Sunday, July 17, 2011

Interesting Posts and Articles #320

  1. At Mystical Paths, a (personal) warning about taking steps this summer to prevent heat stroke:
    With many parts of the United States having a major heat wave and Israel being under ‘sharaf’ (hot dusty desert air) conditions, it’s extremely important when outdoors (or inside if there’s no air conditioning) to wear lightweight clothing, keep your head covered when outdoors (with a hat that has air holes), and drink plenty of WATER.  
    When conditions are so hot one has to take extra precautions and make sure one’s children are doing so also.  And check on your elderly neighbors or elderly members of the community.  They often don’t have a proper heat sense anymore and may sit in stifling conditions without even realizing it.  (And dehydrate easily.) 
    Drink drink drink (water water water). 
    Stay safe, stay cool.
    To relate it to Tanach, there are interpretations that the child of the Shunamite woman Elisha revived was suffering from heatstroke:
    יח  וַיִּגְדַּל, הַיָּלֶד; וַיְהִי הַיּוֹם, וַיֵּצֵא אֶל-אָבִיו אֶל-הַקֹּצְרִים.18 And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers.
    יט  וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל-אָבִיו, רֹאשִׁי רֹאשִׁי; וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶל-הַנַּעַר, שָׂאֵהוּ, אֶל-אִמּוֹ.19 And he said unto his father: 'My head, my head.' And he said to his servant: 'Carry him to his mother.'
    כ  וַיִּשָּׂאֵהוּ--וַיְבִיאֵהוּ, אֶל-אִמּוֹ; וַיֵּשֶׁב עַל-בִּרְכֶּיהָ עַד-הַצָּהֳרַיִם, וַיָּמֹת.20 And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died.

    and that it was not techiyas hameisim but rather revival.
  2. Hirhurim, that polygamy is a bad idea. And at Life In Israel, some posts on the suggestion, from various sources. I agree that it is a bad idea, and that Chazal had even moved past it. We need not endorse more primitive conceptions of love and marriage.

    On the other hand, it is not just the solution to the shidduch crisis. It is also the solution to the learning vs. earning crisis. A fellow in kollel was telling me that he was tempted to take a pilegesh, because that way, he would have the financial support of two fathers-in-law. (Kidding, kidding...)
    Also, the connection between צר and צרה is a nice homiletic one, but I am not convinced that it is true. Look it up in Jastrow, pg. 1300. צרה and צרה are homonyms and homographs. One comes from Biblical Hebrew צרר, as in group together, and refers to the nearest. The other comes from Biblical Hebrew צר, and refers to anguish.
  3. Praying to Rashbi? That would likely be avodah zarah. Unfortunately, it is popular to pray by kevarim, and the hamon am does not know better and so stumbles. Thus:
    I had gone with my brother in law to the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and I davened that he should give me wisdom  and strength to prevent massive unemployment.
    As Rafi G writes at Life In Israel:
    One point is that it sounds like avoda zara, as he describes having asked RASHBI to grant him the wisdom and strength. I would just say he is probably ignorant how the whole "davening by kivrei tzadikim" works and doesn't realize he is only calling upon the merit of the holy man, and not davening to him.
    I could possibly point out in defense that it might be more ambiguous in the original Hebrew:
    הלכתי עם גיסי לקבר שמעון בר-יוחאי והתפללתי שייתן לי תבונה ועוצמה כדי למנוע אבטלה המונית.
    There is no explicit and separate pronoun 'he'. Still, the precedent is somewhat ambiguous. It is all part of the word שייתן, and the actor might be Shimon bar Yochai, or it might be Hashem to whom he davened. I think we should favor the latter interpretation in this case. See here for what I think is a clearer example of someone making this sort of mistake.

  4. Leiby Kletzky and agendas. I put forth what I think is the straightforward lesson of this case, to talk to your kids about kidnappers, and about personal safety in general. But it all depends on what the actual facts of the case are. Others are taking this as that abuse and molestation must be reported to the police. Life In Israel questions the latter assumption, regardless of the obvious merit of this lesson, because it is far from clear that this was the case here. As he writes:
    As of right now at least, nobody is saying that the perp in this case, this Levi Aron, was ever previously accused of anything even remotely similar - no abuse, no molestation, no nothing. As of right now, nobody is accusing any rabbonim of sweeping a case away that ended up with Aron moving to another city or neighborhood and eventually committing this murder.
    Perhaps this New York Post article could work some ways towards establishing this:
    The 35-year-old plumbing-supply store stockboy made his neighbors' skin crawl with the rides he gave neighborhood kids in his clunker Honda Prelude and the way he'd stare at local elementary-school students in a playground.
    "The parents on the block wouldn't want their kids to go near him," said a neighbor, Chaim Lefkovitz, 39, who added that Aron was prone to furious outbursts.
    Others have, or may have, other agendas. I deleted a comment on my own post which offered words of sadness at Leiby's death. The commenter included as part of his identifier for his name a link to his law practice. And the same comment with the same wording appeared at multiple other sites. This seemed to me like exploitation of the tragedy to increase his Google Page ranking. Since people were linking to those blogs and news sites discussing the tragedy, and those sites in turn were now linking to his site, via his own link. I don't know that it was exploitation, but it felt close enough to it that I deleted the comment.
    Here is an article on Vos Iz Neias by Rabbi Aryeh Katz which, besides trying to encourage people, gives practical suggestions about strangers / quasi-strangers:
    We have perhaps ignored the wisdom of of our sages in the classical Jewish sources (Derech Eretz Rabbah)  of “Kabdeihu veChashdeihu – Honor others, but don’t assume that everyone is above suspicion.”  If we know the person that is one thing, but in regard to strangers there is an obligation to assume the worst.  Not that this should be expressed, but at least we should teach our students and our children to be wary.
    Let us truthfully ask ourselves the following questions – answer them, and answer them honestly.
    If a religious individual approached your nine year old child and said, “Excuse me what’s your name?  It’s very important..” – would your child answer?
    If the person then answered, “Oh, Boruch Hashem, I found you!  Your mother was in a terrible car accident, she will be all right but she wanted me to bring you to the emergency room right away!”  - What would your child do?
    Question number two:  Your son is waiting for you at the pool. He is waiting to be picked up.  In the meantime someone that he marginally knows, perhaps from shul, offers him a ride home.  What will your son do?  Will he respectfully decline?  Should he?
    The prudent answer is yes.  And yet, our kids will probably miss the mark.
    I know that I, personally, have been negligent and that my child would probably not be distrustful.  He would take the ride, in both cases.
    But then, in the comment section, a moron tries to hijack Leiby's murder towards his own pet project / peeve. In comment 20:
    What a tragedy! Boruch Dayan Emes
    In the past when terrible things were happening to the Yidden, the Rabonim came out and said NO TALKING IN SHULE! This was no just said to one group, and this was not just said 10 or 20 years ago, but through out history at various times. Let us take upon ouselves to bring the kedusha back into our shules. Let's be careful not to talk, to answer Amen and Amen Yhai Shmai Rabba. In thiis zechus may Hashem hear our cries , answer our tefelos, and bestow on us only opened and revealed Brochos.
    Yes, rabbis have addressed this issue a bunch of times, and some have tied it in to specific tragedies. But other rabbis have not; and there have been other tragedies and other things fingered as the cause. Lashon Hara and Tznius are rather popular ones. I've seen cancer blamed on the Internet, and brain stem cancer blamed on (lack of tznius and resulting) onanism, since sperm is produced in the brain. Another fellow responds to comment 20 as follows:
    I totally agree with you. The decourm in most shuls is horiffic. On Sunday I witnessed someone on his blackberry during his own shmoney esrai!!. Every 10 seconds took it out texted, put it back. Then during chazoras hashatz, the talking during kaddish. My heart cries when I see the chilul hashem in our shuls and noone gives 2 hoots!1. Cant people just be mekabel on themselves not to bring a cell phone into shul and just be quiet during davening? I think it will be a huge zechus for the neshoma of Leiby and possibly prevent future tragedies.
    I agree with Esther, comment 31, who writes:
    i don't know how we got from a murdered child to not talking on cell phones. what needs to be done here is real maisa to protect our children.even if this guy turns out not to be a child molester he clearly had ,serious,ongoing mental health issues that were seemingly not being porperly dealt with.this seems to be the last taboo in the frum community.
    Whether or not molestation was an issue, dealing with practical concerns actually related to this incident would seem to be the proper course. But see the aggravating back and forth comments there.
    A more muted approach is available here:
    It does not seek to blame lack of learning for the tragedy, and even though they have a page to commit to not saying lashon hara for an hour in his merit, they don't blame the tragedy on lashon hara.
  5. Last week's Havel Havalim. They are looking for hosts, by the way.

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