Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Interesting Posts and Articles #196

  1. Rav Brazil on how to know if a song is rooted in kedusha. First, a whole devar Torah about zemer, nachash, and kol, and how going one letter behind and one letter ahead can take you from one to the other. An excerpt:
    The Radak and Rav Saadia Gaon that the zemer is a giraffe. I find it very fascinating that the word for giraffe describes Jewish song - zemer. The interpretation is suggested as follows.
    Cute, but while the giraffe makes a sound, I would guess that zemer in this case comes from the meaning of pruning, since it takes the leaves from high in the trees. But here is how to know if a song is rooted in kedusha, or chas veshalom, the opposite:
    Rav Shimon Susholtz from Beis Medrash Keren Orah shared with me the observation that especially when bochurim dance, one can tell whether the accompanying song is rooted in nachash or kedusha. The litmus test is to look at the position of their heads. If the heads face downwards towards the floor and feet, it is non-kedushah material. If their heads are straight, then it is holiness, for it arouses the soul and not the body. When I first heard this, I couldn’t believe that this was the barometer of the music’s source. Well, guess what? I found it to be true every time. [First observe the phenomenon before you start writing any commentary to the opposite.]
    I am attending a wedding tonight, so I will look out for this, though after I write the following commentary to the opposite. If the position of the heads is the litmus test, then how is he confirming it, to be true every time? He must also sense something about the music, to confirm it. I would guess that it is the style of music.

    Since Polish or Russian drinking songs, or Polish or Russian marching songs, are likely to be the ones confirmed to be purportedly rooted in kedusha, while more recent pop songs are more likely to the ones purportedly rooted in tumah, I too would expect to be able to confirm his observation tonight.

    Why? The position of the head is probably not an indicator of some spiritual direction. Rather, different songs are danced to differently. (See a guide to different dance styles at Frum Satire.) The usual simple shuffle-around-in-a-circle is used for many popular and old songs. You don't need to look down at your feet to do the shuffle. Some more recent tunes, with different styles lend themselves to more complicated dances, with all sorts of fancy footwork. Thus, there is a practical link between the song style (which would "confirm" whether the song stems from kedusha or the opposite) and the dancing style. This would then not be surprising at all.

  2. On a related note, Menachem Mendel posts the song lyrics to "Yo ya" in Hebrew and English, with an adapted commentary showing how Biblical and Rabbinic literature are combined into the song. For example:
    I received a somewhat exaggerated punishment,
    They sentenced me to death.
    I sat on the electric chair,
    I left my private transport.
    If only I could
    Switch chairs,
    Because they say, usually:
    “He who changes his place changes his luck” [Babylonian Talmud, Rosh HaShannah 16b. See here.]
    I would guess that people look down while dancing to Yo ya. Maybe I will see it tonight.

  3. Zombie ants controlled by fungus. From the Mah Rabu department:
    Once infected by the fungus, an ant is compelled to climb down from the canopy to the low leaves, where it clamps down with its mandibles just before it dies.

    "The fungus accurately manipulates the infected ants into dying where the parasite prefers to be, by making the ants travel a long way during the last hours of their lives," said study leader David P. Hughes of Harvard University.

    After the ant dies, the fungus continues to grow inside it. By dissecting victims, Hughes and colleagues found that the parasite converts the ant's innards into sugars that help the fungus grow. But it leaves the muscles controlling the mandibles intact to make sure the ant keeps its death grip on the leaf.

    The fungus also preserves the ant's outer shell, growing into cracks and crevices to reinforce weak spots, thereby fashioning a protective coating that keeps microbes and other fungi out.
    I wonder if it is also where the ants prefer the fungus to be, in which case it would not be the fungus controlling this. As the article mentions elsewhere, the ants try to avoid those areas. Keeping the fungus away from their population makes sense as a strategy to avoid widespread infection.

  4. The Yeshiva World on a repercussion of the Munchhausen protests, and accusations against Hadassa hospital -- a chareidi family which refuses to hospitalize a newborn infant at Hadassah, though this is deemed medically much better for the infant. Also discussed at Emes veEmunah.

  5. DafNotes posts an interesting explanation of Chasam Sofer on Eliyahu Hanavi's locker room. An excerpt:
    The Chasam Sofer proceeds to say that when Mashiach comes, Eliyahu will once again don his body and live as a human amongst the other great people of that great generation. He will be allowed to rule on any halachic issues (a privilege reserved for mankind) since at that time he will have reassumed the existence of a human being. Meanwhile, however, he has the status of an angel, and therefore he is not bound by any of the limitations imposed upon men. This applies for halachah as well; Eliyahu may traverse the globe on Shabbos to go to a bris milah, even though this involves traveling beyond the permitted distance, since as an angel he is not bound by halachah.
    I haven't seen this Chasam Sofer inside. But he raises an objection from the incident in today's daf, in which Rabba bar Avuah meets Eliyahu hanavi in a cemetery, and asks how he could stand there, given that he is a kohen. He answers that then, in that incident, Eliyahu must have been in his body.

    But this idea is somewhat shocking, because it appears to contradict an explicit gemara. As I discuss in a parshablog post and here, the gemara in Eruvin 43a:
    "These seven rulings were said on the morning of Shabbat before Rav Chisda in the city of Sura and were repeated in the afternoon of Shabbat before Rava in Pumpedisa. Who said them? Was it not Eliyahu {who could travel this distance in so short a time, which was more than the techum, and was flying and thus travelling over 10 tefachim from the ground}? Therefore derive that there are no techumin over 10 tefachim! No! Perhaps it was Yosef the demon who said it."
    If Eliyahu could abandon his corporeal form and thus avoid the strictures of halacha, then why not answer that rather than resort to Yosef the demon. And as I ask in the post, that it does not mention visiting every seder is indicative of the fact that Chazal did not maintain this belief. And I would add, this would also seem to indicate that they did not believe that Eliyahu visits every brit milah either. Indeed, this appears to be an idea introduced in the Zohar, which means that the idea came into being post-Chazal.

  6. Bizarro on forgetting the attachment.

  7. Vos Iz Neias on a psak that single women are not allowed to procreate via artificial insemination. An interesting sub-discussion there, about a widow who had her husband's sperm frozen. I wonder at the impact of this in terms of yibbum and chalitza. It seems to fulfill some of the spirit of the law behind yibbum, without the need for the brother of the deceased. And a discussion at DovBear.

  8. At Rationalist Judaism, Rabbi Slifkin discusses a Rashi which establishes a global Talmudic definition of the word keviyachol, and shows how this relates to corporealism. I also discuss that Rashi, at the end of this parshablog post.

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