Monday, October 31, 2005

On God Planning and Man Laughing

Another one of the Divrei Torah that S2 said by the Shabbos table concerned the question of why Eve wasn't created until after the Etz HaDa'as (Tree of Knowledge)?

He answered this (again, via his rebbe) by bringing in the well-known Halacha from Shabbos. On Shabbos one is not allowed to read by the light of an oil lamp, lest he tilt it (an act forbidden on Shabbos) to get better light from the lamp. An exception to this rule, however, is that if two are reading by the lamp it is permitted, since if one reaches to tilt the lamp the other would (presumably) remind him that it is Shabbos and that such an act is forbidden.

So, too, God created Eve in order to "remind" Adam not to eat from the tree.

I wonder if the rebbe saw the obvious flaw in this or not.

The Wolf

Saturday, October 29, 2005

On Adam and Shehechiyanu

My younger son (S2) is currently in fourth grade. Like most fourth graders in Orthodox yeshivos, S2 comes home every week with Divrei Torah to tell by the Shabbos table. He came home this week with four Divrei Torah to tell over. I was generally pleased with them - with one exception.

The exception deals with Genesis 3:21:

וַיַּעַשׂ ה אֱלֹקים לְאָדָם וּלְאִשְׁתּוֹ, כָּתְנוֹת עוֹר--וַיַּלְבִּשֵׁם
And Hashem made for Adam and his wife leather garments and clothed them.

S2 then asked (via his rebbe) why it had to be leather garments, rather than, say, linen or wool garments.

The answer, according to S2's rebbe, lies in a Halacha in Shulchan Aruch which states that one must make a Shehechiyanu for new garments. However, leather garments are an exception from this rule because an animal had to die in order to produce the garments. Now, if God had made for Adam wool garments, he would have had to make a brachah on them before putting them on -- which he could not do because he was naked! So, in order to save Adam from having a shailah as to whether or not to have to make a Shehechiyanu, God made leather garments for Adam.

Now, I certainly don't have a problem with the rebbe teaching B'raishis literally, even if I personally don't put a premium on the literal view of it. I do have a problem, however, the Rebbe teaching that Adam somehow knew Shulchan Aruch and was even remotely concerned with making a bracha of Shehechiyanu on his new garments. Adam certainly knew nothing of the brachah of Shehechiyanu and certainly knew nothing of the concept of making this brachah for new clothing (clothing had never been in his experience before anyway -- why would he know any halachos of clothing?

Of course, this is not the first time I've heard of this sort of "anachronistic scholarship." The same principle is applied to explain what Ya'akov's sons did with the money that they got from the sale of Yosef. As the reasoning goes, they bought shoes with the money so that they would not have to make a Shehechiyanu on the ill-gotten goods (as if after having committed an act of kidnapping and selling, they were suddenly such tzadikkim as to be worried about a bracha on a piece of clothing).

But it's very interesting how this "anachronistic" knowledge of halacha disappears in other places. Amram, Moshe's father married his aunt. Didn't he know that it was against halacha to do so? Sure, it was before the Giving of the Torah and technically permitted -- but then again, there was no requirement to make a Shehechiyanu on clothing before Mattan Torah too (or even after it, of course -- the requirement to make a Shehechiyanu on new clothing is only a Rabbinic enactment).

I find it sometimes quite hysterical how the stories of our ancestors and biblical personages get hopelessly complicated by assigning to them knowledge of events or Jewish law that they could not possibly have had. They take our original ancestor and somehow turn him into someone who not only had knowledge of the Torah, but also the Rabbinic requirement of making Shehechiyanu on clothing and an expert on the parameters of that ruling.

The Wolf

Friday, October 28, 2005

On More Heshy Hilarity

I know I really shouldn't do this. It's just granting more attention to someone who really doesn't deserve it. Yet, like a child with a scab, I keep feeling the need to pick at it and pick at it and pick at it -- even though it's not going to heal.

Our pal Heshy has been at it again. His latest screed is entitled "Satmer is pro-Israel while Modern Orthodox are anti-Israel."

Heshy obviously went to the Big Brother school of logic, where "War is Peace" and "Freedom is Slavery." This is just soooo loopy that I'm not quite sure where to begin.

He starts out by bringing a supposed conversation between the Satmar rebbe and a Mr. Luchins to prove that Satmars are pro-Israel. Never mind the fact that there is no proof that this conversation ever took place. Never mind the fact that even if it did take place, a one-time comment by the Rebbe hardly means that the movement as a whole is pro-Israel. I guess the Rebbe must have missed the booing Mayor Bloomberg got for his stating in front of them that he was pro-Israel.

He then goes on to state that the Modern Orthodox are anti-Israel since "Their leaders were the first to shake hands with murders like Yassir Arafat just to enhance their egos and public images." He then goes on to lose based on Godwin's Law by stating that Modern Orthodox leaders "spew hatred of ultra-Orthodox Jews in public and private no less than Goering and the SS Nazi propaganda machine." (bolding mine).

He then goes on to laud Neturei Karta as heroes because they "infiltrate" international terrorist organizations (proof, Heshy?)

One anonymous commentator put it best:

Moron, ben Moron:
1 - If Luchins whispered it into the Stamar guy's ear, how did you hear about it?
2 - The first people to shake Arafat's hand weren't the MO leadership, but the Naturai Karta - and they are as Ultra as Ultra gets.
3 - Who from the Modern Orthodox shook Arafats hand? Or is Rabin a Modern Orthodox Jew in the bizarro land you inhabit?

But of course, we know what kind of bizarro land Heshy inhabits. He inhabits a bizarro world where:
And the topper of it all, the grand prize of Heshy lunacy...
In truth, as far as Heshy is concerned, I'm curious about one thing that maybe someone else can answer for us:

What terrible sins have we done that we have Heshy in our midst?

The Wolf

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

On Torah Learning and Olam Habah

There's a popular song sung in shuls on Simchas Torah during Hakafos. The first two lines of the song are:

Olam Habah is a gutta zach
Learning Torah is a besser zach...

(Translation: The World to Come is a good thing, learning Torah is a better thing...)

This song has always struck me as kind of odd. Olam Habah is supposed to represent the ultimate reward that we receive for following God's will. It's the light at the end of the tunnel, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, etc.

And yet, the song seems to state that learning Torah is a better thing. Does this mean that when Talmedi Chachamim die it is a punishment for them since they can no longer learn Torah here on Earth and going to Olam Habah is a "lesser" good?

The Wolf

Friday, October 21, 2005

On the Approach of I-Day in Lakewood

As we all know, the Internet-descision Day is approaching in Lakewood. That's the day (whether it's Isru Chag or the day after) when the kiddies in Lakewood have to come to school with the notes signed by their parents stating that they don't have Internet access in the home (or have permission from one of the four "authorizing" rabbis) or else be sent home from school, never to return until the paper is signed.

I'm kind of curious as to what kind of absolute numbers we are looking at here. Specifically, how many families are there in Lakewood with children in the affected schools, how many of those families never had Internet access (and so it's [for now] a non-issue to them) and how many of those that do have Internet access (and don't have the appropiate OK) and will have their kids expelled from school.

I find it kind of ironic how the Lakewood community made sure before the school year started that every student would have a place in a school and that now they are talking about numerous potential explusions, completely independent of the merit or behavior of the individual children involved.

As an aside (since I'm not terribly familiar with the Lakewood community) are there any other yeshivos in the town where this ban is not being enforced? And is it likely that parents of expelled children will send their kids there?

The Wolf

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

On How Life Imitates Blogging

It's kind of interesting how I posted the Seven Things post right before Yom Tov, simply because a few of them were reinforced over the holiday.

I lained (as I usually do) and did a pretty good job. I also lained the Haftorah, which I did pretty well. Then they asked me to daven Musaf. If you look at the list of seven things I can't do, the first one is "carry a tune." And boy was it proved. My Kah Keili was waaaaaay off. And yet, they keep asking me to daven...

We also bought a new table for our sukkah. I thought I bought one that was 36 inches wide. It took a guest to confirm for me that it was only 30, not 36. D'oh! That's covered under my inability to visually and judge distances.

The Wolf

Monday, October 17, 2005

On Seven Things...

I've been tagged by Krum, so here goes:

7 Things I Can Do:
  • Lain - anything (OK, not Tehillim, Mishlei or Iyov). But anything else I can do - regular, RH/YK, Megillos, etc.
  • Write mirror image - a more-or-less useless habit I picked up in college.
  • Make my wife laugh - pretty good considering how long we've been together.
  • Design Games - I enjoy creating games - every step from designing the rules and concepts to prototyping the parts. I don't enjoy marketing them, however, so I don't.
  • Explain complicated concepts simply - I can generally explain almost anything to almost anyone (provided I understand what it is I'm explaining, of course).
  • Keep my mouth shut - I'm very good at keeping confidences, and I know well that one learns far more by keeping one's mouth shut rather than flapping it on every occassion.
  • Relate well with children - of almost any age. Many adults I know don't know how to deal with infants, toddlers, schoolage chilren or teenagers. I can easily relate to and communicate with any of them.

7 Things I Can't Do:
  • Carry a tune - I can lain decently, but beyond that, not too much. I used to be able to sing nicely until my voice changed as a teenager. I still enjoy singing, but I know that it's not too good.
  • Meet people in a crowded room - I'm terribly shy in large groups. If I'm at a large group where I don't know most of the people there - just look for a guy standing in the corner by himself - it's me.
  • Judge distances visually - for some reason, if you hold your hands apart, I can't estimate how far it is. Same thing with larger distances. I know my sukkah is 8 by 12, but if I didn't know it from the start, I'd never be able to guess it.
  • Speak very quickly - I start stumbling over my words (except when I lain the Tochacha, which I can do *very* quickly and clearly)
  • Stand on my hands - I've been trying since I was a kid.
  • Build anything with my hands - I am the most unhandy person on the face of the earth.
  • Make a decision when there is no real difference - if my wife asks me to choose between two outfits for her and they both look equally nice on her, I simply cannot make the choice.

7 Things I Hope To Do In My Life:
  • Teach my children to be good, honest, warm, caring human beings (far above anything else I hope to accomplish with my life)
  • Learn more Torah
  • Write a fantasy or children's book or two
  • Learn to build something
  • Learn safrus - all my years of laining has given me a deep appreciation of safrus and I really hope to learn the craft someday. So far, my search for a teacher has been futile.
  • Make my wife the happiest person on the face of the earth for many, many, many years.
  • Win the lottery

People I'd Like To Infect With The Same Meme:

The Wolf

Friday, October 14, 2005

On Word Verification for Comments

I'm sorry, folks. I put it off as long as I could, but I have to turn on the word verification for comments. I'm getting too many spam hits and can't spend hours chasing them all down and deleting them (nor do I want to just let them remain).

I'm sorry for the inconvenience.

The Wolf

Friday, October 07, 2005

On Feeling Validated

As you know, I've had a couple of posts recently about the fact that my son wants to be something other than a Rosh Yeshiva.

Well, imagine my surprise when I opened up my copy of The Jewish Press this week, to find an article by Chananya Weissman (of EndTheMadness fame) about problems in our Yeshiva systems today. Toward the end of the article, he writes (bolding mine):

And shouldn’t we recognize that the goal of Jewish education should not be to churn out roshei yeshiva, that impressing parents with a rigorous curriculum often comes at the sacrifice of all but the most brilliant? Is it really a surprise that so many kids are turned off to Torah and Judaism? What do they really learn about either of the two?

At least I know that my voice isn't the only one out there. It's nice to know that there are others out there besides some of my blog readers (and who knows if he reads my blog?) that agree with me.

The Wolf

Monday, October 03, 2005

On the Internet and Parental Responsibility

Much electronic ink is being spilled over the recent takanos from the Lakewood community regarding the availability of the Internet to children. I don't think I have to belabor the obvious pitfalls that the Internet holds.

However, there is one aspect of this whole affair that bothers me. Specifically, whose job is it to raise a child - the parents' or the Yeshiva?

The takanos that were enacted seem to say to me that the latter, and not the former, is the final authority on how a child is raised. The takanos (to me, anyway) seem to be telling the parents "You cannot be trusted to advise your children which parts of the Internet are healthy and good and which are unhealthy and bad; so we will make that decision for you. Furthermore, unless you have a real business need (subject to our discretion) you cannot be trusted for yourself either."

Now, we all know that there are parents who are not careful with what their children do and watch. We all know that there are children who watch TV shows that they shouldn't, read material that they shouldn't and visit web sites that they shouldn't. But, I'm willing to bet, in the vast majority of those cases, we are dealing with parents who, either out of excessive permissiveness, sheer laziness or naiviety (or some combination of all three) abdicate their authority as guardians of what their children see, hear and participate in.

Unfortunately, you cannot legislate good parenting. There will always, among us, be parents who fall on all sides of the spectrum, from the stifling, overbearing and overprotective, to the extremely permissive and not caring. Most of us, I'd like to believe, fall somewhere in the middle, in the "golden norm;" we watch what our children watch, we know what our children read, and we introduce them to more mature concepts (whether it be death, love, sexuality or any other concept) in an age-appropriate manner and time. We don't let our children have free reign of the library, the internet or the video store (or even our own video shelves at home).

The question it seems before us is this: We all know that there are those of us who abdicate our parental authority and guidance. Is it the yeshiva's place to stand in for the parents and "take control" from them. And, if so, then is it the yeshiva's place to stand in and "take control" even for those parents who do control their children's access to the Internet. In other words, if I want to shop on, pay my bills on line, be able to download a shiur, or even write a blog, is it the Yeshiva's place to come into my home and say "because there are negligent parents, we won't allow you to do any of these things - regardless of how well you may restrict your childrens' access to the Internet."

The Wolf

A Shana Tova to All...

I just wanted to wish all my readers a Shana Tova. May it be a year filled with life, health, peace, prosperity and Torah.

The Wolf