Thursday, April 30, 2009

Interesting Posts and Articles #143

  1. Life In Israel posts about strawberries and creepy crawly things, particularly on strawberries in Israel. An excerpt:
    This year, they say, the strawberries are infested to the point that the bug party is not just at the top by the leaf, but all over the strawberry - by the seeds in the wall of the berry - thus making it impossible to clean properly and eat (unless perhaps if you would peel the strawberry - not very practical).
    Just for kicks, I bought strawberries on Friday for shabbos. I took a couple of random berries from the bag and inspected them very closely, but only with my naked eye. I pulled out the little pips and inspected them, and under them. I inspected the whole berry very thoroughly. Yet I was unable to see any creepy crawly or clingy buggies.
    I don't know if there were any thrips on them. I am no expert in identifying thrips. They are quite small, and hard to see. Though some say that once you are shown them, you can spot them even on other strawberries. Here is a YouTube video with the claim, and someone getting the thrips to move, and pointing them out on a berry; and how even after washing in soapy water, a thrip survives. This video is blown up -- the strawberries are larger than life, and even there, the thrips are hard to see, but are visible in the end. But this also means thrips are 1/2 or 1/3 the size. Check it out:

    It seems like they are moving in response to being prodded. It could be that this could have halachic impact, aside from the small size. Also, I wonder at this soap solution, which they are saying is not working on the present strawberries. Strawberries are spongy. Does the washing of the outside of the fruit, as shown, really get out soap absorbed into the internal flesh of the fruit, or is there still soap inside?

  2. Blog In Dm points out a bunch on musical errors in a dvar Torah all about music, "The Seven Keys of Music." E.g.
    It is likely, then, that another tradition handed down from Yuval is for the keys that play major notes to be white, for happy songs, while the black keys, which play the minor notes, are black, for mournful music. White is a source ofchessed for Klal Yisrael (this may be one reason why doctors wear white); on the Yomim Nora'im we wear white kittels. Black, on the other hand, represents the trait of gvurah and is a source and an expression of melancholy.
    In response:
    The white key/black key distinction is fairly recent, as keyboard instruments and that color scheme are not that old. Most instruments don't have this distinction at all. A violin, or clarinet, for example, don’t have black keys. Yuval predates the concept of white/black keys by five thousand years or so. (That's a low-ball estimate assuming he takes the chronology of Maaseh Breisihis literally.)

    The key of A minor and some other minor modes use white keys only.
  3. A bathroom mirror two inches too high drags a family-owned restaurant into a lawsuit.

  4. At Thanbook, Cantor Sherwood Goffin posts from Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid, that trup goes all the way back:
    Proof Text #1: In Parshat Yitro (19:19) it says: “...Moses would speak and G-d would respond to him with a voice.
    Rabbi Yehuda HeChasid ... writes that “voice” is the Taamei HaMikra, the musical “trop.” How could they listen to G-d reciting an entire parallel Oral Law as Moses taught the Torah? The answer given by the Sefer HaChassidim is that this was the heavenly melody of the Torah Trop that punctuates the text of the Chumash and therefore serves as a “code matrix” from which emanated the Torah she-b’al peh!
    I've posted about theories of the age of trup before on parshablog. Here, for example, is part xxx of a selection from Shadal's Vikuach where he addresses the age of trup. There is, admittedly, a difference between the orthography and the application of trup, but it seems that many famous Biblical commentators did not hold that trup was miSinai.

  5. The Jewish Worker does not need prizes to give tzedakka. Maybe so, but these gimmicks serve as a way of reminding folks, "hey, we're here."

  6. At Mystical Paths, Reb Akiva debunks an email going about:
    By email from a friend, alerting me to the amazing approach of Mars in August of 2009, which aligns with a blood moon statement of the Zohar during Elul...


    This comes right from the Zohar that tells us the Geulah will begin with the appearance of the blood moon in Elul!!!
    Man that sounds good!'s not true. It's actually from 2003, when Mars did make it's closest approach in 60,000 secular years and appeared 6 times larger than usual for a few nights - which made it still 10 times smaller than the moon.
    I would add my own debunking. Who says a blood moon is Mars?! Surely Rashbi, or Ramdel, knew the Hebrew word for Mars. Meanwhile, the blood moon, or hunter's moon, (I think named for its color) is the first full moon after the autumn equinox, and I think it makes sense at around Elul. {Update: Or as Joe in Australia points out, a lunar eclipse, when the moon looks red.} I have not seen the particular Zohar inside, but I know how people kvetch Zohars. But I would guess that it is in part derived from the pasuk in Yoel 3,
    the continuation of the famous pasuk we cite in the Hagaddah:

    ג וְנָתַתִּי, מוֹפְתִים, בַּשָּׁמַיִם, וּבָאָרֶץ: דָּם וָאֵשׁ, וְתִימְרוֹת עָשָׁן.3 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
    ד הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ יֵהָפֵךְ לְחֹשֶׁךְ, וְהַיָּרֵחַ לְדָם--לִפְנֵי, בּוֹא יוֹם יְהוָה, הַגָּדוֹל, וְהַנּוֹרָא.4 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD come.
    If so, it stands to reason that this Zohar is a reference to the moon, rather than to Mars. But this is of course off the cuff, and I should check out this Zohar inside, I suppose.


E-Man said...

About the strawberries. These bugs are soooo tiny that it brings me to ask the following question. Dust mites are in the air, does that mean I should stop breathing because I will inhale one? What are the perimeters that tell us when a living thing is too small to be considered a traif bug. I mean, I have living organisms in my bowel, E. Coli, should I remove my intestines? I mean, it seems like this debate would be similar to the same debate about drinking tap water in new york city, because of those tiny bugs that are found in the water. Do we have to be worried about bugs that are so small we can't see them? If yes, then my question about dust mites stands.

Joe in Australia said...

Naively - I've never heard of this quotation from the Zohar - a "blood moon" would be a lunar eclipse, when the moon is shadowed by the earth and is lit only by light refracted through the earth's atmosphere. It really does look copper-red.

joshwaxman said...

makes sense.

interesting point. i'll have to response a bit later to this, probably in a comment here.


joshwaxman said...

especially in terms of the context in Yoel, where the sun undergoes a solar eclipse.

Joe in Australia said...

Solar and lunar eclipses are linked - if the conditions are right for a solar eclipse, there is a good chance that they will be right for a lunar eclipse exactly half a month later. I haven't looked at Yoel 3 inside but a naive reading is certainly consistent with solar and lunar eclipses.

Here is a good explanation of why eclipses happen at particular times. If there is a solar (lunar) eclipse while the moon is traveling towards a node, then the moon will be near the opposite node half a month later and there will be a subsequent lunar (solar) eclipse at that time.

michael said...

I once was told that if you read Zohar you can go nuts. I am beginning to think that there is truth in this statement, considering the amount of loonies out there.

By the way. Here in Israel I checked a few strawberries that I bought and found no thrips. Worth checking, anyway.

joshwaxman said...

thanks. indeed, this seems to match some meforshim, e.g. Radak. perhaps I'll get a chance to develop this into a post...

true, though some halachic sources have grappled with this, and given some guidelines. check out the Aruch HaShulchan I translated here. Basically, what if we could see them with the naked eye, once we know how to look for them? I don't know from personal experience about thrips, though.

Of course, correlation does not indicate causation. And I think that people are just as willing to misinterpret any text to conform with their beliefs and hopes. I have seen the same done to gemara. interesting about the thrips. i checked locally in the US and didn't find, but i don't know what i'm doing nor are they apparently as numerous here. i'd like someone to show me, in person, a live thrip, and see if I can subsequently locate it, and consistently so, as was claimed on the video.



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