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16.10.13

The way I deal with Torah is this. I take it as a given that on my own I would not be able to form a logical rigorous consistent world view based on my knowledge of Torah and Talmud. So I learned Musar and the works of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon.
When later authorities disagree with Maimonides or Saadia Geon, I defer to the earlier authorities.


The reason is that I assume that  great people like the Baal Shem Tov do not constituent a alternative approach to Torah. And if they would, I would have to defer to Maimonides.


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 So when I see Hasidic books teaching a different set of teachings than what I  know are against Maimonides, I simply ignore them.

 I am aware that the  Hasidic movement has become highly anti Rambam, even though they deny this fact. The issue is not whether they learn the Guide for the Perplexed   (they don't), but rather that most modern day Hasidic teachings are simply teaching Shabati Tzvi's teaching in disguise that neither the Rambam or any of our forefathers would have recognized as being Torah at all. By the teachings of shabati tzvi disguised as authentic Torah the teachings and i think energies of the dark side were able to penetrate into Orthodox Judaism.

This issue of world view is also the reason, learning Musar is important. Too much of modern day Judaism presents a world that contradicts the Torah

15.10.13

The moral of the story is there is no substitute for learning all the works of the Rambam from the beginning to the end--every last word.--starting from the Guide for the Perplexed

I was learning the Talmud yesterday with my learning partner. And I noticed something strange in the Talmud and in Rashi.

  For an introduction let me just say that in Tractate Pesachim chapter 2 we find Rabbi Abahu says when it says in the Torah not to eat something, it is implied not to derive pleasure from it.
The Talmud brings a question on this from trumah [the 2% of ones crops that goes to the priests] that a person can use to change his position on Shabat. [On Shabat you can't go out of 2000 yards. But you can put a meal at a distance from where you are currently at, and then the place of the meal will be considered your place on Shabat.]
Trumah is good for that even though you can't eat it.
  The answer the Talmud gives to this is you can undo  trumah. It is like an oath that three people can loosen. I asked on this.
  I asked --"But not every neder [oath] can be loosened?"
I was thinking of things like you find in tractate Nedarim chapter 9 like nolad [a new situation arises].
  He opened up a Rambam and showed me where the Rambam says that we do not open up a permission, but still if the person has regret, three people can permit any neder [commitment].

And to think that just before that I was criticizing him that his anti science world view  was in direct contradiction to Maimonides and Saadia Geon. I told him that his world view was based on  later Hasidim  that rejected the Rambam's world view. I was complaining that he did not learn the Guide For The Perplexed or the Emunot and Deot of Saadia Geon.

My point was that by his learning Hasidic books that gave him a world view that is not just contradictory to that of that of Maimonides, but also that it gives him a world view such that if someone tells him some idea from Maimonides or Saadia Geon, he considers it to be heresy.

The irony here is that I proved my own point. I had formed my ideas about oaths on the Talmud in Nedarim,  but never had spent much time learning the laws of Nedarim in the Rambam. So when I heard a view from  contrary to my views which I had in fact based on the Talmud, I thought it was completely wrong.

  The moral of the story is there is no substitute for learning all the works of the Rambam from the beginning to the end--every last word.--starting from the Guide for the Perplexed. P.S. David Hartman gives a good introduction to the Rambam.
I saw his book in the library of Hebrew University in Jerusalem where I used to hang out.
And I think I should mention that the Guide of the Rambam by itself is  hard to swallow. It does not have  magnetic pull . Still I think it is important because without it it is too easy to come up with alternative world views that are opposite to the Torah and yet still to be thinking they are Torah. When the Rambam writes his book for confused people he does not mean just people that know they are confused but especially people that don't think they are confused but think they know the worldview of the Torah better than the Rambam.


11.10.13

The Dark Realm

Jews  and gentiles are not aware of the fact the the Dark Side usually hangs out and surrounds places and sources of holiness. This is a well known Kabalistic concept, but seems to be unknown to most people.
This is slightly different from another well known phenomenon: the mixing of good and evil.
But here I am referring to the fact that the Evil Side is actually attracted to people and places and other sources of holiness.


For gentiles I am not sure how they could become aware of this phenomenon and protect themselves from it --but at least in the Jewish world I think this is a well known fact and so people tend to look at the good in any particular tzadik or holy place and when it comes to the question of mistakes or bad influences, they tend to ignore it and attribute it to this phenomenon.

[I think many Christians are aware of the problem with churches teaching a mixer of good and evil doctrines. But that is totally different from the phenomenon that I am describing here in which actual evil forces are attracted to places of holiness.]


I might try here to give a few examples. But before I do let me present a caveat. There are lots of times when I go with logic and label a certain movement or person as good or holy, and then through a combination of study and experience I discover I made a mistake. So I admit that the most powerful insights I have to the nature of the human world are based on experience and not logic. And this experience is uncommunicable to others because others can always doubt one person's experiences.
Be that as it may I think I have been able to identify places and teachings that communicate holiness to people and also to identify movements and people that communicate uncleanliness and evil to people. And I believe this is an objective assessment--not subjective--because like I believe in objective morality I also think there is a realm of values that are objectively holy and other values that are objectively unholy. And this does not depend on the observer but on the nature of reality itself.








In Israel I saw an opening to Being itself. But that seemed to have been temporary because at a certain point I saw evil descend to there. That was in 1989. Since then I returned a few times and I did not see any return of the open holiness,-- yet.









9.10.13

There are a few good reason to defend the Constitution of the USA. Certainly philosophers today are starting to become aware of this. Though philosophy (and in general humanities and social studies departments) in universities still are leftist havens, still a new generation of powerful philosophers is growing up aware of the bankruptcy of the Left.

However I tend to look at the Constitution of the USA more in Talmudic terms, and specifically how it affects Jews.
This makes me particularly impressed with it. Let me just give a few points here. I saw America before it became Socialist and highly racist against whites. I grew up in the USA,  Orange Country, California when it was a completely Wasp society. So I know that the Constitution of the USA is not just a theory, but a blue print for creating a working, decent, wholesome, fun society.

Also, as you can imagine, my learning of the Holy Torah and Talmud has put into me a great respect for private property and human values. In particular, I must say that the theory of Maimonides and Saadia Geon about natural law is embodied in the Constitution in a powerful way that I can't ignore. [Just take a quick look at amendments nine and ten in the Bill of Rights.]
All this goes to make me very upset when I see the Constitution trampled on daily by the USA government, and all the lunatic powerful minority groups that have already succeeded in undermining the kind of society that the USA once was. I feel that I have witnessed in my lifetime the fall of mankind's best and last hope. I dread to think what will come next. A coalition of Russia, Iran, and China? Heaven help us!

Sadly, white supremacists have noted the Jewish presence in Leftist movements that have undermined the USA. And they use this fact against us. My reaction to this is that when we are criticized for a true fault, we should not try to make excuses, but rather say right up front, "You are right"; and we should do our best to correct this fault. [I knew a woman in Israel,  who told me this. She sometimes complained about me, and when I tried to make excuses for my bad behavior, this was the advice she told me. And I think it is great advice in general.]

The major elements that are destroying the USA are the Africans, Socialists, and the Muslims. You can see this predicted in the   the story about a king who tried to destroy a country but couldn't until he put three groups into it. The first put into the country "bad language" which refers to the black destruction the Arts and Music. The next groups brought in sex addiction i.e. Muslims who like to rape white girls. The next group brought in the vice of suing people all the time --i.e. the armies of Socialist lawyers in the USA.





3.10.13

I went to Beverly Hills High School, and then to the Mirrer Yeshiva and Polytechnic Institute of NYU.


I went to Beverly Hills High School and by all accounts I had a good time. Good grades, and good teachers, and good parents and family. I had my pick of places to go after high school: Julliard school of Music, or UCLA where I was already accepted to and other places. But I had an interest also in meaning of life issues and questions that were not addressed by secular American society. So I opted for Talmud  At the Mir you leaned Talmud all day long from the morning from 8:30 A.M. until about 11:00 PM or midnight. There was a rest period in the middle of the day for the afternoon prayer and lunch.

Incidentally we were not rich. It was just that the USA government paid a lot of money to have good engineers build the space program and my Dad happened to be a good engineer. He had come to the attention of the USA military when he invented night vision and  a U-2 camera. So they recruited him again for SDI. [He created laser communication between satellites. That was needed so the Soviets could not eavesdrop.] ]




The atmosphere and feeling at the Mir Yeshiva in NY was electric. If you had to eat lunch, you couldn't wait until you got back into the Beit Midrash [Study Hall]. The Talmud study was simply the container for a kind of Divine energy that grabbed you. If you learned there 12 hours a day, you went home feeling you did not learn enough, and you hoped to do better the next day. And this learning taught you amazing things. It taught you how to be a mensch (decent human being--which an be harder than it sounds), it taught you respect for others, and for private property. It taught you to speak the truth at all costs. This was a type of energy that was intimated connected with the natural law and human decency. It did not just teach you, but it made you into a moral and  decent human being.

 During the spring or summer breaks when I would return to Southern California, I would call a nice Jewish girl [a brilliant girl] I knew from high school and tell her about what was happening in my school in NY. This excitement rubbed off on her, and she herself decided to start keeping Torah and do mitzvas and to follow me to New York, and even start pestering me to marry her. Eventually, I gave into this because of the advice of Arye Kaplan and a Rav Getz  in the Mir . In fact, she turned out to be an excellent choice. She agreed to come with me to Israel, and  the children I have with her are as sharp as tacks. [I did not pay much attention to it at the time, but her parents were German Jews. Now things make sense why my kids are smart.]

But the world surrounding the Mir was Orthodox Judaism. And Orthodox Judaism is a cult, kelipa [a shell], and it infiltrated into the Mir.

I could have joined the Eastern cults or ashrams in those days that penetrated every aspect of life  in Southern California and no one would have raised an eyebrow.

In fact, that was the most respectable thing a person could do in those heady days. But Orthodox Judaism was considered by everyone to be plainly and simply a fanatic, lunatic, fringe group that needed immediate hospitalization. And  with the wisdom that time grants, I have come to see some points about  this evaluation are correct.




15.9.13

The Spectrum of Heresy [apikorsus]

In Torah thought there is a spectrum of heresy [apikorsus] from innocent or even silly to outright damaging. I admit that I am not able to drawn exact line between heresy and apikorsus that is outside the line of kashrut. And I think this is in fact not a 2 dimensional line but rather an multi dimensional array.

My basic idea is to concentrate of what the Torah and the Talmud Bavli say. But given the wide range of interpretations that are possible, I look for rigorous thinkers like Maimonides and Saadia Gaon  and the Chovot Levavot [Duties of the Heart by Bacheye ben Pekuda] to define what is in the category of Torah and what is not.

I should mention that heresy is in fact an important theme in the Talmud. While we do not find the thirteen principles of Maimonides spelled out in that exact order and formulation, we do find all of them stated openly and it is stated in the Talmud that one that does not believe in them does comes under a general classification of "apikorus" or "min." [Heretic.]

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Many people have attempted for two centuries to bring pantheism into Torah. But according to Maimonides the Torah is not pantheistic. It is Monotheistic. There is a difference between God creating the world and a god being the world. This is entailed by the law of the excluded middle.

Others try to bring in moralrelativism. But moral relativism is surely false as can be demonstrated from two trivial axioms, namely, the law of excluded middle and the correspondence theory of truth. For if moral judgments represent claims, then we know from the law of excluded middle that they must be either true or false. That is just basic logic. And if they are true, then we know from the correspondence theory that that means they correspond to reality. And, finally, if they correspond to reality but they don't correspond to the nature of the object then they must correspond to the nature of the subject. But this last alternative is not true. we don't think if all  would think Nazism is good that that would make it good.
More so--the type of moral subjectivity is in violation of the naturalistic fallacy. You cant derive an "ought" from an "is." That fact that one or even many  say something is moral is an empirical fact. You cant derive an a priori "ought" from that fact.


21.8.13

Talmud Pesachim

Rabbi Akiva says [in pesachim 5a] that the verse "make the unleavened bread rest on the first day" has to refer to the fourteenth of Nisan because other wise it would conflict with the verse that says one can't burn anything on a festival except in the case one needs to cook .


Why cant we say like we do for doing sacrifices on Shabat that this verse says that even though you can't do normal burning on Yom Tov [the festival] but in case of burning leavened bread- chametz there is an exception.

Because then we would have to split up the verse "make to rest". If the verse would only say burn unleavened bread only for need, then everything would be fine. But that can't be what the verse means. The main intention is to burn the bread not for any need but rather to get rid of it.

20.8.13

Reb Chaim [Soloveitchik] and the the Avi-Ezri

There were four people in pre World War Two Europe that had the best understanding of the Torah.
They were Reb Chaim [Soloveitchik], Reb Naphtali Troup, Reb Baruch Ber, and Reb Shimon Shkop.
I would rather not go into the issue of why expertise in Talmud makes one an expert in Torah at this point.
That is a worthy question but it is not the question I want to address right now.
[Simply the major reason is that the Talmud is a rigorous examination of the Torah in the most logical powerful way possible. Talmud does not claim Divine inspiration. It does however try to determine what the Torah requires from people,  and how to go about keeping the commandments of the Torah. It is not a conspiracy to uproot the Torah, but rather an extreme  and rigorous evaluation of the verses of the Torah in order to best understand what God wants us to do in life. It does not claim authority for itself to interpret and verses. Its sole claim is that reason alone is qualified to understand the Torah, and who ever reasons better- wins.]

But it was specifically  Chaim Soloveitchik that concentrated on understanding  the Rambam and how his opinion flows from the Talmud. [The Chidushei HaRambam of Reb Chaim is thus the kind of Tosphot that the Rambam would have written to explain how he derived his result from the Gemara.] And after him his two students worked on continuing this effort, (Baruch Ber and Shimon Shkop). This was definitely a revolution in Torah thought. After that came Elazer Menachem Shach with the incredibility deep book, the Avi-Ezri. I learned  under Shmuel Berenbaum who in some way was a continuation of this school of thought, but applied the Brisk method to the Gemara itself. I have long wondered why no one seems to have put down his classes in writing? For I think he had some very important insights into the Gemara.
[Towards the end of his life they taped his classes. But they were deep, and also in Yiddish. I can see some of the problems involved in publishing his ideas.







Appendix:
To understand the Rambam on the surface level is what the commentaries were doing before Reb Chaim Soloveitchik. For example the Rambam might say a certain Halacha, Then the Magid Mishna or Keseph Mishna will point out that he is going like the principle Shmuel in dinim (civil law) and like Rav in isurim (prohibitions). The trouble is that in Shas, there are about ten major ways of deciding Halacha. There is: (1) the order of tenaim in Eruvim. (2) We have: "Student against his rav (teacher) , the halacha is like the rav." (3) We have: "stam Mishna." [The Law goes like an anonymous Mishna.] (4) We have "majority," etc.(5) "Rav and Shmuel the law like Rav in Isurim and like Shmuel in Dinim/monetary issues. Take any principle and apply it to any halacha you will get a completely different halacha. Plus לישנא בתרא which is how the Rambam and Rif always decide is itself subject to argument. Some Rishonim hold you always go by the first לשון. Some by which ever is more strict in Torah din and less strict in derabanan. I could go on, but you get the idea.

These are vast and hard problems and the beginning of the effort to deal with them comes from Reb Chaim Soloveitchik. This effort was mainly crystallized in his book and his two students Barch Ber and Shimon Shkop and later in the Aviezri by Rav Shach. The most readable of them is Rav Shach's book, and I think it is also the best of them all.
So the best idea is the get the basic set, Rav Shach's Avi Ezri Reb Chaim's Chidushei HaRambam, plus the basic set of the classical Musar books along with Reb Israel Salanter's disciples  and you are all set for launch.

[In a side note: I would suggest in terms of Halacha the Tur and Beit Joseph as the best halacha book out there.]
The Rambam is not infallible. No one says he is. In the Guide he says Aristotle is right about everything under the orbit of the Moon.  He did not for some reason see that what Aristotle wrote about circular motion made no sense.

Here is what Dr Steven Dutch writes about that:
The ancient Greeks weren't trying to be us. They didn't know our sort of world was possible. In many cases they were trying to answer the big questions: what is motion? What is cause and effect? It wasn't at all clear that meticulous observations of commonplace natural phenomena would lead anyplace. Add to that the pervasive disdain for manual labor that permeated the intellectual community pretty much up till the time of James Watt, and it's not hard to see why they didn't develop science as we know it. But the clearest exposition of the fatal conceptual errors the Greeks made is probably in Aristotle's On the Heavens. Quotes are from The Internet Classics Archive.
Book I

Part 1

A magnitude if divisible one way is a line, if two ways a surface, and if three a body. Beyond these there is no other magnitude, because the three dimensions are all that there are, and that which is divisible in three directions is divisible in all. ... We cannot pass beyond body to a further kind, as we passed from length to surface, and from surface to body. For if we could, it would cease to be true that body is complete magnitude.
We're not off to a very promising start. Aristotle can certainly be forgiven for assuming there are only three spatial dimensions. Even modern scientists and mathematicians have trouble thinking about higher spatial dimensions, even though we can do the mathematics perfectly well. Aristotle could have taken three dimensions as given, or he could have tried to work out the implications of more dimensions and then argued that we don't observe those phenomena.
Instead, he commits an elementary fallacy - a circular argument. There is nothing else beyond body (three dimensional solid) because if there were, then there would be something else beyond body.
Part 2

It's in Part 2 that we may find the clearest exposition of how ancient science went wrong.
"The question as to the nature of the whole, whether it is infinite in size or limited in its total mass, is a matter for subsequent inquiry."
Good move. An impossibly turgid discussion of this topic makes up much of the early part of his Physics.
"We will now speak of those parts of the whole which are specifically distinct. Let us take this as our starting-point. All natural bodies and magnitudes we hold to be, as such, capable of locomotion; for nature, we say, is their principle of movement."
I guess there's no harm in assuming everything is capable of motion, but there is also no deep conclusion to be drawn, either. By linking motion to a "principle," that is something inherently linked to matter, Aristotle has waded knee deep into a morass.
"But all movement that is in place, all locomotion, as we term it, is either straight or circular or a combination of these two, which are the only simple movements. And the reason of this is that these two, the straight and the circular line, are the only simple magnitudes."
Now he's waist deep. Yes, you can describe all motion as a compound of linear and circular motion. For that matter, vectors treat all motion as combinations of linear motion. And it makes sense to do this kind of analysis because lines and circles are easy to analyze. But that's solely a matter of mathematical convenience to us. It says nothing at all about the kinds of motion that exist.
In his Physics, Aristotle devotes much effort to distinguishing properties that are "essential" from those that are "accidental." Having weight is essential to a stone, being red is accidental. The stone could just as easily have been gray or black. Aristotle's fundamental mistake here is failing to realize that the geometric description of motion is accidental, not essential.  The shape of an object's path is wholly dictated by external forces. The motion itself has no other meaning. A stone in a sling moves in a circular path solely because the sling is the radius of a circle, and the motion itself has no other significance. In fact, all motion itself is accidental. A stone might be at rest on the ground, or in linear motion because you throw it, or in circular motion because you are slinging it.
We have now encountered the two chief fallacies that derailed Greek science, and the whole Western world, for that matter:
Motion is an inherent property of matter.
The geometry of motion has special properties.
"Now revolution about the centre is circular motion, while the upward and downward movements are in a straight line, 'upward' meaning motion away from the centre, and 'downward' motion towards it. All simple motion, then, must be motion either away from or towards or about the centre. This seems to be in exact accord with what we said above: as body found its completion in three dimensions, so its movement completes itself in three forms."
If "up" is away from the center, and "down" is toward the center, then Aristotle must have believed the earth is a sphere, right? Yet another demolition of the myth that people in ancient times thought the earth was flat.
And Aristotle comes this close to drawing the correct conclusion about motion in three dimensions. A rock has three dimensions because it has length in a vertical direction, from right to left, and from front to back. Motion has three dimensions because something can move in a vertical direction, from right to left, and from front to back. Instead, he falls back on numerological mumbo jumbo, classifying motion as circular, upward, or downward to get his mystical three. His failure to consider horizontal motions has enormous negative ramifications for science. Actually, he comes so agonizingly close. If circular motion is motion about the center, then motions parallel to the surface of the earth are actually circular, which means they must be the same as circular motions in the heavens. He could have avoided the false dichotomy between celestial and terrestrial that burdened science up to the time of Galileo, but he muffed it. Now he's chin deep in the swamp.
"Bodies are either simple or compounded of such; and by simple bodies I mean those which possess a principle of movement in their own nature, such as fire and earth with their kinds, and whatever is akin to them."
Now he's in over his head. We have come 777 words in the translation used here. It has taken Aristotle a mere 777 words to shunt science off onto a dead end that we won't extricate ourselves from for close to 2,000 years. He has assumed there is a fundamental link between matter and motion, he has assumed the geometry of motion has special properties, and now he's assuming that certain materials inherently possess motion as a property. All of it completely wrong.
"Supposing, then, that there is such a thing as simple movement, and that circular movement is an instance of it, and that both movement of a simple body is simple and simple movement is of a simple body (for if it is movement of a compound it will be in virtue of a prevailing simple element), then there must necessarily be some simple body which revolves naturally and in virtue of its own nature with a circular movement."
Rephrasing: Supposing, then, that there is such a thing as simple movement [there isn't], and that circular movement is an instance of it [it isn't], and that both movement of a simple body is simple and simple movement is of a simple body [these don't even rise to the level of being false - they're simply meaningless. What he appears to mean is that if a motion is simple - linear or circular - then the body with that motion must be simple.] (for if it is movement of a compound it will be in virtue of a prevailing simple element) [Except when the body isn't simple after all], then there must necessarily be some simple body which revolves naturally and in virtue of its own nature with a circular movement [non-sequitur].
We can see the groundwork being laid for the geocentric picture of the Universe, with the heavenly bodies having inherently circular motion. All based on a grand non sequitur. Just because a type of motion can be said to exist doesn't mean there must be a body which possesses it.
"By constraint, of course, it may be brought to move with the motion of something else different from itself, but it cannot so move naturally, since there is one sort of movement natural to each of the simple bodies."
Talk about a missed opportunity. If, say, a stone in a sling has circular motion only by constraint, maybe allcircular motion is by constraint? Maybe the planets move in circles only because they're constrained?
"Again, if the unnatural movement is the contrary of the natural and a thing can have no more than one contrary, it will follow that circular movement, being a simple motion, must be unnatural, if it is not natural, to the body moved."
Motion is unnatural unless it is natural. We can see why philosophy has been regarded as the pinnacle of human intellectual endeavor for thousands of years. And what says something can only have one contrary? Saying Milwaukee is the capital of Wisconsin is the contrary to saying Madison is the capital, but so is saying Green Bay, or Sheboygan, or Superior is the capital.
"If then (1) the body, whose movement is circular, is fire or some other element, its natural motion must be the contrary of the circular motion. But a single thing has a single contrary; and upward and downward motion are the contraries of one another. If, on the other hand, (2) the body moving with this circular motion which is unnatural to it is something different from the elements, there will be some other motion which is natural to it. But this cannot be. For if the natural motion is upward, it will be fire or air, and if downward, water or earth."
I bet Aristotle never went fishing. Everyone who's ever gone fishing has been confronted with a snarl where, the more you try, the worse it gets. The only cure is to cut the mess off and start over. Aristotle is hopelessly snarled here. He's way over his head in the morass and sunk deep into the mud on the bottom. Having already erroneously decided that he knows what kinds of motions exist, and what sorts of matter naturally possess what kinds of motion, he just keeps piling wrong conclusions one atop the other.
"Further, this circular motion is necessarily primary. For the perfect is naturally prior to the imperfect, and the circle is a perfect thing. This cannot be said of any straight line: not of an infinite line; for, if it were perfect, it would have a limit and an end: nor of any finite line; for in every case there is something beyond it, since any finite line can be extended."
Even in Aristotle's day, this was simply nonsense. A circle and an infinite straight line are the only two simple forms that are self-similar, that is, any part is like any other. We now know of self-similar fractal forms, but we can forgive the ancient Greeks for not knowing. However, an infinite straight line has the property that every portion, whatever its size, is exactly like every other portion. You can't say this about circles. Any 10-degree arc of a given circle is like any other, but it's not like a 10-degree arc of a different sized circle, nor is it like a 20-degree arc of any other circle. A millimeter of an infinite straight line is exactly like a segment a light year long. Aristotle says an infinite line can't be perfect because it has no end, and a finite line can't be perfect because it has an end.
Clearly, Aristotle has some sort of mystical attachment to circles. And another golden opportunity goes by. Because if he'd decided straight lines were the perfect form, he might possibly have groped his way to the concept of momentum and Newtonian physics.
Here we go. Road map to the Middle Ages.
"And so, since the prior movement belongs to the body which is naturally prior, and circular movement is prior to straight, and movement in a straight line belongs to simple bodies-fire moving straight upward and earthy bodies straight downward towards the centre-since this is so, it follows that circular movement also must be the movement of some simple body."

"For the movement of composite bodies is, as we said, determined by that simple body which preponderates in the composition. These premises clearly give the conclusion that there is in nature some bodily substance other than the formations we know, prior to them all and more divine than they."
Not a single premise in that paragraph is true and not a single statement follows from any other:
And so, since the prior movement belongs to the body which is naturally prior [Tautology, and meaningless]
and circular movement is prior to straight [false]
and movement in a straight line belongs to simple bodies [false]
fire moving straight upward and earthy bodies straight downward towards the centre [true observations, false implication, that there is only one center]
since this is so, it follows that circular movement also must be the movement of some simple body. [complete non-sequitur]
For the movement of composite bodies is, as we said, determined by that simple body which preponderates in the composition. [false in too many ways to list]
 These premises clearly give the conclusion that there is in nature some bodily substance other than the formations we know, prior to them all and more divine than they. [The Grand Non-sequitur]
At any rate the evidence of all other cases goes to show that it is the unnatural which quickest passes away. And so, if, as some say, the body so moved is fire, this movement is just as unnatural to it as downward movement; for any one can see that fire moves in a straight line away from the centre. On all these grounds, therefore, we may infer with confidence that there is something beyond the bodies that are about us on this earth, different and separate from them; and that the superior glory of its nature is proportionate to its distance from this world of ours.

So there we are, locked to the notion that circular motion is inherently superior and that bodies that possess it must be inherently superior as well.











15.8.13

Jewish Ethical works written during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Musar retreat.

I would like to suggest a school program for Musar [Ethics books written during the Middle Ages]. This would be a school that would learn some Talmud abut the main subject would be Musar.


The idea would be to read for one or two semesters all the thirty major works of Musar.
And I do not mean this as academic program but rather as a character improvement program.


But the major books of Musar say what they have to say with no regard to political correctness.

 Instead of LSD I recommend Gemara Rashi and Tosphot which is a much greater high. (It is not a drug high but a numinous high). Instead of random sex with fear and frustration, you get a wholesome happy marriage and good children.


The best way to go about this is in a Musar retreat. You go into the mountains with a few Musar books and spend the whole day talking with God as a friend while walking and hiking and then when you rest you learn Medieval Ethics.


It is not so much back to nature when you are in NY city . I had come from an environment in which I was always close to nature. two minutes outside my home I would be in a wildness. [Both in Newport beach was it was developing and also in Beverly Hills. --A ten minute walk away was the reservoir a tremendous lake and wildness preserve with no one around. --The only person anywhere near there was the warden or guard of the reservoir. NY was nothing like that




Concerning work on Shabat I am having a debate with my learning partner about what Tosphot means in Tractate Shabat page 94.

He is convinced that the base level of all work is it needs to be for the subject (the does) and the object (the thing he acts on) except for carrying.

My opinion is that it needs to be for the (1) object alone for all work except for (2) carrying and (3) works that are destructive in order to build. [מקלקל על מנת לתקן]
So the way I see it carrying needs to be for the subject. All other normal types of work need to be for the object. And destructive types need to be for the subject and object both.

I would not bother writing this down except for the fact that I have almost never discovered my learning partner to be wrong about anything.
So I am anxiously waiting for our next learning session.

14.8.13

The Talmud is synthetic a priori knowledge

The Talmud is synthetic a priori knowledge. It is not straightforward analytic a priori. It takes  a set of principles that are perceived by reason.--the Ten Commandments and the other set of mitzvas that are in order to support the  Ten and it derives principles based on that set.


In this way it is like mathematics.  Mathematical theorems are not derived from definitions as Kant saw, as opposed to Hume. The Talmud is the same in this respect.
But because it is a priori does not make it immune from criticism. Though in general we know that you can't derive an "ought" from an "is" and the whole Talmud is only about "ought;"--still it is not a logical fallacy to determine how well your logical deductions have been based on an "is."
It looks to me that Conservative Judaism is a much closer approximation to the Torah and Talmud than any other branch.


[I asked Kelley Ross about objective morality. I put his answer on my other blog. I was wondering about the proof of Michael Huemer. [together with this ] [and this]He still thought that Plato's proof was more simple and straightforward.] John Searle has a refutation of relativism here


Dr Kelley Ross's answer is worded in a way that might be not understood. What he means in his essay on moral relativism  is it is logically incoherent since it can not deny its opposite. That is is has no meaning but is just a play on words.



9.8.13

Two ways of learning Talmud

I was exposed to two ways of learning Talmud. One was the "calculation of the subject" approach. This I learned in Far Rockaway with R. Naphtali Yeager. The other was the Brisk approach at the Mir  in N.Y. with Reb Shmuel [Berenbaum].
 I realize that both approaches are in need of each other. For a few years I  ignored the Brisk method, and focusing all my energy on the calculation of Tosphot. While this in it self seems to me to be highly lacking in today's world, still I see the flaw now--that people when they read my ideas in Talmud will be wondering how do the insights of Reb Naphtali Troup, Reb Chaim relate to the material.
Today this seems to me to be like writing a Ph.D thesis while simultaneously ignoring all previous research into a subject.
If all this seems abstract let me rephrase what I am saying.
You should have the full set of Brisk for reference. That is Chaim Solovietchik' Chidushei HaRambam, Baruch Ber, Shimon Skopf,  Rav Eliezer Menachem Shach's Aviezri. [No one has printed Reb Shmuel Berenbaum's classes which would be a fifth addition to Brisk if they were available.] But that does not take the place of calculating the sugia [subject].
While people can be doing the Brisk approach without fully have done the "calculation of the subject," still the calculation does not take the place of Brisk. You really need both.

[This tirade mainly comes from the fact that you find people that can tell over a kind of Brisk idea-sometimes valid, and sometimes not, but is often not related to the actual logic of the sugia at hand. They might know what Reb Chaim says, but not what Tosphot says, or sometimes not even what the Gemara says. ] So now I claim that both Brisk and the more basic type of learning that I usually try to do are both necessary.
I should admit that when I was in Shar Yashu, I did not really grasp what Naphtali Yegear was doing. I saw he was plummeting the the infinite depths of the Talmud and Tosphot, but I certainly had no idea of how to do it myself. And this also goes for later at the Mir. I saw what Shmuel Berenbaum was doing with the "Brisk method." And I think I could have spent time grasping it. But at the time I was gungho (zealous) on learning the basic text of Gemara with Tosphot and the Pnei Yehoshua and Maharsha. It was I think that I wanted understand what earlier achronim [later authorities] were doing with the Gemara before getting involved in Reb Chaim. Today I admit, I very well might have been mistaken. But also you have to understand I was new at the whole thing and simply wanted to get a larger and wider picture of what is flying inside the text. --or maybe I just don't want to admit I wasn't up to the level of the Mir.--and that could be true.















2.8.13

Chaim Soloveitchik and Shabat.

I wanted to mention a point concerning Chaim Soloveitchik and Shabat.
His basic thesis is clear.
He considers piercing a boil and capturing a snake as being a work that is not intended (אינו מכווין) [and must happen and the doer does not want the result] (פסיק רישא דלא ניחא ליה). This answers the question on the Rambam that holds like Rabbi Yehuda that a work that is done not for its own sake as liable and yet permits piercing a boil. [That is put simply: Reb Chaim is saying the Rambam holds by the opinion of the Aruch ערוך.]

What I wanted to mention today is the fact that Reb Chaims brings the Talmud in Pesachim page 25. The most obvious reasons that Reb Chaim brings that Gemara [Talmud] are clear. If you are just skimming the Reb Chaim you can see he is trying to show a different place where the Rambam holds by the Aruch that a work not intended,  and is not pleasing to him but what must happen is permitted (פסיק רישא דלא ניחא ליה). You can also see how by this he is showing how the option open to the Rambam was not open to Tosphot. So in fact we do find that when Tosphot has to answer the same question on Shmuel that there is on the Rambam [because Shmuel and the Rambam hold the same concerning work on Shabat] that Tosphot is forced into a real unsatisfying answer.

But the deeper reason Reb Chaim brings that Gemara is to show an important point. That to the Rambam there is such a thing as pleasure that is not intended that must happen that becomes not pleasing when he intellectually does not want it. It is the idea of pleasure reaching him that is against his will that Reb Chaim is concentrating on. This shows that the will nullifies the pleasure. And this is why Reb Chaim mentions the fact that work on Shabat is different from other type of prohibitions. It is Melechet Machshevet (מלאכת מחשבת)-- it has to be thought. Because by this Reb Chaim is able to show that on Shabat even Rava would agree with Abyee.


When I was learning this with my learning partner, he noticed the Rambam at the beginning of laws of Shabat. That Rambam explains what the words "not intended" and "not needed for its own sake" mean. And that is the place that makes Reb Chaim's idea difficult. It seems to me that from what I remember that this was also the question of the Chazon Ish on Reb Chaim. So what I have done here is to answer the questions on Reb Chaim and by means of that to answer the questions on the Rambam.[I hope.] You have to see the edition of Reb Chaim with the comments of the Chazon Ish in the back. I think that once when I glance at it I noticed the Chazon Ish asking the same question as my learning partner on the particular Reb Chaim. I think I have gained some insight into Reb Chaim in this above essay.
[I don't have the Rambam or Reb Chaim here but it seems to me the major question that Reb Chaim was trying to answer on his thesis is that capturing a snake simply does not fit into the regular way the Rambam understands the meaning of not intended. What is not intended about putting the thing into a trap? So you have to answer my above given answer.]
______________________________________________________________________________


In any case what does Tosphot hold? Either that work not needed for its own sake and work not intended are completely independent, or that if intended it has to be for its own sake.(I.e not completely independent.) That is in the area of not intended it can for its on sake or not. I am not sure.

_________________________________________________________________________


Later on I read what  Rav Elazar Menachem Shach wrote about this Rambam and he actually answers the Rambam much better than Reb Chaim. I forget what it was but take a look yourself. Mainly I think he was saying the same thing I said originally about that Rambam--certain kinds of work have intention as part of the definition. So צידת נחש is nothing. It is not even a דבר שאינו מתכווין. And the piercing of the boil is not כדרך הרופאים so it too is nothing.

In any case  this is no surprise to me. Rav Shach definitely surpassed Reb Chaim. If yeshivas would be smart they would all run to get the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach.


It seems every Shabat someone looks at this essay thinking I will say something about electricity. If it would be fire then it would be work done not for its own sake. We see in Kritut that fire for its own sake is to make coals. And so if electricity was fire it would be liable to the Rambam who says work done not for its own sake is liable.  But it is not fire so that is that. Anyway besides the Rambam all rishonim hold מלאכה שאנה צריכה לגופה פטורה
And besides this I do not believe in looking for new חומרות--restrictions that are not in the Torah..
The path of the Torah is to keep what it says, not make up new stuff. Being anti-Israel is not just common in the religious world but even raised to the level of the most important Mitzvah. I often have trouble distinguishing between the Ultra religious people and Nazis. This is just one of many examples of the infinite distance between the religious and the Torah. I should mention that the yeshiva of Ponovitch raises the flag of Israel on the Israel  Independence Day.










1.8.13


The groups that I feel the most affinity with are people that served in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force). The people I have the least affinity with are the black coated, fanatic Hasidim and Americans that come there with an attitude.


But even the secular Israeli types I often have a hard time relating to. They are often on a spiritual "trip" and have little background in Gemara, Rashi, and Tosphot which is a prerequisite for having any opinions about Torah.


The problem as far as I see it is that the Lekutai Moharan was written in a certain context. Without that context, people can read into it whatever New Age or psycho babble they want. Religious Fanatics  insist on reading into it Pantheism.

This is all related to conversation I had yesterday with one fellow who serving in the IDF in Tzomet HaGolan and another who was in MaGav [Border Patrol.]


The MaGav fellow was mentioning an old Israeli tune about how the Jews are the best. I frankly am sick of this tune. So I mentioned that we did a lot of borrowing from gentiles. He raised a point that Hasidut was not borrowed from the gentiles. I then answered, "The pantheism of Hasidim was borrowed from the Russian Orthodox Church, and it is not the opinion of Maimonides, Saadia Geon or even the Ari (Isaac Luria)."

29.7.13

Chaim Soloveitchik and Maimonides.


I want to defend a basic thesis here. I want to take back what I had written on my other blog about the opinion of the Rambam concerning work done not for its own sake on Shabat.
The original idea was that Rav and Shmuel both say piercing a boil is allowed. Rav says it is allowed because it is the opinion of R. Shimon who holds a work done not for its own sake (מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה) is not liable. Since Shmuel says it is allowed and also holds  מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה is liable; therefore he defines  work done not for its own sake (מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה) differently. And since the Rambam decides like Shmuel it follows that he goes with Shmuel's definition.

This sounds good but it is not true. Shmuel simply defines those different types of work differently. He puts them into the category of work not intended.
For example: piercing a boil. Rav clearly holds it is a   work done not for its own sake (מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה). But we see the Rambam explains this as not actually doing work at all. [דבר שאינו מתכווין] He says the only case where there would be work is if it is done in a professional way like doctors. So the Rambam considers this permission to be a case where he is not doing the work at all.דבר שאינו מתכווין[Same with catching a snake--the only work is when it is for a need as the Mishna says openly.]

So what does come out from all this is that the reason piercing a boil is allowed is because it is a work that is not intended דבר שאינו מתכווין and even though Rabbi Yehuda would say in such a case it is liable but the Rambam and Shmuel hold by a work that is not intended דבר שאינו מתכווין that we go by Rabbi Shimon.

This same reasoning applies in Tactate Kritot in the case of stirring coals on Shabat in which case the first Tana says he is liable only once and R. Elazar Ben Tzadok holds he is liable twice. The Talmud says this argument depends on the argument between R Yehuda and R Shimon and that it is a case of work not intended. Tosphot does not see how this can make sense. If it is not pesik reisha [work must occur but his act]
Then even R. Yehuda says it is not liable. If it is pesik reisha [פסיק רישא] then even R Shimon agree it is liable.
Reb Chaim Soloveitchik says, "No." He says it is pesik resiha [פסיק רישא][work that must result automatically] that is not agreeable to him. [[ פסיק רישא דלא ניחא ליה]]In that case R Shimon says it is not liable, and R. Yehuda would say it is. And since the Rambam holds by a work not intended like Shmuel who goes like R. Shimon therefore the Rambam decides like the first Tana!!

What makes my original idea wrong is that no one sees a difference between Rav and Shmuel about the definition of a  work done not for its own sake (מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה). Also the fact is the Rambam defines it clearly and it is just trying to grasp too much to think that he thinks Rav disagrees with his definition. Like the Talmud says; "Try to grab too much you have not grabbed anything." It is simpler to say Rav and Shmuel are disagreeing about individual cases concerning the question into which category do they fit.

After all the above it does make one wonder why this type of rigorous analysis is not applied to the More Nevuchim of the Rambam?

Elsewhere I explained the actual answer of Reb Chaim--how he expands the category of  דבר שאינו מתכווין a act that is not intended.--He has to do that, because otherwise catching the snake seems a lot like a work done not for its own sake (מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה. To to this I borrowed an idea from Tosphot.





19.7.13

I said I would write about trust in God.

It is not an action or a lack of action. It is an attitude. It is a feeling that if I do what God wants me to be doing then he will take care of the rest. But it is not a lack of action. It is a feeling that affects ones actions.

 I discovered the book of Joseph Horowitz  from Navardok. He holds from this type of trust in an undiluted way. And the fact that he does not dilute it is important.

[Now I think for this to be true to its purpose one has to be actively searching for God's will.]

This is one reason I have not written about this for years.
I admit to two things. First I fell from trust.  I decided to leave Israel and go to Los Angeles and work and learn Torah on the side. What happened afterwards reminds me of a story in the Gemara of a friend of Rabbi Yochanan that did the same thing and lost his spiritual level. [The funny thing about this is that apparently working is fully in accord with the Shulchan Aruch.]


At some point I settled on the path of the Rambam/Maimonides in his combining learning Torah with Physics and Metaphysics as he calls them in the Guide for the Perplexed.

Well I was plenty perplexed, and this path of the Rambam made the most sense to me. So I went to New York and majored in Physics at New York University.
This is not a path that is commonly associated with trust in God but hey --it works for me.

 Part of the reason I did not just fall back on the general chareidi [Ultra Orthodox] path is that I think that there is good and bad in the chareidi [Ultra Orthodox] path. It is not something I could put a stamp of approval on.  Without the  "Reason" of the Rambam, it lacks a self correcting mechanism.


18.7.13

Gun Laws.The one thing I think makes America different at this point is the American people--not the government.

http://www.skepticaleye.com/2013/07/sheriff-i-will-not-allow-gun.html
There are issues which I have given up on.
I simply do not expect anyone to know the natural law basis of the Constitution of the USA. [I could quote the ninth amendment but a famous supreme court justice has already called that amendment a blot of ink. What do you suppose he will say about the second amendment?]
But beyond that I doubt if there is any area of government in the USA in which the government does not think is their legitimate turf.
I can today even image judges and lawyers who have never read the Second Treatise on government or any of the philosophers that provide the basis for the USA Constitution.
So it does not surprise me that the USA government thinks it can take away people guns. It already feels it can take away everything else. One anonymous phone call to child services they already take away your children. They already are forced you to but a product you do not want --health insurance. The can force Ministers of the Bible to marry homosexuals which Bible call an abomination. It is hard to see much difference between the USA and any average totalitarian government at this point. The one think I think makes America different at this point is the American people--not the government.


As is known there was a debate if to include the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. What people do not know is that Madison felt that the inclusion of the Bill of Rights would give the impression that these were the only rights; i.e. he was more pro natural rights than even Jefferson, not less!





17.7.13

Maimonides
His path could be reasonably called Torah and Aristotle. Maybe Torah and Reason would be better. But I should say how I stumbled onto the path of the Rambam. It is not that I thought the basic groups claiming following this path publicly were so great.
As for the groups of religious Zionists in Israel--well they come close to the ideal of the Rambam but again here I have a complaint.  And besides that they don't have anything even resembling a Talmid Chacham [Torah Scholar]. The Drashot [ideas in Torah] I have heard from them are woefully lacking the most basic understanding of what it means "to be able to learn."
Yose Faur [a self styled follower of the Rambam] is way too much of a fanatic. When he deals with Christian topics he seems to know what he is talking about but when it come to Talmud he is an Am Haaretz. He also sadly enough does not know what it means to learn.



So I admit in what is called the chareidi would there are spiritual paths that seems more attractive than that of the Rambam. I means I have know people that knew how to learn. And when you encounter that type of thing you never ever forget it.




 So what attracts me to the Rambam. It is the presence of reason in his path. To me facts and evidence are holy. Truth is the way things are. And the way things are is the one thing that the Rambam have beyond everyone.



















14.7.13

I have been planning on dealing with the issue of trust in God for a time.  But before I can I would like any one reading this blog to read a few introductory texts. Obviously the most important is the Book the Madgragat Haadam from Joseph Horowitz from Navardok.
But to get an understanding of his approach I think a little background information is also important about the Musar Movement of Reb Israel Salanter. So for background information I think one should also learn the books of his major disciples like Isaac Blazer and Simcha Zizel from Kelm.


Then there are the larger philosophical issues about this in which it is necessary to have some background in philosophy also. The Minimum requirement for that is to have some basic understanding of the three major periods of Human philosophy-ancient Greece, the Middles Ages and German Idealism.

The idea here is that anything dealing with ethical issues in Jewish framework implies a larger context of Jewish Thought.
So before you can work on fixing faulty character traits in yourself which is the main focus of Musar you need to have a wider picture of the justification for the whole process. I mean if there is no justification for ethics in the first place  then why bother with correcting your character? Just do what you want! So the issue of ethical theory does come up even in a limited subject like trust in God.

We fist need to know why are moral rules needed? For example, why do humans need rules about keeping promises, telling the truth and private property? This answer should be fairly obvious. Without such rules people would not be able to live amongst other humans. People could not make plans, could not leave their belongings behind them wherever they went. We would not know who to trust and what to expect from others. Civilized, social life would not be possible.
I in fact have found that among people that have no moral rules, it is impossible to remain.

Musar can't stand on its own. It is a first order theory. It needs a second order theory to support it.
Now normally speaking this would be simple to provide if all we needed was the Guide for the Perplexed of The Rambam and the books of Saadia Geon.

Now these are good books. But there is Kant. Without Kant we can't know the limits of what we can know in metaphysical subjects.In other words German Idealism provides a critique on the whole Musar project that needs to be answered and not ignored.











12.7.13




Now I am embarrassed to admit it, but in high school I did very little math. I was at the time getting very involved in the violin and so spent as little time on math courses as possible. So after many years of work in the violin and  in Talmud, when I stated math again I was starting at an extremely elementary level. I did not know Algebra or even how to divide fractions--zilch. But I found a small introductory book to Elementary Math in used book store and after my morning prayers by the Western Wall, I used the method of the Ari'zal [Isaac Luria] of saying the words forwards and backwards. I would read one page forwards and understand nothing. But then I would say the words on the page  backwards and somehow the idea went into my head.

So I applied to Hebrew University and got a high enough score on the Collage entry Exam [Psychometric test] to be accepted. But then I had to run to the USA  So in New York I started the collage entry idea all over again. I applied to Brooklyn College but they did not have an idea of starting a semester in the middle of a year and I had made up my mind to go  for Rosh HaShannah to Uman, Ukraine]. So I applied instead to New York University. [At the time I did not know this is an Ivy League School.]
At any rate, at that time I majored in Physics. But this involved a certain amount of math also. But in any case I was still doing the reading the words forwards and backwards and everything was going fine. I would read the words forwards and under stand zero. Then I would read the words backwards and it would miraculously enter my head.

The whole thing feel apart when I stated differential equations.{Also Chemistry.} At that point the saying the words backwards just got to be an hindrance and not a help. So  I started in math and physics just saying the words and going on.

I should perhaps admit here that this does not seem to work very well with Tosphot. when it comes to Tosphot it is very helpful to have a smart learning partner

But even with that I admit that the only way I have ever made any progress with Tosphot [of R Akiva Eiger and the Pneii Yehoshua for that matter is by sitting on the same Topshot for weeks at a time.]

But for Tosphot you really need a learning partner because he requires two different types of talent.One is analytic ability. Another is deep thinking.
Without both it is hard to see the depths of Tosphot and his rigorous logic..

I mathematics I for a time used a few methods.  I also discovered an idea  to repeat what you learn in German. I have found this helpful when it comes to higher mathematics. For some reason when I read higher Mathematics in English something just does not click. But when I read the same thing in German or Russian I find it makes sense. For one interesting example I read about tensors for sometime in English nothing made sense. Then one day I opened up the Wiki in German on tensors and right away at the beginning of the page they have this nice little diagram which makes the whole thing makes sense instantly. Like they say in Hebrew "Chaval Al Hazman"--what a waste of time do do anything else!

I don't have a lot of ideas about Physics I admit since most of my efforts on it are spent trying to catch up with missed time. But one thing I should mention while philosophers today take materialism as their staring point and assume the existence of matter, in Physics matter has been disappearing for a long time. The first person to get rid of it to some degree was Gell Man. Quarks are point particles. String theory did in materialism completely. Now all there is is space time. And space time as we know from Kant is on the level of the thing in itself of which we have no ability to conceive of. We can simply put it into the equations but we don't know what it is. [String Theory today is basically expressed the language of Homology and Homotopy. That means it is about holes in spaces and about deforming spaces. And it is not quantum physics. Quantum physics people tried for years to make it fit with gravity with no luck. And I myself worked on a GUT with a Russian Physicist which was more promising than the others. People gave up. String theory is modified Relativity. It is just taking the idea of Kaluza Klein and expanding  them.]










9.7.13







I am still on the subject of conversion to Judaism.

First of all let me just say that in spite of the fact that the Rambam says: Gentile A is bought from a gentile B. Gentile A can jump into the Mikvah and he becomes free; still it might not work for a regular gentile from the street to do the same thing to become Jewish. This idea depends on the understanding of Reb Chaim Soloveitchik in that particular Rambam.

 what we call rabbinic ordination today is a legal fiction. according to Torah law there is no such thing as ordination any more.It has to be rav from rav until Mount Sinai. This the Talmud says explicitly. And there is no disagreement with this in the Talmud or any later authorities. Rabbi like to hide this fact but it is none the less true.

So why do we accept converts today? We depend on Tosphot that we are doing the messenger-ship of the people that did have true ordination thousands of years ago. So far so good. But as for converts today it would seem if we are doing messenger-ship then it has to be done exactly like the rishonim said or it is nullified..






8.7.13

For example: a Devout Muslim accepts Islam because it is the religion he was born into and has seen and heard not particular things about it to disturb his faith. But then he learns that if Islam is true then he ought to go out and murder as many Christians and Jews as possible. This is however less plausible than the original assumption. Therefor logic would dictate that he denies the original assumption. Sadly at that point most Muslims are not thinking in terms of which premise is more plausible based on cold hard logic.

What is moral reasoning?
Almost all people do not choose their own value system but accept it from parents from school, from friends from TV and from books. They in general choose to accept certain values and not to accept other ones.The criteria are, for example :[1] Personal Interest. A person who stands to benefit from affirmative action is more likely to think it is just than a person who does not stand to benefit or even to lose a place in a university on account of it. [2] Group Identification. There are lots more.

Logical moral reasoning: most people do not know what it is.
When you say the word logic most people think you mean something along the lines of: If A is true then B is true; i.e the laws of formal logic
But that is only one part of it.The main part of logic is the issue of plausibility.
If A is true then most people will accept B if they know that, "If A then B."
But what happens if Not B is more plausible than A? The logic would dictate that you turn around and deny your original assumption.
For example: a Devout Muslim accepts Islam because it is the religion he was born into and has seen and heard not particular things about it to disturb his faith. But then he learns that if Islam is true then he ought to go out and murder as many Christians and Jews as possible. This is however less plausible than the original assumption. Therefor logic would dictate that he denies the original assumption. Sadly at that point most Muslims are not thinking in terms of which premise is more plausible based on cold hard logic.


This is just one example. I have no intent here to pick on Muslims. The same would apply to any belief system in which the conclusion is less plausible than the premise.I could go on and on almost to infinity because study of fringe literature and cults and fringe groups is a hobby of mine for many years. It has gotten to the point that a very respectable person in Bresolv on Shabat asked me to examine a book written in Israel  by someone who is supposedly walking in the footsteps of the Baal Shem Tov. Within five minutes I had already picked out three fatal flaws in his arguments.
Many religions try to present themselves as logical. And concerning original assumption they might well be.









5.7.13

great gifts


 Here is the list:
 [1] Raw beets. Don't worry about diets. Just stuff yourself with raw beets.When you get tired of that try other raw vegetables

 [2] Jogging. President Kennedy discovered this one and I have decided that there is no substitute for it. Even if spend as much time in the gym, --there is something that is irreplaceable about jogging.

 [3] Talking with God alone in a forest or in some other place alone.[


 [4] Musar. Reb Israel Salanter noticed something about several books of ethics written by Jewish ages during the Middle ages that they tend to bring Fear of God into a person. I know that there are lots of  claimants that say they have some substitute that is more effective. These claims often false. The proof is in the pudding. Would you trust a Hasid in a business deal until you have the money in your hand? Of course not. So the idea that any books of chasidut [even the best] can replace Musar is obviously false.
 Later people did claim this but that is not supported by internal evidence.
 [5] The greatest gift I have above all others is this : Don't Lie.
 The power of truth can take you through all problems and pierce tall mountains. If you hold to this one thing nothing can hurt you. People can try to hurt you,You can have setbacks. But the strength of always saying only the exact truth carries one above it all.
 [6] Maimonides. There is something about his path of combining Torah with reason as defined by Aristotle and Plato that is see as a great gift to the world.

 [7] Don't accept substitutes for these gifts. This is my particular contribution to this subject. Some people will tell you: you can get these benefits in other ways but I say don't believe them.
 For example some will say you don't need the path of Maimonides about the importance of Greek Philosophy. But what happens to many people is this: They are taught some kind of simple faith and then they discover the world does not correspond to the simple faith they were taught. So they revert to reason. But with no background in philosophy they think that reason says things that it does not say. For example some people disillusioned with Faith revert to materialism or relativism. Neither of these positions is defensible but since people think these views are scientific they tend to fall back on them.

[8] Shower once. Wash with soap. Rinse. Soap Again. The idea of doing this twice is that there is some layer of grease that does not come off until one has soaped twice

[9] Gravity. My wife discovered this amazing thing in child birth.. If you are a woman, don't lie down for child birth but remain standing as long as possible. Gravity helps immensely to make the process short and easy.

3.7.13

In terms of the feud between Reb Chaim Soloveitchik and the Kesph Mishna

In terms of the feud between Reb Chaim Soloveitchik [in the second halacha in "Laws of Forbidden Sexual Relations"] and the Kesph Mishna [R.Joseph Karo].I have to admit that I think the Beit Joseph is right.

I really wanted to write about this yesterday when it was fresh in my mind but I have other things to do beside blogging.
At any rate as fast as I can let me go over the major points.
In Yevamot (Tractate Yevamot) we find that Rav Awiya says a Jew that buys a gentile from another gentile the fellow jumps in the mikvah (body of natural water) and becomes free because the first gentile only had possession of the work of the hands. But if the gentile sold himself, [in a case let's say when he needs to pay off his debts] then he can't do this.
This is how Reb Joseph Karo understands the Rambam. The Rambam says a gentile buys a gentile from a different gentile he can do the jumping into the mikvak trick and he is free. It seems clear that from the way the Rambam puts it, that if he sold himself he can't do this trick.
Later when the Rambam says even acquiring the gentile from another gentile, the Jew  gets possession of the body simply means after the mikvah was done for the sake of slavery.

So far the Rambam looks perfectly clear. The only thing Reb Chaim has against this are several points which are easily answered.

[I really would not say anything but in spite of the  greatness of Reb Chaim opening up the whole idea of learning the Rambam in a deep way I still have found too many flaws] In the thing I wrote about before about work done not for its sake also everything the Reb Chaim said was great except that it contradicted the Rambam about the definition of a work that is not intended.


Reb Chaim is depending on an "even though" (Laws of Slavery chapter 9). Even though the Jews only buys the work of the hands, he still acquires the body. Reb Chaim is wondering what this even though is doing here. I answer: Because you might say the normal way of acquiring a slave is when he sells himself. So here we have something new.
However just to say a word on the side of Reb Chaim; he is understanding that Rav Achai disagrees with Rav Awiya about the case the Jew acquires the gentile from himself that there also the gentile can jump in the mikvah. It is not at all clear that this is what Rav Achei means.





2.7.13

I hope everyone is truly shocked. Yes there is slavery in the Torah. And the Torah does mean what it says. And the commandments are not good advice, they are laws. When the Torah says for example to honor your parents it does not mean to be nice to them. It means something much more radical. Homosexually is also the same. Slavery come to think of it might be a great idea. If there would be slavery in the USA maybe you would not have a Muslim Brotherhood president in the White House.

There is a reason to learn the Rambam with Reb Chaim Soloveitchik.

So far it looks like the score is even between the Beit Joseph and Reb Chaim.
If you look at the Rambam about slavery after you have looked at the Talmud it seems like he is saying that if  Jew buys a gentile from another gentile that if the gentile is smart he will jump into the Mikvah [any natural body of water] and shout out "Leshem Ben Chorin" [For the sake Freedom!!] before the owner has a chance to dip him in he becomes Jewish and is free. [But also he is required to keep all the mitzvot.]
The way it looks to me is that this does not refer to a case in which the gentile sold himself. [In a case where he had a lots of debts and wants to pay them off.]

The reason is that after looking at the Talmud itself this is the opinion of Rav Awyia. However so far we do not know if the Rambam decides like Rav Awyia. But is is significant that the Rambam says he buys him from a gentile. It seems implied that if the gentile sold himself that this would not work.

Reb Chaim disagrees with this.He says in any case the gentile can  jump into the mikvah and becomes free. and he has a good argument for this. And in this we will see if I can get a chance to write about it that he is disagreeing with the Beit Yoseph.


First of all both to Reb Chaim and the Beit Yosph the Rambam is deciding not like Rav Awyia but rather Rav Achai is opponent in the Talmud. and though to Rav Awyia there are two kinds of acquiring Reb Chaim holds that to Rav Achei there is only one--that is a type of acquiring that only gives the owner the right to dip the gentile in the mikvah , and until then no slavery exists.

I hope everyone is truly shocked. Yes there is slavery in the Torah. And the Torah does mean what it says. And the commandments are not good advice, they are laws. When the Torah says for example to honor your parents it does not mean to be nice to them. It means something much more radical. Homosexually is also the same. Slavery come to think of it might be a great idea. If there would be slavery in the USA maybe you would not have a Muslim Brotherhood president in the White House.


1.7.13

The fact that the charedi world has been using the Torah as a tool for making money has to stop.


 This is connected to another phenomenon in the Charedi world. It has the characteristics of the Eastern cults. Every small Charedi groups seems to have it s own Guru that they attribute Divine powers to.

I am willing to admit that every city should have a  a class in the Talmud in the local Beit Midrash. I have been an advocate of Beit Midrash Judaism for a long time. That is every city should have  a place for Jews to get together an learn Torah- but not for money.

I have been doing plenty of thinking about cults and sadly I have way too much experience with them.

But most of the time I look at them from a mystical point of view.  I try to understand if their powers are true at all and if they are they are they from the Side of Good or the Dark Side? Recently I have been looking at this question from the standpoint of Sociology. After all in spite of my distance for the profession I admit that Max Weber and the originators of the profession has good insights.




29.6.13

The day of the philosopher as isolated thinker--the talented amateur with an idiosyncratic message--is effectively gone. ” —Nicholas Rescher, "American Philosophy Today," 'Review of Metaphysics' 46 (4)


Campbell, James: " No longer could the [philosophy] professor function as a defender of the faith or an expounder of Truth. The new philosopher had to be a leader of inquires and a publicizer of results. This shift was made obvious when certified (often German-certified) philosophy Ph.D.'s replaced theology graduates and ministers in the philosophy classroom. The period between the time when almost no one had a Ph.D. to when almost everyone did was very brief. [...] The doctorate, moreover, was more than a license to teach: it was a certificate that the prospective philosophy instructor was well, if narrowly, trained and ready to undertake independent work in the now specializing and restricted field of academic philosophy. These new philosophers functioned in independent departments of philosophy [...] They were making real gains in their research, creating a body of philosophic work that remains central to our study even now. These new philosophers also set their own standards for success, publishing in the recognized organs of philosophy that were being founded at the time"

This seems to me to be the reason that philosophers with a message like Hegel are ignored and marginalized.
This is sad because it means that people with a message are never trained in philosophy an could not tell you the difference between an a priori and an a posteriori if it hit them in the face.
People with a message nowadays are in general cult leaders and charismatic idiots  the assorted Eastern cults



And it also means that professional philosophers in general have no idea of what they are talking about when they venture outside of trivial philosophical word puzzles.
Certain professions do not take well to become professions.
Some people  think that professionals know what they are talking about, and talented amateurs are just plain ignorant. It does not matter what profession it is.  What ever the professionals say is true. Period. 
I, on the other hand, am a pure bred Californian. To me anything any professional says is suspect until proven true. I would rather the talented amateur over the professional; the very word "professional" leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Using Torah as a profession is by definition against the Torah. 

But there certain professions where in fact the professionals are better than the talented amateurs. Math and Physics and the other natural sciences come to mind. 

 But in the field of Philosophy the professionals seems to be fairly good at word puzzles and that is all. When they start to talk about Physics I run the other way. The repeat clichés they think are true because they heard them from someplace.






26.6.13

In order to print my booklet on Bava Metzia--- open gmail.Download file table top. Then push on the right mouse button. You will see "help" in Russian.. Push on Help. Choose program. To "observe" To "local disk". Go to"Soft" then to  "Portable". Go to "Microsoft Office Word 2007." Then "save as" "Document Word." Then send tomy computer then to HDD disk. then to popka polzavit
Otherwise the letters all come out in Russian script.

25.6.13

The problem with women is not that they care too much. It is that they don't care at all.

I figure that a young woman who flirts with me would be considered flattening to most men of my age.
But personally I am finding it annoying. While it is true I have no wife, that still does not mean my time or attention is free.
I know young attractive women can command center stage when they want to. I am just trying to figure out in my own case how to say "No" politely.
The problem with women is not that they are too emotional. It is that they are not emotional enough. They think men are at their becking and command. The problem is not that they care too much. it is that they don't care at all.

21.6.13

The Trouble is that Islam as a group has declared war on Israel and use daily any and all means to destroy it.

Americans' news feeds are overflowing with images of domestic scandals, protests in Turkey, and war in Syria. But the real story is Iran. By year's end, we may be confronted with a choice: Accept a nuclear-armed Iran, or support a military action to delay the program.



President Obama's policy on Iran has failed. Diplomacy has fizzled. And even The New York Times' news page and Obama's former advisors agree that sanctions aren’t working. And this is why Obama’s reaction to the recent Iranian election is so troubling.


My own feeling about Iran is I admit the hard line. It is not that i am in principle against Muslims.. I have known many fine and upright Muslims. Especially in the North of Israel. But also in the areas around Jerusalem i have had know many fine Muslims. I have nothing against them as people. And even as a religion my only complain against Mohammad as a highly immoral person. But i admit there were many great philosophers in th Islamic tradition. The Trouble is that Islam a s a group has declared war on Israel and use daily any and all means to destroy it.And their war on America is undeclared but real nevertheless.They will not launch a nuclear device against the USA At first. thy will try other means of stealth. Biological weapons, chemical weapons, forest fires, random attacks by knifes. Then when the timing is right they will go in for the kill..





Also I need to put together some kind of essay for the Internet about Musar of Israel Salanter and the problem that faced the Musar movement--There is no no second order ethics (I.e. no justification for ethics).  So they could have gone to the Medieval sources themselves for the issue of second order Ethics--like the Guide for the Perplexed. But instead went to the Kabalah of the Ari'zal. The Ari'zal's system is a powerful and amazing system but it is has two problems. No argument. No justification for statement that are laid down by Fiat-decree. Also I have another problem with the Ari'zal. He is based on the Zohar. I dislike the Zohar so much that yesterday as i was walking to the local synagogue I walked by a Zohar that was in the trash on the street and i did not even pick it up. It is not that I don't like what it says. But I dislike the fact that it is a forgery.

Also ethics is a big deal. The Musar movement approach to ethics is this: no one has had anything to say about ethics besides Jewish orthodox people. Muslims barely count and Christians are of course much worse as being idolaters. So the movement automatically cuts itself off from the basis of Musar: the books that were written during the Middle Ages by Muslim and Christian scholars.

In the view of the Musar movement (and Chasidut also) there has not been any legitimate thinking about morality outside the Jewish world. It is all just convention.

It would be difficult to support this contention by attention to the history of ethics.

Perhaps this will help:  Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Epictetus, Augustine, Maimonides, Aquinas, Hobbes, Butler, Hume, Kant, Bentham, Mill, Nietzsche, Hegel, Bradley, Sidgwick, Moore, Prichard.(4)

 I do not think anyone  with them would argue that Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Epictetus, Aquinas, Butler, Kant, Bentham, Mill, Bradley, Sidgwick, Moore, or Prichard--any one of them--thought that ethics was
 convention.


On the other hand Musar is important. People need some sort of a moral guide through life. Many may think that they can get by without one but chances are that they are egoists and do have a principle which is guiding them. "If it makes me feel good, if it makes me happy, if I like it and can live with it then it is all right for me to do it." That may seem like an attractive principle by which we can make decisions until one starts to think about it. As a guide for all people that principle would lead and does lead to many conflicts.