Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Answer is Nine To Five

Jonathan Rosenblum has a new article on Cross Currents entitled "Can We Talk Seriously About Poverty?" He describes how the chareidi community in Israel is suffering from terrible poverty -- about how families are now receiving only between a quarter to a third of what they were receiving from the government earlier and are now facing even further cuts.

He also goes on to discuss that aside from the obvious consequence of not having enough to pay the bills/put food on the table/put clothing on the family's backs, he also describes the less-than-obvious consequences of the crushing poverty -- the disruption of shalom bayis, the fact that poverty increases the incidence of "at-risk" teens, presenting severe challenges to people who want to live their lives in honesty, etc.

After outlining the problem, he lists three possible solutions:

  • increased government aid
  • increased charitable contributions from Jews living outside of Israel
  • adopting a simpler lifestyle
Esther, over at Debt and Life in Ohio, notes that Jonathan Rosenbloom seems to have left out the most obvious solution of all -- get jobs. As she states:

Then I get to the end, to the part where it is supposed to say that it's time for everyone to get jobs, right? I mean, that's the whole point of saying that we need to get out of poverty and stop relying on others.

Shockingly, he doesn't even say one sentence about getting jobs! His conclusion is "What the solutions might be I do not know. But it is clear that we cannot afford to hide our heads in the sand and not address the issue."

Um...How does not getting jobs address the issue????

While Esther managed to hit the nail right on the head, she has, at the same time, missed one very simple point. I don't think that Jonathan Rosenblum is looking for a real solution to the problem of poverty among Israeli chareidim. What I think he's looking for is a solution to the problem of poverty among Israeli chareidim while keeping the current system in place. In other words, if chareidim went out to get jobs, then they wouldn't be chareidim (at least not in the same sense, anyway). If they didn't spend all day learning, then the raison d'etre of the entire system would be destroyed. Of course if they went out and got jobs that would solve the poverty problem, but they would lose who they were.

The problem, in my estimation, is that the chareidim that currently exist never before existed in Jewish history. At no other time since the generation of the Wilderness has an entire community had their needs provided for in such a way that no one had to work. No Jewish government before the current state of Israel -- not under Joshua, David, Solomon, etc. provided for an entire community to be able to sit and learn and do no work -- and certainly no non-Jewish government did either. Throughout all of Jewish history you either had gedolim and communal leaders who worked for a living as did everyone else, or else you had a select few who were supported by the community so that they could continue their studies and, in turn, become the future leaders of K'lal Yisroel. Never did you have a situation where the government simply handed out money to so many people so that they could sit and learn all day.

The problem is that such a situation is simply unsustainable. In discussing the possibility of securing increased government funding for chareidim, Jonathan Rosenblum writes:

Even representing a crucial bloc in the fragile government coalition, Shas has been unable to make any headway on its number one legislative goal: increasing child allowances. And Shas’s demands are exceedingly modest – no more than 30 shekels per month per child, or 240 shekels for a family with eight children. That does not even cover the (reduced) tuition for one son in yeshiva.

And that's the end of the matter. Not once does he discuss the propriety of having the taxpayers (since, in the end, the "government" isn't some magical entity with the ability to create money -- every shekel that it gives out has to come from a taxpayer) fund the chareidi lifestyle. I always wondered (in a morbid sort of way) if the chareidim took control of the government and imposed massive tax hikes to allow chareidim to have decent incomes while not having to work, how long it would be before the chilonim and non-chareidi Orthodox Jews either (a) left the country in droves, eliminating the tax base or (b) started a massive tax-revolt.

Putting aside the issue of the propriety of forcing working Jews to pay for the chareidi lifestyle, let's assume for a moment that they can get the votes and increase the child allowance. At some point, the bubble has to burst, because the chareidi population growth is faster than the working population growth. The situation is, in some ways, analogous to Social Security here in the United States, where the population collecting Social Security is growing at a much faster rate than the population that is paying for it. So, even if they could get the votes for an increase in the child allowance, it is simply a short term solution. In the long run, government aid is simply not the answer to running a system that is unsustainable.

So, what is to be done? Personally, I agree with Jonathan Rosenblum in that we cannot stick our heads in the sand and pretend that the problem does not exist. The problem has to be addressed now, before the system crashes (although, based on some of the descriptions in his article, I'm beginning to wonder if the system hasn't begun to crash). The real solution is simple -- it's not throwing more money into the system. The real solution is to change the system into something that is more sustainable. The real solution is to realize that we are not in the Wilderness, that it wasn't ever intended in Jewish history that the entire community should learn and not work, and that we have to identify who should be learning all day and who should be working and learning on a part-time basis. The real solution begins with identifying the real problem. The real problem isn't the poverty -- that's just a symptom. The real problem is the system itself.

The Wolf

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Science and Torah in the Jewish Press, Again

From this week's Letters To The Editor (Jewish Press):

The debate over evolution that emerges every so often in the Jewish Press is fascinating. There are two issues I have always had with supporters of evolution, and I hope they can resolve them for me.

One, supporters of evolution claim the world is billions of years old and that human beings, rather than being spontaneously created by God, gradually evolved. If you accept this, then many parts of Genesis cannot be taken literally. This includes the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, and the Flood. And if you concede that these stories are allegorical, it is difficult to say where the allegories end and the historical account begins. There needs to be a logical explanation of why Abraham should be any more real than his figurative ancestors.

A second issue concerns the role of faith and reason in this debate. For the evolutionists, what would happen if no great rabbis in the past supported your position?

Imagine that rabbis like the Rambam and Rav Hirsch were squarely against a non-literal interpretation of the Bible. Would you still believe in evolution and its hundreds of years of accumulated scientific evidence? Or would you suppress your reason in favor of remaining a religious Jew?

Neither approach should appeal to people who consider themselves both rational and religious. If you accept reason over God, even hypothetically, you cannot claim to still be religious, since God is no longer supreme. Rather, the next issue of Biblical Archeological Review will decide what you believe.

And if you choose to remain religious, what is the value in knowing the two approaches are currently compatible? In the end, reason will have to be sacrificed for the sake of your faith. If not by evolution, then by biblical criticism or some other field of study.

Once you admit you are willing to give up reason, you are effectively saying, like your opponents, that in order to be religious you have to drink the Kool-Aid. The fact that your flavor happens to be a little more diluted does not make it any easier to swallow.

It seems to me that attempting to reconcile reason and religion is like that old proverb about trying to dance at two different weddings at the same time. It is a wonderful idea, but in the end you finally have to make a choice.

Mordechai Silberstein
Brooklyn, NY

Dear Mr.* Silberstein,

Your first question is certainly a valid one. One can certainly make the mistake of going too far and allegorizing the entire Torah. Your right that there needs to be some logical explanation as to why one part should be taken literally and the other not. However, before I address that point, I feel the need to point out that even if one lacks a logical explanation, that does not negate the fact that the first parts of Genesis might be true only in the allegorical sense. In other words, a failure to explain a distinction between the two sections does not mean that the distinction does not exist... any more than the failure to explain nuclear fission fusion until recently doesn't mean it hasn't been happening in the stellar cores for (at least) the last few thousand years.

That being said, I think that when you look at events listed in Tanach, you will generally find that they fall into three broad categories: those for which there is external evidence that it occurred as literally described, those for which there is no evidence one way or the others, and those for which there is physical evidence *against* it happening as literally described. Things that fall into the first category tend to occur later in Tanach -- the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the existence of the Davidic dynasty, etc. Things in the second category tend to fall out earlier -- David himself, the earlier Shoftim, etc., the Avos (Patriarchs) themselves fall into this category. The last category tends to include items that are in the earliest part of Genesis -- the story of Creation and the Flood. By examining the physical evidence, you can easily conclude that the earth and humanity have been around longer than 5768 years. You can also easily conclude that a world wide flood, as described in Parshas Noach, could not have happened literally as described. In other words, there is physical evidence (and quite a bit of it) *against* a literal reading of these verses. One could easily postulate that events for which there is physical evidence that they could not have occurred as described should not be taken literally, whereas for events in the other two categories, we can state that they could have or did happen as literally described.

Your second point (regarding the fact that Rabbis in the past have not accepted evolution/cosmology, etc.) is a red herring. One could easily state that the Rambam (since you bring him up) was simply not aware of the evidence. In the lack of evidence to the contrary, I, too, would probably believe in a literal six day Creation. However, I have access to evidence that the Rambam did not. Lest you think that I'm committing some form of heresy by stating that the Rambam may have been deficient in some sort of knowledge, I advise you to open up your Mishneh Torah to the third chapter of Hilchos Yisodei HaTorah where the Rambam provides an entire astronomical scheme which has since been proven wrong. He states that the planets and stars are attached to glass spheres with no empty space (!) between them. He states that the Earth is 40 times the size of the moon, but that is not true by any reasonable measure. He also states that the sun is about 170 times the size of the Earth, but this calculation, too, is incorrect. In other words, do I have to believe these things despite their being physical evidence to the contrary because the Rambam (and many others) believed them to be? The answer is no -- the Rambam did not have access to modern observatories to be able to tell that his measurements were wrong. He could not know that the stars and planets aren't attached to glass spheres because he did not have the technology to find the evidence that it isn't true. The same could easily apply to evolution and cosmology. Since they lacked the evidence that such things could not have literally happened, they were fine with taking a literal approach. Now, however, that we have physical evidence to the contrary, we can (and perhaps must) state that these chapters of Beraishis cannot be taken literally.

You ask the following question:

Imagine that rabbis like the Rambam and Rav Hirsch were squarely against a non-literal interpretation of the Bible. Would you still believe in evolution and its hundreds of years of accumulated scientific evidence? Or would you suppress your reason in favor of remaining a religious Jew?

But what you fail to consider is a third possibility: that perhaps the Rambam would agree with us if he were living today. Perhaps if they had access to today's information, they, too, might agree that evolution occurred. Unless you are going to postulate that the Rambam (and other Gedolim) knew everything and could not possibly be misinformed, ignorant of science or mistaken, then you have to account for the possibility that, if the evidence were available in their day, they might looked at it and concluded that yes, the Flood could not have occurred as literally described.

Your conclusion also seems to have a false dichotomy. You seem to indicate that one must allow literalism to triumph over evidence (or reason, as you put it) since, if not, the person who relies on evidence will eventually have to discard his belief since he will undoubtedly uncover some evidence someday that will disprove the entire religion. But once again, you are failing to allow for a third possibility: the possibility that not everything in Tanach *has* to be read literally, the possibility that allegorical interpretation is allowed**, and the possibility that perhaps, just perhaps, the evidence is correct and that God wants us to use our brains in evaluating it and draw reasonable inferences from it. If not, let me ask you the question in reverse: if you put the Chumash before reason, then what do you do when you find something that incontrovertibly contradicts what the Chumash says? What do you do when you see places that have been inhabited continuously for over four thousand years (in contradiction to the literal reading of the Flood story)? What do you do when genetic studies (the very same genetic studies, mind you, that were celebrated in the Jewish world showing that most Kohanim today descend from one person 3000 years ago) show that it is impossible for us to have all had one common ancestor at the time of the Mabul? What do you do when physical evidence in the earth itself clearly shows it to be older than 5700+ years? Do you just plug your ears and go "la la la I'm not listening?" Or do you think that it's possible, just possible, that perhaps the Torah wasn't speaking literally. If the former, then I respectfully ask just whom is not acting rationally.

Yours truly,

The Wolf

* I do not, in any way, intend to demean Mr. Silberberg. If he has, in fact, earned the honorific "Rabbi," then I would be happy to use that greeting instead. His letter does not indicate one way or the other.

** Of course it's allowed. Or does he think that God's hand was literally seen by the Sea? Does he literally think that Eve is the mother of *all life*? Does he think thatGod's voice literally walked in the Garden?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Don't You Love It When People Selectively Quote Sources?

From this thread on Yeshiva World News:

The Torah actually says that Love starts after marriage. Check out Yitzchak&Rivkah

Or before marriage. Check out Ya'akov and Rachel. :)

The Wolf

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Admas Kodesh Hu (It Is Holy Land)

This past Sunday was Visiting Day at a bunch of camps in the Catskills regions. Eeees and I took another long and tiring (but well worth it) trip up to the mountains to see Wilma. On the way back, a friend of ours, Phoebe* hitched a ride back to Brooklyn with us.

On the way back from the mountains, Phoebe told us about her trip up. She went to see her daughter in the same camp that Wilma is in. However, the people she went with made a stop at another camp to see their son at a learning camp somewhere in the Catskills. Apparently, this learning camp doesn't allow women on the camp grounds at all. They set up an area outside the camp (michutz la-machane... literally) where the women could have refreshments... but they could not step onto the actual grounds. This sounded very odd to me, so I asked Phoebe what the mothers do on visiting day. Do they just go up but not see their sons? Do they not go up at all? She responded that no, the boys go out to the women's area to see their mothers.

I don't understand the logic in this at all. If women are barred from the grounds in toto, and the boys could not see them, I could see the logic (I don't agree with it, but logically, given the values of those running the camps, I can understand the course of action). However, if they're allowing the boys to go to the women's area to see thier mothers, then why not allow them on the grounds already? The boys are going to see other people's mothers when they go to the women's area anyway. So what's the point? Why keep the women confined to one small area?

Can anyone come up with a logical reason for this?

The Wolf

* No, that's not her real name.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What's In Rabbi Falk's Encyclopedia?

Josh, over at Parshablog, brings us this excerpt from Rabbi Falk's book Oz VeHadar Levushah:

Rabbi Falk advocates "doctoring" books that don't agree with what the Torah says. He specifically speaks to the issue of the age of the universe, but I would be willing to wager that he means this to apply to other areas where the encyclopedia disagrees with traditional Torah statements. As a result, Rabbi Falk has a lot of doctoring to do in his encyclopedia:

Just about everything about astronomy has to be "doctored," as no encyclopedia that I know of states that the geocentric model of the universe is the correct one, as the Rambam has it. Certainly no encyclopedia mentions (except, perhaps in the mythology section) that the stars are attached to a sphere which revolves around the earth each day.

Much of geology has to go out the door, because of the age of the universe problem. Likewise with archaeology -- you can't read that there are cities have been inhabited continuously since before the days of Noach.

A good deal of biology naturally has to be ripped out as well. Evolution, as you can imagine, is a big no-no. However, I'm fairly certain that most encyclopedias do not mention spontaneous generation (as in lice, or half-earthen rodents) as fact either.

Much of history has to go as well, since, in many places, the current historical understanding of events/places/dates may not match the traditional Jewish chronology. In addition, some historic events may involve details that we may not want children getting a hold of.

A fair portion of the section on genetics and its related entries have to be expunged as well. After all, genetics and mutations form a basis for the study of evolution.

Any of the sections dealing with biblical personages have to be cut out. Surely these are not written from a Jewish perspective and will contain information or allegations that are contrary to traditional Jewish thought. In fact, the whole section on Biblical books will have to be cut out (due to the Documentary Hypothesis and other similar theories), as will the entire section on Judaism - since it too, no doubt, contains misinformation about Judaism (for starters, that there are other branches of Judaism...)

Sections dealing with other religions, theology, mythology and religious personages have to be chopped too. Can't have mentions of other religions that aren't completely derogetory.

Any section dealing with popular culture (movies and their stars, radio programs, television programs, celebrities, etc.) also have to be removed.

This list is by no means complete. I'm sure that there are plenty of things that I missed in my list. So, after all this material is cut out of the encyclopedia, one has to wonder what is left?

The Wolf

Weddings, Shuls, Eichah and Fire Lieutenants

Just a couple of random points:

First a Mazel Tov

Eeees and I know a woman who is an older single. She's sweet, intelligent and, in general, a very fine person and yet, for whatever reason, she simply did not find her bashert. Eeees and I (and countless others) searched high and low for this elusive Mr. Right, but alas, we were not successful. A few months ago, I even offered her the services of this blog. However, she informed me that she was actually seeing someone and that the situation looked promising. That promise has since come to fruition and the wedding is scheduled for tonight. So Mazel Tov to the Morah and the soon-to-be Mr. Morah! I will, God willing, be at the wedding tonight, dressed in my favorite smiley tie in celebration of the new couple. If you see me, give me a tap on the snout and come over and say hello!

The Lost Shuls Of Brooklyn

Neandershort has a piece on the former shuls of Brooklyn that have since been converted to churches of various denominations. While it is tragic to see former shuls that have been converted to churches (I used to live next door to the Young Israel of Bayswater many a moon ago. The building is now a Witness hall), I'm not sure what is to be done about it. You can't force people to stay in a neighborhood. Demographics switch all the time in response to various economic, technologic and social changes. As Jewish people move out of a neighborhood, Jewish shuls will close (to be replaced by new shuls in the neighborhoods they are moving to). I suppose that once it becomes necessary to sell the building that it would be preferable if it were sold to a non-religious institution... but, for all practical purposes, the economics of the situation will usually dicatate that it is a church that buys the building.

If it's of any comfort, the process works the other way too. I spent sixteen years laining in a shul that very clearly was once a church-- right down to the remains of the pipe organ behind the aron kodesh.

Laining Eichah

In my former shul, I lained Eichah (Lamentaions) on the night of Tisha B'Av. In my present shul, I don't (not by choice... there is someone else who has been doing it since before I arrived). If you're going to lain Eichah (or anything else, for that matter), please, please pay attention to the trup (cantillation). It some cases it can prevent you from making a grave mistake. Consider this verse (Eichah 2:20)

כ רְאֵה יְהוָה וְהַבִּיטָה, לְמִי עוֹלַלְתָּ כֹּה: אִם-תֹּאכַלְנָה נָשִׁים פִּרְיָם עֹלְלֵי טִפֻּחִים, אִם-יֵהָרֵג בְּמִקְדַּשׁ אֲדֹנָי כֹּהֵן וְנָבִיא. {ס} 20 'See, O LORD, and consider, to whom Thou hast done thus! Shall the women eat their fruit, the children that are dandled in the hands? Shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?

The way the verse is supposed to be read, the words בְּמִקְדַּשׁ אֲדֹנָי must be read together. God's name here is not a noun, but an adjective - it is describing the Mikdash (Temple) as a Temple of God. However, if you pause between the word Mikdash and God's name, the verse takes on a completely different meaning. With a pause in the wrong place, it makes it sound like God (along with the kohen and the prophet) were slain in the Mikdash! So, please, be mindful of the trup!

Fire Lieutenants

Our last bit today is a story (brought to my attention by an anonymous reader) about a new lieutenant in the Pikesville (MD) Volunteer Fire Company. What makes it remarkable is that the lieutenant is an Orthodox woman. Of course, there are the naysayers who start screaming "Busha" (shame) and "Kol K'vuda..." and "she should be home making dinner..." To all these people, I have one thing to say: She's putting her skin on the line to save people's lives. If you're willing to take her place and do it, then go volunteer and get the necessary training. Otherwise, shut up and be thankful that someone is willing to run into a burning inferno to save your life and the lives of your family. Or will you be screaming "Busha" at her as she pulls your sorry butt out of the proverbial frying pan?

The Wolf

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Marriage And More Nonsense About Last Names

An.... interesting editorial appeared on this week. Authored by Rabbi Israel Krasnianski, it lashes out against the big problem that exists in our world... married women retaining their maiden names.

Now, personally, I think it's all a big bunch of nonsense. I don't really think it matters one way or the other what names a woman uses. To me, there are plenty of legitimate reasons for a woman to keep her maiden name and there are plenty of legitimate reasons to adopt the husband's. When Eeees and I got married, I told her that I had no objection to her keeping her maiden name if she wanted to. I had no intention of changing my name to her maiden name, but I could have if I wanted to as well.

However, I find it kind of funny when articles such as this one pop up from time to time. This particular editorial had quite a few "gems" that I'd like to share with you. Let's start with this one:

Many studies have shown, as a matter of statistical fact, higher divorce rates where woman retain their maiden names.

To be perfectly fair and honest, I don't know if this is true or not. For the sake of argument, however, let's assume that it's true. It may well be true that there is a higher divorce rate for women who keep their maiden names after marriage, but as I learned in statistics classes, you can't just look at the raw numbers alone. There are any number of reasons to question this little factoid. For starters, do these studies take into account the overall rise in divorce rates across the population as a whole? Do they take into account cultural biases against divorce that may exist in various places? Is the divorce rate in Quebec much higher than the rest of the world? (In Quebec, a woman is not allowed to change her name upon marriage. She must retain her maiden name). In short, there are any number of factors that can explain a rise in divorce rates among women who keep their maiden name.

Even if you can conclusively prove that keeping your maiden name results in an increased chance of divorce, perhaps that's only the symptom and not the cause. What I mean is this: perhaps women who would keep their last name have a personality trait that causes them to favor keeping their names. Forcing (or encouraging) such a woman to "give up" her name is not going to change her underlying personality -- and I think we can all agree that the personalities of the husband and wife will play a far greater role in predicting a divorce than what last name she chooses to go by. In other words, it's entirely possible that cause and effect are being confused here.

This section caught my attention as well.

It is no secret that in other circles, the reason for deteriorating marriages, climbing divorce rates and the current shidduch crisis, is greatly due to the fact that the girls today are much more educated, knowledgeable and capable than the boys are. More than often times the bread-winner in the young family is the wife. Today with modern society and the plague of liberalism all around us, woman are no longer being taught to be mothers of children and good wives, instead liberalism is teaching them to become executives of large corporations and to try and become the man they were never meant to be!

I find it to be both extremely funny and sad that a sane person could write this paragraph. We encourage our young men to sit and learn, to eschew any education which might result in his having some marketable skills, all in the name of advancing Torah study. Since the young couple has to eat and the vast majority of us don't have wealthy parents or in-laws, the women go out and earn degrees and become the breadwinners of the family so that the husband can learn in Kollel. However, now we're decrying this as the cause for deteriorating marriages and for the shidduch crisis! Give me a break! You can't have it both ways! Don't create a situation where the women are forced to go out and work and then tell them that their doing so is the cause of broken homes and the shidduch crisis. To do so is simply wrong and unfair -- whether the underlying assertion is true or not.

Retention of the last name is indicative of this recent “style” of women's independence and when you enter into your marriage with a fear of losing your independence, then you are entering into this marriage shakily and with insufficient resolve! This unhealthy balance has brought much crisis and serious issues to the orthodox circles.

Or it could be indicative of the fact that it may simply be easier to retain your last name. Or perhaps the husband keeping *his* last name indicates a "ear of losing your independence" and "entering into this marriage shakily and with insufficient resolve!" I think that if that's the case, all couples should have hyphenated names. This way *both* parties go into the marriage with the knowledge that it is a partnership of both parts.

While I do sympathize with a girl’s desire to preserve a link to her familial heritage and her need to maintain her own reputation and her feelings for identity preservation, still, there is no doubt that this trend is founded on a feminist message which strays from the Torah tradition of marriage and makes a statement that women are not the husband’s property.

Words fail me on this one. A wife is not property. And don't start jumping on me about kiddushin being done in a manner that resembles the purchase of property. One of the surest signs that I own something is the fact that I can sell it. If I want, I can sell my house to whomever I want. I can sell my hamster to whomever I want. I can sell my dishes, books, etc. to anyone I want. I can't however, sell my wife. Why? Becuase I don't really own her. Yes, I have claims on her with regard to rights and responsibilities in marriage and she likewise has rights and claims on me - but that's not the same thing as ownership. Wives are not property.

Furthermore, the Torah teaches when one marries one must not merely leave her family, but ABANDON (“yazov”) all her family’s traditions etc for her husband’s!

I think Rabbi Krasnianski should go back to the beginning of the Chumash. The last time I checked, the Torah said (emphasis mine) "al keyn ya'azov ISH es aviv v'es imo v'davak b'ishto..." (therefore a MAN should leave (sorry... ABANDON) his father and his mother and cleave to his wife..."

Another "gem" is this one:

As for girls who can’t do this for fear of losing their independence (contrary to what marriage is), either you marry your husband completely, including his name, or go back to your father's house and use his name until you learn what marriage is and ought be.

Talk about condescending and rude! Someone who doesn't want to give up their last name for whatever reason shouldn't get married at all?! As if that's the be-all and end-all of marriage? How about asking the same thing of men? Perhaps we can state that if a man is afraid of losing his independence and isn't willing to marry his wife completely (by taking her name) perhaps he shouldn't get married. Is that ludicrous? Of course it is... but so is his statement.

Marriage, IMHO, is a partnership. Both the husband and the wife have to put in the effort and make the sacrifices and comprimises that are necessary in a marriage. One party alone can't do it. If both parties to a marriage are willing to do what it takes to make the marriage work, then it doesn't really matter what last names the parties go by. However, *if* you're going to stress (for whatever reason) the importance of the woman giving up her last name as a sign of commitment to the marriage, then the husband should be no less required to do so. If that's the case, I think both the husband and wife should have hyphenated names, thereby showing that they are both committed to the marriage.

The Wolf

Hat tip: How To Measure The Years and Frum Satire.

(Let's not forget -- the very template of a successful Jewish marriage involved a couple with different last names -- Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imeinu.) :)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Women Should Not Be Seen Or Heard...

... or so some would have you believe.

There is going to be one Orthodox female competitor at the Beijing Olympics -- a young women named Bat-El Gaterer, who will be competing for Israel in the Taekwando competition.

Of course, the story has made the rounds of some of the "frum" news-blogs -- specifically Yeshiva World and Vos Iz Neias. While there are a fair number of commentators on those sites who are encouraging Ms. Gaterer in her Olympic quest, you also have your share of detractors. Examples include:

I suppose it’s all right for girls to learn martial arts to protect themselves, but, to perform in public in front of men (even dressed fully covered) is a breach in Tznius. I hope this sweet Jewish girl, who is concerned with keeping Shabbos and Kashrus, will grow in her Yiddishkeit and give up her competition in the Olympics one day and settle down to become a frum aidle aim b’Yisroel.


now this is something I'm sure all bais yakov and bais rochel girls can be proud of bravo! not.
or may i say it "a real cilul hashem"


Hashem is NOT proud of her. A frum jewish girl does not belong performing on the world stage!!! KOL KVUDAH BAS MELECH PNIMAH!!!

It's when I see comments such as these (including the first one from someone with the moniker "basmelech" -- presumably a woman) that I have to wonder... is it simply there goal that women should never be seen or heard in a public forum at all? If all you can do is shout "KOL KVUDAH..." every time a woman dares to step out of the shadows and excells at something, then what message are we sending our girls? That there is nothing for them to strive for besides being wives and mothers?

Of course, the thing that I find interesting is this: the objecters don't seem to be objecting to the outfit that she has to wear during the competion... they seem to be objecting to the very fact that she is participating at all. My reading of their comments (and I could be wrong) suggests that they would have similar problems with a piano recital, a cooking contest or even a quilting bee. It's the very idea that she's competing and possibly drawing attention to herself that is untznius.

Well, in some respects, they are right. Drawing attention to yourself is, by definition, not tznius. But that has to apply equally to both men and women. When we were told hatzneah leches im Hashem... (walk humbly with God), the prophet wasn't only speaking to women... he was speaking to all of us. Humility and humbleness are positive virtues that apply equally to both genders. While there may be some differences in the practical halacha (especially with regard to dress) between men and women, the spirit of hatzneah leches applies to all Jews equally. Bat-El shouldn't be castigated for particpating in the Olympics any more than any man is. Yet, I have not heard anyone object to the men's basketball team participating in the Beijing games on the basis of tznius.*

So, why the hoopla? Why are some people getting all worked up over this? It's actually very simple... they don't understand what tznius is about. They think it's about keeping women in the house -- out of public sight, out of public mind. They think it's all about a myriad of rules about elbows, collarbones, the color red, and knees. They think that Kol K'vudah means that a woman has the inside of her home excel in and nowhere else. Of course, history shows us that that idea is false. Devorah was a judge. If you're going to call Ms. Geterer untznius because she's going to be in the spotlight for the few minutes that she's going to compete, what would you say about Devorah who was in the national spotlight for forty years? What would you say about Huldah who also served as a prophetess for the nation?

The point isn't that women have to be hidden away in their homes. The point is that everyone has a calling... and while fulfilling your calling, do it in the most humble way possible. If you're a talmid chochom, don't flaunt your Torah knowledge for personal aggrandizement. If you're a businessman, don't brag about your latest deal -- recognize that Hashem had a part in helping you with your success. If you're an athlete, be gracious and calm. Praise your competition, play honorably, and win or lose gracefully. Those actions are far more in the spirit of tznius than telling a woman that she can never have any public recognition of her deeds.

The Wolf

*I don't want anyone to think that I'm against Jewish athletes competing in the Olympics. I don't think that we aren't meant to compete and stand out above others where our skills allow. The point was that if you're going to say that Ms. Geterer's competing isn't tznius, one could also make the case for the basketball team.

Friday, August 01, 2008

How Many Fallacies/Errors Can You Spot?

Over at Jacob Da Jew's blog, we're discussing the Age of the Universe. One of the commentators on that blog came up with this:

Also please keep in mind that a short while after the world was created there was a worldwide flood and for 40 days and nights (to represent a mikvah and to clean the world) everything was submerged in water (acc. to some opinions this water was actually burning sulfur [this is an answer to the "scientists" who believe we started as a sulfur world]). Have you ever put your hand or anything for that matter in water for a few hours? what happens? it shrivels up looks much older! now try it for 40 days and nights! Now try it with burning sulfur! this is another explanation as to why the world looks so much older than it actually is.


As a side point, I pointed out that according to some opinions the world was submerged in sulfur for 40 days and nights. According to college level science when things are submerged for extended times in liquids especially if those liquids are hot (and especially boiling) they take on properties of being appearing to be older. This can help explain why there are fossils that carbon date to millions of years ago!
All of this about things looking older is not an answer to the question at hand i.e. why the world was created developed, this is an answer as to how "scientists" can carbon date things back millions of years!

OK, without looking at my comments on Jacob's blog, how many fallacies and/or errors can you spot in those 231 words?

The Wolf

Jewish Message Boards -- What Else Is Out There?

I'm a message board junkie.

There, I've admitted it. I love participating in online conversations. I like getting people's opinions, hearing what they have to say and debating. Oh, I love a good debate. I also like finding the occasional ridiculous illogical statements that people make. One of the best sources for these are message boards. I'm a member of a few Jewish message boards and a few "secular" ones as well. And, as always, I'm looking for new sources of information and conversation.

Among the Jewish forums that I know of are as follows (in no particular order):

ChabadTalk -- a Chabad forum that has tolerated me even though I am not Chabad. For the most part, the members there are respectful, even to those who disagree with their positions. However, it's not terribly active. This could be a very good board with more people on it. -- I'm not quite sure what to make of this board. It's far more active than ChabadTalk and has a much wider range of opinion. However, for some reason, many of the threads there just don't hold my interest very much. That could easily be a failing in me and not the board.

Imamother -- Since I'm not a woman, I can't participate in this board. Nonetheless, I do watch some of the threads on the open forums and occassionally find something interesting. More than once I've been frustrated by seeing a post that requests info, having good information for the person, but being unable to provide it. I think they would do well to have a co-ed board and a women's only restricted section.

Frumteens -- We've all seen it. I occassionally go back there, if only out of strictly morbid curiosity (much like a person who just *has* to look at a massive train wreck). The problem with this board, IMHO, is that it is moderated... and rather poorly at that. Opposing viewpoints don't have a chance to get published unless they are poorly-written and easily attackable. Even posts that would normally be allowed are often lost in moderation queue hell and never find their way on to the site. The fact that the board is difficult to navigate and it is impossible to contact people off the boards (by design) makes this a hard-to-deal-with place.

YWN's Coffeeroom -- a pretty new forum. It's moderated, which, for me, is a big downer (since I like to be able to respond to posts right away and not have to wait several hours for a response). I've never had a post rejected by them, however. The range of posters is fairly small and very often posters are shouted down for expressing opinions that are innocuous (notice how I was slammed for doubting the authenticity of a story about a 73 year coma). In addition, their board suffers from a lot of the same software issues that Frumteens does. The modertation on this board leave something to be desired. While it seems like all posts do make it to the board eventually (unlike Frumteens), the updating is done on an infrequent basis. Very often, a day or two can pass before the board is updated. That makes it very difficult to hold a conversation.

Those are the Jewish message boards that I know of. However, I am always looking for more. Does anyone know of any? It doesn't have to belong to any one branch or group of Judaism - heck, it doesn't even have to be Orthodox.

So, what else is out there? I'm always looking for new material.

The Wolf