Thursday, September 27, 2012

Masturbation: A Cautionary Tale

The Talmud Niddah 13 states "Whosoever emits semen in vain deserves death", "He is as though he shed blood", "He is like one who worships idols" "A man who wilfully causes erection should be placed  under the ban" "He  is called a renegade, because such is the art of the evil inclination: To-day it incites man to do one wrong thing, and to-morrow it incites him to worship idols and he proceeds to worship them." "He who excites himself by lustful thoughts will not be allowed to enter the division of the Holy One, blessed be He".

It should be noted however that Sefer Ḥasidim section 176 does permit masturbation if there is danger that otherwise one will have intercourse with a forbidden woman (meaning any woman except his wife who is not niddah). Consult a rabbi regarding this.

In any case, the Talmud considers masturbation to be an extremely negative behavior. However following this teaching can be very difficult, particularly in today's world were online pornography is so easily available.

The Steipler obm offered the following advice:

The only hope of a young unmarried man is to study Torah for the sake of Heaven and to pray that the Holy One will have compassion on him and save him from sinning. You should not expect the rescue to happen in one or two days, however. Yet , with time, if you persist in the deep analysis of Torah texts, as much as your ability will allow, together with a good study-partner, without wasting any time in conversation, you will see how your urge for evil becomes dimmer. You will thereby succeed in your Torah study, as well as in your observance of the Torah... When you finish praying the Amidah, before taking the three steps backward, pray that the Holy One will rescue you, as well as all your brothers among the people of Israel, from this most bitter of sins.

To one boy who had essentially given up trying he wrote : An essential requirement is not to despair, G-d forbid. We must always hope that the Holy One will help us, for as it is written: Is G-d’s power limited? Furthermore, one who comes to purify himself is sent help from Heaven. Another important principle is not to fall into sadness. One who is unmarried should not think of his past till after he gets married. He will then have time to repair.

Let us all pray for a good new year devoted to loving God and loving those who serve Him.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Judaism and the Celebration of Legalism

90,000 Orthodox Jews celebrate Talmud study at MetLife Stadium 8/1/2012
An atheist, formerly orthodox Jewish, blogger 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 any religious rules should be short and general, such as the Golden Rule. Laws about diet, dress, sex, 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.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Talmud Trumps Atheism

no junk in the trunk

 In 1972, the term "junk DNA" was coined by scientists to describe DNA which did not not have any apparent function.

This was believed by evolutionists to be a clear proof of evolution for the following reason:

In copyright law there is a problem when determining if one source has copied another source because it is possible, particularly with topics in narrow subfields, that two authors could converge on a similar sounding passage to describe the same concept. However, errors in the passages are independent of the subject of the text and of each other. Multiple shared errors, particularly in grammar or spelling, become increasingly improbable for two independent writings. If there are several shared errors between two passages the only reasonable explanation is that one is a copy of the other or that both were copied from a common source.

This same concept applies to pseudogenes [an allegedly defective segment of DNA ]. While it is possible that two independently evolved genes will look the same because they both do the same thing, after an error invalidates a gene, the sharing of this same error between two species is extremely strong evidence showing that both species derived from the same source in which the mutation first appeared. By analyzing shared inactivation mutations in non-functional pseudogenes, scientists can construct phylogenetic trees and prove common descent.

It has now been discovered, following an immense federal project involving 440 scientists from 32 laboratories around the world, that the human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches.

So the junk DNA is not junk at all. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has gone so far as to call this finding a "eulogy for Junk DNA".

Interestingly, the results of this "immense federal project" could perhaps have been found simply by studying the Talmud. Rab Judah said in Rab's name: Of all that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He did not create a single thing without purpose (Talmud: Shabbos 77b).

This is also implied by Proverbs 9:10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom". We cannot begin to have wisdom without the fear of God. A world view based on atheism is bound to be distorted and false.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Food Webs and Evolution

an illustration of a food web

One thing which I have never seen evolutionists address is the evolutionary development of food webs.

Every plant and animal species, no matter how big or small, depends to some extent on another plant or animal species for its survival. It could be bees taking pollen from a flower, deer eating shrub leaves or lions eating the deer.

Photosynthesis is the beginning of the food chain. There are many types of animals that will eat the products of the photosynthesis process. Examples are rabbits eating carrots or worms eating grass. When these animals eat these plant products, food energy and organic compounds are transferred from the plants to the animals.

This would mean seemingly that first the plants evolved, since they need only carbon dioxide, water and minerals. Then herbivores evolved which eat the the plants and finally carnivores evolved which eat the herbivores.

One problem with this theory however is that there is no sign from the fossil evidence that this is so. Entire new ecosystems seem to pop into existence in each geological era. We don't see first grass, then deer and then lions appearing.

Another problem is that even plants are not merely producers in the food web, but they are also consumers. They need animals to produce carbon dioxide which is used for photosynthesis. Animal manure is also a component of topsoil which plants require. Furthermore if herbivores have no predators to reduce their populations they would destroy all plant life. It would seem that an ecosystem coming into existence one piece at time would be an impossibility. This would seem to be a valid example of irreducible complexity.