Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Interesting Posts and Articles #151

  1. Shirat Devorah notes that Tamar Yonah is going to interview the "facilitator" of the autistics, Rabbi Sachs, and that you can post your questions for him in the comment section of Tamar Yonah's blog.

  2. Life In Israel now has his own running series of interesting posts. The latest here. Also, he discusses a recommendation by a rabbi to check mezuzos, based on a story of a car accident, where afterward they checked all the mezuzos and found them to be pasul. Probably they did not start out that way, due to taus sofer, but degraded due to the climate, which is why checking mezuzot is required. (Though I seem to recall a position mentioned in one shiur that due to better wrappings in plastic nowadays, they do not degrade so much -- this might have been in terms of tefillin, though.)

    The practice of checking mezuzot when things go wrong apparently goes all the way back to the Maharil, in teshuvot Maharil, siman 94. That siman indeed discusses mezuzot, but maybe I missed it but I do not see it there. Maybe someone can point it out to me in either the words of the questioner or in the words of the Maharil.

    It can be cast as follows: a mezuzah is a mitzvah, but in addition, as part of the merit of performing the mitzvah, it affords protection. When that protection is lacking, things can go wrong.

    This is a very different attitude from, e.g., the word את being miswritten as אש so, almost in punishment, the guy's house burns down.

    Whether we agree with either approach, Rabbi Don Segal's attitude seems a lot more like the latter, which in turn seems much more superstitious to me, casting Hashem as some malignant force, while covering oneself by saying "while we don't know the ways of God..."

    Meanwhile, it is not magic that the mezuzot were all pasul. If the impetus for the halacha for one to check is indeed that the effects of time and climate cause the deterioration of the text; and if people do not regularly check their mezuzot for decades and decades, until something goes wrong, then it makes sense that it would be deteriorated. And quite possibly, many of their neighbors who did not have a car accident also have pasul mezuzahs. That is, the accident and associated practice of checking the mezuzah in consequence is what led to the discovery of something that was true all along, and this correlation does not (necessarily) indicate causation.

    In any case, here is an xkcd comic:


  3. Cosmos Magazine has an article on challenging the current beliefs about dinosaur posture.

  4. Avakesh on heretic hunts and childrens literature, in which he considers an interview in Mishpacha with the author of a "banned" book by an Orthodox rabbi co-authored with a Reform rabbi -- and the link to a similar situation in a children's book by the Orthodox author.

  5. Menachem Mendel and Just Call Me Chaviva take note of the Jewish American Girl doll.

  6. At Cross Currents, Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein has a beautiful response to an anti-Zionist reader. A short excerpt:
    In the middle of the 19th century, a prolonged ideological battle for the Jewish soul was waged in Europe.

    ...

    The battle was long, deep, and at times bloody.

    It is also over, and has been for some time. Only people who are living in the past don’t realize it.

  7. JNUL puts up the teshuvot maharashdam.

  8. At Hirhurim, finding out the gender of a fetus.

  9. Oh, and the Haveil Havalim was over at DovBear this week. Check it out.

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