Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hominid-Lupine Transmogrification - UPDATED

Today, I have two PDFs for downloading.

The first is a collection of my posts responding to Rabbi Bleich's article on spontaneous generation, which has been slightly edited. Download it at this link.

The second is a new article from Rabbi J. R. Bloch regarding hominid-lupine transmogrification. REMOVED.

Enjoy! Please share them with readers of Tradition who might not read this blog.

44 comments:

  1. Here's what I would have liked R. Bloch (not to mention R. Bleich) to write:

    "I believe in taking the words of the Rishonim to be 'true'. So for example where they speak about werewolves, I would argue that this is either 1) a theoretical/conceptual discussion, or 2) nishtanei ha'teva, or 3) a metaphorical/psychological discussion. I recognize that these arguments run the risk of going against reasonability and evidence, and I know that the 'burden of proof' remains squarely on me, but I feel I must adopt one or more of these arguments, because it allows me to maintain my belief about the Rishonim, which I hold to be a pillar of my faith. Of course Rabbi Slifkin's arguments are valid, and indeed compelling, and certainly there is room within the mesorah to take that position. But I hope he and others will grant me the space to maintain my position, knowing that it is faith-based, and not empirically-based."

    I found R. Bloch's piece frankly depressing - depressing for its underlying desperation, which comes across in his use of Latin and academic language to cover up for the lack of a strong argument. Depressing in its condescending tone, its lack of humility and deference to possible good points made by the other side. And depressing in the lack of honesty to say that at the end of the day this is really a faith position.

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  2. Oy vey.

    In order to understand Rabbi Bloch's article, see Rabbi Bleich's article at http://www.traditiononline.org/news/article.cfm?id=105678 (though you'll have to pay $2 to download it).

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  3. Coincidentally, DT's reaction to the article by Rabbi Bloch is exactly the same as my own reaction to the article by Rabbi Bleich.

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  4. Another excellent piece by the great Remus shlita.
    Faultless logic.

    And great big words too.

    Happy Purim

    Lol.

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  5. I give up. What does the name "J. Remus Bloch" hint at?

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  6. I assume it's a reference to Uncle Remus (Joel Chandler Harris) and his immortal characters, Brer
    Rabbi(t), Br'er Fox, and Br'er Bear.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  7. "J. Remus" is a Harry Potter reference - Professor Remus John Lupin was a werewolf.

    That said, as much as I enjoyed the parody, the Afterword, IMHO, took it way too far, and descended into outright mockery of R' Bleich. Regardless of the validity of his opinion on this issue, I would think both Kavod HaBriyos and Kavod HaTorah (both your own and R' Bleich's) would require more.

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  8. I think its more likely that as a Gen xer NS is referring to Remus Lupin the werewolf from Harry Potter.

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  9. Akiva: Well, that shows how much I know!

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  10. You are a talented guy. Have so much to offer. Yes, it's hilarious and biting.

    But please tell me:

    Purim or Not, Adar or Not, Rationalist or Not -- what part of Judaism allows mocking any human being, certainly a substantial Torah Scholar who has given very much to the Torah world -- because he disagreed with you. He didn't ban you. He didn't mock you. You feel he was wrong, slightly sharp with you, and that he didn't respond properly. So what? Mock him?

    You can argue you are highlighting the ridiculousness of his position -- but I don't believe common decency or any form of Yiddishkeit allows what you did.

    Respecting Torah Scholars, respecting your elders, not mocking -- are all very Rationalist.

    Like I said the ban has changed you. In some ways for the better (more free with yiur scholarship)but some ways very much not so. It is sad to see what you have allowed them to do to you.

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  11. I wonder if those criticizing "Rabbi Bloch"s article have read Rabbi Bleich's article? It's almost word-for-word identical.

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  12. Yitzchok AdlersteinMarch 6, 2012 at 9:24 PM

    I hope that our strong friendship will survive, but I must protest taking the kavod of mori v'rabi Rav Bleich lightly. There have to be limits even to clever satire. Bizui talmidei chachamim of the highest order should be one of those limits. I believe you owe R Bleich - one of the halachic giants of the generation - an apology.

    B'tochachah megulah v'gam ahavah megulah,

    Yitzchok Adlerstein

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  13. Rabbi Adlerstein, are you claiming that Rabbi Bleich's arguments are not equally applicable to werewolves, or that it is somehow wrong to point this out?

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  14. uh...sir it was SATIRE of Rabbi Bleich not simply "making a point". There are apparently plenty of commenters here who didn't get that....

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  15. I thought this blog about showing people that there is a rationalist alternative to maximalist understandings of the mesorah. That there is a healthy "eilu va'eilu", a plurality of approaches, to understanding Judaism.

    This post clearly defies that concept by ridiculing someone with whom you disagree.

    Ridicule, leitzanus, is the direct opposite of rationalism. It cuts through critical thought and fosters prejudging ideas.

    Supporting neither respectful dispute nor rationalism, this exercise was everything you claim this blog isn't.

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  16. I would never ridicule someone merely because I disagree with them.

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  17. This blog is disappointing. How don't know who you consider your mentors but would they approve of this ridicule? I have seen you mention Rabbis Malinowitz, Bulman, and Adlerstein, admiringly. Do you think they would approve of this behavior?

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  18. "I would never ridicule someone merely because I disagree with them."

    Implying...
    a) you DID ridicule R' Bleich, and have a good reason (ie, not revenge)
    b) you DIDN'T ridicule R' Bleich
    c) other
    -?-

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  19. RNS: I would never ridicule someone merely because I disagree with them.

    Except you just did.

    This isn't humor or parody, it's ridicule and leitzanus.

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  20. I repeat: I have never (to my recollection) and would never ridicule someone merely because they disagreed with me, even in public. I did not ridicule Rav Aharon Feldman, even though he published an essay explaining my "heresy."

    Two questions for those objecting to the essay:
    1) Have you actually read Rabbi Bleich's article?
    2) Do you consider belief in werewolves to be ridiculous relative to belief in spontaneous generation?

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  21. It seems to me that R. Slifkin was basically just showing that R. Bleich's arguments apply equally well to werewolves. To the extent that there is an "edge" to R. Slifkin's article, I would guess that it is due to the fact that R. Bleich's article is not merely silly (defending spontaneous generation and so on); it is also incredibly condescending and arrogant. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that R. Slifkin's article was pointing this out.

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  22. God demands that we apply our reason to many obscure things about which Scripture has left us free to decide. And when someone suggests you believe in a proposition, you must first examine it to see whether it is acceptable, because our reason was created by God, and whatever pleases our reason can but please divine reason, of which for that matter, we know only what we infer from our own reason by analogy and often by negation. Thus you see to undermine the false authority of an absurd proposition that offends reason, laughter can sometimes also be a suitable instrument.

    William of Baskerville in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose

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  23. Yes, I read the article. (I figure you won't drop that question if I don't get it out of the way.)

    It doesn't change the fact that you are now just trying to justify your ridicule, rather than admit you misjudged.

    Also, it was pointed out to me... Your final point about brain death applies to anyone who doesn't reject the gemara, rishonim and acharonim (as being about bad science) when they rule on brain death. As much true of R' Moshe Tendler or Dr Avraham Steinberg as your target.

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  24. Could it not be argued that the very concept that one has to treat the presentation of profoundly stupid ideas with 'respect' merely because they have been annunciated by a rabbinic worthy is highly dangerous and itself leads to the proliferation of nonsense? If we want to avoid regressing to the lowest common denominator then I think it is fair to regard certain sentiments as worthy of mockery, irrespective of who voices them. As a matter of fact I would submit that the greater the standing of the one promulgating a ridiculous idea, the more it needs to be mocked, because the task of depriving it of legitimacy is that much harder.

    To give an example with more immediately nefarious consequences, it is reported that there are some gedolim who are opposed to vaccinating children. Inasmuch as this 'dangerous idea' leads to illness and death, I hope we would all agree that were a gadol, whose word typically carries great authority, to get up and recommend to his followers that they not avail themselves of vaccinations, he would be mercilessly pilloried, and this degradation would be worth it if it would lead to people to disregard that gadol's advice.

    Regarding the issue at hand, whilst the societal impact of the magical mentality promoted by those such as Rabbi Bleich may have less obviously harmful consequences, it could plausibly be argued that his article makes eradicating the anti-scientific mindset prevalent in many quarters of Orthodoxy that much harder. How do we ever expect to see scientific and technological progress if our 'thought leaders' make such an awful mess of the basics of the scientific method? Is it really the case that there is no link whatsoever between the quackery one comes across in the frum press every week and views such as Rabbi Bleich's? If there is a connection, and I for one believe that to be the case, then mock away.

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  25. There is another Chazon Ish someone once showed me where IIRC he criticized the Eitim L'binah for saying Chazal erred in less harsh terms, and has a different langauage than the one RJDB and RAF quoted in his letter from the Kovetz Iggarot.

    I believe the other Chazaon Ish is in Rosh Hashanah 138; has anyone seen this?

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  26. "Two questions for those objecting to the essay:
    1) Have you actually read Rabbi Bleich's article?
    2) Do you consider belief in werewolves to be ridiculous relative to belief in spontaneous generation?"

    I do consider both to be ridiculous. Which is why I do not object to the general concept of the parody, or its execution up to the point of the Afterword - because it was an assault on the idea put forward by R' Bleich, not on R' Bleich himself.

    In the Afterword, however, you went off the rails. That devolved from a satire of R' Bleich's position on spontaneous generation to an attack on R' Bleich himself. The "Booyah" at the end was a dead giveaway.

    All I can do is suggest you take stock and be honest with yourself. You say you would never ridicule someone "merely because they disagree with" you. But even if the ideas they espouse are ridiculous, you should still refrain from ridiculing the person - even if ridiculing the idea is legitimate and warranted. Are you certain you did not cross that line? Because many people who normally agree with you (myself included) think you have.

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  27. To all those criticing Rabbi Slifkin for his essay: Which of the following describes you best?

    1. You believe that no one can ever be made fun of

    2. You believe that all people can be made fun of, unless they have an encyclopedic knowledge of the opinions of medieval rabbis

    3. You believe that all people, including those with an encyclopedic knowledge of the opinions of medieval rabbis, can be made fun of, provided the fun-making is done by one with an equally encyclopedic knowledge of the opinions of medieval rabbis

    4. You believe that a well-articulated defense of spontaneous generation by a (hitherto) highly-regarded academic is so humorous that attempts to humor it detract from its very humorousness

    5. You would hate to see a key component of your curriculum vitae be reduced to a laughingstock

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  28. "Two questions for those objecting to the essay:
    1) Have you actually read Rabbi Bleich's article?
    2) Do you consider belief in werewolves to be ridiculous relative to belief in spontaneous generation?"
    1)Yes
    2)Yes
    And regardless of my second yes, the reason you chose to satirize with the werewolf example is because YOU KNOW it is considered to be more ridiculous. You are attempting to portray that which YOU consider absurd as something that EVERYONE considers absurd by making this comparison. If you thought werewolves were no more ridiculous then your parody would have accomplished nothing!

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  29. Trepidation Vol XMarch 7, 2012 at 3:09 AM

    It seems you took "Hevei OZ kanemer" very seriously.

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  30. I just paid my $2.00 and read Rabbi Bleich's article. The vast majority of "R. J. Remus Bloch's" essay (including the notes) is taken almost word for word from R. Bleich's essay, just reformulated for werewolves. This is EXACTLY what one means by parody.

    I agree that R. Slifkin should not have not concludued his parody with: "Booyah" and the quote from R. Uren Reich. A few other side jabs should also have been omitted. The parody was devasting enough. Kol ha-mosif gore'a.

    In R. Slifkin's defence, however, (setting to the side certain liberties allowable on Purim), I would point to the very sharp edge of R. Bleich's essay. R. Slifkn's letter was strong, but respectful of R. Bleich. R. Bleich retorted by accusing R. Slifkin of engaging in sophistry. Not nice at all.

    R. Adlerstein: As you know, while I more often than not disagree with you, I have always respected your views. Here too you have a point, though, in light of my remarks, your criticism of R. Slifkin is much too harsh. But don't you thnk that R. Bleich also deserves to be criticized for his overall nasty tone and particularly for his accusing R. Slifkin of sophistry?

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  31. I think Josh asks a good question, do you think your mentors (whoever they might be) would be proud of this post?

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  32. Out of deference to certain people, I have removed the satirical piece.

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  33. Your final point about brain death applies to anyone who doesn't reject the gemara, rishonim and acharonim (as being about bad science) when they rule on brain death. As much true of R' Moshe Tendler or Dr Avraham Steinberg as your target.

    Absolutely! I have said so many times.

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  34. the reason you chose to satirize with the werewolf example is because YOU KNOW it is considered to be more ridiculous.

    Like, I suspect, many people, you have missed the point. Belief in werewolves is widely CONSIDERED to be more ridiculous than spontaneous generation. But it is in fact NOT more ridiculous. (If anything, it is LESS ridiculous.)

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  35. I posed this question earlier, but it seemed to never have been posted. You write, "I understand the questions as to how they determine this, but I still think that they are big enough authorities to rely on." May I ask why Rabbis Herzog and Glasner are greater authorities on whom to rely than the Chazon Ish, etc. whom Rabbi Bleich relies on?

    I'm not sure that I understand. You want Rabbi Bleich to adopt a position of which you yourself are aware of inherent errors/questions within solely on the basis of their authority? You yourself cannot justify the approach of permitting something that was permitted only on the basis of scientific error, yet you would not only rely on it lihalacha but are upset that Rabbi Bleich does not mention it?

    Sounds rather non-rationalist to me.

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  36. Who said that they are greater? I just think that they should be mentioned. And I can think of at least two ways of justifying their position.
    As I mentioned previously, I understand if someone wants to take the opposing position, of saying that halachah should be changed, as long as they acknowledge the ramifications.

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  37. Can you explain the two justifications? I have not seen mention of them here.

    And can you elucidate the ramifications?

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  38. Just a quick question. Without trying to be gross. If Salamanders and mice were also believed by Chazal to be spontaniously generated, would that make them kosher? Not that I am hungry or anything.

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  39. 1. The article is still up, only the link was taken down. People can still use the Google.

    2. I don't get Tradition, but I can tell what the article said based on what you posted. I wonder if that's copyright infringement.

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  40. My comments seem to be swallowed; not sure what I'm doing wrong.

    Would you mind explaining the justifications? I have not seen mention of them here.

    And can you elucidate the ramifications?

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  41. It's ironic that towards the end of Rav Bloch's article that he mention's that because Rashi was a Rishon we have to take the information that he gives us with simple faith on the account of Rashi being a holy rishon. Therefore whatever he wrote was based on ruach hakodesh. Nobody gives the Rambam such latitude.

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  42. I guess this is a question for you to answer privately, not publicly: When you wrote the satire, were you free of the feeling of nekama?

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  43. Question for Pliny:

    When you wrote your comment were you free from a holy-than-thou attitude?

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  44. Dokter Rabbiner Avrohom Van HelsingJuly 3, 2012 at 3:20 AM

    Why was the link to Rabbi Bloch removed?

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