Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Interesting Posts and Articles #169

  1. I revamped the structure of my parsha sources posts, such that there are now more sources, and more sections. There is now a section devoted to Rashi and his supercommentators, one for Ibn Ezra, one for Midrash, and one for Targum. Check it out.

  2. Herschel Tzig posts on the photoshopping out of a Rebbetzin of Satmar, by a frum newspaper in Eretz Yisrael. But he does not think the Photoshopping is such a big deal. He is more concerned with her role in the proceedings.

    But I think that in this case, it is not a Photoshop job. Rather, we know from the midrash that Miriam, as one of the midwives in Egypt, was sought after by Pharaoh. But the Egyptians were not able to see her because Hashem rendered her invisible, just as Pinchas turned invisible when hiding in the house of Rachav.

    It is not inconceivable that the Rebbetzin was of similar caliber to Miriam, and so where it would be appropriate for tznius concerns to not appear in a frum newspaper, she would simply miraculously disappear.

  3. MOChassid contemplates what is more annoying, a put-on Israeli accent or a put-on Yeshivish accent. I would lean towards the latter. One is a mistaken impression that this is the "correct" and precise pronunciation of Hebrew, while the other might be an impression that it is the more authentic form of Judaism. But those are just my impressions.

  4. Wolf howls at himself first, afterwards. There is, or should be, a difference between the conduct of the chazzan and a typical congregant, though.

  5. Via a Life in Israel post roundup, Joe Settler on a misrepresentation of the decision of a religious judge in Israel:
    Now I'm not a judge or a lawyer, but I simply don't see anything sexist or racist in this Judge's decision. In fact, he could have dropped the case right there, without any fine at all.

    Yet this story (without the leftwing newspapers mentioning the details) is being touted as proof that this judge is racist, sexist, and unqualified to be a Supreme Court judge.
  6. The Five Towns Jewish Times had a Gimmel Tammuz essay comparing those who opposed the Lubavitcher Rebbe or Chabad as akin to Dasan and Aviram. See my comments here. And as a plus, in the comment section, considering whether Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz was a closet Sabbatean.

  7. Wired on scamming fake news sites, and how real news sites help them along.

  8. From a while back, at Kabbalah u'Madda: the Rambam, and whether the moon landing was faked. The Rambam apparently said that the material for the moon differed from the material on earth. When the moon landing occurred, Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky concluded that the Rambam was wrong. Though this story was later edited out:
    R. Nosson Kaminetsky told the following story about his father, R. Yaakov Kaminetsky, and the moon landing. (It is a great lecture and well worth listening to if you haven’t already. Here is the link to Of Bans, Earthquakes and Tsunamis, ) When they were broadcasting the moon landing on TV, R. Yaakov went to a neighbor’s house to watch the moon landing. He wanted to see whether or not Rambam was correct about the moon being different from the Earth. After seeing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldron on the moon, he concluded that the in fact Rambam was mistaken. In this instance his halakhah followed Aristotle and did not follow Chazal.
    Though I am no expert in these matters, I would add that I am not convinced that Rambam saying this is based on Chazal rather than based on Aristotle. Indeed, this appears to be one of the things Galileo disproved from Aristotle. Thus:

    It was his artist's eye that finally cut through our inability to see the moon's surface for what it was. For Aristotle the moon had been a perfect sphere, and that was how people still saw it in 1609. A perfect sphere, of course, is perfectly smooth. The pure moon was not of base earth. The 16th century Church had used it as a symbol for the Immaculate Conception. In 1609, an innocent was not called pure as the driven snow, but rather pure as the moon. People thought the markings they saw on its surface were merely mirror images of the imperfect earth.

    Then an Englishman, Thomas Harriot, got his hands on one of the new Dutch telescopes and produced a crude sketch of the moon's surface. He drew the terminator, separating light and dark, as a jagged line. But he didn't suggest that the moon's surface itself was jagged. Instead, he was puzzled as to why a jagged line would appear on a smooth sphere.

    Five months later, Galileo turned his own home-made telescope on the moon. He hadn't yet seen Harriot's sketch and he had two advantages. For one thing, it was he who'd already put in motion a revolution that would overturn 2000 years of Aristotelian thinking. He wasn't committed to a perfect moon.

    Galileo's second advantage was that he was an artist. He made a set of sepia drawings of the moon in its changing phases. They were beautiful drawings with a wondrous luminescent glow. Yet they left no doubt about the pockmarked surface. When other people saw his drawings they promptly saw what they hadn't been able to see before. Their moon changed from smooth to rough in a blink -- like the shift in an optical illusion.

    There was also a scientific reason to disagree with Aristotle, on the basis of optics:
    In Europe, Aristotle's theory was first convincingly discredited by the work of Galileo Galilei. Using a telescope, Galileo observed that the moon was not entirely smooth, but had craters and mountains, contradicting the Aristotelian idea of an incorruptible perfectly smooth moon. Galileo also criticized this notion theoretically – a perfectly smooth moon would reflect light unevenly like a shiny billiard ball, so that the edges of the moon's disk would have a different brightness than the point where a tangent plane reflects sunlight directly to the eye. A rough moon reflects in all directions equally, leading to a disk of approximately equal brightness which is what is observed.
    So if Rambam said what he said, it was likely the result of Aristotle, not Chazal. And while a moon landing might provide concrete eyewitness evidence that Aristotle was wrong, this was disproven many years previous.

  9. Rabbi Slifkin, at Rationalist Judaism, contrasts a rationalist vs. non-rationalist approach to the reasons for mitzvot.

  10. Mystical Paths takes note of a troubling decision in Israel regarding granting kashrus certification to a messianist.

  11. Rabbi Yaakov Klass instructs a baal teshuva on how to prioritize mitzvot. The question:
    QUESTION: I am a ba'al teshuva and as such I am so grateful at having found G-d, even at this stage in my life. As such I find great difficulty at times to judge and carefully weigh my actions especially as it relates to the various mitzvot which, one who is born religious just does automatically, or so my friends tell me. Is there any guide that will offer me the ability to organize my mitzvah performance relative to their rewards and importance?
    But counseling on tadir vs. non-tadir, or any of the other halachic classifications in the previous segments of these series, seems to me to be beside the point. I don't think the question was -- or should have been -- to know a series of mechanical rules to apply to make such a decision and prioritization. Rather, it is how to react organically and fluidly as a practicing Jew. Imposing a new system of rules, however correct they may be, would seem to go against this very idea this person's friends are telling him. This is more cultural and mimetic.


Michael said...


Aristotlean science stated that the heavenly bodies were perfect, otherwise how could they orbit in such perfect circles. Rambam is following the scientific dogma of his time. Amazingly, being an astronomer himself, with much more accurate data than the greeks, he knew that there was something wrong with ptolmean astronomy. As he states in the Guide. He doesnwt like the correcting epicycle theory either, because it's such a mess. Yet he is totally at loss as to solving this, stuck in the middle ages physics. If he was alive today he would rejoice with the new knowledge, studying Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Einstein.

Michael said...

This is the beautiful article about epicycles written by the Rav in his book. He is completely perplexed by this. It is amazing to read with our hindsight.


Yosef Greenberg said...

On 2: Great pshat; but what would be the explanation according the the Rambam? ;)

Anonymous said...

i dont know if the ramban is wrong about this, some gedolim hold the moon landing was faked

joshwaxman said...

are you intending this for real, or as a troll? but i see this here. also, can you name which gedolim? are they prominent?

kol tuv,


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