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31.5.13

Here is my question about the Rambam in an expanded version and the answer of Dr Kelly Ross to my short version of the question.




Jean Paul Sartre, famously asserted that, "Without God, all is permitted." This was supposed to be a quote from Dostoyevsky (1821-1881). This is a misquote. Besides that it is not true. The manifest ignorance and absurdity of Sartre's pronouncement is evident when we reflect that he ignores one of the oldest and best known theories in Western philosophy: Plato's Theory of Forms. For Plato, meaning, value, and morality exist independently of any god or Deity, and this is quite characteristic of Greek philosophy in general.
And the general approach of all Jewish thinkers from Saadia Geon and the Duties of the Heart until the Rambam was firmly on the side of Plato.
With the Rambam things get confusing. He wants to retain Natural law which comes from Saadia Geon and is pretty much stated openly in the Talmud. But he wants to move towards Aristotle away from Plato's form of the Good. I still do not know if anyone has addressed this serious issue in the Rambam.

Dear Dr Ross. Could Aristotle have natural law theory? You write he hold from heteronomous authority. But does that have to be so?




Dr Ross: "Traditionally, Natural Law jurisprudence tends to come from Aristotelians, or at least Thomists. From that, we might suppose that Aristotle could have a natural law theory. But the Thomists don't think of ethics in empirical terms, as did Aristotle. Instead, natural law comes from the Mind of God in what is overall a theistic system. But Aristotle's God doesn't worry about human phronesis (prudence), and his conception of even human "wisdom" (sophia) precludes practical issues or applications. As Aristotle says, ethics is not for the young, because they literally have not learned enough from experience. Yet the old themselves are liable to notice that the young are often the most passionate about justice. And if this passion is often expressed in foolish, destructive, or vicious ways, where is the fault? The old are just as likely to become cynical as wise, or pessimistic rather than dedicated. Aristotle certainly had no political ideals to promote; and he may not have appreciated himself how the institution of "mixed" forms of government he described, as praised by Polybius or James Madison, represented in ideal in its own right, as an accommodation with the ignorance or self-interest of human nature. Even now, a substantial body of political opinion is impatient with checks and balances and divided authority.

Best wishes,
Kelley Ross

Concerning Conversion to Judaism



The first thing to notice in the Rambam/Maimonides is that there are two operative levels of Gerut/conversion. The first is simply to become Jewish. For this one needs a lower level of conditions [an easier set of conditions].  The next and highest level is to be acceptable for marriage in the Jewish world.

Now the main and simple condition for the first level is something so simple it is amazing that few have ever noticed it. This simple condition is not on their radar because they do not agree that it is something that even exists. This condition is "ratzon" (desire) to be Jewish. The Rambam says:  The Torah was given to the Jewish people and to anyone who wants to accept it"

To give you an example of how simple this is take the case of a slave that a Jew buys from a gentile. The Halacha is that as they are getting ready to put him in the mikvah for the sake of being a Jewish slave, he jumps into the mikvah on his own in front of the people standing around and says he is going into the mikvah for the sake of being Jewish. He becomes automatically Jewish and he is obligated in all the mitzvot and he can no longer be owned as a slave. (That is the buyer loses his money because he can no longer own the labor of the fellow). We see here that the desire of the Beit din is not necessary to make someone Jewish. He becomes Jewish even against their desire. It depends only on his own desire.

However when we look into the Rambam about laws of marriage we find a whole more stringent set of conditions. There he needs  (accepting the mitzvot) in front of three judges.



On a side issue in terms of Conversion of Women. The Tosphot in Yevamot does allow the a case in which the woman goes to the mikvah on her own and the acceptance of the Mitzvot alone is in front of three judges. The Rambam however requires that the Mikvah also be in front of three judges. The way to do this is to get a lot of Styrofoam slices and put them over the mikvah, then the woman gets into the mikvah that is covered in Styrofoam and then the three judges come into the room. Then she dips herself totally under the water in front of them and they see the acceptable dipping but nothing else.

A further point here is that become Jewish is not dependent of the will of the judges or anyone at all except the actually person involved. Judges can’t make someone Jewish and they can’t unmake some from being Jewish.


One last point. There was an old tradition to accept converts and not make things hard for them as is customary today. I agree with this approach for several reasons. One is that it is the Halacha. The other is that apparently some people are afraid the convert is not "all that well put together." But so what? People  anyway have no problem throwing anyone they don't like out of their communities the instant that the person rubs them the wrong way.--Jew or Gentile. It is just that when it is a Jew that rubs them the wrong way they find lots of clever ways of disavowing that person's Jewishness. A good example is Sephardic communities. To Sephardim all Ashkenazim are not Jewish;--- period. They just go along with the act as long as it benefits them but when it comes to a crunch and the poor ashkenazic Jew is down and out on his luck the Sefardi simply says to himself, "Well, he is not really Jewish anyway, so why bother to help him?" [And for Sephardim, American Ashkenazim are in the general category of Amalek. 


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28.5.13

The Musar movement

I am looking a bit at Israel Salanter and Isaac Blazer. The Musar movement seems to have an idea of heteronomous authority. But that shouldn't be a surprise to me. This I think was the tendency of Torah thought for a long time, and I think that it was solidified by the Rambam who was going with Aristotle.
Once anyone is going with Aristotle they will have to end up with authority coming from outside of ones self. There is no absolute Form of the Good in Aristotle, so where else would authority comes from but divine command?

On the other hand Dr Kelley Ross mentioned tome in a letter that Divine command Theory has something going for it. I did not ask him to explain but I can at this later date guess what he meant. The self itself is to Kant one example of a thing in itself and we know that Schopenhauer considers the Will the be the absolute Ding an Sich.[Anyway I admit it might be a good idea to ask this question directly.]
What I mean to say is that the otherwise great book from Brooklyn College on Philosophy dismisses Divine Command Theory completely and I thought that after that one would have to go with Natural Law alone. Then one day I mentioned this in an email to Dr Ross and he answered to me as I just said up above.]




You can ask why I do not ask him how he would defend Divine Command Theory but I assume it would be like Schopenhauer. That is that Divine command comes from the Ding An Sich and stretches to the dinge an sich


The Musar Movement. It looks to me they had some amazing insights.--especially about what they call negiot- rationalizations and excuses. This is a important insight. This is where the evil inclination is not buried like the Id. It is known and a person is doing what he knows to be wrong but he excuses it with negiot.  and rationalizations.

Is there a mitzvah to learn Torah to get a salary?



Is there a mitzvah to learn Torah to get a salary?

How would you go about thinking about this question logically?

At first sight it seems like the same question as "Is there a mitzvah to put on tefilin purely for the sake of money?" This seems simple. You simply divide the action from the intension. The intension is bad. You are not supposed to use the Holy Torah for money. But the action looks good.

But as we think deeper into this we can see that learning Torah is different. It is like the types of work on Sabbath that the intension is linked to the act. For example once who erases not in order to write has not done any work at all. It is not even a work done for a different intension. It simply is not work.

For it to be work it has to have the "on condition to write."

Same with Torah Learning. The Rambam says one who learns on condition to receive money has no mitzvah and loses his portion in the next world. That means the act itself has lost the category of a mitzvah and entered into the category of a sin of the most grievous type possible.

To see the opinion of Maimonides on this subject look into Pirkei Avot Chapter 4 Mishna 5 and in the laws of Talmud Torah. He could not have been clearer.

This helps us to understand the difference between people in authentic Lithuanian yeshivas that learn Torah for its own sake  as opposed to people that see in Torah an easy way to make money and scam people. 



Chaim Soloveichik and Shabat


Chaim Soloveichik and Shabat 
I can already begin to see the light with him. I am still in the middle of figuring him out concerning Sabbath but I think I can see where he is going. He looks at the second "Some say" in pesachim with the argument between Abyee and Rava about pleasure that comes to a person against their will.
The second "some say" holds straight down the board that to R. Shimon we consider intention alone. To R. Yehuda the basic idea is that he does not care about intention.

But however it works out in pesachim, we can see already that this might be a help to Reb Chaim. He would want Pesik Raisha to be forbidden to R. Yehuda even if it is against his will and permitted to R. Shimon.
The only thing left to Reb Chaim is to bridge the gap between Shabbat and other types of prohibitions. Stay tuned



[In plain English this all means that Reb Chaim has a ready made answer to answer the contradiction in the Rabam about piecing a boil on shabat. Once you consider it a work not intended that is pesik reish you answer the Rambam poskins like Shmuel in work not intended. But Reb Chaim still has to prove that R. Yehuda will disagree so that we will still have an an argument between him and R. Shimon in Keritut.]

24.5.13

Is there a mitzvah to learn Torah to get a salary?(Or, on the other hand is there a mitzvah to learn Torah not for money, and in fact to receive no money from doing so?)


Is there a mitzvah to learn Torah to get a salary?
How would you go about thinking about this question logically?
At first sight it seems like the same question as "Is there a mitzvah to put on tefilin purely for the sake of money?" This seems simple. You simply divide the action from the intention. The intension is bad. You are not supposed to use the Holy Torah for money. But the action looks good.
B

But as we think deeper into this we can see that learning Torah is different. It is like the types of work on Sabbath that the intension is linked to the act. For example once who erases not in order to write has not done any work at all. It is not even a work done for a different intension. It simply is not work.
For it to be work it has to have the "on condition to write."
Same with Torah Learning The Rambam says one who learns on condition to receive money has no mitzvah and loses his portion in the next world. That means the act itself has lost the category of a mitzvah and entered into the category of a sin of the most grievous type.

To see the opinion of Maimonides on this subject look into Pirkei Avot Chapter 4  and in the laws of Talmud Torah. He could not have been clearer.