Friday, December 25, 2009

What Scientists are Really Doing

[a little carried away perhaps]

One statement which I frequently hear made by Jewish heretics is “Do we really live in a world where to admit that the global consensus of academic research might just be right is such a terrible thing? Is that the kind of world we have to live in? Is it?”

In other words, since most professors and scientists are not Orthodox Jews, then obviously Orthodox Judaism is false. I have a feeling this is really the main "argument" which Orthodox Jews who convert to atheism tell themselves to rationalize what they are doing.

First of all, this is a logical fallacy known as an "appeal to authority". The fact that an authority says something does not necessarily make it so. We know from history that most professors three hundred years ago were devout Christians and most professors a century ago were socialists. We know that most of the attendees of the Wannsee Conference which planned the Holocaust held doctorates.

Recently I read something which made me wonder a little more about what our great intellectuals are actually doing. A report from the National Science Foundation says employees were watching, downloading and e-mailing porn, sometimes for significant portions of their workdays, and over periods of months or even years. In one particularly egregious case, the report says one NSF “senior official” was discovered to have spent as much as 20 percent of his working hours over a two-year interval “viewing sexually explicit images and engaging in sexually explicit online ‘chats’ with various women.” Investigators calculated the value of the time lost at more than $58,000 — for that employee alone.

It sounds like a few of our distinguished academics should be checking into Dr. Drew's Sex Rehab.

It remains my belief that any honest, sober person who reviews the evidence will quickly be convinced of the truth of Orthodox Judaism. How many academics that includes may be very few.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Higher Power as I Understand Him

[infinity symbol]

He is infinite - in regards to time, space and strength.
He is eternal, He is everywhere and He does everything.
He has no physical form and His nature is entirely beyond our comprehension.
[The essence of idolatry is the belief that God has some physical form or nature that can be understood by us.]

What He does:
He creates everything.
He controls everything.
He knows everything.

What He does not do:
He does not make mistakes.
He does not have conflicting emotions.
He does not cause pain unjustly.

In summary: He is the Perfect Giving Being.

Man's task: to emulate in a miniature way this Perfect Giving Being. "Coming closer to God", "cleaving to God" etc. means imitating God in our small way.

In addition to this, I believe that it is correct to say that the universe in comparison to God is like a human thought in comparison to a physical object. God's reality is on a different plane than ours. We are merely imaginary in comparison to Him.

I would also like to point out that obviously God's motives are unfathomable to mere mortals. Asking questions about why God commanded this and not that, created this and not that or why He even created anything at all can not be answered, any more than a flea can attempt to understand the motives of a human.

[This post is based on the 13 Principles of Faith, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah by Maimonides and Derech Hashem by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lutzatto.]

Monday, December 14, 2009

Atheism is Irrational and It's Bad for You

[just like any addictive drug]

“I once asked the eloquent and personable paleontologist Niles Eldredge whether he knew of any case in which the formation of a new species had ever been documented. I told him I’d be satisfied if his example were drawn from the laboratory, from the field, or from observations from the fossil record. He could muster only one good example: Theodosius Dobzhansky’s experiments with Drosophila, the fruit fly.”

Symbiotic Planet” by Lynn Margulis page 7

According to evolutionists, billions of new species have evolved on earth yet only one case has ever been documented; a minor variant of the fruit fly produced artificially in a laboratory. All other speciation events have successfully succeeding in concealing themselves from human eyes.

“People who believe in God are happier than those who don’t. A study shows that the faithful are less likely to abuse drugs, commit crimes or kill themselves.”

Some Dark Thought on Happiness” by Jennifer Senior (who is an atheist) in New York magazine 7/17/2006 page 30

According to atheists, the human mind has apparently evolved in such a way that we can only be happy if we believe in a fantasy. Is that reasonable?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Look at the World with Innocent Eyes

I sometimes think: What would a person logically think about this world if he would wake up one day completely innocent, with no prejudices or preconceptions, unbiased by previous commitments and external influences? What conclusions would he reach? I imagine the answer would be something like this.

He would look at himself in the mirror. He would be overwhelmed by the functioning of all parts of his body – the eyes which provide vision, the ears which provide hearing, the hands which grasp and the feet which walk. He would breath in the fresh air, filling his lungs with life-giving gases. He would see the sun rising and bringing light and warmth to the earth. He would be naturally curious: Who created all this?

The obvious step would be to go to the library and ask the librarian: “Has the creator of the universe ever publicly revealed himself to mankind and told us who he is?”

The librarian would think for a moment and answer: “Yes. There was in fact one such incident documented as having taken place over three thousand years ago.” Then she would open a Bible and show him Exodus 20.

The next question would be: “Are there any people alive today who are descended from those people who received the revelation at Mt. Sinai and who still observe those commandments?”

The librarian would answer, “Yes; there are.” And hand him a telephone book yellow pages open to the page of Orthodox rabbis.

It's really that simple.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Talmud on Charity

[Jewish charity box]

In this post I would like to simply quote from a section of the Talmud which I recently learned as part of the Daf Yomi program. Does any other ancient book contains such noble concepts?

(Bear in mind that these comments were made at a time and place when the primary form of entertainment was brutal gladiatorial combat.)

It has been taught: R. Meir used to say: The critic [of Judaism] may bring against you the argument, 'If your God loves the poor, why does he not support them?' If so, answer him, 'So that through them we may be saved from the punishment of Gehinnom [hell].' This question was actually put by Turnus Rufus to R. Akiba: 'If your God loves the poor, why does He not support them?' He replied, 'So that we may be saved through them from the punishment of Gehinnom.' 'On the contrary,' said the other, 'it is this which condemns you to Gehinnom. I will illustrate by a parable. Suppose an earthly king was angry with his servant and put him in prison and ordered that he should be given no food or drink, and a man went and gave him food and drink. If the king heard, would he not be angry with him? And you are called "servants", as it is written, 'For unto me the children of Israel are servants.' (Leviticus 25:55) R. Akiba answered him: 'I will illustrate by another parable. Suppose an earthly king was angry with his son, and put him in prison and ordered that no food or drink should be given to him, and someone went and gave him food and drink. If the king heard of it, would he not send him a present? And we are called "sons", as it is written, 'Sons are ye to the Lord your God.' (Deut. 14:1) He said to him: 'You are called both sons and servants. When you carry out the desires of the Omnipresent you are called "sons", and when you do not carry out the desires of the Omnipresent, you are called "servants". At the present time you are not carrying out the desires of the Omnipresent. R. Akiba replied: 'The Scripture says, Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry and bring the poor that are cast out to thy house. (Isaiah 58:7) When "dost thou bring the poor who are cast out to thy house"? Now; and it says [at the same time], Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry?' [This demonstrates that even during the time of exile and atonement for sin, Jews must give charity.]

R. Judah son of R. Shalom preached as follows: In the same way as a man's earnings are determined for him from New Year, so his losses are determined for him from New Year. If he finds merit [in the sight of Heaven], then, 'deal out thy bread to the poor'; but if not, then, he will 'bring the poor that are outcast to his house.' A case in point is that of the nephews of Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai. He saw in a dream that they were to lose seven hundred dinars in that year. He accordingly forced them to give him money for charity until only seventeen dinars were left [of the seven hundred]. On the eve of the Day of Atonement the Government sent and seized them. R. Johanan b. Zakkai said to them, 'Do not fear [that you will lose any more]; you had seventeen dinars and these they have taken.' They said to him, 'How did you know that this was going to happen?' He replied, 'I saw it in a dream.' 'Then why did you not tell us?' they asked. 'Because,' he said, 'I wanted you to perform the religious precept [of giving charity] quite disinterestedly.'

As R. Papa was climbing a ladder, his foot slipped and he narrowly escaped falling. Had that happened, he said, mine enemy had been punished like Sabbath breakers and idolaters. Hiyya b. Rab from Difti said to him: Perhaps a beggar appealed to you and you did not assist him; for so it has been taught: R. Joshua b. Korhah says, Whoever turns away his eyes from [one who appeals for] charity is considered as if he were serving idols. It is written In one place, Beware that there be not a base thought in thine heart (Deut. 15:9), and in another place, Certain base fellows are gone out. (Deut.13:14) Just as in the second case the sin is that of idolatry, so in the first case the sin is equivalent to that of idolatry.

It has been taught: R. Eliezer son of R. Jose said: All the charity and deeds of kindness which Israel perform in this world [help to promote] peace and good understanding between them and their Father in heaven, as it says, Thus saith the Lord, Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament, neither bemoan them, for I have taken away my peace from this people … even lovingkindness and tender mercies (Jeremiah 16:5), [where] 'lovingkindness' refers to acts of kindness, and 'tender mercies' to charity.

It has been taught: R. Judah says: Great is charity, in that it brings the redemption nearer, as it says, Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment and do righteousness [zedakah], for my salvation is near to come and my righteousness to be revealed. (Isaiah 56:1) He also used to say: Ten strong things have been created in the world. The rock is hard, but the iron cleaves it. The iron is hard, but the fire softens it. The fire is hard, but the water quenches it. The water is strong, but the clouds bear it. The clouds are strong, but the wind scatters them. The wind is strong, but the body bears it. The body is strong, but fright crushes it. Fright is strong, but wine banishes it. Wine is strong, but sleep works it off. Death is stronger than all, and charity saves from death, as it is written, Righteousness [zedakah] delivereth from death. (Proverbs 10:2)

R. Dosthai son of R. Jannai preached [as follows]: Observe that the ways of God are not like the ways of flesh and blood. How does flesh and blood act? If a man brings a present to a king, it may be accepted or it may not be accepted; and even if it is accepted, it is still doubtful whether he will be admitted to the presence of the king or not. Not so God. If a man gives but a farthing to a beggar, he is deemed worthy to receive the Divine Presence, as It is written, I shall behold thy face in righteousness [zedakah], I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness. R. Eleazar used to give a coin to a poor man and straightway say a prayer, because, he said, it is written, I in righteousness shall behold thy face. (Psalms 17:15)

R Johanan said: What is the meaning of the verse, He that hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the Lord. (Proverbs 19:17) Were it not written in the Scripture, one would not dare to say it: as it were, the borrower is a servant to the lender. (Proverbs 22:7)

R. Hiyya b. Abin said: R. Johanan pointed out that it is written, Riches profit not in the day of wrath, but righteousness [zedakah] delivereth from death,(Proverbs 11:4) and it is also written, Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness [zedakah] delivereth from death. (Proverbs 10:2) Why this double mention of righteousness? — One that delivers him from an unnatural death and one that delivers him from the punishment of Gehinnom. Which is the one that delivers him from the punishment of Gehinnom? The one in connection with which the word 'wrath' is used, as it is written, A day of wrath is that day. (Zephaniah 1:15) What kind of charity is that which delivers a man from an unnatural death? When a man gives without knowing to whom he gives and the beggar receives without knowing from whom he receives. How is a man then to do this? — He should put his money into the charity box.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Miracle of Vision

[more precious than any diamond]

The Talmud Berakoth 60b states “When he [a Jew] opens his eyes he should say: 'Blessed is He who opens the eyes of the blind'.”

Each morning we must thank God for the miracle of vision. How much are our lives enriched by the ability to see? Imagine for a moment that you were totally blind. How much would you be willing to pay to have your sight restored? I think most of us would give everything we possess.

Each eye weighs about 7.5 grams and contains over 120 million special photoreceptor nerve cells. The optic nerve then transmits visual information to the brain, through a process not yet understood.

If the eyes are destroyed, there is currently no way to replace them artificially. Scientists are just beginning to move toward the creation of a bionic eye.

We should sing with joy for every moment of vision. This should also remind us to use our eyes in a way which God would approve.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A New Book

The Art of Kavana is a new book which is primarily devoted to helping us improve our enthusiasm during prayer. Prayer is a major part of the life of every Orthodox Jew, however too often it is treated as a tedious obligation rather than as the great opportunity which it is. This book includes extensive practical exercises to help improve our kavana.

The book does include several references to Eastern religions and I think it will be most appreciated by people with some secular background.

Rabbi Seinfeld is already the author of The Art of Amazement. I suspect that in the future we will see more interesting books from him.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Transforming Moment

[Samson my hero]

Last week I had the privilege of helping my seven year old son with his homework. He is studying the Bible, specifically the book of Genesis, and the Orthodox Jewish prayer book.

It struck me how remarkable it is that Samson is learning from the earliest age that he has a Creator. The world was made by an intelligent being for a meaningful purpose. Furthermore we can turn to our Creator in prayer. We can have a relationship with Him.

These concepts are essential to our mental health. The Twelve Step programs are based on these ideas. Belief in God and prayer are perhaps the most important positive methods to cope with stress.

I recently read a book: Tweak by Nic Sheff. The book is the most fascinating and informative memoir of addiction I have ever read. I’ve read the book about five times. At the end of the book Mr. Sheff is clean and sober, however he remains an atheist, which is how his father raised him. This made me very suspicious about how long his recovery would last. Unfortunately, my suspicions were correct.

I wish Nic all the best. He’s a brilliant, sensitive young man. I hope that he soon finds the beautiful, life giving concepts which my little boy is thank God learning now.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Margaret Mead – Science Hijacked by Sex?

[the first edition]

Margaret Mead was perhaps one of the most famous anthropologists in history. She is primarily well known for her book Coming of Age in Samoa. The book was published in 1928, at a time when Americans were still very traditional for the most part. The percentage of children born to single women in 1940 was around 4%; in 1928 it was probably even lower. In the United States, single women in 1928 very seldom had sex. Premarital sex carried a huge social stigma.

Before writing Coming of Age, Mead spent six months in Samoa. She described the sex lives of young women in a small village on the island of Ta‘ū. Her conclusion was that these women were sexually promiscuous yet far happier than American young women.

Mead became a celebrity and her book became a staple in university courses. Ultimately, Coming of Age provided a scientific basis for the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

The only problem with all this is that Mead apparently just made the whole thing up.

Samoans in the 1920’s were just as sexually restricted as Americans in the 1920’s, if not more so. Mead however wanted to promote greater sexual freedom, as did a growing number of Americans during the Roaring Twenties and later.

I am not claiming that this proves that all science is false. What I am suggesting however is that frequently books labeled “science” are actually “fiction”. Always trust, but verify.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Got Milk – The Miraculous Mammary Glands

Every female mammal has organs which produce milk – a fluid perfectly suited for the nourishment of that particular species’ offspring for several months after birth. The newborn mammal is given a huge boost to his growth and to his immune system through milk.

It would seem that milk feeding increases the likelihood of survival of each offspring, making it possible for mammals to have fewer offspring while still remaining a viable, continuing species. The vast majority of mammal species seem to produce one or two babies per year. This in turn makes it possible for the mother to invest more time training and teaching her offspring. Mammals are of higher intelligence than other species and therefore this nurturing and educating is of greater importance. Mammal parents may spend a year or so mentoring their young. Humans spend about a decade doing so, as is appropriate to our higher intelligence. The human period of child rearing is apparently the longest found in nature.

In summary, the mammary glands make family life possible, something vital for highly intelligent species.When we pick up a glass of milk, we are seeing the foundation of parenting, motherhood and tradition.

More amazing is how the milk of each species is precisely formulated for the benefit of that species. The healthiest milk for human infants is human milk. Even the most high quality infant formulas made artificially are inferior to breast milk. Science cannot yet create a substitute, let alone a superior replacement, for this miraculous liquid. In fact, when a woman gives birth permaturely, her breast milk is specially formulated for a premature baby. How amazing is that?

Poetically, nursing reminds us of the total trust we have in someone else, a trust which we can later have in God “For Thou art He that took me out of the womb; Thou madest me trust when I was upon my mother's breasts. Upon Thee I have been cast from my birth; Thou art my God from my mother's womb.” Psalms 22:10-11

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

So what?

[new ads in New York subways]

Probably another million are even better with God and without evolution.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Israel – Holocaust 2.0?

[1947 Partition of Palestine]

Recently there has been a great deal of discussion about the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In fact, President Obama has committed himself to creating a Palestinian state. This Palestinian state would presumably include the West Bank more or less up to the 1949 armistice line also known as the Green Line. That would put the Palestinian state to within 14 miles of downtown Tel Aviv, within easy range of the type of 122 mm Katyusha rockets used by the Hezbollah against northern Israel in 2006. In other words, President Obama has committed himself to forcing Israel to accept indefensible borders.

The truth is that according to international law, the president seems to be correct. The State of Israel was in effect created in 1947 by UN Resolution 181. This resolution did not grant Israel the territory now known as the West Bank or Jerusalem. Following the Six Day War, the United Nations passed Resolution 242 requesting the “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict”. Therefore, by law, Israel must evacuate the West Bank and Jerusalem.

By international law, Israel was created with indefensible borders and by law it must remain within those borders. Apparently, if this will lead sooner or later to the destruction of Israel, Israelis must simply accept this. This is international law according to the United Nations.

What occurred to me recently is: What exactly did the United Nations intend by creating Israel in the first place? Did the member nations sincerely believe that, like two peas in a pod, the Islamic state of Palestine and the Jewish state of Israel would co-exist peacefully now and forever? The 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, which cost about 5,600 lives, and was organized in protest against Jewish immigration, should have indicated that this would be impossible. Furthermore, Muslim reaction to Resolution 181 was uniformly negative. There does not seem to be any precedent for separating two belligerents with such a convoluted border. So what was the United Nations thinking?

I hate to ascribe malevolent motives to people unfairly, however it would almost seem as if the United Nations decided to resolve the problem of Holocaust survivors, who were in 1947 mainly residing in displaced persons camps in Germany and Austria, by herding them into a death trap in Palestine and then letting the Muslims finish them off. In reality, as we know, this horrendous outcome did not come to pass, however the United Nations remains committed to its original program, of locking as many Jews as possible into a situation where they will ultimately be killed off.

For the past 60 years, Israelis have hung onto survival by their fingernails, mostly by ignoring the United Nations. When and if the United States fully commits to implementing international law, it would seem that Israel will be in dire jeopardy.

As an aside, it was terribly irresponsible of the majority of Jewish leadership in 1948 to have accepted the partition plan. The wisest course would have been to embrace the UN trusteeship of Palestine as proposed by the United States. Anyone responsible for the partition, whether directly or indirectly, was guilty of criminal negligence at best, genocide at worst. Unfortunately, Zionist leaders, hungry for power, opposed the trusteeship. Blood is on their hands.

Today, we can only repent and pray fervently for a peaceful resolution and the speedy coming of the Messiah.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Unquestioning Obedience – a Jewish Ideal

[Jews reciting Shema]

Every morning and every evening, every Orthodox Jew recites the verse “Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Deut. 6:4). The Talmud states that reading this verse constitutes “accepting upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven". This means that one is willing to do anything that God asks of him without hesitation.

The Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22) is one of the great spiritual triumphs of all time. Abraham is commanded to offer his beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham obeys without question or hesitation. God then declares (verse 12) “now I know that thou art a God-fearing man”. God does not praise people too often. The Binding was an epic accomplishment in human history which we must all attempt to emulate.

Pirkei Avos 4:1 states “Who is wise? He who learns from all people”. The discipline and sacrifice exemplified by elite military organizations such as the United States Marines can be a model of the devotion we must have to God.

Alfred Tennyson famously wrote in The Charge Of The Light Brigade “Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do & die” .

I personally have found that making vows can be a very powerful tool. Each week I can read a list of vows along the lines of:

The following fast days will be obligatory only if I definitely and knowingly require myself to observe them, and I am aware that I am required to observe them an hour after having fulfilled the conditions needed to require the fast.

I hereby accept upon myself that if later this week or next week I knowingly unblock any webpage from ContentProtect software I will be required to fast 1 day during this month of --------- or next month of -----------.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Has Science Fizzled Out?

Many will recall the classic science fiction movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” released in 1968. The movie predicted a manned mission to Jupiter in 2001.

In reality, it is now 2009 and no man has travelled past the moon. In fact, the last manned flight beyond low Earth orbit was in 1972. At this point it seems questionable whether manned space flight will even continue at all. The pace of scientific progress is obviously considerably slower than what had been expected forty years ago.

This is making me wonder if the era of scientific advancement, which began perhaps with the publication in 1687 of Newton’s Principia Mathematica, is slowing to a halt.

The most recent great scientific “miracles” I am aware of are the development of the polio vaccine and the silicon transistor, both about 1955. (The most important scientific discovery of the past 50 years has probably been the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation in 1964.)

The average American home of 2009 is not that much different from the average home of 1959. The average life expectancy has increased from 70 to 78 in the US during that period.

During the sixty years prior to 1959, however, there was a huge change. Conditions in 1900 were very primitive by modern standards and the average life expectancy was under 50. In other words, my grandparents apparently saw a far greater leap forward in their lifetimes than I have in mine. I am not sure if my children will see much change at all, or if they may even witness a decline in the level of technology.

I think this makes even more questionable the belief of some atheists that science will inevitably “replace religion”. It raises the question of whether science is actually hitting a wall which represents the limits of the human ability to understand nature.

Einstein in 1936 said "The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible". Frankly, this seems like silly arrogance. I see no reason to assume that the world is entirely comprehensible to the human mind any more than it is to the mind of a clam or a house fly.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Unique Gift of Repentance

[prayer on Yom Kippur, 19th century Poland]

Another example of God’s unlimited love for us is the gift of repentance.

The prophet Ezekiel wrote:

As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Again, when I say unto the wicked: Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; if the wicked restore the pledge, give back that which he had taken by robbery, walk in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be remembered against him; he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.

God gives us life. He breathes a soul into us. He gives us His beautiful and holy Torah. We should be crying tears of joy, love and gratitude. How we can sin is incomprehensible. Yet, if we do momentarily lose our minds and rebel against God, He does not reject us entirely. We are not doomed. God is still prepared to spare us if we sincerely repent.

No human government would ever have a policy like this. For example, if a robber were to go to the nearest police station, hand over the money he had taken, confess his crimes and sincerely promise to change, he would still go to prison. He is a criminal. He must be punished. Justice demands this. God, however, is more merciful than any human judge. This is mercy beyond human understanding.

The process of repentance, however, is not quick and easy. Repentance means completely changing ones attitude. It means going from a state of deliberately committing a sin to a state of completely abhorring the sin. It is surely far easier to control oneself in the first place and not sin rather than to sin and then repent. Repentance may be similar to addiction recovery. It is a great deal of work, depending on the depth of the sin. It may mean a lifetime of caution and avoiding dangerous situations. Substance abuse withdrawal can be fatal in some cases. Likewise, in an extreme case, the strain of repentance may actually be fatal, as explained in the Talmud Avodah Zarah 17a.

Just to give one example of what may be involved, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein answered the following question (Igres Moshe Orach Chaim chelek 4 siman 117): A woman had once worked as a secretary. While doing so, she had once spent a half hour hugging and kissing her boss. Now, several years later, after having married, she truly regretted her behavior and was certain that she should never repeat it. She asked what other steps she should take. Rabbi Feinstein advised her to daily remind herself of God’s omniscience, to daily recite Psalms and to daily recite a confession of sins.

Nevertheless, the opportunity to repent is available to all of us. We can escape the terrible consequences of sin. This is another amazing gift from our Creator.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Conscious Breathing - Appreciating the Miracle

[a photo of the inside of the aveoli]

The last verse in Psalms states “Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD.” The Midrash Breishis Rabbah 14:9 interprets this to mean “A person must praise his Creator for every breath he takes.”

When we contemplate the miraculous engineering of the human lungs, we should be speechless with gratitude and filled with love for our Creator.

At rest, we breathe about once every three seconds. The air first passes through the windpipe and into the larger air passageways of the lung. At this stage, the air is warmed to body temperature and humidified. It is also cleaned of dust by tiny hairs called cilia located on the walls of all the passageways. After that, the air enters several hundred million tiny pockets called aveoli which are each about 1/10 of an inch wide. There oxygen is absorbed into the blood stream and carbon dioxide is expelled. The total surface area of all the aveoli in one set of lungs is about 750 square feet, or a room about 27 feet on each side. If all of the capillaries that surround the alveoli were unwound and laid end to end, they would extend for about 620 miles. This is about the distance by road between New York City and Detroit, Michigan.

We cannot live more than about five minutes without breathing.

At this time, human engineers are not able to replace lung function artificially. Certain types of heart-lung machines may be able to keep a patient alive in intensive care for several weeks. Due to the high technical demands, cost, and risk of complications this is usually only considered as a last resort while the patient is awaiting surgery or transplant.

Let’s pause once in a while, when we are otherwise bored and idle, and think about breathing. Breathe consciously. Enjoy the beautiful life giving air and the amazing machinery God has placed in our chests. Praise God for the miracle of each breath.

[As an aside: Don’t smoke. You’re ruining a beautiful part of creation – your lungs.]

Friday, September 18, 2009

Darwin and Death Panels

[Jews at Birkenau selected upon arrival for the gas chamber - a taste of Darwinian health care?]

During the recent debate concerning health care reform, one criticism of the President's plan is that it would allegedly create death panels - governmental bodies that would cut off care for the critically ill as a cost-cutting measure.

It's interesting to consider what Charles Darwin, the founder of atheism, would have had to say about this:

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin

Talk about health care reform! Wow! According to atheists, we should discontinue health care or we will eventually lose the evolutionary battle and become extinct. This is supposedly science.

If the atheists become more influential, we should probably start investing in companies producing hydrogen cyanide and crematoria.

[An atheist might argue that Darwin is not making here any practical recommendation, and on the contrary immediately afterwards he argues that “if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil”. Clearly, however, someone a little more heartless or bolder perhaps, than Darwin could reach a different conclusion. In fact, that is exactly what happened later in Germany. It could even be argued that were Darwin alive today and were he to witness the present economic crisis and spirally health care costs, he himself might have decided differently regarding the “weak and helpless”.]

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Atheism is Great – a Guest Post

The following is an extract from the private notebook of Professor Christopher Twitchens, British atheist, scholar and journalist.

[the professor briefly resting from his philosophical studies]

Atheists: The world’s most peaceful and generous people. Their minds purified of all superstition, they occupy themselves with issues of world peace, social justice and scientific advancement. Just once in a while atheists enjoy a drop of whisky for well earned refreshment. (See photo above.)

Evolution: History’s greatest scientific discovery. Charles Darwin took a big vat of chemicals and exposed it to radiation. After a couple of days, bacteria appeared. After a few more days, worms appeared. Then fish, lizards, mice, monkeys and finally people swam out of the vat. This resulted in the formula: C + R + T = P, meaning “chemicals, plus radiation, plus time equals people”. No God needed, making atheism a scientific fact.

Communists: Communists are not true atheists. No one who does anything bad is a true atheist. The mind of a true atheist is filled with science. Science is good. Therefore a true atheist cannot do anything bad.

Religion: Religious people come in two types: Christians, who live in cabins in the Appalachian Mountains and spend their time shooting each other and Muslims who live in caves in Afghanistan and enjoy blowing up airliners. These days pretty much everyone else is an atheist, thank God.

The Jewish Question: The question is where did this tribe of loudmouthed cheapskates come from? No one really knows the truth, because Jews are such pathological liars, however apparently it started with a sadist named Ezra. He gathered together a community of masochists called “Jews” and gave them a Torah - a scroll of laws so difficult that it was guaranteed to make their lives miserable. Being masochists the Jews loved it. In fact they even added on to it another huge pile of even more excruciatingly painful laws called the Talmud. Jews loved that even more and to this day millions of them still study this Talmud. These are some seriously crazy weirdoes. After the Romans drove them out of the Middle East, the Jews migrated to Europe where they spent the next couple of thousand years cheating Christians until the Christians finally killed most of them in the 1940’s. The survivors are today mostly either shooting Arab kids in Palestine or marrying gentiles in America. One way or another, hopefully they will soon be extinct.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Soul: Our Greatest Gift

[God creating Adam; by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel ceiling , the Vatican]

Far more important and remarkable than the body, is another, invisible gift, which God has given to us: the eternal soul. The soul is a non-physical, non-material part of us which will live after the death of the body.

The creation of man’s soul is described in Genesis:

Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)

We know that we have a soul even though we cannot see it, similar to the way that we know that radio waves exist even though we cannot see them. The brain perceives the soul just as a radio perceives radio waves. And just like the functioning of the radio’s parts will affect the radio reception, but not the radio signals themselves, likewise injury to the brain affects our thinking and ability to function, however it does not affect the soul.

The soul is apparent in two ways:

The feeling that you are not your body. We see ourselves as inhabiting our bodies but we don't identify ourselves by it. This feeling begins with the smallest children and is universal culturally.

The feeling of free will. We all feel the freedom to make choices that are not determined by prior causes. Therefore, we hold people responsible for their behavior and either reward or punish them accordingly.

No machine, no matter how complex, has any sense of these feelings. (HAL from "2001: A Space Odyssey" is still fictional.)

To claim that our belief in the soul is merely a delusion seems absurd. One may as well claim that our belief in anything is a delusion. In addition, without a soul, there would be no rational reason to punish criminals. No sane person says "I'm going to punish my car because the brakes failed and caused a fatal crash." One either fixes the car or throws it away.

Each morning every devout Jew fervently thanks God for his soul with this prayer:

My God, the soul which Thou hast placed in me is pure. Thou hast fashioned it in me, Thou didst breathe it into me, and Thou preservest it within me and Thou wilt one day take it from me and restore it to me in the time to come. So long as the soul is within me I give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, my God, and the God of my fathers, Sovereign of all worlds, Lord of all souls. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who restorest souls to dead corpses. (Talmud Brochos 60b)


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Liver: A Miracle of Engineering

Each of us has embedded in our bodies a God given chemical factory, so complex that it cannot be reproduced by human engineers. This factory is working unnoticed every moment, eliminating poisons and creating vital nutrients.

An adult human liver normally weighs between 1.4-1.6 kg (3.1-3.5 lb), and is a soft, pinkish-brown, triangular organ. Averaging about the size of an American football in adults, it is the largest internal organ in the human body. The liver lies on the right side of the abdominal cavity beneath the diaphragm. The lower part of the rib cage covers the liver, protecting it from injury.

The liver is necessary for survival; there is currently no way to compensate for the absence of liver function. There is no artificial organ or device capable of emulating all the functions of the liver. If a person's liver does fail, a device the size of a small cabinet can keep him alive for a few days. That is the most human engineers can currently do to replicate the liver.

One and a half liters of blood pass through the liver every minute and the liver holds 13% of the body's blood at any given time. (This explains why Jews must broil chicken or beef liver. Jews may not eat blood. Due to liver's high blood content, salting is not sufficient to draw out the blood. Liver can be koshered only by a special broiling process.)

The liver contributes to more than 500 vital functions in the body.

The liver's four most important tasks are:

1. Purification: changing harmful chemicals and toxins to harmless substances and eliminates them.

2. Synthesis: takes the simple building blocks of food to syntheize complex substances.

3. Storage: sugars, fats and vitamins are stored until needed by the body.

4. Transformation: the essential building blocks are changed to be use in other ways by the body.

This miracle of divine engineering is silently working away every moment of our lives. We could not survive more than a few hours without it. Let's spend a little time contemplating this immense gift from God and grow in our love for Him.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Don't Believe Anonymous Bloggers

The Internet was supposed to be the prolix paradise where there would be no more gatekeepers and everyone would finally have their say. We would express ourselves freely at any level, high or low, with no inhibitions.

Yet in this infinite realm of truth-telling, many want to hide. Who are these people prepared to tell you what they think, but not who they are? What is the mentality that lets them get in our face while wearing a mask? Shredding somebody’s character before the entire world and not being held accountable seems like the perfect sting.

Pseudonyms have a noble history. Revolutionaries in France, founding fathers and Soviet dissidents used them. The great poet Fernando Pessoa used heteronyms to write in different styles and even to review the work composed under his other names.

As Hugo Black wrote in 1960, “It is plain that anonymity has sometimes been assumed for the most constructive purposes.”

But on the Internet, it’s often less about being constructive and more about being cowardly.

Maureen Dowd New York Times August 25, 2009

I think what Ms. Dowd is saying is that anonymous writers are liars and that is why they choose to be anonymous.

If you live in a country which guarantees freedom of expression, there is no legitimate reason to write anonymously. No reputable newspaper has anonymous articles. Even when people sign their names they may still lie, however if they refuse to sign they are guaranteed to be lying.

Some people may claim that they must remain anonymous because if they would sign their articles, their family or neighbors would be angry with them. My opinion is that if what you are saying is something you would not tell your wife or your next door neighbor, then it is not worth sharing it with the rest of the world.

Click here for a story about a recently exposed blogger.

In my humble opinion, if you don't have the courage to sign your name to it, you shouldn't publish it

The Winner

[Bill Maher with porn star Lexxi Tyler; increasing scientific knowledge?]

The Richard Dawkins Award is given every year by the Atheist Alliance International to honor an outstanding atheist whose contributions raise public awareness of the nontheist life stance; who through writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage advocates increased scientific knowledge; who through work or by example teaches acceptance of the nontheist philosophy; and whose public posture mirrors the uncompromising nontheist life stance of Dr. Richard Dawkins.

At the 2009 AAI Convention , the award will be given to Bill Maher, a well know whore monger.

I am not attempting to denigrate in any way all of the esteemed scientists and intellectuals who I am certain will be attending this great convention for the transformation of society into one that supports and respects a worldview based on the values of reason, empiricism and naturalism. I guess porn could be called naturalism - or is that naturism? Who the heck knows; whatever.

Interestingly, of 27 speakers at the conference, only four are scientists, probably the most eminent of whom is Lawrence M. Krauss, best known for writing The Physics of Star Trek. I guess the rest of the scientific world couldn't make it.

I would just be curious to know, if Maher is an outstanding atheist, what are the average ones like? Are they the ones who don't succeed in dating porn stars but just buy DVDs?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Circumcision - Mutilation or Perfection?

[Christopher Hitchens expresses the atheistic point of view on circumcision to Rabbi Harold Kushner 1/29/2009]

The Torah introduced the practice of circumcising all male infants.

Atheists have long denounced circumcision as child abuse and in fact it was illegal in the Soviet Union. Circumcision was viewed as being barbaric genital mutilation based on primitive superstitions.

However now public health officials are considering promoting routine circumcision for all baby boys born in the United States to reduce the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. New York Times 8/24/2009

Genital perfection, not mutilation.

We may perhaps wonder: How much more wisdom does the Torah contain which has yet to be recognized?

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Kindness of Suffering

[Anger and vengence: German prisoners killed by Czechs; U.S. Army Footage filmed on May 8 1945]

Although any rational person must be overwhelmed by the kindness and goodness of God and the care which He devotes to sustaining all life every moment, however we must also look briefly at the pain and suffering which exists in the world. It too is an example of God's kindness and majesty.

I believe that today’s news media tends to focus excessively on what goes wrong rather than on what goes right. Only about one commercial airline flight per million suffers a fatal crash, however that is the one you will you see in the evening news. People are fascinated by tragedy. This distorts terribly our understanding of the world and life.

Nevertheless, there are real tragedies every day. How do we reconcile God’s infinite kindness with human tragedy?

The answer is that not only is God kind, He is also just. Every sin is punished and the punishment is always big. The Bible and Talmud are filled with this concept; see the book of Lamentations for just one classic example. There is no escape and there are no exceptions, other than repentance.

This is how we can reconcile seemingly contradictory verses.

The LORD is good to all; and His tender mercies are over all His works. (Psalms 145:9)

The LORD is a jealous and avenging God, the LORD avengeth and is full of wrath; the LORD taketh vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for His enemies. (Nahum 1:2)

I think we can say that God practices “tough love”. He is kind and loving, however He is not an enabler. The Talmud teaches us "one must receive the evil with gladness". It is all for our good.

The punishment however is often far removed from the sin, perhaps later in this life, perhaps in the afterlife or perhaps in a future incarnation. This in itself is an additional layer of punishment. Since we have forgotten about God, He may give an appearance of having forgotten about us.

Nevertheless, when suffering strikes, even when the justification for it is unclear, one thing is clear: This is an example of God’s anger. If a father spanks one child, all the children learn to behave - if they are smart. This is a reminder to us to repent. This is a wake up call. It’s a lesson which should not be wasted.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Happiness Rising

Each day set aside time to contemplate the beauty, the majesty and the unfathomable complexity of creation. This can be done anywhere and at any time. While waiting for a bus or standing on line, think about the miracle of the eye, of the water cycle, of photosynthesis, etc. During all the obligatory prayers and blessings focus on God's love and wisdom. Let this bring you to a greater love of God.

Pray each day to be filled with a love of God.

Don’t expect instant results. Gradually feelings of joy will increase as your love of God increases. This is similar to the sun rising. Dawn gradually breaks until everything is illuminated.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Orthodox Jews and Homosexuality

[straight pride]

Sex historian Amo Karlen wrote that according to the sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, "Homosexuality was phenomenally rare among Orthodox Jews." Judaism's Sexual Revolution by Dennis Prager.

This would seem to refute the concept that homosexuality is genetically determined, while also demonstrating the moral superiority of Orthodox Judaism to secular American society.

As an aside, I would like to point out that since the late 1960’s homosexuals have tried to portray sexual orientation as equivalent to race and that homosexuals are an oppressed minority similar to blacks. After 40 years of lobbying, homosexuals have basically been successful in convincing most Americans of this.

In reality, it would seem to be more correct to compare male homosexuality to alcoholism rather than to African ancestry.

Like alcoholism, male homosexuality, has a genetic component however there are also important childhood environment and cultural factors. Like alcoholism, male homosexuality is basically an unhealthy and unhappy way of life. It also endangers other people because homosexuals spread dangerous infections to heterosexuals and have a much higher than average tendency to molest children.

Rather than resembling the black civil rights movement, the gay equal rights movement is reminiscent of the way many American liberals supported the Soviet Union, naively believing that Communism was a force for social justice. (See for example John Reed’s book The Ten Days That Shook The World which is full of the highest praise for the Bolsheviks.)

Rather than being embraced, glorified and celebrated, it would seem clear that homosexuality, like alcoholism, should be prevented, controlled, managed and sometimes punished. The Orthodox Jewish lifestyle would seem to be highly preventative of homosexuality in males.

It's interesting that until the 1944 murder of a homosexual, the New York Times makes no reference whatsoever to homosexuals residing the New York area.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Religion and Happiness: A New Study

[maybe it’s not so bad]

I recently saw a study done by the Paris School of Economics which used survey data on 90,000 individuals in 26 European countries to examine the effect of religion on life satisfaction. The study found that religious behavior is positively correlated with individual life satisfaction. Additionally, the average religiosity in a region also has a positive impact: people are more satisfied in more religious regions. This spillover holds both for those who are religious and for those who are not. The flipside of the coin is that a greater proportion of "atheists" (those who say they do not currently belong to any religious denomination) has negative spillover effects, for the religious and atheists alike.

This spillover effect may help explain the unfortunate phenomenon of “Hasidic Rebels” - atheists who continue to pose as Orthodox Jews even after rejecting Jewish beliefs. Simply remaining in the Orthodox community adds to their overall satisfaction in life.

It makes one wonder what exactly militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins are trying to accomplish by advocating atheism. Do they own stock in the companies which manufacture anti-depressants? Or do they perhaps confuse “happy” with “high”, a common mistake today.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The World's Worst Religion

[just say no]

Nothing became chemicals.
Chemicals became bacteria.
Bacteria became worms.
Worms became fish.
Fish became lizards.
Lizards became mice.
Mice became monkeys.
Monkeys became people.
And all this happened without the involvement of any sort of transcendent, intelligent supreme being.

This is the basic belief of atheism, the world's most irrational and destructive religion. This is merely an absurd myth,not based on a shred of science, created to permit us to do anything our heart desires without fear of God.

It is true that life in the distant past was different than it is now, however that proves nothing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An Interesting Parallel

I am simply amazed by Christopher Hitchens comments.

Ad homenim arguments - ancient people were ignorant of science, therefore their religious beliefs must have been wrong.

Straw man arguments - since idolatry is false, Judaism is false.

Argument from personal incredulity - God would not have created a universe which will come to an end. He would not have revealed the Torah only to the Jews 3,300 years ago.

Question begging - no God exists because a transcendent being cannot exist and therefore no God exists.

Factual errors - Darwinian evolution is needed to produce flu vaccine.

His coup de grâce is that everything we see in the world can be explained without believing in God. Everything, I suppose, except for the Big Bang, life and Judaism.

It just goes on and on. He doesn't make one accurate, logical argument. Just a buffoon whose brain has been half eaten by alcohol.

But listen to the crowd applaud his every comment, no matter how illogical or false.

Then look at this: Triumph of the Will, released only 73 years earlier in 1935. See the crowd roaring approval as the Nazi leaders spout their nonsense. Today we know how crazy they were, but then who knew and who cared? (Incidentally, many leading Nazis were atheists and Darwinian evolution was a foundation of Nazism.)

Imagine someone had taken the podium after Hitler spoke at the Nuremberg rally and had said "Listen, we really can't do this. Germany does not have the resources to conquer all of Europe. If we try this, we're all going to die." Of course, he would have been right, however somehow I'm not sure the crowd would have appreciated him.

People have a tendency to believe any lie which allows them to do what they want to do. This is known as denial.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fully Enjoying Our Children

[a special moment]

For many people, one of their greatest sources of happiness in life is their children. Through our children, we feel that some part of us will live on after we have left this world. Through our children, we feel that we are accomplishing something truly worthwhile and important. We are creating something new and wonderful.

In reality, however, we ourselves are our most important children.

The Midrash Breishis Rabbah 30:6 (quoted by Rashi on the Torah Genesis 6:9) states “the main progeny of the righteous are their good deeds”.

The midrash is teaching us that although Noah was the ancestor of all living humans, nevertheless, his good deeds were his most important offspring.

When we merit having a child and we care for him and educate him properly and he follows the Torah’s commandments, this is certainly a huge accomplishment. We have succeeded in immensely increasing the glory of God in this world. Because of this we make a great celebration at a circumcision, bar mitzvah and wedding. Our children are very precious to us.

Sometimes, however, having children may take time. I myself waited twenty years for my first children to be born. Some people never have children at all. This can cause a great deal of anxiety.

We must always keep our priorities straight and remember – yes, children are important; however we are our most important child. Every time we observe one of God’s commandments we are increasing His glory in this world. Even if all people in the world would be descended from you, your main progeny are your good deeds.

[based on tape #105 from Rabbi Avigdor Miller obm]

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Is History Bunk?

[Henry Ford]

One objection which is occasionally made against belief in the divine origin of the Torah is that there does not exist any additional documentation supporting the account of the revelation at Mount Sinai other than the Torah itself. Some argue that in order for an historical event to be accepted as authentic, there must be numerous books, government records, journalistic accounts, diaries and so on attesting to it. One book is not reliable evidence of anything.

That’s an interesting point; however it seems to me that applying this standard of evidence would mean that little if anything can be known about pre-modern history.

Bear in mind that prior to the publication of the Gutenberg Bible in the 1450’s, books were almost nonexistent. For example, in 1424, Cambridge University library owned only 122 books—each of which had a value equal to a farm or vineyard. The ability to read in medieval England was a proof that one was a member of the Catholic clergy. Our entire knowledge of pre-modern history is based on only a handful of texts which were recopied by monks hundreds of times by hand.

There is a school of thought that so few physical records have survived hundreds, let alone thousands of years that it casts even the most conventional understanding of what really happened into doubt. The dominating historical discourse in its current state was essentially crafted in the 16th century from a rather contradictory jumble of sources such as innumerable copies of ancient Latin and Greek manuscripts whose originals had vanished in the Dark Ages.

Henry Ford famously said “History is more or less bunk. It's tradition.”

Few people, however, would go that far. It seems clear that if one is willing to accept that Aristotle and Alexander the Great were real people, there is no reason to doubt the existence of Moses and Abraham and if one can believe that the Peloponnesian War happened, there is no reason he cannot believe that the Exodus and the Mount Sinai revelation happened.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ayers Rock and Mount Sinai

Imagine that the all Australian aborigines since time immemorial claimed that space aliens had appeared to them at Ayers Rock one spring day 3,300 years ago. Those aliens left the aborigines with a book which contained unique, extremely insightful advice for living (just as the Torah contains unique wisdom). The later history of the aborigines was also unique and indicated some massively influential, ancient event (as does Jewish history and Jewish literature).

I think that most people, including most scientists, would regard this as credible evidence that intelligent life does exist elsewhere in the universe. Indeed even much less evidence, for example a narrow-band radio signal, would be considered by scientists to be solid evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence.

However, once we mention “religion”, everything changes. In regards to the Torah being revealed at Mount Sinai, although similar evidence is presented, the majority of the scientific and academic community rejects it as being insufficient and unconvincing.

I think the explanation for this is very simple: massive denial. The book of advice left by the space aliens would not obligate anyone to do anything. The Torah makes demands, sometimes huge demands, on people. Suddenly, all evidence is insufficient, so it’s all dismissed as myth.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A UFO Analogy

[a flying saucer]

People sometimes ask how Judaism is different from any other religion. Many religions claim to represent the true will of God. Why do Jews believe that they are right and others are wrong?

I think that this can be answered very simply.

Imagine that a UFO supposedly landed in a farmer’s field in Nebraska one day for ten minutes. One person claims to have witnessed it.

Alternatively, imagine that a UFO supposedly landed in Central Park in New York City and remained there for two weeks. Millions of people claim to have witnessed it.

Obviously the second UFO sighting would be far more credible than the first.

Similarly, the Torah was revealed by God in front of millions of witnesses (see Exodus 20). The New Testament and the Koran however were revealed only to an individual.

One may ask that considering this, why are Islam and Christianity more popular than Judaism? The answer is simple: Most people prefer to lead an easy life and Judaism is perhaps the most burdensome of all religions. Therefore it is the least popular. Additionally, Judaism has never pressured people to convert, as has been the case with other religions.

One may ask, doesn’t the Torah contain clear factual errors which disqualify it from being the true word of God, for example doesn’t the Genesis creation story contradict paleontology? I have explained elsewhere that this is not the case.

Another argument sometimes advanced is that the account of the revelation at Mount Sinai is an ancient story and people in ancient times were extremely gullible. Therefore ancient stories lack any credibility. The problem with this assertion is that first of all it seems to be baseless. Second of all, if this were the case, then we would assume that many other ancient religious leaders would have convinced their incredibly gullible followers that they had all heard God affirm the truth of their religion. Of course, that is the not the case.

Some people may say that they cannot believe in anything supernatural regardless of the evidence. This is equivalent to saying that one cannot believe in extraterrestrial life regardless of the evidence. This is known as an argument from personal incredulity .

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Tragedy of Michael Jackson

[King of Pop, RIP]

Michael Jackson died recently, on June 25 at the age of 50. The cause of death was technically cardiac arrest, however there are indications that Jackson’s abuse of the drug Diprivan was the actual cause of death.

I think we can learn an importance lesson from this: we can realize the inability of any material things to provide lasting, stable happiness.

Jackson was born into poverty. His father, however, was apparently extremely ambitious and put immense pressure on Michael to perform well in the family’s musical group. We can imagine that Jackson absorbed from birth the overwhelming message that fame and fortune were the highest priorities in life.

At the age of 24, Jackson finally reached the pinnacle of show business success with the release of his album Thriller. Thriller was the best selling album of all time. It won a record 8 Grammy awards in 1984. On May 14, 1984, Jackson received a personal award from President Ronald Regan in a ceremony at the White House.

It was about this time that Jackson began suffering from various health problems: being underweight, undergoing perhaps dozens of cosmetic surgeries and abusing medications. These problems would continue and increase until his untimely death. He also seems to have fallen into a pattern of compulsive spending which basically ruined him financially.

My theory is that when Jackson finally reached the summit of fame and fortune, when most people on the planet had heard of him and he had more money than he possibly could ever actually use, he then realized how empty it all was. I did not make him happy. He had worked so hard for nothing! This was a heartbreaking disappointment. He then began frantically attempting to find happiness in other more and more self destructive activities, but with no success. The end of all this was predictable. That’s a real tragedy.

The only true, stable and permanent happiness in this world can come from connecting with our Creator.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Is Judaism Opposed to Feminism?

[Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique]

Yes, it is.

Within the Orthodox Jewish community, the primary decision makers should be men.

First of all, only men are permitted to attend Talmudic lectures. Since all important decisions in society are based on the Talmud, this effectively excludes women from community decision making.

Second of all, in Judaism, wealth generally is in the hands of men. If someone dies and leaves a son, the son inherits all regardless of the existence of daughters. If a woman marries and owns property, the property is controlled by her husband during their marriage. If a married woman works, her earnings belong to her husband unless she waives her right to spousal support.

The fact is, however, this is little different than in other societies.

In all human societies, even those which claim to endorse the principle of equality of the sexes, men are dominant. In politics, about 85% of all leaders are male. In the business world, there were 78 women from a total of 793 billionaires worldwide in 2006.

Going a step further, among most animals and nearly all mammals, the male is larger and more aggressive on the average than the female.

Gender equality is therefore seemingly not only against human nature, but against biology.

In my humble opinion, Judaism handles male dominance in a very humane and reasonable way. Men are given greater decision making privileges than women. On the other hand, men pay a price for this – they have much heavier religious obligations than women. Secondly, men are obligated to treat women with a level of love and respect equal to that with which they must treat other men. “Love your neighbor as yourself” applies equally to women and to ones wife. Insulting a woman is prohibited. Striking a woman is strictly prohibited. Forced sex is strictly prohibited. A man must financially support any children he has. I am aware of no recorded case of spousal homocide in the Orthodox community.

Other societies seem to have an ideal of sexual equality, while in reality are plagued by rape, wife beating and "dead beat dads".

I suspect that this philosophy, of a humane approach to male dominance, is one reason why very few Orthodox women choose to leave Orthodoxy, in comparison to the number of male "dropouts". Women know that they are getting the best deal possible.