Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
[Julius Wellhausen 1844 - 1918 an architect of modern Biblical Criticism]
The Documentary Hypothesis proposes that the Torah was written by several different authors between about 950 BCE through 450 BCE, at which point it was assembled into the present single document, probably by Ezra. This hypothesis is pretty much universally accepted by secularists.
There are several problems with this theory, in my humble opinion.
The first problem is the Samaritan Pentateuch. The Samaritans have not shared a common tradition with Jews since the division of the United Monarchy following the death of King Solomon. According to Ezra 4, the Samaritans were bitter enemies of the Jews in the time of Ezra. Clearly they would not have accepted a book composed by Ezra.
In addition to that, the Torah does not mention the city of Jerusalem, which was the center of Judaism from the time of King David up until the present.
Based upon this, it would appear that the latest the Torah could have been written would have been the time of Samuel, which was about 400 years after the Exodus.
In addition to this, no copies of the alleged pre-Ezra documents have ever been discovered anywhere, nor are they ever mentioned in any ancient literature. If they had been regarded as sacred for centuries, it is implausable that they quickly and entirely disappeared.
Also, it's logically inconsistent that secular scholars believe that the Torah is basically bogus, yet some apparently accept the Talmudic statement (Bava Basra 109b) that there existed in ancient Israel a priesthood descended from Moses, claiming that these priests wrote the E document. (See Richard E. Friedman in “Who Wrote the Bible” pages 48 and 79)
Advocates of the Documentary Hypothesis point out that different parts of the Torah are written in different styles. There is a simple explanation for this. The Talmud many times mentions God’s two character traits – the trait of mercy and the trait of justice. Mercy is represented by the name YHVH while justice is represented by Elohim (see Midrash Braishis Rabbah 73:3). The Talmud Tractate Megilah 31b states that Deuteronomy was written by Moses – it is a speech given by Moses, rather than having been simply dictated to him by God. Based upon this, we can understand why different portions of the Torah are written in different styles although they actually have a Mosaic authorship. Rather than refuting the single authorship of the Torah, Bible critics have merely rediscovered the midrash.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 10:28 AM
Monday, December 22, 2008
Today, as we celebrate Hanukah, we should remember how the holiday began. Hanukah, as we say in al hanissim, commemorates the victory of the Jews in the Maccabean Revolt.
Interestingly, the Maccabean Revolt was primarily a civil war. Sadly, the Jewish people have never had a shortage of traitors and opportunists. Modern scholars have concluded that the revolt was basically a conflict between traditional Jews and Hellenizing Jews, with the Greeks merely, unwisely, intervening on the side of the Hellenizers. The first recorded casualty was a Hellenized Jew, killed by Matisyahu, a priest.
The outcome was that loyal Jews are still here today. On the other hand, the Hellenizers, together with their Greek patrons, have long ago been disposed of in the dust bin of history.
I have no doubt that today as well, the disagreements between the traditional, loyal Jews and the secularized “Jewish skeptics” will ultimately have the same result. In the same way that the Hellenized Jews worshipped the Greek pantheon and sacrificed swine, the secularized Jews believe in evolution. Both are equally pathetic. The Hellenizers had the Greek empire on their side. Modern secularizers have scientists and professors on their side. However in the end the righteous will prevail while the wicked will be destroyed.
Let’s all enjoy a truly happy Hanukah, light our menorahs and celebrate the miracle of the Torah’s survival in spite of all enemies, both internal and external.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 3:20 PM
Sunday, December 14, 2008
[from "Give a Little Whistle" sung by Jiminy Cricket]
I have noticed that many atheists claim that they are good people even though they don't believe in God or the Torah, because they follow their conscience and their conscience tells them to behave properly.
My question is: Where does the "conscience" come from? Is it something instinctive? If so, then why are primitive societies so violent? It would appear that the only true instincts which people have are to survive and to reproduce by any means available.
My guess is the following. I believe that what we call "conscience" is in fact a residue of religious morality.
For example, let's say a person is raised in a very religious Jewish home and then later in life he decides to become an atheist. As a child he was trained to respect his elders, to share with friends, to be generous and patient, etc. Even after he has a abandoned Judaism, he may continue to feel guilt if he transgresses these values. In other words, he has not entirely abandoning his earlier beliefs; he may choose to retain certain ones which he feels are not too burdensome. In a similar way, he may continue to light a menorah on Hanukah and go to a synagogue on Yom Kippur. His children likewise will be taught by him that it is "bad" to lie and steal and that it's "good" to help others and they too will have a "conscience" although probably it will be weaker than what their parents had. Gradually, these concepts will fade and disappear, just as the Jewish rituals disappear after a few generations.
I think that when a secular person asks himself “Is this the right thing to do? Is it ethical? Is it moral?” he is basically asking “Based on the residual religious beliefs which I still, perhaps subconsciously, retain, am I allowed to do this or not?” For secular people, morality is therefore often a complicated and controversial subject.
This helps us to understand places like for example Sweden, which seem to be very secular yet have a fairly low crime rate. The grandparents of today's Swedes were devout Lutherans and those values have not yet disappeared completely. Neither have Lutheran religious practices - Christmas, baptism, church weddings and so on are observed by almost all Swedes as far as I know. On the other hand, in countries where religion has been forcibly uprooted, like for example Russia, we find a society which includes so many people with no conscience that it almost cannot function. Likewise the United States, after a couple of generations of secularism, is becoming a "Generation Me" with a growing number of psychopaths.
A true and complete atheist should consider humans to be merely meat machines and he should never feel guilt. This explains, for example, the increasing popularity of stranger homocides and serial killing in the United States.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 10:36 PM
Sunday, December 07, 2008
[Rabbi and Rebbetzin Holtzberg, may God avenge their deaths]
I was thinking recently about the huge debt of gratitude we owe to the men and women who devote their lives to studying and teaching Torah on a full time, professional basis. These include the scholars who study full time in advanced Talmudic seminaries, the men and women who teach in Jewish religious schools as well as the pulpit rabbinate.
These people preserve the authentic enthusiasm and idealism for Judaism which we should all aspire too. They sacrifice financial security and material comforts for the sake of idealism. In some cases, they even make the ultimate sacrifice. For them Judaism is not a culture, like Irish culture or Italian culture, with a special cuisine, language and celebrations, having sentimental value but nothing more than that. It's also not a race; bear in mind that the concept of race is today considered to be bogus by most scientists. Rather Judaism is simply the will of God as revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai.
I can recall so many cases where I received so much kindness spiritually and physically from rabbis who have helped me throughout the years. When I was a teenager in Bnei Brak, Israel Rabbi Yaakov Kanievesky spent many hours answering my questions about Judaism. A neighbor of his, Rabbi Eliyahu Weintraub generously paid my rent for the first year following my marriage to my first wife in 1981. He also spent many hours personally counseling me free of charge. Rabbi Elazar Shach also gave me personal advice. He also provided financial support, without my requesting it, on one occasion.
The primary benefit of the rabbis and rebbeztins, however, is that they present a goal for everyone else to strive for. Through their pure devotion, they are the role models for us all. Everyone should seek to associate with them and be inspired by them.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 8:44 PM
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Reinhard Heydrich – Gestapo chief, friend of Hitler, organizer of the Holocaust, Nazi par excellence, yet also a warm family man and sensitive violinist who felt no guilt. A psychopath. And an atheist.
Was he merely a weird aberration? Or was he in some aspects a symbol of modernity – a pioneer of the narcissism of Generation Me?
Posted by jewish philosopher at 11:43 AM
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
[a little light reading]
I just read this on a fascinating website:
Sociopaths lie, cheat, steal and even kill then they move on to the next victim.
If you only know one thing about psychology, you should know about sociopaths. Being aware of sociopaths could help you avoid emotional trauma, ruined finances, even an untimely death.
Sociopathy, also called psychopathy, is a personality disorder characterized by deceit on a scale most of us cannot imagine. These men and women are not crazy; they know exactly what they are doing. Here is how Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., begins his book about psychopaths, Without Conscience:
"Psychopaths are social predators who charm, manipulate and ruthlessly plow their way through life, leaving a broad trail of broken hearts, shattered expectations and empty wallets. Completely lacking in conscience and feelings for others, they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret."
Why is it so critical for you to know about sociopaths? Because millions of sociopaths are living among us. Yes, many of them are criminals, locked up in jail. But far more are on the street, hurting people without breaking laws, operating in the gray areas between legal and illegal, or simply eluding the authorities. They can appear to be normal, but they pose a tremendous threat to us all.
Sociopaths exhibit a range of behaviors. In fact, Dr. Hare diagnoses them according to their score on a scale. So just as you could describe someone's intelligence as ranging from smart to genius, you could describe a sociopath as somewhere between sleazy and serial killer. If you see sleazy, he or she may be on the low end of the scale, but they're still bad news.
This web site is dedicated to informing you about sociopaths so you can protect yourself. Learn to spot the behaviors that might indicate someone is a sociopath. Once they are adults, sociopathic men and women do not change. They cannot be rehabilitated. The sooner you can get away from them, the better off you'll be.
It suddenly struck me – what is the difference between a typical atheist and a psychopath/sociopath? Apparently, absolutely nothing
Posted by jewish philosopher at 11:58 AM
Monday, December 01, 2008
During my years of blogging, I have been asked several times: How can I criticize Orthodox Jews who have become atheists? After all, didn’t I reject my own atheistic upbringing and become an Orthodox Jew? So therefore, since I am also a traitor to my people, how can I criticize others?
That is an interesting point, and I would like to illustrate this with a similar example.
During the Second World War, there were some Germans who protested against the Nazi government. One of the most famous was Sophie Scholl, a 21-year-old student who was arrested on February 18, 1943 for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets at the University of Munich. Four days later she was executed by guillotine for treason.
On the other hand, take for example William Joyce. He was an American who supported Germany during the Second World War and made hundreds of pro-Nazi radio broadcasts from Berlin. He was arrested by the British after the war and hanged for treason at age 40 on January 3, 1946.
Joyce and Scholl – both traitors, both executed. Were they both the same? Or was one good and one evil? I guess it depends on your point of view. If you are a Nazi, of course Scholl was evil and Joyce was good. If you are anti-Nazi, the opposite is true.
In regards to myself compared to someone like let’s say “Yeshivish Atheist”, I think the same could be said. We are both traitors. If you are pro-Jewish, I am good and he is evil. If you are pro-atheist then I am evil and he is good.
However in any case, could Scholl for example have fairly criticized Joyce for his treason? I don't see why not. I don't think she viewed herself as a traitor.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 10:22 AM
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
[a Sabbath table.]
Scientists have discovered a section of the brain which causes intense feelings of pleasure when stimulated, electrically or chemically. Wouldn’t it be great if, whenever we wanted to, we could stimulate that area of the brain and feel intense pleasure, beyond anything normally experienced?
We can. Methamphetamine is a chemical which very powerfully stimulates the pleasure center of the brain. If someone were right now to give you an intravenous injection of about 500 milligrams of methamphetamine dissolved in water you would probably be in a state of euphoria for about the next twelve hours.
So why don’t we all go out, buy a big box of meth and live happily ever after? All our problems would be solved!
The reason is because pleasure is very dangerous. People who actually do go out and buy a big box of meth or similar chemicals end up so absorbed by their euphoria (or “high”) that they forget about everything else – eating, hygiene, working, family responsibilities, everything. They quickly become homeless thieves, beggars and prostitutes before finally dying. (This is why, by the way, you cannot buy meth legally in the United States.)
The same is true of anything which gives us pleasure, whether it may be food, gambling, video games, sex, even exercise. We can become obsessed with anything giving us pleasure and neglect important spiritual, physical, emotional, social and financial needs. Pleasure can be very dangerous. Supposedly, a Puritan is someone who is deathly afraid that someone, somewhere, is having fun. They may have had a point.
So perhaps we need to nip all pleasure in the bud and become ascetics. We must go off to a monastery and avoid all pleasure.
Of course, this extreme could make life boring and depressing plus we would not have children. There must be a better middle path.
I think that the Torah shows us that path. We drink alcoholic beverages, but at home, with friends, in moderation. We have sex, but only with our spouses and only with mutual consent and there are certain periods of abstinence. We have a holiday each week – the Sabbath and many other holidays throughout the year, but we work hard too.
I think this is another example of the genius of Judaism – balance and moderation in life, so that we function to our greatest potential. Of course, what else would we expect from a self-help book written by our Creator Himself?
Posted by jewish philosopher at 2:45 PM
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin
Orthodox Jews who become atheists seem to follow a fairly consistent pattern:
- Trauma. They experience some very painful incident or incidents. This means that in this person’s perception, the event was traumatic. Some people are much more sensitive than others are to the same experience.
- Medication. They use sex to console themselves and to distract themselves from their pain. This may be anything from flirting to masturbation to actual intercourse. Pornography is usually important; for girls, this means romance novels.
- Rationalization. In order not to feel guilty about their sexual misconduct, they deny the validity of the Torah and/or the existence of God.
This clarifies why explaining proofs of Torah to an ex-Orthodox atheist is never effective. He may claim that he is convinced of atheism because of philosophical reasons; however this is never the case. He needs the atheistic philosophy merely to remove the guilt which he would otherwise have to face.
To prevent atheism, the first step is to try and shelter your child from trauma. Some suggestions are:
- If you are married with children, do not divorce.
- If you do divorce, live nearby your former spouse.
- Do not become angry with your child. Discipline in a calm, well thought out way.
- Frequently show your child love and affection.
- Deal with any academic or social problems your child is having as quickly as possible. Stay in close contact with his teachers.
In addition to this, encourage Torah study as much as possible. I have yet to find an atheist who had learned in yeshiva more than a few years past age 20. The most solid foundation in Torah is vital. And obviously, avoid exposing your child to pornography. If you have Internet, you MUST have filtering software.
If the child has already reached the point of medicating his pain with sex, this is a crisis situation however all is not yet lost. Counseling and therapy, perhaps for the entire family, may be helpful. Perhaps the child can still be convinced to find more positive coping mechanisms. Obviously, a parent must be aware of a problem. Internet monitoring software may be very helpful. If a boy remains in bed until late in the morning this may be a sign that he is masturbating until late at night. A hidden camera with night vision in his bedroom might be helpful.
Once the child has reached the stage of rationalization, and has denied the Torah, then all hope is presumably lost. The child should be expelled from the home in order to avoid a bad influence on others. If he is under 18, then the parents are legally obligated to support him however they should do so by placing him in a boarding school. He should not be allowed contact with siblings.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 7:45 PM
Sunday, November 09, 2008
[history of the universe]
In the most recent issue of Discover magazine, (12/2008) there is a remarkable article “A Universe Built for Us” (page 52 to 58). This article discusses the strong antropic principle. This is the discovery that physical laws have apparently been fine tuned to allow life to exist. One additional confirmation seems to be the discovery of dark energy during the past ten years. According to Leonard Susskind, if there would be more dark energy, stars would never have formed. Steven Weinberg states “This is the one fine tuning that seems to be extreme, far beyond what you could imagine just having to accept as a mere accident.”
So there you have it –science proves that God created the universe. And this not the first time in recent years science has confirmed religion. The discovery of the complexity of DNA makes an accidental origin of life even more absurd. (Some scientists have been forced to speculate that aliens planted life on earth, although there is no evidence of the existence of such aliens.) The discovery of the Big Bang proved that the universe is not infinitely old but had a creation – and therefore apparently a transcendent Creator.
Skeptics suggest that perhaps there are an enormous number of universes, not merely one, and therefore simply by blind chance one would be hospitable to life. According to Bernard Carr “If you don’t want God, you better have a multiverse”. There is however a problem. There is currently no evidence of other universes. There is however evidence of God.
People who are addicted to a selfish, debauched way of life will never be convinced of Torah. Their overwhelming denial will overcome any objection. As an example of this type of thinking, witness this young woman (view from 4:00) . She is 24 years old, addicted to methamphetamine and alcohol and supports herself as a stripper. Her family is desperate to save her life. She adamantly claims that she is happy and refuses to change. Nothing can be said to reason with certain people.
Those of us, however, who are rational and sober, can enjoy and be excited by the unfolding discoveries of science and the miracles which it continues to reveal.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 4:00 PM
Monday, November 03, 2008
This post is intended to expand a little bit on last week’s post. I would like to elaborate on some of the best tools available to catch secret atheists.
First and foremost, is monitoring software. I may be mistaken, however I have an impression that nearly all atheists are avid Internet users. The Internet provides easy access to all types of obscenity and therefore atheists swarm to it like flies swarming around a pool of sewage. If you are able to install monitoring software on the suspect’s computer without him being aware of it, then that will be incredibly useful. You will be able to read every email, instant message, see every webpage, everything. It’s basically as close as you can come to actually reading someone’s mind.
Additionally, installing special software on the suspect's smart phone can reveal an immense amount of information about the suspect's activities and movements.
My motto is: If you’re not sure, monitor!
If the suspect doesn't have a smart phone, you can still track the suspect’s movements using a GPS tracking device hidden in the car.
If you are wondering if your husband is really at that Talmud lecture, or is he somewhere more unsavory, now you’ll know.
If you suspect drug usage by a member of your family, then just obtain a small hair sample (a little snip of payos might be ideal) and send it in for analysis. You’ll know exactly what he’s been using for the past three months.
STD tests require a urine and/or blood sample. If you suspect, however, that your unmarried daughter is sexually active, you might want to test her underpants for semen.
After this, further questions can be answered by asking the suspected atheist to undergo a lie detector examination.
These methods are more or less standard for investigating marital infidelity, and can all be used to detect religious infidelity as well.
In addition to these practical efforts to track down and ostracize atheists, we must also fervently pray for the immediate destruction of Jewish heretics.
There is no reason for us to continue to be victimized by secret atheists. If we wish to, we can easily make secret atheism a thing of the past with a little serious effort.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:41 PM
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
[You are so busted.]
One unfortunate problem that seems to be increasing in recent years is the presence of secret atheists within the Orthodox community. These are people who may be from very respectable Orthodox homes and communities but who secretly do not believe in, and often do not practice, Orthodox Judaism. They like to call themselves Orthoprax, Frum skeptics or Hassidic rebels.
There is a group for these people on yahoo.com. Some of them have blogs. You can read about a young Orthodox father who secretly checks his email on the second night of Rosh Hashanah. You can read about Hassidic Jews secretly eating pork on Yom Kippur. Hella Winston in Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels page 51 indicates that there are at least hundreds of the these people.
In a certain way, this is a testimony to the beauty and warmth of the Orthodox community. Some people choose to remain within it even though they don't believe in it. To the best of my knowledge in other religions, for example Christianity, this is very rare.
The question is how should the Orthodox community respond to these people who hate Judaism, however who wish to remain in the community?
Seemingly, these people may have a very negative influence on others – for example they may secretly try to corrupt immediate family members, classmates, etc. I would assume that the recent kosher chicken scandal was the work of such an individual. We can only imagine in what other ways these people may be spiritually undermining the community – whether in making their family’s kitchen not kosher, writing not kosher mezuzos and tefillin, leading the congregation in prayers which they do not believe in, spreading illegal drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
Fortunately, I believe that there is a solution to this.
I would suggest that anyone who suspects his spouse or child of being a secret atheist should install monitoring software on their home computer. This may easily settle the question. An additional option might be in some case to use hidden cameras, for example in a child’s bedroom or in the kitchen or home office. If the suspicious person is using a vehicle or carrying a bag or a briefcase, a GPS tracking system can be used to monitor their precise movements. In some cases, a cell phone may be used as a tracking device.
If that is not practical or is inconclusive, then ask that person to take a lie detector test, during which he will be asked about his belief in the divine origin of the Torah. In addition, he should be asked to take an STD test and a hair drug test. A refusal to be tested should be taken as an admission of guilt.
Once a person is found to be guilty, then all communications with him should be severed permanently and his name, address and photograph should be published on a website established for this purpose.
In summary, I am suggesting that we use the same methods to screen our spouses and children which the FBI has used for decades to screen applicants. In addition, I think that religious organizations, such as schools, kosher supervision organizations and others, should use these tools. From now on, we should have zero tolerance for secret atheists.
In any case, this is my personal suggestion. Each individual case should be subject of course to the guidance of senior rabbis.
As a postscript, I want to mention that some commentators have suggested that once a secret atheist is discovered, we should attempt to be “mekarev” him, meaning that we should use gentle persuasion to convince him of the truth of Judaism. I personally feel that gentle persuasion, such as inspirational lectures and invitations to Sabbath meals, is surely the correct strategy to use when dealing with someone who has always been an atheist. However, in regards to someone who has been Orthodox for years yet has chosen to reject Orthodoxy, I cannot believe that gentle persuasion will be effective. After all, he has already heard many lectures and celebrated many Sabbaths yet he was apparently not impressed. In addition to that, even if he at some point claims to have repented, he has no credibility since we know that he attempted to deceive us in the past. I feel that the only appropriate response is to focus on damage control – in other words do everything possible within the law to protect Orthodox Jews from his influence.
In addition to that, some people might question the ethics of invading the privacy of secret atheists. However consider the case of a man who is providing financial support to a 20 year old daughter under the impression that she is Orthodox while in fact she is smoking marijuana every Friday night or the case of a woman who is married to a man and having children with him under the impression that he is Orthodox while in fact he is surfing the Internet early every Saturday morning. Don’t those people have a right to know the truth and evaluate the relationship accordingly?
Posted by jewish philosopher at 10:15 AM
Monday, October 27, 2008
This week, Jews will read in the synagogue the story of the Deluge, Genesis 6 to 8. This story describes how God wished to destroy all of mankind except for one righteous family. To do this, He caused water to pour out of the sky and from within the earth and to cover the entire globe for a period of several months. In the meantime, Noah and his family took refuge within a boat Noah had built. A sample of every land animal and bird likewise took refuge in the ark. The water then disappeared and Noah, his family and the animals were able to disembark from the ark and repopulate the earth. According to Talmudic tradition, the Deluge occurred in 2106 BCE.
Questions often asked about the Deluge are: Where did all the water come from? Where did it all go? How did the animals find the ark? How did they, together with their food, all fit into the ark? How did they return to their original habitats afterwards? How did plants survive? Of course, the Deluge was a miraculous event which can only be explained by divine intervention. Therefore there may be no geological evidence of the Biblical Deluge. No one would necessarily expect to find scorch marks on Mount Sinai even though the Ten Commandments were given there.
There is, however, some independent evidence of this ancient global cataclysm.
First of all, the Deluge is recorded in the oral histories of most ancient nations. Considering the fact that natural floods are never extensive enough to leave the survivors believing that they are the only humans remaining alive, apparently these Deluge legends are based on a miraculous global flood. (Bruce Masse, an environmental archaeologist at the Los Alamo National Laboratory, believes that a global flood did indeed happen in historic times. He believes, however that it occurred in 2807 BCE, killed 80% of mankind and was caused by a comet strike.)
Additionally, there is evidence of a global catastrophe at about the time of the Deluge. Archeologists have found evidence of a 4.2 kiloyear BP aridification event, which was one of the most severe climatic events in the past 12,000 years in terms of impact on cultural upheaval. Starting in ≈2200 BC, it probably lasted the entire 22nd century BC. It is very likely to have caused the collapse of the Old Kingdom in Egypt as well as the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia. Perhaps this event was actually the Deluge and/or some after effect of it.
The Indus Valley Civilization, the only other civilization in existence at that time, is believed to have ended approximately 1700 BCE, however I am uncertain how precise that date is. We have no written records from that civilization. Seemingly uncalibrated radiocarbon dating from that era could be inaccurate by several hundred years. Problems within that range are found in Egyptian archeology.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 9:03 AM
Thursday, October 23, 2008
[Simchas Torah at the Western Wall – Jerusalem]
Yesterday I had the privilege of dancing with the Torah scroll in my synagogue on Simchas Torah. As I was doing so, it occurred to me what a marvelous document I was holding. This book is the source for Judaism, Christianity and Islam in all their various forms. It is the basis of Western civilization. Compare the Torah to, for example, the Iliad. The Iliad may be an interesting story, however what did the world learn from it? Without the Torah, there would be no concept of monotheism and altruism. There would not even be an alphabet; the Torah is the oldest complete book written using one.
Critics are quick to point out that the Torah also teaches violence, which is true, for example Numbers 31. However on the other hand, the Torah did not invent violence and surely history would have been equally violent had the Torah never been written.
The longest chapter in the Hebrew Bible, Psalms 119, is nothing but a long series of praises to this greatest book ever published.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:05 PM
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
[King Edward VII]
I think most of us understand intuitively the need for government. In places where government is absent, such as Somalia today, Baghdad in April, 2003 or Berlin in May, 1945, conditions are generally not very good. The concept of the Noble Savage seems to be merely a myth, so therefore to rely upon people’s conscience or instincts to regulate behavior would seem to be a risky strategy. In order for people to defend themselves against each other a system of laws, courts and law enforcement officers is necessary.
The question is: Is government enough?
First of all, law enforcement cannot be everywhere all the time. Even with close to a million law enforcement officers, state of the art methods at their disposal and a vast prison system locking up millions of people, we still have quite a bit crime in the United States.
Another problem is: Who governs the government? In other words, what is to prevent the government itself from becoming oppressive or tyrannical? What is to stop the stronger members of society from oppressing the weaker, the majority from oppressing a minority or a big country from attacking a small one? Even democracy is no guarantee of fairness. Take for example Germany in January, 1933 – the Nazi government, surely one of the most evil in history, came to power by basically democratic means.
This is where religion is essential. Belief in God and in a humanitarian God given law can influence people’s behavior even when they know they won’t be seen by anyone. Religion can insure that the government itself is honest and humane. Just like no government-less society has ever been a very pleasant place to live, likewise no God-less society has ever been a very pleasant place to live. It’s true some religions are worse than others, just as some governments are worse than others, however just as anarchy is a nightmare so is atheism when practiced by an entire community. As Abraham expressed it succinctly (Genesis 20:11): Because I thought: Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake.
I sometimes marvel at atheists – what do they really think the world would look like if tomorrow everyone actually listened to them and would become an atheist? If it would actually be so perfect, why don’t any American or British atheists seem anxious to move to countries like North Korea, or perhaps Vietnam or Russia, which are far more atheistic? I would love to live in a country based on Talmudic law if it would exist anywhere.
Without a belief in a transcendent moral authority, it would seem likely that mankind would not last more than a century. One half would kill the other half, the survivors would not bother to have children and that would be the end of that.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 3:45 PM
Monday, September 29, 2008
[Jan Brueghel the Elder. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. 1615.]
Since tomorrow is the anniversary of the birth of Adam, I think this post is especially appropriate this week.
Traditionally, many Jews have understood the creation story in the first few chapters of Genesis to imply that the universe was created about six thousand years ago and before that nothing material existed. I have the impression that most ultra-Orthodox people would still agree with this.
There is however a problem with this interpretation.
In the 18th century, scientists began studying fossils more intensively. In 1841 three primary layers were identified by geologist John Phillips. One layer, the Paleozoic, consists primarily of extinct shellfish such as trilobites and plants such as ferns. The Mesozoic includes huge extinct reptiles, the dinosaurs. The Cenozoic includes an abundance of mammals, many huge and now extinct such as the mammoths, and flowering plants. All paleontologists since 1841 have confirmed the existence of these primary layers.
This seems to present a problem for Judaism, since Genesis seems to teach that there was one creation event and all life that has ever existed was created at that time. Any fossil layers should include modern day life as well as any species that may have become extinct since creation, however this is not the case.
Rabbi Yisrael Lipschitz, the rabbi of Danzig, Germany gave a speech in April, 1842 (published as Derush Ohr HaChayyim, found in the back pages of the Tiferes Yisrael Mishnayot Nezikin volume 1) resolving the fossil question. Midrash Rabbah Breishis 3:7 and 9:2 states that many other worlds were created and destroyed previously to this one. The commentaries on the midrash explain that the earlier worlds were gradually improved upon and refined. Furthermore, Midrash Rabbah Breishis 1:5 states that this world is like a king's palace which was built on a landfill - a garbage dump of some sort. The Talmud Chagigah 13b states that 974 generations of people existed before creation. Rabbi David Brown in his book “Mysteries of the Creation” explains these ideas in greater detail.
I believe that the following may the be correct interpretation of Genesis:
When the Torah states, for example, (Genesis 1:11) that plants were created on the third day, that means basically two things: the first time plants appeared on earth was a Tuesday and also each Tuesday, even this week, plants are being renewed by spiritual emanations from God (as it says in the literal translation of Psalms 136:7 "To Him making great lights" in the present tense; God is even now energizing them). The same is true for all the days of creation in Genesis 1. This is why Sabbath observance is so central to Judaism - even now, God ceases creating for one day each week and we affirm our belief in Him by doing so as well. The Bible's first thirty four verses are absolutely literal, however they are not describing historical events which happened one time only. Rather, they are describing a cycle of creative events which continues constantly and which did, at certain points in history, millions or billions of years ago, bring these aspects of the universe into physical form for the first time. The first plants may have appeared 500 million years ago - but they appeared on Tuesday and this week they also received renewed energies on Tuesday. The same applies to each other day of the six days of creation. This is what Genesis 1 teaches us. (This also explains why there are "two creation stories" in Genesis. There aren't. Genesis 1 is not merely history.)
History begins from Genesis 2:4. This is the day which the Jewish calendar starts from - New Years (Rosh haShanah) year 0 or Friday, September 1, 3762 BCE according to the Gregorian calendar. Adam was a real person, the garden of Eden was a real place and so on. Adam is the ancestor of all men alive today. His creation represents the beginning of the present, current world and therefore the Jewish calendar begins counting from that day.
The Aramaic translation of the Torah on Genesis 2:7 reads "And the Lord God created Adam from dust of the ground, and breathed upon his face the breath of lives, and it became in Adam a Discoursing Spirit." I would guess, based upon this, that language was born with the creation of Adam. The ability to assign arbitrary sounds to different ideas and connect them using rules of grammar I suspect began only 5768 years ago. This explains why we do not find writing until about 5,000 years ago. Cities were first established at this time. The usage of metal and other advanced technology originated at this time as well. This may have been the result of language. Early, pre-Adam men, who became extinct before Adam's creation, I would suspect were non-verbal. Therefore they only lived in small, primitive communities.
According to Midrash Rabbah Breishis 18:4, the first language was Hebrew and this is the language which Adam and Eve spoke along with their early descendants. I suspect, however that Adam and Eve could not write. There is no reference to writing in the entire book of Genesis. God spoke to people, but did not give them any documents. I would suspect that during the period from Adam until the Tower of Babel (1766 BCE) all people spoke Hebrew and if they wrote they devised various pictographic writing systems such as cuneiform and hieroglyphics. Pictographs continued to be used after the Tower as well (and they still are in eastern Asia).
The Torah was given by God to the Jews at Mount Sinai in 1314 BCE. The Torah was written in some form of the Hebrew alphabet (see Talmud Sanhedrin 21b towards the bottom and afterwards for a discussion of the various ancient Hebrew scripts). At that time writing is first mentioned in the Bible and the alphabet was first used. The earliest translatable alphabetic writing is a Hebrew inscription, found in the Sinai and dated to about 1,500 BCE. Thus the alphabet was born.
Therefore, in summary:
Genesis 1 lists which days of the week different creations first appeared and are spiritually reenergized today, but it does not indicate in which era they first appeared.
We are all descended from one man who was created in 3762 BCE.
At least several other types of ecosystems existed before him and the fossils are remnants of them.
Speech began with Adam. He spoke Hebrew.
Languages other than Hebrew began after the Tower of Babel 1766 BCE.
The alphabet was given to man with the revelation in the Sinai 1314 BCE.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 3:22 PM
Friday, September 19, 2008
[Simon of Trent, allegedly murdered by Jews]
One topic that seems to be very controversial is the issue of crime and substance abuse within the Orthodox Jewish community.
To the best of my knowledge, these problems are far more rare in the Orthodox community than they are in American society in general.
In regards to violent crime, I posted several months ago a request for information about Orthodox Jewish homicides in the United States. I was able to find only one confirmed case of an Orthodox Jew ever convicted of homicide in the United States; a man in Cleveland who over twenty years ago shot his ex-wife’s father during a dispute. The perpetrator was modern Orthodox and had become Orthodox as an adult. In the United States as a whole, 8,400 Americans were convicted of murder in 2004 from a population of about 300 million. There are about 600,000 Orthodox Jews in the United States. Proportionally, there would be 17 homicide convictions per year in the Orthodox community. I would suggest that a very low rate of homicide is an indicator of a very low level of violence in general since assault often escalates, intentionally or otherwise, to homicide. This applies to child abuse and spousal abuse as well.
In regards to sexual abuse, in the National Sex Offender Registry, there are several people who appear to be Orthodox Jews. However, bear in mind that there are over 491,720 registered sex offenders in the United States, meaning that about one in every 620 Americans is a registered sex offender. Proportionally about 970 Orthodox Jews should be registered sex offenders. I don’t believe that there is 1% that number.
As far as substance abuse is concerned, I am aware of only two Sabbath observant residential rehabilitation facilities in the United States - Chabad Residential Treatment Center For Men in Los Angeles, California and Yatzkan Center in Brooklyn, NY for addicted teenage boys age 14-19. Both these centers seem to be very small and serve non-Orthodox as well as Orthodox. When I called, Chabad told me that they have 35 beds and accept non-Jewish patients as well. Over 1.46 million drivers were arrested in 2006 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. This is an arrest rate of 1 for every 139 licensed drivers in the United States. I am not aware of any Orthodox Jew ever having been arrested for driving while intoxicated, although proportionally it should be about 1,000 annually.
The rebuttal to this seems to be: These facts are deceptive. In reality, Orthodox Jews are no different than their neighbors, however they succeed in evading detection for wrong doing because they will not report each other to the police. Jewish law allegedly prohibits contacting or cooperating with the authorities and the Orthodox community will shun anyone doing so. Therefore, few outsiders are aware of the actual level of crime and substance abuse within the Orthodox community.
In my humble opinion, this is ludicrous.
Jewish law does not prohibit cooperating with the authorities in regards to violent or sexual offences.
Many people leave the Orthodox community annually and would certainly have no compunctions about reporting any complaints to law enforcement.
Homicide would be impossible to completely conceal. Large numbers of people cannot easily disappear without law enforcement becoming involved. It is difficult to dispose of bodies without attracting any attention or leaving any traces.
Law enforcement officers would directly detect drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In my humble opinion, this charge that “Orthodox Jews merely appear to be so good however in reality are evil” is an ancient anti-Orthodox, if not anti-Semitic, canard.
Jesus is quoted as saying (Matthew 23:27) “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.”
Martin Luther wrote in the “The Jews and Their Lies” chapter XII: “They deny just as brazenly as they lie. And wherever they can secretly curse, poison, or harm us Christians they do so without any qualms of conscience. If they are caught in the act or charged with something, they are bold enough to deny it impudently, even to the point of death, since they do not regard us worthy of being told the truth. In fact, these holy children of God consider any harm they can wish or inflict on us as a great service to God. Indeed, if they had the power to do to us what we are able to do to them, not one of us would live for an hour. But since they lack the power to do this publicly, they remain our daily murderers and bloodthirsty foes in their hearts. Their prayers and curses furnish evidence of that, as do the many stories which relate their torturing of children and all sorts of crimes for which they have often been burned at the stake or banished. Therefore I firmly believe that they say and practice far worse things secretly than the histories and others record about them, meanwhile relying on their denials and on their money.”
Therefore the accusation of secret Jewish criminality is far from original. Through out the Middle Ages, Jews were constantly accused of murdering Christian children and abusing communion wafers. As recently as 1989, a woman appeared on Oprah claiming to have participated in Jewish human sacrifice. The woman, according to some websites, was in fact Vicki Polin, who now operates a website dedicated to alleged rabbinical sexual abuse.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:34 PM
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
[We are always up to something.]
This may come as a surprise to many Americans, however in the Islamic world, a great many people believe that the attack on the World Trade Center was in fact coordinated by Jews. Of course, most people in the United States would scoff at such a conspiracy theory; for one thing it seems to be improbable that so many people could have been involved in the conspiracy without anyone revealing the truth (“whistle blowing”). Muslims brush this objection off “because it clashes with their bedrock conviction that Jews are behind many of their troubles”. In other words, they simply deny the inconvenient truth.
I see a parallel between the 9/11 conspiracy theories and attitude that many atheists have about the origins of Torah.
We know that about 2,000 years ago, there were several million people who believed that the events described in the first half of the book of Exodus had actually occurred to their ancestors. The question is; how did they come to believe this?
The obvious answer is because it did happen.
The atheistic answer however seems to be: It was a conspiracy. Nothing really happened, however about three thousand years ago Israelites began making up stories about their ancestors. Then at some point, most likely during the time of Ezra, all Jews decided on one identical, yet fictional, version of their origins. All previous versions mysteriously disappeared without a trace. Even the Samaritans for some reason were also loyal conspirators. Although it seems to be improbable that so many people could have been involved in the conspiracy without anyone revealing the truth, atheists brush this off because it clashes with their bedrock conviction that there is no God.
There is no physical evidence, no whistle blowers, but the Jews simply MUST have fabricated the Torah from thin air. Just like they must have destroyed the World Trade Center. Whatever.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 11:15 AM
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
[Hatzolah Helping Injured Man]
The Torah is the first book to advocate altruism. I am happy to report that this tradition is still alive and well in the Jewish community.
There is a network of volunteer ambulance corps in Jewish communities known as Hatzolah - “rescue” in Hebrew. Thousands of men volunteer their time to participate in saving lives. Together, the combined New York State branches have grown to become the largest all-volunteer ambulance system in the United States. The work these people do is incredible. Their response time is lightning fast and the work is done with genuine concern and caring.
One Saturday afternoon about two years ago, my son Samson, who has cerebral palsy, was riding his gait trainer on our home’s second story deck. Unfortunately, he attempted to ride the gait trainer down the stairs that lead to a concrete patio. He crashed face first into the concrete. My wife heard this happen and then ran into the house carrying him and screaming. I jumped up from my Sabbath afternoon nap and speed dialed Hatzolah on my cell phone. Within a few minutes an ambulance was in our drive way and two paramedics were in the house. They decided to transport my son to the emergency room at the Westchester County Medical Center. Fortunately, my son only suffered a black eye, and a damaged gait trainer. The obvious concern and caring of the Hatzolah volunteers was amazing and made this difficult experience much easier for everyone. I have no doubt that in many cases it makes a life or death difference.
I wonder why atheists seem so concerned for the Midianite children killed by the Israelites over three thousand years ago, yet seem unaware of all the children helped by Hatzolah today. It’s also interesting that atheists have committed so many atrocities in modern times, however they don’t seem to have any organization equivalent to Hatzolah as far as I know. Perhaps we do need God to be good.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 11:06 AM
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
The following is a text of the Kaddish prayer, which is repeated many times each day during the synagogue services:
Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will.
May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.
This prayer is associated with bereavement, however it is actually one of the most often recited Jewish prayers in general. It makes no reference to mourning, but rather it is a prayer fervently asking that people should glorify and praise God. This is a Jew’s greatest wish – that all mankind will recognize the sovereignty of God and love Him wholeheartedly.
This blog is my own small effort to bring that about.
It is mindboggling that some other "Jews", raised in Orthodox homes, are busily writing articles attempting to accomplish the opposite – to persuade people to deny God or to hate Him.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 2:59 PM
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
[Inverted cross; sometimes used as a Satanic symbol.]
Some atheists lament the lack of any positive name for what they believe in; atheism after all just means “no gods” or “godless”. Many atheists have tried in recent years to use the word “bright”, however with limited success.
The fact is, there is a positive name for atheism: Satanism.
According to Peter H. Gilmore, the current high priest of LaVeyan Satanism, "Satanism begins with atheism. We begin with the universe and say, 'It’s indifferent. There’s no God, there’s no Devil. No one cares!'”
Satanism has priesthood, scripture, rituals, symbols and a name, things that many atheists to some extent would like to have as well.
LaVeyan Satanism combines the philosophies of Ayn Rand and Friedrich Nietzche, together with Satanic symbols which are added to demonstrate an opposition to traditional religions. LaVeyan Satanism means a worship of ones self and one’s own birthday is the most important holiday. Promiscuity is completely acceptable. I think that this fits in very well the beliefs of most atheists. Perhaps too well.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:11 PM
Thursday, August 21, 2008
[Ted Bundy, the first person called a "serial killer", in an interview with psychologist James Dobson just before he was executed on January 24, 1989. Watch beginning at 5:50 in the video clip.]
I don't think that Mr. Bundy was a very nice person to begin with, however I would imagine that pornography can only make a good person bad and a bad person even worse.
Considering the proliferation of pornography through the Internet today, making it infinitely more available than it was in the 1950’s when Bundy was growing up, we can only guess what the results may be.
It is interesting to note that apparently as pornography has become more popular, so has stranger-to-stranger homicide, which the police are seldom able to solve. However I guess "freedom of expression" takes precedence over everything.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:41 PM
Monday, August 18, 2008
“You shall observe my statutes and my commandments which a human being shall perform; and you shall live by them” (Leviticus 18:5)
I was thinking this morning, had I not discovered Judaism when I was fourteen years old, where I would be today?
The sad truth is, I would probably be in a grave.
I was adopted as an infant, however my biological family had a history of depression. My father’s father shot himself in his sixties after his wife died of cancer. My father was frequently hospitalized for depression. Depression is often hereditary.
In addition to that, many of my ancestors have been alcoholic – including my father, my mother’s father and my mother’s grandfather. Addiction often runs in families.
Also, I was adopted. Adopted children may be more likely to suffer abuse compared to other children. Adopted children, on the average, are treated more like pets than like family members.
In light of all this, it would seem very likely that had I not chosen Judaism, I would have fallen into depression and addiction and an early death. I doubt that I would have survived college.
Reading about and listening to the story of someone like Nic Sheff, reminds me so much of myself, however I would not have had the family support he had.
Through Judaism I first of all learned that suicide is not a solution. On the contrary, suicide is murder and someone who commits suicide will not escape his problems but rather will suffer in hell after death. Judaism has taught me how to build self-control and avoid addictions. Through Judaism I have also become part of a community and I have friends who help me get over hard times.
I wish to humbly thank all the amazing people who made my conversion possible and who in fact saved my life as well as my soul. When I converted I truly dodged a bullet.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 4:08 PM
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn , Nobel Prize winning Russian author, died two weeks ago aged 89
Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened."
Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened."
Edward E. Ericson, Jr., "Solzhenitsyn - Voice from the Gulag," Eternity, October 1985, pp. 23, 24.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 10:18 AM
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
[On her way up the ladder of life.]
One thing which surprises me is that evolutionary biologists constantly cite the beak of the Galapagos finch as being a prime example of evolution.
The truth is, we can see within our own species noticeable evolutionary change – the expansion of human waistline in more developed countries. This change is in response to environmental circumstances, such as the presence of fast food restaurants and soft drinks.
There seems to be an increasing trend for fat people to mate with fat people, having fatter children. This is clearly a step toward speciation.
The result of this will probably be an tendency toward quadrupedalism, as people will need four legs to support their massive weight. This will be the human elephant. Eventually, we may even see a return to the ocean and evolution of a truly aquatic human whale (see photo above). Just give the process another few million years.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 9:15 AM
Monday, August 11, 2008
Observe therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, that, when they hear all these statutes, shall say: 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. 7 For what great nation is there, that hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is whensoever we call upon Him? 8 And what great nation is there, that hath statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? Deuteronomy 4:6-8
These few verses, which will be read in synagogues this coming Saturday morning, sum up beautifully the primary reason why I converted to Judaism.
Imagine a city about the size of Houston, Texas, but without murder, without drug addicts, without alcoholics or pedophiles, without abortions or HIV, with very little wife beating and very little child abuse or child neglect and without police. Can we imagine what a sensation it would cause if such a city actually existed in the United States? This basically describes the Orthodox Jewish community today. This is itself a miracle – a testimony to the divine authorship of the Torah.
How exactly do we accomplish this? We are not chopping off heads and hands like the Saudis or locking up a large percentage of young men like Americans. We educate our children from birth to respect themselves and others. Come and learn more.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 2:26 PM
Thursday, August 07, 2008
[What if this were America?]
Let’s do a little thought experiment.
Imagine for a moment that secular American society was extremely Puritanical. Imagine that secular Americans lived something like the way Saudi Arabians live – with the most extreme restrictions and anyone breaking the rules is imprisoned or killed. [This is not difficult to imagine. For example, the Soviet Communist Party actively encouraged chastity as well as atheism. The two may be compatible.]
On the other hand, imagine that the Orthodox Jewish community would practice the most permissive sexuality – nudism, group sex, wife swapping, pornography were all encouraged and would be legally permitted provided that one is a member in good standing of the Orthodox Jewish community. The Orthodox community would be something like Sweden in the 1960’s. [It is not difficult to imagine a religion teaching this. For example, the Satanic Bible page 37 states "Satanism encourages any form of sexual expression you may desire, so long as it hurts no one else." What if the Torah would say that?]
Everything else however would be exactly the same.
In this case would we still find so many young people deciding, “science disproves Judaism”? Would they all say, “It’s going to be hard; I’m going to miss all that hot, wild sex. But I’ll just have to give it up, become a gentile, live a life of strict chastity, because those stories in the Torah don’t make a lot of sense”? Or would all the “questions” regarding the Documentary Hypothesis and Evolution suddenly seem much less important to these people?
If it’s all about science and truth, then we should see no difference even if theoretically the sexual morality in the Orthodox world and the secular community were different or reversed. Truth is still truth; that’s all that counts.
I think the answer is fairly obvious. Jewish skepticism = sexual addiction.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 8:40 AM
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
[Members of the Bundist Self-Defense Group carry the Socialist flag on May Day, Warsaw 1930s YIVO Archives]
I recently wrote about the how the motivation of contemporary Orthodox Jews who leave Orthodoxy seems to be primarily sexual. One interesting question is, how does this differ from Jews who left Orthodoxy a century ago?
First of all, I don’t believe that anyone raised as an Orthodox Jew leaves the religion for sincere ideological reasons. The arguments in favor of Torah are so blatant; I don’t believe that is possible.
I do believe however that the selfish, materialistic motives can and do change with circumstances.
We learn in Pirkei Avos "Rabbi Elazar HaKappar said, jealousy, lust and the [pursuit of] honor remove a person from the world."
In the present day, I believe we are seeing the destruction of spirituality caused by lust. In earlier times, I believe it was more a problem of jealousy and honor - a desire for material wealth and the respect of the gentiles.
Most Jews 100 years ago were poor and discriminated against. There was rampant poverty in Poland, Belarus and the Ukraine, the main centers of Jewish population at that time. Jews in Russia suffered pogroms and Jews were oppressed within the Pale. Jews dreamt of a better, safer more comfortable life. Some came to find work in sweatshops in New York, where they would have to work on the Jewish Sabbath. Others remained in Europe, but joined political parties which they hoped would improve their conditions. Many became Marxists, who fought for a redistribution of wealth. Many joined the socialist Bund. Others, inspired by nationalism in the Balkans, formed the Zionist party.
The result of this massive exodus from Judaism was finally the terrible miracle of the Holocaust.
Let’s hope and pray that today’s defection from Judaism has a happier ending, with a wholehearted return to God and His Torah.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 9:26 AM
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The Torah is the first book to advocate monotheism.
The Torah is the first book to advocate altruism.
The Torah is the first book to advocate one day of rest every seven days.
The Torah is the first book to be written using an alphabet. (The first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet are “aleph” and “bayt”.)
These are ideas that have since been accepted by the majority of humanity. No other book contains so many important and original ideas. Is it hard to believe that God wrote it?
Posted by jewish philosopher at 3:25 PM
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
[George Collins on Sexual Addiction - Part 1 Part 2]
There are a certain number of Orthodox Jews who choose to leave Orthodoxy. I would estimate that about 3% of those raised as ultra-Orthodox and 10% of those raised as modern Orthodox leave Orthodoxy as teenagers or adults. In addition to that, there are hundreds of people who continue to pose as Orthodox Jews although they no longer believe in the basic principles of Orthodox Judaism (see Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels by Hella Winston page 51).
What is motivating these people?
If asked, the standard answer seems to be something along the lines of “I feel that Judaism is ridiculous and science has proven it to be false.” When questioned more closely about what exactly proves to them that Judaism is false, they have difficulty explaining and usually don’t want to discuss it. When they are questioned about the absurdity of atheism and are asked about how they explain the existence of the universe, the existence of life and the authorship of the Torah, they are unable to answer. Nevertheless, the Jewish skeptics are not at all bothered by these philosophical problems. Therefore, I have a hard time believing that these people are motivated by scientific or philosophical questions. They don’t seem to be doing any real searching. They may go online and enjoy ridiculing Jewish leaders from Moses to present day rabbis however that is generally about as far as their "intellectual" activity goes.
So what is actually going on?
One clue I think is the gender of the people involved. Based on my experience on the Internet, about 90% of Jewish skeptics are male. Winston in her book (page 57) seems to have noticed this as well. There seems to be something about the secular world that attracts Jewish men far more than women. The desire for sex is strongly influenced by testosterone, a hormone found in much higher levels among males than among females. 72% of visitors to Internet pornography sites are male and sexual addiction is most commonly a male problem.
In addition to that, it would appear that sexual prohibitions are generally among the first ones breached by Jewish skeptics and among the most frequently breached. In Judaism, basically any sexual stimulation outside marriage is prohibited. Even though there are good reasons for this, apparently many Orthodox Jews find these restrictions to be very burdensome and they are anxious to abandon them. One subject in Winston’s book (page 123) considered wearing a t-shirt stating, “I eat everything and I fuck everything.”
The eagerness to dispense with the Jewish sexual prohibitions is the one common factor which I have noticed in all apostates I have been personally well acquainted with (and there have been several, including my first wife) as well as with all of those profiled in Hella Winston's book (with the exception of Malkie Schwartz, who is the only person mentioned by their real name).
I think therefore it is reasonable to suggest that the current wave of Orthodox Jews leaving Judaism is primarily motivated by a desire for greater sexual freedom – pornography, strip clubs, prostitution, casual sex, etc. I think this can be called an addiction in the sense that it is a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences to the individual's health, mental state or social life. The idea that “I feel that Judaism is ridiculous and science has proven it to be false.” is then adopted in order to escape from feelings of guilt.
In other words, I think that the Orthodox community is currently under siege from sexual addiction. That’s what the “Frum skeptic”, “kids at risk” and “Orthodox drop outs” are really coming from.
I want to point out that probably 90% of the time, addiction is based on pain. People suffer because of divorce, abuse, their parents' divorce, the death of a loved one, etc and they choose to medicate themselves with something harmful. The next stage is to rationalize and decide that they aren't doing anything wrong. The earlier in life pain is suffered, the greater affect it generally has. It is therefore imperative that we try to shield our children from unnecessary pain. That means: if at all possible, don't hit kids, scream at kids, hit your spouse, scream at your spouse or leave your spouse.
In any case, first of all, we must save ourselves. Torah study is of course protective. I have yet to meet an atheist who previously studied Torah full time until age 25 or later. We must develop self control. And we must be vigilant regarding our loved ones. No one should have a computer without filtering software and we should be monitoring each other. We should also be prepared to intervene and to expel from our schools and our homes people who have this addiction until they have demonstrated full recovery.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 3:36 PM