Sunday, July 26, 2009

Living Up To The Truth

Is religion, or in our case historical Traditional Judaism, relevant? Yes, of course it is. Historical Traditional Judaism is relevant because, given the concerns that people typically have, the Torah has a very good track record of producing results.


Everyone wants to live with as little crime as possible. Again, Jewish Tradition is very proud that within Torah communities, crime, violent crime in particular, is almost unknown. Imagine interviewing the presiding police officer in a precinct in Williamsburg, Borough Park, Flatbush, Monsey, Monroe, or any place where you have large concentrations of Traditional Jews. Ask him how many times he is called out on a murder charge, rape, assault and battery, mugging, child abuse, etc. The incidence of these sort of crimes in Orthodox communities is very low.
It is fortunate that Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb limited his list of crimes to violent ones. That way he doesn't have to worry about removing money-laundering, tax evasion, organ trafficking, child labor violations, identity theft, bank fraud, immigration violations, etc., from the next edition of his booklet "Living Up To The Truth" (although he probably should delete child abuse from the list of "almost unknown" crimes.)

(As readers of my sporadic blog may know, Gottlieb's writings generally rank very high on the bogometer, as described more fully in God is a Mafia Boss. But if you are ready for some more Gottlieb-style logic that allows him to conclude his thesis with "Therefore, Judaism is the only justified way to live.", you may view the booklet in its entirety here.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Chabad - Moon Landing Shows That Mortal Intellect is Worthless

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing - July 20, 1969. I found this fascinating Chabad perspective that dates back to the landing.

Spiritual "spaceship danger"

This year marked an extraordinary event, the landing on the moon.

We can perceive two ideas from the moon landing: There formerly was scientific proof that it is not possible to land on the moon, since it was thought that it was impossible to achieve the necessary takeoff velocity without breaking or burning up the rocket, and the like. From this we see that mortal intellect is worthless and unreliable, given that whatever man thinks today may very well be proved erroneous tomorrow.
So one of the greatest intellectual achievements in history - the landing on the moon - actually proves that humankind's intellect is "worthless and unreliable"! What a skewed (not to mention logically nonsensical) perspective!

The article is not attributed, but its attitude - which essentially denigrates scientific discovery and achievement - is certainly in keeping with other positions of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, including his beliefs in geocentricity and young earth creationism.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Losing One's Share in The World to Come

  • The Sages say that for three transgressions one forfeits his portion in the World to Come: murder, adultery, and idol worship, and that lashon hara is equivalent to all three. (B. Erchin 15b)
  • The following have no portion therein: he who maintains that resurrection is not a biblical doctrine, the Torah was not divinely revealed,and an epikoros. R. Akiva added: one who reads non-canonical books. Rav and R. Hanina both taught that an epikorus is one who insults a scholar. R. Yochanan and R. Joshua b. Levi maintained that it is one who insults his neighbor in the presence of a scholar. A Tanna explains that when R. Akiva says "non-canonical books", he is speaking about books of the Sadducees. R. Yosef says that it is also forbidden to read the book of Ben Sira. (Sanhedrin 90a)
  • One who talks during the repetition of the amidah is called "a sinner whose sin is too great to be forgiven. (Mishnah Berurah 124:27.)
  • One who converses during Krias ha-Torah is called "a sinner whose sin is too great to be forgiven." (Bieur Halachah 146:2)
  • R. Eleazar of Modin said: One who profanes things sacred, and one who slights the festivals, and one who embarrasses his fellow-man in public, and one who nullifies the covenant of our father Abraham, and one who exhibits impudence towards the Torah contrary to halacha, even though he has to his credit Torah and good deeds, he has not a share in the world to come. (Avot 3:11 or 3:15)
  • Among those who lose their share in the World to Come are those who treat Chol Hamoed disrespectfully, as any other weekday (Rashi to above mishna in Avot.)
  • Hillel used to say: He who makes worldly use of the crown of the Torah shall perish. Thus you may infer that any one who exploits the words of the Torah removes himself from the world of life. (Avot 4:7)
  • Anybody who undertakes to learn Torah all the time, not work, and support himself from charity is desecrating God's Name, disgracing the Torah, extinguishes his Jewish spark, causes bad to befall him and destroys his life in the World To Come, for it is forbidden to benefit from Torah matters in this world. (Rambam Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:10; see also his laundry list in Hilchot Teshuvah.)
I don't for a minute believe that these are anything more than rabbinic hyperbole, but the next time you are accused of being an apikorus destined for Gehinnom, feel free to respond to your accuser with the appropriate passage. (The two "talking" quotes are perfect for your typical Young Israel, and the last quote is ideal as a response to kollel kanoim!)