Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Guaranteed by Dovid HaMelech!"

Check out this mind-boggling flyer at Chaptzem.

Money quotes:


"guaranteed (sic) by Dovid HaMelech"

"How can you possibly ensure the safety of your family?"


Tzedakah is a great thing, but there is a real risk here that it can lead people to be negligent about their hishtadlus. I remember after the Versailles tragedy in Talpiot, hearing a rav lament how some people were claiming that it was due to lack of tzniyus, etc. He said, "It happened because people think that they can short-cut safety regulations! Venishmartem me'od lenafshosechem is also a mitzvah!"

16 comments:

  1. "guaranteed (sic) by Dovid HaMelech"

    should be

    "guaranteed [sic] by Dovid HaMelech"

    "Parentheses () enclose material that is a interruption of the text but adds information...Use brackets to enclose additions to quoted material. Tehse additions, made by editors or writers, usually clarify or comment on the material...'There were few Esquimouxs [sic] living in the region we explored.'" Essentials of English Grammer 2nd Edition, Baugh, page 47.

    "Tzedakah is a great thing, but there is a real risk here that it can lead people to be negligent about their hishtadlus."

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say that most of us reading your blog need mussar on emunah more than we do on hishtadlus.

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  2. Thanks for the correction on the parentheses, these things actually are important for me! (I'm a yekke.)

    Re. your second point - you're absolutely right. But my goal here is not to give mussar at all, rather to discuss issues relating to rationalism. In fact, aside from the problems with the wording of the flyer, there are serious questions to consider relating to the very nature of the enterprise. What would Rambam have said about tzedakah preventing travel accidents? The answer is unclear.

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  3. I encountered a different version of this....I was talking to a young Hesder Yeshiva bachur who told me his Rabbanim said that the reason that we lost Gush Katif was because "we didn't show enough love for Eretz Israel". I replied "no, the reason we lost Gush Katif was because we had flattered, supported and voted for dishonest, corrupt politicians for years simply because they supported settlement in YESHA at one time while ingnoring all the negative things they were doing". The bachur then said "I hadn't thought of that".

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  4. In our valid criticism of this poster, we must be careful not to minimize the Torah's reason for tragedies: "because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy" (Deut 28:47)
    Y.Ben David, perhaps you shouldn't have said "no" to this bachur. You could've said, "maybe, like the case of the passuk above, your explanation is a more distant cause of the expulsion and my explanation is the more proximate one."

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  5. I don't see the stira, but I think I see why a "rationalist" would.

    According to the "mystical" pshat, there are natural, understandable things going on in this world. Like structures falling down due to shoddy building practices, or loosing Gush Katif due to "corrupt politicians". No-one denies this.

    However, the the mystical view would ADD that their are spiritual forces that are behind these physical phenomena.

    I think you make a false dichotomy when you present it as the rational OR the mystical explanations. The mystical does not deny the rational, it simply posits that there is something in additional to the "rational" going on.

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  6. Just to clarify, I didn't mean to imply that "the Torah's reason for tragedies" was the Torah's ONLY reason.

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  7. Talmid-
    I think that, although in principle, you may be correct, there is a world of difference regarding what sort of conclusions the person contemplating these things reaches, regaring the nature of future actions (hishtadlut) one should take. Regarding my Gush Katif example, if one says "it happened because we don't love Eretz Israel enough", one might decide that the best thing is to do is to learn the Germara in Talmud Yerushalmi on Seder Zeraim. If one thinks it is primarily due to corrupt politicians, then one might decide to become active politically. We can then argue which is "correct" until the Mashiach comes, but the first approach is a more "passive" approach, typical of Jewish attitudes in the pre-Zionist era. While it might be best for some people to go in this directions, others, with a more activist bent might feel that the political direction is best. However, since there is a traditionally strong passive attitude towards public affairs in the yeshiva world (both Haredi and Zionist) I decided to "shake up" this bachur by giving him a different perspective, one I feel may not be receiving enough attention in the yeshiva world. After all, it is a mitzvah from the Torah to have a government and the government should be well run and honest, and it is incumbent on all observant Jews to see that this is the case, and not do what so many people do today which is to throw up their hands in despair and say "they are all corrupt so why bother to get involved" which is what the corrupt politicians love to hear from the population.

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  8. >According to the "mystical" pshat, there are natural, understandable things going on in this world. Like structures falling down due to shoddy building practices, … However, the the mystical view would ADD that their are spiritual forces that are behind these physical phenomena.

    If a building collapses, we can do one of two things. We can monitor structures for weaknesses, examine how stresses cause these weak points to fail, and track how multiple structural failures lead to collapse. If we can pinpoint all of these factors, we could predict exactly when any given structure will suffer catastrophic failure. Unfortunately this requires knowledge of multiple disciplines and a great deal of work.

    Or we can say that God has a plan for everything in the world, and He chose this particular time for the building to collapse.

    Mystical explanations have a tendency to be stop-gap explanations for complex phenomena.

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  9. Yep, this narishkeit has been going on for a few years. Brought to you by the same types of yidden that promote chai rotel and other superstitious segulahs...

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  10. This type of narishkeit is designed to fleece the insecure person by playing to his/her fantasy that s/he can control G-d.

    The navi of Talpiot that you quote is even more arrogant. He actually dares to talk for HaShem.

    I find it instructive that batei din don't raise a ruckus about such things as false neviim or ridiculous claims about controlling G-d.

    Just curious... why is this? Do we have a basic belief that fleecing the vulnerable is legitimate form of religious activity? Or do we just believe "caveat emptor" and take a laissez-faire approach?

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  11. "Mystical explanations have a tendency to be stop-gap explanations for complex phenomena."

    No! You miss the point completely. I can see you people have no clue of how those who follow the chassidic (or Litvish mystical) derech look and the world and operate within it.

    We do not deny empirical physics, engineering, chemistry, etc etc. nevertheless, we accept that G-d is working through these mechanisms. Why is this so hard for you to understand, and why do you keep repeating this false dichotomy?

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  12. I think that the point is not that mystics deny the mechanical explanations, but rather that they very much focus elsewhere.

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  13. 1) Why is this any different than sponsoring a day of learning for a neshama? Do we trade in different currencies depending if a person is alive or not?

    2) The effectiveness of the "policy" aside, it is clear that all this institution is doing is trying to creatively raise money. People want something in return for their donation.

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  14. If only the victims of the Crusades or the Holocaust knew that by rounding up a bunch of kids to pray for them, they would be protected! Oh wait, tons of righteous people, including righteous children, did pray, and it didn't work.

    When people pray or learn for someone, no one claims a guarantee that their prayers will be answered.

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  15. Well, y'never know. Maybe there would've been seven million.

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  16. > We do not deny empirical physics, engineering, chemistry, etc etc. nevertheless, we accept that G-d is working through these mechanisms. Why is this so hard for you to understand, and why do you keep repeating this false dichotomy?

    You referred to “spiritual forces that are behind these physical phenomena.” I assumed you meant something like shadim or other spirits that supposedly act on the physical world and serve as explanations for why things happen.

    When rifled firearms were first introduced there were two competing explanations for why a spinning bullet was more accurate. The first explanation held that the spin threw off the little demon that rode the bullet, and so he was unable to pull it away from its target. The second explanation held that the demon enjoyed the spinning ride so much that he guided the bullet to its target.

    If by “spiritual forces” you simply mean that God is working through natural mechanisms, then that cannot be refuted. It is also completely irrelevant. If God’s actions in the world are limited to the mechanistic workings of nature, then God is irrelevant to this world. To use a clichéd example, He is like a clockmaker who built a clock, set it in motion, and does nothing to interfere in its working. If so, then spiritual forces are indistinguishable from physical forces, and we’re debating what to call it. If for you spiritual forces = natural law, so be it.

    This is very different than the traditional view of God as concerned with our actions and micro-managing the world so that nothing happens without His willing it so. (And if you want to say that He wills things to happen in accord with natural laws, well, maybe so, but that just brings us back to what I said above.)

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