Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Prayer – A Spiritual Workout


[the Western Wall, Jerusalem]

Personally, I believe very strongly in the importance of physical fitness. I run about twenty miles a week and I lift weights several hours a week. Being active is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Obviously, just like physically we must work to remain fit, we must do so spiritually as well.

The place for spiritual fitness is not the gym, but the synagogue, and the means of achieving fitness is not the weight bench but the prayer book.

Whenever we pray we should meditate deeply on our prayers and concentrate with all our hearts. I find that it's very helpful to think for a moment about what I'm about to say before a blessing. Remember that all of our prayers either directly quote from the Hebrew Bible or paraphrase it. They include the profoundest thoughts. Prayer is called a “service of the heart” (Talmud Taanis 2a). Prayer is the ideal time to reflect on the all good which God does for us and to contemplate all of the miracles and wisdom of His creation. Through this we can come to greater levels of love of God, as Maimonides writes in Hilchos Yesodei haTorah 2:1, the way to love God is to think about His creations.

This also applies to all the blessings which we recite constantly all day, which should serve as constant reminders to reawaken us to love God. It's through this that we can come to true happiness.

56 comments:

Yeshivish Atheist said...

Hey JP, how's it going.

We should really go for a jog some time. It's a shame you're a good 50min drive away.

alex said...

"The place for spiritual fitness is not the gym, but the synagogue, and the means of achieving fitness is not the weight bench but the prayer book."

Bentch pressing joke, anyone?
Nice post.

Abe said...

I used to go to shul for spiritual fitness until I discovered the efficacy of druidic meditation.
I tried to contemplate the miracles and wisdom of god's creation but the distraction of the shaytel whores in the ezrat nashim, was just too much for me to overcome. Not to mention the intoxicating aroma of the kiddush chulent wafting through the air during musaf -- it put me into a drug-like trance. I knew then and there that Fundamentalist Judaism could not be the true path to god.
Then I discovered the efficacy of druidic meditation. No shaytel whores to torment my concentration, just the incorporeal essance of tree spirituality to raise me to greater levels of appreciation of his creation.
Mr. Stein, I suggest you plant a dogwood tree in your yard and petition its sacred presence to ameliorate the demons that agonize your sanity. You'll find much more contentment in a tree than in the torah.

jewish philosopher said...

Abe, to each his own. However I don't recall druidic demons appearing to millions of people on Mount Sinai.

Abe said...

There are no druidic demons. Demons are a product of torah and talmudic fantasy. We druids incorporate the quintessence of verdant spirituality into our relationship with the prime mover.
Mount Sinai was a barren dessert wasteland. Only a lush and sylvan environemnt could have been the source of spiritual nirvana. That is why we druids are right and you are wrong.
Mr. Stein, renounce your fundamnetalist delusions and convert to the True Druidic Faith.
You'll be happy that you did.

jewish philosopher said...

Abe, it sounds to me like the quintessence of verdant insanity has invaded your minute skull cavity.

DrJ said...

This guy is hilarious and tells the truth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEtfdzNAE74

jewish philosopher said...

This guy is the perfect example of an atheist.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Condell

Too selfish to ever marry and father children. Emotionally immature, he is like a child who wants to rebel against authority. He wants a God who is like a permissive and overindulgent parent who sends unlimited money and demands nothing. Maybe it's understandable, since his father was a compulsive gambler working in a betting shop until he was sent to prison for stealing money. He then died of leukemia in prison. Whatever.

Of course, his rantings don't contain a shred of logic or facts, just arguments from personal incredulity and wishful thinking.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance#Argument_from_personal_incredulity
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wishful_thinking

But I guess men who never got beyond being emotionally spoiled children don't need any logic or facts.

DrJ said...

His rantings are alot more convinving then yours, ad hominem attacks aside.

jewish philosopher said...

So was Hitler, depending on the audience.

Anonymous said...

OT but still interesting:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19472371


An attempt at an evolutionary explanation for the Cambrian explosion.

DrJ said...

There's not really much to argue about in this post, so I'll let it rest.

Anonymous said...

Here's an example of how the evolutionists got it wrong.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/21/AR2009062101726_2.html?wprss=rss_nation&sid=ST2009062200350

jewish philosopher said...

There have been other explosions too.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2006/11/evolution-refuted-again.html

Anonymous said...

From the article sited above:

"All of Earth's people, according to a new analysis of the genomes of 53 populations, fall into just three genetic groups. They are the products of the first and most important journey our species made -- the walk out of Africa about 70,000 years ago by a small fraction of ancestral Homo sapiens."

Dovetails nicely with the Torah's account of all humans being descended from Shem, Cham, and Yofes, the three sons of Noach.

DrJ said...

Interestingly you chose a photo of the Western Wall for this post. Do you attach special significance to this site?

jewish philosopher said...

I think it is the best know Jewish holy site - something equivalent to St. Peter's Basilica or the Masjid al-Haram.

Anonymous said...

...equivalent to St. Peter's Basilica or the Masjid al-Haram...

You forgot to say l'havdil.

Anonymous said...

OT, but still interesting.

it looks like the scientific consensus on global warming is crumbling.


http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124597505076157449.html

So why should we place so much store in the "consensus" on evolution? Just wondering.

jewish philosopher said...

Of course in any case, appeals to authority are not convincing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_authority#Examples_of_appeals_to_authority

Abe said...

...So why should we place so much store in the "consensus" on evolution? Just wondering....

Because evolution has been scientificaly established beyond a reasonable doubt. OTOH, global warming has been only a 2 decade old debate, with many credible scientists disputing the notion that the phenomenon is man made. Some say the earth may be getting warmer but there is little man can do about it. It has become almost a religious mantra and politicaly correct true belief. Something like literalist fundies insisting that the everything in the torah is from god, for which there is no evidence.

jewish philosopher said...

Scientifically wrong beyond any doubt.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/03/evolution-science-hijacked-by-atheism.html

Shalmo said...

Anonymous I don't know why you keep bringing evolution into every post that doesn't even have anything to do with evolution. But if you are honestly trying to claim that Genesis is somehow reconcilable with human history, then I shudder to think what that implies.

the book of Genesis – the foundation of foundations of the Jewish religion – is largely a theory of the origin of races; Genesis makes some notorious racial disciplines of the 20th Century which I wont mention look good. Jewish law – Halachah – codifies this racial theme. Obviously the Jewish law gives radically different roles and laws for the Jewish race. It appears that there is also a different value for Jewish life – e.g. the rules of Sabbath may be waived to save a Jewish life but not for prima fascia a non-Jewish life (although loopholes emerged over the centuries to try to accommodate this in practice). But additionally Jewish law specifically discriminates in varying ways over and above other gentiles against Amalekites (where Jews are for-ever commanded to murder every man, woman, child and animal – and King Saul indeed committed such a genocide in the bible although he was criticized for sparing the animals), the seven nations of Canaan of whom the Israelites murdered six, Egyptians and Moobites who had a special status and Jews were not allowed to intermarry, etc. Today these Jewish laws still apply but as the races have become intermingled only the races of Jews, Levites and Priests preserve their special status in practice. Incidentally, the appalling biblical passage commanding the genocide of Amalek is read aloud in synagogue from the scroll once a year to this day and is considered the most important reading of the year since the bible commands that we not forget this edict.

Why don't you deal with all the scientific blunders in Genesis, such as the faulty creation process with plants being created before there was a Sun to support photosynthesis and so forth. The biblical creation stories imply that the world is only a few thousand years old, rather than the 4.54 billion years that modern science has established. The creation account in Genesis 1:1-2:4a narrates a sequence of creation that is scientifically unsupportable. On the other hand, the creation account beginning at Genesis 2:4b says that the first man was created before any other animal, a sequence that is at odds with the fossil record.

Shalmo said...

JP:

Prayer is a good thing. However what it accompanies in Judaism is not so good.

God wants Jews to keep Hallakha – an unbelievably obscure and detailed set of arbitrary seeming laws effecting every tiniest detail of how one lives. You cannot wipe your bottom with ordinary toilet paper on a Sabbath. On Sabbath you put the hot water in your tea cup before the tea bag. Always, you put on your right shoe before your left. Want to eat an apple in Israel? There is an elaborate process for removing and wasting the tithes – if you don’t you are subject to the death penalty. Then you have to say a blessing. If there are other foods you have to eat them in a certain order. You cannot eat the apple at certain times of day, e.g. when prayers are due, or certain days of the year which are fast days. After the apple you have to say another blessing which varies depending what else you ate. In general thousands and thousands of laws govern food, the Sabbath, the purity or impurity of humans, food and inanimate objects, prayers, dress code, etc.

Does God really care?

The minitia of halacha creates more than enough apostates among jewry. This excessive legalism completely overturns any spiritual benefits gained from prayer.

Anonymous said...

Abe:

So was the geocentric theory, then Copernicus came along. So was phlogiston theory, until Levoisier started measuring chemicals he burned. So was Newtonian mechanics, until Michelson-Morley, Relativity, etc. So was Maxwell's electromagnetism, until Plank's black body radiation problem. So was primeval existance, until Hubble's assistance spotted red shifts on photos of galaxies.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting:


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/5479418/Biomimicry-why-the-world-is-full-of-intelligent-design.html

So blind nature is smarter than engineers and scientists with PhD's. Doesn't give me much faith in scientists.

Anonymous said...

Here's more:

http://news.softpedia.com/news/Hippo-Sweat-To-Be-Turned-into-Sunscreen-106946.shtml

jewish philosopher said...

"the appalling biblical passage commanding the genocide of Amalek is read aloud in synagogue"

It's not so appalling.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2009/02/massacre-of-midianites.html

"The biblical creation stories imply that the world is only a few thousand years old"

Not exactly.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/09/how-i-understand-genesis.html

"Does God really care?"

Yes.

And arguments from personal incredulity are logical falsifies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance#Argument_from_personal_incredulity

alex said...

Anonymous, you'll like this one. (Abe won't though):

In the 1960 Thomas Clark and Colin Stearns work "Geological Evolution of North America" the theory was compared favorably with Darwin's theory of natural selection:

"The geosynclinal Theory is one of the great unifying principles in geology. In many ways its role in geology is similar to the theory of evolution, which serves to integrate the many branches of the biological sciences. Just as the doctrine of evolution is universally accepted by biologists, so also the geosyncrinal origin of the major mountain systems is an established system in geology."

Within 10 years the Theory of Plate Tectonics had completely replaced the Geosynclinal Theory.

===

Shalmo, if you agreed with the subject of the post, that prayer is a good thing, why did you find it necessary to go out of your way to bring up a totally unrelated topic in Judaism to criticize?

DrJ said...

"Shalmo, ......, why did you find it necessary to go out of your way to bring up a totally unrelated topic in Judaism to criticize?"

Because thats what anti-semitic self-hating Jews do.

Anonymous said...

Shalmo says:

"God wants Jews to keep Hallakha."

I guess Shalmo feels at liberty to second-guess God.

Of course, this is the strange thing about religion - or perhaps I should say, the thing that is actually not strange at all - every religion has its own list of demands on God as to what He wants. They tell God what He wants.

Pray for the destruction of "heretics"? Certainly, because that's what we say God wants.


JP says: "I find that it's very helpful to think for a moment about what I'm about to say before a blessing."

Interesting. I find it's helpful to realize that there is no such thing as god. Only then does all the good we have and all the good there is appear miraculous.

-Larry-

jewish philosopher said...

"They tell God what He wants."

Why is it OK for atheists to make baseless dogmatic statements like this, but not for me?

Anonymous said...

JP,
"Why is it OK for atheists to make baseless dogmatic statements like this, but not for me?"

Because all your statements are baseless and dogmatic.

My statement was neither baseless nor dogmatic. I showed you how Shalmo's statement was symptomatic of religious thinking. You can't deny the conclusion so now you're crying. Buzzkill!

My statement was not dogmatic. It was a reasoned opinion, but it doesn't own me.

Do you have anything else except whining - incorrectly - about baselessness and dogma? Maybe because you see these qualities in your own argumentation, you have to try and project them onto others.

Perhaps you should pray for a more open mind.

-Larry-

jewish philosopher said...

"Because all your statements are baseless and dogmatic."

Care to mention one?

"My statement was not dogmatic. It was a reasoned opinion"

I understand that your belief that all prophesy is bogus and all religious believers "tell God what He wants" and not the other way around. However you don't bother to give a shred of evidence to support your belief. Because dogma is not based on evidence. It's just based on wishful thinking.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wishful_thinking

Welcome to Larry's private fantasy world.

DrJ said...

JP, you and Larry can argue in circles forever calling each other dogmatic and baseless. But it seems to me that, logically speaking, it is like being innocent until proven guilty

What is the default? God or no God? Is there no God unless proven otherwise? Or is there a God of Israel unless proven otherwise? Because that determines who the burden of proof is on.

Usually when arguing about the presence or absence of something, the default is the absence unless proven otherwise.

The fact that most of the world is monotheistic does not justify a default position for 2 reasons:

1. Most don't believe in YOUR god.
2. Its only for the past 1400 years or so of humanity that monotheism is dominant. Before that they believed in many other things that explained the world around them.

So the default is NO GOD. The burden of proof lies with you, and the rebuttal of your assertions cannot possibly be "baseless dogma"-- rather, they are the rational starting point.

jewish philosopher said...

"So the default is NO GOD. The burden of proof lies with you"

So the default is NO HOLOCAUST. The burden of proof lies with you.

jewish philosopher said...

What if I would claim “All doctors are quacks.” without providing any evidence; would that be a convincing statement? So why is saying “All prophets are false.” convincing?

Anonymous said...

Or maybe the burden should be on the deniers, because we know the universe is here, and the universe didn't make itself. The deniers have to explain that.

DrJ said...

"So the default is NO HOLOCAUST. The burden of proof lies with you"

I knew you would say that. You are correct! That's why so many organizations over the past 60 years have been busy collecting overwhelming, unequivocal and undeniable evidence for the holocaust. So appealing to the emotional repulsiveness of holocaust deniers does nothing to prove god.

"So why is saying “All prophets are false.” convincing?"

Who claims "all prophets are false"? I never claimed that. Morever I don't claim that the whole torah is false, either.

"Or maybe the burden should be on the deniers, because we know the universe is here..."

Burden for what? To explain the origins of the universe? I don't have to, any more than you don't have to explain the origins of god. You're merely substituting "unknown" with "God".

Even if an alternate explanation exists it doesn't matter. Perhaps that, too, is incorrect. I can just say that its unknown. There are many unknown things in many fields, that doesn't mean I have to make something up to make me feel better, but does nothing to actually answer the question.

Anonymous said...

The evolutionist got it wrong again.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/202789/page/4

jewish philosopher said...

DrJ, Larry implied a few days ago that all prophets are false "every religion has its own list of demands on God as to what He wants. They tell God what He wants"

I think what you're trying to say is: God's existence is highly unlikely, therefore immense proof is needed to prove it. But why is it unlikely?

I would say just the opposite: Evolution is highly unlikely, therefore immense proof is needed to prove it.

Anonymous said...

Dr.J:

Your rules are that we cannot go outside the laws of nature that we are familiar with. But according to those laws the origin of the universe is not just unknown, it's impossible, y'know because of causality and gettin out of a singularity. So you can't explain something without violating your own rules.

DrJ said...

"The evolutionist got it wrong again"

Got what wrong? Just because a theory changes over time with new information, it doesn't mean the method is wrong. As opposed to JPists who have a theory that is unchangeable, no matter what information comes along.

"But according to those laws the origin of the universe is not just unknown, it's impossible..",

Its possible, thats what Big Bang is all about. But as I said, it doesn't matter. Because the more you insist that I answer what it came from, the more I insist on what god came from. (since you use causality to prove Him)

Not knowing is not the same as supernatural. If while walking I see a rock on the ground, I may never find out how that rock actually got there, but it obviously did, it had a cause, I just can't find out.

"Evolution is highly unlikely, therefore immense proof is needed to prove it".

And immense proof there is, in the form of evidence and inductive reasoning.

"I think what you're trying to say is: God's existence is highly unlikely, therefore immense proof is needed to prove it. But why is it unlikely?"

Not just any god, The God of Israel as is described in the Torah is highly unlikely. This is because as described it is full of contradictions, anthropomorphisms, illogical characteristics and limitations that would render Him incapable of explaining the universe and history of the world. Other gods, such as Allah and Jesus, fare only slightly better, about as well as the FSM.

jewish philosopher said...

"As opposed to JPists who have a theory that is unchangeable, no matter what information comes along."

Wrong. Until age 14, I was an evolutionist and atheist. New information came along, my theory changed.

"And immense proof there is, in the form of evidence and inductive reasoning."

Wrong. There is immense proof against it, in the form of gaps in the fossils.
http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2006/11/evolution-refuted-again.html
Punctuated equilibrium had to be invented as a pathetic apology to explain this.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punctuated_equilibrium

"The God of Israel as is described in the Torah is highly unlikely."
Wrong. The Torah is exactly the kind of book I expect God to write.
http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2009/06/gods-wisdom.html

Anonymous said...

"The Torah is exactly the kind of book I expect God to write."

Yep. Keep telling your god to live up to your expectations.

Why would you think your god is likely? Isn't he supposed to be utterly unique? You and me - we're people and there are billions of other people just like us. There are billions of stars and planets and moons. But there's supposed to be only one god. God is by definition the most highly unlikely thing possible.

So why is it that you think your god is more likely than evolution (which, by the way, we have observed)?

-Larry-

jewish philosopher said...

"Why would you think your god is likely?"

The heart is a pump. A pump needs a pump maker.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2009/06/biomechanics.html

"evolution (which, by the way, we have observed)"

You have seen animals spontaneously develop new, useful limbs and organs? Where?

Anonymous said...

"The heart is a pump."

You're letting the "pump" metaphor overtake your logic.

You would be more correct to say a pump is a kind of heart.

Hearts don't need makers. Have you seen the factory where hearts are made? Where?

-Larry-

jewish philosopher said...

Have you ever seen a machine form spontaneously? So why do you believe the heart did?

Anonymous said...

Dr. J:

But the Big Bang is impossible because #1. Things don't explose unless sometnhing makes them explode. #2. IF you have all the energy/mass in the universe, then you have a singularity with infinite gravity requiring infinite energy to escape from it. So either you need an explanation that violates the laws of nature, or God. And we know empirically that the universe operates according to laws. If we saw that the universe didn't then we wouldn't have laws. We have no reason to say that those laws apply to an entity that exists outside the universe. The whole point of the nultiverse explanation for the anthropic principle is that the laws we know only apply in our universe. That is why our universe is exquisitely fined tuned to accomodate life.

Anonymous said...

JP:

"Have you ever seen a machine form spontaneously? So why do you believe the heart did?"

I don't believe the heart formed spontaneously, and I never said it did.

But don't you believe that it did? I mean, isn't this the premise of creationism?

For me, I think it would be more correct to say that organisms containing hearts evolved gradually.

-Larry-

jewish philosopher said...

"But don't you believe that it did?"

I believe God made it.

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0102.htm#7

"I think it would be more correct to say that organisms containing hearts evolved gradually."

I've explained why that's impossible.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/03/evolution-science-hijacked-by-atheism.html

Anonymous said...

What is your source of information for the impossibility of organisms gradually evolving?

-Larry-

jewish philosopher said...

Read the link.

Anonymous said...

Didn't see that one that said it's impossible for populations of organisms to evolve gradually. Please post.

And, again, why is it that you think your supposedly utterly-unique god is more likely than evolution (which we have observed)?

-Larry-

jewish philosopher said...

"Didn't see that one that said it's impossible for populations of organisms to evolve gradually."

For the same reason that books cannot evolve through typographical errors and customer selection, as I explained in that post. The universe would end before one book would be written.

"why is it that you think your supposedly utterly-unique god is more likely than evolution"

Why is it that you think your supposedly utterly-unique human author is more likely than evolution of a book?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QERyh9YYEis

"(which we have observed)"

Which has never been observed. No book has evolved. No machine has evolved. No new organ or limb has ever evolved.

a geneticist said...

JP: "Have you ever seen a machine form spontaneously? So why do you believe the heart did?"

Anonymous: "I don't believe the heart formed spontaneously, and I never said it did."

Unfortunately, JP sloppily chose the word "spontaneously" instead of "unguided" or "undesigned." Pretend he chose one of those words instead. And when you respond, try to explain how the heart DID evolve, not how it THEORETICALLY COULD HAVE evolved.