Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Sign Of Bad Programming

Note the widget on the top right side of my desktop (you can click on the picture to enlarge it).

The Wolf

Thursday, May 17, 2007

JIB Awards - Finals

This post is sticky and will stay on top until the end of the voting

Just a quick note that I am in the finals for the JIB awards in two categories:

Best Small Blog
Best Overall Jewish Post for my What Judaism Is About post.

If you like my blog, or that particular post, I'd appreciate it if you went and voted for me.


The Wolf

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

OT: Blogger vs. Haloscan

I received an email from a reader who suggested that I switch to Haloscan commenting. Personally, I've found that Blogger has worked well for me over the last two years, but I'm not married to the Blogger commenting system and if Haloscan would be better, I'd definitely consider it. I've perused the Haloscan website a bit and found nothing that sends up any immediate red flags.

I'm curious how those who have Haloscan consider it? Is it better than Blogger? Do you regret switching? Are there any pitfalls that I should know about before I leap? In short, any advice you'd care to offer would be helpful.

The Wolf

Monday, May 14, 2007

What, Exactly, Is Expected Of Us?

Over at WildTumor, Moshe shows us an email conversation between a well-known rabbi (his identity hidden behind the label "Rabbi B.") and a friend of his ("AL") regarding the merits of learning vs. working in the "shidduch market." The rabbi's opinion in this conversation is that if one is not learning full time, he's not doing what God wants him to do.

Here are some excerpts:

Rabbi B: ...However, there is no question in my mind that you are NOT doing that which HaShem wants you to do. He didn't give us the Torah so that a person would spend 40 prime years of his life learning one hour a day!!


AL: There is nothing more that I want than to build a torah home based on yiras shomayim with someone who is commited to those same ideals. I don't consider myself tainted because I'm out in the working world.

Rabbi B: "Tainted"? Why tainted? However, you cannot honestly believe that this is what HaShem had in mind when he gave us the Torah.
Come on now!


Rabbi B: Anyone who really believes that he is a true Oved HaShem when he spends only one hour a day in the BM is really very very confused.

Now, I'm certainly no scholar, and I'm certainly no tzaddik. But what I can do is read... I can open up a chumash and take a look at several sections. Specifically, the Torah gives us all sorts of laws that apply to farmers. Why? If everyone is to spend all of our time learning, then why give us laws that apply to farmers? There are laws that delineate how one is to behave in business dealings. Why? Who is going to go into business? There are laws covering all sorts of professional and personal activities that shouldn't be necessary if we are expected to learn all day long.

Many of our gedolim throughout the years supported themselves by taking jobs. Were they not doing what God expected of them? My son's Rebbe (fifth grade) doesn't learn as he could for several hours a day because he's busy teaching elementary gemara and chumash. If he learned full time, I have no doubt that he could answer many more difficult ktzosim (see the original exchange) than he can teaching little kids. Is he not living up to his potential? Is he a disappointment in God's eyes as well?

Ultimately, however, I think that the there is a much more basic point to make here. The point is that we, as people, live in this world. God created us as we are, with our physical needs for food, clothing and shelter. God, in His wisdom, decreed that man must work for his living. God provides for us, but only indirectly. It's with His help and guidance that I earn a living, but, in the end, I still have to show up at work every day. I suppose that if I didn't want to work and God wanted me to have a living, He could cause a winning lottery ticket to show up in my wallet one day... but generally, He does not work like that. The way of the world is that one needs to earn a living (or be supported by others).

To my knowledge, there are very few cases where people have been miraculously sustained and therefore free to pursue Torah learning with absolutely no encumbrances. The most famous example was probably the Generation in the Wilderness. God provided manna from heaven, their clothing did not wear out and their shoes did not decay. As such most, if not all, of the Jews were able to pursue learning full-time. Once that ended (upon the entry into Eretz Yisroel), did people generally learn full time? No - they became farmers, vintners, metalsmithes, scribes and any of the dozens of other occupations that were needed to create a functioning nation. Were there people who learned full time? Certainly - but certainly it wasn't a majority or even a significant minority.

Another famous example concerns Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son Rabbi Elazar, who were sustained by God in a cave for over a dozen years while in hiding from the Roman authorities. During the dozen years that they were in hiding, they did nothing but learn, as God provided for their needs miraculously. Indeed, what happened upon their exit from the cave? Their world-view was so out of step with everyone else's that God had to remind them that working for a living was not wrong or evil. In other words, God explicitly told them that man was meant to work - and sent them back to their cave for another year until they could learn that lesson.

So, what does it all boil down to? When Rabbi B says that a working person is "NOT doing what HaShem wants him to," he is clearly wrong. After all, if God didn't want us to earn a living, why did he send R. Shimon and his son back to the cave? He should have instructed them to convince all of K'lal Yisroel to put down their tools and learn all day. But that's not what He did.

Does this mean that full-time learning is wrong and contrary to God's will? No, I don't believe it is. The Jewish nation has need of professionals in every time period -- whether they be farmers and vintners in the ancient agragiran society of Israel of old, or doctors, lawyers and computer professionals in today's world. But they also need people who are experts in Torah -- in every age. We need people who learn full-time so that we can have poskim and rabbis and teachers. But we can't be a nation of exclusively learners. And those who work full-time and learn when they are not working are doing just as much to help further society.

If God truly wanted all the Jews to learn Torah full-time and not engage in professional activities, then He'd provide for us in the manner that He did in the Wilderness. The fact that He does not, and that he gave laws regarding our professional conduct, clearly indicates that it is permitted and worthy for us to enter into such activities.

The Wolf

Hat tip: Ezzie

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thursday, May 03, 2007

JIB Awards -- Best Post

Just a quick note that I am nominated* for Best Post for my What Judaism Is About post from last year.

You can vote here.

The Wolf

* Full disclosure: I shamelessly nominated myself.

How To Prevent A Breech Birth?

A friend of mine is about to give birth in the next few weeks. Currently the baby is in a breech position. My friend is trying to get the baby to turn around so that a normal vaginal delivery can be done.

Aside from medical advice, she has been advised to make sure that all the seforim (Jewish books) in her house are right side up.

My question is really very simple: is there some authentic Jewish source that recommends this, or is it just a bubbe ma'aseh (i.e. books turned around = baby turned around) that some old midwives came up with.

(Please no bashing here -- I'm not asking for scientific studies of whether or not making sure your seforim are right side up helps. I just want to know if there is any authentic Jewish source for this.)

The Wolf

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

An Unenforceable Edict Is a Bad Idea

Yeshiva World reports (via Ynet) that a Tznius Hashgocho (modesty certification) has been established in Israel. A Tznius Beis Din (court) will give certifications to worthy vendors. One particular target of this seems to be Lycra.

Now, I'll certainly entertain arguments that some frum women dress provocatively. We have some Hot Chanies who live in my own neighborhood. But the idea that you can fix the problem with a hashgocho is downright silly.

As eliezer notes in the comments on the YW thread:

What’s to stop a women from going into to one of these stores and buying a dress two sizes too small? How can that be stopped? What if a dress looks tight, but a very thin woman buys it and it fits her Tzniusdikly?

There are just too many variables that go into determining whether a particular outfit is proper for the wearer. Size, material, color, body style, fabric and probably a dozen other factors go into it. This isn't a decision that can be made on a store-by-store basis.

Furthermore, what will be with stores that sell lingerie? How will they judge which stores get a hashgocho when all the clothing therein is meant to be worn in the privacy of one's own home?

In any event, the concept lacks two important factors that are necessary to make it work - an enforcement mechanism or the willingness of the public to only buy items with the hashgocho.

The former is illustrated by drugs. In order to buy a drug in the United States, it must be approved by the FDA. If it is not approved, it cannot be (legally) sold in the US and stores that sell it (and people who buy it) can face criminal charges.

The latter is illustrated by food hechshers. No one is going to put you in jail if you buy non-kosher food. But since most Orthodox Jews voluntarily keep the laws of kashrus, the system works.

This system has neither element. There is no enforcement mechanism and there is no public will (by virtue of the fact that the clothing is already being bought and worn). Even if you closed down every clothing store that lacked a hashgocho in the cities where these people live you could not enforce the decree. Now that we live in the days of easy travel, catalog shopping and the Internet, you can order things from around the globe and well out of reach of the Tznius Beis Din. As such, the edict is, to all extents and purposes, unenforceable. And an unenforceable decree is worse than no decree.

The Wolf

A Parental Dilemma: Poll

Your thirteen year old child (A) has a book report due on Monday. The report can be on any age-appropriate book that the child has read for the report. Your child, being a bit of a bookworm, finishes his book in one day and writes his or her report.

Your child has a friend in school (B) who is not so much of a bookworm. B doesn't like to read and is not the best student in the class. Not the worst, certainly, but not the best.

On Sunday night (remember, the report is due on Monday afternoon) you realize that A has not only done his or her report, but was about to do B's report as well. The child denies it, but the evidence pretty well points to the fact that your child was about to do two reports. The child's reply is that all they were doing was acting as a typing service, and getting paid one dollar for that.

On Monday night, you find out that your teacher gave B an extension of one day. You also figure out that your child has written another report anyway during the school day and brought it home to type. The evidence that B had nothing to do with the report is overwhelming: the handwritten report is in A's handwriting; the book the report was being done on was a book that A gave B *that morning*, the fact that the style of report was almost word-for-word the same as A's report. Again, A thinks that s/he's smarter than his/her parents and denies everything. He types up the report and puts it in his folder for school tomorrow.

What do you do?

Before you vote, keep these things in mind:
A's parents and B's parents are friends. They have known each other a long time.
In addition A's father went to Beis Midrash with the teacher and knows him for some time as well.
A and B are friends, have been together in class since pre-1A.

I'm curious how others would have handled this.

The Wolf