Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Interesting Posts and Articles #247

1) A circumcision ban ban in California..

2) DovBear with a suggested source for the fiery furnace into which Avraham was tossed.
It appears to me that the legend of Abraham and the furnace may have been built on a misunderstanding. Not ever having heard about the city called Ur, perhaps the ancient interpreters read  Genesis 15:7 in light of the usage found  in  Isaiah and Ezekiel yielding:
I am YKVK who took you out of the FIRE of Kasdim. 
Support for this suggestion comes from many places:
My reaction is that he is right that this is the derivation. Along with the parallel story happening with Daniel, as well as the word HaKivshan in the aftermath of Sodom. But that this is a derivation, not a misunderstanding. Even before we have explicit derashot, I think there were implicit derashot, or else explicit derashot that just were not recorded. Who cares that Philo records it? He recorded it, but it was based on a derasha.

Indeed, this is certainly not the only item drawn from Daniel and applies to the patriarchs and their families. See the midrashim concerning Yosef and his dreams, and the parallel to Nevuchadnezzar and his dreams. For instance, nowhere in the Torah is the statement that Pharaoh threatened to execute whoever interpreted his dream incorrectly, but a midrash has it, and the same can be found in the interpretation of Nevuchadnezzar's dream. Nowhere does the Torah explicitly say that Pharaoh refused to reveal the true content of his dream, but such was the case for Nevuchadnezzar. These details find purchase in close readings of the Yosef narrative. But those details were looked for and darshened in order to duplicate details already known in the Daniel narrative.

So, maybe they attributed this to Avraham without textual support at all, and purely from Daniel. Or, more likely, they found the support and so read the story into Avraham's background. But that does not mean that these ancient interpreters misunderstood the pesukim. Yes, they knew that Ur had this meaning of fire. Did they know of Ur as an ancient city? That calls for speculation. But it does not take a great leap to understand that within simple peshat, Ur in Ur Kasdim is a place name, Ur of the Chaldeans, as is a pretty standard translation. The ancients were not idiots. Indeed, we see in the Book of Jubilees that it was understood as a city:

The Book of Jubilees states that Ur was founded in 1688 Anno Mundi (year of the world) by 'Ur son of Kesed, presumably the offspring of Arphaxad, adding that in this same year wars began on Earth.

"And 'Ur, the son of Kesed, built the city of 'Ara of the Chaldees, and called its name after his own name and the name of his father." (i.e., Ur Kesdim) (Jubilees 11:3).

3) Life In Israel has a peshkevil against that well known Reform rabbi, Rav Shteinman, for changing and simplifying the text of hataras nedarim. I wonder what they would say about Rav Shternbuch's simplification of the Chida's viduy?

4) A recipe for etrog jam, which some regard as a segulah.
The Yafeh LaLev, Orach Haim vol. 2 664:15 explains that jam made from etrog should be given to a woman experiencing a difficult labor. It is a segula for her to give birth easily and without pain, and for the child to be born to a good life and peace. This is also cited in Segulot Yisrael 68b; Brit Avot #18 and Kaf Hahayim 664:60. The Gemara in Ketuvot 61a cites a story of a woman who ate etrog during her pregnancy and had a fragrant child. This inference may not simply refer to a smell but rather to the child’s overall pleasant characteristics.
That woman was the wife of the non-Jewish king Shapur. A fuller picture of the gemara in question:
A woman who couples in a mill will have epileptic children. One who couples on the ground will have children with long necks. [A woman] who treads66  on the blood67  of an ass will have scabby68  children. One who eats66  mustard will have intemperate children.69  One who eats66  cress will have blear-eyed children. One who eats66  fish brine70  will have children with blinking eyes.71  One who eats72  clay73  will have ugly children. One who drinks72  intoxicating liquor will have ungainly74  children. One who eats72  meat and drinks wine will have children of a robust constitution. One who eats eggs will have children with big eyes. One who eats fish will have graceful children. One who eats parsley1  will have beautiful children. One who eats coriander will have stout2  children. One who eats ethrog3  will have fragrant children. The daughter of King Shapur, whose mother had eaten ethrog3  [while she was pregnant] with her, used to be presented before her father as his principal perfume.
I would not take this gemara metaphorically. This seems to be based on contemporary beliefs. But we don't follow the science mentioned in the gemara.

I would guess that the normal segulah is based on the tradition of the etrog being the etz hadaat, which brought about the pain of childbirth in the first place.

5) How a baby beetle uses its mouth to lure amphibians to their doom. At Wired.

6) The ultimate rebellion. Not really a case of ben sorer umoreh.

7) How to pronounce Elo-ah. I know someone who insists (based on a tradition from his father) otherwise, that it is not a mapik in the heh but rather a dagesh, telling to extend it, via the patach to be pronounced after it. I don't believe that is right.

I did not know how to properly pronounce the word until the end of college, when I took a course in Hebrew. Most people do not know how to pronounce it. While I find this grating, especially as people correct other, slighter errors while messing this one up, I don't think it is the end of the world. Rachmana liba ba'iy.

8) Emes veEmunah agrees with the Times Ethicist about the ethical problems of a religious Jewish couple asking to be let off a delayed flight due to Shabbos difficulties, which led to the flight losing its place in line and eventually being entirely cancelled. The question is the ethics of the pilot giving in to their request. I can understand the couple's request, from their perspective. Plus, it does not seem like they knew that the result would be the cancellation of the flight. The pilot probably knew it would mean further delays. And the airline has an interest in its passengers not being compelled to violate their religious principles. I am not so convinced that it was unethical.

9) Yeranen Yaakov brings us news of the Shomrei Emunim's rebbe, and his declaration that we are, without a doubt, standing before a world war. Read it all. An excerpt:
All Jews outside of Israel should come to live in Israel.  Even those who cannot do so should purchase an apartment so they'll have a place to which to escape when the time comes.
I don't know. I had my heart set on that new yacht. Should I really forgo that, just to buy an apartment in Eretz Yisrael?

No, I was not really going to buy a yacht. The question really is, should I forgo paying yeshiva tuition, paying the mortgage, putting food on the table, and so on, in order to buy a just-in-case apartment in Eretz Yisrael? Does he think all Americans are fabulously rich?

I could understand how people could think this. There are rich gevirim here, and some Americans can buy apartments in Eretz Yisrael. And indeed, it is fairly regular for people from Eretz Yisrael to come here shnorring, since they (or their children) are about to get married, and they need to buy them an apartment (!). If we can afford to spend money to buy all those apartments for Israelis, then it makes sense that we have so much disposable income that we wouldn't blink at buying ourselves apartments as well.

The Rebbe says the above after stating that he has been shouting for years for people to come to Eretz Yisrael. But at least do this.

This call to buy apartments in Eretz Yisrael is not unique to the Shomer Emunim Rebbe. It was right before Rosh Hashana of 2009, that a friend of my mother was trying to convince her to do the same. This friend was following the instructions of the delusional Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak. He had announced that mashiach was certainly coming that year, by Rosh Hashanah, and that only those who had real estate in Eretz Yisrael would be saved. (My mom asked why, if he was saying this, did he have a scheduled appearance in Madison Square Garden after that date? And whether and why tzaddikim and good people, who lived in America, would not be saved, while certain people (I shan't name) who were great reshaim, would be saved, because they had an apartment.) But this friend was convinced by Rav Amnon Yitzchak and spent money she did not have (and went into considerable debt) in order to purchase an apartment in Israel.

The Shomer Emunim Rebbe believes in what he is saying. But he is wrong, and we should ignore him. Perhaps more on this in a separate post.

10) Here on parshablog, Zos HaBracha and Biodynamic Agriculture.


GilaB said...

I've heard that it's a bad idea to eat the esrogim sold for as part of arba minim nowadays. There's a ton of market pressure to have visually flawless esrogim, which pushes farmers to use very large amounts of pesticides and herbicides on the crop, far more than would ordinarily be used on a food crop.

joshwaxman said...

hmmm... that is a good point.


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