Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Foxholes and Fatalists

"I’ve yet to meet a chareidi Jew who denies the laws of physics exist." That was one of several such comments disputing the post that I wrote last week, Denying the Reality of Physics. Others pointed out that charedim are very particular about hishtadlus in many areas. 

Allow me to elaborate. 

Consider two positions at complete odds with each other. One is a purely materialist position, in which nothing exerts influence other than the cold, hard laws of physics - a position usually believed to be taken by atheists and hardcore Maimonidean rationalists. The other is an extreme mystical position, a sort of theological fatalism, in which either the laws of physics have no actual reality whatsoever, or they have very little application, since miracles are performed by God and righteous people all the time. 

I doubt that there are many people - if anyone at all - at either of these positions. 

We are human beings, and we are thus complex creatures. There's an old saying that "there are no atheists in a foxhole." On a personal level, I can attest that I have firm beliefs about providence - divine intervention in my own life - that are completely at odds with the rationalist Rishonim. 

Likewise, however much some people claim to believe that hishtadlus has no real value and should be minimized as much as possible and everything is in God's hands, they will put an enormous effort into hishtadlus - and rate it as having very real value - when it's something of pressing urgency to them. Charedi ideology purports to maintain that one must not send yeshivah students to the army, because it's the spiritual benefit of their study that provides real security, and one must also not take away time from Torah study to prepare for a job, as everything is in the Hands of Hashem - but when there are elections, and charedim want to rally support for votes in order to get more money for their sector, they empty the yeshivos! It's true that there are no atheists in a foxhole, but there are also no theological fatalists in an Israeli election! 

And so the reality is that there is nobody (or hardly anybody) who occupies either extreme. We all fall somewhere in the middle. Nevertheless, some of us are closer to one side, some to the other. That may to some degree be due to our innate inclinations, but to a large degree, it is also affected by our education and environment. 

If you have a worldview, stressed in yeshivos and sefarim and the press (and see this example at Aish.com), that the laws of physics are a "smokescreen" which have no genuine reality (as per Rav Dessler), that they are regularly overturned by God and righteous people (as per various chassidic and sefardic groups), that hishtadlus is just a "fine" to be paid and should either be minimized or not done excessively, that one's parnasah has absolutely no connection to one's education or even to working, then the result is inevitable: unless something is of very obvious urgency (like elections), people will not take the laws of cause-and-effect seriously. 

And then there's something else: If you have a worldview in which the national/ secular authorities are the "other," and one is not a true part of the national entity, and one does not join in the national days of celebration and sadness or national service and there is room to discuss whether one can steal from the State, then people are less likely to take laws and procedures seriously in general. There might be very good historical reasons for the development of this autonomous identity, and it might have some very beneficial effects in terms of creating a sense of community and neighborly kindness and avoiding assimilation, but it nevertheless has these negative effects too. 

The combination of these two factors is why, generally speaking, charedi Jews, and especially chassidic Jews, have relatively less concern for secular laws that relate to scientific considerations. One obvious example is with regard to safety on the roads, whether with regard to seat belts, car occupancy, or traffic regulations. Another obvious example is with regard to obeying regulations on airplanes. And yet another is with regard to Covid restrictions.

Putting all this together, when you have an enormous tragedy resulting from years of insufficient concern for engineering-related regulations, the underlying factors are obvious.

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  1. The other side of the coin is:

    When you have an ideology that minimizes the importance of Torah and mitzvos, that belittles talmidei chachamim and Chazal, which minimizes Hashems's hashgacha in the world, which jokes about the efficacy of tefilah and the consequences of sin, in which it is perfectly acceptable to say large portions of the Torah are lies, where Torah study is no better than secular education--

    Then it should be no surprise if the result is most people not keeping Shabbos, kosher, taharos hamishpacha, arayos, tefilah, or any other mitzvos, where mishkav zachor is perfectly acceptable and commonplace, where a good deal of people are complete atheists.

    There might be very good historical reasons for the development of this secularist approach, and it might have some very beneficial effects in terms of medical, technological, and economic development, it may even have support in the Rishonim. But it nevertheless has these negative effects too.

    1. Even if what you wrote wasn't a gigantic pile of unfiltered shtus, you still have the giant difference that one derech affects everyone else in a very negative way while the other is nobody else's business

    2. No, that's not true. In that way it is no different whatsoever. The secularists certainly do affect everyone else in a very negative way. Starting from their children, of course. But also their relatives, friends, neighbours, strangers who see them conducting themselves the way they do. And if they are famous or influential or have a platform in the media, they can affect thousands or even millions of people.

    3. You seriously don't understand the difference? If you don't want to be affected by "secularists", don't listen, and be strong in your beliefs. On the other hand, none of what is described in the post is under the control of the affected group.
      What you described is the equivalent of a secularist complaining about chabad

    4. It's very easy to say "don't listen, and be strong in your beliefs". But reality says otherwise. People are in fact PROFOUNDLY affected by their surroundings. That is simply the way things are. And as a rationalist, you surely believe in the way things are, rather than the way that you would like them to be!

      Secondly, but more importantly, what about the millions of children brought up by secularists? Their upbringing is not under THEIR control! And they are harmed in the deepest way possible.

    5. happy -- I disagree. Rishonim would not support secularization. The Rishonim were very religious. I do agree with you that secularists are highly influential. This is a problem.

    6. It's not easy at all, but you are comparing apples and oranges.
      I'll clarify what I mean. The problem people generally have with Charedim has to do with what Rabbi Slifkin outlines in his post: their beliefs are often accompanied by extremely and objectively undesirable side effects, be it shrugging off corona restrictions or serious damage to the local economy. These directly impact the secular population.
      Aside from this, nobody cares that Haredim are vocal about their religious beliefs. They can shout and advertise them as much as they want. Live and let live.

      "what about the millions of children brought up by secularists?" If they are convinced by religious arguments when they grow up, they can become religious. Who's stopping them?

    7. Uh, what you are saying only makes sense from a materialist perspective. But chareidim would say the opposite. The problem people have with secularists is that their beliefs are often accompanied by extremely and objectively undesirable side effects, be it, be it causing people to be mechallel Shabbos or engage in gilui arayos, or be kofer in Torah and Mitzvos completely, or become atheists.

      To chareidim, these are infinitely worse objective side effects than whatever you described. And not only chareidim. Anybody who describes themselves as a Torah Jew would agree that living one's life as a non-observant, mechallel Shabbos Jew or an atheist is an extremely bad thing. And any ideology that leads to millions of Jews living that way has a very large downside.

      The idea that children raised by secularists can become convinced by religious arguments when they grow up is, of course, completely unrealistic.

    8. Oh please - all are ignoring the actual meaning of HGL's analogy.

      Of course being surrounded by secularism is influential. Living in the "real world" is difficult. This is why the Chareidim generally do not do so.

      Labelling Rationalist Judaism, a way of thought that tends to save people from "falling off of the derech" explicitly because it enables us to accept both a physical reality and a spiritual reality, as "secularism" is insulting and simply factually wrong.

      But it is insulting and deliberate straw-manning to say that the rationalist position "minimizes the importance of Torah and mitzvos" and "belittles talmidei chachamim and Chazal"! HGL and others simply refuse to accept the reality that it is OK to have immense respect for Chazal without believing that they were gods or prophets or Illuminati. (Gods in that they automatically knew everything about the world, prophets in that they were told everything about the world, Illuminati in that they kept it all a secret for thousands of years.) I think it's amazing that Rabbi Akiva was able to come up with drashos about the tagin on the ksav. If there are some of them that are relevant to halacha l'maaseh, we will gladly fulfill them. But I do not need to feel that because he likely was not aware of Kepler's square-cube law of orbits that this makes him worthy of denigration. Only those on the antirationalist side come to denigrate chachamim just because they don't know something that has not yet been discovered.

      It defames the rationalist position

    9. Guess what, Yosef R. I am simply doing the same as our host. I am putting all secularist influencers in the same basket, the same way he puts all chareidi influencers in the same basket.

      If it's fair to say that the "chareidi mindset" causes some people to drive recklessly. Despite the fact the fact that the VAST majority of chareidi rabbis would instruct people to drive carefully. Then it's also fair to say the secularist mindset causes some (many) people to be mechallel Shabbos. Despite the fact that some secularists/rationalists would protest that they do in fact keep Shabbos.

      What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

      Instead of complaining about me insulting and defaming rationalism, complain about people who insult and defame perfectly decent, kind, cautious, and law-abiding chareidim and chareidi rabbis.

      You complain about strawmen. What kind of strawman is it when somebody says the mindset of resistance to government interference in yeshivos causes people to drive recklessly or do extremely dangerous things??


    10. And you refuse to accept my - and everyone else's - point

    11. But Happy, there are not only two schools of thought: secularist and Chareidi. Nonchareidi Orthodox is a thing. You are conflating things that are not conflatable. There have been people on this blog protesting the differences between "yeshivish" and "chassidish" which is much less of a difference! The arguments here are against ideology that believes that science is pas nisht and that saying that Chazal were human is a chillul Hashem. Unfortunately, those who say these things are also the same people who behave as if the Israeli government is no better than the Czar and that making money is yehareg v'al yaavor.

      Sure, leave reckless driving out of it. Mazel tov. Find backing for tax evasion being JUSTIFIED LEGALLY AND MORALLY in any other strain of the population. (As RNS said, sure other people do it, and they are wrong, but they don't get up on a soapbox and say that it's the right thing to do.)

    12. You have not made any point. If you have a point to make, make it.

      Meanwhile, you ignore my point- that you have absolutely no problem attacking chareidim and their rabbis with the shoddiest straw men, with the most ridiculous generalizations and oversimplifications..but when I engage in a similar exercise for the secularists (in a much more logical way I would add), you go berserk.

    13. Ahhh, Yosef R, so you have discovered nuance! There are not just two schools of thought, secularist and Chareidi. Well then, wouldn't you know it, Chareidi is also not just one homogeneous school of thought either!

      Just like one who highly values secular education is not necessarily mechallel Shabbos (although it is much more likely, depending on how secularized the person is), so too somebody who doesn't value secular education will not necessarily steal from the government! So too somebody who is against the secular state won't necessarily drive recklessly! So too somebody who wants segregated busses won't necessarily organize extremely dangerous events in Meron! Chareidi thought is NOT a homogeneous mass, any more than secular-valuing thought is!

      However, if you want to go with the overbroad generalization approach as our host does, you can just as well say that most Jews who embrace secular education also are mechallel Shabbos. But now that you have shown yourself to be somewhat reasonable, why should I go there?

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  3. RNS
    I think you are oversimplifying complex issues.
    1) i don't think Corona to be connected with Hishtadlus it is due to the direct threat of Chasidic lifestyle which is very much based on social interactions. People take risks on matters very dear to them, especially when it comes to religion.Take the נוער הגבעות as a example, they will take extreme risks to their lives and live in dangerous locactions etc.due to their beliefs.It is also not connected to physics or lack of education as any uneducated person can understand how a a infectious disease transmits. (they also knew about infectious disease in ancient times). You will see that Litvaks where a lot more careful.
    2)When it comes to corona vaccinations you will not see such large discrepancies between Charedi and non charedi as this is not a direct threat to them. The anti vaxxers you will find are mainly due to them being uneducated. You will find similar hesitancy in lower class populations like the BAME where there are larger proportions of hesitancy.
    3) Concern for secular laws is also mainly due to lack of education
    4)When charedi people fall ill C'V even if not life threatening they will still go to the doctors and not rely on Hishtadlus as it doesn't clash with their belief.
    5)Meron is also due to lack of education.

  4. Although you only chose to write the downside of one of the outlooks it’s an excellent explanation, except for the last paragraph
    All people, not only chareidim are not always careful with building permits which are sometimes just a means to raise money for the city. On the same token, even the eidah won’t build a Beis Medrash without the basic safety protocols dictated by the state.

  5. "I’ve yet to meet a chareidi Jew who denies the laws of physics exist."

    Well, I have. And one of them died because of it.

    A young man, perhaps 26 and with a wife and young child, was the new assistant manager in a Kiryat Sefer makolet when I was living there, about 20 years ago. He was crushed under the forklift he was driving, when it overturned. He died. There was shock all around, with the Rabbonim declaring it a gezeira min haShomayim and therefore decreeing their own tikkunim in response (the usual ones).

    Perhaps it was a gezeira min haShomayim but what also happened was the following: The forklift that overturned onto this young man had stickers placed all over it (in Hebrew) that the machine should never be operated on any kind of road, that it should never be loaded beyond a certain height, never be loaded beyond a certain weight, and that the operator must wear a seatbelt. The young man had ignored every single one of those rules. He was transporting cartons of canned and bottled goods (pickles, olives, etc), way, way beyond the weight limit, way higher than the sticker said he could, and was driving on a public street.
    A bus came behind him, he went to the side to let it pass, and hit a curb that he could not see. He fell out, forklift overturned onto him, and he was dead.
    Speaking to a neighbor in the aftermath, I told her exactly what the headline here says, that HASHEM, who created the world, also created the laws of physics.
    And that these laws of physics, like HASHEM's other laws need be respected.
    And that these laws of physics had been spelled out explicitly on that forklift's stickers. And that according to the laws of physics, what happened to that young man was perfectly predictable.
    And that perhaps the Rabbonim might do well to also remind us, in the wake of this accident (and another that had occurred shortly before), that we need to respect HASHEM's Laws of Physics, just as we respect His Torah. And that were they to have done so, this young man's tragic death might have been slightly less useless.
    The woman, who was in her forties, thanked me effusively for this insight. She told me that she had NEVER heard any Rabbonim think about something like this in the way I described. And that it was SUCH a wonderful idea!

    1. Hashem created the laws of physics.

      I love it, and I might borrow it!

    2. Whatever language people might use, on a practical level, nobody advocates tipping up forklifts.

    3. Yosef, yes, G-d created the laws of nature.

  6. The Ramban (Nachmanides) denied the existence of laws of nature. He said: “From [belief in] large perceptible miracles one [comes to believe] in hidden miracles, which are the very foundation of the entire Torah. A person has no share in the Torah of Moses our teacher until he believes that all that occurs is the result of miracles, not the laws of nature. … Everything happens by divine decree.”

    Rabbi Slifkin, what do you think of this? Perhaps this is the reason why chareidi Jews reject the laws of nature because the famed mystic, Kabbalist did so as well.

    1. It may be the source of the denial of the laws of physics. It is also a misunderstanding of the Ramban. The quote that you have is the most famous of what the Ramban says about miracles (it is in Drashat Torat Hashem Temimma too). However, in *numerous* other places, the Ramban says that only the very righteous (or very evil) merit miracles, and everyone else follows the "way of the world". See here: https://www.biblicalnaturalhistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/MiraclesNahmanides.pdf for a survey of all places the Ramban discusses this. More to follow.

    2. RNS is probably aware this Ramban, unless someone without his knowledge uploaded David Berger's article to the museum's website:

      I didn't read it. But it turns out that the Ramban's view can't be summarizes by one citation. (Let alone in a slightly mis-translation.)

      Also consider the Ramban's explanation of the מצוה of ערלה:
      ואמת הדבר עוד כי הפרי בתחילת נטיעת האילנות רב הלחות דבק מאד מזיק לגוף ואיננו טוב לאכלה כדג שאין לו קשקשת... והמאכלים הנאסרים בתורה הם רעים גם לגוף

      It seems that these forbidden foods are naturally unhealthy. So the Ramban does not completely reject the existence of nature.

      The Ramban's ideology is more complex than you imply.

    3. The above gross misinterpretation of Ramban's words is ultimately wrong. The theology of השגחה acording to Ramban is a lot more complex and subtile, I'll try to explain it briefly:

      First of all he doesn't say (שמות יג,טז) ''that all that occurs is the result of miracles'', but ''בכל דברינו ומקרינו שכלם נסים'', which translates as: ''that all that happens TO US is miraculous'', by which he means G.d plays with the laws of nature to retribute us on our actions, not that the laws of nature don't exist.
      Because the same Ramban says (ויקרא כו,יא):
      '' the physician should not refrain from healing him; whether because of fear that he might die under his hand, SINCE HE IS QUALIFIED IN THIS PROFESSION, or because he says that it is G.d alone Who is the Healer of all flesh, since people have already accustomed themselves. Therefore when men contend and one smites the other ''with a stone or his fist'' (שמות כא,יח), the one who smote must pay for the healing, FOR THE TORAH DOES NOT BASE ITS LAWS UPON MIRACLES, just as it is said: ''for the poor shall never cease out of the Land'', (דברים טו,יא), knowing beforehand that such will be the case (even though it is also said (שם ,ד):''But there shall be no needy among you, if only thou diligently hearken unto the voice of the Eternal thy G.d to observe to do all this commandment'', but that is a reward, and therefore a miracle). But when a man’s ways please the Eternal, he need have no concern with physicians''.

      In other words, the laws of nature are real, they are the underlying reality of G.d's world AND THEY WORK so you can be a skilled physician, and even the Torah's laws are based on them. On the other hand G.d precisely manipulates them, and sometimes goes against them, in order to reward or punish man for his keeping or not the laws of Torah, which are themselves derived from them. This is called a miracle and it happens to us all the time according to him.

      With such a view it is evident that if you're so foolish as to transgress the Torah and take a risk by denying the existence of laws of nature your השגחה will be to suffer at the hands of these laws. That will be your ''miracle''.

      Now of course this theology is not a rationalist one, but it is far from ''deniying the existence of laws of nature''.

      The השתדלות theology is taking this a step further, saying that all of this is really a smokescreen, and that an insider who knows that really just has to be מאמין and everything will be fine. It is not what the Ramban says, even though it answers some questions on him, like: if the laws of Torah are based on physics and doctors can heal and we have to be ''very careful about our lives'', does it not mean that it's a commandment to go to the physician even if ''we please the Eternal''? According to the השתדלות system the answer is that if we're really pleasing Him, then we're מאמין that G.d alone heals us and therefore we do not need this השתדלות.

    4. Consider the following:
      רמב׳׳ן דברים דברים יא:יג
      ודע כי הנסים לא יעשו לטובה או לרעה רק לצדיקים גמורים או לרשעים גמורים, אבל הבינונים *כדרך מנהגו
      *של עולם יעשה בהם טובה או רעה כדרכם וכעלילותם:
      And the following, from שער הגמול:
      עוד הזכירו חכמים דרך אחרת ביסורין, אמרו )ערכין ט"ז ב'( תנא דבי ר' ישמעאל כל שעברו עליו ארבעים יום בלא יסורין קבל עולמו, ופירוש הענין הזה הוא מן המקרים ההוים בנוהג של עולם והבאין על כל אדם, כגון שימצא טורח במעשיו לפעמים, ויכאב גופו כשיאכל מאכלים רעים שאינן הגונין לו לפי טבע שלו, ויחוש בראשו כשיעמוד בשמש, ויהיו לו מן המאורעות שבאות אפילו על המלכים, שכגון אלו אין ניצל מהן אלא הרשע הגמור לגיהנם, שמקבל עולמו ושומרין אותו מן השמים לעשות לו כל רצונו בעולם הזה, שנאמר )תהלים י'( יחילו דרכיו בכל עת, *אבל שאר בני אדם בין צדיקים *בין רשעים כולם בכלל מנהגו של עולם הם.

      Consider also the following: there is a super-commentary on שער הגמול called "חזון יואל". This is by no means a "rationalist" book - it looks and feels firmly charedi. Yet he has a thorough summary of rishonim and achronim who agree with what the Ramban says *in most places*, that one only merits miracles and השגחה if one is a great צדיק. For everyone else, "the world works in its usual way". See here: https://www.scribd.com/document/507541908/%D7%A8%D7%9E%D7%91-%D7%9F-%D7%91%D7%A2%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%9F-%D7%99%D7%A1%D7%95%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9F-%D7%A2%D7%9D-%D7%A4%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%A9-%D7%97%D7%96%D7%95%D7%9F-%D7%99%D7%95%D7%90%D7%9C

    5. Also, the Ramban was himself a doctor, so there's that...

    6. Moshe, Ephraim, and Jew well, these are all good points. I modified my thinking. Thank you.

      Nachmanides felt that G-d only exercises divine power in Israel, the holy land. The other lands are controlled by other powers (perhaps natural laws). “There is in this matter a secret relating to that which the rabbis have said [in the above-quoted talmudic statement]: ‘He who dwells outside of the land of Israel is like one who has no G-d.’” People living outside of Israel are influenced and as so, it is as if they have no G-d.

    7. Also, G-d and nature go hand in hand. Only when you understand the laws of nature you can understand G-d.

    8. Yosef the Ramban said not to rely on doctors. There's that, too.

    9. OK Shmuel, no argument on his words. But what do we believe of a person, at the end of the day: words or actions?

      Ramban may be clearly saying that emuna is paramount and that placing one's faith in humans over HKBH is wrong. But he simply CANNOT hold that going to doctors is useless or wrong or assur unless he was also a serial violator of lifnei iver.

    10. Yosef, Ramban said that doctors are unnecessary. He said: “the physician is aware of the source and limit of his healing power and sees them as a participation in God’s work.”(Nachmanides’ Commentary to Exodus 15:26). He stressed that Rachel’s conception was “through prayer and not by way of human cures.” (Commentary, Genesis 30:14).

  7. 'One is a purely materialist position, in which nothing exerts influence other than the cold, hard laws of physics - a position usually believed to be taken by atheists and hardcore Maimonidean rationalists.'
    'I doubt that there are many people - if anyone at all - at either of these positions.'

    Are you saying that atheists deep down really believe in God? I know many atheists and I can assure you they believe only in natural forces. Ask Richard Dawkins.

    1. yes, most self-described atheists still believe in some higher power, whether they call it Nature or Fate or Love or some unnamed Force of the Universe. Even hard-core atheists like Dawkins might reach for prayer when pressed, hence the saying, "no atheists in a foxhole."

    2. Ah, that's what the title means! didn't know this saying, English is not my first language.
      Nature or Fate or Love, really? looks more like New Age hippies than atheists.
      No, that's what you tell yourself if you feel threatened by atheists, but I don't think it's true, and even if it were, it wouldn't really show much. I think homeopathy is bullshit, but I can't be sure I wouldn't try if I was dying and someone offered to cure me with it. It has nothing to do with belief, let alone faith.

    3. Reb Gili, I would add that most atheists write in books they are hardcore atheists but in private second guess. Sam Harris says he found the evidence for reincarnation very compelling. Dawkins said we came from aliens and that he might be a deist. And Chris Hitchens says he believes in a divine spirit.

    4. Reb Gili - thanks for speaking on behalf of most atheists and clarifying what they believe.

    5. zdub, even if he didn't speak for most atheist and clarified what they believe, they would still second guess in private. Do you think such a smart man like Hitchens was so foolish? He said he believed in a divine spirit.

      “Only a fool says in his heart there is no G-d” Psalms 14.

    6. Wow, so many delusional people!
      Let's examinate your claims:

      ''Sam Harris says he found the evidence for reincarnation very compelling''. No, he said he found Ian Stevenon's book (Children Who Remember Previous Lives) ''interesting, and I cannot categorically dismiss their contents in the way that I can dismiss the claim of religious dogmatists''. Doesn't mean 'very compelling' to me, but at any rate, reincarnation without religious dogma means there must be some natural force behind it, no intervention of G.d. Reincarnation is not necessarily linked to religion, no more than religion is necessarily linked to reincarnation, see Rav Saadia Gaon's views on the subject.

      ''Dawkins said we came from aliens and that he might be a deist.'' Not sure what aliens have to do with mysticism and religious fatalism, it just means according to some scientifics life may have developped outside of the earth before colonizing it. But on Deism, this is a lie. Here is the
      actal quote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBOGfFTMlNo
      It's a far cry from saying ''he might be a deist'', maybe read 'The God Delusion' if you're not convinced.

      ''And Chris Hitchens says he believes in a divine spirit''. Well it's your word against his: ''I think we can say with reasonable certainty that there is no God because all the hypotheses for it have been exploded or abandoned. We have better explanations for the things religion used to try and explain. But we can’t disprove the existence of a deity. So if someone says, “Well, I just feel the presence of a strong force”—well, okay. I sort of know what they’re going through. As long as they don’t try to teach it to my children, or get the law changed to suit their opinion, or blow themselves up at the airport''.

    7. Jew Well, all good points. Doesn't reincarnation denote a spiritual world, which, in turn, denotes G-d? Dawkins, if I remember, said you could convince him to be a deist. And Hitchens did say in a debate before his death that he believed in a divine spirit. See the Socrates David Berlinski video here for more info about these quotes. https://ericmetaxas.com/media/video/socrates-in-the-city-david-berlinski/

  8. "One is a purely materialist position, in which nothing exerts influence other than the cold, hard laws of physics - a position usually believed to be taken by atheists and hardcore Maimonidean rationalists…
    I doubt that there are many people - if anyone at all - at either of these positions."

    I'm only putting this here in the interests of intellectual honesty. The reality is that the vast majority of scientists within the last 100 years are atheists, and most certainly of living scientists.

    "Leading scientists still reject God"

    1. They are not necessarily anti-theists.
      There are also the few who without believing in minute-to-minute hashgacha who are overawed by the stuff they discover.

      Though this doesn't entirely dispute your point. Only partly :)

  9. "I doubt that there are many people - if anyone at all - at either of these positions."

    I disagree. There's definitely a lot more people in the atheists camp than the extreme mystical position. In any case, I think atheists are closer to hardcore Maimonidean rationalists, and if they were the latter there would be two camps instead of three and the vast majority of Israelis would be religious.

    1. Clarification - When I wrote there are more atheist Jews I did not mean they are hardcore atheist. Most atheist believe in some kind of G-d or religion. Liberalism, for example, is a religion. Atheists write in books that they are hardcore atheists but in private second guess. Sam Harris says he found the evidence for reincarnation very compelling. Richard Dawkins said we came from aliens and that he might be a deist. And Christopher Hitchens said he believed in a divine spirit (G-d in all but name).

    2. Alas, liberalism has indeed become a religion.

    3. Yes, I agree. Liberalism is a religion, and Biden is their god. They're literally going turn Biden into G-d. They're going to say that Moses failed. Moses was not good enough as a law giver and Biden needs to set the new 'woke'/'broke' law of the land. They're going to declare him G-d.

  10. About 30-35 years ago, I knew a maggid shiur who seriously claimed that all the research about the dangers of smoking did not apply to Jews because the studies were all done on non-Jews and Jews are different. As you might guess, he was a smoker.

    1. 30-35 years ago, we still allowed the "Shomer p'sa'im Hashem" understanding for how to treat the idea that smoking is harmful. Over the subsequent years, more and more evidence came to light indicating that smoking is terrible. People like Rav Mordechai Willig at YU have spoken very strongly against smoking, that there is no heter for it anymore.

  11. Apologies for going back to previous articles.
    You say:"Similar to these are all the rabbinic leaders and public apologists who piously describe the tragedy as a Divine Decree, either unknowable in cause or resulting from standard sins such as neglect of Torah and sinas chinam, in order to avoid focusing on the human negligence and culpability (which would lead back to their own camp)".How do you understand the Rambam Taanis 1:6אין
    גוזרין תעניות על הצבור לא בשבתות ולא בימים טובים, וכן אין תוקעין בהן לא בשופר ולא בחצוצרות ולא זועקים ומתחננים בהם בתפלה, אלא אם כן היתה עיר שהקיפוה גוי או נהר או ספינה המטרפת בים. אפילו יחיד הנרדף מפני גוי מפני ליסטים ומפני רוח רעה (מתענין עליהם בשבת ו)זועקין ומתחננים עליהם בתפלה, אבל אין תוקעין אלא אם כן תקעו לקבץ את העם לעזור אותם ולהצילן. It appears from Rambam that even for man made tragedies one should make tshuvah ,surely the ליסטים should be punished but one still needs to make teshuvah. Chazal also indicate in makkos that if a person is killed unintentially it is a punishment.

    1. You forgot to add that in הלכה ב there he says it is because of teshuva.
      But where does he say to do teshuva on neglect of torah or sinas chinam? It seems obvious that regarding the Meron tragedy we have to do teshuva for letting this happen (at least those people who could do something about it).
      But really it has nothing to do with this Rambam, who talks about current tragedies, not past one.
      Nevertheless I think it would make sense to declare a public day of prayer for this sin, provided that the sensible material steps are taken care of.

  12. Why aren't you studying Torah?


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