Friday, August 24, 2012

Two Summer Anecdotes

Having just returned home to Israel, I don't have anything about Rationalist Judaism to post, but I decided to share two anecdotes from my vacation.

My wife and I took a two-day vacation from the kids in Santa Barbara. On the first day, we were wandering around, looking for a place to sit down and have a picnic lunch. Adjacent to some beautiful residences, we found a grassy area, the nature of which was unclear. It didn't seem to be a park. But on the other hand, it didn't seem to be private property either. So we sat down, spread out our lunch, and enjoyed ourselves.

The next day, we took a tour of the town on an unusual amphibious vehicle. During the land-portion of the tour, we suddenly found ourselves driving right next to our picnic spot of the day before.

"And if you look to the right," announced the tour guide into the microphone, "You can see the sacred grounds of the local Indian tribe, which is left untouched."

Oops. We must have missed the sign. I sure hope that we cleaned up after ourselves properly.

Anyway, it turned out that the local Indian tribe were known as the "Chumash" Indians. Which removed my puzzlement at seeing a beautiful publication of "The Chumash" in the window in the local tourist store. And it seems that those who have accused me of desecrating the Chumash are, in a way, correct!

*    *    *

My nine-year-old daughter returned from summer camp one day and happily told me about her trip to Disneyland. I asked her which part she enjoyed best.

"The blog ride!" she gushed.

I thought that I must have misheard her. "The what?"

"The blog ride!"

"What's a blog ride? You can't ride on a blog!" I protested.

She rolled her eyes at me. "Aba, it wasn't a real blog!"

There's a generational and cultural gap between my nine-year-old American-Israeli daughter and myself, but I still felt that I was missing something. "But what's a blog ride?" I asked.

My daughter patiently explained it to me. "It's a plastic blog. You know, from a tree. You sit in it and go for a ride that splashes into the water."

A log ride. Methinks that my daughter hears the word "blog" too much. Maybe I should cut down.


  1. The Chumash Indians were particularly fond of moose. They've even made a necklace showing their fondness of the animal:

  2. Laughing about the Chumash Indians was always a favorite past time on the way to Jewish summer camp. We wondered if they should be called the Natives of the Book.

    BTW, it's pronounces Chew-mash as in bubble gum :)

    The Jews in LA often call them the Humash Indians with a Het.

  3. Rabbi i must admit at times i feel sorry for you. You remind me of the guy who went to the same restaraunt every day for 20 years and ordered fish & chips.
    It was only after 2 decades when he saw the full menu did he realise all the other delicacies he could have had.
    The way you approach Judaism seems very seem very afraid to venture any further than what you understand and what can be explained on a rational level.
    C'mon Rabbi, there is so much more to explore in Torah and Mitzvoth other then the rational reasons of the Mitzvoth put forward by the Moreh Nevuchim, which according to some authorities was written primarily as a kiruv book (like the name suggests)
    Have you ever opened up a shem m'shmuel a Maharal or Zohar and seen how much depth our religion has?
    Have you ever been a bit broad minded and delved into ideas that you find difficult to swallow?
    Open youself up Nathan, there is so much to take

  4. Eli, I must admit that at times I feel sorry for you. You remind me of the guy who was brainwashed by his rebbeim for twenty years and only later realized all the other approaches to Judaism that he could have had.

    You seem very afraid to venture any further than what your anti-rationalist charedi rabbeim have taught you.

    I spent many years studying Maharal etc., and initially I found them very inspiring. But eventually, I realized that instead of discovering depths, they were inventing new creations.

    C'mon eli4, there is so much more to explore in Torah and Mitzvoth other than the mystical innovations of Maharal. Have you ever opened up the Moreh Nechuchim (which according to Rambam was the Chochmah of Emes) and seen how much intellectual rigor our religion has? Have you ever been a bit broad minded and delved into ideas that you find difficult to swallow?
    Open youself up Eli, there is so much to take!

  5. Cute, R' Natan - but Eli4 seems to be laboring under the misapprehension that "rationalist" refers to "rational reasons of the Mitzvos in Moreh Nevuchim".

    If that were the case, it would be limiting indeed. They tend to be only partially satisfying at best, regardless of their source.

    Eli, "rationalist" follows the pasuk in the Chumash, "What is hidden is for G-d, what is revealed is for us and our descendants"

    ... that the Torah is meant to be understood, that everything we need to know has been revealed in Torah she'bichtav and Torah she'b'al peh, and it is up to us to labor in Torah to understand it to the best of our ability.

    If you find THAT limiting, oy v'avoy.

  6. Very cute stories. Actually, the first story is more like a "yikes" story. In any event, they both made me smile.

  7. Rabbi Slifkin commented: "But eventually, I realized that instead of discovering depths, they were inventing new creations."

    It's not easy to argue against a position of the Rambam's, but wouldn't the Rambam's attempt to make a synthesis between Torah and Aristotle also be considered "inventing a new creation"?


  8. In a slightly different way, but, yes, with regard to many things that Rambam held. (But not with regard to his approach to Chazal and science!)

  9. White shirt CHAREDIAugust 27, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    Rabbi Slifkin, i sure am happy that it was you sitting on that patch of grass belonging to the indian tribe.
    If it would have been a white shirt charedi eating his lunch there, you would have written up a long post on this blog how the charedi education system has failed so terribly, as they do not even instill ethos of derech eretz in their youth.
    Now that it was only you, you managed to give yourself the benefit of the doubt that "you must have missed the sign"
    Just some food for thought.

  10. So you're being dan lekaf chov that I would have been dan lekaf chov?

  11. As a Rationalist and a Maharalist (torah is so vast it encompasses both mehalchim) i take issue with you for writing on the Maharal he was "inventing new creations".
    You may not appreciate his depth, but that doesnt mean you need to play him down.
    You have accused your opponents in the past of ignoring the views of the rationalist rishonim, perhaps Rabbi Nathan you have a little lesson to take from those charedim....they may ignore those rishonim and brush them under the carpet but at least they dont speak of them in a semi derogatory way as you have done on the Maharal

  12. I think that it is vastly more respectful to record someone's view and explain why you disagree with it, than to pretend that they never said it and dismiss it as outside of normative Judaism. Which would you rather someone did with your views, in 500 years time?


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