Thursday, December 30, 2010

Paradoxes



Today Moshe Katzav, ex-president of Israel and a product of the secular Zionist indoctrination of religious immigrants, was convicted of rape.

No Orthodox Jew has ever been convicted of forcible rape.

However the most hated group in Israeli society is the ultra-orthodox.

This seems rather odd. One would think that the ultra-orthodox should be the most admired.

On the other hand Russian President Vladimir Putin has been quoted as saying, "He [Katzav] really surprised us... turned out to be quite a mighty man. He raped 10 women. I never expected it from him. He surprised all of us. We all envy him."

Different cultures have different values. Perhaps the ultra-orthodox are not "manly" enough for some people's taste. Judaism teaches "who is strong one who conquers his desires". Maybe we're not real men.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Researching the Family Tree


[human migration - the DNA picture]

I have recently been reading about the descent of modern humans from Neanderthals, Denisovans and Africans who lived tens of thousands of years ago. This would seem to contradict the Bible, according to which we are all descended from one man who, according to rabbinical tradition, was created 5771 years ago.

Apparently this is based on the following concept.

Let's say someone wrote a book. Afterwards, copies of  the book were made by scribes who  were illiterate and could  not understand the book however they simply copied whatever they saw. Once in a while a spelling error would be made in the text. Later scribes using that erroneous copy would copy that error. As copies of the book are spread around the world, new errors would be made here and there. Based upon examining which spelling errors appeared in which part of the world, it would be possible to estimate how this  book spread around the world. If error #1 appears in German copies and error #1 and error #2 appear in Russian copies, we could guess that the Russian copies were made based on the German copy. Furthermore, if we could estimate about how often a copiest error is made, we could estimate how far back different copies diverged and how long ago the original copy was made. For example, if present day copies contain 1,000 errors and we estimate 1 error per year, then we can assume that the book is  1,000 years old.

Human genetics is a little more complicated because each person is a combinations of genes from his father and mother. This would be similar to each scribe making a new copy based on pages mixed together from two older copies.

There are some problems with all of this however.

First of all it assumes that genetic mutations occur at a certain fairly predictable pace. Secondly, it assumes that certain DNA "spelling errors" will occur only once in history.

In general, I believe that our understanding of DNA is still in its early stages. Cases have been discovered where children did not have DNA matching their mothers' DNA. On the other hand, innocent people have been sent to prison based on false DNA matches.

It's seems questionable to me whether the new DNA studies actually reveal much more than the earlier physical anthropology,   anthropometry and craniometry did. There is probably something to it but it's far from infallible.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Our Passion for God


People don’t usually associate God with sex, and to some this might even seem blasphemous, however interestingly Judaism does make this connection.

The Song of Songs is a dialogue of passionate love between a man and a woman, which appears superficially to be entirely secular. God is unmentioned in it.

Nevertheless, in the Mishnah Tractate Yadaim 3:6, Rabbi Akiva states “all of the [inspired] writings are holy, however the Song of Songs is the holy of holies”. This is because, according to the Midrash, the Song of Songs is an allegory of the love between God and the Jewish people.

Therefore, according to Judaism, the love between God and man can be compared to the intense, passionate love between and a man and a woman. In fact, Maimonides in the Laws of Repentance 10:5 writes “What type of love should one have for God? One should love God with a tremendously powerful and fierce love, to the point of being constantly obsessed with it, like a man who is in love with a woman and thinks of her constantly, whether active, resting, eating or drinking. In fact, man’s love for God should be even greater than this as it is stated in Deut. 6:5 ‘with all ones heart and soul’ and as Solomon wrote in the Song of Songs 2:5 ‘I am sick with love’. The entire Song of Songs is an allegory for this.”

Based upon this concept, I think it becomes easier to understand why God has implanted in man a preoccupation with sex. In animals, the female goes into “heat” when she ovulates, the male and female copulate and it’s over. Purely practicle. Humans, on the contrary, are constantly active in this area. This is because the obsession with sex is actually an allegory for the obsession that we should have with the love of God. Just like a geography teacher will point to a globe and say, “This is a miniature model of the earth”, so God has given us sexual passion and, in the Song of Songs, He inspired Solomon to say “This is a miniature model of the love which should be between us.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The End of Hitchens



I just heard yesterday - Christopher Hitchens, outspoken advocate for atheism, is dying of cancer at the age of 61. Many years of smoking and drinking finally killed him.

How fitting that the man who poisoned millions of minds must now poison himself with chemotherapy.

So perish all Thine enemies, O LORD; but they that love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. Judges 5:31.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Israeli Archeology - a Mess of Biblical Proportions?


[David - will the archaeologists get off his back?]

This month National Geographic magazine has published an interesting article about the heated disputes going on in Israeli archeology today.

In the beginning, there was William Albright and his pupil Yigael Yadin. Through the 1950s, 60s and 70s they defended the Bible as being basically historically accurate.

Next came Israel Finkelstein in the 1990's and 2000's. He regards the Bible as basically fictional.

Now a new generation of archaeologists are attacking him. People like Eilat Mazar, Thomas Levy and Yosef Garfinkel are claiming that significant parts of the Bible, regarding David and Solomon, are indeed historically accurate.

These discussions can be quite emotional. Finkelstein is described as "having a highly visceral manner—leaning his tall, bearded frame into a visitor's face, waving his large hands, modulating his baritone with Shakespearean agility." Likewise, when a passing tour guide contradicts her opinions, Mazar "jumps up from her bench and marches over to the tour guide. She chews him out in a staccato of Hebrew, while he stares passively at her. The gaping tourists watch her stalk off". Garfinkel says of Finkelstein's recent receipt of a four-million-dollar research grant, "He doesn't even use science—that's the irony. It's like giving Saddam Hussein the Nobel Peace Prize." Whatever.

Keep in mind as well that all archaeologists interpret their evidence with an atheistic bias, since that is the preferred religion of scientists.

The take home message for Orthodox Jews should be - ancient Palestinian archeology can prove anything or nothing. Very, very little has been preserved intact in Palestine over the past 3,000 years. Carbon 14 dating can be tricky, as this article mentions. Imaginary worlds are, in the minds of archaeologists, built and destroyed based on a few olive pits or a pottery fragment.

The fact is that because archaeology employs a wide range of different procedures, it can be considered to be both a science and a humanity. I would describe it as a "soft science" to the max.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Thank God for Trilobites



I bought this on the web for $30 and I keep it near my desk. It’s a rock that contains an imprint of an animal that lived in Utah about 500 million years ago. I think the symmetry and detail are beautiful.

Personally, this doesn’t disturb my faith in the truth of Genesis in any way, and in fact it increases my love for God and my appreciation of the glory of His creation. About 60% of the minerals on earth were created by life. Most of the oxygen in the atmosphere was created by living things. Most of our electricity is generated by coal, coal that was created by extinct plants. Our vehicles are powered by gasoline and our homes are heated by natural gas. These fuels were created by ancient marine life.

It would therefore seem to be clear that these earlier eras of life on earth were all part of God’s wonderful plan to prepare the earth for us. Thank God for the trilobites!

And actually, the sudden appearance of trilobites is one of the greatest proofs that evolution is false.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Evolution Undermined - Again


[the arsenic lake bacteria from California]

According to evolutionists, the evolutionary view of a single (and very ancient) origin of life is supported at the deepest level imaginable: the very nature of the DNA code in which the instructions of genes and chromosomes are written. In all living organisms, the instructions for reproducing and operating the individual is encoded in a chemical language with four letters -- A, C, T, and G, the initials of four chemicals. Combinations of three of these letters specify each of the amino acids that the cell uses in building proteins.

Biologically and chemically, there is no reason why this particular genetic code, rather than any of millions or billions of others, should exist, scientists assert. Yet every species on Earth carries a genetic code that is, for all intents and purposes, identical and universal. The only scientific explanation for this situation is that the genetic code was the result of a single historic accident. That is, this code was the one carried by the single ancestor of life and all of its descendants, including us.

Well, now we know that this isn't completely true. Certain bacteria have a different type of DNA using arsenic instead of phosphorus to connect the amino acids.

So while scientists are still holding on to the "DNA proves one universal common ancestor" claim, that idea is starting to look more shaky. There has now been discovered another significantly different type of DNA.

Of course, the entire argument to begin with is false in any case: "The only scientific explanation for this situation is that the genetic code was the result of a single historic accident." No accident created the enormous complexity and purposefulness of DNA, any more than monkeys typing at random could write Shakespeare. Actually, the only explanation for this situation is that the genetic code was the result of an act of divine creation.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Down with the Trolls!


[perhaps a drop exaggerated]

The New York Times today denounced anonymous Internet writers.

I can only see "Amen!" to that. Clearly we would find much less nasty, hateful nonsense on the Internet and more thoughtful dialogue if anonymity were prohibited. As the Times Op-ed piece points out "most trolls wouldn’t have the gall to say to another person’s face half the things they anonymously post on the Internet".

Now, I know that there are those who will claim "I cannot reveal my identity on the Internet because if I did I would not be able to write honest, important things without quickly being assassinated." Right. Authors are assassinated every day on the streets of New York. In reality, these people are just obnoxious cowards who are probably afraid to reveal what failures they actually are.

"Morality, Plato argues, comes from full disclosure; without accountability for our actions we would all behave unjustly." This is so true it hardly needs to be stated and I think it explains why nearly all Internet atheists refuse to identify themselves. They don't want to be held accountable for the garbage they write.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Talmud - the Lifeblood of Judaism


[the first page of a lifelong journey]

The essense of Judaism is the Talmud. The basis of all Jewish law is the Talmud and these laws govern every aspect of a Jew's life. An Orthodox Jew's greatest aspiration is to be an expert in the Talmud and most adult Orthodox Jews study the Talmud daily. An Orthodox Jewish woman's highest aspiration is to marry a Talmudic scholar and to encourage her husband's study.

Studying the Talmud can however be daunting to modern students.

First of all, I believe that the Talmud is not a complete book. What happened is that the rabbinical law was originally passed down orally from generation to generation. Jews would spend every spare moment reviewing and repeating the laws of the Torah as it is stated "thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (Deut. 6:7).

Eventually, however, a brief summary of the rabbinical law had to be recorded in order to prevent the loss of legal details. This was the Talmud, compiled in what is now Iraq about 500 CE. The Talmud is therefore not an encyclopedia of Jewish law - it is a memory aid for people who are already fluent in Jewish law. Even after mastering the languages (a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic) the modern reader is often lost and hopelessly confused when attempting to study the Talmud. The commentaries of Rashi and Tosofos help to some degree, however they were also written for an audience which already had a high level of Talmudic knowledge.

Thank God, a new edition of the Talmud has now been published which solves this problem - the Schottenstein edition from Artscroll publishers. This edition includes a translation with a commentary embedded in it and lengthy footnotes, which makes the Talmud intelligable to the modern English speaking reader. With 72 volumes, it dwarfs the Encyclopedia Brittanica at 32 volumes.

Nevertheless, the style of the Talmud is unique. The earlier Talmudic sages were experts in finding meaning in tiny nuances of Scripture, an art which was afterwards lost. The later Talmudic sages were experts in finding meaning in tiny nuances of the comments of the earlier sages. Today we no longer have the insight and expertise to understand the criteria used by the Talmudic sages for their analysis and therefore we must simply accept their conclusions as facts, even if the reasoning behind their conclusions may be obscure. The validity of the Talmud rests upon the assumption that earlier generations, being closer to the revelation at Mount Sinai, were on a proportionally higher level of spirituality and scholarship.

For the sincere Orthodox Jew, the Talmud is his lifelong love, his mobile holy sanctuary, his refuge from all sadness and persecution, his source of all inspiration. Other religions have their huge cathedrals, mosques or temples. For the Jew, exiled and persecuted, with everything physical taken from him, the Talmud is his monument to spirituality.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Extraordinary History of the Jews



[from the Washington Haggadah, written in Bonn, Germany 1478]


"Who is like Your people Israel, a unique nation on earth" (Sam. II 7:23)

From a careful and unbiased study of Jewish history, it is clear that the Jewish people were, indeed, raised to an extraordinary spiritual level 3300 years ago at Mt. Sinai.

It is no exaggeration to say that the survival of the Jewish people as one of the oldest continuous cultures in the world is an open miracle. Where are the ancient Moabites, Hittites and Philistines today? How many thousands of years ago did they disappear, absorbed by other, more dominant cultures, changing completely their language and religion time and again according to political and social pressures? This is natural and normal and a constant process in world history, as one culture is absorbed or destroyed by another. Why have the Jews been so strangely, uniquely immune to this, at least up until the last century?

Note the physical situation of the Jewish people. They are not a huge nation living in total isolation like, for example, the Chinese or the Hindus. They began as a small nation in the eastern Mediterranean, easy prey for neighboring empires. Two thousand four hundred years ago they were conquered and dispersed. Almost invariably they were forced to live as a minority among other nations; constantly in contact with and completely at the mercy of the dominant majority. To remain distinctive and preserve such a radically different life-style, inviting almost constant ostracism, financial sacrifice as well as outright massacre for so many centuries is incomprehensible, psychologically as well as historically. Why did few choose to assimilate, right down to modern times? To be sentimental about ones ancestral traditions is understandable. For an entire nation to calmly face martyrdom for over 2000 years for their traditions is inexplicable.

Important to note as well is the amazing vitality of the Jewish people. One would logically have expected the Jews to be reduced long ago to a few isolated, primitive villages in the mountains of Iraq (if they survived at all). Instead they have created flourishing, vigorous communities throughout Europe and the Middle East. Their piety, kindness and intellectualism have been extraordinary. They published libraries of sacred literature (they had no other type) during centuries of poverty and persecution. When few gentiles were literate, an illiterate Jew was a rarity. Jews generally made up the middle class of craftsmen, physicians, merchants and bankers and therefore were (reluctantly) tolerated by the surrounding gentiles. It is known that in medieval Europe many Christian noblemen demanded Jewish doctors and treasurers in spite of how much they were despised. Even following secularization this vitality has been clearly apparent, at least for several generations until assimilation is total. Witness the fact that approximately 20% of Nobel Prize winners have been Jews, although Jews make up merely .2% of the world population, and in spite of the fact that in the first half of this century the Jewish people were largely devastated by the chaos and genocide of World War I and World War II. In the cases of Jesus, Marx, Freud and Einstein we see how even Jews who were far removed from authentic Judaism achieved tremendous recognition in world history. Witness as well the creation of Israel, which demonstrates how even more or less secularized Jews, after over 2000 years of exile, retained such a strong attachment to the ancient Jewish homeland and language. (Can anyone imagine the ancient Hittites, for example, reestablishing in the 20th century an independent state, complete with their ancient language?)

All the above was nicely summarized by Mark Twain in an essay entitled "Concerning the Jews", published 1898:

If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one per cent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded into dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?

Consider also the tremendous unity of Judaism throughout the centuries. The Jews were scattered in thousands of independent and, to some extant, isolated communities from Afghanistan to Morocco and from Lithuania to Yemen. It would have been natural for them all to remain unanimous on certain basic principles (e.g. the Scriptures, monotheism, not eating pork, Sabbath observance) while diverging in everything else, adapting and changing the tradition to fit in with their needs and situation. We would expect to find very distinct and independent Yemenite Judaism, Polish Judaism, Persian Judaism, Moroccan Judaism, German Judaism, etc. each with its own ritual and theology. This is taken for granted in other religions (e.g. an Episcopalian Christian has very little in common with an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian). Jews however, until very recently never disagreed on anything significant. Two hundred years ago a Jew from Amsterdam could have married a Jew from Baghdad with no change in theology, no important change in ritual and certainly no feeling of converting to a different sect for either of them. (It should be noted as well that deviant Jewish, or psuedo-Jewish, sects such as the Karaites, Sadducces or Samaritans never, as far as anyone knows, constituted more than a very small minority compared to mainstream, rabbinical Judaism). This extraordinary unity testifies to the incredible loyalty of the Jews to their traditions. [The phylacteries found with the Dead Sea scrolls also give us an idea of the authenticity of Jewish tradition - not only did they conform to the specifications written in the Talmud 500 years later but they even conformed to the opinions of Talmudic commentaries written over 1000 years later in far-away France!]

Consider also the five levels of Jewish sacred literature. The authors of the Mishnah never contradicted the prophets. The authors of the Talmud likewise stood in awe of the authors of the Mishnah. The early Talmudic commentators would never contradict the Talmud. The later commentators with very rare exception never contradict the earlier ones. This phenomenon clearly indicates the gradual decline of the Jewish people from a great original spiritual level.

All this points to the reality of the Mt. Sinai revelation, which lifted the Jews far above the rest of mankind. It also demonstrates the integrity of the Torah tradition - since the Jewish people were raised to such a high level it is clear that until recently none except a few of the most ignorant would have deviated from the genuine tradition.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Stop the Hatred. All of It.



[why do we keep persecuting them?]

Lately, I have received a number of comments from people accusing me of hatred, mass murder, Fascism, etc because of my condemnation of homosexuality. I was even expelled from nursing school thanks to having expressed my opinion about this. I guess homosexuals believe I don't deserve to live.

So, having had a little time to think, I agree. People should be free to do whatever they like, provided that they don't hurt anyone else. Whatever works. Whatever turns you on.

However, to my horror, I now see that many of my new gay and atheist friends are guilty of the SAME EXACT SIN which I committed!!

Hatred!

Bigotry!

I'm talking about adults who love children. I mean really love children.

They include about 5% of the population, roughly the same as gays.

And they are hated. Pursued. Imprisoned. Branded for life. Like gays were back in the dark ages before Stonewall. (I walked through the village last week believe it or not, crying bitter tears of repentance.)

When will we have a Childlovers' Stonewall? How long will these precious men suffer horrible persecution because of meaningless superstition and bigotry? Many commit suicide. These men are an innocent, beautiful sexual minority. There is nothing wrong with them and they can't change how God made them.

We have major works of literature portraying childlovers, for example Lolita and also the Dutch movie For a Lost Soldier.

Psychiatrists have proven that pedophilia is not an illness. There is no reason why older men cannot engage in respectful, loving, safe relationships with little boys and girls. Even marriage should not be discouraged. Whatever works.

I hope we will soon see churches and temples for childlovers where adults and their little friends can worship openly together. Childlovers in the military could give out candy and toys to children in other countries and spread more democratic, American love.

To the pedophile haters out there, I can only beg you - don't make the mistake I did of trying to impose your beliefs and fears on others. Let freedom reign! Peace! Rainbows! And if you dare disagree with me I'll hunt you down and make sure you end up homeless, or better, dead because you don't deserve to live you scum.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Awesome Wisdom of God


[optimized to the limits of physics]

The New York Times recently published an article pointing out some new insights which physicists have discovered regarding the perfection and efficiency of living things.

For example, scientists have learned that the fundamental units of vision, the photoreceptor cells that carpet the retinal tissue of the eye and respond to light, are not just good or great or phabulous at their job. They are not merely exceptionally impressive by the standards of biology, with whatever slop and wiggle room the animate category implies. Photoreceptors operate at the outermost boundary allowed by the laws of physics, which means they are as good as they can be, period. Each one is designed to detect and respond to single photons of light — the smallest possible packages in which light comes wrapped.

Scientists have identified and mathematically anatomized an array of cases where optimization has left its fastidious mark, among them the superb efficiency with which bacterial cells will close in on a food source; the precision response in a fruit fly embryo to contouring molecules that help distinguish tail from head; and the way a shark can find its prey by measuring micro-fluxes of electricity in the water a tremulous millionth of a volt strong — which, as Douglas Fields observed in Scientific American, is like detecting an electrical field generated by a standard AA battery “with one pole dipped in the Long Island Sound and the other pole in waters of Jacksonville, Fla.” In each instance, biophysicists have calculated, the system couldn’t get faster, more sensitive or more efficient without first relocating to an alternate universe with alternate physical constants.

Researchers have shown that an E. coli microbe navigating its way through a chemically chaotic environment and over to food relies on an algorithm of compare-contrast-act, the note-trading taking place between surface receptors on the bacterium’s front and aft. “The reliability of its decision-making is so high,” said Dr. Bialek, “that it couldn’t do much better if it counted every single molecule in its environment.”

As science expands our knowledge of creation, we can only stand in overwhelming awe and love for our infinitely wise Creator.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Gay Liberation Scam


[can we trust them?]

The idea behind the Gay Liberation movement, which began about 1960 in New York, is that homosexuals are a race, similar to Negros and therefore to discriminate against them in any way is merely a form of racism - irrational hatred of someone who has different physical characteristics. They argue that just like blacks they were born the way they are and cannot change even if they wanted to and they just want to be respected and accepted like everyone else is.

The fact is that scientifically this is nonsense. There is no homosexual race and homosexuality is caused by cultural influences and childhood experiences  as well as by genetics. There have been many societies in which homosexuality was rare or unknown. In addition to that the Torah merely prohibits male to male anal intercourse, which in any case is clearly an unhygienic and unhealthy practice.

Claiming homosexuals to be a race is basically equivalent to claiming that alcoholics are a race. Men having anal intercourse with other men is a vice not a race.

The fact is that since 1960, every type of sexual behavior (except regular, married sex) has become more common in the US - sex before marriage, adultery, masturbation, sex with children, sado-masochism, sex with the same sex, sex for money, sex during or after murder, oral sex, anal sex, etc. This trend is continuing. This has created a wave of abortions, fatherless children, grisly serial killings, pedophilia and disease, but not much else unfortunately.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Finding the Secret Atheist Care of Apple!


Apple offers a new service for the iPhone and iPad called Find My iPhone. This will allow you to track the location of your iPhone or iPad.

So let's say you're suspicious about what a member of your family is up to. Just get them an iPhone and enable Mobile Me. You can then track exactly where they are 24/7.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Joy of Talmudic Minutiae


[Child with Lulav by Isidor Kaufmann]

One of my fellow bloggers wrote an article, in which he comments:

I'm pretty sure I don't have the personality type to find such absurd rules [certain minor Talmudic customs] meaningful even if I did believe in God. ("Does God really care how I tie my shoes?" I asked as a kid when I first learned that rule.)

What he seems to be saying is that if religious rules are not clearly spiritual, relating to belief for example, then they are absurd. Laws about diet, dress, etc. are unnecessary and even sacrilegious. This attitude is a basic part of modern American Protestantism, and therefore it isn’t surprising that someone raised in American society might feel this way.

One could look at this from a different perspective, however.

First of all, all pre-modern religions tended to be legalistic. Muslims have Sharia. The Catholic Church has Canon Law. The Hindus have a caste system.

Judaism, however, may be the most extremely legalistic. We revel in Talmudic law. The greater an expert a young man was in the fine points of almost totally irrelevant Talmudic laws, the greater a hero he was in the Eastern European shtetl and the more prized he was as a husband. This is still true in many ultra-Orthodox circles. Can one imagine even the most law abiding American citizen fanatically pushing his children to become experts in all of American law, even the most rarely, marginally applicable details? I think it could be correct to call traditional Jews not merely legalistic but hyper-legalistic.

The reasoning seems to be as follows. We see each additional law as being an additional sign of God’s love for us. The Mishnah Tractate Makkos 3:16 states “God wished to increase the Jews’ merits, therefore He increased the number of their commandments.” God in His great love for us wants our entire lives to be dedicated to serving Him and increasing His glory. Therefore He has created the huge body of Torah law to make it possible for us to do just that. In the blessings which we say before the Shema each morning and evening, we ecstatically praise God for the great love He has shown us by choosing us and teaching us His laws. We beg Him to help us understand and observe those laws. We see this as the highest honor; the exact opposite of absurdity.This is a life dedicated to the service of God and therefore eternally, cosmically important.

The absurd life is the life of an atheist, unfortunately. He eats so that has strength to work. He works so that he has food to eat. He continues this cycle until his body no long functions, then his remains may be thrown into a dumpster. A life lived like that is truly illogical and nonsensical. Absurd, in other words.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Changing Nature


[are the rules a little shaky?]

There are many cases where the Talmud prescribes a medical treatment however we see today that this treatment is no longer effective. One explanation for this is that "nature has changed" (Tosafos s.v.kavra to Moed Katan 11a for example).

Atheists have long ridiculed such statements because laws of nature were assumed to be universal and invariable facts of the physical world.

Interestingly, scientists are now discovering that certain supposed "constants" of nature may vary from one time and place to another.

Certainly, from a theistic view this is hardly surprising. The laws of nature are merely whatever is most frequently the will of God, however that need not be the same every place and all the time.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Got Water?


The renin-angiotensin system (RAS) or the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) is a hormone system that regulates blood pressure and water (fluid) balance.

When blood volume is low, the kidneys secrete renin. Renin stimulates the production of angiotensin. Angiotensin causes blood vessels to constrict, resulting in increased blood pressure. Angiotensin also stimulates the secretion of the hormone aldosterone from the adrenal cortex. Aldosterone causes the tubules of the kidneys to increase the reabsorption of sodium and water into the blood. This increases the volume of fluid in the body, which also increases blood pressure.

Among other things, angiotensin has a variety of effects on the body including the release of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), also called vasopressin -- ADH is made in the hypothalamus and released from the posterior pituitary gland. As its name suggests, it also exhibits vaso-constrictive properties, but its main course of action is to stimulate reabsorption of water in the kidneys. ADH also acts on the central nervous system to increase an individual's appetite for salt, and to stimulate the sensation of thirst.

The above description is only the barest sketch. The complex chemical steps which control the fluid balance in our bodies and make life possible are beyond comprehension. To us, it appears that if "we don't drink enough, we get thirsty" however in fact there is an immense network of divinely designed chemical engineering working in the background which scientists are only now beginning to reveal to us. The next time we feel that need to drink, we have so much to thank God for.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Straight Rights


[Tyler Clementi, committed suicide 9/22/2010]

Thousands of people are mourning the death of Mr Clementi, an 18 year old college student who committed suicide after being taunted about his homosexuality.

I wonder how many people are mourning the deaths of straight people infected with HIV by homosexual men.

Imagine for a moment that you had a twenty eight year old daughter. She is diagnosed with AIDS and tuberculosis and is expected to soon die. Her husband and her two small children, have tested HIV positive. Researching into this, it turns out that when she was 18, your daughter had unprotected sex with an 18 year old boy. That boy unknown to her was HIV positive after having had unprotected anal sex with a man who, unknown to the boy, was HIV positive. Such tragedies can and do happen in America and Europe today.

If we would follow the Torah's commandment to put to death any man who has anal sex with another man, those tradegies could be prevented.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Mighty Mitochondria


[a mitochondrion]

The mitochondrion is an organelle, or in other words a tiny machine, found in every one of our cells. They range from 0.5 to 10 micrometers (μm) in diameter. Mitochondria are sometimes described as "cellular power plants" because they generate most of the cell's supply of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), used as a source of chemical energy.

The method used by the mitochondria to produce energy from oxygen, carbohydrates, fats and protein is called the citric acid cycle. This was discovered primarily by Hans Krebs in 1937.

Below is a diagram describing the cycle.



It's mind-boggling to consider that hundreds of trillions of these incredibly complex, incredibly tiny machines are working in our bodies each moment of our lives, making all other functioning possible. Thanks to modern science, we are able to appreciate even more deeply the infinite wisdom of our Creator. Our hearts should burst with love for Him.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A New Career and New Inspirations


[Nurse Jackie - the future is health care]

Thanks to the lack of technology jobs and the relative abundance of health care jobs in the American economy today, I have decided to change careers. I am leaving computers behind and I am currently studying in nursing school.

I find the anatomy lessons to be not only informative but also very inspiring. The infinite wisdom exhibited by the human body is a remarkable testimony to the greatness of our Creator.

During the first anatomy lesson, the first thing the teacher did was to list all the vital organs of the human body. The only one she mentioned which surprised me was the pancreas. The pancreas weighs about 80 grams and lies between the stomach and spine. It is about 18 cm long and 4 cm wide. Apparently it is the smallest of our vital organs.

The pancreas does two different things: it secretes hormones into the bloodstream, such as insulin, and it secretes enzymes into the intestines which assist in digestion.

The pancreas is working away silently and invisibly every moment of our lives. If a person's pancreas were to be removed or to fail, death would soon follow, unless pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy and insulin injections are provided. Factories are needed to do what this little unsung hero does for us.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Good Side of Wickedness


[a new restaurant catering to the wicked]

One interesting question is: Since God knows the future, and therefore He knows who will be righteous and who will be wicked, why doesn't God simply create the righteous and not bother creating the wicked? The wicked, after all, are merely destructive and after damaging themselves and others they will end up burning in hell. So why bother with them all together?

The answer is contained in the Talmud: "according to the effort is the reward".

The presence of wicked, evil people creates immense temptations for the righteous, and specifically because the righteous make immense efforts and successfully overcome those temptations, their reward is immensely greater.

We daily pray that God should not bring us to temptations; temptations are very dangerous and who knows if we will succeed of fail. However, on the other hand, we must realize that with no pain there would be no gain.

The wicked play a huge and very beneficial role in this world. It is only thanks to the wicked, with all their horrendous bad influence and attacks, that the righteous are so much greater.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

In Loving Memory of the Victims of 9/11



Don't burn the Koran. Burn the Muslims.

For every American killed by Muslims, 1,000 Muslims in the Middle East should be killed by America. I think this would quickly put a damper on holy warriors.

Friday, September 03, 2010

In the Beginning



The existence of the universe proves the existence of God.

The reason why is because everything which happens is caused by something else. However this cannot continue infinitely. At some point there must have been an uncaused cause. This was God. God is eternal. He has no physical form and His nature is entirely beyond our comprehension.

God, Himself unexplainable, explains how everything else can exist.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Evolutionary Morality


[From left to right, Jon Meacham of Newsweek (moderator), Marc Hauser, Daniel Dennett, Antonio Damasio, and Patricia Churchland.]

Marc D. Hauser is an American evolutionary biologist and a researcher in primate behavior and animal cognition who teaches at the Psychology Department at Harvard University. In August 2010, Harvard found him solely responsible for eight counts of unspecified scientific misconduct.

The details are still hazy, however apparently Dr Hauser attempted to enhance his scientific prestige by fabricating results of experiments he had done with monkeys. He is probably best known for his 2007 book Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong, in which he argues that people are instinctively moral and this evolved naturally from our monkey and ape ancestors.

This is hardly unique in the history of science. Freud, history's most famous psychiatrist, is now know to have been a fraud. Margaret Mead, history's most famous anthropologist, was apparently a fraud.

So in any case, the next time you read about some scientific evidence proving that the Torah is bogus, don't rush to throw away your tefillin. Take a deep breath and take it all with a large grain of salt. No offence to any chimps out there, however people who learn their ethics and morals from apes may be a little suspect.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Afterlife - a Moral Necessity


As many people have noticed, in this world, the wicked frequently prosper while the righteous frequently suffer. For example, Mao and Stalin lived long, successful lives while many people who opposed tyranny met early and painful deaths. Considering this, it would seem clear that, in many cases, virtue is foolish and evil is smart. Crime can indeed pay very well.

That is, unless one believes in an afterlife.

The afterlife means that ultimately, justice will prevail. Virtue is always the smart choice and evil is always foolish. Whether in heaven, hell or some future incarnation, all accounts will be balanced out and good will triumph. Judaism firmly believes in such ultimate divine justice.

Of course, like any concept, the idea of an afterlife can be misused. Evil leaders can promise their followers a reward in the afterlife if they will do evil. However if one believes in a loving God who wishes us to help others and who will punish destructive behavior, then the belief in the afterlife is a powerful incentive to be a kind, patient and generous person.

The atheist, however, has no such incentive and on the contrary will quickly learn that dishonesty, selfishness and violence are often rewarded and, unless he simply has a very good natural temperament, he will behave accordingly. Atheism not only permits vice, a really virtuous atheist is simply a fool. His behavior contradicts his beliefs.

A belief in positive moral principles and an in an afterlife, where virtue is rewarded and evil punished, are the foundations of a successful society.

The decline which American society is now experiencing has been brought about by a lack in this belief. The traditional Protestant work ethic, the belief that diligent work is a sign of grace, has now been almost completely replaced by the ethic of the 1960s counterculture: "tune in, turn on, and drop out".

Friday, August 20, 2010

Scientists Ban an Intelligent Designer



What are they so afraid of? That perhaps the Bible is true, clergy will become society's leaders and scientists will be seen as merely glorified plumbers and electricians? Is atheism as much a close minded, intolerant orthodoxy as any other religion? You be the judge.

The primary criticism of this documentary seems to be that of course scientists do not reject God because of any atheistic bias. That is simply absurd; scientists are paragons of objectivity. Rather, scientists reject God because He "cannot be tested". Personally, however, I fail to see how evolution has been tested. No one has ever seen a useful new organ or limb develop through natural variation and selection.

Additionally, it's ridiculous to suggest that having a graduate degree and doing some research makes a person immune to emotions. See contrary examples here and here.

Historically, we know that scientists for decades refused to accept the Big Bang theory for fear that it might cause someone to believe in God.

Some reviewers have felt that it is false and misleading to link evolution to Nazism and that the Holocaust had many causes. Of course, this is not something which can be proven in a laboratory one way or the other, however I think that a strong argument can be made that had there never been a Darwin there would never have been an Auschwitz.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Atheist Creed


[an earlier creed]

We originated as follows:

Nothing became chemicals.
Chemicals became microbes.
Microbes became worms.
Worms became fish.
Fish became lizards.
Lizards became mice.
Mice became monkeys.
Monkeys became people.

The first two steps occurred through still unknown processes.

The last six steps occurred through a process of Darwinian evolution and punctuated equilibrium. Basically, what happened is that life on earth was repeatedly devastated by natural disasters. Then, over the following several million years, new, more complex life forms would appear through a process of random genetic mutation and natural selection.

Judaism originated as follows:

About 2,500 years ago, a charismatic scammer named Ezra the Scribe ruled the Jewish community in Jerusalem. Using some earlier legends and myths as sources, he composed the Pentateuch and presented it to the Jewish people as being the authentic record of their origins. (In reality the Pentateuch is entirely fictional.) The Jews, not only in Jerusalem but throughout the Middle East, as well as the Samaritans who were enemies of the Jews, for some reason unanimously accepted it as being authentic and completely discarded any earlier historical records they may have had.

Free will is an illusion. In reality, we are merely soulless bags of chemicals and our actions are entirely predetermined and controlled by the laws of nature.


Atheists tend to be very coy and vague when it comes to defining their beliefs; they almost always talk about the negative - what they do not believe in. However the above is the clearest picture I have been able to glean from years of research, reading and dialog with atheists.


I find these beliefs to be clearly false for reasons I have explained here and here.

Many people nevertheless embrace atheism, either because it allows them to lead a life of selfishness and hedonism without guilt or because, if they are scientists, it makes them society's most important intellectuals while making the clergy completely irrelevant.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Will Atheism Make You Crazy?


One thing I've always wondered about, is how can a sincere, thoughtful atheist look at himself in the mirror and say to himself "I am merely a soulless, worthless bag of chemicals. I will soon deteriorate and disintegrate. I have no free will; that is merely a delusion. All my thoughts, words and deeds are predetermined and controlled solely by the laws of nature."

It seems to me that someone who actually thinks this way would lose his sanity. It's almost as if he is imagining his own self to be imaginary. I have sometimes wondered if this was the real cause of Friedrich Nietzsche's madness.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Thank God for the Talmud


[a set of the Talmud]

I was watching a movie a few days ago, and one of the characters in the movie was a member of a Christian sect which prohibits blood transfusions. The character died because of her refusal to accept a transfusion. The Torah says "And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among them, that eateth any manner of blood, I will set My face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people." Leviticus 17:10 These people believe that this prohibits any consumption of blood, even intravenously and even on pain of death.

It reminded me: who knows what type of impractical and cruel rules a person could fabricate by reading the Torah literally without the benefit of the Oral Law in the Talmud.

I recall myself as a teenager, before my conversion, puzzling over verses about tying a fringe on the four corners of your garment. Where are the corners and what are these fringes?

Groups which have attempted to practice the Torah without the Talmud have failed. The Sadducees disappeared about 1900 years ago. The Karaites and the Samaritans are virtually dead. Neither community, to the best of my knowledge, has an independent school system raising children to practice their beliefs. I would therefore seriously question whether anyone today is actually fully practicing either system. Rabbinical Judaism however numbers in the millions and always has.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Are Jews a Race?


[Reinhard Heydrich. A Jewish nose?]

I'm wondering if there is any physical or mental characteristic which distinguishes Jews, even Jews whose families have been Jewish as far back as anyone can remember, from gentiles.

The answer is apparently, no.

In other words, if a forensic anthropologist were to autopsy a recently deceased person and he chose to run every DNA test and examine every organ and bone, I don't believe he would be able to answer the question "Is this a Jew or a gentile". DNA can merely indicate if some of someone's ancestors were probably Jews. The famous Jewish nose seems to be a poor criteria as well.

Mentally, there is the Jewish high IQ, or "Yiddishe kopf", however obviously there is a very wide range of intelligence among Jews and gentiles even if the average may be higher among Jews of Central European origin. Being smart in and of itself surely does not prove Jewishness.

So in any case, the "Jewish race" is simply a myth, probably originating with anti-Semites. (The expression "jüdischen Rasse" was used by Hitler, and not in a positive way.)

So what does make a Jew a Jew? As an Orthodox Jew, I would say it is the possession of a very elevated, very holy soul which a person aquires by either converting to Judaism or by having inherited it through matrilineal descent from someone else who converted. The event at Mount Sinai was a mass conversion. (See Way of God by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto 2:4 for more details.)

From the point of view of an atheist, however, since he does not believe that he has a soul, and he does not believe in the Jewish religion, there is in fact no difference between himself and any other atheist. Therefore expressions like "Jewish atheist" or "Jewish skeptic" are really nonsensical. The Jewish atheist or agnostic or secular humanist should logically drop the "Jewish" label since he does not believe that he differs in any way from anyone else. Some of his ancestors practiced Judaism, that's all. Some of my ancestors were Catholic, however I hardly would introduce myself as a "Catholic Jew".

Friday, July 23, 2010

Apocalypse Soon?


[New Orleans, Louisiana August 29, 2005. A taste of more to come?]


I'm currently reading a book called "The Flooded Earth" by Peter D. Ward, professor of biology at Washington University in Seattle. The book makes predictions concerning global warming and it's affects on mankind.

Personally, I always take predictions with a little skepticism. According to Yogi Berra "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future."

However the data concerning global warming seems to be very compelling.

The whole problem began in Britain about 1790. Steam engines became more advanced and these were powered by coal. Thus began the Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution is the basis for all the wealth of modern society. In pre-industrial times, life was hard, painful and short for most people, as it still is for example in rural Africa today. When we think of all the miracles and advances of science, we are generally referring to the Industrial Revolution and all it's byproducts, such as good health care, plentiful food (grown with modern fertilizer and machinery), etc. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the earth's population has increased about nine fold. Average life expectancy has more than doubled. Without the Industrial Revolution, I would be writing with a quill pen on parchment by dim candlelight, if I knew how to write at all. Children often had to work the fields rather than go to school, and no money was available to pay a teacher. The chance of mankind reverting to a pre-Industrial way of life is of course nil. Bear in mind that the Industrial Revolution is still continuing full swing in China and India, which at this moment are building endless new factories, power plants, cars, etc. Industrialization is only rapidly accelerating, in spite of all the good intentions of Al Gore and others. The treaties to stop climate change are all just so much hot air. (No pun intended!) No one is voluntarily going back to 1750 and there is no cheap, clean substitute for coal.

The only small problem with the Industrial Revolution is that it may kill most of mankind off. We may consider the Industrial Revolution to be a sort of global thermonuclear war in very slow motion.

Here's why.

The burning of coal, along with gasoline and natural gas, which became commonly used for fuel after 1908 and 1950 respectively, creates carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a "greenhouse gas" which tends to make the earth warmer. As the earth becomes warmer, the Arctic and Antarctic ice will melt. Coastal areas will experience more frequent flooding and finally will become submerged. (Hurricane Katrina was a preview.) Many of the world's coastal areas are heavily populated urban or agricultural zones. Tropical and temperate regions will suffer more frequent drought and crop failures. Malnutrition and disease will become more widespread.

This is more or less comparable to the effects of a total global thermonuclear war, the main difference being that this disaster will happen over several centuries instead of over a few months. It's ironic that in the long term all the alleged wonders and miracles of science may do more harm than good.

What's interesting about this is that according to Jewish eschatology, this world will last only 6000 years and the Messiah must arrive before that (Talmud Sanhedrin 97a at the bottom of the page). The year 6000 of the Jewish calendar corresponds to the Christian year 2240. Furthermore, the Talmud predicts a great deal of suffering before the advent of the Messiah, "R. Johanan said: When thou seest a generation overwhelmed by many troubles as by a river, await him, as it is written, when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him;(Isaiah 59:19) which is followed by, And the Redeemer shall come to Zion. (Isaiah 59:20)" (Talmud Sanhedrin 98a)

However the Talmud also states there "R. Eleazar's disciples asked him: 'What must a man do to be spared the pangs of the Messiah?' [He answered,] 'Let him engage in [Torah] study and benevolence'."

So drive a Toyota Prius if you like. I do, by the way. However Torah study and helping others, not environmentalism, is our only possible hope.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pedophilia and the Talmud


[cover from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov]

Some people claim that Orthodox Judaism permits adult men to have sex with little girls. Actually, this is true. In fact, the Shulchan Aruch Even Ha’ezer section 37 is entitled “All the Laws of Betrothing a Little Girl”. However, certain stringent conditions must be met before this union is condoned by Talmudic law.

First of all, the couple must be married. There must be a legally binding, publicly committed, long term relationship between the man and the girl. Offering her candy and driving away with her is not allowed.

Second of all, her father must consent to the union and participate in the betrothal ceremony.

Thirdly, a man is not allowed to have sex with his wife without her consent, as is mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim section 240:3.

Considering this, how frequent are sexual relations between adult Orthodox Jewish men and little girls, with the blessings of the rabbis? Not very. I know of no Jewish bride in modern times who was under 17. In ancient times, my impression is that typically brides were 12 while the grooms were 18. In fact, the Talmud Tractate Kiddushin 41a states “It is prohibited for a father to betroth his daughter in marriage until she matures and declares that she wishes to marry the groom.” Tosafos however does qualify that by saying that in a situation of extreme poverty and economic uncertainty, as was the case for Jews in medieval France, a man may marry off his small daughter if he is afraid that later he will not have the financial means to do so and she will therefore remain a lifelong spinster.

In conclusion, based upon the available documentation, a sexual relationship between an adult man and a little girl, with the consent of the rabbis, seems to have been a rarity which was permitted in some unusual, emergency situations in medieval Europe. Today it is unimaginable.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Our Brave New World



It's interesting to note how certain things which we now take for granted are actually very new, at least in the United States.

Searching the archives of the New York Times:

The New York Times first mentioned a homosexual residing in New York City in 1944.

The New York Times first used the phrase "genital herpes" in 1969.

The New York Times first used the word "pedophile" in 1974.

The New York Times first used the phrase "serial killer" in 1981.

The New York Times first mentioned the HIV virus in 1986.

It would seem that along with, or perhaps because of, all the sexual liberation and freedom of recent decades, America has also developed a very dangerous, secretive subculture of perversion, disease and death which was entirely unknown only a few decades ago.

How fortunate we Orthodox Jews are to still be almost completely free of this decay, and how fervently we must recite each day the blessing "Blessed are You who has not made me a gentile" (Tosefta Berakhot 6). In the midst of a growing putrid swamp, we are a small, beautiful garden preserved by our Torah .

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Codependent Family


[Watch a family trying to detach.]

One thing which I have noticed is how many people who have chosen to convert from Orthodox Judaism to atheism continue to be supported financially and emotionally by relatives who are still Orthodox.

This is somewhat surprising, considering that Judaism teaches an absolute hatred of the enemies of God, as it states in Psalms 139:21-22 “Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate Thee? And do not I strive with those that rise up against Thee? I hate them with utmost hatred; I count them mine enemies.” See Chofetz Chaim 8:5 where they are defined as those people who deny the divine origin of the Pentateuch, the legal portion of the Talmud or any part of them. These people actually hate the idea of a Higher Power who is telling them to do things and who will reward or punish them accordingly. Therefore we pray constantly for the heretic's complete destruction. When he dies, his relatives celebrate his death (Yoreh De'ah , 345, 5) . He may not read from the Torah in the synagogue or lead communal prayers. If he pours wine, a Jew may not drink it.

Some people may apologize for these apostates by claiming that they are merely ignorant or misguided however they have no bad intentions.

I think this depends on the circumstances.

Let's consider for a moment Holocaust denial as an analogy to Torah denial.

Let's say someone tells me that he believes that the Holocaust is a hoax fabricated by the Zionists. Now if this person were raised in Iran and educated from childhood by this parents and teachers to believe this and he had little opportunity to learn anything else, in that case I would say that he may be a good man who has simply been misled by his society. However, if he was born and raised in America, then I would say that there is no excuse for his false beliefs and he is clearly a Jew hater. Nothing else could cause this delusion.

By the same token, if someone raised in a secular home tells me that he does not believe in God and the Torah, I would say that he may be a good man who has simply been misled by his society. However, if he was born and raised in an Orthodox family, then I would say that there is no excuse for his false beliefs and he is clearly a God hater. Nothing else could cause this delusion.

The families who continue to support relatives whom they know, or strongly suspect, of being heretics, I believe are exhibiting classic codependent and enabling behaviors which are so often seen in the families of substance abusers. They are exacerbating the problem and are making themselves part of it. Bear in mind, that generally the heretic does in fact have real addiction problems, such as sexual addiction.

A more appropriate and truly merciful response would be complete detachment from the apostate.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Of Course, It's All About Science



In this video clip Penn Jillette, magician and militant atheist, describes the process by which one Hasidic Jew converted to atheism, beginning from the 8:30 point in the clip. The Jew was in a strip club and had paid a stripper to dance for him. The Jew and the stripper then somehow began discussing atheism and evolution and through this he became an atheist.

Just imagine the lengths this man went to - he went out of the comfort of his home all the way to a strip club, paid a stripper for her time, discussed with her, I guess while she was nude, the existence of God and the development of life. Strippers are well known for their philosophical insights. Perhaps she sat on his lap to demonstrate her sympathy with his spiritual quest. Considering that they were able to hear each other talk and hold a lengthy conversation, I assume our heroic Hasid rented a private room to consult with the stripper. Did he have a few shots of whiskey? I don't know but it's entirely possible. And through this intense intellectual experience he discovered the truth about the universe and left his family and community. That is a man I can truly admire. Let's hope he left her a nice tip.

And I used to think Jews converting to atheism had something to do with sexual addiction! I am so sorry! My bad. I really got that wrong!

The "Firmament" - Is It a Problem for Judaism?


[the expanse of the heavens - or is it firmament?]

In Genesis 1, there are a number of references to the "firmament". Some people assume that this means a "solid dome" and indicates that the author of Genesis understood that the earth was a flat disk and sky was a solid dome sitting on it. This would of course imply that the author of Genesis was ignorant of basic science and therefore obviously not divine. Some Orthodox Jewish converts to atheism have even cited this as being the primary proof of atheism.

Frankly, I don't think this argument is very convincing. Nowhere in the Hebrew Bible is the earth ever explicitly described as a flat disk with a solid dome covering it, even though this was apparently the belief of the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians. The word "firmament" is a translation of the Hebrew word רָקִיעַ which simply means "something spread out". The best English translation may be "expanse", which is used for example by the New American Standard Bible.

In essence, there would appear to be Jews apostatizing because of a poor translation of one word in Genesis 1.

As an aside, it's interesting to note that in the Hebrew Bible, רָקִיעַ is almost never used except in two places: Genesis 1 and Ezekiel 1. The Talmudic sages singled out these two chapters of the Hebrew Bible, known as Ma'aseh Bereshit and Ma'aseh Merkabah, as being filled with mystical meanings and therefore their study was strictly limited. In light of this, I don't believe that we may jump to any conclusions about the exact meaning of one ambiguous word. The full meanings of these extremely profound passages has been lost to us today. I think we simply don't know precisely what the רָקִיעַ is.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Incredible Knee


The knees are a marvel of engineering. They are the largest and most complex joints in the human body.

We usually take the knee joints for granted, however without them our legs would be almost useless logs. Walking, running, sitting down and so on would be impossible without the knees.

The knee is essentially made up of four bones. The femur, which is the large bone in your thigh, attaches by ligaments and a capsule to your tibia. Just below and next to the tibia is the fibula, which runs parallel to the tibia. The patella, or what we call the knee cap, rides on the knee joint as the knee bends.

When the knee moves, it does not just bend and straighten, or, as it is medically termed, flex and extend. There is also a slight rotational component in this motion. This component was recognized only within the last 50 years. The knee muscles which go across the knee joint are the quadriceps and the hamstrings. The quadriceps muscles are on the front of the knee, and the hamstrings are on the back of the knee. The ligaments are equally important in the knee joint because they hold the joint together. In review, the bones support the knee and provide the rigid structure of the joint, the muscles move the joint, and the ligaments stabilize the joint.

The knee joint also has a structure made of cartilage, which is called the meniscus or meniscal cartilage. The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of tissue which fits into the joint between the tibia and the femur. It helps to protect the joint and allows the bones to slide freely on each other. There are also bursae around the knee joint. A bursa is a little fluid sac that helps the muscles and tendons slide freely as the knee moves.

As an avid runner (about 20 miles per week), I'm very conscious of the need to care for the knees and not to over strain them. With sensible and proper care, the knee joints should give a lifetime of faithful service.

Unfortunately, in some cases the knees become badly damaged, usually by some form of arthritis. Obesity is an important risk factor. Starting about 40 years ago, doctors began having some success replacing the knee with an artificial joint made of plastic, ceramic and metal. A knee replacement costs about $35,000. The artificial knee may last up to 20 years. However it has limitations; running for example is not recommended. The less the artificial joint is used, the longer it will last. No matter how great modern technology is, it cannot replace the complexity of the natural knee joint. The replacement is not a normal knee.

Those of us who still have healthy, functioning knees should be filled with gratitude and love for our Creator and each morning fervently recite the prayer "Blessed is He who makes firm the steps of man" (Talmud Tractate Berakoth 60b)