My idea of Talmudic law is thus: the x axis is Talmudic material. The y axis is Natural Law (natural law as I see it is with a goal of human flourishing, and this means Democracy as in the concepts of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson of limited government). The z axis is spirituality.
There will be at least one point where they intersect. There might be several of these points and in fact all the points of intersection can form a curve. Now in theory, the halacha might be anywhere in which all three intersect. However I suggest that there will be a cusp point where all three functions are maximized.
But now that we have come this far I want to go further and suggest that these three axis are not enough to accommodate all values. (See the polynomic theory of value.) In practice you want each value to have its own axis and then to maximize the function. E.g. you want the God axis to be the z axis and justice to be the y one and beauty the x axis and so on for other modes of value.


Electricity on Shabat

On the subject of Electricity on Shabat: if you invent elaborate enough evasions, you can make any idea at all work.
What happened is no one cares about the Chazon Ish but forbidding electricity on Shabat is a good way to de-legitimize Reform Jews.

Orthodox Judaism encountered, and failed, its first great test of whether it had the qualities a truly religious person is supposed to have: humility, and respect for the truth. (Sorry the first great test was Charles Darwin. No sorry the first one was the Rambam. At least that test the Jewish people passed well enough. Though his philosophy is not taken seriously by any Jewish group, at least he is accepted as part of the cannon.)

But I can understand why someone would want to be strict like the Chazon Ish just from faith that he knew what he was talking about (faith in the wise), but personally I have never been able to make any sense out of that particular place where he says using electricity is binyan בנין.
(It fits with the Gemara but it introduces an outside principle not implicit in the Gemara-- plus it is against all the Rishonim. Given enough ad-hoc postulates, it is possible to make any theory, no matter how bizarre, work.)

I once thought the Chazon Ish had some support from an argument in Kelim between the Rambam and Raavd. But subsequent thought convinced me that neither the Rambam or Raavad gave him any support.
And the problem is in fact greater than this. The problem is that in the Chazon Ish most of the time he is absolutely brilliant. But then sometimes out of the blue he writes stuff that just makes  no sense.

Reb Shelomo Zalman Aurbach  spent a lot of time in his book trying to disprove  the Chazon Ish, but then put in some statement at the end to make it politically correct--(not for halacha he wrote)

The best reason to forbid electricity I could ever come up with to say that electricity should be forbidden is in the fact the basic act of work of lighting a fire is when it is in order to make coal [as was done in the Tabernacles], so that a light bulb would be forbidden by מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה  work done not for its own sake. If electricity was fire then this would in fact be forbidden. The problem really comes from the fact that electricity is not fire

Rebitzin's husband: Adam,
What do you mean, don't quote R' Shlomo Zalman? Of course in Meorei Esh he attempts to completely disprove previous halachic understandings of electricity, including that of the Chazon Ish. However, what do you mean that his psak forbidding electricity was to be "politically correct"? He forbids on a Torah level an incandescent light-bulb as you mention, and forbids ALL other electrical devices because of minhag. I am pretty confident that just as he davened maariv every night, he did not use electricity on shabbat.

Me: True he also noticed that particular Rambam about the burning coal. If that is what he is standing on then you are right-a light bulb is forbidden according to that Rambam.

Later I heard Rav Shach [Menachem Eliezer Shach] discusses this and in particular brings that Rambam about the coal. But I don't have his book.  In the meantime I did a little work on "work that is not necessary for its purpose" concerning coals. This area of investigation is totally separate from the making vessels or building aspect on things and here I admit that I did not finish. The reason being that we were in the middle of that Tosphot in Yoma, [You know which one. The biggest Tosphot in Shas, page 34.] and then I saw the Rabbi Akiva Eiger who tries to prove the opinion of the Aruch. At that point I gave up and decided to go to Sanhedrin. I admit there is still plenty of work to do on this issue but so far I have not seen a thing which would indicate any problem about electricity.
I must have written on some blog some of the issue that came up in those days. The main area of investigation at this point seems to the page in Tractate Kritut and the Reb Chaim Halevi Soloveitchik.
The major point that comes up is that burning of a fire is liable when one's intension is to make coals. And this seems to be the case no matter how you look at מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה.
That is to say there is an argument how to understand this basic concept. But no matter turning on an electric light is not going to be considered needed for its sake in any case.
So since we go by Rabbi Shimon this at least is not liable. And the Rambam that thinks it is liable is because he does not decide like Rabbi Shimon.

But so far all we have is an electric light which is far anyway from electricity in general


The higher root of sex.

higher root of sex. Freud insisted in seeing animal urges in all higher human aspirations. And he had to do this because the teleology of Aristotle had been rejected by science for many years and Freud wanted his steam engine model of human psychology to be respected as a science. But this resulted in the amazing failure of psychology to see goals and principles in human beings. And in the Orthodox Jewish frum world the attitude towards sex comes from the Puritans--also no insight.

Many people thought by psychology they would reach sexual happiness. This was the sexual revolution. Instead it left people with all the same problem but no way to even begin to understand from where those problems come from. So immediately after the sexual revolution came the extreme vilification of sex by the Feminist movement with an explicit understanding by therapists and psychologists that all men are sexual abusers and most men (expect of course psychologists and therapists) were all child abusers.
As opposed to all this stupidity and wickedness, the approach of the Torah is special and amazing and refreshing --that sex is powerful and holy but needs to be directed towards marriage. Because sex is the most powerful force in the universe and the most holy. It is like a atomic reactor. When it is running alright then there is a great energy and power. But when things get off track --then the result is nothing less than total disaster.


My approach to sex was based on the ideas of Rav Yaakov Emden in his Sidur.

Sexuality is the center of life. Not reducing it to the basement of the human being deserves study.

 And it is not simple. Mainly you need a Neo Platonic idea of the world in the first place which people don't have anymore.

You need a concept that sex between a man and his wife does great corrections in the higher worlds and the more holiness in that relationship the more corrections are done. If done with attachment with God, sex is the highest divine service. But if a person is not attached in his soul to God, then sex  loses its holiness. So according to the degree sex is removed from this standard, that is the degree it loses it holiness and becomes a tool of the Sitra Achra, [the Dark Realm].

My approach to sex was based on the ideas of Yaakov Emden in his Sidur. That is to sanctify oneself before the act and during. Especially when conception is possible. [Read the Sidur, I do not want to be a spoiler, but the main idea there was when conception is possible it it must be after the exact  middle of the night and only on Friday night. That is when holy souls come into the world.] That is you have to calculate the exact middle of the night of Friday night and go  to the mikvah or a river or lake and pray to merit to bring in holy souls into the world.
[The way to go into a cold river is to take off your shoes first and dip you feet into the water.Then draw out your feet. Then the pants, and to go into the water up to your waist. Then leave the water. At that point the body knows that you are going into cold water so it automatically begins to send the blood into the inner region of the thighs, and the outer areas become used to the cold. Only then do you take off your coat and shirt and go into the water only once [as the Rambam said.] Also your feet need to be not on the snow or cold ground, but on a towel or other piece of clothing.


Franz Rosenzweig

Franz Rosenzweig seemed to me to be over influenced by Hegel. Yet on the other hand I understand the need for Reform Judaism to have some book to base their movement on besides the Guide for the Perplexed and after all the Star of Redemption is a deep book. But that still does not make it a great book or a book you you base a meme on. This is why reform Judaism flounders. But in their need for a modern Jewish thinker they are not alone.
The problem really is that after the Rambam there has not been a Jewish philosopher of his stature.




I want to mention few words about my parents

Their relationship had the effect on me that I was permanently effected by this rose colored picture of reality. Things may be hard,  but they retain this rosy soft color for me. I believe love, marriage, and having children as the greatest privilege a man or woman can have. This image in my mind was definitely painted by my parents.

Beyond this was also Mom's and Dad's introducing me to amazing aspects of the world--Torah, Einstein, the Mount Palomar Observatory, Cal Tech, Mozart. [I went with my Dad to the yearly Alumni day at Cal Tech.] [My Dad gave me the Magic Flute by Mozart for a Hanukkah present.]

 Also he brought me to his laboratory in TRW where he was the chief scientist working on laser communication for the SDI, (i.e the Star Wars) Strategic Defense Initiative for NASA.
(My Dad was working on laser communication in connection with SDI (Star Wars). He was the head of the team that developed it. He was the head of the engineering team that made the infrared night vision at Monmouth, NJ.)

Incidentally, he was the first to create a camera that could detect infra red waves --i.e. he made the first night vision device for the USA Army. [There was a write up about it in Life magazine. His sister told my brother that my grandmother would have given ten years of her life just to see my Dad's picture in Life magazine. I have a link to the actual article on the side of this blog.] Later he made the camera for the U-2 spy plane. [Later note. I am not sure, but it looks to me that the reason his name is not mentioned in connection with the U-2 is from what my brother told me there were two teams and the camera from the other team was the one they actually put on the U-2. ] Incidentally, almost all the scientists that created the devices that make the American military the top in the world were all created by Jewish and German scientists. Frankly speaking they were mostly Jewish. In the lab where my Dad created night vision, there were 50 Jews and one German. (From what I can tell without the Jewish input into American technology, America would not be a first world power.) (All the Jews were fired after McCarty held a press conference there; except for the two top scientists, my Dad and a friend, Marcus. But they were brought back shortly after that. But that was the reason my Dad and Berny Marcus moved to California.) Also I might mention, my Dad was a Captain in the US Air Force during World War Two, and later worked for the Army on many secret projects which I still know nothing about.) Their attitude towards us children and their tolerance and wisdom in guiding us was amazing. We sure gave them hell with our own stubbornness and the atmosphere of the times that rewarded subordination against parents --and yet we must remember that they were not superhuman. They had no good information about how to raise children or how to act in society. Everything they did was intuitive. But their combination of tolerance but firm guidance was amazing.

In short their approach was "to be a mensch." That is a decent human being. That was their idea of what Judaism is about. It is  a kind of balance between obligation between man and God and between man and his fellow man. You could say it was their way of keeping the Ten Commandments, but that in itself nowadays has become subject to debate. But if one tries to keep the Ten Commandments simply and plainly that just about approximates as closely as possible the approach of my parents.--As in: Don't lie. Don't cheat. Honor your parents, Belief in God, etc.

On Shabat we went to Temple Israel in Hollywood and that is where I had my bar mitzvah. Jewish education was very important to my parents. I remember that we also went sometimes to Mount Sinai conservative synagogue  in Westwood.
Their approach towards Torah was one of balance.  That is it is good to keep Torah but with balance.תורה עם דרך ארץ. Torah with a vocation. [But Torah with Derech Eretz means more than just a vocation. It means the whole spectrum of being a "mench."]

The way I try to live this dream is by a kind of balance between learning the Oral Law Gemara, Rashi Tosphot, along with Physics, and outdoor skills.

After High School I went to Shar Yashuv [a yeshiva in N.Y.] and then to the Mir in NY and then to the Polytechnic Institute of NYU. Mainly I am trying to walk in the way my parents taught to me. Torah and Derech Eretz. The kinds of learning were very different. Shar Yashuv concentrated on לחשבן את הסוגיה to calculate the sugia. They were open about that. The Mir however was more interested in global issues as you would see in the book of Reb Chaim Soloveitchik.[However each Rosh Yeshiva at the Mir had his own set of ideas he would give over in each lesson. The only one however that wrote his ideas down was the Sukat David.] In any case, in my own learning I try to combine both approaches.


I feel that after the 60's when academic standards and requirements were lowered because of affirmative action that the result was that a humanities degree and a social science degree are worthless.

I feel that after the 60's when academic standards and requirements were lowered because of affirmative action that the result was that a humanities degree and a social science degree are worthless. (I have to say there are Achronim that I respect like the Aruch Hashulchan and the actual commentaries on the page of Shuclan Aruch. Achronim (later authorities after Yoseph Karo) written on the Shas (Talmud) like the Maharsha are the exception here. They tend to be very good.)
(The scam of the insane religious world  is that it is built on the Achronim or later authorities that simply ignore anything in Talmud or first authorities that seems to them to be not strict or fanatic enough. This used to have the name of Maharil'ism but now you could call it Mishna Brura'ism.)

So the Gemara has great validity in the realm of value. But what value structure is implicit in the Gemara itself?

And this affects the very future of Democracy. For the modern world is a result of a small handful of thinkers starting with Machiavelli up until John Locke. Yet this Enlightenment project has come to a crisis of no content inside the human being.\
 Freud to saw all higher aspects of a human being as coming from his basement (Id).

My basic approach is to accept John Locke in the political sphere and inside of political society I put civil society. And civil society needs a spiritual backbone which I consider to be Torah and Talmud. But this would not give the Talmud authority in the political realm. For the realm of freedom is the thing in itself--the core of individual.
The result of the Enlightenment thinkers is that wonder of the world,-- the U.S.A. But this wonder of the ages has become under siege. It values are no longer treasured. Freedom is seen as sham. Human rights has become a mercenary tool to deprive others of their rights to their own property and freedoms.

  Democracy is no longer in danger because of the Soviet Union. It is now in danger from within. The rot has spread so deeply that some leaders of the free world are conspiring to make it no longer free.

I say that only the Torah can't hold up democracy any more. But when Torah becomes a tool of oppression then where can we go for help?

  This is where Reb Nachman becomes essential. Reb Nachman is the only thinker that sees the source of value and authority in the individual. In fact the only path to God in the thought of Reb Nachman is by the aspect of "one was Abraham."
RN said: "Abraham served God only by this aspect that he thought in his own mind that he is alone in the world with God and he did not look on any obstacles from people discouraging him."
And this is where Reb Nachman adds the key words--"and similarly any person that wants to come to God can do so only in this manner --of thinking he is alone and not paying attention to those who try to prevent him."