Friday, April 11, 2008
Exodus 12:3, 12:9:
דַּבְּרוּ, אֶל-כָּל-עֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר, בֶּעָשֹׂר, לַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה: וְיִקְחוּ לָהֶם, אִישׁ שֶׂה לְבֵית-אָבֹת--שֶׂה לַבָּיִת.
Speak unto all the congregation of Israel, saying: In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household;
אַל-תֹּאכְלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ נָא, וּבָשֵׁל מְבֻשָּׁל בַּמָּיִם: כִּי אִם-צְלִי-אֵשׁ, רֹאשׁוֹ עַל-כְּרָעָיו וְעַל-קִרְבּוֹ.
Do not eat it raw, nor boiled with water, but roast it with fire; its head with its legs and with the inwards thereof.
Much later (according to tradition almost 40 years later!), in Deuteronomy 16:2, 16:7, it goes like this:
וְזָבַחְתָּ פֶּסַח לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, צֹאן וּבָקָר, בַּמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר-יִבְחַר יְהוָה, לְשַׁכֵּן שְׁמוֹ שָׁם.
And you shall sacrifice the passover offering unto Hashem your God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which Hashem shall choose to cause His name to dwell there.
וּבִשַּׁלְתָּ, וְאָכַלְתָּ, בַּמָּקוֹם, אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בּוֹ; וּפָנִיתָ בַבֹּקֶר, וְהָלַכְתָּ לְאֹהָלֶיךָ.
And you shall roast and eat it in the place which the Hashem your God shall choose; and you shall turn in the morning, and go unto your tents.
Notice the differences? In the Exodus account, one is instructed to take a lamb and roast it in fire, making sure not to get cook it with water. In the Deuteronomy account, one is instructed to take from the flock or the herd, and to boil it! Mechon Mamre incorrectly renders וּבִשַּׁלְתָּ as "And you shall roast" instead of "And you shall cook (or boil)". (Regardless, kol hakavod to Mechon Mamre as well as to the inventor of cut & paste - it would take me forever to type the Hebrew!)
So how do we know that the Exodus account is the method by which one is to prepare the Korban Pesach? Rabbi Ishmael b. Elisha's 13th rule of exegesis: "When two Biblical passages contradict each other, the contradiction is be solved by reference to a third passage." And the third passage is Exodus 12:21:
וַיִּקְרָא מֹשֶׁה לְכָל-זִקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם: מִשְׁכוּ, וּקְחוּ לָכֶם צֹאן לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתֵיכֶם--וְשַׁחֲטוּ הַפָּסַח.
Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them: 'Draw out, and take you lambs according to your families, and kill the passover lamb'.
Problem resolved - we use a lamb and not an animal from the herd.
But wait - what about boiling vs. roasting?? What pasuk do we use to resolve this contradiction?
There is none, and that's a problem, for according to normative halacha one is prohibited from deriving any benefit from a cooked korben Pesach (not just eating)! Rashi comments on וּבִשַּׁלְתָּ and states "This is roasting by fire, for it too is called cooking". Ibn Ezra also sees fit to simply mention that the pasuk is talking about roasting.
The Sapirstein Edition of Art Scroll has a footnote to the Rashi, pointing out a Mechilta that references 2 Chronicles 35:13:
וַיְבַשְּׁלוּ הַפֶּסַח בָּאֵשׁ, כַּמִּשְׁפָּט; וְהַקֳּדָשִׁים בִּשְּׁלוּ, בַּסִּירוֹת וּבַדְּוָדִים וּבַצֵּלָחוֹת, וַיָּרִיצוּ, לְכָל-בְּנֵי הָעָם
And they boiled the Pesach with fire according to the ordinance; and the holy offerings they boiled in pots, in kettles, and in pans, and carried them quickly to all the children of the people.
implying that "bishul" can also mean roasting. But attempting to reconcile a Torah contradiction by redefining the common use of a word seems to me to be a very weak answer. At most, one can only say that Chronicles states a tradition that was in force at the time of its writing.
A proponent of the Documentary Hypothesis has no problem with these contradictions - the two passages simply different traditions were only harmonized much later. Mark Zvi Brettler in How to Read the Jewish Bible discusses this briefly, stating that the account in Chronicles
may be an attempt to cover up ... two irreconcilable traditions. Centuries later, the process just delineated - where two different Torah texts from two different sources are 'reconciled' - becomes a key process in rabbinic midrash. The rabbis did not recognize that the Torah is comprised of sources - to them, it is a single holy text, given by God to Moses. Thus, they too need to reconcile what we see as source-critical differences. It starts as soom as editors combine the Torah's sources and a community canonizes the that text. That process has already taken place by the time of the Chronicler.
David Weiss Halivni in Revelation Restored: Divine Writ and Critical Responses asks how the decision between conflicting prescriptions was made and gives two possibles answers: either "details and decisions were a matter of personal choice" and the "resolutions indicated by the Chronicles would represent, not a priori decisions, but accounts, after the fact, what the people had chosen to do" OR "that some authoritative determinant, beyond the written text, was responsible for consistent and coherent behavior". Halivni says that only the second alternative is plausible, since multiple traditions would not have been appealing to the people at the time of Ezra who were zealous to hear authoritative guidance to the Law. But neither does Halivni posit that the reconciliation was an oral tradition dating back to Moses, he recognizes that the Torah text is maculate, and states that the same people (Ezra et al) who presented the scriptural canon to Israel were also responsible for interpreting how the contradictions were to be resolved!
As an aside, note also that the Exodus and Deuteronomy passages - along with Leviticus 23:6 - are used in the well-known 6-days vs 7-days discrepancy to prove that the obligation to eat matzah is only on the first day of Pesach and the other six days are a rishus. Readers may draw their own conclusion from the contradictions and the resolution.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
"Chai Lifeline is a not for profit organization dedicated to helping children suffering from serious illness as well as their family members." They are well known for programs such as Camp Simcha, which is a summer camp for children suffering from cancer.
I received a mailing from them recently asking for a donation. I have given them money previously, but I now make it a habit to first check a charity tracking service such as GuideStar or Charity Navigator.
GuideStar gave them a 4-star rating, and I thought "hey, not bad". But then something caught my eye on the page: Sam Zaks, the "Community Development Director" received a salary of $398,683 - or 2.56% of all expenses - in 2006! This merited further investigation and I perused their 2006 Form 990 available through Charity Navigator.
Here is some interesting information from the form.
Total revenue: $15,739,488 (Line 12)
Compensation for officers: $498,661 (Line 25a)
Salaries & wages of other employees: $7,996,028 (Line 26)
The top two directors received total compensation of approximately $500,000! They are (see Part V-A):
Stephen Scholar - Executive VP: $217,601 salary plus benefits of $66,691
Abraham Cohen - Executive Directory: $151,912 salary plus benefits of $62,179
The salaries for other employees is about $8 million.
Schedule A lists the compensation for the five highest paid employees. This includes:
|Sam Zaks||Community Dev Dir||398,683||95,514|
|Levi Katlowitz||Dir Com Dev||188,523||76,028|
|Aryeh Adest||Dir Com Dev||131,644||52,328|
|Mordechai Gobioff||Dir of Client Serv||113,826||50,371|
Half a mil for Sam Zaks? What is a "Community Development Director" - the head camp counselor? A million bucks (plus more than 300K in benefits) for the top five not including the two top directors?? What's going on here?
I don't expect anyone to work for peanuts, but please don't give me the party line used by so many charities with outrageous salaries: "we need to attract top talent and be competitive with for-profit companies". There are many, many talented people who do work for peanuts at non-profits and who would gladly take the reins for a hundred thousand plus benefits!
This is certainly not a slam at the services that Chai Lifeline provides, only to raise what seems to be a questionable allocation of resources. If anyone can explain to my satisfaction why I am completely off-base here, I will immediately remove this post and replace it with an apology. And possibly even given them some tzedakah.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
I recently came upon a very important book on paleontology: The Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Bible. Although written specifically for a Christian audience, it is on my "required reading" list as it solves many problems relating to the Bible, the Great Flood, and Dinosaurs. Because I feel that educated folks should know about the true facts regarding dinosaurs, and not just rely on the statements of atheistic scientists, the following is a summary of the book for your edification. Everything below in quotes is taken directly from the text...
Where Did Dinosaurs Come From?
Slacking off on your Bible studies, have we? They were created by God on the fifth day of creation! If you forgot, just refer to Genesis 1:20-21. But what comes as a real shock to secularist unbelievers is that "Man and dinosaurs lived at the same time"! This is known as the Dr. Frederick Flintstone Theory of Contemporaneous Habitation, a bedrock of modern paleological and anthropological studies.
The above is an artist's conception of creation, often confused with the Legendary Sublime Designer (LSD) model of origins because of the artist's creative use of color and imagery.
Are Dinosaurs in the Bible?
Silly, everything is in the Bible! "Behemoth means kingly, gigantic beasts. Tannin is a term which includes dragon-like animals and the great sea creatures such as whales, giant squids, and marine reptiles like the plesiosaurs". The best description of a dinosaur-like animal is in Job chapter 40 (which, by the way, was "probably written around 2,000 years before Jesus was born".) In Job, "God describes a great king of the land animals like some of the biggest dinosaurs, the Diplodocus and Apatosaurus."
Yes, I know that Rabbi Natan Slifkin has shown how tannin is really a crocodile and behemoth is most likely a hippo, but everyone knows that he is considered a heretic by the greatest Jewish rabbis.
Why Did God Create Dinosaurs?
I dunno, "God's exact purpose for the various dinosaurs is still a mystery". Perhaps they "kept certain types of lush plant life under control and cleared paths through the forest". Possibly it was to keep Adam entertained, for God "waited while Adam made up a new name for each one. Each new animal must have been a fun surprise".
Why Did Dinosaurs Become Extinct?
The latest theory is that the dinosaurs were killed by a meteorite, but the only evidence of this is iridium in certain clay layers, and it is "buried in tons of hardened mud and sands called sediment". This suggests that "something more than asteroids was involved in the death and extinction of dinosaurs". Although "at least 55 different theories have been suggested and then thrown out because of problems", it will now be revealed what the real cause was:
Where Did Most of the Dinosaur Fossils Come From?
From the Great Flood! This is easy to prove, since "Quick flood burial would be the only way that so many dinosaurs and other things could have become fossilized in the way scientists have found them."
Did Noah Take Dinosaurs on Board the Ark?
Because we know that one set of every kind of air-breathing land animal was on board the ark, dinosaurs must have been included. It had plenty of room for all of the animals, although "young animals would be small and easier to care for and would use of less food. It would have been foolish to fill up space on the Ark with the oldest, biggest adults". And Noah certainly was no shmendrick!
After the Flood, What Happened to the Dinosaurs?
Well they "lived for at least a few centuries after the Flood", but "no one knows exactly when they finally died out". Although numerous reasons are given in this tome (extreme temperatures, no more huge forests, solar radiation), "sinful people may have caused dinosaur deaths in an even more direct way. [Like the mammoths and mastodons], it could be that in ancient times, people also killed dinosaurs for meat or because of the problems these animals caused". (Like owners of pet dinos not obeying pooper scooper laws?)
Are Any Dinosaurs Alive Today?
Yes, "there is some evidence that a few dinosaurs and great marine reptiles could still be alive, teetering on the edge of extinction. Natives in a very remote jungle in Africa have repeatedly told of seeing large animals a lot like the sauropod dinosaurs. A group of natives may have killed a small one in 1959. Some scientists have studied the report and are planning trips into the deep jungle. They hope to find a dinosaur still alive". More evidence follows for the existence of pterosaurs in Zimbabwe, Plesiosaurus in New Zealand, and the Rolling Stones in England.
Dinosaurs and You: Important Things to Remember
Whoa, was I wrong! Although I knew that dinosaurs didn't evolve from reptiles and amphibians, I thought it was God that created them perfectly finished. It wasn't till the end of this book that I was set straight: it was Jesus who did it! Yep, JC created the great dinosaurs, the stars, and you! And don't worry, "the Earth will one day be restored to the perfect, beautiful place it once was and we will see the dinosaurs (and all extinct animals)" alive again! Now I don't feel so bad about that Dwarf blue sheep steak that I had for dinner! (Well they are kosher, aren't they?)
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Although I take issue with Wurzburger on a number of points (on the same page he says "Since even the validity of science cannot be demonstrated, I am not uncomfortable with the fact that most thinkers agree that there is no proof for the existence of God."), but I also think that he has framed the problem succinctly: if you consider yourself an atheist or agnostic what would be sufficient proof to you for the existence of God?
Now I understand that the question begs another question: what is this God that we are trying to prove? For the sake of avoiding an even more difficult question, let's not over complicate things nor get bogged down in philosophical arguments about omniscience and omnipotence etc. and assume that we are talking about God as conceptualized by most religions: that omnipotent, omniscient, eternal entity who created the universe.
If you are up to the challenge, don't forget that you should also consider Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Remember, you are trying to prove God and don't want to be confused by an encounter with an extremely advanced alien life form! (So it may not help, but you still have access to any scientific instrument you desire, top scholars in any discipline, the ability to access all information gathered by humans to date.)
So let's say that you are on the level of Abraham or Moses or Balaam and can communicate with an entity that claims to be God. You want proof, however, before you are going to attempt to sacrifice your first born child (some would automatically exclude God-ness from any entity that demands this but so be it). What would you minimally require? Would you require a miracle on the level of resurrection of the dead? How about repeated and inerrant prophecy being communicated to you? A demonstration of the suspension at will of some fundamental scientific law, like the First Law of Thermodynamics?