A seal showing a bearded, long haired man (look closely) fighting with a lion, as presented in Shoftim 14:5-7, was found in the same area in which Samson lived and dated to around the time that he lived.
A seal showing a bearded, long haired man (look closely) fighting with a lion, as presented in Shoftim 14:5-7, was found in the same area in which Samson lived and dated to around the time that he lived.
For many years it has been scholarly dogma that Esrog did not grow in Eretz Yisrael in Bilbical times and, therefore, the identification of "goodly fruit" with Ethrog was post-biblical. Now comes evidence that Esrog was grown in Judea during the First Temple period, here.
See here on Ethrog in Josephus.
This reminds me of the "camel" controversy. It was similarly claimed for many years that the story of Abraham and his camels msut be an anachronism because camels were not yet domesticated in the Bronze Age. This also turned out to be incorrect. See also here.
The lesson is that we must approach scholary dogmas with a good measure of scepticism.
This film took a prize in Cannes.
The story of a great rivalry between a father and son, both eccentric professors in the Talmud department of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The father's lifetime of painstaking work was made superfluous by the discovery of the manuscript he was reconstructing. The son is a publicity seeking, recognition craving academic-celebrity. The Israel Prize, Israel's most prestigious national award, is the jewel that brings these two to a final, bitter confrontation.
Hearat Shulayim is a traditional film in more sense than one (at Cannes, the crew refused limousines and walked to the evening screening in the rain to observe the Shabbos)
But, really, a mainstream film about professors of Talmud! You can't make this stuff up.
A lot of wine makes one hungry whereas a small amount makes one feel full ( Brochos 35b).
"Glucose when infused intraduodenally at a low rate produced a decrease in food intake. However, when glucose was infused at a high rate, the rabbits nearly doubled their food intake during the first half hour after infusion. It is hypothesized that the rapid arrival of glucose in the dudenum may produce hunger".
This may be related to the newly appreciated phenomenon that people who drink sugar free soda (that is non-glucose drinks which contain sugar substitutes or sugars which are not metabolized) gain more weight.
J. Geiselman, D. Novin, Sugar infusion may enchance feeding, Science 218;4571:490, 1982
hat tip Insights
A kosher wine store during the Prohibition
A video has recently gone viral on the internet. In it an yeshiva guy gives a "vort" based on the fact that Avos kept all of the Torah and a respondent ridicules him for naivette and simple-mindedness. "How could Yakov have the entire Torah", he asks, " and not just look at it to find out what happened to Yosef, etc".
Several responses *R. Yair Hoffman) and commentaries have appeared in the blogosphere. They discuss what the "accepted" position is, what points the author had made erroneously and what is the "public" position that should be taught about Avos learning Torah. See here and here. Some responses are indignant, others are supportive; this is an improtant issue and it touched a sensitive nerve.
I have a minor issue with R. Hoffman's comment but I understand where he is coming from. There is no question that a Rav and teacher in Israel has a responsibility to teach that which strenghtens his congregants and charges and not what weakens them. As pointed out on another blog, he is not unique in this feelign of stewardship; a famed "rationalist" Jew felt the same way. Most peopel cannot abide rationalism and faith at the same time and the chosen few who can, must exercize stewardship and not "farshter" the faith of the many. The idea of necessary versus popular truth was already taught by Rambam and the Sages of the Talmud (halacha vlo morin ken). Here is an quote from Yosef Kaspi Amudei Hakessef Umaskiyot Hakessef, p. 8a: "If the people were to find out about this doctrine, they would not be able to tolerate this truth, and would grow wild and uncontrollable in their conduct." What should be the public position varies from generation and setting to generation and setting and should be determined by the "gedolim" and consensus. Blogwriters do not share the sense of responsibility of their rabbinically involved brothers and often do not realize that there words have an effect on others, far and wide.
The minor issue is that R. Hoffman concludes on the basis of his review of sources that the maximalist position is the more common one and should be the one publicly taught, except in the kiruv situation where all three positions can be presented. However, his review did not comprehensively include kabbalistic and chassidic surces and had they been included, the minimalist position would, in my opinion win by numbers.
I also, like R. Hoffman, find the mocking of simple faith and gedolm to be off-putting and unpleasant.
This is important not only as a "body count" but in esence and approach. I believe that the post-modern age demands a post-rationalist approach. The only sure way of transcending troublesome issues of philosophy, science and religion is by rising into the exalted sphere of feeling, imagination and direct mystical experience in which questions are answered in ways that cannot be communicated and probems become springboards for increased perception and growth.
For those schooled in this manner of religious expression, there is no disconnect between actual physical performaance of the mitzvos and their experiential, emotional, symbolic and spiritual effects. It is not that they lose interst in the narrow question of whether Avrohom put on tefillin or fulfilled the mitzva of writing Sefer Torah - it is that their mitzva experience transcends this question so much that it no longer even makes sense and the historical issues do not occupy them at all.
Some might see this as an excape into fantasy. To them I say, your are missing the heart of religion which is in the heart and not in the mind. You live in the improverished and limited world of sense-perception and experience. Do you not hear the Torah's clarion call to leave behind the body and its world of sense-percepton and, yes, even logic and thought, and enter a world of elevated feeling and Holy inspiration. The choice is clear. You can remain on the level of the physical and concrete or rise to the levels that cannot be expressed. The color of the sefira of Keter is black. Why? Because it so bright and so light that it cannot be perceived on lower levels. What some peopel think to be fantasy is other's spiritual bread. If you believe in Prophecy, believe then also in the world beyond, which is not concrete and graspable, and many of the questions that arise in the Great Void, of themselves dissappear, like vapor before Spirit.
The book, The Dawn of Redemption: What the Books of Ruth and Yona Teach about Alienation, Despair and Return was reviewed by Mattan Erder in the last issue of Jewish Bible Quarterly. This review touched upon and discussed several crucial issues of methodology and hashkafa in regard to how Orthodox Jews may approach Nach. It posed questions about whether it is legimate for frum interpreters to incorporate or discuss academic and Christian Bible scholarship, whether archeology and comparative linguistics, history, hermeneutics, literary criticism and other "modern" approaches have a place in the study of Nach qua "Talmud Torah", and whether the Bible should be viewed as a purely historical document or as a guide to religious life.
Because of the importance of these topics, avakesh asked R. Meir Levin to respond to the review. We present this discussion in an interview format.
Avakesh: Your book was reviewed in the Jewish Bible Quarterly. Were you pleased with the review?
RML: Yes. It was a fair and informed review that both understood the book and stated clearly what its ideological disagreements were with it.
Avakesh: Rabbi Erder wtires: "Controversy about methodology and hermeneutics has always been a prominent feature of biblical studies. Recently, there has been a vigorous debate as to whether the stories in the Bible are primarily etiological or ethical; whether it makes sense to read the Bible as a source of instruction, or if it should be viewed primarily through a historical lens. While not explicitly, and perhaps not consciously, addressing this debate, Rabbi Dr. Meir Levin's new work The Dawn of Redemption: What the Books of Ruth and Yona Teach about Alienation, Despair and Return (originally a series of articles on www.torah.org) makes a powerful statement in favor of reading the Bible as a source of guidance and instruction on the most crucial issues of life. As the title of the book and his preface indicate, Levin's primary concern is to elucidate the Bible's messages about a certain set of pressing human concerns in a way that will furnish the reader with guidance and new perspectives.
Levin's goals combine with his chosen interpretative strategies to create a blend that is unique and often refreshing. In addition, he is forthright about methodology, stating exactly what methodological choices he is making and why he makes them. Levin makes extensive use of rabbinic literature to elucidate the texts of both biblical books, although this tendency is more pronounced in his commentary to Ruth. This choice means that, in addition to his own considerable talents, Levin has placed the textual, psychological, historical and spiritual wisdom of the entire rabbinic tradition at his disposal, and his commentary is much richer for it. "
Avakesh: Do you believe that the Bible is an instructional document that educates us to how a Jew should think and by what he should be inspired?
RML: Yes, with the caveat that this is how Chazal saw it. The whole institution of Midrash is predicated on the assumption that Tanach is a repository of moral, religious and spiritual teachings. When one utilizes modern approaches, he automatically removes himself from this position and enters the interpretative world in which understanding of the environment, mentality and history of the Biblical period is what is paramount and not the message for the individual, nation and humanity.
Avakesh: So it is fine to use these approaches but it is not Talmud Torah.
RML: Let me state from the beginning that academic Bible study is scientific. Science in our day is reductionist. It aims to take every phenomena apart and through this understand how the smallest building blocks combine and function together, and it hopes that thusly, the whole will be understood as well. Judaism, on the other hand, is integrative. An yeshiva bochur can say a chiddush that explains a Shach, which then elucidates a disagreement between Rishonim, and throws light upon a Tannaitic dispute or contradictory Biblical verses.Talmud Torah means reconcling contradictions and bringing everything together. Hashem is One and His Torah is one.
That doesn't mean that scientific approaches are not OK, but it does mean that when a frum interpreter uses them, he must not allow himself (or herself) be seduced by their explanatory power and placidly accept the conclusions to which they may point. Should he choose to use these methods, he must consciously employ them toward a goal that is different from the goal to which their proponents, adherents, and academic Bible experts use them. It may not be very scientific but it looks scientific, and only in such a way is it Talmud Torah and not academic scholarship.
Avakesh: R. Erder is surprised that in your commentary to Yonah, "he also seems more willing and eager to interact with modern biblical scholarship. This results in discussions of linguistics, archaeology, and theme in which Levin engages various viewpoints that depart from those of traditional rabbinic Jews. In these discussions, Levin takes on what can best be described as an open, confident, but very Orthodox approach: he feels free to utilize the insights of modern scholars to further his understanding of the text, and equally free to reject their views and arguments when they conflict with his broader vision and worldview. "
RML: Yes, except that I wrote in the introduction to Yonah that there are much fewer Chazal's on Yonan on Ruth and I, hterefore, had more "space" to consider these issues, not that it is a different method.
Avakesh. He did write that, "he is forthright about methodology, stating exactly what methodological choices he is making and why he makes them".
RML: I think that methodology is important, no, it is everything. Before any commentator takes on the task of elucidating a book, he or she must clarify the assumptions and intepretative method to be used. Shadal does this well in this introduction to Chumash and Ishaya and so do many other commentators; even those who do not, clearly have an approach that becomes apparent if you look for it. An interpreter constantly makes choices. One will make ad hoc, eclectic and unenlightened choices, or he will make these choice in a prospectively defined fashion, fully reasoned and compatible with a pre-existent set of assumptions. That is what makes a good commentary - predictability, constancy, committment, consistent and reasoned approach.
Avakesh:...and in this case the assumptions arise out of Chazal?
RML: Out of a particular approach and understanding of Chazal.
Avakesh: Is that why you speak of Chazal as a monolith. R. Merder criticizes that. He writes: "Throughout his discussion of the book of Ruth, he refers often to the "view of the Sages" or to "the Sages' interpretation," in a manner that seems to present the entire classical rabbinic tradition as a monolith. This language has the potential to blur the significant diversity that characterizes the rabbinic works that are utilized. Texts as different from each other in their provenance and orientation as the Babylonian Talmud, Midrash Rabbah, and Zohar Hadash are all quoted equally as representing the uniform view of "the Sages." Furthermore, Levin makes almost no use of any debate or disagreement between different rabbinic views in his commentary to Ruth. In the rare cases when he does mention rabbinic disagreements, it is usually only in order to emphasize the common denominators between the various interpretations. This is one unfortunate respect in which Levin under-utilizes the rabbinic sources, there is much to learn from the disagreements and debates between the sages, and attention to those debates could uncover even more nuanced and multifaceted readings of the texts at hand. In any event, while the rabbinic sources Levin cites are certainly extensive, they are not comprehensive enough to sustain the claim that they represent the exclusive view of "the Sages." This criticism, of course, does not detract from the substance or rabbinic authenticity of Levin's insights. Rather, the issue is that some of the language used to express these insights may impose a false image of uniformity on a diverse body of literature. "
RML: Well, part of it a deliberate insistance on that the Sages do have a common point of view and that this view is central to their Weltschaung and not haphazard or dependent on the personality, social class, or some other peculiarity of an individual Sage, and also because I do believe that Sages agreed much more than they disagreed. The inclination to emphasize disagreements betrays a non-Orthodox bias, a belief that Oral Law is "made up" and that it is merely a collection of individual opinions.
Avakesh: You really think so.
RML: I do. We always speak of roots and branches and how one who is committed to the Divine origin of the Torah sees areas of agreement as more securely of Divine origin than disagreements, which are also from Hashem but in a different way. You yourself wrote about it.
I remember hearing that in his younger years. R. Y.D. Soloveitchik used to spend time during his shiurim demonstrating that disagreements in the Talmud were predicated on common assumptions and shared much more than they did not.
Avakesh: So you think that people who are allergic to the term "Sages" have an agenda.
RML: Not always. I dont think so in this case. They may just not recognize the ideological basis for this objection, which I have encountered before and from less sympathetic quarters.
Avakesh: What were you trying to accomplish with your book.
RML: Many things. I wanted to demonstrate that one can be frum and write a sophisitcated and informed commentary, one that is faithful to Chazal and inspirational to the modern man. I tried to do something different, to blaze a trail, to show how sophisticated literary techniques can be combined with inspirational message based on Chazal, how modern hermeneutical techniques can add value to the Talmud Torah aspect and not in any way detract from it. I tried to write a kind of a commentary that modern man can appreciate and by which he or she can be spiritually uplifted but that would still be based on solid scholarship and be understood and respected by scholars.
Above all, I wanted to uplift Kavod Shomayim by showing that Hashem's Word is relevant and deep even in our age.
Avakesh: R. Merder says that not everything in the book is Pshat.
RML: I learned many things while writing this book. One of them is that, in Nechama Liebowitz' words, "Pshat is what I say it means. Drash is what you say it means". The fact remains that if you start from a set of exegetical assumptions and encounter a verse that seems to contradict these assumptions, there are only two choices. You must be willing to either reconsider your assumptions or you must be willing to reconsider the meaning of the verse. If you are an academician, you may emend the verse, chas veshalom. You have no choice but to explain that verse in some other manner, which you will call "omek hapshat", allegory, poetic license or some other variety of pshat. It will be not the apparent but the real meaning of the verse, for the apparent meaning is false by the virtue of assumptions that you employ. Someone who starts from a different set of assumptions will call your interpretation drash. This is simply the nature of hermeneutics and there is no way to escape this conundrum. There is a very grey and very long transitional area between pshat and drash.
Avakesh: Thank you for this interview
RML:On the contrary, thank you for this opportunity.
One of the unresolved issues in medical halacha is how to apply laws that were fixed at a time when medical science was different than it is now. An example of this is- when one is permitted to violate Shabbos for a fever? A life-threatening fever justifies and sets aside Shabbos prohibition, as does any other life threatening illness. How is a dangerous fever defined?
Until farily recently what we now call "symptoms' were considered diseases. For example, a patient suffered from diarrhea, or fever, or fainting spells. Vestiges of this mentality survive in medicine to this day in the names of certain diseases. We speak, for example, of Rehumatic Fever, or Yellow Fever whereas doctors now see these as conditions caused by infections by specific micro-organisms. In the current medical paradigm, it is the dangerousness of a disease that should determine whetheer Shabbos is violated, not the height of the fever. A low fever casued by a serious illness should be treated with greater seriousness than a high fever caused by a benign illness. Is this how halacha sees it?
The underlying diagnosis of what is causing fever may or may not be of a halachic significance. Ktzos Hashulchan 138 (p.99) writes that a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius allows taking medications on Shabbos. R. Moshe Feinstein in Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 129 wrote that a temperature of 102 degrees Farenheit (and even 101 degrees, if the patient insists) allows the suspension of Shabbos prohibitions. These poskim do not incorporate the underlying diagnosis into this calculation, probably because classical sources do not do so either. Some however suggest that the underlying diagnosis should also be taken into account when assessing the degree of fever for the purposes of Shabbos violation (The Halachic Guide to Medical Practice on Shabbos, by Michael Chizkiah, Targum Press, 2005, p.199, fn 4). It is my impression that most poskim in our time and place would take the underlying diagnosis into account in regard to this question.
The long-time practice by Israeli ritual circumcisers (mohelim) of using gauze for as long as 26 hours to stop penile bleeding is responsible for the significantly higher rate of urinary tract infections (UTIs) within a few weeks of the Jewish ritual, a Shaare Zedek study finds. A diferent approach is being considered...
Form the Hakhel email for this week:
Chazal (Shabbos 67A) teach that if a person, R’L, has a bone stuck in his throat, one should bring a bone of the same type and
place it on the person’s skull and say “Chad chad, nochis bola, bola nochis,
chad chad.” Rebbi Akiva Eiger (Yoreh Deah 335, D’H Nasnah) brings from the
Maharil that this lachash is the last one we can generally use even in our
days--as it is still “boduk um’nuseh.” Indeed, Rabbi Elimelech Lebowitz,
Shlita, noted Rav and Posek in Flatbush, related that he himself was in the
presence of someone choking on a fish bone, and that he used this lachash. The
bone immediately dislodged itself, and the choking person quickly recovered,
b’chasdei Hashem. Suggestion: Keep this lachash handy--you could become a
one-man Hatzaloh team!
Additional Note 1: Last week, a Doctor reported to us that a senior Rav (his
patient) called him in the morning, and asked him for a specialist, as something
from breakfast (apparently a vegetable) had gotten lodged in his throat and he
did not want to have to go to the emergency room to be treated for this
dangerous predicament. The Doctor suggested that he put a piece of the same
item that was lodged in his throat on his head, and then say the Lachash. The
Rav said he would, but requested that a specialist call him in any event with
medical advice. By the time the specialist called the Rav a few moments later,
the Rav had said the Lachash and was fine, telling our Doctor that he was a
Additional Note 2: We asked HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, some questions
regarding use of the Lachash.
Q. Would it work with any food upon which one is choking--and not only on a
bone, as seems to be evident from the previous story which involved a vegetable?
A. Yes. It works with any food.
Q: If one did not have more of that food--could he place something else on the
head? Yes, he could place the empty plate from which the food came.
Q: Did the person choking have to recite the Lachash—or could it be another?
It could be someone else close by. In fact, Rav Belsky related that he was at a
small seudah at which one of the participants began to choke, and he (Rav
Belsky) immediately put an empty plate on the choking person’s skull, and said
the Lachash. The food immediately dislodged with no pain. This was, of course,
the talk of the balance of the seudah--a miracle in front of their eyes!
Incredibly, about a year later, Rav Belsky attended a similar seudah with the
same attendees--and someone began choking again. Rav Belsky once again took
action with the Lachash, and the food dislodged, although the person choking
this time experienced discomfort afterwards for about ten seconds. After this
life-saving event, the people only seemed to discuss that this time there was
pain for several second afterwards... They were already used to the miracle
from last year!
REMEMBER—CHAD CHAD, NOCHIS BOLA, BOLA NOCHIS, CHAD CHAD...
AND REMEMBER that each and every time it works it is a miracle--together with all of those other wonderful miracles of everyday life (can you think of three
new miracles every time you recite “V’al Nissecha SheBechal Yom Imanu” in
Avakesh comments: Generally it is advised that if a person is choking and moving air, nothing should be done since choking is more effective than any intervention and one can inadevertently actually push the food farther down while trying to help. One should allow the person who is choking to cough it up himself. Intervention is only required when air does not appear to be moving through. If so, for most situations, this is at least a harmless maneuver.
AA half-century ago, in 1955, Professor Antony Flew set the agenda for modern atheism with his Theology and Falsification, a paper presented in a debate with C.S. Lewis. This work became the most widely reprinted philosophical publication of the last 50 years. Over the decades, he published more than 30 books attacking belief in God and debated a wide range of religious believers. Then, in a 2004 Summit at New York University, Professor Flew announced that the discoveries of modern science have led him to the conclusion that the universe is indeed the creation of infinite Intelligence. Below is the argument that persuaded Flew: