Sunday, December 24, 2017

"Who Stole My Religion?"


Several weeks ago, in a post entitled "How Frum Is Your Food?", I lamented how the Orthodox Jewish community (and particularly the ultra-Orthodox community) pays very little attention to animal welfare, especially in comparison to the enormous emphasis on stringency with kashrut. Part of the reason for this unfortunate phenomenon can be found in a book that was sent to me, provocatively titled Who Stole My Religion? (an earlier edition of which is freely available online in its entirety here). The book was written by Dr. Richard H. Schwartz, and is subtitled "Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet." It is published by Urim and it is specifically targeted towards Orthodox Jews.

The book has a foreword by Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz who is also listed as a co-author. Shmuly Yanklowitz is a person who has performed acts of kindness to which most of us cannot begin to aspire, such as donating a kidney to a stranger and taking in foster children. However, he has also authored numerous articles which utterly invert traditional Jewish teachings in order to make them harmonious with his contemporary liberal values. For example, he claims that the Torah itself shows a full acceptance of all sexual orientations, because since Adam and Eve were the progenitors of all mankind, they therefore contain all their descendants(?), and thus all genetic sexual proclivities reflect the Divine purpose of humanity(??). Dealing with homosexuality is indeed a problem with which Orthodox Judaism does not seem to have yet succeeded, but claiming that homosexuality is consistent with traditional Judaism hardly makes for credible theology. Yanklowitz has also claimed that it is "spiritually violent" to refer to God in the masculine, and that the Jews' slaughter of their mortal enemies in the story of Esther is morally wrong (apparently they should have let them live, to have another opportunity to plot the murder of the Jews).

Then, back in April 2015 when Obama was president, Yanklowitz very sensibly wrote: "Israeli friends, I love you, but I fear you may be hurting yourselves (and all Jews) by constantly shaming the US President. Let there be no mistake: Israel is dependent upon US support. If there was G-d forbid a major crisis in Israel, the very first call would be to the US President! Responsible Zionism requires humility in imperfect partnerships." Yet, when Trump was elected, Yanklowitz made headlines by rewriting the prayer for the government so as to condemn Trump instead of blessing him, and called for a public fast on the day of his inauguration!

As a result of all this (and more), Yanklowitz might be a very fine teacher of contemporary liberalism, but he cannot be taken seriously as teaching any kind of Orthodox Judaism. Furthermore, this complete loss of credibility, and siding with groups and outlooks that oppose traditional Judaism and/or large sectors of the Orthodox community, means that any truly valuable struggles that he engages in with the Orthodox community are instantly undermined. I mention these problems with Rabbi Dr. Yanklowitz because they mirror the problems with Dr. Schwartz's book.

The book roughly divides into three parts. The first part is an all-out attack on American Jews who are politically right wing. Schwartz, while admitting that the Democratic party is not perfect, makes the bold claim that Republican philosophy cannot be reconciled with Jewish values. Now, I am not American, and I don't know that much about Republicans and Democrats. Still, it seems to me that to correlate the immensely complex array of Jewish values with a particular contemporary political party is naive. It is rather presumptuous to claim that Jews of a different political persuasion have "stolen my religion." It does not seem to have occurred to the author that perhaps these Jews prioritize different aspects of Judaism than he does, or have a different understanding of political and social realities.

The second part of the book is a discussion of various aspects of the Israel/Arab conflict, where the the author laments the lack of peace, and lectures at great length about how valuable it would be to have peace with the Palestinians. You don't say! I would venture to suggest that people who actually live in Israel, and suffer from the effects of Palestinian terrorism, feel this even more strongly than people in the US.

The author feels that the lack of peace is partially or even primarily the fault of the right-wing Israel government and is, once again, the result of his religion having been stolen. On p. 104 he insists that Israel is responsible for coming up with a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. On p. 81, in discussing how to make peace with the Palestinians, he makes the following breathtaking statement:
"Judaism has traditionally been based on reconciling opposites. There is a basic principle of Torah interpretation that says when two verses seem to contradict each other, a third verse will come to reconcile them. Judaism teaches us to listen to all sides of an argument and then try to find a way to reconcile them."
As with the writings of R. Dr. Yanklowitz, this makes a mockery of traditional Judaism and intellectual integrity. The principle of reconciling contradictions, mentioned here, is that of reconciling seeming contradictions between two statements of the same Divine author. This has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with conflicts with other nations. Yes, there is such a thing as creative drush, but this one is just silly. Did traditional Judaism mandate that the conflict with Amalek or the Nazis should be resolved by listening to their side and reconciling with them?!

On p. 85 the author notes that the responsibility for the lack of peace and blame does not only lie with Israel, but he issues a statement of blind faith in the resolution of these problems: "There are many obstacles to a just peace, including Arab intransigence and promotion of hatred toward Jews and Israel, but I believe these problems can be solved." How exactly can these problems be solved? He doesn't say. What is the basis for his faith that this is possible, after so many attempts have failed? He doesn't say.

A common problem with the left is that they often fail to acknowledge the logical possibility that the maximum that Israel can safely cede is much less than the minimum that the Palestinians are willing to settle for (a possibility which, indeed, is supported by all available evidence). The reason why most of Israel is no longer talking about how Israel must seek peace with the Palestinians is not because they are opposed to peace. It's due to most of Israel having woken up to the cold, harsh reality that the dominant forces among the Palestinians are not interested in peace, and the word "peace" for them is simply a politically correct euphemism for conquest. The author writes that "Instead of living in adversarial mode, we need to somehow find a way to move into a mode of conciliation and cooperation, seeking common ground and solution." But maybe there is no common ground with them, and maybe conciliation and cooperation are less important values in their culture than conquest and victory? Furthermore, the Palestinians believe that the Jewish People have no history in the Land of Israel - why would they accept us controlling any of it today?

In any case, even if someone disagrees with the right-wing approach, it's certainly a reasonable and understandable approach to take, in light of repeated Palestinian rejections of the Jewish People having any historical presence or right to any of Israel. The notion that being right-wing is an example of having "stolen Judaism" from traditional, authentic religious values is absurd and offensive.

In the third part of the book, the author moves to environmentalism and animal welfare, in which he raises some very important issues that are, tragically, not take seriously in the Orthodox community. But of course, by now he has already lost all but the most left-wing of readers, so he is preaching to the choir. If there are any Jews in the mainstream Orthodox community that he hasn't yet alienated, he does so on page 206, in which, after discussing the very real problems of factory farming, he writes "I believe that Jews should seriously consider becoming vegetarians, and preferably vegans, to be most consistent with basic Jewish teachings." This statement is utterly wrong, not to mention completely counterproductive. Basic Jewish teachings, over the last few thousand years, have made it clear that it is perfectly legitimate to eat meat. All the problems that he names with factory farming can be solved by eating animals that are not developed and farmed in such a way; it does not require a person to become vegetarian. (See, for example, the excellent animal welfare work of the Jewish Initiative For Animals - which is run by a shochet!) Claiming that good Jews have to be vegetarians simply turns off most Jews to anything that you have to say about animal welfare.

The author discusses turning Rosh Chodesh Elul, the Rosh HaShanah for behemot (domestic animals), into a festival that celebrates respect for the animal kingdom. The problem is that this festival, mentioned in the Mishnah, was traditionally no such thing; instead, it was simply a date for counting newborn animals for tithing purposes. The author, to his credit, acknowledges that this is a conscious effort to transform the original date into something else entirely (just as happened with Tu B'Shvat). The same cannot be said for R. Dr. Yanklowitz, who, in his article about this celebration, claims that celebrating it in this way was God's Intent, and that "the holiday was a means to celebrate the special bond between humanity and the other creations of the Earth." No, it wasn't! Not that such would not be a nice thing to celebrate; it certainly is (and both Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh include aspects of celebrating the natural world). But this is simply not what Rosh HaShanah LeBehemah was about, and to claim otherwise looks intellectually dishonest and silly.

In this forum I have often criticized revisionism of traditional Judaism by the religious right, but the far left is equally guilty of this. Of course, Judaism does evolve. The contemporary celebrations of the chagim bear little similarity to their ancient agricultural forms. In Israel, the traditional festival of Shemini Atzeret has completely disappeared and been replaced by the much more recent festival of Simchat Torah (if you don't believe me, ask Israeli kids what the name of that day is). And we have seen the creation of new festivals, such as the one celebrating pyromania and the reformation of classical Judaism by a pseudepigraphic mystical work. However, there is a difference between the natural, organic evolution of Judaism, and the cavalier dismissal of millennia of tradition and blatant rewriting of Judaism to make it conform with the contemporary liberal left-wing zeitgeist.

The author expresses wonder and dismay at how the Orthodox Jewish community denies climate change and displays little regard for the welfare of animals and the environment. He doesn't seem to realize that he himself, and the people and organizations that he endorses in his book, are partially the cause of this. Issuing blatantly spurious revisionism of Torah and siding with those hostile to Orthodox values are not only going to decrease the effectiveness of your important messages; they will actually cause people to reject those messages, due to presumptions of guilt by association. If there's one thing that I've learned with the banning of my books on Torah and science, and the success of The Biblical Museum of Natural History at reaching the full spectrum of the population (except those that I alienated with my books), it's that you have to respect people's communal values and beliefs, and educate within that framework.

Judaism is a complex system that has been developing over many thousands of years. Yes, there are many problems in contemporary Orthodox society that need to be fixed, and which demonstrate it falling out of step with certain traditional Torah values, as I have written about on many, many occasions. But to reduce Judaism to certain left-wing liberal views of the first decades of the 21st century is no less dishonest (and perhaps quite a bit more so) than defining Judaism as charedism or as rationalism.

The book's title asks, "Who Stole My Religion?" Well, the obvious response from most of the author's desired target audience will be, "You did!"

114 comments:

  1. Excellent post! Thoughtfully written and well argued.

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    1. How do you and others who responded in a similar manner know if you have not read my book. I cordially invite you to read it or at least parts of it at http://jewcology.org/2017/02/the-complete-text-of-my-latest-book-who-stole-my-religion-revitalising-judaism-and-applying-jewish-values-to-help-heal-our-imperilled-planetplease-share/

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    2. My detailed almost point by point response to rabbi Slifkin is at
      http://jewcology.org/2017/12/m-response-to-a-negative-review-of-my-book-who-stole-my-religion/

      I hope Rabbi Slifkin will respond to my comments.

      I would be happy to engage with him in respectful dialogues/debates on topics such as:

      1. Should Jews be Vegetarians?

      2. Should Jews be Environmental Activists?

      3. Is climate change an existential threat to Israel, the US, and the World?

      4. Should Jews Play Active Rolls in Trying to Improve Conditions for Animals?

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    3. There is indeed a good Orthodox case for vegetarianism, since it is better to be machmir about tzaar baalei chaim and baal tashchis (environmental wastefulness issues), by not buying these products.

      However, near-vegetarianism may be preferable, in which people eat fish or meat only on rare occasions such as Shabbos or Yom Tov. This is because for many people today veganism is a full-fledged Avodah Zara that replaces religion. This can be seen in Yanklowitz's views, as described by Slifkin. I'm sure there are vegans who stop wearing their tefilin and tallis (made of animal products), listening to the shofar (ditto), or stop praying for the restoration of Korbanos (like Yanklowtiz). This is simply substituting a non-Torah ideology for the Torah, and it is dangerous enough of a possibility to counsel for near-vegetarianism rather than strict vegetarianism.

      More generally, I strongly recommend R' Dovid Sears excellent book, A Vision of Eden, compiling various Torah sources on vegetarianism and animal welfare. Interestingly, the Sdei Chemed goes so far as to say it's forbidden to criticize a person who for religious reasons chooses never to eat meat. See it inside in R' Sears' book.

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    4. Richard: I tried posting a comment on Jewcology. Since it has still not been accepted, I am posting it here:

      You say in your post:

      “Once again, it is Judaism that has such powerful teachings about compassion, sharing, justice, peace, and so much more… ”

      Indeed it does. Alas it also has extremely powerful teachings advocating cruelty, genocide, war, intolerance and much more beside.

      The problem is that there is no such thing as “The Jewish View”. Judaism is such a vast body of ideas, people and philosophies that almost any view you want to find can be sourced from somewhere in Jewish works.

      I therefore consider any attempt to pigeonhole Judaism into any particular philosophy or theology as fundamentally dishonest (perhaps misguided is fairer) .

      I am a Liberal. But I am a Liberal not because of my religion, nor in spite of my religion but simply because I believe in Liberalism. I therefore choose to focus on those parts of Judaism that fit into such a worldview, and not on the others. But I make no claims that my beliefs are the true beliefs of Judaism.

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    5. Also interesting is that Dr. Schwartz gave a positive review of David Sears' book.
      http://visionofeden.blogspot.com/

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  2. "...the reformation of classical Judaism by a medieval forgery."

    "...you have to respect people's communal values and beliefs, and educate within that framework."

    Dissonance?

    Instead of "medieval forgery," how about "pseudepigraphic classic" that continues to influence Jewish practice and thought?


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    1. Touche! I hope that my blog is only being read by a certain sector of the population.

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    2. No dissonance at all. One can believe the Zohar is a forgery and still educate believers according to their beliefs.

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    3. Asher from LakewoodDecember 24, 2017 at 6:37 PM

      Pseudepigraphy is "fein un voil" but not when it causes the rational and humanistic approach to Judaism to be condemned as not in consonance with Chazal. Most Haredi Jews firmly believe that Zohar is a Tannaic work.

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    4. You hope that your blog is only read by people who agree that it is medieval forgery? How Haredim interpret and let it influence their actions is not the fault a book with indeterminate origin.

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  3. Well critiqued. Amazingly naive to think that Judaism should follow his left wing. agenda. And climate change! What a fraud.

    but,

    "the reformation of classical Judaism by a medieval forgery"

    I assume you mean the Zohar hakadosh. Chas Vesholom!!!!

    IMHO this is another place where rationalists fall down. I accept the difficulty in finding a genuine manuscript from R. Shimon in medieval France, although it's not totally impossible. It seems obvious to me that the Zohar was channeled, i.e. given to R. Moshe Leon psychically. There are many instances of this, in the mesorah for example Boruch Sheomor was revealed in a 'petek that fell from heaven', a clear reference to a revealed teaching. Lehavdil in the non-Jewish world we have the works of Shakespeare (the muses.....), an of course Harry Potter (J K Rowling said the story appeared fully formed in her head). And then there is Enid Blyton who said she wrote her stories by closing her eyes, upon which a film started up inside her head and the characters came on and played out the story, and she simply wrote it down.

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    1. As his name implies, Moses de Leon lived in Spain, not France.

      And I don't believe Baruch Sheamar fell from heaven (who does?), nor in the Muses, nor that Harry Potter is a divine revelation. With all due respect, perhaps you need to change your handle.

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    2. I bet you think Moshe Rabenu made it all up too.....

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    3. There has been a fundamental Jewish belief since, oh, about 2400 years ago that prophecy ended with Malachi, who live, oh, about 2450 years ago.

      Moshe Rabbenu lived about 900 years before that.

      Moshe de Leon lived about 1700 years after that.

      Do the math.

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    4. Moshe Rabenu didn't make it up. Yoshiyahu Hamelech did.

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    5. Asher from LakewoodDecember 25, 2017 at 3:43 AM

      You seem more like Confused or Uneducated than Skeptic.

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    6. Chaim the Rov'sDecember 25, 2017 at 3:48 AM

      Let me wrap my head around this. Someone has respect for the Zohar, real respect as part of the Torah tradition. Yet he says that Harry Potter is equal to the Zohar?!

      I personally believe that Kabbala is part of the Jewish tradition, the Zohar is but one part of it. Even those who had issues with the text of the Zohar (Emden et al) believed in Kabbala. I am not convinced that someone whose does not think so is an apikores. But the comparison to Harry Potter is rich.

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    7. That's awfully smart, skeptic. Putting the fragile provenance of the zohar on the same footing as the Torah...Whoops! Almost forgot! You're a troll!

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    8. @Chaim the Rov, Nachum

      Sorry let me clarify.

      There is Nevuah, with ten levels, there is Ruach Hakodesh also with ten levels, and then bas kol also with ten levels. And below that too. Nevuah as such ended with Malachi, but the concept of transmission did not.
      There are many many worlds, with a hishtalshelus olamus, and a transmission of information down to us in this world can come from any of them. Obviously the Zohar haKodosh is far far removed from HP, but they both share the characteristic of information received down here from a different level.
      At Moshe Rabenu's level it's a direct transmission from Hashem, but others received from malochim, at various levels, and other assorted spirits.
      Make sense?

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    9. Thanks, 'skeptic,' for reinforcing my case by writing that climate change is a fraud. Actually, on climate change, you are not a skeptic, but one in denial, because if you were a true skeptic you would be wanting to learn the facts and would consider why there is such a strong scientific consensus, with, for example, every major science academy agreeing that climate change is a threat to humanity. I wonder if you would say climate change is a fraud to the many who lost their homes in all the recent wildfires an the 3 recent category 4 or 5 hurricanes. Are you aware that we have had 3 consecutive years of record temperatures worldwide and that leaders of all the 195 nations meeting at the 2015 Paris climate conference agreed that immediate steps need to be taken to avert a climate catastrophe.

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    10. @Richard

      Sorry for you if you're still in with the fraud; fewer hurricanes than for a hundred years overall, 40% of temperature readings in the US are (over)estimated as the actual weather stations cease to exist, no rise in average temp or sea levels at all. Trump has seen through it hence his attitude to the agreements. It's all about a money spin. "Scientific consensus" is achieved by blocking anyone who disagrees. Lies Lies Lies.

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    11. @Richard

      ps why don't you use the real term 'global warming'?
      ans: because they couldn't pretend any longer that there was any warming, so they had to use a new term 'climate change' it's just propaganda. The real word is 'weather'. Which of course is variable. The world now is much cooler than the Roman warm period.

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    12. Um, no...

      The average temp is still rising, and it does correlate with the rising CO2 levels in ways the physics would predict.

      So why don't they call it "Global Warning" as often anymore?

      Because faster than the climb in average temp is the rise in its standard deviation -- the range around that average is also getting broader. And so, insufficiently skeptical people like yourself have anecdotal "evidence" to point to, stories of places that for periods of time are colder than usual -- even though the average is up.

      Yes, we've been through bigger fluctuations than this. But since this has a unique cause, we have no reason to believe that just because equilibrium returned then, the will return to equilibrium this time. Especially if we continue pushing it away from balance.

      Personally, I have more faith in Hashem's creation than to think we can dig a hole we can't bounce back from. But I have no science behind that, "just" emunah. Nor does that mean denying the evidence -- climate change, and even global warming, is both man-made and real.

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    13. Its fraud. https://realclimatescience.com/global-temperature-record-is-a-smoking-gun-of-collusion-and-fraud/

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    14. Every time someone talks about "consensus" (which is questionable to begin, and certainly has nothing to do with the UN), I'm reminded of Einstein's line when the Nazis marshalled a thousand German physicists to condemn his theories as "Jewish physics": "If they had been correct, it only would have taken one."

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  4. This is a side point, but did you notice all of the credentials on the cover? Phd, Rabbi, Rabbi Dr. Why do books aimed at a frum audience do this? I read all sorts of books by people with credentials, and you never see their titles on the cover. I can't help thinking that it's an appeal to authority. This guy is right because he has a doctorate!

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    1. I don't think that's just a frum thing. You see it on lots of publications where there's either an extra effort to establish credibility, or a fragile ego.

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    2. Aren't you Rabbi Dr? Or is it Dr Rabbi?

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    3. Lol!! Hence the recent rewording of your blog title?

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  5. Excellent analysis.

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  6. Excellent post.
    "the reformation of classical Judaism by a medieval forgery", can you give more sources for this assertion ?
    So far, I only have read that part of the zohar was a forgery (in the sense that it was not RSBY but students or later amoraim, and some statements much later), but that ALL the zohar is not I haven't read.

    thx

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    1. You need to read more. There is very little doubt that it was written by Moses de Leon in the late thirteenth century.

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    2. After he died, his contemporaries asked his widow for the long-lost manuscript he supposedly based his work on. She responded that he made the whole thing up.

      It is generally agreed that he incorporated some much older material, some going back nearly to Tannaitic times at least, but only a relatively small amount.

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    3. Why is that apocryphal story with his widow accepted as gospel truth? Why aren't the skeptics equally skeptical about that?

      The point is, kabbala was a secret oral tradition before the Zohar. Those who were aware of this tradition, accepted the Zohar as being in sync with this tradition. If the Zohar was not written in its totality by RSBY, it was accepted as the Torah if Tannaim, at least for the most part. One story of dubious lineage is a frivolous method of 'proving' the negative of the Zohar being an irredeemable forgery.

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    4. Nachum: For what it's worth, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan addresses the widow's claim in one of his kabbalah books. If I recall correctly, he dismisses it.

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    5. @Wagner

      The widow was married to the author. Rabbi Kaplan was a believer in Kabballa who wouldn't want his faith disturbed by facts. Somehow, I don't think Rabbi Kaplan is the one with much נאמנות on this one. Which is not to say the claim of the widow is correct. But if I'm going to pick one to dismiss, it wouldn't be her.

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    6. Zichron I don't understand what you mean by the torah if tannaim, but rabbi slifkin linked to a 30 page essay by "rabbi chareidi" which brings many questions about the authenticity of the zohar and even the ari. The most notable is r' yaakov emden's 300 problems with the zohar and his conslusion that much if not all is problematic or outright false. Another huge problem is the (8?) new halachos that were brought about by the ari and the zohar, which is astounding since they have no mekor, yet are followed to day as halacha!

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  7. As a Catholic priest myself I am dismayed by the way in which my religion has been stolen and misrepresented by all those believers in Jesus.

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  8. "In this forum I have often criticized revisionism of traditional Judaism by the religious right, but the far left is equally guilty of this"

    ....um. "Equally"??

    I'm not disagreeing that there's been revisionism and distortion on the right, but the leftwing version of Judaism is completely unrecognizable as related to the same religion.

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    1. FWIW it is very much recognizable as people on the left keep mitzvot and pray in synagogues that are often indistinguishable from those in the center (and even some in the right). Nevertheless Rabbi Slifkin has done good work in his critique of the items here that stretch the bounds of intellectual credulity.

      And how do you defend the celebration of Shalom Rubashkin as a hero by many on the right (and even the center)? He violated multiple serious Torah and Rabbinic mitzvot and has not atoned! Or the adulation of Donald Trump by some on the religious right, who falls short of even the much more lax (according to many opinions) Noachide standards? (I should add that many of the leading members of the #NeverTrump movement were politically conservative Jewish intellectuals, some of whom are frum.)

      I personally am also sick and tired of American Jews second guessing Israel's elected government. If we don't like what it does we should make aliyah. This goes for the right and the left. Equally.

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    2. Agreed. Watch Dennis Prager's recent speech at YU on how leftism is incompatible with Judaism.

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    3. @John - link please?

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    4. Rubashkin did absolutely nothing that other meat producers were not doing, and certainly nothing to harm anyone. He was set up for the financial benefit of others including the judge.

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    5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LwVRTDuA74&t=3396s

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    6. Skeptic:

      The DART rate at Agri was 3x that of the second most dangerous slaughterhouse in Iowa, and nearly 10x the average. (DART: “Days Away Restricted or Transferred” -- the number of days of work lost to injury per year per 100 employees.) This is publicly available data, just hit OSHA's site and do the math yourself.

      This had been going on in Agri since 2001. And if you look at worker safety issues at Cherry Hills and Montex Textiles, before Agri.

      Their not providing safety instruction, employees having to pay for their own safety equipment (eg goggles), cleaning machines while still running and the internals of machines while still attached to power, child labor, paying 8 hours for 12-17 hour shifts, being so heavily illegal alien that they paid only $5-$7 per "hour", paychecks that somehow miraculously came down to the penny (after taxes) to the rent for a mattress on the floor in the company housing -- no money for food or clothing, withholding union dues without actually giving any to a union.... these are not what everyone else did.

      Frankly, a real skeptic would have checked the facts for himself. You're just saying what you WANT to be true.

      And how do you back a ridiculous claim that Federal OSHA, Iowa OSHA or the judge make money on the deal?

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    7. The story they claim is that the judge's husband invested in the jails, right before the raid. I don't know what to believe but there it is.

      I still don't know which multiple halachos he violated. Falsifying a loan application is just one. The rest are not halachos, just secular law. Dina demalchusa in a democracy is iffy at best.

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    8. The celebration is over the commutation of the absurdly long sentence he received. The consensus of 100 former attorney generals and memebers of both houses of congress across both parties was that the sentence was unjust. He served eight years that's more than enough. He paid for his sins.

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    9. The celebration was over the commutation of an absurdly long sentence. The consensus of 100 attorney generals and members of both houses of congress across both parties was that he ws given way too many years. He served eight years, that is more than enough. He paid for his sins.

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    10. Mogro: maybe 8 years is enough to pay for his sins - the American penal system is particularly excessive.
      But then he, a criminal like any other, comes out as a hero and a martyr? That is what disgusts me.

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    11. Yavoy, it more scares me. This is the community we are raising children and grandchildren in. How do we teach that "derekh eretz qodmah laTorah -- proper ethics is logically prior to Torah" is more than a line they saw in 1st grade on a Torah uMesorah poster?

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    12. @Micha, as Jesse Jackson once noted, he was relieved during a late-night walk, that the footsteps behind him were not owned by a member of ethnicity X. That's a better barometer of who and what to be afraid of.

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    13. No, it's a statement about who we ARE afraid of. I raised a son who was the only black kid in his yeshiva. Bias is ugly. And strong and kicking in the frum world.

      None of which addresses my point.

      I am scared of how children turn out, despite the best efforts of their parents, when we're raising them in a community that thinks that bein adam lachaveiro means turning members of our community and potential members as my cheftza shel mitzvah.

      So we do great running gemachs for ourselves, but are perfectly willing to overlook the "minor indiscretions" of a "hero" who merely tortured a bunch of non-Jews and ripped off some banks.

      There is a strong community in Passaic of OTD kids who left because they looked down at the level of ehrlachkeit of the allegedly frum people they were expected to emulate. Kids who volunteer for Hatzolah, Chaveirim, Tomchei Shabbos, who would give you the shirt of their back, but who spend Friday night sitting around a hookah r"l.

      And the kids who stay frum? Can they be truly shomerei Torah umitzvos if this is their idea of what Torah means?

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    14. Micha - please get off your high horse. No one called Rubashkin a hero, no one even suggested it. We celebrated the return of a man to the bosom of his family after many years in prison. The churlishness you display is unbecoming and contrary to the hallmarks of a Jew.

      Further, neither you nor I have any idea of the reason why there are OTD kids in Passaic or anywhere else, and frankly there is no one single reason. You are simply projecting your own prejudices onto them.

      Lastly, do us all a favor and let us know when the "global warming" you believe in is supposed to arrive. Meanwhile, the rest of us on the East Coast are freezing.

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    15. "No one called Rubashkin a hero"? Did you watch the YouTube videos of celebrants in Crown Heights, Flatbush, Lakewood, Monsey? Did you hear what men said into the mike?

      Global Warming is already here. I guess you didn't "get" what I said about standard deviation, and why people like yourself who confuse a couple of incidents with collecting data force them to come up with "Climate Change".

      The world has been getting warmer. That's the average across the globe, and over time. The variety of temperatures around that average (a measured by standard deviation) is getting wider, so that it is more common to get temps further above or further below that norm. Without collecting stats, remembering the cold days can be misleading. You wouldn't notice the 2degF rise as much as the cold winter days (or longer summers and falls -- it's not all about more cold).

      Here, go to the official gov't conspiracy web site, a/k/a NASA's popularist-level coverage of Climate Change
      https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/

      Delete
    16. I did watch the videos indeed, and all I saw were joyous people celebrating. I didn't hear anyone call him a hero, and even if someone did in the joy of the moment, big deal. No representative organization or anyone of import said anything like that, and no one thinks that. The victim of anti-Semitism, yes, but not a hero. Have a little compassion for your fellow Jew. (And your accusation that he "tortured" non-Jews shows you have no conception of what torture is, which is sad.)

      Re global warming, which you not-so-subtly shift to call climate change - I agree that individual events are meaningless. Yet it didn't stop the true believers from breathlessly using the last two warm winters and every hurricane as "evidence" of their beliefs. But when the shoe is on the other foot, its suddenly meaningless. Reminds me of Shmuly Yankelowitz's shifting positions on criticizing the US president. Cant have it both ways, my friend.

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  9. "It's due to most of Israel having woken up to the cold, harsh reality that the dominant forces among the Palestinians are not interested in peace, and the word "peace" for them is simply a politically correct euphemism for conquest."

    That may well be the case now. And indeed the Palestinians may well be by far the more guilty party in causing the sorry state of affairs we are in. However all that is irrelevant. We are all in an untenable and unacceptable situation, which we should at least try to rectify.

    What is certain is that so long as the Palestinians feel like they are treated as subhuman, they will never look for piece. I am not saying that Israel tries to treat them as subhuman, but an unfortunate consequence of constant checkpoints, limited freedom of movement, constant altercations and apparent injustices, is that they dehumanise the Palestinians, who are consequently not interested in peace.

    A progressive approach would be to help build the economy of the Palestinian Territories, and hence get their youth off the streets and doing something useful with their life. To think carefully before doing a stop search or restricting movement. The heavy handed approach is effective in the short term, but destroys the long term.

    Maybe then, in 25 years we will have partners for peace.

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    1. I am old enough to remember that Israel succeeded in banishing arafat to Tunis, and no western leader was prepared to meet him. Israel had complete control of gaza. At that point, it was possible to work with the senior established families of Gaza and create a genuinely peaceful zone with cooperation. However, peres and sarid went behind rabin's back (maybe they literally shot him too....) and in the name of a 'peace partner' brought arafat back to gaza, where he promptly created a local mafia that evolved into the current situation. The entire problem is a creation of the 'peace loving' left wing.

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    2. Are you accusing Peres and Said of murder? A disgraceful posting.

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  10. I agree with almost every single word. But these ones mystified me: "Dealing with homosexuality is indeed a problem with which Orthodox Judaism does not seem to have yet succeeded." I'm not sure what that means. Would you write, "Dealing with idol worship is indeed a problem with which Orthodox Judaism does not seem to have yet succeeded"?

    Homosexuality is not a problem. It's a behavior that the Torah prohibits. That's the sum total of it.

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    1. Yehuda: I would like to know, have you ever had a conversation with an Orthodox homosexual about his challenges?

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    2. Yehoshua: I would like to know: Have you ever had a conversation with an older Orthodox single? Or an Orthodox Jew married to an unattractive wife?

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    3. Agreed entirely. A very well-written post, the one strange sentence, incomprehensible to me, is the sentence you identified. I hope the good host elaborates in the near future.

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    4. The author writes, "but claiming that homosexuality is consistent with traditional Judaism hardly makes for credible theology." Actually it does make for credible theology.

      To be sure Halachah unequivocally condemns homosexuality, but Torah absolutely does not. If it did, it would have condemned lesbianism. It is a form of homosexuality. Torah never condemned it.

      Torah does not condemn male homosexuality either. Genesis 18:22 "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is abomination" is a Christian interpretation of the original Hebrew, which reads "Man thou shalt not lie the layings of a woman. It is an abomination." How do women lay with men? Given the context of the proscriptions of the chapter, it is evident that the physical act as women experience it was not being referred to but rather how women engage in sexual congress with men, viz. as wives, concubines, prostitutes, and "temple prostitutes." The injunction was telling men not treat men as they treat women, that is to sexually dominate the partner, as in the same right to his "uncover the nakedness" as he would with his wife, concubine, or prostitute.

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    5. Yehuda: 1: You did not answer my question. I will take that as a no, and recommend that you do before posting further on the topic. 2: Your "follow-up" questions indicate a serious lack of understanding. Your examples are not of people whose inherent desires make them feel that who they are is counter to the Torah, they are people who in their current circumstance are not able to find a sexual outlet.

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    6. This last reply is kefirah in Torah Shebal Peh. I don't know why Rabbi Slifkin even let that comment stand.

      Delete
    7. Asher from LakewoodDecember 26, 2017 at 6:06 PM

      My friend, I don't mean to minimize the struggles of the homosexual Jew, but no serious scholar of Hebrew or Bible could ever agree with such an interpretation. It is simply beyond credibility.

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    8. Jonothan/David: That is pure conjecture. The more straightforward interpretation of the verse, even granting your translation, is that women "lay with men" with penetrative intercourse, and that is what is being forbidden here. I do not see how "he context of the proscriptions of the chapter" indicates otherwise.
      And in addition, the term traditional Judaism" includes the way the verses have been understood for at least the past 2,000 years, so your point is off-base in any event.

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    9. In fact, the context is clear that the verse means to proscribe simple intercourse and not complex relationships. Just like all other forbidden relationships are only forbidden as simple intercourse, feelings aside. I am at a loss to imagine any way a human brain could think otherwise. Unless it is not the brain doing the thinking.....

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    10. To be sure Halachah unequivocally condemns homosexuality,

      any more is superfluous

      but Torah absolutely does not.

      Torah divorced from Halacha says virtually nothing "absolutely". It can be twisted into anything and then retwisted into the opposite and then again to the nth time.

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    11. Halakhah unequivically condemns same sex marriage ("like the actions of the Land of Egypt") and homosexual relations. Both for Jews, and withint the Noachide Covenant. Not homosexuality. It doesn't try to prohibit the mental state.

      And yes, we need to figure out how to give people born with a desire for a prohibition, a challenge and a call to loneliness, a place within our community. Doubly so because so much of our social structure runs on marriage and parenting.

      Somehow, we have to make it clear that was is prohibited is prohibited, but that someone who G-d is forcing to struggle with that prohibition is indeed doing something heroic. (If that were what "Gay Pride" meant, the Jewish community should have had no problem with it. But here in the real world...) The homosexual person who is trying to observe halakhah ought to have a positive place in our community. Who among us heteros could live a monastic life, that I can think less of someone who is trying to, even if they sometimes fails?

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  11. I was so excited by the title, and so disappointed by the content.

    Politics? Global Warming? Really?

    Judaism doesn't need revision - it just needs a major, major shift in priorities.

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  12. "Shmuly Yanklowitz is a person who has performed acts of kindness to which most of us cannot begin to aspire, such as donating a kidney to a stranger and taking in foster children."

    I think this sells your audience very short. I can think of a number of your readers who did just these things. Never mind "begin to aspire". By phrasing it this way, you subtly tell people that these mitzvos are out of reach. And for many, they aren't.

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  13. See Bechorot, chapter 9. There, we see that the Rosh Hashana for MAASER behemoth is actually the subject of a tannaic dispute, and Maimonides rules like Rabbi Akiva, no less, that the Rosh Hashana for that maaser is the first of Tishrei. So this is another reason not to believe that the first of Elul was ever some sort of animal-lover holiday.

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  14. As the author of "Who Stole My Religion," of course I disagree with Rabbi Slifkin's analysis. I plan to respond in great detail in the next day or two and post my response soon. Meanwhile if you would like to read all or part of my book, please visit http://jewcology.org/2017/02/the-complete-text-of-my-latest-book-who-stole-my-religion-revitalising-judaism-and-applying-jewish-values-to-help-heal-our-imperilled-planetplease-share/. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks for posting this. I read the chapter How to Reduce Anti-Semitism and based on that decided the rest of the book was not worth my time.

      "1. Apply Jewish values to help reduce poverty, hunger, illiteracy, and other social ills." Seriously? Jews have been on the forefront of social justice for 100 years, and you think this has made one whit of a difference in Jew-hatred? Jews have been critical voices in civil rights - contributing more than ONE HALF and the financial support - yet anti-Semitism has been rife among left wing "progressive" groups. That's just one example among many.

      "2. Spotlight the many positive things that Israel does." Then you list a few countries Israel has helped in natural disasters like Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan. Oh sure, that has really helped curb anti-Semitism in those countries, hasn't it?

      "4. Israel should announce that once the Middle East conflict is settled, she will, hopefully along with the United States and other nations, devote a percentage of the money now being used for her military to the improvement of the lives of all of the people in the region by working to reduce poverty, hunger, pollution, illiteracy, and other social problems." In other words, "give us money and we will love you". Do you respect others because they give you things? By the way, in the Middle East, the countries getting the most USA aid are also some of the most antagonistic towards the USA (Egypt, Pakistan, etc etc).

      "5. Israel and Jews worldwide should work actively with others to reduce climate change and other environmental threats." This is one of the most absurd things you are claiming. "Hey, folks, we are seriously working towards climate change". "Yay, we now love the Jews". By the way, in case you weren't paying attention, Israel is VERY involved in climate change initiatives, signed the Paris Accords, committed to reducing per-capita emissions of greenhouse gases by 26% by 2030, etc etc etc. That has really helped reduce anti-Semitism, hasn't it?

      Your other points can be fisked just as easily. I'm a "non-leftist liberal" and find the illogic and naivite of some progressives mind-boggling.

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    2. That rebuttal reads like a collection of letters randomly placed on a screen. There is nothing in Judaism that contradicts trickle down economics. Trickle down may be wrong, but that is not a Jewish value. And climate change is not sourced in Jewish writings either, even though it is probably true.

      In general the author has very little handle on Judaism, ignores TSBP, except when it comes to צער בעלי חיים, which he didn't manage to find in TSBC.
      Leket Shikcha and Peah are not mandatory for non jews or in chu"l. How are they 'Jewish values'?
      Where does Torah mandate healthcare for all? How has that become a Jewish value?

      None of the liberal policies are necessarily wrong, I also believe in healthcare for all. It is when people try and dress up personal beliefs in my religion when they get accused of hijacking it. Say what you mean, that liberal policies are better. Don't call them Jewish, when there is no Jewish source for it.

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    3. @Dr. S., do you write anywhere about Temple Grandin's impact on kosher slaughtering?

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  15. Arutz Sheva reports:

    Why is an Open Orthodox Rabbi seeking more punishment for Rubashkin?
    It was shocking to read Shmuly Yanklowitz' Dec. 22 Newsweek article lamenting the commutation of Rubashkin's sentence and in effect seeking for Rubashkin to remain imprisoned.

    Contact Editor Rabbi Avraham Gordimer, 25/12/17 08:59
    Share

    Rabbi Avraham Gordimer
    Rabbi Avraham Gordimer
    The writer is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, a public policy institute reflecting traditional Jewish thought. He serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine, is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website, and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News and a host of other publications. He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan
    More from the author ►
    We have all read about Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, who calls himself the "Social Justice Rav". Yanklowitz, who was recently referred to by the president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, where Yanklowitz was ordained, as “an inspiration” (see “We are trying to create more Rav Shmuly Yanklowitzes “– here), is known to many as the rabbi who endorses gay marriage, reveres Spinoza and prays that the Temple not be rebuilt, among other unOrthodox declarations.

    Yanklowitz began his very public rabbinical activity as a founder of Uri L’Tzedek, which refers to itself as an Orthodox social justice organization. One of Uri L'Tzedek's initial endeavors was the launching of the Tav HaYosher “ethical kosher” certification program. Tav HaYosher does not focus on the kosher status of establishments’ food; instead, it focuses on treatment of workers and the like. While this is a noble goal, it is hard to understand how Tav HaYosher’s staff, which has no trained or licensed auditors or inspectors, takes upon itself the role of arbiters for compliance with immensely technical and intricate statutes, which are normatively in the jurisdiction of the government, and which require expertise that the Tav Hayosher staff lacks.


    it is hard to understand how Tav HaYosher’s staff, which has no trained or licensed auditors or inspectors, takes upon itself the role of arbiters for compliance with immensely technical and intricate statutes, which are normatively in the jurisdiction of the government, and which require expertise that the Tav Hayosher staff lacks.


    Uri L'Tzedek's most well-known activity was its month-long international boycott of Agriprocessors, run by Sholom Rubashkin, in the summer of 2008. This boycott followed a federal raid on Agriprocessors' Postville facility relating to allegations of various practices regarding illegal workers at the facility, including conspiracy to harbor illegal immigrants, identity theft and document fraud. Immediately following the raid, Rubashkin was accused of bank fraud and related monetary offenses.

    Although Rubashkin's trial for immigration offenses was dismissed without prejudice, and Rubashkin was acquitted of child labor law violations in Iowa state court - all in 2009 - Uri L'Tzedek was on the warpath, prejudging Rubashkin as guilty on immigration, child labor and other offenses well before the courts even heard the cases. Rubashkin was initially charged in October and November of 2008, but the Uri L'Tzedek boycott occurred in the summer of 2008, several months before the charges.

    THERE IS MORE IN ARUTZ SHEVA

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    1. Because they are the erev-rav. Anything Jewish or for Jews they oppose. Anything for the benefit of the enemies of Am Yisrael they are for. 100% eruv-rav.

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    2. Why, Rabbi Gordimer? Its a Midrash: The Midrash writes that one who shows mercy when cruelty is appropriate will ultimately show cruelty when mercy is appropriate (Koheles Rabbah 7:36)

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    3. Avraham, if you read the actual article by R' Yanklowitz as well as the critique by R' Gordimer you may find that the latter is a polemical article rather than a sober analysis. R' Shmuly Yanklowitz didn't express disappointment that Rubashkin's sentence was commutated, but of the prominent celebrations in various Hareidi circles of that event. As Micha Berger pointed out, there is no cause for the celebration of non-family menbers, much less, to lionize him as some kind of Jewish "hero". Does anyone believe that the Feds launched a massive raid on his Pottsville, IA plant without ample cause? They found much incriminating evidence of deliberate hiring and abuse of illegal aliens. The Federal prosecutor, however, chose to only prosecute on the charge of bank and other financial frauds. That long prison sentence that resulted was within guidelines - particularly in view of the other offenses. A threatened long jail sentence is also a ploy commonly used to induce cooperation with the prosecution in order to effect a plea bargain. Given the very limited number of charges, a plea bargain that resulted in a short-term prison sentence could have been easily arranged. Rubashkin was, therefore, not well served by his attorneys who apparently counseled him to fight the charges, instead.

      In any case, Micha has detailed some of the other evidence against Rubashkin (12/25).I would also note that the original boycott of Rubashkin's meat products, contrary to R' Gordimer's assertion, was the result of the PETA video of the method of slaughter at that plant where some cows had their throats ripped after the upside-down shechitah while still thrashing and moaning. The inhumanity to people was first revealed later.

      Y. Aharon

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    4. Acually, Y. Aharon, I said that there is cause for any Jew to celebrate, as it is a good thing when we feel like family members of other Jews. However, we shouldn't lose sight that his behavior was an embarrassment. And so, I think that Rubashkin's release ought to evoke conflicting feelings. That's a far cry from what you cite me as "pointing out".

      In terms of attorneys not serving him well... Why was there no protest when they learned his case would be heard by a judge who actively aided the prosecution to obtain the immigration raid? Her role in the raid was in local newspapers and the NY Times in May, before the trial began. If the lawyers didn't know, that in itself is problematic. Were they thinking that they may have a chance anyway, and they could always throw out a bad ruling by raising Judge Reade's bias in appeals?

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    5. Micha, sorry that I misinterpreted (or is it 'misremembered') your statement about a proper reaction to the Rubashkin news. I must confess to having mixed emotions about his early release. However, I am certainly displeased at the joyous reception and honor accorded to him. Why does he differ from other Jewish criminals? Is it because he only harmed Gentiles? He should never have been a cause celebre. Now that he is being feted, he has less reason to regret his actions that caused his prior predicament. Feelings of 'distant' kinship aren't unconditional. I never felt the need to protest his long sentence and I don't feel the need now to celebrate his release. In any case, I still boycott the meat products of that factory since I haven't heard that they changed their method of slaughter.

      Y. Aharon

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  16. Yasher koach! One of the best articles I have read in a long time.

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  17. Regarding climate change and ideology, the following clips may be of interest:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2-JOINlddM&feature=youtu.be&t=1h6m54s from 1:06:54 to 1:07:17

    https://youtu.be/a2-JOINlddM?t=1h33m51s from 1:33:51 to 1:35:15

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  18. Cant say I agree with many of your views, but this post is excellent.

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  19. 1) I so much prefer your critique of Yanklowitz and Co. to the barrage from the crosscurrents battalion. At least you point out when they write something good, and point out that they are not helping their case. I see no reason to believe that you have personal enmity for these people or that you are wishing or working for their downfall. You just think they are wrong, and you tell why you think so. I don't know why this is a difficult thing to hold by for hareidi writers, but it makes me sad and angry every time, to the point that I would even defend these liberals. Because no matter how misguided they are they continue to be Jews who love Torah and are trying to do what they think is right. No machloket should make us throw out a Jew like trash, gd forbid.

    2) I think that beyond mis-representing progressive Judaism to conservative orthodoxy, these types of people also misrepresent progressive values to progressives / liberals. The fact is that there is no contradiction between believing in Torah min shamayim b'emunah sheleimah and entertaining the possibility that liberal social policies, for instance, would be better for the USA or Israel. It is a very different thing to say, "sure in a democratic republic you really should just let people marry whom they want, and get the government out of it" -- this is not a pro-gay-marriage position but a sort of federalist libertarian position, and it is totally reconcilable with Torah, which maintains its definition of marriage with no need for any government. But the temptation to get in there and change the Torah and its commandments to push one agenda is just too much for some people. It's like they can't live without a haskama for their opinions, so they make one themselves. What they should do instead is try to make their opinions stronger! And this is why I'm sad even after reading to thoughtfully take down this book. Because to me I don't think this is paradigmatic of progressive thought.

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    1. Good point. It is important for all non-Orthodox Jews (including the "Open Orthodox") to understand that among Orthodox Jews, every conceivable political opinion on every issue is present. I know charedi Jews, chassidim even, who are 100% liberal on every American political issue, including the "marriage equality" issue you mention.

      There is a lot of diversity -- far-left Democrats, far-right Republicans, libertarians, and people like me who are socially conservative and pro-Israel but liberal on environmental, animal welfare, and economic issues.

      Among Modern Orthodox Jews, there's probably a 50/50 liberal/conservative split, while perhaps it's more like 80/20 among charedim.

      No matter your political ideology, there is nothing keeping any Jew from joining Orthodoxy and feeling comfortable among frum Jews. So what if you don't agree with many people on their political positions? That happens everywhere.

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    2. Hello Shai. I find that I am holding very much where you are politically/socially. It really tears at me that it is hard to find truly pro-environment and Israel ppl in contemporary politics. Would you like to connect? asegal20902@yahoo.com

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  20. This is where different Theologians begin to explain to us what Judaism / G-d really intends. (The same happens in Islam, Christianity and probably any other religion). In Judaism they begin citing endless pasukim, ambiguous Tenach and Talmidic tracts, obscure and non obscure commentators. I am not sure if they end up convincing anybody but themselves and their choir.

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  21. To Zichron Dvarim at 4:43 pm:

    The story goes that Rabbi Yitzchok d'min Acco, a Kabbalist in Israel in the 14th century, travelled to Spain to investigate the reports that a new mystical work had somehow come on the scene. In Spain. Written by RSBY. This sounded implausible.
    He wanted to interrogate Rabbi Moshe deLeon, but de Leon passed away before Rabbi Yitzchok could fully question him. So the Kabbalist inquired of the widow and daughter separately, and got the same report from both: he wrote a work he attributed to RSBY to increase sales.Noone would buy a work written by him. And there was a shidduch angle as well.
    Want more? See Hakira vol. 2, Fall 2005, Dan Rabinowitz's "Nekudot: The dots that connect us", pp 49--70, but particularly pp 62-64 and see the footnotes there.

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    1. RNS: That paper doesn't deal with the actual data about nequdos. The system of niqud used in Teveria and by us today was not unique. Many documents in the Cairo geniza use "Palestinian niqud" (see wiki) which itself evolved from 6 (the vowels used in Sepharadi accent) to 8 symbols. There was a period in Early Ashkenaz where some system similar to a compromise between Palestinian and our Teverian niqud was more common.

      Meanwhile, there is Bavli niqud (wiki), which also evolved more symbols over time. Teimanim were still using Babylonian niqud for rabbinic texts (mishnayos, targum) into the 20th cent.

      Given that we have evidence of the evolution of niqud, it's going to take some serious creativity to say the current niqud is miSinai. And for that matter, the various niqud systems reflect differences in havara -- even the division of sounds
      into standard vowels (grouping allophones into phonemes) isn't likely to be miSinai, regardless of actually writing them.

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  22. I find it hard to believe that the Zohar is a forgery for the simple reason that the Gra, who knew more Torah than nearly anyone, spent so much time on the Zohar. He more than anybody should have 'smelled' that something wasn't right if it was indeed forged.

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  23. For an often-missed, but essential part of the Rabbi Yitzchok d'min Acco episode see this posting from Dr. Marc Shapiro -- can be found here:
    http://seforim.blogspot.com/2012/08/concerning-zohar-and-other-matters.html


    . . . Returning to my article on the Zohar . . . the following paragraphs that appear in an essay by R. Aryeh Kaplan.[16] It would be great if a reader has examined the manuscript and can testify to the accuracy of what Kaplan reported.

    "Rabbi Yitzchok deMin Acco is known for a number of things. Most questions regarding the authenticity of the Zohar were raised by him, since he investigated its authorship. He was a personal friend of Rabbi Moshe de Leon, who published the Zohar. When questions came up regarding the Zohar’s authenticity, he was the one who investigated, going to the home town of Rabbi Moshe de Leon. The whole story is cited in Sefer HaYuchasin, who abruptly breaks off the story just before Rabbi Yitzchok reaches his final conclusion. Most historians maintain that we do not know Rabbi Yitzchok’s final opinion – but they are wrong.

    Around three years ago, someone came to me and asked me to translate parts of a manuscript of Rabbi Yitzchok deMin Acco, known as Otzar HaChaim. There is only one complete copy of this manuscript in the world, and this is in the Guenzberg Collection in the Lenin Library in Moscow. This person got me a complete photocopy of the manuscript and asked me to translate certain sections. I stated that the only condition I would translate the manuscript is if I get to keep the copy. This is how I got my hands on this very rare and important manuscript.

    Of course, like every other sefer in my house, it had to be read. It took a while to decipher the handwriting, since it is an ancient script. One of the first things I discovered was that it was written some 20 years after Rabbi Yitzchok investigated the Zohar. He openly, and clearly and unambiguously states that the Zohar was written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. This is something not known to historians, and this is the first time I am discussing it in a public forum. But the fact is that the one person who is historically known to have investigated the authenticity of the Zohar at the time it was first published, unambiguously came to the conclusion that it was an ancient work written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai."

    [16] “The Age of the Universe: A Torah True Perspective,” pp. 17-18, available here: https://www.simpletoremember.com/faqs/Kaplan-SimpleToRemember.com.pdf

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    1. Who has this manuscript now? Has any attempt been made to publish it in full for scholarly examination?

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  24. R' Slifkin, you do a good job of showing how Yanklowitz has said totally un-Orthodox things, but don't you do so as well, when you say the Zohar was not authored by RSBY? Can you name a single major Orthodox rabbinical authority who has made such a statement in the last hundred years? Isn't it in effect the minhag Israel among all Orthodox Jews to regard the Zohar as written by RSBY? And isn't denying his authorship akin to heretical Biblical criticism (denying traditional beliefs by using "scientific" methods)?

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    1. R Yaaqov Emden writes that while Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai wrote a text of the Zohar, there he identified some 280 accretions that had to have bin added over the millennium that the text was only transmitted orally. (Or in personal notebooks [?]; I forget if RYE discusses that option.) And that Raayah Mehemna and Tiqunim were added in their entirety. He wrote Mitpachas Sefarim arguing this position, listing these 280.

      This could explain things like discussion of niqud that wasn't invented yet. Also, it explains expressions in the Zohar that reflect a later Aramaic than that of the tannaim, or expressions that seem to be translations of Spanish idioms probably didn't even make it into the kinds of things he was chasing.

      Meanwhile, it says that the vast majority of the Zohar is Rashbi's. So, I gravitate toward that position.

      In contrast, the Chasam Sofer takes the Yaavetz's idea, and says that if we could prune out all the additions, R Shimon bar Yochai's Zohar would be a thin book. In contrast to the multi-volume set it is now. Questioning the authenticity of the majority of the Zohar. You have a good question to ask the Chasam Sofer achar 120 shanah, but don't harangue RNS about it.

      And could we limit the accusations of "heretical" to people who actually violate iqarei emunah? The people who label everyone a heretic end up aiding the cause of the people who say no one is. Both are undermining the traditional pesaqim about whose wine you could share, who can be in your minyan, whether to accept them as converts... Kofeir, apiqoreis and min are technical halachic terms; we need to have clarity about their meaning.

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  25. Thank you for your detailed reply. If possible can you provide actual quotes from R' Emden and Chasam Sofer? There are often rumors floating around about what rabbonim said that are not exactly reflected in the words they wrote.

    Based on these sources as you describe them, it must be legitimate to question whether the entire Zohar was written by RSBY. But to question whether he wrote it all still may be beyond the pale for Orthodox rabbis.

    I agree that it may not be technically heretical, but something can be not exactly heresy, and yet something that is not appropriate for any Orthodox rabbi to say. It does seem inappropriate to base one's beliefs on critical academic scholarship (especially when we don't know whether the source is actually accurate, as in the case of R' Yitzchak of Acco.) (Actually, I remember reading Rav Hirsch saying that for any aggadatic statement, even in the Gemara, it is up to the individual whether he wants to believe it, based on his own reason. This would give us quite a bit of latitude, but I'm not aware of any other Rabbi with such a lenient view on hashkafic matters.)

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    1. R' Hirsch bases his opinion on a number of Rishonim and Geonim (see his letter); he didn't make it up.

      Delete
    2. See the position of Rav Shmuel HaNagid, on his definition of "hagada" in his lexicon usually included after Masechet Brachot. He states the position you attribute to Rav Hirsch.

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    3. You can see an exchange about RSRH's view on Aggadah and Kabbalah between R. Danziger and R. Elias here("Hirschians Debate the True Meaning of Hirsch", Jewish Action, Summer '96 ):

      https://web.stevens.edu/golem/llevine/rsrh/RS%20Hirsch%20R'Elias%20vs%20R%20Danziger%20JAction.pdf

      Delete
  26. Friendly Neighborhood SpelllerDecember 27, 2017 at 2:42 AM

    Typo alert: "The second part of the book is a discussion of various aspects of the Israel/Arab conflict, where **the the** author laments" --

    ReplyDelete
  27. I'm not sure why you did not allow this to be posted the first time I sent it. It's a 5 minute speech by Professor Richard Lindzen, an MIT atmospheric physicist and one of the world's leading climatologists. In it he summarizes the science behind climate change and shows how a lot of the rhetoric out there nowadays is hype. Importantly, he also discusses the fact that the overwhelming majority of climatologists, regardless as to which side of the debate they are on (concerning the effect on fossil fuel burning on climate) agree on fundamentals regarding climate change. For example, even though the IPCC's position s that the burning of fossil fuels is causing global warming, it also holds that we cannot predict the long term effects of this. In other words, we cannot predict, as Al Gore did, that it will lead to catastrophe. This is an eye opener by someone with very good credentials and is relevant to the discussion here. Please post it. Thank you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwqIy8Ikv-c&spfreload=10

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What Moshe Tokayer fails to mention in his citations from Richard Linzen, emeritus prof. of atmospheric science at MIT, is that his view is held only by a small minority of atmospheric scientists and is opposed, among others, by his former colleagues at MIT. Lindzen, is cited by his former graduate students as both brilliant and a contrarian (he even is said to doubt the strong association of smoking with lung cancer). While a minority viewpoint and thesis is sometimes proven to be correct in science, it behooves us to be concerned with the majority view of the experts since the consequences of failure to act can be very severe.
      While the issue of possible feedback mechanisms in climate phenomena may not be fully understood, the large majority of such feedbacks like enhanced radiation absorption by a less snow/ice covered earth, or the enhanced liberation of the potent 'greenhouse' gas, methane, from warming tundra, or the reduced absorption of CO2 from the warming oceans, or the increased amount of water vapor (the dominant greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere due to warmer oceans, are strengthening (positive) feed-backs. Only the possible enhancement of opaque cloud cover that may result from the enhanced water vapor content is a discussed negative feed-back.
      In any case, the increase in average global temperatures in recent decades is now accepted, as is the rise in sea level resulting from the increase in ocean temperature and the melting of land-bound ice sheets and glaciers. That sea-level rise may be the most worrisome phenomenon. If the predicted increases in sea-level occur, then coastal cities world-wide could be imperiled. Not acting or, contrarily, encouraging more coal production (the greatest fuel CO2 contributor per energy produced) is irresponsible.

      Y. Aharon

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  28. " In Israel, the traditional festival of Shemini Atzeret has completely disappeared and been replaced by the much more recent festival of Simchat Torah (if you don't believe me, ask Israeli kids what the name of that day is). And we have seen the creation of new festivals, such as the one celebrating pyromania and the reformation of classical Judaism by a pseudepigraphic mystical work. However, there is a difference between the natural, organic evolution of Judaism, and the cavalier dismissal of millennia of tradition and blatant rewriting of Judaism to make it conform with the contemporary liberal left-wing zeitgeist."

    Actually, there's not. Simhat Torah is a made up festival where people openly flout explicit halacha by dancing on Yom Tov. Lag B'Omer is even worse.

    Further, while to a large extent Leftist *Judaism* is about incorporating foreign elements into Judaism, there is also a contributory internal dynamic that goes like this. Zohar--> Ari--> Nathan of Gaza --> Jacob Frank --> Reform Jews giving genderbending hormones to children and demanding you praise them for it.

    Now, returning to the main issue. Orthodox Jews in exile who endorse social liberalism are essentially taking an 'I'm an alright Jack' attitude disguised as enlightenment. Because Ashkenazi Jews are generally wealthy and intelligent (these facts not being unconnected) they can build institutions that shield them from the storms of liberalism. Meanwhile low IQ populations with low impulse control - White, Black, and Hispanic - have succumbed to promiscuity mass fatherlessness, contraceptive abortion, endemic low level crime, materialist emptiness, social chaos, and drug abuse, which has become so bad that life expectancy for Whites in America is actually declining as a result of opioid overdoses. If Jews must live in America (and, really, there is no excuse), they should at least try to promote policies that protect and shield their less gifted countrymen, if only for our self-protection. If you don't like anti-semitism, don't create a Weimar.

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    Replies
    1. Rabbi Slifkin:
      Why do you let the vile ravings of this lunatic through?

      Delete
  29. One more thing. If a politician gave a speech tomorrow in which he announced that standard forms of welfare would be abolished in favor of a system wherein the poor went to fields and personally gleaned ears of corn left behind by the combine harvester before moving on to the corner of the field left unharvested, this being supplemented by a mandatory charitable donation equal to 10% of GDP in the thrid and sixth year of every cycle, would he be described as (a) a liberal (b) a conservative (c) a fascist?

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  30. good to see the author taking a stance 'to the right' for once.
    am not a regular viewer of this blog but do appreciate its intellectual integrity and articulate writing style. and yes it is far more dangerous than the 'medieval right'. being a bit old fashioned and over-sceptical of change may be appear weak and may also risk alienating certain parts of the frum world, but it does not risk the very future of Torah judaism which is what the liberal orthodox would be guilty of doing if they were to have their way.

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  31. Natan Slifkin,has from time to time made some reasonable points that need to be addressed in charedi culture.However,he has negated any impact he would have had,with all of his other illogical points which may have been fueled by the way he perceives he was treated,(think the classic,you can't fire me,I quit,something the Jewish world has had to deal with by many of it's detractors over the generations).While it is indeed debatable if he was treated unnecessarily harsh,the result was a person that is consumed by getting back at anyone that is associated in any form with ideas,philosophy,community,similar halachic approach with the people that hurt him.That is unfortunate,and it has lead N.Slifkin to display the same charateristics one finds when trying to enagage someone that has a vested interest in not agreeing with you,the conversation goes nowhere quickly.
    I find no better way to explain what the response to N.Slifkin should be,than by using Nathan Slifkins own words in this article.I refer to the the fourth paragraph,that begins,"as a result"etc.
    I will quote this paragraph,and insert in parenthesis how this pertains closely N.Slifkiin.
    As A result of this,(N.Slifkin),might be a fine teacher of contemporary liberalism(educator of various speciescommentator on various cultural lifestyle isuues),but cannot be taken seriously as teaching any kind of Orthodox Judaism.Furthermore this complete lack ofcredibility,and siding with groups and outlooks that oppose traditional Judaism(the list is to long to enumerate),and/or large sectors of the Orthodox community(virtually anyone Chassidic,Charedi ,yeshiva,in Israel or the diaspora),means that any truly valuable struggles that he engages with the Orthodox community are instantly undermined".
    This thoughtful well written paragraph,succintly lays out for the reader,why N.Slifkin,while having some insight in certain areas,and the abilty to express them clearly,can never be allowed a seat at the table of Orthodox thinkers or writers.It is because of the reason N.Slifkin explains so well,"this complete lack of credibility and siding with groups and outlooks that oppose traditional Judaism",to whom is this referring to,if not N.Slifkin himself?It is a shame,as he has talent,and abilities to point out nuances at times,that are missed by others.However,through his personal saga,he has turned against "traditional judaism and/or large sectors of the orthodox community",and as such "any valuable struggles etc. are instantly undermined".

    ReplyDelete

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