Monday, November 16, 2009

Interesting Posts and Articles #234

  1. According to reports in the New York Post, the chassan who died shortly after his marriage committed suicide, because he had been sexually abused earlier in life, and because he was therefore not able to cope with certain aspects of marriage. From the article:
    "I know Motty, and I know he didn't jump. It was an accident," one said. The rabbi who spoke at his funeral called reports of suicide "wickedness."
    In a comment on one of the jewish news sites, someone related that his rebbe, who knew the family, dismissed the "lashon hara" that it was a suicide, saying that there are all sorts of spurious speculations, such as that he jumped, that the mafia killed him, that she pushed him (at which point the whole class laughed).

    My thoughts on the matter: Firstly, it is none of our business. This was a terrible tragedy, regardless of what happened. And the family does not need these rumors and speculation, whether or not it is true. And given the stigma that unfortunately attaches to suicide and victims of sexual abuse, such can even be harmful to other members of his family. And I can understand the urge to change the truth, if indeed the truth was changed. As the midrash states on parshat Vayera, for the sake of Shalom Bayis, even Hashem deviated from the truth.

    On the other hand, the changing of the truth in this area, and the labeling of those who say the actual truth as purveyors of lashon hara, particularly in this area, is troubling, and therefore deserves attention. If he did commit suicide, then it would be because of him being deeply troubled about something. He was certainly not a rasha for this. Rather, he was not in his right mind at the time. Casting the possibility of it as lashon hara betrays that people think of it as something shameful, and a stigma, which is quite unfortunate. Also, if he did it for the reasons given, then the culture of cover-up in this area, and the excessive concerns about lashon hara, are troubling. Rather, if it was true, then the person who abused him years back was to a large degree responsible. And we should publicize his case, as well as the abuser, as a murderer via grama. And maybe we could help people understand how serious this sort of abuse is, and how it should not be swept under the rug.

    And see Emes veEmunah's take on it.

  2. [6.22injection.jpg]According to Vos Iz Neias, the "Sanhedrin" is warning against H1N1 (swine flu) vaccines. I am not a medical expert. However, a pesak is only as good as its input. I'll say this about chareidi Gedolei Hador, and I will say this about the Sanhedrin. And in this case, it seems that the "Sanhedrin" was driven to their psak by the faulty conspiracy theories of a conspiracy theorist, Dr. Daisy Stern, who thinks that this is all a plot. To cite her words:

    In this paper I am presenting overwhelming evidence, gathered from as many sources as I was able to find in the short time available to me, that the H1N1 INFLUENZA PANDEMIC of 2009 has been planned for a long time; that the 1918 Pandemic influenza virus was deliberately reconstituted in a lab, for the express purpose of creating a need for influenza virus vaccines; that the vaccines create a huge financial bonanza for the companies manufacturing them; that the majority of those companies have a very dark, Nazi past ; that they are interconnected ; that the vaccines are very unsafe, and in fact are experimental drugs with very serious problems; that whoever receives these vaccines will be an unwitting guinea-pig; that there are very dangerous side-effects to be expected from these vaccines, even many deaths; that the surreptitious lacing of the vaccines with live infectious agent and/or anti-fertility vaccines is a very real possibility, considering the history of a majority of the companies manufacturing those vaccines; that this plan was engineered by the WHO and the UN; that it is being financed by mostly private non-profit organizations that heavily subsidize the UN; that the goal is WORLD CONTROL AND EUGENICS, DEPOPULATION OF THE PLANET - eliminating "undesirables" - to about 9/10 of its current population; and that this plan, put into effect on July 7th , 2009, received the full blessing and guidance of Pope Benedikt XVI who demanded a UN "with teeth" and a NEW WORLD ORDER, in his encyclical CARITAS IN VERITATE, released to the world at the exact same moment as the decision was made to inoculate the whole world.... and that only select people will be able to receive the real antidote to the H1N1 influenza virus, a monoclonal antibody jointly manufactured by the Burnham Institute, the Dana Farber Institute, and the CDC.

    No, this is not a plot of the New World Order, to depopulate the planet of undesirables. If the Sanhedrin truly believes this, then they are shotim, or at the least are so misguided about science and the world that their pesakim in such matters should be disregarded.

    On the other hand, there was other testimony, from another doctor, about how the type of vaccine differs from the one offered in the US. I don't know enough to evaluate that. But perhaps if they are basing themselves on that only, their words have more credence. However, the Sanhedrin here is offering no pesak, and are not experts in this matter, that they should be a bar hachi in this matter at all.

  3. The Muqata has a bit of back-history on the Intel Shabbos issue. My take on it is as follows. Whatever the merits or demerits of the particular case, this fits into the general trend of certain chareidim flexing their muscles with street protests which inevitably turn violent, in order to try to compel secular Israelis to accord with the halacha. Despite the hope I have that more people keep halacha, there is a broader concern I have for religious (and non-religious) pluralism, and coercion by a bunch of violent crazies. This manifests itself in street protests, but also in tznius squads, beating up women for sitting on the wrong area of the bus, and death threats for mixed seating pizza stores. And these protests do not decrease chillul Shabbos (the Jewish workers would be watching TV at home anyway), do not increase ahavas chinam, and hurt the Israeli economy. They are stupid and counterproductive.

  4. Vos Iz Neias has a video in which Elior Chen's victims speak out.

  5. Gamespot on how a visually impaired gamer is suing Sony online.

  6. Fink or Swim on a giant plot hole in an episode of "The Good Wife"; I spotted the same problem. And his take on the episode in general. And Emes veEmunah on that same episode.

  7. The Rebbitzen's Husband on cantors behaving badly, in which Aruch Hashulchan tries to defend the dubious contemporary practice,

  8. Rationalist Judaism promotes a shiur he will be giving on Chazal and Flat-Earthism. This is the second part.
    In this part, I will be reviewing how various authorities over the ages dealt with it.
  9. Here at parshablog, check out my Toldos sources, useful for preparing the parsha.


Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Is the Sanhedrin Haredi? I thought Rabbi Steinsaltz was on it.

joshwaxman said...

"Is the Sanhedrin Haredi?"

i would guess not. though too often for my taste they made pronouncements which smell political.

but as i said, just as i would comment about chareidim who don't know the metzius and offer suggestions, i would comment about a non-chareidi Sanhedin.


Yosef Greenberg said...

Unrelated, but I though you might like this:

Par. Zayin


Hillel said...

The point about the H1N1 vaccine is simply not correct. First, their statement related exclusively to the vaccine used in Europe (and Israel), which contains additives which are not used in the US. The Sanhedrin simply called on the Israeli government to provide its citizens access to the American vaccine, and not force people to take the European one.

There was, and is, no p'sak by the Sanhedrin on the subject at all. The closest thing to a p'sak was the following recommendation:

"The recommendation of the Sanhedrin’s Court, per this testimony and other data is as follows:

* Every person should take personal responsibility for himself in the decision as to whether or not to be vaccinated against the Mexican Flu, and to that end consult with an authorized physician who can be trusted. In particular it is obligatory to do this if the Mexican Flu will spread."

Daas Toirah that ain't.


Hillel said...

PS: R' Waxman, I know you were just paraphrasing another blog, but I urge you to read the original source before criticizing. In this case, the blog you cited was quite misleading (although, in fairness, I do not believe anything it said was false, it omitted many important facts and implied there had been a p'sak that all H1N1 vaccines were prohibited, when no such p'sak was issued or implied).


joshwaxman said...

thanks. good point. i was being inexact in describing it as a psak, rather than warning. still, i think that they are fearmongering here.

the quotes from the rabbis involved, cited at vos iz neias, suggest that, as does the text of their warning (and here).

For example:
"Three months ago, Dr. Daisy Stern, a medical doctor by profession, petitioned the Sanhedrin, and presented in front of the court worrisome data on defects in the ingredients, the manner in which decisions were made, the whole judgment process, many of which pointed to professional negligence and even seemingly purposeful negligence."

They appear to take her statements at face value, without realizing that she is a conspiracy kook ranting about the new world order.

It is true that they double-checked it with Dr. Maureen Friedman, a virology expert. Which I noted above, that if that is their sole concern, then fine.

But they also have problematic statements. For example, the thimerosol - autism link has been more or less disproven, yet they warn about it. And they state that "There are testimonies about the H1N1 virus which lead to the conclusion that its source is a pharmaceutical laboratory in Mexico." I am not sure where they get it from, but my strong suspicion it is based on a misinterpreted statement about samples which were cultured in a lab I debunked a while back.

And those who put out the statement said " “The UN is not particularly concerned what happens to us as a result of a faulty vaccine. It would not be surprising if the World Health Organization, which is under the UN, were to make use of Israeli citizens as guinea pigs to check the reliability of the type of vaccine Israel possesses."

(though the Sanhedrin's translation was "would after the fact use residents of Israel in order to check the reliability of vaccine used by the State of Israel.")

This is the idea of the UN conducting experiments on Israeli citizens, which strikes me as conspiracy theory. Especially if it is the same type used in Europe.

Then they, who are not medical experts, give a bunch of health recommendations, including eating foods rich in vitamin C and D, and consulting a nutritionist. Which they place after:
"Every person should take personal responsibility for himself in the decision as to whether or not to be vaccinated against the Mexican Flu, and to that end consult with an authorized physician who can be trusted. In particular it is obligatory to do this if the Mexican Flu will spread." רופא מוסמך שנאמן עליו
which implies to me that they believe that there are physicians who should not be trusted.

And they end:
"The government has the great responsibility not to create situations which amount to harming the public’s trust of the medical system. Chaos on this matter and compulsion on the public or parts of it to take the vaccine represent a great danger to the trust in the health system. It is incumbent upon the medical system to work now to repair the public trust in real and focused ways, such that if, G-d forbid, there will indeed be an outbreak in a dangerous way, it will not be a result of the public’s fear of the serum."

but it is *they* who are undermining the trust in the health care system, by giving great credence to conspiracy theories.

all in all, even though i myself am none to confident in the H1N1 vaccine, and i see that it is indeed somewhat balanced, i still think that they are trafficking in conspiracy theories.

kt, and thanks,

Hillel said...

R' Waxman,
I agree that there are some statements that one may understandably take issue with (I personally think the conspiracy angle is plain silly and undermines the Sanhedrin's actual recommendation), but that misses the point.

All in all, this statement is a fantastic example of a group of religious leaders doing everything right, even if we disagree with some conclusions, and they should be lauded for their efforts.

First, they tackled a complex health issue the exact right way, by asking two licensed medical professionals, one who supported the vaccine and one who opposed it. This was no kangaroo curt with foregone conclusions looking for justification.

Second, after hearing testimony from both sides and doing extensive follow up, the Sanhedrin issued a clear, reasoned opinion (you can disagree with their reasoning precisely because it is stated explicitly). They did not issue a conclusion based exclusively on opaque and vaguely threatening appeals to authority.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, they avoided the terrible mistake (and in my opinion, aveira) of issuing a blanket p'sak on a complex medical issue. Indeed, they issued no p'sak at all, and merely recommended that each individual see their doctor, but that they ask their doctor about the vaccine with the knowledge of some of the arguments that have been raised against it.

Overall, that is fantastic work, and I say halevai all issuances from rabbinical courts should be so open. Yes, they go afield with the conspiracy issue, but that's a pretty small chisaron from a document that otherwise embodies the best traditions of rabbinic opinions. It is unfortunate that some individuals have taken to harp on the small negatives rather than praise the many, many things they did right.


Devorah said...

What's happened to your Blog Roll? It's not there anymore ??

re: Sanhedrin
Daisy Stern's site is
I used to have it on my blog roll, but it became a bit over the top, even for me....
I don't really understand this "Sanhedrin" - who are they? I don't think anyone accepts them as official.

joshwaxman said...

"What's happened to your Blog Roll"
it should be there. what web browser are you using?

"I don't really understand this "Sanhedrin" - who are they? "
Rabbi Steinsalz is behind it, which is very much in its favor. As I understand it, their ideal is to reestablish semicha using the same, or similar mechanism which Rav Yosef Karo (of Shulchan Aruch fame) used, for all the members of their Beis Din. Then, they would be a fully formed Sanhedrin, and would be able to do all the things a Sanhedrin can do, including reversing certain rulings which no longer should apply but do anyway for technical reasons until a Sanhedrin overturns them.

I am not sure I agree with their particular mechanism for reestablishing real semicha. But ideally, it could be a really good thing. I think part of the problem is as you say, "I don't think anyone accepts them as official." Indeed, one of the Gedolei Hador got into an argument with them recently. But klal yisrael is not accepting their rulings, or even suggestions, as binding.

kol tuv,

Devorah said...

Using Windows Explorer nothing in the right hand column shows up.
I changed to Firefox, and it's all there.
Why is that?

joshwaxman said...

thanks. i'll see if i can fix it. i think it might have something to do with the float tag...

all the best,

joshwaxman said...

perhaps; we'll see if that pans out...



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