Monday, June 04, 2012

Interesting Posts and Articles #370

1. A new website, Shmoogle. And the DRS High School Positive Project. Anti-bullying.

2. Elder of Zion on that Jordanian translation of the Talmud.

3. There is a midrash I recall elaborating on Moshe requesting to see Hashem's ways, in Shemot 33:13.

יג  וְעַתָּה אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ, הוֹדִעֵנִי נָא אֶת-דְּרָכֶךָ, וְאֵדָעֲךָ, לְמַעַן אֶמְצָא-חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ; וּרְאֵה, כִּי עַמְּךָ הַגּוֹי הַזֶּה.13 Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found grace in Thy sight, show me now Thy ways, that I may know Thee, to the end that I may find grace in Thy sight; and consider that this nation is Thy people.'

or maybe on pasuk 23:

כג  וַהֲסִרֹתִי, אֶת-כַּפִּי, וְרָאִיתָ, אֶת-אֲחֹרָי; וּפָנַי, לֹא יֵרָאוּ.  {פ}23 And I will take away My hand, and thou shalt see My back; but My face shall not be seen.' {P}

This is reconstructed from memory, so I may have some details wrong. Moshe requests to see Hashem's ways, and Hashem agrees. Hashem shows him a well. First Ploni #1 stops by the well, takes a drink, leaves his wallet there. Then, Ploni #2 stops by, drinks, finds and keeps the wallet. Then, Ploni #3 comes by, drinks. Ploni #1 returns to seek his wallet, kills Ploni #1 for stealing the wallet. Moshe asks how this is Divine justice. And Hashem explains that Ploni #1 owed Ploni #2 the money and so the money has transferred. And Ploni #3 was a murderer, with no witnesses, and so deserved his fate.

The idea behind this midrash, I think, is that the ways of God are beyond us, because we don't see the full picture.

In recent posts, Yeranen Yaakov (and here) brings various explanations for the recent tragic car accident in northern Israel. Thus,
Rabbi Grossman added “I am not a navi and dare not attempt to understand HKBH’s cheshbonos, but I know that this family was a kapora for Am Yisrael and we mustn’t say ‘oh another tragic accident, another tragedy’ but we must contemplate the magnitude of the event, the loss, the pain, and each of us must find ways to enhance our avodas Hashem and our actions”.
According to Ladaat, Rav Amar said that the tragedy was due to Hashem's attribute of justice in the world which wipes out the innocent together with the guilty when He sees that we are busy with the mundane aspects of our lives and don't pay attention to the spiritual aspects which are eternal.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky and the Skulener Rebbe seemed to blame it on the Internet being in Jewish homes (h/t Mashiach is Coming).
Rav Benayahu Shmueli adds his reason for the tragedy in Northern Israel: Sin'at Hinam and a lack of Ahdut.  He also recommends learning Zohar, calling it the Noah's Ark of our time.
I would suggest that this was punishment for overemphasis on hyper-tznius:
They explained that the children, even the little ones, were always dressed extremely modestly, even the little ones who would never leave home without socks.
No, I actually wouldn't, because I'm not an ignorant jerk who thinks I know Hashem's reasons. It is possible to point to anything and everything as a 'cause' for the tragedy. But, as in the midrash, the only One who really knows why this occurred is Hashem. (To be fair, none of these rabbis blamed the family personally. Rather, it was klal yisrael in general who failed in some respect, and the family took the hit.)

4. R' Lazer Brody's suggestion about how to handle an extended hand from a woman.
Observe the Torah by all means, but let's do our best to avoid embarrassing others.
I try to keep a few hard candies in my pocket when on tour. If a woman extends a hand, I drop a hard candy in her palm. The potentially embarrassing situation turns into smiles.
Nice. There is a basis, according to many, for shaking a woman's hand in such a situation. (See here, here, and here for instance.) In this instance, though, I think that this woman should just go jump in a lake. This should not cause a diplomatic tempest. One would expect some measure of respect for the religious beliefs of other groups.

5. A new blog, R' Shamshon Refael Hirsch For All.

6. At Rationalist Judaism, the unsung heroes of daf yomi.
But who are the guests of honor at the grand Siyumim? Who performs the siyum, who makes the speeches, who gets the glory? Not the Daf Yomi participants and not even the maggidei shiurim. Instead, it's the roshei yeshivah. 
This is not only tragic; it's also ironic. For the roshei yeshivah are the ones who not only do not learn Daf Yomi; they also often speak out against it!
7. The curriculum at Volozhin.

8. Fink or Swim discusses an Ami article about a tragic divorce.

9. At Mystical Paths, a Jewish blogger comes out.

10. Here at parshablog, check out the sources for learning through parashat Behaalotecha.


Hillel said...

R' Waxman,
What exactly is your objection to R' Grossman's statement? He does not attribute the tragedy to anything or anyone, he merely states it is a terrible thing, a kapara for BN"Y (which the death of tzaddikim is generally held to be) and suggests we enhance our avodat Hashem. This strikes me as a laudable response, no?

joshwaxman said...

certainly laudable, though since he is not a navi, how can he really say that "I know that this family was a kapora for Am Yisrael" and that, therefore, Am Yisrael was guilty and in need of such a kaporah.

For all he knows, these were gilgulim for whom this death atoned. or maybe they had some private sin, for which this atoned. Certainly no one is going to come forward at this point at say 'the victims were terrible people who wronged me in way X, Y, and Z'. Maybe, like Chanoch, Hashem took them away before they had opportunity to sin. Maybe, like the Jewish version of the rapture (for which there are psukim I used to be able to point to), Hashem took these tzaddikim away to spare them the pain of the Yom Hashem. Who knows? Besides Hashem (and the Shadow), I don't think any of these rabbis know.

Baba Elazer was also purportedly a kaparah, saving all of klal yisrael from severe punishment. Certainly no mention was made of his tricking and blackmailing gullible Jews of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I just wish that they would just stay out of this business of definitively giving the reason for such tragedies.


Hillel said...

R' Waxman,
I agree that you are, of course, technically correct. But it seems a tad uncharitable to lump a fairly innocuous statement, and a nice sentiment, in with the other statements which you fairly classified as those typifying an "ignorant jerk" who thinks they know Hashem's reasons.

A pulpit Rabbi who says to an avel "your relative dying is a tragedy, but at least he's in gan eden" or the like is technically making a statement he doesn't know and can't prove, but that doesn't make him an ignorant jerk (like someone saying "you relative died because he owned a TV.")


joshwaxman said...


I was careful to phrase it in such a way that only I was in danger of being an ignorant jerk. I agree that Rabbi Grossman's statement was relatively innocuous. Indeed, I'd put a lot of the other statements in that category. For instance, Rav Amar did not blame the family, but said that they are tzaddikim, and referred to the talmudic statement that the innocent are wiped out together with the guilty.


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