Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Interesting Posts and Articles #188

  1. Cap'n, thar be whales here! Scientists create transparent aluminum, but only briefly, and it seems only transparent to ultraviolet light.

  2. Yeshiva Bound: I cannot vouch for whether this is legit, but two bachurim set up a website seeking donations so that they can attend a yeshiva in Australia.

  3. An Hakirah article: Is There a Disconnect between Torah Learning and Torah Living? In that article, the following story, from Rabbi Hanoch Teller:
    One Sunday morning Reb Shlomo Zalman gathered his students at Kol Torah and told them: “A terrible thing happened in my neighborhood and I must make you aware of it.” The seriousness of Reb Shlomo Zalman's disposition and the somber tone of his voice only served to intensify their fear that the event was even more horrendous than their vivid imaginations could conjure up. Reb Shlomo Zalman related that on Shabbos he had seen a man dragging benches to the shul for a collation in honor of his son’s engagement. The man’s son, who was walking at his side, did not so much as lift a finger to help his father. “I could not contain my bewilderment,” the Rav told his listeners, “and I asked the chassan to explain why his father was doing all of the shlepping. He proudly explained that even where there was an eruv, he himself did not carry on Shabbos and was therefore unable to lend a hand.” This reply enraged the rav. The very idea of so-called religiosity taking precedence over honoring one’s father was anathema to him.
  4. Certain Muslim medical practitioners refuse alchohol-based hand gels because of religious beliefs, which then puts others at greater risk for swine flu.

  5. Does Judaism not have enough shtuyot that have crept in, that we must also adopt as an article of faith that the "miracles" of other religions are true as well?! At Mystical Paths, explaining the existence of mystical signs in other religions, by acknowledging their existence, rather than stating the truth, that they are alse sleight-of-hand. In the comment section, I argue against this from a rationalist perspective, but one need not be a rationalist to recognize that much if not all of the present-day powers are likely trickery and/or nonsense. As I wrote in my latest comment there:
    i would just add here that unfortunately this conversation devolved into a mystical vs. rationalist divide. but i think that even on the mystical side, even if one acknowledges that {magical impure} powers once existed, one is not religiously compelled to adopt all the shtuyot of other religions as real phenomena. indeed, if both possibilities are open before us, the idea that it is trickery should be one of the options, and perhaps even the preferred option. there are a lot of gullible people out there, or people who are conditioned by their religion to be superstitious. while chazal were often mystical, they still denied the reality of certain superstitions. for example, just because some silly christians see the virgin mary in a grilled cheese sandwich, Judaism, even mystical Judaism, should not compel a Jew to believe such utter nonsense as an article of faith, or even something plausible.
  6. An interview with the director of Hadassah hospital.

  7. On parshablog from 2007, eating a potato from the chulent during the nine days. And a post or two on the development of the practice of not consuming meat or wine during the nine days.

  8. About the AP's attempt to protect its content from blogs, or perhaps from aggregators.

  9. At Rationalist Judaim, hanging corpses and decomposing faces, and how it might relate to Rashi's view of the corporeality of God.

  10. At On the Main Line, a contrast between norms described in R. Yehuda Aryeh Mi-Modena of Venice's Historia de' riti Ebraici and the recommendations by Rabbi Falk for engaged couples.

  11. Rare 2nd Temple inscription found.

  12. At Daf Notes, they tell over an interesting question and answer by Rav Yosef Engel about the case in the gemara of a stipulation that cannot be fulfilled:
    There is another case brought down in the Tosefta: If the husband said, “On condition that you fly in the air.”

    Reb Yosef Engel in Gilyonei HaShas asks: Isn’t this something that is possible? Don’t we find such an occurrence by Alexander the Great? And in today’s age (of Reb Yosef Engel), people fly in the air using air balloons!?

    He answers that the language “fly” connotes “by himself,” similar to a bird, and floating in the air using exterior devices is not what he had in mind. A condition must be fulfilled according to the language of the stipulator!
    A nice answer, but I think that one need not go that far. I think it is quite possible to allegorize the story in the Yerushalmi to be talking about Alexander the Great's oversight and royal power. And I don't think an eagle can really bear a human to such heights, or even fly to such heights that the earth looks like a circle. Meanwhile, the idea of a ship which flies in the air is something that Rambam thought utterly impossible, and demonstrative of the weakness of the imaginative faculty that could come up with such nonsense, such that it is not so difficult to assume that Chazal had the same attitude, either in general or even in every particular case. On the other hand, in the gemara, it speaks of crossing the sea with your feet, such that perhaps particular methods are being considered even here. I doubt it, though.

    That gemara, besides being present in Bava Metzia 94a, also occurs in Yerushalmi Nazir 7a:
    מתניתא דר' מאיר דרבי מאיר אומר צריך לכפול תמן דברי הכל היא אמר לו שמור ושמעת מתניתא דרבי מאיר ורבי יהודה בן תימא דתני הרי זה גיטך על מנת שלא תפרחי באויר שלא תעברי את הים הגדול ברגלייך הריזה גט ועל מנת שתפרחי באויר על מנת שתעברי הים הגדול ברגלייך אינו גט ר' יהודה בן תימא אומר גט

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