Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Distressing Prevalence of 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

Amidst the horror of seeing the videos and photos from the 9/11 attacks, I came across the following extremely depressing information: 
In August 2004, a poll by Zogby International showed that 49 percent of New York City residents, with a margin of error of 3.5 percent, believed that officials of the U.S. government “knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act.” In a Scripps-Howard Poll in 2006, with an error margin of 4 percent, some 36 percent of respondents assented to the claim that “federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center or took no action to stop them.” Sixteen percent said that it was either very likely or somewhat likely that “the collapse of the twin towers in New York was aided by explosives secretly planted in the two buildings.”
Conspiracy theories are by no means a strictly domestic phenomenon; they can easily be found all over the world. Among sober-minded Canadians, a September 2006 poll found that 22 percent believe that “the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 had nothing to do with Osama Bin Laden and were actually a plot by influential Americans.” In a poll conducted in seven Muslim countries, 78 percent of respondents said that they do not believe the 9/11 attacks were carried out by Arabs. The most popular account, in these countries, is that 9/11 was the work of the U.S. or Israeli governments.
(From Sunstein, Cass R. and Vermeule, Adrian, Conspiracy Theories (January 15, 2008). Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 08-03; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 199; U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 387. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1084585 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1084585.)
The consequences of irrational thought are far worse than merely denying dinosaur eras.

48 comments:

  1. The thing about the first claim, with 49%, is that these New Yorkers might have been thinking, slightly incorrectly, about this:
    http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=91651

    "U.S. intelligence officials warned President Bush weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network might hijack American planes, but White House officials stressed the threat was not specific."

    (Since it was not a specific stress, we don't precisely get to 'on or around Sept 11).

    Then, they would be thinking of accusations of Bush's incompetence, not of Bush's complicity in the attack.

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    1. You can explain the poll that way, or you can simply disregard it. How do we know the pollsters are accurately recording the data? I don't put it past anybody to simply make up numbers. People lie all the time to promote their agendas.

      Alternatively, if one wishes to cling to the belief that polls (comprised of biased human beings) are honest, you can just examine the data. You can poll two sets of people in (say) Harlem and Lawrence, and nearly 100% of the respondents will say two diametrically separate things. You can then put them together to say that 50% of the population believes X. (That's how we get these ridiculous surveys saying half of Americans don't know the multiplication tables, when every single person in your school district can do them in their head.) What meaning does such a poll have? NOTHING. When you have a totally diverse population base, even if the statistics are reported accurately they mean nothing.

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  2. It seems to me that the use of the word 'irrational' as a label of certain views can obfuscate the real issues. While the attitude, apparently not uncommon in the Arab world, was to regard the 9-11 destruction as an Israeli/American ploy to justify military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. That can be labelled as apologetics and a rather childish reaction, "He did it, not me". When many New Yorkers placed the blame on their government, they are being cynical. It's not that they knew of direct evidence of such involvement, but that they were unwilling to accept the notion that bureaucratic inertia, misdirected governmental priorities, and bungling kept the critical leads from decision makers in time to prevent the disaster. They also had no understanding of how a large scale fire can weaken an enormous steel structure to the point of collapse (the designers of the twin towers also neglected to factor in that possibility). The fact that the Bush administration allowed Saudis - including members of the extended Bin Laden family to leave the country just after the disaster is another element arousing suspicion. After all, nearly all the 20 terrorists involved were Saudis. While one can look at such a reaction with askance in that a very serious charge of their government deliberately causing the death of thousands of its citizens must come with very strong evidence, it is not irrational. What is irrational is to deny the considerable evidence for the existence of living dinosaurs and for a very ancient earth.

    Y. Aharon

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  3. I guess it's real rational to believe that 767 Jumbo Jet hit the pentagon even though there was no evidence at the site like say... a whole the size of the plane in the building, dead bodies, luggage, airplane seats, Wings, a fuselage, a black box, titanium jet engines, or even a simple video proving it from the hundreds of cameras around the pentagon. And it's super rational to say 2 planes knocked down 3 building from lots of fire, for the 1st and last time in history ever. O'h and I'm sure it's totally irrational to say Larry Silverstein the lease owner of the WTC admitted to pulling down building 7, even though he is on film admitting it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeuQqP-NLnE Suggesting that the government and media lies is just blasphemy.

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    1. You forgot to mention diet soda being a test of poison, Michelle Obama being a man, speeches being played backwards to reveal subliminal messages, and the moon landing being a hoax.

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    2. If you posted that before watching https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43F54hR0NW8 "9/11 Debunked: Larry Silverstein's "Pull It" Explained", then you're just not real interested in research.

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    3. Shlomo, I can only hope you're being sarcastic. All the points you made have long been debunked. You really think Larry Silverstien would admit on record to the crime of the century, also, as the lease owner he had nothing to gain from the tower's being destroyed..

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  4. I think it has a lot to do with BDS: Bush Derangement Syndrome. A serious psychological disorder, anyone experiencing this disorder should be institutionalized immediately.

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  5. IMHO the more important question is what are the factors that lead people to believe such theories. I don't think it's simply magical thinking, there's a lot of distrust in the atmosphere - is it due to the spirit of the times, past experience.....? Without knowing the cause(s) it's hard to suggest an antidote (and whether the antidote is worse than the disease)

    KVCT
    Joel Rich

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    1. It's less frightening to think that 9/11 was a carefully controlled inside job than it is to think that a handful of people could do that to the most powerful country in the world. If the government did it, we can protest it, fix it, and it wasn't random violence. If it really was terrorists, then it might happen again randomly, and time, anywhere, and that's terrifying.

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  6. Just read a disturbing essay that Bush was aware the Saudis, family friends, were sponsoring bin Laden big time and was briefed they planned to attack but refused to get all the details so as to be able to maintain deniability. I'm beginning to believe the worst of our administrations.

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  7. The first belief, that the US Government "knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act" is significantly more rational and less conspiratorial than the rest of the wackadoodle. It isn't crazy to think that there were security lapses and some negligence on the part of the government by overlooking potential threats.
    Nonetheless, the the rest of the post is disheartening.

    R Stefansky

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    1. Google "how many flights are there per day in the US" and you'll see that the number is staggering -- 87,000. And that is per day. Imagine if scrutiny would need to be paid for a total of 3 or 5 days, 9/11 in the middle and a day or two before and after. What is supposed to be done? What can the government possibly do to rein in terror. That's what makes terror so difficult to prevent and manage and handle. Even if you uncover 99/100 plots, 1 can still get through to kill and main hundreds and thousands of people and wreak havoc. And that's just flights.

      Imagine there were credible evidence that an attack would occur in NYC -- other than posing SWAT teams throughout the city, that's mostly to scare the terrorists. Are they supposed to have checkpoints and stop every car and interrogate them all? The George Washington Bridge alone carries about 276,000 cars per day, and then there's the Lincoln and Holland tunnels as well, for another 108,000 and 100,000 cars, respectively. And that's just 3 major crossings between NY and NJ. And how long is each checkpoint surveillance session -- 1 minute? 3 minutes? 15 seconds?

      There is no way to halt terror in the face of a truly willing and able adversary because the numbers are always in their favor. Sure, prevention can and does help, but birth control that's 99% effective can still result in having about 1 child per year.

      To summarize, these are all the wrong questions being asked. It really doesn't matter even if there were credible evidence because to take true measures to avoid an attack would cripple the city, and no one appreciates crippled cities until they can see the prevented deaths with their own eyes.

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    2. But what if the intelligence specifically indicated a threat originating from Suadi Arabia to take over commercial airliners? You think you could ask all the flight schools in the country for a list of recent non-citizen trainees? Could airport security have taken a closer look at the luggage contents of all Saudi's boarding planes? Would that have been a manageable task? I think so. But, that's profiling. Until we accept that using profiling to dwindle down the huge numbers you showed, to a more manageable amount, we're not even doing what can be done to give ourselves the best chance.

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    3. "There is no way to halt terror in the face of a truly willing and able adversary because the numbers are always in their favor."

      False, at least if we are talking about stopping attacks of the magnitude of 9/11 as opposed to random knifings by teenagers. Indeed, if the policies of the Clinton era had simply been continued by the imbecile George W Bush, the attacks would likely have been stopped.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0q-Ki3pDzaM

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    4. The idiotic post above by Gavriel M. should be removed. This post is for RATIONAL people. Let him go spew his stupidity on some political site somewhere.

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  8. Anyone who has looked at the evidence presented in the documentaries know that the official version is nothing more than propaganda. Since when has digging for the Truth become 'conspiracy'? The facts are, there was a conspiracy by the US Gov to cover up evidence, tell outrageous lies and remove the evidence from the crime scene. If you think questioning this is 'irrational' - I suggest you look at the evidence presented in the docos first and then make a judgment. Someone has to please explain how US military grade explosive residue ended up on site as well as all of the hundreds of other discrepancies that challenge the official version. Unless of course your happy to take the US gov's word for it. See http://www.documentarywire.com/watch-online/ for the docos.

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    1. I hope that after you read the following: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Trade_Center_controlled_demolition_conspiracy_theories you will lose confidence that explosives were used on the WTC. And this, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnbJ7w7s41I "Debunking 9/11 Thermite Myth"

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    2. And the liquid aluminium ? The list goes on, what has been scientifically established by the many scholars and engineers that have examined the evidence, it all points to one fact: The US gov has lied and covered up what really happened. Why? Is it the first time in history? No. I just think Americans cannot cope with the fact that their Gov (as other western govs) feel their own people are disposable for their own agendas. Because facing this is too painful, they prefer to try and work out another reason. Evil is Evil and its not over yet. Its reported that whole cities are will now be permitted to be taken out, killing millions of Americans, so their policies can move forward. Sadly, voices can only warn, people have to heed the warning to take action to move out of the danger zone. Whats coming will make 9/11 look like a small event. However you cant warn someone that trusts that their gov is looking after them.

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  9. Here's a semi-conspiracy of sorts: I simply don't trust the polls you cited. I would very much like to see the exact questions asked as well as the study's methodology (who was asked the questions, etc.). There are just too many ways in which data can be skewed and/or manipulated for me to believe these polls which don't even closely resemble my experience talking with people and reading various news sites and blogs over the years.

    You live in Israel, Rabbi Slifkin. If you lived here, I think you would be skeptical too.

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    1. You're definitely right that the methodology used has to be known for the polls to be meaningful.

      However, I will point out that on a blog dedicated to rational thought, 4 out of 12 people seem to believe the conspiracies. Not exactly scientific but that does correlate with the polls.

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    2. The fact that those conspiracys may be true, doesnt seem to dawn on you? or just dosent count as the gov always tells the truth ??

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    3. Avigael, I don't believe the gov't always tell the truth. I do believe that the debunking videos and articles I've read are far more convincing than the conspiracy theory videos and articles. YMMV.

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  10. When I saw you post, I was almost certain that the numbers were inaccurate, anyone knows that ya good pollster can manipulate questions and samples to get the data that they want. I would have thought that it is an insignificant minority of Americans who believe in 9-11 conspiracy theories.
    However, looking at the first comments on this post, I guess that 9-11 conspiracy is more widespread than I would have thought. The last place I would have expected to see conspiracy theorists is on the comments page on a blog dedicated to Rationalism.

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  11. How do you explain the towers falling at free fall speed including building 7?

    http://www.ae911truth.org/

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    1. They DID NOT fall at free fall speed and no matter how many times the conspiracy clowns say they did, will not make it true. Ever. It's a recorded f'ing event! Video and audio. Your claim is a lie and it makes me sick.

      Blog owner please forgive my language but this is egregious and infuriating dishonesty by weight loss man.

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    2. DNL, you have described how you sussed out the figures who gave you bad advice in the name of religion. Let me suggest that the 9/11 truthers are their intellectual brethren.

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  12. Fascinating how the comments here, from posters at least portraying themselves as Jews, prove Rabbi Slifkin's main point - that irrational thought, even Jewish irrational thought, lends itself to such idiocies as some of the 9/11 theories.

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  13. "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”(attributed to HL Mencken)

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  14. I think the point of such disbelief is not that it is rational or irrational, but rather it points to the fact that US citizens are weary of politics, media, and the oversaturation of info which is mostly suspect or slanted. No one knows who or what to believe or trust anymore. This demoralization has rendered people powerless (by choice!) who are just so tired, they've given up, including the ability to sift through facts (because even facts are suspect) and think for themselves. The results of such a mindset are tragically obvious.

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  15. Events like 9/11 breed conspiracy theories. Another good example of this is the idea that the hijackers got into the USA from Canada, taking advantage of lax Canadian passport controls. This theory was floated in the first few days after the attack, then quickly proven false (none of them came through Canada, they were all in the USA legally). Nonetheless, it has been repeated by politicians across the spectrum in the USA, and I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of respondents in surveys believe it.

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  16. Rav Slifkin is right to point out the seriousness of these conspiracy theories. After all, the virulent genocidal antisemitism leading up to the Holocaust was just another conspiracy theory.
    I find it distressing that even something as well documented as the Moon landings is believed to be a hoax, even though the landing sites have been photographed in recent years by satellites orbiting the moon. I have even heard people in the aerospace industry claim the landings were faked. You can talk until you are blue in the face and these people will not be convinced.
    This shows that there is a very dark side to too many people's psyche. The Arabs are particularly prone to what George Orwell called "double-think"...believing two contradictory things at the same time. For instance, Arabs will call Israel "Nazis", yet at the same time they will say that they admire Hitler ym'sh but they say there was no Holocaust, but then follow it by saying there was and it was a good thing. Many Muslims around the world say , as was pointed out, that 9/11 was really carried out by the US, Israel or whoever, but the 19 who did it are great heroes. In the case of the recent wave of stabbings, the Arabs would say that the stabbers were all nothing more than innocent bystanders who had the knives planted on them, but then they will say they are great heroes and should have schools and parks and streets named after them. How are we supposed to reason and make peace with people like this? How long will it be before some other Trump-like "loose cannon" starts in with a new round of virulent antisemitism?

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  17. The film Loose Change probably had a lot of influence.

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  18. This is so depressing. Jewish conspiracy theorists, if their titles are t o be believed. But arguing against them is pointless, they simply call you a sucker, or sellout. Even Noam Chomsky thinks these guys are off the wall.

    Going against my own advice, let me try this. A while ago there was a wealthy Jewish philanthropist named Safran. I think he lived in Monaco. One day his butler set a fire in the mansion, hoping to rescue him and be a big hero.
    It didn't work. Safran died of smoke inhalation, and thebutler was arrested. That was a conspiracy of one, and it went wrong. Imagine a conspiracy involving hunderds, if not thousands. Mobody messes up, nobody sees anything, nobody spills his guts to a friend or lover. And nobody refuse this call to murder thoudands of US citizens and goes to the press.



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    1. Edmond safra. Gave a lot of money to tzedekah. Was syrian (actually lebanese) orthodox.

      The French police didn't allow his bodyguard into the building to take him out.

      And it was his male live in nurse who was suspiciously charged with setting the fire.

      Even the fam doesn't believe the french.

      (The french are the governmental authority in monaco.)

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    2. I assume you are referring to the death of Edmond Safra. If one looks around Jerusalem there is a lot given in his memory from the inside where seforim are kept for the Kotel to schuls and plazas etc.

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    3. That's right, the name was Safra. Thanks. My point is that any plan,of any complexity becomes enormously complicated to execute. Read some stories about Mossad exploits, or how they captured Eichmann. A horn honking, a patrol showing up accidentally, or somebody getting hit by a lucky shot, anything like that and the whole plan collapses.
      The way the Saudis did 9/11 is the simplest. Get in legally, learn to fly a jet aircraft, hijack it and fly it into the first tall buildings you see across the Hudson. No government body to suborn, no sneaking in with steamer trunks of bombs to plant no military need be involved, just a few lunatics, and they die at the scene.

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  19. Zogby is not a reliable polling firm. They use opaque and ad hoc methods to achieve their results.

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  20. "Everybody" knows the source of the disaster. Either the Jews did it, or it was done because of something the Jews did/were doing someplace to somebody.

    And nothing you scan say to such people will change their minds. It is like having a discussion with a paranoid or cargo cultist. No matter how much logic, reason or evidence you bring they will find a way to talk around it.

    ACJA

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  21. Many people believe things that are demonstrably false. Here's one:

    "Talent is equally distributed around the world, opportunity is not" Bill Clinton (I'd give a date, but it seems to be a phrase he uses a lot).

    This is demonstrably untrue, it's a lot more demonstrably false than 9/11 conspiracies, it's about as demonstrably untrue as anything on earth and, what's more, in the absence of any evidence, it's not even a priori plausible that it might be true. Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure many of the "rationalists" here would respond "Yes" if presented with it in a Zogby push-poll.

    So it's easy to point out that other people believe untrue things.

    That said, if Zogby had called me up, I would, if given the option, have answered 'don't know', if pushed I would have said 'no', but possibly, if I was feeling cranky, and not paying close attention to the terms of the question I might have said yes.

    FDR was basically a cripple for the entirety of his Presidency and very few people knew about it, despite his bout of Polio having been a matter of public record. Flash forward to 2016 and only last week, it was a "conspiracy theory" to suggest Clinton had a health problem. The difference is that the ubiquity of cameras plus the ability to share videos on the internet made it impossible to sustain this lie, so now we know we had pneumonia. Of course, we only know she has pneumonia because she says so, so what's the rational response to a question like "Does Hillary have Parkinsons"? I would argue the only rational response is "don't know".

    And this logic applies essentially to all matters of state: you don't know. You know what you're told and you know some of that is lies and some of is true and you have no way of working out which is which. That doesn't mean that conspiracy theorists know better, it just means you don't know, so don't waste your time thinking about it. Spend your time thinking about something you have a chance to know about if you put the effort in, like hilchot treifot or genetic drift, or whatever.

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    1. It is true that we can't know for sure, but some beliefs are more reasonable than others.

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  22. Just realize that is a fine line - a very fine line (perhaps no line) - between Irrational thought and religious faith/belief.
    In some ways, religious faith is just as irrational as 9-11 conspiracy theories...

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  23. Clever idea to subtly filter out which of your regular commenters are bonkers.

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  24. It is a shame that some people are persuaded by such conspiracy theories whose dissemination must detract from the credibility of those hypotheses which can at times be reasonable regarding the true story behind some current events.

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  25. Part of the problem is that governments officials, including POTUS, routinely disseminate lies in order to push their agenda. To pick one example, Obama knew that the Affordable Care Act would f*ck up many peoples health care plans. He felt that it was OK for the greater good. It was the only way to put universal health care on the table. Obama knew it. It was obvious and he's not stupid.

    The problem was, ACA wouldn't pass with POTUS giving a speech like "Hey, many of you will lose your private health care plans. Sorry. We cannot give you universal health care without breaking some eggs. Overall, the people will be better off. Get over it." So instead, he told the people what they wanted to hear and he got ACA passed.

    The last POTUS that people trusted not to lie was Jimmy Carter and we hated him.

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  26. "Obama knew that the Affordable Care Act would f*ck up many peoples health care plans. He felt that it was OK for the greater good. It was the only way to put universal health care on the table. Obama knew it. It was obvious and he's not stupid."

    All five of those sentences are highly debatable, and I'm inclined to think are wrong. But I think politics should be kept out of the blog. The blog should be - what do they want to call it? - a safe zone.

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  27. Sorry but it's obvious that the official story is a lie. Don't know why you can't see it, there is so much evidence. Those buildings were specifically built to easily withstand a plane flying into them. Jet fuel burns at 600 centigrade and steel melts at 1600, so it's physically impossible for the steel to melt. Pilot trainers say it's impossible to steer a jet into the buildings at full speed. And so on. The moon landing was a hoax too. Remember which animal chazal say is Edom, and why.

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  28. I can see that you are an expert at your field! I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business. Kabbalah

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