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Of Civets and Dinosaurs: Miscellaneous Notes and Announcements
1. Ramban makes a comment in last week's parashah which is of incredible importance. On the passuk of "Ve'asisa hayashar vehatov," he points out that the Torah cannot discuss every case that arises (this is interesting in light of Ramban's mystical view that "everything is in the Torah"), and therefore we must extrapolate moral values from the mitzvos to apply to other cases. I think that this has ramifications for everything from software piracy to pyramid schemes to organ donation.
2. I was recently asked if Kopi Luwak is kosher. I had never heard of it, and was intrigued to discover that it is coffee made from beans that have passed through the digestive tract of the Asian Palm Civet. I don't have my seforim with me so I can't do the research now, but I can think of a few factors to consider: (1) The beans absorb enzymes from the civet's stomach, but then again, so does honey with bees; (2) There may be a difference with something that is excreted rather than regurgitated, on the grounds that kol hayotzei min hatamei, tamei; (3) There is debate in the Gemara and onwards concerning whether it is permissible to drink donkey urine; (4) Is it ever justifiable to spend $100 on a cup of coffee?
3. During my lecture tour, I often have the pleasure of experiencing people telling me that my books have made a positive impact on their lives. Last Shabbos, in Baltimore, someone came over to me and said, "Rabbi Slifkin, I have to thank you for transforming my life... by letting me know about DropBox!"
(Click here if you haven't yet installed this terrific utility.)
4. Yesterday I was in one of my favorite stores, the Strand bookstore on 12th and Broadway. I saw two cheaply-priced gems that I didn't buy because I already own them, but someone else might want to seize the opportunity: Moshe Sokol's Rabbinic Authority and Personal Autonomy, and Lester A. Segal's Historical Consciousness and Religious Tradition in Azariah de' Rossi's "Me'or Einayim." These books are difficult to find and often expensive, but I highly recommend them both. And the Strand is a great place to find other rare and cheap books on Judaism, science, and pretty much anything.
5. Tonight (Wednesday) I am speaking about dinosaurs and evolution at the Talmud Torah Learning Program in Flatbush, 1305 Coney Island Ave. The presentation will be in the simcha hall at 7:30pm. Men and women are welcome; there is a $7 suggested donation. I will also have books on sale, including the new edition of The Challenge Of Creation (which hasn't yet reached the stores here), and you can get the set of all four of my books that are in print for just $90.
6. There are still a few spots left for this Sunday's Torah Tour of the Bronx Zoo. Please spread the word, and email me if you want to make a reservation.