Sunday, May 17, 2009

Interesting Posts and Articles #145

  1. BlogInDm continues the discussion of the musically ignorant devar Torah. He is unhappy with a particular response to a letter to the editor.

  2. ZooTorah posts about the nesher (eagle; griffon vulture) and the possibility that it actually does carry its young. Is the mashal based on common belief, or scientifically accurate reality? Does it matter?

  3. Kankan Chadash on chess and the Brisker Derech; something originally intended to be about different flavors of Islam.

  4. Dixie Yid posts the recent Kol Brisk on the parsha, in a flavor safe for accountants and electrical contractors everywhere.

  5. Parasitic flies making zombie fire ants. Quite cool.

  6. Lost finally makes sense.

  7. The Real Shliach:
    From moshe rabbeinu until our rebbe it's one rebbe, one moshiach, one Aibeshter. What happened 13 shevat 5710? The Rebbe told a story, it's been edited already, you'll never find it, the Rebbe said, "Atzmus Ein Sof came down in a body, who speaks Yiddish, english, Russian, in order to be mekarev yidden to yiddishkeit."
    My reaction is that if the first part of the paragraph is accurate, then it is not yiddishkeit he is being mekarev the yidden to.

  8. Kashrut News about a recall of vanilla Tofutti cuties:
    Tofutti Brands Inc. has completed a precautionary investigative recall of 12 pallets of its 8-Pack Vanilla Cuties mini sandwich frozen dessert novelties (UPC 0-20188-01301-2) due to possible trace level milk contamination reported for a limited number of lots shipped which were produced in July of 2008. Vanilla Cuties are labeled as Milk Free and persons who have an allergy or severe sensitivity or intolerance to Dairy products run the risk of serious or life-threatening injury if they consume products with milk ingredients. Tofutti Brands uses stringent quality controls to prevent milk contamination of its products and sells more than 60 million individual Vanilla Cuties each year.
    ...
    Great, but does such milk contamination make a difference in terms of kashrus. Would they be considered milchigs? I don't know, but incline towards no.

  9. Lion of Zion posts a selection from Michael Perlman's book on the trup of Vayikra, with a more detailed analysis of what I discussed here about Ger veToshav Vachay Imach. For example, and one thing I neglected to mention, is the kametz under the vav.

  10. A new look for JRants! But right-clicking to open up a post in a new window also loads it up on the same page. :(

  11. Also, the latest Haveil Havelim is up at Shiloh Musings.





40 comments:

Rafi G. said...

cute #4, but unfortunately most won't get it... unless.....

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Thanks for these interesting links. I have an essay up on Bamidbar at

- parshapost.blogspot.com -

that you may find of interest

The Real Shliach said...

You're arguing with a Zohar, but whatever.

Yosef Greenberg said...

You don't know how to learn a Zohar. Leaning the Zohar literally can (many times) leave deep in the mud. (No R' Josh, I don't agree with Shadal on this, nor do nearly all of the Achronim. Wikipedia does a good job on it though.)

Oh, and thank for the round up. It save me from killing time reading all of my blog subscription.

Thanks!

joshwaxman said...

to throw in my two cents:
this may or may not be a Zohar. my guess would be that this is an *interpretation* of a Zohar, and then some other person's *application* of that interpretation to a specific person of circumstance. I have seen enough sources misinterpreted and misapplied to know that this is a firm possibility.

saying "From moshe rabbeinu until our rebbe it's one rebbe, one moshiach, one Aibeshter" implies that rebbe=moshiach=Hashem, especially in light of the statement at the end that "Atzmus Ein Sof came down in a body, who speaks Yiddish..."

That this story has been edited, if this is to be believed, implies that it is not simple straightforward Zohar, and that others (say, within Chabad) would find this equally heretical.

Indeed, I agree with Yosef Greenberg that if one does not know how to read a Zohar, reading it literally can often leave one deep in the mud. There is a difference between learning from sefarim vs. learning from soferim, as many kabbalists have spelled out, and one can be led astray by literal readings.

On the other hand, even *if* you say that this is the intent of the Zohar, all this will prove to me is that the Zohar was heretical and contains a message of Avodah Zara, and that one should reject it. So yes, arguing with a Zohar does not bother me in the slightest, but I think it is likely that this is not arguing with a Zohar.

kt,
josh

joshwaxman said...

yosef:
thanks. though i do on occasion pass by some good stuff, not having enough time to make the roundup.

kt,
josh

The Real Shliach said...

This is of course why the story was expurgated-maaseh merkaveh shouldn't be taught in public, vd'l.

joshwaxman said...

well, either that (in which case why are you repeating it in public); or it didn't happen; or it was expurgated because it is proof that the Rebbe himself was a heretic (ch"v).

kt,
josh

The Real Shliach said...

A. My bad.

B. It happened. You don't even ask me from likkutei sichos where it is printed?

C. Again, it's b'feirush a Zohar. I mean, hello!

But of course, at the end of the day, the goal is to be mekarev yidden, not merachek them, and obviously in this case I did the latter. What can I say?

Yosef Greenberg said...

"On the other hand, even *if* you say that this is the intent of the Zohar, all this will prove to me is that the Zohar was heretical and contains a message of Avodah Zara, and that one should reject it. So yes, arguing with a Zohar does not bother me in the slightest, but I think it is likely that this is not arguing with a Zohar."

Powerful point, R' Josh. One can't use the Zohar to defeat a basic Torah truth. (I personally dislike the continuous misuse and misinterpretation of the Zohar by many bloggers, especially one messianic dreamer.)

Yosef

joshwaxman said...

Real:
fair enough.

but *what* is an explicit Zohar? The statement "From moshe rabbeinu until our rebbe it's one rebbe, one moshiach, one Aibeshter?" With those particular words? Is it an explicit Zohar that "What happened 13 shevat 5710?" Is it an explicit Zohar that ""Atzmus Ein Sof came down in a body, who speaks Yiddish, english, Russian, in order to be mekarev yidden to yiddishkeit"?

What is in Likutei Sichos precisely? The juxtaposition of all these sources.

Be careful what you conflate. There is Zohar; and there is the Lurianic, chassidic, Chabad, 7th Lubavitcher rebbe's interpretation of that Zohar. Since not everyone is a Boreinu-nik, I would assume that there are other interpretations available of the Zohar, and/or of the Rebbe's words. Perhaps there is some way to kvetch it. (On the other hand, perhaps that way would be a real kvetch.)

If indeed the Rebbe said all this and meant all this, as it is being implied, I don't know that one could eat from his shechita. And if this is the true meaning of Zohar, I don't know if I would eat from Ramdal's shechita either.

kt,
josh

The Real Shliach said...

It's actually pretty funny, because I am what would be termed an "anti" in the veldt. Doesn't mean I don't believe, or know, or whatever, but it does mean that I generally try and keep my mouth shut. In this case, of course, it's too late for that; now, you want me to bring every proof in the book that supports me? You probably wouldn't accept it anyway, so what's the point?

joshwaxman said...

you are correct that I wouldn't accept it anyway. All you could hope to convince me of is that the author of the Zohar or the Rebbe were ovdei avodah zara, not that these are therefore acceptable positions.

I don't want you to trouble yourself to bring any proofs; my intent was more to ask you to analyze *for yourself* what each source says and does not say, and what each source adds.

I am curious, though, as to your definition of "anti". Would you say this is true in general of people who are anti? I have heard people say that Rabbi Dr. David Berger was incorrect in ascribing this to a silent majority in Chabad. Would you say that he is correct and that people are just saying this as a means of keeping their mouths shut as to the true beliefs, or that he is incorrect. Also, precisely what beliefs are we talking about? The Rebbe as mashiach? The Rebbe as Hashem? If the latter, how far would you take it? If someone says Baruch ata Hashem and intends the Rebbe, is he an idolator?

By the way, I realize that different people have different beliefs, and I myself have beliefs others would label as silly. So I am not one to talk. Even so, it is perhaps an important thing to know.

KT,
Josh

The Real Shliach said...

I would say that the vast majority of Lubavitchers believe that the Rebbe is moshiach. I would also say that every single Jew is atzmus um'hus b'guf gashmi.

joshwaxman said...

thanks!
as a quick followup, if you don't mind: if every single Jew is atzmus im'hus, what is the big deal with the Rebbe's statement, "Atzmus Ein Sof came down in a body, who speaks Yiddish." Could that not be any Jew whatsoever, and indeed is every Jew whatsoever?

kt,
josh

The Real Shliach said...

This is where you go into korach's question-isn't every Jew holy?

joshwaxman said...

Not lihavdil, Jesus said he was the son of God, and Pirkei Avos, based on a pasuk (uvneui elyon kulechum) calls all Jews Banim LaMakom. Surely there is a difference. And that same distinction appears intended here.

It is strange how all these midrashim are off the mark. Why did Yaakov fear being turned into an avodah zarah by the Egyptians, if as the tzaddik, he was =mashiach and =Hashem, such that the would be worshiping Hashem? Why did Daniel and Avraham discourage the king of Bavel from worshiping them?

kt,
josh

The Real Shliach said...

Since it's long been established that tzimtzum is not k'pshuto, so everything is G-d, and G-d is everything, why can't you worship a tree?

joshwaxman said...

good point on the distinction between panentheism and pantheism.

but the big deal with Avraham, Daniel, etc., would seem to be that afaiu this given theology, they are the unique ones, the yechidim of the generation, in the apparently special equation of one Rebbe=one moshiach=one Hashem.

i don't accept, btw, that everything is God is necessarily nonheretical. But you are right that there can be degrees. And one can draw fine lines. not that i feel like doing so. :)

iirc, in Sabbatean kabbalah, Shabtai Tzvi was incorporated into the Sefirah.

kt,
josh

The Real Shliach said...

If we were sitting at a farbrengen right now I'd be screaming, "You have to learn chassidus and have a little kabbolos ol!" Oh well. This is, by the way, the distinction Zushe Posner made by the farbrengen I blogged (which was posted here) between chabad and lubavitch.

joshwaxman said...

and if i were at that fabrengen, i would hopefully not yell back. but you are probably right. each perversion of authentic jewish theology is rooted in a previous heretical corruption. thus, kabbalah to zoharic kabbalah to lurianic kabbalah to chassidus to chabad to modern chabad to meshichist chabad.

this does not mean that i am conceding the argument. i am pretty sure that at each stage, one could show how the next stage is wrong. and one could presumably argue accepting certain things as given, and working from there. i know people do engage in such debates. i have no real interest in doing that, though.

btw, i don't agree that kabbalas ol malchus shamayim means subscribing to certain avodah-zarahdik interpretations of classic jewish texts.

kol tuv,
josh

The Real Shliach said...

Corruption of which classic texts?

joshwaxman said...

corruption of thought. as an example, you mentioned the idea that "it's long been established that tzimtzum is not k'pshuto, so everything is G-d, and G-d is everything." This used to be a dispute, and an upheaval, within chassidus. and this was in turn based on other innovations, called interpretations. as someone related to me, purportedly when the gra was going to dispute this with the baal shem tov, they first were going to set ground rules -- that is, axioms. and the gra refused to take Arizal as axiomatic, which was why the dispute fell through. that is, this new innovation was supportable by a previous innovation.

if it is truly kabbalah, there should not be this major development of thought. another example, out of left field, is how the Sefirot was apparently originally understood to be the numbers from 1 to 10, rather than the Divinity or something related to it, just like the Hebrew letters. (See Kuzari.) At different strata in history, we have these major figures of works that set the tone and discourse.

kt,
josh

The Real Shliach said...

Correct you are-the Gra was a major proponent on tzimtzum k'pshuto, just like the Rambam was a major proponent of Hashgacha klalis-do we follow these today? No. Since when is there no room in your religion for innovation?

joshwaxman said...

the rambam was quite an innovator in that regard. he distinguished his own position from that of Chazal; and the popular, frum position that everyone maintains nowadays is the one he ascribes to certain religious Arab philosophers.

there is no real room for innovation which *contradicts* previous generations when you are calling all of this "kabbalah," or "received" wisdom.

also, there is no room for innovation in my religion where such innovations plots a steady course towards greater and greater avodah zara. again turning to Rambam, see how he claims idolatry developed: from a worship of Hashem to a worship of His created servants, and on from there. See a nice translation here, halacha 1 and 2.

kt,
josh

The Real Shliach said...

And who are you to decide what is idolatry and what is not? Is everything Lurianic, or indeed zoharic, indeed not true?

joshwaxman said...

and who are you to decide that what the Jews for Jesus folks are saying is not idolatry?

by the way, would you agree that i am taking an interesting tack? rather than admitting to all sorts of axioms and arguing within chassidus, i am questioning the very axioms.

this is what shadal did in his vikuach al chochmas hakabbalah. he initially suppressed this sefer, but published it to combat chassidus, which he deemed heretical as well. You can read large portions of it here:
http://parsha.blogspot.com/search/label/vikuach%20al%20chochmat%20hakabbalah

He argues against the authenticity of e.g. the zohar. Check it out.

kt,
josh

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

I think the Ramchal's writings had a very normalizing and mainstreaming effect on kabbalah. He was very organized and focused on setting clear ground rules about God which are very Maimonidean to my view.

He avoids most of the heretical tendencies that can easily be spun off from kabbalistic thought, and historically I believe, he was the one who made it okay for the masses of misnagdim (that's me) to learn kabbalah safely.

The Real Shliach said...

Josh: nu, so he argues against the Gra.

joshwaxman said...

fkm:
interesting idea. interestingly, Ramchal's books were banned in his time, for writing at such a young age and at the purported direction of a maggid. Mesilas Yesharim was what he wrote when he could not write the kabbalah sefarim he wanted.

real:
nu, so indeed he does. :) after all, the gra was a kabbalist.

kt,
josh

The Real Shliach said...

Exactly my point. Leading us to wonder what the standards for inclusion in Josh's Judaism are. Agreeing with everything Josh says?

joshwaxman said...

i am just saying that if you want to hide behind sources for newly innovated heresy, then those sources themselves become fair game.

rambam felt that many of his coreligionists who maintained the corporeality of God were heretics. the gra felt that the Baal Shem Tov, and chassidim, were heretics, and presumably would consider this to be the case even more today. Ibn Ezra felt that Karaites (even to modern day Karaites) were heretics. Rav Yaakov Emden felt that Sabbateans and Sabbatean Kabbalists, such as Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz, were heretics. They all had their standards for inclusion.

Regardless, there is a difference between maintaining a false and problematic theology and maintaining an idolatrous one. I am pretty certain I would eat of the Gra's shechita (except that he has passed on, so might not be a valid shochet). I am pretty certain I would not eat of this fellow's shechita. Would you?

There is a difference between thinking someone's theology was wrong (you presumably agree that the Gra was wrong about at least one ikkar in his theology) and writing them entirely out of Judaism.

Tangentially, to cite an interesting comment I saw elsewhere:
In the times of the GRA there were 'valid' fears behind the claims of the Misnagdim . . . They were afraid of Sabbatianism, etc. Time however has shown that these fears were baseless
If people are now being meshichists and Elohists, then the Gra's fears have indeed been borne out.

kt,
josh

The Real Shliach said...

"Regardless, there is a difference between maintaining a false and problematic theology and maintaining an idolatrous one."

Nu, which do I subscribe to?

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

rambam felt that many of his coreligionists who maintained the corporeality of God were heretics. the gra felt that the Baal Shem Tov, and chassidim, were heretics, and presumably would consider this to be the case even more today. Ibn Ezra felt that Karaites (even to modern day Karaites) were heretics. Rav Yaakov Emden felt that Sabbateans and Sabbatean Kabbalists, such as Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz, were heretics. They all had their standards for inclusion.Nice list.
The answer I was given is that the traditional community in it's broadest sense, eventually votes with it's feet about which is acceptable and which is heretical.

There is "historical closure" on most of these debates within a few hundred years --these groups become clearly marked by the traditional community "in" or "out".

joshwaxman said...

real:
"Nu, which do I subscribe to?"
not that what i think matters (for who am i, anyway). but i don't know. it strikes me as a continuum, and i don't think i know entirely where you stand. do rationalizations help in this regard? perhaps. but christians who believe in a trinity also have their fancy rationalizations. and if not idolatry, it strikes me as dangerously close to it.

fkm:
it is an interesting idea. i am sure, though, that rabbinic figures in history have opposed even long-standing movements. ramban opposed shlugging kapparos as problematic, and despite it being in existence for hundreds of years afterwards, rav yosef karo also condemned it.

there is also the danger of simply letting ideas (memes) and flourish on their ability to last and spread, and then declaring them legitimate. one can declare it yad Hashem at play, but this is perhaps avoiding responsibility. it also lets us stay comfortably in the ideas we grew up with, without grappling with them. i am not sure turning this into an ideal and declaring it legitimate by virtue of it existing is not a cop-out.

furthermore, think of all the other groups. can they say this as well? about 2000 years ago, a bunch of crazies thought their rebbe was the mashiach and god. and they flourished, and people voted with their feet that it was acceptable and not heretical. christians now number in the *millions*. Which people are voting with their feet? can they claim legitimacy on this basis?

we mentioned karaites. well, they are few, fewer than Jews, but jews are fewer than christians. they voted with their feet. for a karaite, can he use this approach to declare his set of beliefs legitimate and non-heretical?

how about reform and conservative? has it been long enough? can reform now say that people have voted with their feet and so they are non-heretical. do we have any ability to counteract these claims?

let us say in 100 years, chabad is still maintaining that the rebbe is mashiach, or (ch"v) Hashem? will it then magically become legitimate?

who is the traditional community? who gets to define it, even if such an approach to determining things were legitimate?

kt,
josh

kt,
josh

The Real Shliach said...

Well, I have my rebbeim and mashpiim and whatnot who I trust, and you have yours, and hopefully there can be enough ahavas yisroel between us that... of course, if you don't think I'm Jewish, or a kofer, then that's another problem, but whatever.

joshwaxman said...

indeed, ahavas yisrael is a laudable goal, and we should strive for it.

one thing to watch out for is how some people misuse ahavas chinam as a way of dismissing legitimate concerns. e.g. here:
http://www.crownheights.info/index.php?itemid=3261&catid=26

kt,
josh

The Real Shliach said...

Crown Heights is Baruch Hashem not Lubavitch.

joshwaxman said...

"Crown Heights is..."
sorry, i don't follow.

shabbat shalom,
josh

The Real Shliach said...

Often times people get confused and think that Crown Heights is representative of Lubavitch, when in fact it is not. Just because something goes on in CH, or certain behavior is exhibited, does not mean that this is Lubavitch behavior. It's CH behavior.

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