Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Interesting Posts and Articles #182

  1. At Mystical Paths, clean and unclean mystical powers. Personally, I do not believe that unclean mystical powers exist, and that this is being done by sleight-of-hand. But I suppose that for those who are tricked, it is useful to have an answer that these powers exist but that nonetheless, they are unclear mystical powers and that one should not heed them. But there is a danger of going from there to belief in two reshuyot, I think:
    A x-ian gently laid his hand upon a stranger who was visiting the church for the first time. The stranger was not even a x-ian. The visitor collapsed, unable to stand. They call this being “slain in the spirit.” Another man in a wheelchair was touched by a “healer.” He jumped out of his wheelchair, walked, and called out, “I haven’t walked in weeks!” What is this power?
  2. Yeranen Yaakov notes a study that moving in before marriage can spoil a marriage. In a comment there, I show why I think the study is bunk.

  3. At Revach, Rav Chaim Brisker heeds a Bubbe Maiseh.
    One time Rav Chaim Soloveitchik paid a visit to his elderly cousin. When he walked in to the house a button fell off his coat. His cousin quickly took out some thread and she sewed the button back on while Rav Chaim was wearing the coat, which is said to make someone forget his Torah. Rav Chaim then employed the known antidote and took the edge of the collar and put it in his mouth.

    Puzzled, Rav Chaim's cousin said to him, do you really believe in these Bubba Meises? Rav Chaim answered that when it comes to anything to do with forgetting Torah he doesn't play around and he even takes Bubba Meises very seriously. (Dirshu Chizuk)

    An interest approach. And similar to the idea that in dire straights, people start believing and trying all sorts of nonsense. I am not certain this is the correct approach which I would take. I also wonder if one could (while remaining hashkafically safe) posit this for all the strange practices Chazal suggest in the gemara for maintaining Torah; that they are bubbe maisehs, but they repeated them because they were not going to take chances for something so important as Torah learning.

  4. Fetuses found to have memories:
    The unborn have memories, according to medical researchers who used sound and vibration stimulation, combined with sonography, to reveal that the human fetus displays short-term memory from at least 30 weeks gestation - or about two months before they are born.
  5. The Saudis claim to cure cancer with camel urine:
    Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, Dr. Khorshid claimed that she was inspired by Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) medical advice and that camel urine consists of natural substances that work to eradicate malignant cells and maintain the number of healthy cells in a cancer patient.

    “This treatment is not an invention, but rather, taken from our Prophet’s legacy,” she remarked. A Hadith narrated by Al-Bukhari (2855) and Muslim (1671) claims that some people came to Madina and fell ill with bloated abdomens. The Prophet (pbuh) told them to combine the milk and urine of a camel and drink that, after which they recovered. A swollen abdomen may indicate edema, liver disease or cancer. Dr. Khorshid added that she is not a medial doctor but a scientist and her job involves the preparation and testing of a drug in the lab and supervising the manufacture, testing and application of the drug.
  6. The new Hakirah is out. Meanwhile, from a past issue, here is Rabbi Slifkin (now a full article rather than an excerpt) on whether Rashi was a corporealist. His conclusion:
    We began by noting that the commonly advanced arguments that Rashi advocated a corporealist understanding of God have little or no validity. But we then noted that the arguments supporting the opposite position in fact have the reverse effect. It is clearly of utmost importance to Rashi to tell his reader when Scripture is speaking allegorically vis-à-vis God’s power. However, he does not do so with all the mentions of God’s physical form, including those that he himself initiates. Given the time and place in which he lived, Rashi could not possibly have taken for granted that his readers would automatically understand these as non-literal. We further brought a diverse range of arguments showing that Rashi maintained a corporeal view of God.

    Someone who is a priori opposed to the idea that Rashi was corporealist will devise rejoinders to all these arguments. But with the testimony of Ramban and other Rishonim that there were many great Torah scholars in France who were corporealists, one cannot dismiss the fact that one of those scholars could easily have been Rashi. His view of God appears to accord with that described by Rabbi Isaiah de Trani as held by many Torah scholars, including even some of the Sages of the Talmud: that God is of gigantic human form, but made of an ethereal substance and not subject to human frailties or limitations. Note that this may mean that Rashi was a more extreme corporealist than Rabbi Moses Taku, who only took the view that God can assume human form when He wishes. We have seen no evidence of Rashi believing that it is only when God so desires that He assumes human form.

    This essay should not be misunderstood: I do not believe it acceptable for a person to believe in a corporeal God. In a future essay, I hope to explain why even if Rashi maintained this view, it can still be rated as heretical to believe it today. Rashi said it, but we cannot.
    Meanwhile, I don't see that he discusses my own proof that Rashi was a corporealist, namely a pasuk in Yeshaya about shaving, in which he considers that Chazal may have taken the pasuk of Hashem shaving Sancheriv literally, with a taar mamash. He does explain mamash in terms of yad, but I don't see how this can apply to the taar. I'll have to consider it again, together with Dr. Steiner's article on the subject, which he references.

  7. At Frum 'N Flipping, Girl Dates Woman.

  8. Daat Torah notes an article at Yeshiva World, about how the lies about Haddassah are endangering life:

    A boy was struck by a bus in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon. Paramedics wanted to take him to the trauma unit of Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital - the highest level trauma unit in the State of Israel. The medics also explained to the father that only Ein Kerem has certain diagnostic equipment for a head injury which is applicable in this case.

    Due to the ongoing conflict surrounding the case of the so-called Munchausen mom, the father, a member of the chareidi community, insisted his son be taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

  9. Kallah Magazine on eliminating the hassle of dating by outsourcing.

  10. Rav Aviner on dinosaurs and the age of the world. (h.t. SerandEz, Rationalist Judaism)


Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

It is unclear to me why you feel that the comments of Rashi in Yeshayahu imply the corporeality of God.

joshwaxman said...

not rashi's own comments, but his take on Chazal's statement.

if Rashi gives a metaphorical interpretation, and then refers to Chazal in Sanhedrin as referring to an actual taar (taar mamash), then he presumably feels that Chazal intended that midrash literally rather than metaphorically.

do you agree up to that point?


Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

No, because I don't see why this Midrashic citation of Rashi is any more problematic than other citations in which anthropomorphic expressions are used. Granted, he contrasts the midrashic reading with the peshat of the pasuq, but it doesn't follow that he thinks the midrash is literal.

joshwaxman said...

because what he contrasts it with is a *metaphorical* interpretation, and then he says that in Sanhedrin they say it is a taar mamash.

this is not contrasting the midrash with the peshat, but contrasting the midrash with a metaphorical interpretation. the pasuk itself says "taar", and he then interprets the straightforward reading by explaining what it is a metaphor for. if he is contrasting it, then he is not taken the midrash metaphorically. there would be no contrast! and no need to bring the midrash as taar mamash! rather, the midrash would be saying the same thing as his peshat!


Natan Slifkin said...

If anyone is interested, I also have a letter that Hakirah received on my article together with my response, that I can send to whoever requests it.


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