if I recall correctly, the Chofetz Chaim was a Kohen) he is descended from?  Is it not within the realm of possibility that *someone* in that chain was deceived, duped or even just came to believe information that was not historically accurate?  If so, then no one is "pulling the wool" over these giants any more than Ptolmey "pulled the wool" over the people of his day with his geocentric model of the universe.  There was no deception -- merely people working with the information that they had at the time.  By framing it as a "deception," Rabbi Brody excludes the possibility that they could have simply believed in inaccurate information because that was the information/evidence that they had at the time.

I don't have any problems with Rabbi Brody's beliefs.  As I mentioned above, I, too, believe in Mattan Torah.  But I do have a problem with his arguments -- they are poorly thought out with easy refutations at hand -- refutations to which he has seemingly blinded himself.

The Wolf

51 comments:

Garnel Ironheart said...

The problem with folks like Rabbi Brody is that they spend too much time speaking to people who either agree with them or aren't smart enough to catch the flaws in their thinking like you did. When other folks come along they refuse to dialog openly. That's why they keep repeating stuff like this.

Dave said...

What do BTs tell their children about Mattan Torah?

vistibule said...

Is it not within the realm of possibility that *someone* in that chain was deceived, duped or even just came to believe information that was not historically accurate?

Yes, it is possible, but is it likely that it would happen to an entire generation at the same time?

Dave said...

Yes, it is possible, but is it likely that it would happen to an entire generation at the same time?


It doesn't have to.

We know from Jewish history that there have been significant gaps (oh, say, forgetting that the Torah existed comes to mind), and that there have been large geographic areas with sparse Jewish education (at best) that later became core Jewish Populations (see also, Eastern Europe).

All it means that at some point a successful line of teaching held that it was passed down from generation to generation, and once that meme was established, it spread.

Again, what do BTs who were raised in secular or heterodox families (who do therefore NOT have that tradition) tell their children? If they pass on the established Orthodox position of generational transmission, then you can see exactly how such a story could become incorporated into Jewish Lore.

elemir said...

>>>> That's not to say that it did not happen -- on the contrary, I believe that Mattan Torah occurred.

Does that mean you also believe that 2.5 to 3 million people plus their animals & possessions trekked through the Sinai desert.

Also, what according to your beliefs, was the contents of the "Torah" that was transmitted at Sinai??

BrooklynWolf said...

Elemir,

Good questions. Perhaps subjects for a future post, but in short:

1. Pretty much yes, but I recognize that there are *serious* questions (such as the complete and utter lack of any archaeological/historical evidence) that need to be resolved on the matter.

2. Depends on how you define "Torah." :)

The Wolf

elemir said...

First off, aside from the complete and utter lack of archaeological evidence for the Israelite’s desert experience, the ramifications of such a huge mass of people, animals, and goods existing, surviving and moving about makes this notion totally absurd for any rational, objective individual.

Sure you could say it was all miracles, but then I would expect that the author of the Torah would have reported all such miracles to glorify God's power. All his limited mind could think of was food, water and clothing and for these he does declare miracles.

If you post on these, i’ll gladly provide you with dozens of impossibilities (aside from saying "miracles").

That being said, then your own belief in this absurdity should disqualify you from criticizing Rabbi Brody for his not so reasonable argument.

BrooklynWolf said...

That being said, then your own belief in this absurdity should disqualify you from criticizing Rabbi Brody for his not so reasonable argument.

I believe you may have missed the point of my post.

I don't have a problem with Rabbi Brody's beliefs. I have long maintained that if you want to simply defy logic and believe, then that's fine with me. My problem is when someone tries to pass off your bad arguments or false proofs as fact.

I don't do any of that. If I believe in something despite a lack of evidence, then I believe -- but I would *never* put that forward as a reason for *someone else* to believe. That's the key difference between myself and Rabbi Brody (and others like him).

If a Young Earth Creationist were to come to me and say "I believe the world is 6000 years old. I don't believe in evolution, cosmology, et al. I simply believe," then I have no argument against him. But when he starts getting into trying to show that science is wrong, carbon 14 dating is worthless, the mabul made everything appear old, etc., that's where I step in and begin refuting arguments.

In short, if you want to believe despite a lack of evidence (or despite evidence to the contrary), then fine. But if you're going to start using evidence (including logical arguments) then they have to be solid.

The Wolf

Menachem Lipkin said...

Good points Wolf.

It bothers me greatly that people use the circular logic that since our Torah claims to be revealed before millions it proves that it must have been.

It's definitely a bolder claim than a single person revelation. But lets face it, we need look no further than Lubavitch for an example of how masses of people can delude themselves into believing something that didn't happen. And this is only within the last 20 years. Imagine how that legend could change in thousands!

elemir said...

OK, I understand your point.
However, I maintain that if a person has what are clearly irrational beliefs (i.e that the Torah's description of the Israelite's experience is true history), then they cannot criticize someone with irrational arguments. after all what is the difference between expounding irrational beliefs or irrational arguments about those beliefs.

ProfK said...

To play the contrarian here, regarding the statement "But you cannot express dismay at the fact that scientists are willing to rely on physical evidence and not on historical retellings that have one root source." An elementary belief of archaeologists and, yes, the educated in most other disciplines, is "An absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." The fact that there are no physical artifacts that have been found as of yet that would "validate" matan Torah and the events described in the Torah does not mean that 1)there weren't any at the time period the events took place or 2)that such artifacts will not be found at some point yet in the future.

In fact, it is quite possible that such artifacts were come across in the past but that those who came across them 1)had no knowledge of what the Torah said transpired in that area so they looked at the artifacts as "junk" and disposed of them and/or used the remains for other purposes or 2)the artifacts were found in a time period where scientific evaluation was absent or in its infancy so there were no proper tools to determine what the artifacts were or 3)those finding the artifacts had an agenda that included NOT validating the artifacts connection to matan Torah or not publicizing that any artifacts were found or 4)the discoverers weren't educated in or interested in history or archaeology, didn't get excited about their find and continued on with their business without publicizing what they ran across.

For centuries educated scholars denied the existence of David HaMelech and the whole Davidic dynasty. They claimed that there was no hard evidence to support the claim that he existed, and our writings were insufficient to validate his existence, being of the "pass along" variety you mention. Yet, lo and behold, there were suddenly found some concrete pieces of evidence mentioning David by name (the Stelle Meshe for one). End of dispute? Nope. Those with vested interests in keeping David as legend only claimed there wasn't enough corroboration.

And let's not also forget that many a scientific/historical discovery based on "hard" evidence has been refuted in later years as other scientists and historians have better, more sophisticated tools to use. The "fact" that carbon dating is known to have X elements today does not mean that 100 years from now it will be looked at the same way, nor even that it will be "the" tool to use for dating.

In short, the jury is still out on this one, at least from a scientific point of view. As for me, regarding matan Torah, Ani Maamin, full stop, no exceptions.

G*3 said...

> How is it that the scientists purport to know what happened millions of years ago, yet deny the hard historical fact that 2 million men, women, and children saw the revelation of Hashem on Mount Sinai a mere 3323 years ago?

This is gemara logic: if scientists can accept something that happened millions of years ago, kal v’chomer they should accept something that happened a few thousand years ago. The question is riddled with fallacies, such as: scientists are not a monolithic group, and paleontologists are not historians; passage from father-to-son is not comparable to physical evidence; and the assertion that matan torah is a “hard historical fact” makes a mockery of what that term would mean to a historian.

> that's why I go with the simple faith of our forefathers.

Emotional appeal.

> Also, if it was good for the previous generations' spiritual giants, it's certainly good for me.

Appeal to authority.

> the holy Zohar warns that our Torah is not a mere collection of "stories", G-d forbid, but precision Divine wisdom.

Isn’t that convenient. You find this all the time – the religious text warns that looking at the religious text as if it weren’t divine or containing the Truth is wrong, therefore the religious text is divine and contains the Truth.

OTD said...

Wolf: Great post.

ProfK: Your arguments are really annoying. You say you have faith, full stop. What bothers me is you then try to get into "rational bases" for your faith, complete with ridiculous "evidence" for David's existence. David's existence is far from an established historical fact, and I'd love for a real expert to correct me on this if I'm wrong. When a believer like Wolf says "I believe" I can respect that. When someone says I believe because ABC they play a very dangerous game where the implication is that if said evidence would be disproved, they would no longer believe. Their belief is now falsifiable. That's what I did and it took me straight to atheism. Let's not conflate faith and fact.

ProfK said...

OTD,
The first part of my comment is strictly a content/linguistic analysis of where the problem might lie in the statement quoted. The David example is just that: an example of another time when those who require concrete evidence refused to believe that evidence when it was presented.

Linguistic note: "as for me" as used here means contrary to or not as stated before this. It signals the reader that a different opinion follows. Unlike those who require concrete proof, I don't. I take the words of the Torah "b'emunah kol zohs." Sorry if you didn't see that.

OTD said...

You're making the same mistake Lazer made and many kiruv clowns make, and that Wolf scrupulously avoided. If you play the faith card, you shouldn't even breathe the word "evidence", or you risk having it both ways. Discussing evidence implies an open mind and a commitment to intellectual honesty, something that I think runs counter to the concept of faith.

Mike S. said...

There is a fundamental difference between science, which is developed by the accumulation of information over centuries of data with ever more sophisticated instrumentation, and Judaism where the raw information is a fixed corpus of text. Thus, although Isaac Newton was the greatest physicist of all times and I am an utterly insignificant physicist, it is a simple fact rather than arrogance or impudence to say that I know far more physics than he ever did. And I did before I left high school. There are, after all, huge swaths of physics that Newton, however brilliant he might have been, could not know or discover anything about because they depend on data collected by instruments that were unavailable with the technology of his day. On the other hand, if I were to claim to have a better understanding of Torah than the Vilna Gaon, I would be both arrogant and impudent (and dishonest). The difference is that the text of the Tanach and Talmud were the same in his day as mine, so to claim a deeper (or broader) understanding would be to claim that I had either greater familiarity with the same texts that were available to him or sharper analysis than he was capable of--neither of those is remotely true. Although there can be (and has been) analysis of issues that arouse after the GR"a's day that I know about, the raw information of Torah was the same then as it is now. However, merely by being born and educated 300 years after Newton, I do know more physics than he could possibly know, because so much additional information has been accumulated over time.

rejewvenator said...

Isn't it odd to claim that God revealed the Torah to so many people, and that such a thing simply couldn't be falsified, but then to also not know the exact text of the revelation (two versions of the luchot), or event the general location of where Mt Sinai actually is?

1L said...

I believe and have no need for and no interest in evidence/proofs/whatever. I don't even really care about the fallacy of Brody's arguments because I didn't get that far. I was stuck on how he conflates history with science. The study of history is far far less precise than the study of science. Of course scientific theories do get disproved, tweaked or what have you, but with history, there is literally no way to ever know exactly what happened, not even if you were there, because two people can witness the same event and tell two completely different stories afterward without either of them being a liar. What does "historical fact" have to do with "scientific fact"? You simply can't compare the two, the word 'fact' means something completely different in the context of history than in the context of science, so there is no basis for comparison.

JRS said...

so many good points articulated here. A big problem for folks like Wolf, who're trying, earnestly, to hang on to faith while maintaining intellectual integrity, is that a majority (large--& growing, as everyone slides to the yeshivish right) of those who learn, teach and set the paths for future generations totally subscribe to the sort of juvenile logic offered by Rabbi Brody.

Whereas the Gemara at least followed an organized set of 'rules of logic' (albeit by its own parameters)---frum society today is flatly anti-intellectual in its approach to just about everything. Mostly, learners merely rehearse the views of earlier 'thinkers,'--there's no critical analysis, no intellectual innovation. At a certain point, those trying to be *rationally* frum will find that everyone around them--notably including the 'leaders' from whom we're supposed to receive wisdom and guidance---has a 3rd-grade take on science, theology, etc. If the religious leaders believe in pure silliness, voodoo science, and yeah, astrology (see: mazalos section in artscroll machzor)---who the hell is flying this theological ship?

SubWife said...

Great post, Wolf! I never could get why something being passed on from generation to generation makes it an indisputable fact. Or the claim that no one is denying this fact. Umm, hello? Thousands and thousands of atheist and millions of people who have never heard of Jews do deny this.

Anonymous said...

"..Thousands and thousands of atheist and millions of people who have never heard of Jews do deny this."

right. but the kids in yeshiva have never heard (& will never hear) of all those people, so, for all intents & purposes, they don't exist.

mlevin said...

First, I really love the post and Wolf's arguments.

Second, this one is for ProfK, I read somewhere that scientists have studied the Sinai Desert and determined that hundreds of thousands of years ago it wasn't a desert but a land flourishing with rivers, lakes, forests and etc. At some point later on it stopped raining and slowly it all turned to sand.

Thus, if these scientists (archeologists) were able to dig deep enough to find remnants of the rivers and trees they should be able to find something that points to 3 million people living there mere 3 thousand years ago.

There is a contra argument of course, that while traveling for 40 years the early Jews did not eat anything and did not go to the bathroom and did not change clothes, so there would be no trace of them.

But then there is another argument that asks about the animals. There were more than 3 million domestic animals and no traces of those either.

Of course one could argue that animals lived on Mana too and did not leave any traces behind, just like their owners. But then there is an argument of millions of people dying in the desert. As we know, there were wars and simple mass dying every year at the age of 60, but no traces of these mass graves were found.

It had been a long time since I concluded that one cannot come up with conclusive arguments to prove one way or the other [if there is G-d]. Personally, I believe there is one, but I also believe that a lot of things we were taught are simply not true. I also believe that whether one believes in God or not, it is an obligation of every Jew to keep shabbos and be kosher simply because it is part of our rich heritage and it should not be dismissed as inconsequential.

Anonymous said...

If traditions or stories passed down from parent to child are to be given great weight, than why don't we give great weight to the tradition/story passed down through millions or billions of christians about jesus turning water into wine or a few loaves of bread into enough fish to serve huge crowds of people. We could come up with numerous other examples of "history" passed down through millenia that we would not accept as fact.

jrs said...

"I also believe that whether one believes in God or not, it is an obligation of every Jew to keep shabbos and be kosher simply because it is part of our rich heritage and it should not be dismissed as inconsequential."

I don't get that reasoning: because of an accident of birth, just happening to be born Jewish, one is 'obligated' to keep shabbos & kosher, even if one does not believe in God, or that God mandated all these things?

mlevin said...

Exactly, we are obligated because of who we are. Our ancestors gave up their lives because they were born Jewish. Not keeping Shabbos/Kosher is akin to telling all those people who wanted to rid this world of Jews, yes you won.

Dave said...

By that argument, shouldn't we go back to idolatry, since that is the tradition of our ancestors that Abraham blithely tossed aside?

elemir said...

To Mlevin:

I don’t think you thought through all the ramifications of 3 million people and their animals and belongings moving through the desert.

I know you can say “well it was a miracle” and that everything and anything was supernatural.

But i don’t buy it for 2 main reasons.
1) why would God want to erase all evidence of the desert trek.
2) And why wouldn’t the Khumash brag about all this additional miracles.

Consider some other problems.

Just the logistics of moving and then stopping for a group this size could take from 4-8 days. Think about it. And if they had to move through narrow mountain passes as was likely, it could take even longer. Did they just stop cold turkey for Shabbat? The Torah says they crossed the Yam Suf, overnight. (I know it was a miracle after all)

What about the logistics of getting water. How did 3 million people and their animals get watered from a few wells. (I know it was a miracle)

Here’s something you probably didn’t consider. How did the Mishkan function. Did the people use it?

If it’s true that only b’nei Aaron were allowed to be Kohanim. At most there could have been 25 kohanim (sons and grandsons of Aaron).

How did 25 kohanim service 1 million plus adults. Did the people even bring korbanot? who ate all the meat that was kodesh. If 1 individual just brought 1 korban all year that would be a million animals.

Leviticus 12 says that a woman who gives birth brings a Korban (at least 2 doves or a sheep and a dove). Now since there were at least 1 million births, that’s a heck of a lot of doves. Where did the birds come from and again who ate the meat?

And there’s a lot more ….

Sure the evidence isn’t conclusive, but to me its compelling.

mlevin said...

elemir - like I said, there is no amount of logic that can sway one's opinion on the matter.

Dave - our ancestors for the past 2000 years or so were getting killed and tortured for being Jewish and claiming to be Jewish. Shabbos/Kashrut is the integral part of Judaism. There are no millennial long prosecutions of idol worshipers.

Dave said...

So any practice which is grounds for persecution requires that descendents continue it?

So, then, if frei yidden are assaulted by Chareidim for breaking Shabbos or not keeping Kosher or not dressing to whatever standards are currently demanded, their children are forbidden from becoming BTs?

tesyaa said...

Dave - here's a post you need to read, to understand people better:

http://shiltonhasechel.blogspot.com/2010/08/30-dumb-proofs.html

Zvika said...

Just a quick note - Lazer Brody's logic here is very much along the lines of Polemicists from the Middle Ages known as Mutakallimun and actually he's not in bad company here, since his logic is roughly that used by the Kuzari and R' Sa'adya Ga'on. That logic is a focus on oral transmission, the fact that an enormous group of people seeing an event and saying the exact same thing happened is a near impossibility, so it must be true if those witnesses do so along with basing all conclusions on what your 5 senses are capable of perceiving. Jews, Christians and Muslims ALL used this logic to prove their religions as being correct and the others are heresy. The Rambam says this kind of logic is essentially stupid, but this was the pervading type of thought that was present in that era.

That's my two cents

mlevin said...

"So any practice which is grounds for persecution requires that descendents continue it?"

more or less, but yes, that's about why I think Jews should be observant regardless how they feel about existence of God, and I would say the same about American Indians and Gypsies and Armenians and Australian Aborigines and all other minority groups which suffered through bigotry and persecution and genocide.

Dave said...

So, a friend of mine has grandchildren who are Native American on one side, and Jewish on the other.

What are they supposed to do in this "persecution begets destiny" schema?

Ichabod Chrain said...

mlevin
I can't agree that not keeping Shabbos and kashrus etc means that the persecutors have won. They had a specific agenda-- they wanted Jews to convert to their religion. They didn't want you to become an atheist. They wanted you to become Catholic or Moslem. If you don't convert to those religions they haven't won. If you become an atheist or a Unitaritan or a Mormon, or an Episcopalian or a Druid or even a Reform Jew, for example, they haven't won.

If you follow your point of view then you can say the Haredim or those who are trying to impose an orthodox ideology have won. Some of us have had bad experiences with the frum community. Some of those bad experiences have occurred in one form or another for generations. I don't want to be in a position where they think they won.
Also let's say someone's parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were devout members of a sect of Christians, and suffered persecution for their beliefs. The person decides he wants to convert and become a frum Jew. Your logic suggests that he shouldn't be allowed to do it. Even if you were to say that the situation is different because the Jews didn't do the persecution, the fact that he's trying to change his religion suggests that he's saying that the persecutors were right.

mlevin said...

"Your logic suggests that he shouldn't be allowed to do it."

Hey, a word allow implies laws and courts. I never suggested anything of a kind. I said IMO all Jews should keep kosher and shabbos regardless of whether they believe in God. There is a big difference between should and law.

"The person decides he wants to convert and become a frum Jew."

Why should anyone want to convert to Judaism? I know there are many people who have no Jewish blood have this drive to do so, but I still don't get it. Why go through it? Why take upon yourself and all of your descendants such a huge obligation, life is hard as is, without all that additional stuff?


"So, a friend of mine has grandchildren who are Native American on one side, and Jewish on the other."

Well obviously they were not keeping shabbos or kosher, otherwise their children would not be in such an impossible situation.

jrs said...

In summation: members of any group that has suffered mass social or religious persecution (the parameters to be determined by a panel of rabbonim) are 'obligated' to maintain the lifestyle/rituals of their ancestors. Can this get any sillier?
This sounds like someone who painted themselves into a rhetorical corner, and is digging in their heels rather than backtrack. My kids do this all the time.

Dave said...

Well obviously they were not keeping shabbos or kosher, otherwise their children would not be in such an impossible situation.

Why should he? In this particular case, my friend isn't Jewish.

mlevin said...

Dave - I was speaking from the parents' point. A parent obviously was not keeping shabbos/kosher and had children with someone who was not Jewish.

jrs - obviously you don't understand history. For thousands of years people wanted to destroy and eliminate Jews from this world. They tried it by burning Jews and by starving Jews and by shooting, gassing and etc. Even when they persuaded a Jew to convert, they never made him/her forget about his roots and made his life difficult and perilous and these converts were often killed for being a Jew anyways (for best reference please see Spanish Inquisition, Life in Tzarist Russia and of course WWII).

Living as a practicing Jews is like shoving it back in their face "You see, you tried to kill us, but we are still here." But if you don't observe Jewish traditions then there is nothing holding you or your children from getting involved with people who are not Jewish and within a few generations your descendants won't even know of their roots. Basically you are playing into the hands of those who wanted to kill us.

You may not like my logic, but it is my opinion that every Jew is historically obligated to be shomer regardless of what their own personal beleives are towards God.

Dave said...

Hitler also made it illegal for Jews and non-Jews to marry.

So if we are historically obligated to oppose the beliefs of those who oppressed us, I guess we are all required to intermarry.

Ichabod Chrain said...

mlevin,

The problem is that your logic isn't logic. It's an emotional appeal.

By your logic, one doesn't have to keep the mitzvos. He can work on Sbabbos and buy non-kosher food. He can then send a check for the money he earns by working on Shabbos and the money he saves by buying non-kosher food to the Friends of the IDF. That will show the persecutors we're still here. It will do so better than keeping Shabbos and kashrut.

Besides, the persecutors from previous generations are mostly dead. Now we have Charedim to worry about. They're the ones who are shifting mainstream Orthodoxy to what I consider to be the wrong direction. If I was going to use religious practices to show someone something, I would want to show them that they can't get away with some of the things they pull.

As for the persecutors of the past, why let them be the ones who control what your religious practices are. They don't win if you don't keep Shabbos or keep kosher. They win if you let them govern what you do.

Besides, as I said before, Jews weren't being persecuted for generations for being frum. They were persecuted for different reasons. Hitler didn't care if you kept Shabbos or kept kosher. He persecuted Reform Jews as much as frum Jews.

The reason for a Jew keeping the Mitzvos is that there was a covenant. If Jews have been persecuted for all these generations, then the issue is whether we're getting what we bargained for. If we're not, then why keep Shabbos and Kashrut, especially when there's so much minutia?

mlevin said...

"...the money he saves by buying non-kosher food to the Friends of the IDF."

won't work, because if you don't practice it, you forget it and your children will never know what it is.

Here's an example:My husband has a relative who calls every now and than and complains that his son is seeing yet another shiksa. The same son had lived with a few and was even engaged to one. He wants advise on what to do and how to make the son understand.

My husband tells him to take the son to the sinagogue, have him see how Jews pray, let him sit for a shiur, let him experience a shabbos meal, these types of things. But the relative is adamant against it. "I can't do that" he persists "If I do that he may end up religious and start observing holidays and shabbos and kashurus." "So, how are you trying to stop him from intermarriage?" "I call him, and my mother calls him, and his mother calls him and we try to explain to him that Jews have to marry only Jews."

Do you what is happening? By not observing we are losing our Judaism, losing our understanding of who we are. That is why all Jews need to be observant, else the whole concept of a Jew becomes meaningless to them.

"The reason for a Jew keeping the Mitzvos is that there was a covenant."

That logic only works if one believes in God and as we discussed above you can't make someone believe or disbelieve anything.

SubWife said...

MLevin,

what you are saying makes little sense. All the Jewish holidays revolve around events that took place during either Matan Torah, leaving Egyptian slavery or living in the Desert. If you don't believe that these events took place (believe, not have 100% proof), why celebrate holidays? Why commemorate things that are either Jewish folk tales, someone's fantasy or outright lies? Especially if celebration involves burdening oneself with numerous laws and restrictions? Just out of spite for goyim? that's just juvenile and somewhat sick, not to mention a poisonous and miserable outlook on life.

And I am sure when it's 100 degrees outside and you are sweating because you forgot to turn the air conditioner before shabbos, or chew pretzels from a paper plate during the office party - yeah, you showed them, you won, that's exactly how those bad bad goyim see this.

Seriously, many of them don't even give it a thought.

Anonymous said...

mlevin: The "look they tried to kill us, let's be observant to prove they were wrong and get even" argument doesn't work for another reason. Hitler wanted to get rid of the jews to keep the "aryan race" pure and avoid contamination by contact with jews. Therefore, isn't the best way to get even and have the last laugh is to have lots of intermarriage and intermingling so that the blood lines get really mixed together?

Anonymous said...

mlevin: Basically you are making the guilt argument. Our ancestors suffered for their religion, so it would be disrespectful to them not to follow their ways. Guilt and revenge are not enough to keep a culture alive and vibrant through the generations. The best tactic is love and goodness. Either show the next generation that the frum life and community are good and loving and bring them up to love judaism and be proud of their heritage and you are giving a gift. Teaching/preaching guilt and revenge is laying a burden on them that can only lead to resentment.

mlevin said...

How could you show if you don't practice it and you don't live it?

Anonymous said...

The Kuzari logic is very shaky these days. A "kol korei" these days could successfully get a large segment of Jews to do or say pretty much anything. Of course any dissenters would be written off as koifrim and ignored. In a few hundred years, the divide between the "followers" and the "koifrim" would be complete and no connection would be remembered. Additionally, the "koifrim" wouldn't even care anymore about the radical group they split off of and wouldn't bother refuting their claims.

(Of course I realize that in today's age the internet will record everything for posterity, but there was no internet in those days).

Geoff said...

Wolf,

I like your blog.

Philosopher David Hume asks a good question about biblical miracles such as matan torah:

Which is more miraculous:

That the the claims of the Torah are true, or that the claims are not true?

In his view, if it were more miraculous (because of a preponderance of evidence) that the claims of the Torah were not true, then one could be expected to believe them, and be rewarded or punished accordingly.

What I'm getting at is, if there isn't much evidence, but plenty to the contrary, then why believe?

(Note I'm asking specifically about the Torah, not whether or not God exists)

Geoff

Anonymous said...

>It's utterly absurd to think that anyone could have been capable of pulling the wool over the eyes of such intellectual and spiritual giants as the Ramcha"l, the Vilna Gaon, Rebbe Chaim Volozhiner, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev or the Chofetz Chaim.

What to make of the fact that his list includes people born between 1707 and 1838? Is that how old the mesorah is? It's almost like he's unwittingly attributed Orthodox Judaism to more or less the people and the time period that the reshoim secular scholars attribute the rise of Orthodoxy.

As for pulling the wool, gosh, the Ramchal confused his own brilliance with heavenly revelations. So, you know.

Anonymous said...

I'm not entirely sure, but in response to the problem of millions of korbanot brought in the desert, with only 25 kohanim to service the people, don't Chazal say that many korbanot weren't actually brought in the desert?

Has anyone researched this who can help me out?

Anonymous said...

everyone of my relatives who raised their children not religious and without a solid yeshiva education has intermarried or married someone so disconnected from judaism that they are all lost. their parents also said you have to only marry jews and even threatened to cut them off from the inheritance.
unfortunately none of it worked.
very sad. the only way to maintain jewish identity is to practice it

sarah said...

"it's utterly absurd to think that anyone could have been capable of pulling the wool over the eyes of such intellectual and spiritual giants as the Ramcha"l, the Vilna Gaon, Rebbe Chaim Volozhiner, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev or the Chofetz Chaim."

That's actually circular reasonning: if those great talmidey chachamim had come to the conclusion it was not true and voiced this opinion, Mr. Brody would not refer to them as Talmidey chachamim today.

Actually, I am sure that there were people of similar caliber who would not be fooled. They are outcasts now. Perhaps they made their way in a different realm, but certainly not within orthodox judaism...