Sunday, November 23, 2014

Religious affairs minister:Jailed Israeli Get refusers should be denied mehadrin food

bhol

הפתרון שישחרר עגונות? סגן שר הדתות מציע חוק שישלול מסרבני גט את האפשרות לקבלת אוכל 'מהדרין

 

הצהריים (א) הופיע סגן השר לשירותי דת הרב אלי בן דהן בפני ועדת השרים לענייני חקיקה וביקש מחברי הועדה לתמוך בחוק אשר שולל מסרבני גט שמרצים מאסר בבית סוהר, אפשרות לקבלת אוכל מהדרין.
 

Computers and automation make us dumb

Wall Street Journal    Artificial intelligence has arrived. Today’s computers are discerning and sharp. They can sense the environment, untangle knotty problems, make subtle judgments and learn from experience. They don’t think the way we think—they’re still as mindless as toothpicks—but they can replicate many of our most prized intellectual talents. Dazzled by our brilliant new machines, we’ve been rushing to hand them all sorts of sophisticated jobs that we used to do ourselves.

But our growing reliance on computer automation may be exacting a high price. Worrisome evidence suggests that our own intelligence is withering as we become more dependent on the artificial variety. Rather than lifting us up, smart software seems to be dumbing us down.[...]

Then, in the 1950s, a Harvard Business School professor named James Bright went into the field to study automation’s actual effects on a variety of industries, from heavy manufacturing to oil refining to bread baking. Factory conditions, he discovered, were anything but uplifting. More often than not, the new machines were leaving workers with drabber, less demanding jobs. An automated milling machine, for example, didn’t transform the metalworker into a more creative artisan; it turned him into a pusher of buttons.

Bright concluded that the overriding effect of automation was (in the jargon of labor economists) to “de-skill” workers rather than to “up-skill” them. “The lesson should be increasingly clear,” he wrote in 1966. “Highly complex equipment” did not require “skilled operators. The ‘skill’ can be built into the machine.”[...]

Late last year, a report from a Federal Aviation Administration task force on cockpit technology documented a growing link between crashes and an overreliance on automation. Pilots have become “accustomed to watching things happen, and reacting, instead of being proactive,” the panel warned. The FAA is now urging airlines to get pilots to spend more time flying by hand.[...]

The philosopher Hubert Dreyfus of the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in 2002 that human expertise develops through “experience in a variety of situations, all seen from the same perspective but requiring different tactical decisions.” In other words, our skills get sharper only through practice, when we use them regularly to overcome different sorts of difficult challenges.

The goal of modern software, by contrast, is to ease our way through such challenges. Arduous, painstaking work is exactly what programmers are most eager to automate—after all, that is where the immediate efficiency gains tend to lie. In other words, a fundamental tension ripples between the interests of the people doing the automation and the interests of the people doing the work. [...]

Harvard Medical School professor Beth Lown, in a 2012 journal article written with her student Dayron Rodriquez, warned that when doctors become “screen-driven,” following a computer’s prompts rather than “the patient’s narrative thread,” their thinking can become constricted. In the worst cases, they may miss important diagnostic signals. [...]

We do not have to resign ourselves to this situation, however. Automation needn’t remove challenges from our work and diminish our skills. Those losses stem from what ergonomists and other scholars call “technology-centered automation,” a design philosophy that has come to dominate the thinking of programmers and engineers. [....]

There is an alternative.

In “human-centered automation,” the talents of people take precedence. Systems are designed to keep the human operator in what engineers call “the decision loop”—the continuing process of action, feedback and judgment-making. That keeps workers attentive and engaged and promotes the kind of challenging practice that strengthens skills.[...]

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Settlement of abuse by popular teacher case to cost L.A. $170 million

Fox News        Once lawyers began digging into Mark Berndt's past, they discovered a three-decade pattern of odd behavior and complaints about the teacher that school administrators either missed or ignored. 

Both students and teachers had complained about the popular elementary school teacher who was eventually convicted of committing numerous lewd acts on his students.

The settlement involving 81 students is believed to be the largest ever for a school sex abuse case, according to victims' lawyers, and increases the public price of the scandal to $170 million when combined with 65 cases settled earlier for $30 million.

"There was a volcano of evidence," attorney John Manly said. "The district settled this case because there as a gun pointed at their head, a legal gun, and it was about to go off and the public was going to find out everything."

Lawyers said none of it would have come to light if it hadn't been for a gutsy pharmacy photo clerk who called police when she discovered the troubling photos and learned Berndt had been processing similar pictures there since 2005.

The 19-year-old woman had only been on the job a month and her supervisors told her not to call police. She did it anyway.

Lawyers for the children said they managed to unearth a dozen incidents involving Berndt between 1983 and 2009 and found that no action was taken to remove him from teaching.

Har Nof massacre: Rav Chaim Kaniefsky and Rav Reuben



Arutz 7

Rabbi Yitzhak Mordechai Hacohen Rubin, rabbi of the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem that was brutally attacked on Tuesday, went to visit hareidi leaders on Thursday to ask their participation in a eulogy for the four Jews murdered in the attack, in which a Druze police officer was also murdered. [...]

The hareidi leader explained that "there needs to be an atonement" for the generation so as to merit the coming of the Mashiach, an atonement he argued the victims of the terror attack partially made.

Rabbi Kraus follows in the footsteps of Rabbi Rackman in "solving" the Aguna problem

Jewish Week    The court, called the International Beit Din, was formed in June and is headed by Rabbi Simcha Krauss, a highly respected former pulpit rabbi in Queens and Religious Zionist of America leader who made aliyah in 2005. It is interpreting Jewish law in new ways — still consistent with tradition, its leaders say — to procure a get, or religious divorce, for agunot, women stuck in marriages with recalcitrant husbands.[...]

While the number of agunot is not known, the problem has gone largely unsolved, pitting traditional Jewish law against those who feel deep empathy for women stuck in loveless marriages. At the root of the issue is the husband’s absolute right when it comes to issuing a get, or Jewish divorce. And while rabbinic authorities offer sympathy for these women, they maintain they are constrained from action in many cases by the boundaries of halacha. The result, at times, has the husband using extortion before granting a divorce, insisting on large sums of money and/or refusing joint custody of children. According to Jewish law, if the agunah marries and has a child, the child is considered a mamzer, illegitimate, and cannot marry a Jew. (This is not true in the husband’s case.)

Concerns about the moral injustice of the “absolute right” principle have led to a myriad of efforts to resolve the agunah problem, or “crisis,” in recent years. In the 1990s, the late Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, a major figure in Modern Orthodoxy and president of Bar-Ilan University, convened a beit din that issued divorces on the basis of kiddushei ta’ot, a Talmudic concept for annulment. The principle reasons that the woman never would have married her husband if she had known he would act in an abusive fashion during the marriage.

While deeply respected on a personal level by his peers, Rabbi Rackman, who died in 2008,was unsuccessful in persuading them to accept his approach, which was considered too lenient. The practical result was that many rabbis refused to officiate at the subsequent weddings of women who had been freed by the rabbi’s bet din.

Rabbi Krauss is introducing the legal concept of get zikui, annulling a marriage based on what is best for both parties. The principle operates on the premise that the divorce will ultimately benefit the husband as well as the wife.

“There is no more relationship — they have gone their separate ways,” explained Rabbi Krauss in an email. “The husband doesn’t want to give the get unless he gets money. It’s not true that he doesn’t want to give a divorce, but he wants money. Deep down, he wants to be free and pursue his life.”

The International Beit Din will not use get zikui to the exclusion of other methods, explained Rabbi Yosef Blau, another of the three judges on the panel and the spiritual adviser at Yeshiva University.

“A number of tools can be used,” he said. “Each case will be evaluated on its own merit. The goal is to free women in a way that the decision will be accepted in the broader community.”[...]

Still, despite support from abroad, the new religious court has already met with resistance here. According to a source close to the court, several leading rabbis at Yeshiva University, including Rabbi Mordechai Willig and Rabbi Hershel Schachter, have already expressed reservations about the court’s methodology. The source wished to remain anonymous in order to avoid “mahchlocet,” public disagreement. [...]

Aside from methodology, the International Beit Din will also implement a new policy of transparency. According to traditional Jewish law, members of the court do not have to give any explanation for their rulings. But Rabbi Ronnie Warburg, director of the International Beit Din and the court’s third judge, explained that “transparency is an imperative.” [...]

Rav Moshe Sternbuch: Har Nof Massacre


  Rav Sternbuch 
Rav Sternbuch's shul at the time of the attack

Friday, November 21, 2014

Haf Nof Massacre: Rav Malinowitz



Practical question: Should I not present the Torah viewpoint because of threats of violence?


I just received this letter from the organizer of the Conference on Abuse where I will be speaking at the beginning of December in Jerusalem. I replied that I still plan to show up. My view on these matters is  the mainstream view of the majority of poskim - no chumros.  Any thoughts?


Rabbi Eidensohn
Shalom u’vracha.
I am writing you concerning your email of a few weeks ago as to whether we will have some form of bodyguards at the conference to protect the speakers against “hecklers”.  Unfortunately, we do not have any funds or way to provide any form of protection to the speaker.  In these difficult security times in Jerusalem, we are hoping just to stay safe from the arab terrorists who seem to be everywhere. 

I would like to alert you to the fact that we have been receiving numerous emails over the past week, from agunot and their families concerning your views and blogs about agunot and the use of the internet.  These emails have been very aggressive and threatening.  I would like to alert you to this fact so that you can reevaluate whether you are prepared both emotionally and physically to deal with what seems to be a large amount of angry participants who are specifically coming to the conference to denounce you and your views.  I am taking their anger quite seriously and relaying such to you.  I hope that you are prepared to deal with their anger and aggression.  I would like you to take all of this into consideration prior to coming to the conference.  I will certainly understand should you decide that this is not the right platform for you at this time.

Har Nof massacre: Widows ask that everyone be more loving and caring



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: "Why Evolution Matters: A Jewish Approach" (2014)

available at Amazon

Why Evolution Matters: A Jewish Approach (2014)
JOEL YEHUDAH RUTMAN  is a graduate of Brandeis and Harvard Medical School with Board certification in Pediatrics and in Neurology with Special Competence in Child Neurology . He has been involved in clinical care and teaching of pediatric neurology for many years . Since graduation from Orthodox Jewish institutions in Cleveland , Ohio , he has had a second career as a professional hazzan ( cantor).
=====================================
I recently came across this book. It is written by a prominent pediatric neurologist (Harvard Medical School). It is also quite expensive – over $75 on Amazon over $100 on eBay.
He is obviously well acquainted with biology – however I was disappointed about how he dealt with the fundamental questions of  Evolution and Religion. Anybody who disagreed with him - e.g., the Lubavitche Rebbe  he simply dismissed - meaning those who rejected Evolution or those want to keep the two compartmentalized or those who want to reject religion. Thus there is no meaningful discussion about the Scientific issues. He also didn't display a sophisticated level of understanding of the theological issues. He takes for granted that Science is correct and that Evolution is true and that what he explains with Evolution can not be explained otherwise.

His purpose is simply to show that one can reasonably believe in the Torah and Evolution. However he fails to demonstrate why his position of accepting Religion and Evolution should be accepted by someone who rejects either Science or Religion – and in fact he doesn't really try. He is basically taking Rabbi Kelman's approach of Permission to Believe and showing that it is not irrational to accept both Evolution and Religion -  without having to prove the validity of either.
I copied part of his Introduction and his conclusion
==============================
This book is organized around three questions:
 
First Question: How can Judaism insist on a Creator God when evolution informs us that everything out there just happened - with no plan, no purpose? The answer requires an overview, however sketchy, of cosmic and biologic evolution (chapters 2 to 3). This is followed by the main point of the book, which is a proposed way of understanding evolution that is compatible with an intended world (chapters 4 to 6).
Second Question: Where do Genesis and evolution agree or disagree? The answer requires us to look at the Genesis text for its religious, rather than scientific, messages (chapters 7 and 8). Chapter 9 explains the contribution of evolutionary science to Jewish concepts of suffering and death.
 
Third Question: How does human evolution relate to moral behaviour? The answers will require a brief summary of human evolution and brain development and their contribution to Judaism's ideas of free will (chapters 10, 11 and 12).
NOTES
1. Among notable works in this area are: N. Slifkin, The Challenge of Creation: Judaism's Encounter with Science, Cosmology and Evolution (http://www. zoororah.corn, Zoo Torah, 2006); G. Cantor and M. Swerlirz (eds), jewish Tradition GIld the Challenge of Darwinism (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2006); ~!'S. Cherry, 'Creation, Evolution and jewi h Thought' (Unpublished PhD dissertation, Brandeis University, 200]); A. Carmel and C. Dornb (eds), Challenge: Torah Views 011 Science and Its Problems (Jerusalem and New York: Feldheim, 1978}. The Catholic Church, relying on its Patristic tradition of biblical interpretation, hJS been increasingly supportive of Darwinian evolution. For instance, the 2009 conference on Catholic teaching and evolution at the Pontifical Gregorian Institute in Rome assumed without protest the validity of biological evolution. Conservative Protestantism has been more wary, as detailed in R.l. Numbers, The Creationists. From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006).
2. Slifkin, The Challenge of Creation, p.20.
3, Quoted in D, Hartman, Israelis and Jewish Tradition (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), p.95.
4. Tanakh. The Holy Scriptures (Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 1985).
5. Hebrew-English Edition of the Babylonian Talmud (London: Soncino, J 990).
6. Daniel Gordis, 'The Shape and Meaning of Biblical History ', Azure, 45 (Summer 5771/201 J), pp.80-1.
=========================================================
The Answers 
First Question: How can God be considered to have created the world when, according to evolution, everything just happened? The answer is that evolution did not just happen. The predictability and progress of evolution mark it as intended (Chapters 1 to 6).
Second Question: How can we believe in the truth of Genesis when it conflicts with the facts of evolution? The answer is that Genesis is a religious text, a source of purpose, meaning and values, rather than a scientific text. Evolution's facts deepen our appreciation of Judaism's truths - as in issues related to suffering and death (Chapters 7 to 9).
Third Question: How does human evolution relate to human moral behaviour? The answer is that even though we evolved, as have all other species, we are nevertheless intended and unique; even though evolution explains much of our moral behaviour, divine law remains necessary; and even though our brain function is heavily determined we retain free will (Chapters 10 to 12).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Funeral of brave Druse policeman who stopped Har Nof Massacre - attended by thousands from diverse communities

Arutz 7    The funeral for a Druze police officer killed in yesterday's terrorist attack in Jerusalem has begun in his home town of Yanuh-Jat.

Sergeant Major Zidan Seif (30) was shot in a firefight with terrorists as he heroically intervened to stop the massacre at the Kehillat Yaakov synagogue in Har Nof; he died of his wounds late Tuesday night.

 His funeral began at 2 p.m.

Thousands were in attendance, including leaders of the Druze, Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities, as well as President Reuven Rivlin, Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonvich (Yisrael Beytenu), and Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino.

"Zidan entered into the heart of hell, boldly and without fear," Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino stated. "He risked his life for the security of Israeli citizens." 

"The actions of Zidan and his colleagues saved the day," he continued. "It was a rapid and professional response, which avoided any more people from being hurt and prevented the terrorists from widening the scope of the attack as they intended."

"Israel owes a deep debt to Zidan," Danino said," a deep debt for this person and this excellent officer, a debt to remember his greatness, his career, his character, his belief in justice, bravery and courage. This is the legacy of Zidan, and as such is eternal."

"The strength of Zidan, a hero, strengthens and unites us into one family," Danino added. "We are strengthened in light of his memory and his legacy of fearlessness as a cop."

President Reuven Rivlin eulogized Zidan as well, noting that he acted out of a deep sense of human values. 

"Yesterday morning, terror struck in Jerusalem again," Rivlin stated, adding that it "does not distinguish between people, between blood and blood. [...]

Many hundreds of hareidi Jewish mourners are also present, after a campaign urging community members to attend the went viral online and on Whatsapp. Buses were charted from Jerusalem to accommodate the high number of requests.

"He protected our brothers in prayer with his own body - we have come to show him our gratitude and sanctify God's Name," said one of the organizers of the hareidi initiative. He added that buses were arranged, free of charge, from central Jerusalem, sponsored by hareidi donors seeking to honor Seif's memory.

Hareidi websites have also been publishing a psak halakha (religious ruling) by former Sephardic Chief Rabbi and Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who ruled that "A Druze soldier on duty who defended Israel against its enemy... and was killed at the hands of the Ishmaelites (Arabs), for the sake of guarding the security of Israel, it is correct to recite for him hashkava [a Jewish prayer for the dead - ed.] in the synagogue for his soul."[...]