Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A seeker of truth must be rude ( "navel")

Mishlei (30:32): If you have done foolishly in lifting up yourself, or if you have thought evil, lay your hand on your mouth.
ספר משלי (ל:לב) אִם נָבַלְתָּ בְהִתְנַשֵּׂא וְאִם זַמּוֹתָ יָד לְפֶה

While researching the issue of the necessity of being a nice person, I did a search regarding being a navel b'reshus HaTorah. This is the famous Ramban (Vayikra 19:2) which says that one needs to restrict even that which is halachically permitted -  in order not to be a disgusting person within a Torah framework. For example, he says one should not devote oneself to pleasure - even if permitted - in eating or sexual activity. Sanctity comes from restricting that which is permitted to you.

I discovered that in fact there is apparently a counter principle which praises being disrespectful (navel). If one is concerned about being pushy, rude and insensitive, it seriously interferes with being a genuine talmid chachom. In fact the Baal haMeor says that social sensitivities are a major impediment to anyone's pursuit of truth - whether Torah or secular.

A simple example is that if a person is not aggressive he will not get the answers he needs.
Avos(2:5): ...A shy person (bayshan) has trouble learning and an impatient person can not be a good teacher...
However the gemora utilizing the verse in Mishlei (30:32) states it even stronger. Success in Torah requires being a "navel" i.e., rude or disrespectful. 
Berachos(63b): Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmoni asked the meaning of Mishlei (30:32), If you have been foolish in uplifting yourself and if you have thought evil – put your hand on your mouth? That means that if you act as an unrefined person regarding Torah knowledge – then you ultimately will be successful. However  if you don’t then out of embarrassment of being ignorant you will cover your mouth with your hand.
Rashi(Mishlei 30:33): Our teachers have explained that if you make yourself rude and inconsiderate for the sake of learning Torah in discussing explanations and clarifying doubts with your teacher – then even if you appear to him as an idiot without any understanding – in the end you will be successful. However if you keep quiet and don’t ask him questions, then when they ask you questions regarding halachic matters – you will be forced to cover your mouth and be silent because you won’t know how to answer anything.

In fact this verse in Mishlei is used to explain Avos (2:5) by many Rishonim.
Semag(Positive mitzvos #12): It teaches in Avos (2:5) that a shy person can not learn nor can a rigid  person be a teacher. It says in Mishlei (30:32), If you have foolishly elevated yourself and if you have had evil thoughts put your hand over your mouth. This is explained in Berachos (63b), One who makes himself rude and disrespectful for the sake of Torah - will in the end be successful.

The Baal HaMeor expands this into a necessary approach for all seekers of truth.
בעל המאור על הרי"ף (ברכות א:א): וחכמי המחקר קראו כסא הכבוד גלגל השכל ואמרו כי בזרוח אורו והוא אור החיים על הנפש החיה הזכה אשר לקחה ממנו תזהיר כזוהר הרקיע ומצדיקי הרבים כככבים לעולם ועד על כן מלא חשק לב כל חכם לב לדרוש ולתור בחכמה להבין ולהשכיל אם להימין אם להשמאיל בין האמת ובין השקר להורות ולהבדיל. ויש אשר יגבר החשק הזה על לבו עד שיראה כחושק היוצא מדרך הצניעות והמוסר בהסירו מסוה הבשת מעל פניו לבחון האמת כענין שנאמר ואדברה בעדותיך נגד מלכים ולא אבוש ויש רמז לדבר הזה במסוה שהיה משה מסיר מעל פניו בבואו לדבר עם אדוניו לקבל זוהר ההוד וקרני הכבוד מלפני מלך הכבוד ישתבח שמו ועל הענין הזה היו מרבותינו החסידים והקדושים ז"ל כאותה שאמר רבינו הקדוש ילדות היתה בי והעזתי פני בנתן הבבלי אע"פ שהיה ידוע במדת הענוה ורב אחדבוי קמיה דרב ששת הוה מהדר ליה בבדיחותא ואמר רב פפא כל כי האי מילתא נימא איניש קמיה רביה ולא לשתוק דכתיב אם נבלת בהתנשא ואם זמות יד לפה ואמרו עוד מנין לתלמיד היושב לפני רבו ורואה זכות לעני וחובה לעשיר מניין שלא ישתוק ת"ל מדבר שקר תרחק וזה המנהג נהגו כל חכמי העולם כמו שכתב החכם המורה אבן גנא"ח בהשיבו על המורה הגדול בעל הדקדוק רבי יהודה ז"ל הזכיר דברי הפילוסוף שהשיב על רבו ואמר ריב לאמת עם אפלטון ושניהם אוהבנו אך האמת אהוב יותר ואמר עוד אני לא באתי לגרוע מעלת האיש הזה ולהשפילה אך להפליאה ולהגדילה כי כלנו משדי חכמתו הניקנו ומעושר תבונתו העניקנו ומפרי פי שכלו אנחנו לוקטים ובים דעתו אנחנו שטים והוא אשר פקח עינינו ולמדנו והועילנו וגדלנו והשכילנו בחכמה הזאת ובאשר למדנו מפיו אנחנו משיבים מדבריו על דבריו וכדברים האלה ויותר מהמה כל שיש להוסיף אני הצעיר אומר על רבינו הרב הגדול המובהק ר' יצחק ב"ר יעקב בעל ההלכות המכונה אבן אלפסי. ואינו צריך להאריך בגדולתו ובחכמתו כי היא גלויה לכל בעלי עינים. כשמש בחצי השמים. וכנפי צדקותיו. בחבור הלכותיו. פרושות על דורותיו. ועל כל דורות הבאים אחריו. כי לא נעשה חבור יפה כמוהו בתלמוד מאחרי סתימתו וע"כ חובה עלינו בכל דבר נכבד ומפואר לכבדו ולפארו ולקדשו ולטהרו ולהלבינו ולבררו כפי כחנו

The same word - נבל is used by the Rambam and the verse in Mishlei. This assertion about the desirability of being a navel is cited by many authorities - so it is clearly not a daas yachid. How to resolve the apparent contraction between these two concepts - avoiding being a navel in order to be holy and being a navel in order to be able to discover the truth?

Another clear example:
Berachos (62a): It has been taught: R. Akiba said: Once I went in after R. Joshua to a privy, and I learnt from him three things. I learnt that one does not sit east and west but north and south; I learnt that one evacuates not standing but sitting; and I learnt that it is proper to wipe with the left hand and not with the right. Said Ben Azzai to him: Did you dare to take such liberties with your master? He replied: It was a matter of Torah, and I required to learn. It has been taught: Ben ‘Azzai said: Once I went in after R. Akiba to a privy, and I learnt from him three things. I learnt that one does not evacuate east and west but north and south. I also learnt that one evacuates sitting and not standing. I also learnt it is proper to wipe with the left hand and not with the right. Said R. Judah to him: Did you dare to take such liberties with your master? — He replied: It was a matter of Torah, and I required to learn. R. Kahana once went in and hid under Rab's bed. He heard him chatting [with his wife] and joking and doing what he required. He said to him: One would think that Abba's mouth had never sipped the dish before! He said to him: Kahana, are you here? Go out, because it is rude.1 He replied: It is a matter of Torah, and I require to learn.

33 comments :

  1. Truth is a quest of the mind, how you convey that truth to others is a question of delivery. The truth cannot be delivered in a pleasant, nonabrasive way?

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    1. this is not referring to teaching - but learning. It is the attribute of the student or scholar. One needs to be unconcerned with social conventions and hurt feelings when seeking the truth. In other words you need to be rude.

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  2. The source of Berachos (62a), it appears to me to be a satire, showing how the notion of "Its a matter of Torah and I require to learn it" can be taken to logically absurd positions that will break down the barriers of decent society and conduct. I do not imagine the author saw this is behavior to be emulated.

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    1. Could not find a single commentary that agrees with you. The gemora is understood as stated - not as a satire. In fact the phrase "it is a matter of Torah" appears in many places and itis understood that despite the possible disrepect since it is Torah it has to be said.

      The Rif and the Rosh posken from this gemora as does the Aruch HaShulchan and many others. You are saying you can't accept that this is acceptable- but no one else says such a thing.

      ערוך השולחן אורח חיים הלכות קריאת שמע סימן פג

      סעיף ז
      ועוד יש ראיות ברורות שיש בתי כסאות שאין להם מחיצות כלל דאמרינן שלהי ברכות [ס"ב.] א"ר עקיבא פעם אחת נכנסתי אחר ר' יהושע לבית הכסא ולמדתי ממנו ג' דברים שאין נפנין מזרח ומערב אלא צפון ודרום וכו' ע"ש וזהו ודאי דאם היה יושב ר' יהושע בבית הכסא של מחיצות לא היה יכול לראות דזהו פשיטא שלא היה עמו בהמחיצות ועוד דאלו היה במחיצות גמורות הרי יכול לראות מקום המושב גם כשאינו שם כמו בשלנו דבהכרח לישב רק למקום אחד אלא ודאי שהיה בלא מחיצות והיה יכול לישב באיזה צד שירצה ועמד ר"ע מאחוריו וראה איך ישב וגם אין לומר שהיו במחיצות בלא פתח דא"כ גם בכה"ג מקום הישיבה ניכרת לאיזה צד ועוד דא"כ היה צריך ר"ע לעמוד נגד פניו וזה פשיטא שלא היה עושה כן אלא ודאי דעמד מאחוריו וגם על זה אמרו לו עד כאן העזת פניך ברבך והשיב דתורה היא וללמוד אני צריך ע"ש:

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    2. In order to better understand various Talmudic discussions concerning the lavatory, the student must be aware of the social norms which were prevalent at the time.

      In contrast with commonly held sensibilities regarding proper lavatory etiquette, in ancient times, things were quite different.

      The “latrine”, public toilet, was very common in major cities throughout the Roman Empire, including Israel. The Romans felt no need to provide privacy to each individual user. As a result, there were no barriers between the users, and everybody attended their bodily needs together.

      Thus, that which may appear to us as extremely uncouth behavior, was in fact the accepted social norm!

      This explains how a student was able to observe his teacher's actions in the lavatory.

      A possible modern day parallel, is the totally lack of privacy in a men’s mikvah. This is something which is totally known about and accepted in Jewish religious circles, while some eyebrows would be lifted by those only newly informed of such a fact.

      While everybody used the latrine together, it probably would be more respectful for a student to wait outside until the teacher finished attending to his needs. A parallel is found with regard to mikvah, where a student generally should not attend at the same time as his teacher, unless the students’ help is needed.

      Here are some links which I found to be helpful:

      Pictures:

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/niallcorbet/3825169425/

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ostia-Toilets.JPG

      Article:

      http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%9C%D7%98%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%A0%D7%94

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    3. "In contrast with commonly held sensibilities regarding proper lavatory etiquette, in ancient times, things were quite different. This explains how a student was able to observe his teacher's actions in the lavatory."

      It is clear from the gemora that the student observations and comments were inappropriate behavior - just as hiding under the bed of a teacher to find out his sexual activities.

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    4. DT: “It is clear from the gemora that the student observations and comments were inappropriate behavior - just as hiding under the bed of a teacher to find out his sexual activities”.

      IsraelReader:
      I agree with you that the actions of the students were viewed as being seemingly inappropriate. The only question is, exactly what was the inappropriate element here? Some think that the problem here was the basic fact that they were in the lavatory at the same time as their teacher. This may even be misinterpreted as a form of voyeurism, חס ושלום.

      However, based on the historical facts, as supported by archaeological excavations, I’m suggesting a different approach. I understand the gemara as follows.

      עד כאן העזת פניך ברבך, פירש"י, כלומר כל זה העזת פניך בפני רבך, שנסתכלת בכל אלו. עכ"ל.

      The norm was probably such, that each person came in and “attended to his business”, and also “minded his own business”, meaning that one didn’t intentionally stare and monitor the activities of any other current users.

      Therefore the critique wasn’t over the fact that he was found in the lavatory the same time as his teacher. This in itself might be excusable as socially acceptable. The critique was over the fact that he made a point of staring and monitoring his teacher’s activities. This was considered עזות, a brazen act. How can a student bring himself to stare at his רבי and observe him while he’s involved in the very physical act of excretion? Where was his expected courtesy of giving him a minimal amount of privacy? Granted that there wasn’t much privacy in the public latrine, but at least don’t stare!

      To which the reply was “It”s a matter of Torah, and I require to learn”.

      לענ"ד נראה להוסיף בזה בעומק הדברים, דהרי רבי עקיבא הוא שדריש (פסחים כב א) את ה' אלקיך תירא, את, לרבות תלמידי חכמים. פירש"י, לרבות תלמידי חכמים, שיהא מורא רבך כמורא שמים. עכ"ל. והכי תנן במס' אבות (פ"ד, מי"ב) רבי אלעזר בן שמוע אומר, יהי כבוד תלמידך חביב עליך כשלך, וכבוד חברך כמורא רבך, ומורא רבך כמורא שמים. ועל כן הקשה לו "עד כאן העזת פניך ברבך", דהאיך העיז בן עזאי פניו להתנהג הכי עם רבו ר' עקיבא, הרי חסרון במורא רבו הוי כחסרון במורא שמים ח"ו.

      ותשובתו היתה, "תורה היא וללמוד אני צריך". ויובן על פי מה שהביא בס' נפש החיים (שער א, פט"ז בהגהה) בשם הזוה"ק (פ' אחרי, עג.) שקוב''ה ואורייתא וישראל מתקשרין דא בדא. וע"ש (פ"ו) בשם הזוה"ק (יתרו, פ"ה:) כל פקודי אורייתא מתאחדן במלכא קדישא עלאה. וזו היתה כונת חכמים הללו בתשובתם, שההנהגה הנכונה בעת העסק בפעולות גשמיות הללו גם כן נכללות בכלל "תורה". ואם כן, הרי דעת לנבון נקל, שהביקוש לדעת חלק זו של התורה גם כן נכלל ב"מורא שמים", שהרי כל כונתם בזה היא אך ורק לשם שמים, להתדבק בקודשא בריך הוא על ידי לימוד תורתו הקדושה.

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  3. What are the parameters being discussed here. Granted that one has to be bold in obtaining the truth or even imparting truth. However does this give a blank licence to be rude in general or give empty angry diatribes even to the point of a chilul hashem?

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    1. good question - and that is basically what I am looking for.

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  4. It seems this principle could be applied to not being overly respectful pf rabbonim at the expense of truth seeking
    of course a talmud chochim sould be given the benefit of tje doubt in assesing the thoroughness of his position, but once a possible miistake in analysis or judgement has been uncovered, the pursuit of truth demands that the Rav ne challenged. My Rav was way smarter and more learned than I, but he never minded being challneged, and once in a while, maybe like 2% 0f the time, i would prevail in the argument. When that happened, he ALWAYS had tje integrity to admit his error. Unfortunately many people, including rabbonim, have difficulty admitting when they Re wrong

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  5. there is no contradiction between the 2 issues. navel b'reshus HaTorah, is about finding loopholes all the time, in gashmius. eg having adulterous relations with a non Jew is nto technically forbidden, nor will it result in a mamzer being conceived.

    The interpretation of Mishlei is about being skeptical. Sometimes we have to be skeptical, and sarcastically attack another's position to illustrate its falsity. There is also a counter to the threat of authority. Some people have authority and abuse it, we have to have a disrespect for that authority.

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    1. Eddie the verse in Mishlei is not about being skeptical. It is about being rude and unconcerned about the feelings of others - in short acting in a rude, boorish insulting fashion - in the pursuit of truth. This is clearly a navel b'reshus haTorah.

      Where do you see anything about being sarcastic or being disresptful of authority that someone is abusing?!

      Bottom line the Ramban says not to be a navel while Mishlei says that one must be a navel.

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    2. I will try to give an illustration. A month or so ago, we debated certain philosophical issues, where I took a minority view, and several Hachamim here took a majority view. I was not only up against perhaps people with semichah , but a list of gedolim of the past who all rejected my rationalist position. Being timid would mean i have to defer, at least in part to Gedolim, whether living or from previous generations. If i was afforded the luxury of this interpretation of being a navel, I could easily have said that those previous gedolim were great in some areas but were obviously xxxx in others.
      But it can be offensive to use such rhetoric, although it is common in secular philosophy.

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    3. Being a navel doesn't give you immunity to criticism. Being a navel is not a flattering term. It is just a reminder that a person who is concerned with finding the truth can't be concerned about popularity too.

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  6. and BTW, in the spirit of the Baal HaMeor, this article further refutes your atavistic theory on stress/trauma, which u need to throw out with the bathwater...

    http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/03/26/infants-react-to-angry-voices-even-when-asleep/53057.html

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    1. Eddie I don't know why you are obsessed with bringing up material "which refutes my theory and which I need to throw out."

      In the realm of theory - especially psychology - it is not common to find a refuation in the sense that you are claiming. One finds information which is inconsistent or which can better be explained by an alternative theory. I would suggestion you read the Ramban's formulation regarding Talmudic debates which is applicable to most areas of human thought.

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    2. Eddie I read the article - but don't see what relevance it has or why you think it refutes what I have said?!

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    3. Your theory claims that we create stress and trauma because of our use of psychology, and sensitization to self esteem.
      This research shows how stress can affect a baby, even before he has developed self identity, language skills, or psychological sophistication. And it can have long term behavioural effects. And there are plenty of other cases which do so.

      In psychology, a theory can be refuted when it is based on speculation and not evidence. Even evidence can critically challenged and experimental design can be called into question. As far as I know, your theory has not yet provided any experimental evidence.

      Finally, why am I obsessed with refuting it - because I think it is wrong, and does a disservice to many of the good things you have achieved.

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    4. Eddie - I have never claim that there are no stressful events except when psychology creates it. The fact that babies find certain stimuli unpleasant - doesn't mean that they are suffering PTSD from it nor was any evidence presented that they did. Even if there are alterations in brain structures - no evidence was presented that it resulted in PTSD. Thus I don't see the relevance of this study.

      The question of whether the experience of abuse and the resulting damage was the same 500 years ago as it is today still remains an open question. There is some evidence that there are differences between western societies and 3 world countries - so it is not without basis.

      You so far have failed to show why it is wrong and yet it clearly irritates you and you seem to think it is evil to have such thoughts e.g., "does a disservice to many of the good things".


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    5. Dt, I am sorry but I don't think you are thinking systematically on this. The changes to the babies brains are obviously changes due to stress which will alter their behaviour as they grow older. This should be obvious to someone of your intelligence. Do you think there is any causal relation between the brain events and mind/personality, or is that also scientific hotch-potch?
      PTSD is a denomination given to behavioural symptoms - whereas this study is looking at symptoms on a physiological level, and these could be highly indicative of the casual relationship between stress and behavioural symptoms.

      Why do I think it is wrong or even dangerous? It worries me that the theory is actually giving a cart blanche to more abuse. I am sure that is not your intention, but when u have stateemnts in the Talmud that a baby who is sexually abused will regenerate and become healed; that abuse of a minor is not legally abuse, hence is "patur", then your theory is just reinforcing those concepts.
      And I recall a while back you mentioned some Colombian woman who was raped as a matter of course, and thus accepted it as a fact of life. This seems to be your holy grail, where you wish to desensitize Jewish people to the level of the Colombian nochrit, so that they can just shrug off any abuse they are likely to get in the Beit Vaad of znut (which is what we are facing as we reach Geula).

      And perhaps your argumentation does, to some extent describe the sordid situation you are dealing with. You have to resort to lowering sensitivity to that of abused drug criminals and sex slaves , so that that when some pervert rebbe or Rav forces himself on boys and girls, they are not too traumatised by it.

      I also sense that you are trying to harmonise human psychology with halacha of previous generations, rather than to continue with the progress you have made in this generation. If abuse can be wished away, then perhaps there is no need to report it? That seems to be a practical implication, although I am not accusing you of following that line.

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    6. Eddie all I can say is unbelievable!

      You are saying that you don't want my theory to be given any validity because you feel it will trivialize abuse.

      Eddie what you are doing is saying is that it is important for abuse victims to suffer to make sure that abuse is viewed as a major crime.

      I am not questioning that abuse is horrible - that should be obvious to anyone who has read what I have written over the years as well as published.

      I am dealing with reality. In the present times - abuse does not always result in PTSD. The head of a group deal with sexu abuse said that about 50% survive without the need for therapy. I assume you would not want that reported either?

      What is more important to you - that the abuser commit a horrible crime that devastates the victim or that the victim has minimal suffering?

      If my theory is correct it could provide a way to reduce the suffering of the victims. Why do view that as evil? Your obsession with rabbis as sex fiends and that I am trying to protect them is beyond disgusting.

      Bottom line your reasoning is really sick and obnoxious. I would strongly suggest you find a professional to discuss this with. It really has nothing to do with a discussion on a blog.

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    7. @DT,
      firstly, it is not me or yourself that gives validity to your theory, - by all means, why don't you publish it in a peer reviewed journal and see how it is received by experts in the field.

      "Eddie what you are doing is saying is that it is important for abuse victims to suffer to make sure that abuse is viewed as a major crime."

      Not at all - if you have a therapy that helps heal them then go ahead and publish your method, or make a good parnassa from it. So far, we have only heard that you consider PTSD as a manufactured illness, but no therapeutic modality for it has been provided.

      "The head of a group deal with sexu abuse said that about 50% survive without the need for therapy. I assume you would not want that reported either?"

      Many bad things do not cause damage in the entire population of people it is affecting, you could say the same for smoking. Not everyone ho smokes gets cancer, therefore, is lung cancer an imagined thing that we have created with diagnostic science?

      "What is more important to you - that the abuser commit a horrible crime that devastates the victim or that the victim has minimal suffering?"

      This is a false dilemma, typical in once who cannot argue a stronger case. It is not an either / or choice, both outcomes are important. By trivializing the effects, perhaps the abuser will become more bold.

      "Your obsession with rabbis as sex fiends and that I am trying to protect them is beyond disgusting."

      There are 2 points to this (false) statement.

      a) My obsession with rabbis as sex fiends: well, perhaps it is an obsession we share and that you have been blogging about for several years. I came across this blog quite by accident, and it was already in the laudable business of exposing such fiends.

      b) that you are trying to protect them: Had you read my words correctly, you would see clearly that I said this is not your intention. However, it is reasonable to assume that it will be an unintended consequence.

      "Bottom line your reasoning is really sick and obnoxious."

      It seems you are deeply offended, but i said twice that I am not accusing you of promoting or protecting abusers.

      But, I recommend that you publish your theory in an academic journal, and you may get a response even more extreme than mine.

      Going back to the scientific evidence, any published evidence that I cite, you brush off with " oh how is that related to our discussion". Any time I ask for evidence from you, it is slow in coming, and then some very general data that doesn't really support your claim.

      One last thing, you can insult me all you like, but the title of this post was: A seeker of truth must be rude ( "navel")

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    8. Eddie could it be that the point that divides us is that you think that pain caused by psychological vulnerability and fragility developed by education is not real? You keep asserting that my theory is trivializing abuse. You think that means if the abuse victim commits suicide I am claiming it was from make belief pain. that PTSD doesn't really exist but the person only is imagining the trauma, the severe depression, the anxiety, the alienation the low self-esteem etc etc?!

      My point is that the pain is real as that caused by cancer or physical torture. The pain of betrayal is real. It can be measured, it is experienced it causes PTSD etc etc. It is as real as suffering from the death of a child or spouse.

      IT IS REAL. So in what sense am I trivializing it? Because I am suggesting a path that could reduce suffering or aid in more effective treatment?

      I hope eventually to develop the theory to the point where I can publish it - but your a priori rejection of the possibility of its validity because it trivializes abuse - is simple astounding for someone who views himself as rational and reality oriented. A rationalist needs to accept reality as it exists - not on the basis of social or psychological benefits.

      People likewise rejected the helio-centric model because it trivialized man and seemed to go out Biblical teachings.

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    9. There are several levels of discussion going on here, and perhaps I can address each one separately.

      On the most basic level, you have presented a hypothesis that is descriptive. This means you are challenging the etiology of trauma and in particular PTSD. From several posts of yours that I read on the matter, you seem to be suggesting that in actual fact, modern society, which is very psychology-centric, has "created" a condition that never existed before. You base this on 2 disparate sources- halachic responsa, and paleo-psychology, ie what preceded modern psychology.
      This theory has not been tested scientifically, nor is there any empirical evidence to support it, and I am criticizing the hypothesis. I think there must be typo in your first paragraph, perhaps you mean that I think that RDE's position is that pain is not real?
      Well, you have suggested that this particular trauma/ptsd did not exist 1000 years ago. And thus, you allude that we have manufactured it, and can therefore reverse it, if we do ...... which you have not yet elucidated.


      So far, there is only a hypothesis. I countered this scientific evidence of how stress can cause detrimental changes in a baby's brain structure. now there is also abundant evidence of how positive stimuli, eg a pregnant mother listening to classical music, can help develop a baby's intelligence and emotional health. Smae goes for nutrition.

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    10. Next, is the direction of therapy. Here the theory becomes prescriptive, i.e. it predicts that certain routes of therapy can reverse and/or cure the trauma. Now this is based on the descriptive theory that we already discussed.
      At present we have seen no evidence or discussion of what that therapy might be. And even if there is a therapy, it does not necessarily prove the theory. Perhaps PTSd always existed, perhaps abuse was always traumatic, and perhaps therapy X would work 100 years ago as well as today. So the next step in theory building is attributing your evidence to your theory , as opposed to the theories that might also explain it.

      Now, there has been anecdotal evidence, such as the Colombian maid that you mentioned. But that case does nto prove the theory. If we take 2 extremes, lehavdil, on hand a frum girl who has kept tznius, and is abused by a relative or a a teacher, and lehavdil, a zonah on the streets of an inner city, who is abused by her pimp. The lifestyles of the two cases are incomparable. If your case of the colombian is forming part of your argument, then it is not a very convincing argument. To achieve the level of the zonah, the frum person would need to be desensitized to a level which is totally unacceptable. Not to mention that many people who end up in that line of business were themselves abused when they were young.

      the question of trivialisation - I understand your question, and it is an important one.

      If we go back to the basic assumptions, it would be reasonable to say that medieval halacha does trivialise the pain. After all, this is what you are suggesting, and this is what the discussion with R' Treibitz is about. It seems to me that somehow you wish to get the genie back into the bottle. i.e. to recreate the social and psychological reality of those days. There is no evidence of what actually went on in those days, and whether sexual abuse was rife,and what effect it had on the victims. An absence of teshuvos on the matter does not mean it didn't occur.

      On the other hand, if there is a therapy which can produce results far faster and more effective than what is currently on the market, then you can present this as evidence for your case. And I have to be open to that evidence if and when you produce it.

      Until we have such evidence, there is a problem with the theory, and I will point that out int he next post...

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    11. Eddie you keep missing my point. You keep saying that my view is that "trauma/ptsd did not exist 1000 years ago ...and thus we have manufactured it..." Consequently you assert that I am saying we can discount its significance. That is not what I am saying!

      I am saying that the psychological makeup which is vulnerable to PTSD from rape, betrayal, failure etc is part of modern society. If I said the fragility of the psychological makeup is the result of the social protection against failure provided by government programs. Or that we are not as tough today because we generally don't experience war, starvation, arbitrary tyrants etc - i.e., Rabbi Berger's theory - would you find it more acceptable?

      Put it another way - if all trauma could be eliminated by a five minute session of EMDR or by taking asperin daily - would you have the same objections. If trauma could be innocuated against by reading Mesilas Yeshorim over a baby when 8 days old - would you be against it?

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    12. There is often a gap between a theory and the evidence it is in search of. Many theories just remain theory, without ever getting tot he evidence. Einstein's grand theory of unification is still in need of evidence, which is yet to be found.

      So until the time that you ave strong evidence to support the theory, I am not sure it is a good thing to discuss it in non-professional circles, eg if it is spread in the religious community or discussed in religious newspapers.
      Here is the unintended consequence which is what I am alarmed about.
      We have to accept the possibility that the theory could be wrong. A difficult thing for those of us who devise new theories, but it is a fact of academic life. If you have a theory floating around, that is not even correct, and potential abusers get ear of it, what will they think? they will say "oh, I heard a frum Rav says that it is not such a problem and that it can be cured quite quickly, so the child will just grow out of it". This would be bad enough even if the theory does work, but if it doesn't, then it can be a very dangerous idea to spread around.
      Perhaps a counter-argument, is that the abuser will not act rationally, and will do it regardless. I don't have sufficient insight into the abuser's mind. I do recall a comment made by your brother, who said one mikveh has been called "homo-central". This kind of behaviour has o be explained by the environment of the society surrounding it, and thus it should be preventable. I can't remember who said it, but someone on this forum, perhaps R' Dovid, quoted someone as saying that he wouldn't go to a mikve because they are such disgusting places!

      So yes, we are in substantial disagreement, but I am not questioning your motives (but I am questioning the theoretical basis for the theory).

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    13. Each of these theories are just theories, and I am not opposed to them as a knee jerk reaction, but each has to be looked at on its own merits.
      Regarding exposure to war, if we look at Syria which is at war, and the refugees, they are deeply traumatised. If we look at Iran, and the victims of torture there, they are also deeply trauamtised. This is despite their lack of access to western culture.
      And these theories, they are all without evidence. If there is evidence to support them, then I am interested to learn more.

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  7. This seems like a more sophisticated version of the maxim "there are no stupid questions."

    But Isn't there a difference between being so hot on the trail of an answer for your question – being so passionate for the truth that your manners, or eating your next meal, or tucking your shirt, or other social niceties become an impediment – and being cruel to someone who's not your intellectual equal (or superior) especially when it's NOT in the context of learning something, or, worse, when the learning is the pretext for the rudeness?

    So maybe "no stupid questions" needs to be combined with "pick on someone your own size." Or at any rate, if someone is in the arena of shakla v'tarya, one can assume "informed consent" to be knocked around intellectually.

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  8. I have a hard time understanding the gemara's interpretation of that verse in Mishlei. Where is it (what Rav Shmuel Bar Nachmani says) in the words themselves?

    Isn't "Lay your hand on your mouth" a directive to be quiet? Please clear up the confusion of this verse and how it is being interpreted. Thank you.

    Aside from that, all the "being rude and disrespectful" discussed in these various sources seem to be related to deriving answers in questions of Torah (either in yeshiva or amongst colleagues). ie challenging a rabbi's or colleague's position in a rude manner of questioning - to arrive at truth. (or in disregarding social norms in order to find out your rabbi's position about a private matter). This appears to have nothing to do with one's manner among people of the world who are not Torah scholars, which probably is in high likelihood what Ramban refers to, ie general behavior and daily interactions.

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  9. What this issue brings to mind is the story of Rav Preida in Eiruvin 54b. His student needed to be taught 400 times, and once when he was distracted, it took 800 times.
    So Rav Preida was a tzaddik. But what about his student? Perhaps you could say that this is the type of naval we need to be. Even though Rav Preida's personal learning was severely reduced by the demands of this student, the STUDENT insisted on being taught!

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    1. Don't see any indication that the student was demanding. The lesson from this gemora regards the teacher not the student. Since most do not have a teacher like Rav Pereda - if they aren't aggressive they won't get answers.

      Eiruvin (54b): R. Pereda had a pupil whom he taught his lesson four hundred times before the latter could master it. On a certain day having been requested to attend to a religious matter he taught him as usual but the pupil could not master the subject. ‘What’, the Master asked: ‘is the matter50 to-day?’ — ‘From the moment’, the other replied. ‘the Master was told that there was a religious matter to be attended to I could not concentrate my thoughts,51 for at every moment I imagined, now the Master will get up or now the Master will get up’. ‘Give me your attention’, the Master said, ‘and I will teach you again’, and so he taught him another four hundred times. A bath kol issued forth asking him,52 ‘Do you prefer that four hundred years shall be added to your life or that you and your generation shall be privileged to have a share in the world to come?’ — ‘That’, he replied. ‘I and my generation shall be privileged to have a share in the world to come’. ‘Give him both’, said the Holy One, blessed be He.

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  10. The Gemara does not state that he student was demanding, because the point of the story was to talk about R. Pereda.
    However, if you think about it, the student was willingly taking up a tremendous amount of R. Pereda's valuable time. He knowingly continued taking up this time. The demand was by his mere presence as a talmid in front of R. Pereda. This was his aggressiveness.
    BTW - I noticed another example in Avoda Zara 46b, regarding Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Eliezer. R. Eliezer had forgotten something that he had taught. At first R. Akiva tried to prove the issue so as not to embarrass R. Eliezer. However, R. Eliezer got angry with R. Akiva and cursed him. At that point, R. Akiva pointed out that it was R. Eliezer himself who taught him that Halocho. (See Rashi ד"ה ואייקר ליה תלמודא וד"ה והיינו דקאמר ליה אל תכפירני בשעת הדין.) Perhaps that which R. Akiva revealed to R. Eliezer that R. Eliezer had forgotten the din and was thereby embarrassed could fit into the classification of being a 'naval'.

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