Wednesday, April 26, 2006

On Valis, Science and Prevailing Attitudes

Much has been written about the alleged crime of Yisroel Valis. Rumors are flying in all directions that range from Valis being a psychotic child-killer to being a distraught father who accidently dropped his baby.

I don't have the evidence at hand, and, as such, I'm not going to make a call on this one way or the other. However, DovBear makes an excellent point:

The trouble with the "accident defense" is that it is see-through. Every accused child abuser trots out that line, but a competant medical examinar can tell very easily the difference between a beating and an accident. They leave different injuries. A child who was dropped on the floor won’t look like a child who was beaten, or thrown against the wall.

I'm assuming that those who have already proclaimed him innocent of all charges are not forensic specialists and have not viewed all the evidence. And yet, there is still a huge push for his release and exonoration.

I made the following comment at DovBear's website:

The problem is that you are dealing with a segment of society where "science" is an evil word. As such, any forensic "evidence" that shows the child was abused is clearly false since it originated with evil, athiest "scientists."

I think that this bears repeating. These are the same people who are quick to dismiss any scientific idea that doesn't fit into their worldview, no matter how demonstrable it is and how much actual evidence can be brought to bear on the subject. Even "non-controversial" scientific findings that can be directly observed and proved in a labotory (the revolution of the Earth around the sun and microevoltuion come to mind) are dismissed with the attitude that the scientists are either lying, stupid or engaged in some massive cover-up.

As I said, I haven't seen the forensic evidence with regard to the Valis baby. But don't be surprised if the report comes back that the baby was abused and people will just willy-nilly disregard it because it's based in "science."

The Wolf

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Our Trip To The Museum of Natural History... my rants

1. To the Chassidish family who sat behind us while we watched Galapagos in the IMAX theather:

I understand that the younger members of your family don't speak English. But that doesn't give you the right to sit behind me and my family and disturb our watching of the show by your providing a running translation of the movie in Yiddish. And since the majority of the movie deals with Darwin and the evolution of species on the Galapagos islands, why did you even bother coming to watch the film if you're going to ignore the main point and not translate the important parts of the film?

2. To the man who asked me to watch his kid while he went into the bathroom:

Just because I'm wearing a white shirt, kippah, slacks and have four days' growth on my face and chin does not mean that your child is safe with me. How could you possibly think of leaving your child with a stranger, even if only for a minute? Just because I'm Jewish as you are doesn't mean that I couldn't be a psychotic murderer or kidnapper. (For the record, I'm not!) Consider yourself lucky that it was me and that your kid was there when you got back.

3. To my son (S1):

Let me get this straight - we go to the American Museum of Natural History. We see all sorts of interesting stuff ranging from animals on the African savannah to artifacts of ancient cultures in Africa, to huge totem poles from the Pacific Northwest Native American cultures, and when we get to the gift shop, you buy books on what? Wizards and dragons???

Why on earth does a museum even have books on wizards and dragons???

The Wolf

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Al Bi'ur Chametz

I seem to have this mental problem every year when it comes to Bedikas Chametz (the search for Chametz). For the last two weeks, my family and I have been cleaning our house from top to bottom, removing all traces of chametz from the house. By the time we're done, there will be nothing left. It's a lot of effort and exertion to clean the entire house and get rid of all the chametz.

Then, when it's time to do the B'dikah, what do I do? I say a bracha (blessing) on the search for chametz that I am about to do. But isn't that what I've been doing for the last two weeks, including in the hours leading up to the actual "search?" It almost seems to me that I should have made this bracha two weeks ago (or at least earlier in the day while still searching!). It always feels so "wrong" to me to say the bracha at the time for the search (especially when I'm still cleaning when the time for the search comes).

I wish for all my readers a Chag Kasher V'Sameach!

The Wolf

Friday, April 07, 2006

On Overritualization

My wife observed something while shopping for clothing on Pesach, which led to an interesting discussion (and disagreement) between us.

She was trying on clothing in a dressing room when she noticed a sign hanging on the wall. The sign stated something to the effect of "please have in mind while buying clothing that you are being m'kayim the mitzvah of tznius" (you are observing the commandment of modesty). She thought that it was a nice thing. I wasn't so sure of it. To me, it represented the creeping over-ritualization of things.

My initial rebuttal was "does this mean that when you buy lingerie, you are violating the mitzvah of tznius?" Her response is that it depends on how you're going to use it. If you're going to use it in the bedroom, then you're not. My response to that is that the "mitzvah" of tzniyus should be decided at the time you are wearing it (and any mental declerations should be made at that time).

She tried another tack - that it doesn't hurt; it does no harm. My answer to that was that hopping up and down whenever I buy a box of tissues doesn't do any harm either - but that hardly makes it a valid Jewish practice.

What do you think? Valid, or just part of the trend toward overritualization of everyday events?

The Wolf

Thursday, April 06, 2006

On Ultra Silly Chumras

We've all seen chumras that, while we don't agree with them, we wouldn't denigrate others for using them. Then we've also all seen chumras that people have that arise out of a lack of basic halachic knowledge.

Then, of course, there are the ultra-silly chumras - those that arise out of that special combination of a lack of basic halachic knowledge and a lack of common sense. My wife provided me with just such an example.

She was in a supermarket buying items for Pesach, along with just about every other Jewish woman in Brooklyn. While there, she observed a woman who

-- lined her shopping cart with plastic
-- very meticulously made sure that every item she put into her cart was in a plastic bag (aside from the plastic that she lined her cart with)
-- if an item fell on the floor, she not only didn't put it back in her cart, she didn't even want to put it back on the shelf so that others could take it (we're talking about pre-packaged stuff, not produce) because it might have become chametz.

With my perverse sense of humor, I told my wife that if I was there I would have gone over to her and said "Psst! You know that those bags were in a box that was touched by truck drivers who ate chametz the day it was delivered," or "Psst! You know that those bags are touching the shelves which touch the floors which touch other shelves that have chametz on them!"

(To be honest, I wouldn't have done that; there's no need to further confuse the already confounded.)

I shudder to think what Pesach cleaning at this woman's home consists of. I'm willing to bet that if she had just a little more knowledge on the halachos of chametz, she could make her life (and the life of her family) so much easier.

The Wolf