Monday, November 28, 2022

The Heresy of Noah's Crystal

Following on from last week's post about the ban on "Peshuto Shel Mikra," let's discuss an example of the purported heresies in that work. Ironically, it's a topic that I discussed here two weeks ago - the illumination of Noah's Ark.

Veyavinu BeMikra is a booklet written to explain why Peshuto Shel Mikra had to be banned. The very first example that it brings is the explanation of the illumination of the Ark. As you will recall, Chazal gave two explanations - one was that it was a window, and the second was that it was a gemstone or crystal that radiated light. In discussing the second view, Peshuto Shel Mikra says as follows:

"והדעת נוטה, שהאבנים הטובות המאירות אין להן אור מעצמן, כי בכוחן רק להגביר את האור מחמת המאור הנמצא בקרבתן ולהפיצו ביותר, כדוגמאות המראות המבריקים מאוד. וא"כ, גם לדעה זו הֻצרך נח לנרות דולקים, שעל ידם יפיצו המרגליות את אורן בתבה".

"Reason indicates that because precious stones do not emit their own light, but rather refract the light emitted from other sources, like very shiny mirrors, then Noah must have also been burning candles, the light of which would be reflected around the Ark by these precious stones."

Veyavinu BeMikra explains that this heretical for two reasons. First is that the Rishonim who discuss this approach are clearly of the view that the stone emitted its own light. Second is that the authors preference for that which makes sense according to "reason" means that he only accepts that which the human mind can rationally grasp and rejects the supernatural.

I think that it's easy to understand the concern. One minute you're rejecting the traditional view about how Noah's crystal worked, and before you know it, you're asking how kangaroos got to the Ark. And trying to make the story of Noah's Ark fit with science is indeed a recipe for leading someone away from conventional Torah thought and risks opening a Pandora's Box. Indeed, Rabbi Moshe Meiselman goes to great lengths to explain why the account of Noah's Ark cannot be reconciled with science in any way, as a sort of bizarre purging effort to make people reject rationalism.

And yet, the desire to make Torah conform with reason and science has long been a mainstream approach in rabbinic thought. Rambam wrote this explicitly:

"…Our efforts, and the efforts of select individuals, are in contrast to the efforts of the masses. For with the masses who are people of the Torah, that which is beloved to them and tasty to their folly is that they should place Torah and rational thinking as two opposite extremes, and will derive everything impossible as distinct from that which is reasonable, and they say that it is a miracle, and they flee from something being in accordance with natural law, whether with something recounted from past events, with something that is in the present, or with something which is said to happen in the future. But we shall endeavor to integrate the Torah with rational thought, leading events according to the natural order wherever possible; only with something that is clarified to be a miracle and cannot be otherwise explained at all will we say that it is a miracle." (Rambam, Treatise Concerning the Resurrection of the Dead)

The Rishonim who spoke about Noah's crystal emitting light were not trying to describe a miracle - they explained it in this way because until recently it was standard belief that certain precious stones do indeed emit light (which actually isn't so far from the truth). And if you're going to start heresy-hunting over this, then you're also going have to burn goodness knows how many Stone Chumashim, which describes the crystal view as meaning that Noah placed a prism in the wall of the Ark that refracted the outside light around the Ark. ArtScroll is clearly taking this approach in order to make it conform to the scientifically possible, even though it is not the traditional explanation of the crystal view.

Yes, reason and rationalism have their risks. But they are nevertheless a traditional part of Judaism, and it is both wrong and dangerous to ban them as being outside the scope of Jewish thought. Over 25 years ago I was tortured by the question of how the kangaroos got to the Ark, and so I went to ask Rav Aharon Feldman, with whom I was quite close at the time. He kindly but sternly suggested that I shouldn't be interested in such questions. Well, naturally, that didn't do anything to satisfy my distress, but fortunatel I was able to go down the block and discuss it with Rav Aryeh Carmell ztz"l instead. He gave me an answer that Rav Feldman would consider heresy, but which is consistent with the approach of Rambam and many other greats throughout history.

Personally, notwithstanding the dangers of trying to make Torah fit with reason wherever possible, I think it's an approach whose legitimacy is worth defending.


(On a related note, if you can bring a suitcase from Teaneck containing a deck prism and other Ark-related materials for our exhibit, please be in touch!)

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Taking Dangers Appropriately Seriously

We are all reeling in shock after yesterday's bombing in Jerusalem. The grief at the passing of an innocent teenager is heart-rending (as is the appalling kidnap and murder of a Druze boy). And it brings back memories of those terrible years of the Second Intifada. 

But I was bothered by a comment that someone made, that now they have to be afraid again to take a bus in Jerusalem. Such an attitude helps the terrorists in their mission to spread terror. But it's also just not rational.

Statistically speaking, the chances of being killed in a terrorist attack are absolutely minimal. Even during the worst years of the Intifada, there were less Israelis killed in terrorist attacks than in traffic accidents. Several dozen people are murdered in terrorist attacks every year - several hundred are killed in traffic accidents. Put bluntly, you're more likely to be hit by a bus than to be blown up in one.

Perhaps I am particularly sensitive to this, having lost a family member in a traffic accident. But the facts and the numbers are undeniable. If we felt as much communal grief and rage over traffic accidents as we do over terrorist attacks, then there would be less of them. Speeding, using phones while driving, and reckless driving are all things that are within our power to reduce.

And then there's less headline-capturing forms of death such as heart disease and diabetes, which are among the leading killers. We could reduce those with less sugary and unhealthy foods (full confession - I am very far from being a healthy eater), but how much pressure is created around that? The government's tax on sugary drinks reduced their consumption by 31% and is probably instrumental in saving thousands of lives - but now, against the protests of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians, Bibi plans to cancel it due to demands by charedi parties who saw it as an anti-charedi measure! 

We should indeed be grief-stricken at yesterday's tragedy, and the government should take the necessary measures to prevent future such things. But we should respond correctly, to this and to other tragedies, in terms of how we lead our lives.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Coming to America

I'm coming to America at the beginning of February. I'll be in Miami Beach for Shabbat of February 11, then I might be popping over to Cincinnati midweek, and it looks like I am available for the following Shabbat, February 18, in NY/NJ. Please contact me at if you are interested in hosting me as scholar-in-residence - preference is for Five Towns/ Teaneck.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

New Ban: Pshat

There's a Hebrew five-volume work titled Peshuto Shel Mikra which is joining the ranks of books that have been banned (and I'm running out of space on my banned books shelf). The zealots behind the ban are taking things to a new level. It's not just pashkevilim; they are mass-calling people in Israel with a recorded message, and there's even a website detailing the condemnations! The website declares that "We have received a clear Psak that it is a mitzva to burn the book called Pshuto Shel Mikra" (emphasis added).

I haven't yet managed to fully investigate the situation, but here are some preliminary thoughts on this new ban, which shares some significant similarities with the ban on my own books.

The signatories to the ban are various Israeli charedi rabbonim along with many members of the American charedi rabbinic leadership - Rav Malkiel Kotler and others from Lakewood, Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel from South Fallsburg, Rav Aharon Feldman from Ner Israel, and others. The publishers of the book have posted a defense, but have also essentially backed down and have agreed not to reprint the book until various "clarifications" have been made. (They should not be criticized for weakness. This kind of pressure is very difficult to stand up against. I was only able to hold my ground because I was young and it was easy for me to simply leave the charedi world.)

When something like this happens, the knee-jerk reaction of everyone outside the charedi world (and many people within the charedi world) is to assume that the ban is utter nonsense and the book must be very valuable. But I didn't like it when people reacted that way to my own book ban, and I don't like it here either. In the same way as a negative opinion of a book by someone who hasn't read it isn't worth very much, a positive opinion of a book by someone who hasn't read it also isn't worth very much.

It's true that such a hysterical reaction is usually indicative of a problem with the person engaging in hysteria rather than the person being banned. But on the other hand, there is usually a genuine cause for concern, even if the zealots are failing to acknowledge its legitimacy and/or blowing things out of proportion. That was certainly the case with my own books, where I wrote a two-part defense of the ban on my books as a social policy (even though my books were not actually heretical). And it's also the case here.

As I gather (I have only just acquired my own copy, and have not studied it yet), the book gives a peshat explanation of the Torah. And it's the actual peshat - not the "peshat" of Rashi, which actually incorporates a substantial amount of Midrashic exegesis. Those banning the book raise several objections. First is that The Gedolim condemned a similar such work in the past (Chumash HaMevo'ar). Second is that it is unthinkable to replace Rashi as the primary commentary. Third is that Rashi's commentary is the only legitimate peshat. And fourth is that the type of peshat that is detached from Chazal's exegeses is itself a dangerous corruption of Torah which leads to heresy.

With regard to the Gedolim having condemned a similar such work in the past, my friend DH pointed out that while it's true that Rav Shach and Rav Elyashiv issued such a condemnation against Chumash HaMevo'ar, others, such as Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Wosner and Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg subsequently disagreed and endorsed the work.

What about replacing Rashi as the primary commentary? There were indeed those who were opposed to such things. But that's exactly what ArtScroll does, along with numerous others. 

As for the claim that Rashi is the only authorized peshat, that's just plain wrong. Eric Lawee, in two excellent articles, points out that not only Rashi's grandson Rashbam but also many Sephardic scholars disapproved of Rashi incorporating Midrash into peshat.

And what of the fourth objection, that giving straightforward reasonable explanations of pesukim leads to heresy? Well, they might have a point there.

Orthodox Rabbinic Judaism is built around a very particular approach to Scripture. Learning pesukim according to their straightforward, most rational meaning, without these layers of interpretation, is indeed potentially threatening. People who say otherwise just aren't aware of what a straightforward interpretation of various passages in the Torah would actually look like (and they are probably better off not knowing). This is why bible scholars such as James Kugel point out that academic Bible study is not only very different from traditional Torah study, it is downright incompatible with its religious goals. But at the same time, it is undeniable that there have been many great Torah scholars over history who have taken approaches to at least parts of Torah which are closer to this form of study than to the conventional contemporary charedi approach.

The situation is thus very similar to the controversy around my own books, which was at root about rationalism. Yes, the rationalist approach is indeed potentially dangerous. However, it has nevertheless been legitimized by many great Torah scholars, from the Geonim through Rambam through Rav Hirsch through my own mentors. Likewise, many of the statements in Peshuto Shel Mikra which the zealots declare to be "heretical" are also, apparently unbeknownst to them, found in the writings of universally accepted great Torah scholars. Furthermore, banning such an approach involves its own problems - not to mention that it is guaranteed to instantly give enormous publicity and appeal to that which they are trying to ban!

I hope in future posts to address this topic in more detail. Meanwhile, my sympathies go out to the many fine Torah scholars involved in producing Peshuto Shel Mikra, who clearly worked very hard with the best of intentions, and are now being branded as having "wicked designs to tear down the emunah of Klal Yisroel." As I know from my own experiences, it's a horrible thing to go through, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Well, almost anyone.


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Thursday, November 17, 2022

Beis Din Shel Maalah Sued for Breach of Contract

A group of kollel students with a severe parnassa crisis, having formed an organization called the Yeshiva Men's Crisis Association, has filed a lawsuit against the Beis Din Shel Maalah for breach of contract. A spokesman said as follows:

"The Gedolim told us very clearly that hishtadlus is illusory and has zero significance. The Beis Din Shel Maalah decrees how much parnassa a person receives every year, and it has absolutely nothing to do with hishtadlus. Yet we began to notice that the yungerleit in Kollel were suffering greatly from a lack of parnassah, whereas those who work were generally not suffering! Does the Beis Din Shel Maalah really think that they can pull the wool over our eyes?! This is clearly a breach of contract."

"Furthermore, the Gedolim also said that there is no correlation between secular education and parnassa. The Beis Din Shel Maalah certainly does not care about such hishtadlus and is against it. But we did a survey, and it turned out that there is indeed a correlation! Those who received secular education as children, and all the more so those who went to college, were much more likely to receive a higher parnassah that those who only learned Torah!"

The lawsuit against the Beis Din Shel Maalah was filed in the Beis Din Shel Mata of Bnei Brak. The defendant, speaking via Bas Kol, argued that the Beis Din Shel Maalah does not consider the Gedolim to be authorized spokesmen for its contract with mankind. The defendant also said that if people want to go against the very clear laws of the world that were set up then it's their problem, and added that the actual authorized spokesmen for the contract had clearly stated two thousand years ago that both education and work are generally necessary for parnasah and are even obligatory. 

The Beis Din Shel Mata did not accept the defendant's argument and warned the Beis Din Shel Maalah that they are veering into heresy. It found the Beis Din Shel Maalah guilty and ordered them to make full restitution to the YMCA, redistributing parnasah from those who work to those who don't. This is being fulfilled by a new government arrangement between Likud and UTJ.

Monday, November 14, 2022

The Illumination on the Ark

Back to Noah's Ark! The Torah relates that God instructed Noah to make "tzohar," "illumination," for the ark. What is this illumination? Chizkuni says that the simple explanation is that it refers to preparing oil for lamps. Better known is Rashi, citing the Midrash, who presents two views as what this means. One view is that it was a window (which some commentaries explain to be many windows); the other is that it was a precious stone which provided illumination. The commentaries suggest that the reason for the latter view is that Noah was not righteous enough to deserve to see the punishment inflicted upon the rest of the world, and thus the ark did not have windows. (There are also all kinds of beautiful homiletic explanations of these views.)

Of course, the question that many people will ask here is that surely gemstones only reflect light and do not actually generate it. Accordingly, it would seem that mystics will explain it as a supernatural phenomenon, while rationalists would take it as another example of an incorrect belief about the natural world - and as usual, one that was extremely prevalent in antiquity.

But it's not so straightforward. The Midrash further elaborates: "R' Pinchas said in the name of R' Levi: The entire twelve months Noah was in the ark, he did not need the light of the sun in the day or the moon at night. Rather, he had the gem, and he relied on it. When it was dim, he knew it was day, and when it was bright, he knew it was night."

Now, this initially seems a strange explanation, which is the opposite of what one might expect - surely if the point of the stone was to provide illumination, then it should be bright during the day, not at night. However, the commentaries explain that there was tiny amounts of light entering the ark through cracks in the walls, which meant that the light generated by the gemstone was less noticeable during the day. Only when there was no light at all from outside was the light generated by the gemstone noticeable. (The Midrash says the same about candles that Rav Huna lit in a cave.)

In fact, there are minerals that really can emit light. Some glow when heated (even with slight amounts of heat such as that from one's hand), some provide luminescence under ultraviolet light, while others store light that is received and emit it later. However, the light emitted in such cases is minimal. And yet this may be a viable explanation of the Midrash. Note that the Midrash does not say that the gem was emitting light for enabling activity - it says that the function of the light was merely to demonstrate that it was night-time. Accordingly, when there was no ambient light entering from cracks in the wall, the luminescence of the gem would indeed demonstrate that it was night.

Recently a treasured friend of the museum mentioned a different possibility to me. She told me about a fascinating object called a "deck prism." This was an innovation used to illuminate ships before electricity was invented, and when lighting candles below deck was a fire hazard. A deck prism was a large gemstone cut in such a way that it was flat on one side and multifaceted on other sides. The prism was inserted into a precisely cut hole in the deck such that water would not enter, while sunlight would enter the prism and be refracted in a wide area around the lower part of the ship! They were made in both rectangular and hexagonal shapes, as you can see in these pictures.

This is a fascinating blend of both explanations given in the Midrash, though it is different from each of them. (I just noticed that ArtScroll presents this as being the explanation of Chizkuni and Rashi, but this does not seem correct.) And, as far as I can tell, such prisms were used in the last few centuries but not in antiquity. Still, it's an intriguing explanation, and an interesting way of shedding light on the problem of shedding light below deck! My friend is donating such a deck prism for exhibit in our forthcoming Noah's Ark exhibit.

Meanwhile, if you're able to help us develop this extraordinary exhibit, either by bringing model arks to Israel from the US/ Germany/ Italy/ Africa/ Australia, or by sponsoring arks in the exhibit, please be in touch! I also have a nine-foot hammerhead shark that I need to get from New Jersey to Israel.

Friday, November 11, 2022

The Democracy Confusion

Some people claim that the rise of Ben Gvir and the chareidi parties threatens democracy. Others counter that this cannot possibly be the case, since they were democratically elected. A similar phenomenon occurs with people claiming that Trump threatens democracy, and others countering that if the majority votes him in, that is democracy. Who is correct?

With the political debates in Israel and the US, it appears that many people are misunderstanding the meaning of the term "democracy." In particular, they are confusing it with "majority rule." Majority rule is an aspect of democracy, but not the totality of it. 

Many people do not realize that the term "democracy" is used to include other things that are important to society. For example, there is freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Majority rule would allow for the majority to ban certain viewpoints or religions; but in a democracy, such things are illegal and the majority cannot change this.

Another is the protection of minority rights. Majority rule alone would allow, say, for 70% of the population to vote to harm or expel or kill 30% of the population. But in a democracy, there are also laws protecting minority rights which prevent this from happening.

There are also other aspects of democracy which are not included in majority rule. These are equality of people, voting rights, freedom of assembly and association, and so on. 

Nobody is claiming that Bibi/ Ben Gvir/ UTJ didn't win via majority rule, nor that they should not be allowed to have done so. The claim is that their *policies* will harm *other aspects* of democracy.

Of course, there is no perfect, objective way to have the correct balance between majority rule and minority rights, and there are often complicating factors, and there will always be debate. But it's important to understand the nature of the concepts being discussed and argued about.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

A Model of Rabbinic Leadership

If you want to see what an actual great Torah leader is like, then Rav Eliezer Melamed, shlita, is a wonderful example. In his latest essay, he demonstrates an aspect of what leadership is about: presenting an overall vision for the nation. Here are some choice extracts (bear in mind that this is translated from Hebrew, and some idioms and nuances are lost in translation):

"The identity card of the People of Israel is the vision to establish in the Land of Israel a great and blessed nation that adheres to the values ​​of faith, charity and justice, and brings blessing to all families of the world... In order for us to fulfill the great vision, God gave us the Torah, so that in the light of its guidance and commandments, we can engage in the improvement of the world, and establish state institutions committed to imparting the values ​​of truth and goodness....

"By the grace of God, by means of the self-sacrifice of the pioneers and soldiers, the State of Israel was established, and inspired by faith and Torah it is growing ever more prosperous, and we have a wonderful opportunity to be partners in its further development. I will attempt to illustrate the path to the realization of the vision, in the light of the guidance of the Torah.

"Work: In the Torah, we learn about the enormous value of work. Our forefathers worked diligently, and were blessed. Even when Jacob our forefather had every reason to neglect his work, he continued to work diligently and faithfully, and was privileged to rejoice in his labor. Numerous mitzvot and halakhot instruct us to respect an employee and his work. The more we are able to educate towards the value of work, the more diligent and loyal labor force we will have, and blessing will increase...

"Science: The Torah relates to science with great respect, to the point where it is said that a person who lacks one of the world’s wisdoms, lacks ten countermeasures in the Torah (Rabbi Kook in the name of the Gra). The sciences reveal the divine wisdom in the creation. In addition, science is extremely beneficial to man for his well-being and health, and its development encompasses the value of work, and the settlement of the country. Therefore, in a proper Jewish education, the study of the sciences must be greatly encouraged, each student according to his ability. Highly talented students who can engage in the development of science for the sake of increasing knowledge, and for the benefit of the lives of individuals and society must also be encouraged. As a result of such an education, we can hope to raise more scientists who can contribute to humanity, and even workers in other fields will be able to deepen their understanding of their jobs, and develop them. As a result, everyone will be able to enrich their work with new ideas, grow to be outstanding employees, and contribute to society as a whole. 

"Torah Study: In order to fulfill all these values, there is a mitzvah to set times for Torah study, for by doing so, we revisit and learn all the mitzvahs dealing with honesty and truth, and the value of work and creativity. From Torah study, we can also draw inspiration to develop new ideas, and find solutions to complicated problems. To this end, special attention must paid that the study of Torah indeed be the Holy of Holies: on the one hand, of most important status, and on the other hand, a fountain for all, in a way that Torah does not supplant the status of work and science, but strengthens them."

It's not just Rav Melamed's particular views on the role of Torah, science and work which are refreshing. It's also that he actually has and articulates an overall vision, and thinks about what is required for it to be fulfilled, and how it would work out for the entire nation. This is the kind of thing that certain other significant sectors of Orthodox Jewish societies simply never talk about. They don't even have a plan for their own society, let alone for the country. We are blessed to have such people as Rav Melamed.


NOTE: You can purchase Rav Melamed's works in Hebrew at this link and in English at this link. They are also freely available online and there is even a special Android app with them.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

The Utter Perversion of Moshe Rabbeinu's Message

No, it's not a Photoshop. This is an actual poster put up by Gimmel, the Ashkenazi charedi political party, urging its people to go and vote.


"Shall your brothers go out to war, and you remain here?!" Yes, the very words used by Moshe Rabeinu to castigate the tribes that were not going to share the responsibility of military service, are being used by charedim to castigate those who would not be sharing the responsibility of exercising political power to avoid military service.

It's not even the first time or the worst way in which this passuk has been abused. A few years ago, in a US charedi demonstration, the same passuk was used to urge people to leave the yeshivah and join a protest against the draft:

The irony of totally perverting the words of Moshe Rabbeinu for precisely the opposite of his message just takes one's breath away. And they claim that others pervert Torah!

It also reveals the utter theological bankrupcy of the charedi claims that the supernatural power of learning Torah makes it an adequate substitute for the physical, practical work that needs doing. Deep down they realize that full hishtadlus is always needed and can never be replaced by Torah learning. When there's nobody else to offload the physical work to, they do it themselves, with all their energies.

It's true that the real reason why charedim don't serve in the army has nothing to do with any purported belief in its supernatural protective powers. Rather, it's because, as Rav Aharon Lopiansky once admitted in Mishpacha, of the (very real) dangers of army service to charedi religious identity: “the robbing of our youths’ formative years as a ben Torah would be a price that we could not pay.” But, as Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein pointed out in response, "...How do we ask other, reluctant Israelis to pay a different price so that we don’t have to pay ours?" It's not only charedim who face dangers in the army. On what grounds can they justify a collective exemption from this national responsibility, without even offering anything in return - or even an acknowledgement of the sacrifice that others make for them?

The same goes for the problem of the charedi community not wanting to give its children an education that will help them get a job. They're not doing so for no reason - they're doing it because of the fears of the corrosive influence of secular education. These fears are legitimate - secular education does indeed threaten their way of life. But how do they expect that the rest of Israel will therefore shoulder a disproportionately large part of the burden of financing the country? And how dare they issues accusations of "sinas chinam" and even "antisemitism" when others point that out?

And this is precisely the nature of Moshe Rabbeinu's argument to the tribes of Gad and Reuven for joining the army. He doesn't say that they need the extra manpower. And he doesn't allow for any argument about learning Torah being an adequate substitute. Rather, his rebuke is a simple matter of shared responsibility. When there is a responsibility that faces the entire nation, the entire nation must share that responsibility.

Most charedim would not be so obtuse as to brandish Moshe Rabbeinu's words in a public perversion of their message. But they are nevertheless ignoring them.


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Thursday, November 3, 2022

When It Gets Real

So, it looks like Netanyahu is returning to power. Rumor has it that this time she will let Bibi make some of the minor decisions. Ba-da-bum! 

No, but, seriously folks. While some are distressed by the election results to the point that I've seen people announce that they will not step foot in Israel while Ben Gvir is in the government, I don't think that things are quite the way that many people are taking them.

First of all, this was not, as some have declared, a choice by the Israeli people to reject Leftist policies. The election had very little to do with policies. It didn't even actually have much to do with Left and Right. There are plenty of people in Ganz's party who are more to the "right" than plenty of people in Likud - including being to the right of Bibi. And there are plenty of people in Shas and UTJ who don't care about "right" or "left" issues at all. Bibi's genius was fictitiously spinning the election as a battle against an existential Leftist threat to security and Judaism.

Second, the role of Ben Gvir and his associates is unlikely to play out in the way that he and his supporters hope. I've heard his supporters talk dreamily about annexing land and driving out the Arabs, but when you ask them how that actually would play out in practice, they go silent. Once you actually gain political power, you discover that you can't just do whatever you want, at least not without dealing with severe repercussions. 

It's one thing to talk about such things as "shooting stone-throwers in the head" and another thing to actually change the rules of engagement in such a way. The resulting cost to human life on both sides, and the national and international consequences, would be horrendous. There's a reason why Ben Gvir was banned from serving in the IDF. There are enough sensible people in charge - including Bibi - who will ensure that the extremist agenda is very unlikely to actually happen. His supporters are in for a big disappointment, and Ben Gvir himself might learn a thing or two about responsibility.

Unfortunately, what is true for extreme right-wing Zionist political power is not true for charedi political power. While the security and political downsides of extremist right-wing policies are immediate enough to place brakes on those who would act in such a way, the same cannot be said for the economic consequences of raising a third of the next generation without secular education. While the consequences of such a thing are catastrophic, they only play out a few decades from now - at which point it's too late to do anything about it anyway. 

Bibi has limited options to keep himself in power. He will presumably follow through on his election promise to United Torah Judaism that he will remove any financial incentive for teaching secular studies and undo the current government's successes in that area. This is depressing. But, as I told my colleagues, this makes our work at the Biblical Museum of Natural History - at which many of our visitors are charedi - all the more important. We have to show that learning about the wider world is something that enriches our lives as religious Jews.

School visits to the museum are heavily subsidized by our donors, because the schools just don't have the budget to pay full admission. If you'd like to help make it possible for us to continue to inspire and educate tens of thousands of people annually, please support our mission at this link or write to Tobey at

The Heresy of Noah's Crystal

Following on from last week's post about the ban on "Peshuto Shel Mikra," let's discuss an example of the purported heres...