Friday, December 31, 2010

Blizzard of '10 Brooklyn

Weak-Kneed Willpower Faces Temptation’s Lure


If you want a little insurance to help keep those New Year's resolutions, you might consider turning to Started by two Yale professors and a graduate student in 2008, the Web site provides a binding contract to help you meet a particular goal, whether it is shedding pounds, quitting smoking or finishing Proust. Fail to live up to your end of the deal, and you have to pay a person or charity that you have designated in advance. You can even increase the incentive by choosing an anti-charity, a cause that you would normally oppose. Gun-control advocates, for example, could decide to forfeit their money to the National Rifle Association if they falter, while anti-abortion advocates might choose NARAL Pro-Choice America. [...]

Rabbi arrested on rape charges


A rabbi who runs a number of schools in northern Israel has been arrested on suspicion he sexually assaulted three minors, the court cleared for publication Friday.

Ynet has learned that the rabbi is suspected of raping a 14-year old girl and performing indecent acts on a boy of the same age, as well as sexually assaulting another girl, also 14.

He has denied the allegations, claiming they are the product of a conspiracy against him by the schools he heads.[...]


Rabbi Shafran’s Hechsher On Obama - latest response & counterresponse


By Yoel Lorberbaum

In the latest issue of Ami Magazine, noted author Rabbi Avi Shafran wrote a piece ("Our Not-So-Humble Opinions") that is, in this author's opinion, mind-bogglingly deceptive in scope, breadth, and audacity in its portrayal of President Obama's record on Israel. It is rather shocking because generally Rabbi Shafran is a perceptive and on-the-mark columnist. The structure of this editorial, with due respect, seems to have been penned in the style of classic propaganda literature.

It is hoped that both the reader and Rabbi Shafran will forgive the sharp tone employed here, but it seems a necessity in light of the content of the op-ed—forewarned is forearmed. Generally, there are four components to have in mind when attempting this type of writing: [...]


Rabbi Shafran's Reply in Five Towns Jewish Times

What We Think We Know But Don't

Last week's Five Towns Jewish Times featured an opinion piece that judged a recent essay of mine in Ami Magazine "mind-bogglingly deceptive" and that characterized me as assuming readers are "half-witted" and accused me of inflicting on them "slick propaganda" on behalf of President Obama and of "abandon[ing] Israel." The writer, going by the name of Yoel Lorberbaum, apologizes for his "sharp tone" which he laments is "a necessity in light of the content" of my article.

His apology is accepted—at least with regard to his tone. He didn't offer an apology for misleading readers, though, and so forgiveness on that front will have to remain in reserve for now.

What seemed to particularly exercise the writer was my "manipulation" of readers with a presentation of laudable moves by a president regarding Israel and religious rights before identifying the mover as our current commander-in-chief. That, Mr. Lorberbaum contends, is "the technique" of "tricking the reader," a "ruse" that enticed people to actually read further. I thought it was creative and effective writing. Propaganda, I suppose, is in the eye—no matter how jaundiced—of the beholder. [...]
Five Towns Jewish Times

Rabbi Shafran's Hechsher on Obama

Written by Yoel Lorberbaum   

Before we get to an analysis of the "facts" as presented by Rabbi Avi Shafran concerning both the Obama administration's behind-the-scenes jousting regarding Israel and its general record on Israel, a short introduction may be in order.

Rabbi Shafran speaks of wisdom—of knowing what one does not know. When exploring wisdom, however, it behooves us to begin with what we do know. And what we do know is that in regard to Israel, the conversation is slowly but surely changing.

Those of us old enough to remember, recall a time when murderers of innocent children and civilians were not welcome in polite circles. No longer. Now they are welcomed with open arms. [...]

Rabbi Shafran's interpretation of Pres. Obama - Strikeout

Our Not-So-Humble Opinions By Rabbi Shafran

Miss the good old days?

When, that is, we had a President who refused to allow the US to participate in the UN’s Durban Review Conference because he believed Israel would be unfairly criticized.

A President who rejected the Goldstone report, and refused to participate in joint military exercises with Turkey when Ankara insisted Israel be excluded.

A President who asked Congress to approve a $205 million package to help Israel build a new anti-missile defense system. [...]

Homerun or Strikeout: A Reply to Rabbi Shafran

Critique by Jonathan Rosenblum

Every columnist aspires to write — at least occasionally — something of such originality that he will be quickly distinguished from the common herd of scriveners. In that respect, “Our Not-So-Humble Opinions” by my erstwhile colleague and long-time friend Rabbi Avi Shafran, in which he attempts to defend the Middle East policies of the Obama administration, is a homerun.

The danger, however, of swinging for the fences is that one is more likely to strikeout. Sometimes the source of one’s originality lies in having said something so strikingly wrong that no one ever thought of it before. That, I will argue, is the case with Rabbi Shafran’s piece. Not that I expect to convince Avi, since I’m reasonably confident that he has read dozens of previous pieces of mine on this topic, without falling sway to the power of my arguments.

Indeed I suspect that I fall into the category of “intelligent and otherwise well-informed frum folks,” whom he considers somewhat deranged on the subject of the Obama administration’s policy to Israel. In that regard, I can only respond that at least I am in sync with the overwhelming majority of my fellow Israeli Jews, about 10% of whom view President Obama’s foreign policy as “pro-Israel” today, despite the great enthusiasm that greeted his election in Israel. My fellow Israelis and I could, admittedly, be wrong in our judgment, but I doubt it is because we are so much less well-informed than Rabbi Shafran. Since it is our lives on the line, we do try to keep reasonably up-to-date on shifts in American foreign policy. [...]

Former President of Israel Is Convicted of Rape


JERUSALEM — An Israeli court convicted the country’s former president, Moshe Katsav, of two counts of forcible rape on Thursday, a verdict that many Israelis described as a low point in the nation’s history, but also redemptive, in that it upheld the value of equality before the law.

“There are no two states of Israel, just one state,” said Shimon Peres, Mr. Katsav’s successor as president. “There are no two kinds of citizens here; citizens of only one kind exist in Israel — and all are equal in the eyes of the law.”

The verdict capped an unusual four-year spectacle that began with accusations of sexual offenses against Mr. Katsav while he was still the head of state. [...]

China: Selling the Talmud as a Business Guide


Jewish visitors to China often receive a snap greeting when they reveal their religion: “Very smart, very clever, and very good at business,” the Chinese person says. Last year’s Google Zeitgeist China rankings listed “why are Jews excellent?” in fourth place in the “why” questions category, just behind “why should I enter the party” and above “why should I get married?” (Google didn’t publish a "why" category in Mandarin this year.) And the apparent affection for Jewishness has led to a surprising trend in publishing over the last few years: books purporting to reveal the business secrets of the Talmud that capitalize on the widespread impression among Chinese that attributes of Judaism lead to success in the financial arts.

Titles such as Crack the Talmud: 101 Jewish Business Rules, The Illustrated Jewish Wisdom Book, and Know All of the Money-Making Stories of the Talmud share the shelves with stories of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. There’s even a Talmud hotel in Taiwan inspired by “the Talmud’s concept of success” that features a copy of the book Talmud Business Success Bible in every room. With the increasing interest in business education in China, and a rise in sales of self-help literature, the production of business guides to the Talmud has exploded. The guides are like the Chinese equivalents of books such as Sun Tzu and the Art of Business. [...]

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gra: Scientific reality sometimes is used to decide between halachic views

I previously posted the view of the Klausenberger that we today don't go back to the underlying facts to decide a dispute between Rishonim or to dispute an assertion made by a rishon. In the following quote from the Gra - that is exactly what he is doing. In dealing with the dispute between the Geonim and Tosfos he resolves the issue by saying that Tosfos' position does not fit into observable reality.

Gra (O.C. 261:2): … All of this is according to the view of Tosfos. However it is not so, because that would mean that the time from alos hashachar until netz would be equal to the time from shkiah until tzais hakokovim. In truth it is not  - as we wrote before. Sensory perception rejects this assertion - for all those who see  - because in fact the time from alos hashachar is a much greater time than tzais after shkiah. …

Emunas Chachomim - debate between Breslaver & Litvaks 1822

This was taken from Prof Dovid Assaf's article regarding the issue of
the status of the Ohr HaChaim amongst the Chassidim

Rav Sternbuch: A Recipe for Salvation

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Daas Torah: Ramchal - knowledge obtained through ruach hakodesh is infallible

I was asked to show sources which make the claim that gedolim are infallible or at least make infallible pronouncements. There are in fact many.  Some of which I have published - such as Rav Eybshuetz's statement that the Shulchan Aruch was written with ruach hakodesh. There are two steps 1) gedolim have ruach hakodesh - from prophecy or intellect 2) knowlege obtained through ruach hakodesh is without error - is stated clearly by the Ramchal below.

Of course - this means that theoretically that gedolim can make mistakes - however it also clearly means that at least some of their statements are infallible. It is because of this claim that gedolim have ruach hakodesh - that is is considered presumption for a non-gadol to question the statements or deeds of a gadol.  It is obvious that while this is a wide spread contemporay belief - it is hand has not been universal. For example the Ravad asserted that he was correct in a halachic dispute because he had ruach hakodesh. This did not stop the Ramban and others from disagreeing with him. In fact the Chasam Sofer says that the basis of all knowledge is ruach hakodesh and that is why we make a beracha on a wise non-Jewish intellectual.

Ramchal (Mamar HaIkkarim): Below the level of prophecy there is a level known as ruach hakodesh. It  is a state in which G﷓d provides an emanation to a man’s intellect which fixes knowledge in his  mind without error and with which he is absolutely certainty.  As a consequence he knows this information totally with its causes and effects on every level. Through the inspiration of this ruach hakodesh it is possible to understand matters which are also known by ordinary human intelligence. However there is a distinct advantage of learning these matters through ruach hakodesh instead of natural intelligence. Learning through ruach hakodesh is effortless, without error and without doubts – something which is not characteristic of knowledge acquired by natural human intellect. Furthermore it is possible to obtain knowledge through ruach hakodesh that transcends the capabilities of normal human intellect e.g., hidden secrets as  well as  what will happen in the future. Another characteristic of ruach hakodesh is that the recipient is aware without any doubt that he is receiving the emanation. However, there are times when a person has a spontaneous inspiration in which he grasp fully some concept without his being aware of an emanation. This is sometimes inaccurately also called ruach hakodesh.

A Pinpoint Beam Strays Invisibly, Harming Instead of Healing


The initial accident report offered few details, except to say that an unidentified hospital had administered radiation overdoses to three patients during identical medical procedures.

It was not until many months later that the full import of what had happened in the hospital last year began to surface in urgent nationwide warnings, which advised doctors to be extra vigilant when using a particular device that delivers high-intensity, pinpoint radiation to vulnerable parts of the body.

Marci Faber was one of the three patients. She had gone to Evanston Hospital in Illinois seeking treatment for pain emanating from a nerve deep inside her head. Today, she is in a nursing home, nearly comatose, unable to speak, eat or walk, leaving her husband to care for their three young daughters. [...]

Gedolim are not infallible - and this should be obvious but unfortunately is not

This is a continuation of the issue that was raised by my translation of the Divrei Chaim (Y.D. #105) in which  the Divrei Chaim asserts that gedolim were possibly mislead by someone he regards as a heretic. An objection was raised to my translation because of the concern for asserting that gedolim  might  have been deceived. Ben Torah said the Divrei Chaim means that the heretic misrepresented the gedolim and falsely claimed support from them. However the Divrei Chaim says he was a deceiver - not a liar and he didn't know what was presented to the gedolim.

Regarding the possibility of deceiving gedolim and the fact that they are not infallible - this should be obvious. In fact this was stated by the spokesman for the Aguda - Rabbi Shafran available on Wikipedia and other places

Rabbi Avi Shafran, the spokesman for the American Hareidi organization Agudath Israel of America, explains the concept as follows:

Da'at Torah is not some Jewish equivalent to the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility. Not only can rabbis make mistakes of judgment, there is an entire tractate of the Talmud, Horiut, predicated on the assumption that they can, that even the Sanhedrin is capable of erring, even in halachic matters.

What Da'at Torah means, simply put, is that those most imbued with Torah-knowledge and who have internalized a large degree of the perfection of values and refinement of character that the Torah idealizes are thereby rendered particularly, indeed extraordinarily, qualified to offer an authentic Jewish perspective on matters of import to Jews - just as expert doctors are those most qualified (though still fallible, to be sure) to offer medical advice.[1]

Rabbi Bechhofer has written a fascinating article regarding the deception of gedolim concerning a forgery of the Yerushalmi.

available here
The Talmud Yerushalmi on Kodashim

Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer, Editor Or Shmuel, Rosh Kollel, Frumi Noble Night Kollel of Hebrew Theological College.

It seems clear from the Rishonim that they had access to the Talmud Yerushalmi on Seder Kodashim, In the introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah, the Rambam states explicitly that on the first five sedarim, both the Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi are extant. During the course of time, however, the Yerushalmi on the entire seder of Kodashim was lost, and for several hundred years no manuscript on this seder was known to exist. (See the introduction of Rabbi Mordechai Zev Segal of Lvov to the Zhitomer [1866] edition of the Talmud Yerushalmi.)

In the year 1907, however, a mysterious person suddenly appeared in Hungary, calling himself Rabbi Shlomo Yehuda Algazi-Friedlander. Rabbi Algazi-Friedlander j published what he claimed to be the Yerushalmi on tractates Chullin and Bechoros, thus instigating a battle royal amongst the Gedolei Hador. A personal account of this chapter in the history of the Talmud was written by Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Greenwald of Columbus, Ohio, and printed in the Sefer Hayovel of HaPardes (1953), Here is a synopsis of the story,

Prohibition of leaving Babylonia for Israel during the Exile

Kesubos (111a):
Rab Judah stated in the name of Samuel: As it is forbidden to leave the Land of Israel for Babylon so it is forbidden to leave Babylon34 for other countries. Both Rabbah and R. Joseph said: Even from Pumbeditha35 to Be Kubi.36  A man once moved from Pumbeditha to [settle in] Be Kubi and R. Joseph placed him under the ban.  A man once left Pumbeditha to [take up his abode at] Astunia,37 and he died.38 Said Abaye: ‘If this young scholar wanted it, he could still have been alive’.

Rambam(Melachim 5:12):... the prohibition is even to leave Babylonia for Israel

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Daas Torah: Divrei Chaim claimed heretic mislead gedolim to write that they agreed with him

One of the important and relevant problems when dealing with Daas Torah - is the reality of the possibility of Gedolim being misled by information fed to them. In an important tshuva in which the Divrei Chaim insists that ruach hakodesh of wisdom which enables gedolim in each generation to know the truth - he makes the ironic statement when his opponent asserts that in fact there are gedolim who have  written him that there is no longer any ruach hakodesh -  that these gedolim were deceived by this heretic

Divrei Chaim (Y.D. #105)
... Thus we see that ruach hakodesh and the agreement with G﷓d never stopped from the sages who were deserving of this ability. This is also clear from the statement of Rav Pinchas ben Yair (Avoda Zara 20b). And this that is says in Sotah (48b) that after the days of the Prophets that ruach hakodesh was taken away – that means the ruach hakodesh of prophesy but not the ruach hakodesh of intellect and the ability to have one’s intellect be in agreement with the halacha that was given to Moshe at Sinai or Rav Avesar - that never stopped. Only a heretic denies this. And this that he claims that contemporary gedolim have written that ruach hakodesh has totally stopped – I don’t believe that such a statement would be issued by our gedolim. Who knows what this disgusting deceiver wrote them. The truth is that even in our days there is to sages of the truth - who are not influenced in the slightest by the material – ruach hakodesh as is explained in Moreh Nevuchim (2:36) and the Ramban explicitly.

Difference Is the Norm on These Dating Sites


Sherry Nevius, single and 52, is looking for a mate with all the important adjectives — caring, sincere, intelligent, funny. Oh, and one more thing: disabled.

Born with cerebral palsy, Ms. Nevius uses a wheelchair. She is independent and mobile, but would prefer to meet a man who could roll alongside her.

“That way we’re on equal ground,” she said.

Ms. Nevius has dated several perfectly nice able-bodied men, but none seemed willing to start a serious relationship.

“I think they were a little bit scared because they didn’t know how to treat me,” she said. She lives in Normal, Ill., a town with few single men around her age, let alone familiar and comfortable with disability. [...]

פילוסופיה והעיר הקדושה


אברהם הוא אברך שמתגורר בירושלים. הוא נראה בדיוק כמו עוד אחד מאלפי החרדים שחיים בבירה - כולל הכובע והחליפה. שום דבר לא מסגיר את העובדה שהוא בעצם משהו אחר. בין לימוד בבבא קמא לסוגיה בסנהדרין, הוא לומד בסתר עם החברותא גם את אריסטו, קנט ושיפנוזה. חומרים שמוגדרים בעגה הישיבתית כ"מינוּת", כפירה.

אפיקורסים שמאמינים

מתוך כ-30 אברכים בכולל של אברהם, שבעה מתוכם הם, כפי שהוא שמגדיר, "בעניין". אברהם, כמו כל חרדי בעל דעות "לא קונבנציונליות", זהיר מאוד. אך במגרש הביתי, מול קהל מאזינים סקרן וצמא, מתגלגלים הטיעונים לוויכוחים לוהטים, ודעות מהפכניות ביחס לחשיבה החרדית יתכתשו אלה באלה, הרחק מעין הממסד השמרני.

 "הפילוסופיה מאז ומעולם הייתה בתוך עולם הישיבות", הוא אומר, ומבהיר שחיים נחמן ביאליק, והחבורה מוולוז'ין לא המציאו את קיומו של "הספר הנוסף" המוסתר תחת ספרי הגמרא. לדבריו, בישיבות כמו פונוביז' וחברון, השכבה האינטלקטואלית התעניינה בפילוסופיה מאז ומתמיד, בסתר כמובן.

Placebos Work Even if You Know They're Fake: But How?

Time Magazine

Physicians have long believed that some form of deception is essential to the placebo effect:  after all, if you tell people that you're giving them a fake drug, why would they respond by getting better? But new research suggests that it may one day be possible to use placebos in everyday medicine without misleading patients into thinking they might get active treatment.The study, which was published in the journal PloS One, included 80 patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that causes abdominal pain, bloating and frequent bouts of either constipation, diarrhea or cycling between the two. There is no specific treatment other than managing symptoms, which can range from mild to severe.

Participants — who were mainly on the severe end of the spectrum — were randomized to receive either a placebo or no treatment. Those given the placebo were told that they would be taking “placebo pills made of an inert substance, like sugar pills, that have been shown in clinical studies to produce significant improvement in IBS symptoms through mind-body self-healing processes.”

They were instructed that taking the medication at the times and doses prescribed was “critical.” In essence, the researchers revealed that they were using placebos — but, unlike the approach used in typical trials, they told patients that the pills work. The no-treatment group simply interacted with the medical staff in appointments of the same length as those given the placebo. All patients stayed on medication schedules or diets they were already following — no changes were allowed during treatment. [...]

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pope's statement - Paedophillia was acceptable in the 1970's - outrages victims

IrishCentral  December 22, 2010

Clerical abuse victims around the world have reacted in fury to Pope Benedict’s claim yesterday that as recently as the 1970s pedophilia wasn’t considered an “absolute evil”.

During his traditional Christmas address last Monday to cardinals and other religious officials in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI also said that child pornography was considered “normal” by society.

“In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children," the Pope said. "It was maintained -- even within the realm of Catholic theology -- that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a 'better than' and a 'worse than'. Nothing is good or bad in itself.”[...]

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ruach hakodesh & Ruach hakodesh of the intellect are not the same

Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Divrei Chaim (Y.D. 105): Question: There is a teacher who has insulted the honor of the Ohr HaChaim by claiming that his seforim were not written with ruach hakodesh. Answer: I received your letter and I don’t know what doubt you have as to whether ruach hakodesh occurs today to those who are fit for it – even though prophecy has ceased from the prophets. This is explicitly stated in Bava Basra (12a), “From the day that the Temple was destroyed, prophecy was taken from the prophets but it was not taken from the sages. Therefore a sage is superior to a prophet…” We see from this that even after the destruction of the Temple that ruach hakodesh rests on those who are deserving, ie., the ruach hakodesh of wisdom. It is important to realize that ruach hakodesh is not the same thing as ruach hakofesh of wisdom as is explained in Moreh Nevuchim (2:38)… So Bava Basra (12a) is understood as, “Even though they took the power of prophesy from the prophets which is visions and imagery, but the prophesy of wisdom was not taken away but the sages were able to know the truth through the ruach hakodesh that was in them. The Ritva says this explicitly. He says, “And it was given to the sages, meaning that the sages comprehend with their intellect many things which their natural intellect was not capable of understanding. Therefore a sage is superior to a prophet. In other words, he is superior to a prophet who has the power to see the future but is lacking the type of prophesy which the Shechina rests on him because of his intellect. This is explained by the Rambam in his well﷓known sefer that this type of intellectual prophesy only rests on them through their own power.” Thus we see explicitly in the Talmud and Rishonim that the ruach hakodesh of the intellect never stopped. This is also explicit in Gittin (6b) concerning R’ Avesar. “R Avesar’s views were in agreement with G﷓d.” Rashi explains, “G﷓d revealed to him the secret to ascertain the truth that has been concealed.” Thus we see that ruach hakodesh and the agreement with G﷓d never stopped from the sages who were deserving of this ability. This is also clear from the statement of Rav Pinhas ben Yair (Avoda Zara 20b). And this that is says in Sotah (48b) that after the days of the Prophets that ruach hakodesh was taken away – that means the ruach hakodesh of prophesy but not the ruach hakodesh of intellect and the ability to have one’s intellect be in agreement with the halacha that was given to Moshe at Sinai such as Rav Avesar - that never stopped. Only a heretic would deny this....

Mountain Biking Rehabilitation

Aish HaTorah


Friday, December 24, 2010

Chazon Ish: Ruach Hakodesh is intellect joined with the Divine

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Chazon Ish (Letters 1:15):.. It is at the roots of our faith that all that is said in the gemora whether it is in the Mishna or gemora whether it is halacha or agada - all these things were revealed to us through the medium of prophetic power ... There is in fact a major distinction between the power of prophecy and ruach hakodesh. Prophecy transcends the human intellect entirely. Therefore, someone who has reached the level of prophecy is able to acquire wisdom directly without any intellectual effort or involvement. In contrast, ruach hakodesh requires tremendous thought and analysis until he is given additional supernatural understanding. Without this effort, this special understanding is never achieved. One of the fully accepted foundations of faith is that ruach hakodesh is critical to properly understanding the truth in the Torah that was given through prophecy. That is because Torah is not just probably true but is absolutely true. Consequently we are greatly distressed to hear any aspersions cast on the words of Chazal whether it is Halacha or agada. It is equivalent to hearing blasphemy. A person who deviates in this way is according to our tradition as one who denies the words of Chazal and his shechita is invalid and he is unfit to serve as a legal witness and other issues.

Shulchan Aruch is the default view only when Achronim are deadlocked

from Daas Torah - translation is copyrighted

Chazon Ish (C.M. 1:1 Likutim):
Concerning the matter of the dispute over semicha in post-Talmudic times, the deciding factor in halachic matters is always according to which side has proofs which are stronger and more reasonable. Even though we normally follow the Shulchan Aruch – nevertheless were are accustomed to deviate from the Shulchan Aruch because the Achronim deviate from its rulings with correct proofs according to the understanding of the gedolim in each generation. So therefore for each halacha we are forced to study the analysis of the Achronim because intellectual reasoning is the decisive factor. However when the matter is deadlocked because the sides are equal – then we follow the disputant who is greater and that is why we accept the rulings of the Beis Yosef and Rema. So therefore in the dispute concerning semicha – according to our understanding those who rejected the new semicha are more cogent and understandable. Those who supported it are not understandable. 

Chazon Ish said he can disagree with Rishonim except in psak halacha

ר' אליעזר פלצינסקי (בשלום יהודה של חלק מועד, בעירובין או סוכה): יש כמה ויכוחים ארוכים עם החזו"א ובא' המכתבים כותב החזו"א : "כי אומנם לקחת חבל בתורה הוא ענין קשה ובעל גוונים רבים, לקחתי לי לחפש לעיין בג"מ עד כמה שאפשר, אף שיהיה נגד הראשונים ז"ל, ולהסתפק בידיעה לחוד שדברי רבותינו עיקר ואנחנו יתמי דיתמי, ומ"מ לא נפרוש מלברר וללבן מה שאפשר לנו לקטנותינו, וגם לקובע כן להלכה במקום שאין מפורש להיפך לענין פסק הלכה, ואם לא כן היה חסר לי עסק התורה, ואומנם זה נוגע לי לעצמי, אבל כמובן אחרים אין להם זיקה לדברי וחובתם לבחור דברי הראשונים ז"ל שהמה עיקר".

Heretic: Denies the Mishna Berura and other major seforim were written with ruach hakodesh

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Rav Menashe Klein (7:160): A shochet who wants to pasken like the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch in all matters and not like the Mishna Berura… I don’t understand what you are asking. Do you mean that he is being disrespectful of the Mishne Berura or you mean that he comes form a place that relies on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch even against the Mishne Berura and he is simply following the custom of his community? The distinction between these two is simple. If he is being disrespectful then he is in the category of one who doesn’t believe in the words of our Sages in every generation and he doesn’t believe that contemporary gedolim merit ruach hakodesh. It is obvious that someone who lacks ruach hakodesh is not able to composes a holy work such as the Mishne Berura. If he doesn’t believe that the Mishne Berura was written with ruach hakodesh then he is an apikorus and denier of G﷓d’s Torah…Look at Divrei Chaim (Y.D. 2:105) concerning a teacher who insulted the honor of the Ohr HaChaim and said that the sefer wasn’t written with ruach hakodesh. After much discussion he concludes, “That in truth even in our days there are true sages who are not influenced by earthly matters and they have ruach hakodesh as we see stated explicitly in the Moreh Nevuchim and Ramban. Therefore not only did the Ohr HaChaim clearly compose his sefer with ruach hakodesh but all authors even in our generation if they are worthy of it compose their works with ruach hakodesh. That means that their wisdom and understanding is in agreement wth the Truth of the Torah. This is mentioned in the gemora with Rabbi Eliezar. It is also stated as a practical halachic ruling in Takfo Cohen (C.M. 25:123-124) where he says that one can not say “kim li” (use a minority opinion) against the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch because all of its rulings were written with ruach hakodesh. Therefore a teacher who denies the ruach hakodesh of the Ohr HaChaim is an apikorus because he doesn’t believe the gedolim who testified on the Ohr HaChaim that he was deserving of ruach hakodesh. Thus this teacher is a denier in the principle of ruach hakodesh and ridicules the words of the Talmud mentioned before and it is good that you did not leave your sons in his hands. “ See these words which are like firery coals. Therefore concerning this shochet, I say that if he doesn’t believe that the words of the Mishna Berura were composed with ruach hakodesh and therefore are in agreement with the truth of the Torah – he is a heretic and denier of the foundations of our faith. It is not only this shochet but all schochtim who do not believe in this their shechita is unkosher. (Unfortunately due to our many sins there are many teachers in our time that do not believe that even in our generation that there are contemporary gedolim who have ruach hakodesh and are able to ascertain and be in agreement with their wisdom to the truth of the Torah. See Orchos Tzadikim (Shaar HaTorah) where he writes that a person who studies Torah for pure motivation merits that his two kidneys are made into two fountains. And he produces new insights into Torah that were never heard before. A person who does not believe this is unquestionably an apikorus and denier. If he teaches others then they also will be drawn after him – due to our many sins.).

Rav Sternbuch: Blaming Torah

Rav Sternbuch: Ephraim or Menashe?

Psak is different for post-Talmudic authorites who lack ruach hakodesh

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Kuntres HaSefekos (5:3): It seems to be me that Tosfos and the Nemukei Yosef are talking about a dispute between Tannaim and Amoraim as can be seen from their language. In such a case the judge does not need to struggle and find proofs to the validity of the different opinions. That is because it is impossible for us to refute the view of a particular Tanna or Amora with decisive proofs – because ruach hakodesh is manifest in them. Our Sages have already said about Talmudic sages, “These and those are the words of the living G﷓d. Therefore the judge must decide based on what makes sense to him – but he can’t prove or disprove whether a particular view is correct. In contrast the Rosh was describing the post﷓Talmudic situation and wrote that when two gedolim are in disagreement about a matter then the judge needs to look for proper proofs to decide between them. That is because from the day that the Talmud was closed – the fountains of wisdom have been sealed and therefore each person has the right to disagree with his predecessors with what he considers proof. Thus in the post-Talmudic world it is within the realm of the possible to decide between views by bringing proofs to the reasoning of one side over the other. We see this in the books of the Achronim where they refute the words of their predecessors with clear proofs.

Poskim today can not claim that earlier sources didn't know the metziius (reality)

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Klausenberger Rebbe (Divrei Yatziv O.C. 113): Concerning the view of Rabbeinu Tam and reality. Our holy faith is that Yiftach in his generation is like Shmuel in his (Rosh HaShanna 25b) and   that rule applies to all generations. Look at the Divrei Chai (Y.D. #105) in his discussion of the status of the Ohr HaChaim as well as the Beis Shlomo (O.C. 2:112). See also the language of one of the great contemporary gedolim in the Letters of the Chazon Ish (32), “What difference does it make if the angel Gavriel or Michoel tells me – in fact weren’t all the Rishonim fiery angels?… and it was through the holy spirit which appeared in them that they knew how to decide issues – whether to push aside a gemora and establish the tradition of the Geonim or whether to push aside the tradition of the Geonim because of the decision of the gemora… We relate to the Gra in the line of Moshe Rabbeinu, Ezra, Rabbinu Hakadosh, Rav Ashi, the Gra…” Consequently it is known that all poskim whose words are accepted which were given to Moshe on Sinai as the Talmud. Therefore if someone, G﷓d forbid, should express himself against one of the poskim it is that he is criticizing a Tanna or denying the Torah of Moshe – G﷓d forbid! This is the root of heresy. Just as we saw the Karaites who believed only in the Written Torah so there are heretic that believe in the Talmud but G﷓d forbid – not in the poskim. But we view a continuous line from Ravina and Rav Ashi to the Chasam Sofer and the Divrei Chaim and other major poskim. One who is dismissive of a posek is included in what was written by the Divrei Chaim (2:33). Therefore when the poskim themselves disagree – we with dim eyes and for whom bribery and lust blind the eyes even of the wise – we simply can not see the underlying reality of the debate that enables us to decide the issue ourselves. For example, we can not decide on elementary kashrus issues such as “tato gavar” based on the scientific understanding of chemists…  even though we can attempt to analyse their holy words from sources in the gemora. At best one who has great ability is able with his greatness in Torah to bring proofs from our Sages and to ascertain what the majority of poskim rule in this particular halacha. Look at the Divrei Chaim (Y.D. 2:45) where he is very upset about the disrespect against the prince of Torah – Rashi. He says, “Even though his words are occasionally difficult for us to understand with our dense brains, nevertheless that which is distant from you is that way only because of our limited intellect. But the main point is, Who in our generation would we say are able to make halachic decisions against the great Rishonim such as these. We have only the ability to accept their words with love and to follow after the majority view – as was done by the Shulchan Aruch itself. Therefore we can not deviate from the rulings of the Shulchan Aruch just because we have some question since we are well aware of of how lowly we are in recent generations..”  And since the words of the Rabbeinu Tam and the Geonim are the words of the Living G﷓d – they are able to disagree with each other regarding the appearance of which stars defines the beginning of night and what is the definition of night. Therefore if someone in our day comes says that one of the poskim erred in the definition of night – he is considered a heretic who has attacked the holiness of the poskim who have said otherwise. We are allowed, however, to say that the customs of which places follows which posekim. For example Shabbos (130a) states that in the place of R’ Eliezer they would cut wood to make charcoal.. However, G﷓d forbid to say that the custom in one place was different in this place from the other poskim because the reality that we see with our bleary eyes is different i.e., that the poskim erred in understanding the underlying facts. That is because obviously the Beis Yosef, the Pri Chodesh… saw the reality of the stars in Yerushalyim, Tzfas, and Tevirya and they ruled what they ruled…

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Child abuse - Rabbis & Calling the Police: A common misunderstanding

I just received the following comment from David Morris who wrote a review of my book - Child & Domestic Abuse - that he published on his blog Tzedek-Tzedek . It raises a very important issue - i.e., what are the parameters of consulting with a rabbi in these matters. I am posting the question - which expresses a misunderstanding of Rav Sternbuch's views - and my answer to the comment. My comment also appears on David Morris's blog Tzedek-Tzedek . This comment clearly indicates the dangerous ignorance and distortions that exist on this topic -  and why it is important to read my book.

Shmarya Rosenberg ( has left a new comment on your post "Child & Domestic Abuse":

What Rabbi Shternbuch actually says is that if there is "clear evidence" of child abuse, one should disregard any rabbi who instructed him not to go to police. But what about when there is evidence, but it isn't "clear" – meaning overwhelmingly certain – the person is guilty? Then you have to listen to the rabbi.

In other words, according to Rabbi Shternbuch, it is rabbis who should decide whether or not police should be called. And this is a big problem when rabbis have played key roles in so many coverups of sexual abuse.

Now why is it, David, that you don't mention this?

Posted by Shmarya Rosenberg to at 23 December 2010 03:14
On Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 5:37 PM, Daniel Eidensohn <> wrote:

    It is obvious that the commenter has not read the book or he would know that what he is asserting simply not true. He is making a misleading comment and it ignores the complex reality of abuse cases as well as overestimates the value of the police in being able to help. While there is no question that there have been cases and there are still cases where rabbis have insisted that a child not be helped even when in danger - that is not what Rav Sternbuch said as can clearly be seen from what he wrote and what he approved in my book - as well as what he told me and permitted to be publicized in his name. He said that you are to decide whether to listen to the rabbi and whether his response endangers the welfare of a child. He clearly said you do not listen to a rabbi if you feel there is a possibility that he is giving you bad advice.

      1) If it is clearly a immediate danger to the child and there is no time to speak to anyone - call the police. 2) If it is uncertain if there is abuse but if the child is in danger than he can only be protected by the police - than call the police. 3) If it is certain but you know that a complaint won't be filed and therefore the police won't do anything - then it is important to contact a rabbi who is experienced in these matters and  consults with experienced therapists and community leaders and the police. 4) If you have a suspicion - i.e., you saw a man hugging children or being very friendly with them  - then go to the experienced rabbi. If you are not satisfied with his response than ask another rabbi (the responsibility is not the rabbi's but yours). 5) If you have a child in your class that is withdrawn - but there is no complaint but it might be the result of abuse - then go to your experienced rabbi. You should also consult with a mental health worker who might advise what the next step is. 5) If there is mandatory reporting - then you obey that law and go to the police.

    In sum - the rabbi is not a substitute for your good judgment but is a consultant to help bring clarity and objectivity as well as protecting the rights of others. If he tells you not to do anything and you think that might be a danger to the child - than go ask another rabbi. At no time are you to allow a child to be in danger (according to your evaluation) nor are you to violate mandatory reporting laws. The rabbi is there to represent the community, provide objectivity and prevent against mob rule -  and protect others against false accusation. He is not a dictator that requires total submission - either in deed or thought. You are not to listen to him if you feel he is telling you to do something which is endangering a child or even possibly endangering a child.

Shulchan Aruch was written with divine inspiration & guidance

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Kitzur Takfo Kohen (Choshen Mishpat 25:124): … When a law is mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch in which both Rav Yosef Karo and the Rema omit the dissenting minority view – I have a tradition and I have seen this done by expert judges and I myself do it  - that a claim of “kim li” [utilizing a minority view to defend against monetary loss] is not accepted. It is well established and accepted by the sages over the generations to observe and do precisely what it says in the terse language of the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema. There is no doubt in my mind that it was all written from G﷓d Who guided their hands. This can be seen from the many questions of the Achronim on the Shulchan Aruch and the resulting sharp and brilliant answers. And thus within its sweet and terse language are many laws. There is absolutely no question that [Rav Yosef Karo Aruch and Rema] did not consciously write it that way. Because how would it be possible that they be conscious of every detail of their writing - given the awesome task required of them in this work for heaven. Who is capable of writing a book on the entire Torah based on the Rishonim and Achronim and not be overwhelmed by producing this work for heaven. It is obvious that it was only accomplished because they were infused with the spirit of G﷓d so that their language would precisely express the halacha – even though they had no awareness of this when they wrote it. That which G﷓d desired was successfully done through them. Therefore  - G﷓d forbid to say “kim li” against the halachic decisions of the Shulchan Aruch and Rema…

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Philosophers for Kung Fu: A Response


Thanks to all the readers who have commented on my previous article in the Stone “Kung Fu for Philosophers.” I found many comments thoughtful and inspiring, for which I am deeply grateful. Instead of trying to respond to all, as it is obviously impractical, I would like to offer some additional remarks to supplement my previous article as my response.

Several years ago, I was invited for lunch by a man named Wu Bing, who was the former martial arts coach of the kung fu movie star Jet Li. Mr. Wu and I did not know each other, and I had no idea why he invited me for lunch. I was more puzzled when I got there — Mr. Wu insisted that I be seated in the most prominent spot, and placed himself and all his associates at the table in lesser positions. With the ritual setting in order, he then humbly presented me a classic martial arts manual, and asked if I could explain the introduction of the book for him. “It is full of philosophical terms,” he said. “I have trouble understanding it.” [...]

Rav Dessler - Daas Torah means not only total obedience but an inability to judge gedolim

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Michtav M’Eliyahu (1:75): Our Sages have already told us to listen to the words of gedolim - “Even if they tell you that left is right.” Furthermore a person should not think, G﷓d forbid!, that they have certainly erred just because someone so insignificant as himself has perceived that they erred. In fact it is important to know that one’s perception of reality is totally null and void as the dust of the earth in comparison to the clarity of intellect and Divine assistance that they have. We have an important halachic principle that one beis din can not nullify the ruling of another beis din unless it is greater than the first in wisdom and number. Otherwise it is likely that that which he thought that he perceived is merely an illusion and distorted understanding of reality. This is what is meant by Daas Torah - which is an aspect of Emunas Chachomim (faith in the sages).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Child & Domestic Abuse Book: Review by David Morris

Blog has a review of my book by David Morris who is also one of the contributors.

Baal HaTanya - Don't ask a rebbe for secular advise

Baal HaTanya (Igros Kodesh #22): My dear friend...."Remember the days of old, understand the years of every generation" – has there ever been anything like this since the beginning of time?! Where, in all the books of the scholars of Israel, whether the earlier or later ones, have you ever seen such a custom instituted, to ask about a secular question, such as what to do in some mundane matter, even from the greatest of the early wise men of Israel, such as the tannaim and amoraim...but rather [people would turn to] actual prophets, such as there used to be, such as Shmuel the Seer, to whom Saul went to ask about the donkeys which his father had lost. But in truth, all matters relating to a person, other than something having to do with Torah or fear of  heaven, are not apprehended other than through prophecy, and not by a wise man. As our rabbis have taught, "Everything is in the hands of heaven other than fear of heaven..." And when our rabbis zt"l said that people "derive benefit from him [from a talmid chacham] by advice and sound wisdom," this refers to words of Torah, which is called "sound wisdom" [Translation from Rabbi Alfred Cohen in his article on Daas Torah]

Cancer drugs costing billions annually - are worthless


In the wake of the FDA’s decision start the process to revoke Avastin’s approval in breast cancer last week, patients are puzzled and angry over how a drug once touted as a breakthrough  now can be branded as ineffective.  The controversy illustrates just how much the much-vaunted revolution in cancer therapy is driven by hype and high prices.

Selling cancer drugs has become big business, with $52 billion in sales last year, according to IMS.  Some $6 billion of it goes right to Roche’s Avastin, the biggest selling of the new drugs. No wonder companies like Merck and Pfizer are  racing to develop new cancer drugs.

But even as sales reach new heights, and prices keep going up–pretty much any cancer drug now costs $50,000 a year–the results from many trials are getting less and less impressive. Tarceva from Roche extends the life of pancreatic cancer patients by two weeks. Avastin has now failed to extend the lives of breast cancer patients in three giant trials.[...]

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rav Moshe Feinstein:Can one disagree with the Chazon Ish & other gedolim

Igros Moshe (Y.D. 3:88): Is it permitted to argue with the words of our Sages in public – even in their communities? You are concerned about the permissibility of moving to Bnei Brak because there are times when you will be disagreeing with the Chazon Ish zt”l. I really don’t understand why you are concerned. In fact the opposite is true. It is in fact showing respect to the Chazon Ish zt”l by mentioning his Torah view and examining his words – even though you don’t end up agreeing with him. It would be inconceivable to the Chazon Ish zt”l that there shouldn’t be a talmid chachom who disagreed with him. It is simply not possible that he would be bothered by this. In fact the opposite is true. He loved truth and peace as it says in (Yevamos 14b) concerning the dispute between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel. In fact the idea that the deceased talmid chachom gets pleasure from discussion of his Torah work – is even when it is disputed. However, obviously it has to be mentioned respectfully. This that Rabbi Yehoshua suffered (Chagiga 28b) was not because he questioned the words of Beis Shammai but because he spoke in an inappropriate manner against them. But when done respectfully there is absolutely no problem - either with questioning the words of a talmid chachom or disagreeing with them. In fact not only is it permitted but we see from Bava Basra (130) that Rava told his students that they were not allowed to rule according to a view of his that they disagreed with since a judge can only rule based on how he sees things. The same applies with issurim…. As long as a student could not find an explanation for difficulties he had with Rava’s understanding he is not allowed to make a ruling in accord with it - even though Rava was his teacher.. If that were true with Rava and his students than it is surely true that one should not be concerned about questioning and disagreeing with gedolim of our generation – even the highest level gadol – as long as it is done in a respectful manner. Therefore there is absolutely no basis for concern or to feel it is inappropriate to remain in Bnei Brak and to give lectures. Just the opposite is true, the Chazon Ish with be your advocate in Heaven because you study his Torah works in a serious manner.

Cancer-Causing Hexavalent Chromium In Tap Water Of 89% Of US Sampled Cities

Medical News

Carcinogenic hexavalent chromium, the "Erin Brockovich chemical" was found in the tap water of 31 cities out of a total of 35 tested by The Environmental Working Group. The scientists estimate that at least 74 million people in the USA in 42 states regularly drink chromium-tainted water, and a considerable proportion of it is in the carcinogenic hexavalent form.

Hexavalent chromium is recognized as a human carcinogen. Some workers are exposed to the chemical, and exposure is known to sometimes occur among those who handle chromate-containing products, as well as those who arc weld stainless steel. The European Union has the world's strictest laws regarding hexavalent chromium. Hexavalent chromium use in the European Union in electronic equipment, for example, is largely prohibited by the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive.

Highest levels of hexavalent chromium in tap water were found in Norman; Oklahoma, Riverside; California, and Honolulu; Hawaii. Safety limits proposed by California regulators were exceeded in samples from 25 US cities, the scientists revealed.[...]

Israel's Security Barrier Presents Irony for Palestinian Workers

Voice of America

As U.S. mediators work to restart Mideast peace negotiations, Israel is continuing work on a security barrier that has been under construction for years. Israel's aim is to save Israeli lives by keeping out Palestinian bombers.

The result has been a sharp reduction in the number of terrorist attacks in recent years.  At the same time, Palestinians complain the barrier - consisting of both chain link fences and concrete walls - has created hardship by restricting their movement. Some, however, have benefited from it.  [...]

,Jerusalem Breslov leader was held ‘captive for years’


A scandal that is rocking the Breslov community of Shuvu Banim has taken another twist, with its spiritual leader Rabbi Eliezer Berland's return to his Jerusalem home from his hiding place in the North on Saturday night, after breaking away from 10 years of captivity, during which he says he was little more than a marionette controlled by his son and grandson.

Some two weeks ago, prominent members of the small Jerusalem-based community found a DVD outside their homes, containing videos and documents proving that the 73- year-old Berland was in fact being controlled by his son, Rabbi Nachman Berland, and grandson Nathan Berland, who for years prevented direct access to the older man and dictated his every move and action.

Shortly afterward, Eliezer staged his kidnapping to flee to the North, where he took refuge in Moshav Amirim, initially not disclosing his whereabouts. In a phone call with some 20 of his closest hassidim, Eliezer recalled the torment he underwent.[...]

The Gift of Endless Memory - Superior Autobiographical Memory

CBS News

It is often said that we are our memories - that web of experiences, relationships, thoughts, and feelings that make us who we are. We don't remember it all of course. That would be impossible. Or would it?

There has been a discovery in the field of memory recently, so new you won't find it in any textbook. It's so hard to fathom, there are some who remain unconvinced.

For the moment, the scientists studying it are simply calling it "superior autobiographical memory." And unless you happen to know one of the handful of people discovered so far who have it, get ready to be amazed. [...]

Serious Mental Health Needs Seen Growing at Colleges


Rushing a student to a psychiatric emergency room is never routine, but when Stony Brook University logged three trips in three days, it did not surprise Jenny Hwang, the director of counseling.

It was deep into the fall semester, a time of mounting stress with finals looming and the holiday break not far off, an anxiety all its own.

On a Thursday afternoon, a freshman who had been scraping bottom academically posted thoughts about suicide on Facebook. If I were gone, he wrote, would anybody notice? An alarmed student told staff members in the dorm, who called Dr. Hwang after hours, who contacted the campus police. Officers escorted the student to the county psychiatric hospital. [...]

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mishne Berura: Status & Nature

I received the following letter - as a response to my recent posting of the Chazon Ish's letter - with permission to publish it.

I had written:   Chazon Ish: The paradox of majority rule & Daas Torah

So far have found this is the view of Get Poshut,Sheilas Dovid, Shach, Maharetz Chajes, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Minchas Chinuch. It is probable that the Mishna Berura disagrees. This is rather odd since it seems the majority view is that they need to meet and discuss it so how could the Mishna Berura disagree?
It also seems that the Chazon Ish didn't hold by Daas Torah ie the view of the Gedolim or even majority of Gedolim - but rather that of the local rav.

Chazon Ish [i](Beginning of Kelayim): [[It is well known that the requirement to follow the majority applies only to a beis din which is in session, but regarding scholars holding different views who lived at different times or in different places, the question of majority or minority is not relevant. In a particular area where most of the Torah derives from a particular rabbi and his disciples, and the disciples' disciples, it is correct to follow their rabbi even in a matter in which the majority (of authorities) holds a different opinion.[...]

The respondent - who wishes to remain anonymous wrote the following:

I have b'Mesorah from 3 different sources that the Mishne Berura's approach was a departure from normative:

1) My Zaideh - a contemporary of Rav Yaakov and Rav Aharon (actually even though the same age he arrived in Slabodka 3 years before they did) who was a Rov in Europe and in Chicago told my father who told me that the Mishne Berura was NOT accepted in Europe at all. The Aruch HaShulchon was considered the Posek (Sefer) to consult

2) Rav Schwab told me that when he visited R. Chaim Ozer and he shared that he had just been by the Chofez Chaim. Rav Chaim Ozer responded to him, "Un vos zogt de Ba'al Habo'os!"

3) When I was a young Yeshiva Bochur in Washington Heights and we would come with the Mishne Berura's conclusion as an objection to the accustomed Hanhogo of the Kehila, Rav Breuer would give us a knowing benevolent smile and say, "The Minhogim of the Kehilla predate the Mishne Berura by a couple of hundred years"
The popularization in our day that the Mishne Berura is "Posek Acharon" is the result Of Rav Aharon and Rav Yaakov's strong support but others were vigorously opposed to the whole approach. See also Chazon Ish (Igros 1:32) on the use of newly uncovered manuscripts to modify standard Halocho
The position of the Chazon Ish below is a gemoro in Horoyos 2b. ie that someone who is Higiah l'Horoyo is responsible for his own Halachic decisions and cannot just "cave in" to Daas Rabim of Talmidei Chachomim. If he does he is considered To'eh b'Mitzvo Lishmoeh Divrei Chachomim.. This is paskened Halocho l'Maaseh in Rambam Shgogos. and brought by Ramban in his Hasogos to Sefer HaMitzvos Shoresh 1 on Lo Sosur (pg 14 of old editions).. only if the Sanhedrin convenes and votes down his position must he capitulate. otherwise he is obligated to follow his own understanding and conclusion even if runs contrary to the majority. The Ramban cites Rabi Yehoshua & Rabon Gamliel concerning Yom Kipur

Difficutly in proving sexual assault


At 17 years old, Preston Hill is known around the Fresno area as an accomplished wrestler, a leader of his high school team, the Buchanan Bears, and a potential candidate for a college scholarship in the sport he loves.

But over the past several months, Preston has been battling another opponent, the Fresno County district attorney, who has charged him with a bizarre crime: using a wrestling move to sexually assault a teammate.

According to a police report, during a July practice Preston used a maneuver informally known as a “butt drag” — which involves grabbing the haunch of an opponent to gain leverage — to roughly and intimately assault a smaller, younger wrestler on his team in retaliation for a supposed affront. [...]

Cabinet approves bill excusing ultra-Orthodox from IDF service


The cabinet approved on Sunday two recommendations affecting the ultra-Orthodox community, one of which will release most of them from mandatiory military service in exchange for alternative work in a civilian service.

The second proposal was to accept the recommendations of an interministerial committee to limit to five years the time yeshiva students can receive stipends. In addition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced that 50 million additional shekels would be given to aid other students in need in conjunction with the proposals dealing with yeshiva students. [...]

Body of U.S. tourist found near Jerusalem; police suspect terror attack


Israeli security forces early Sunday found the body of Christine Logan, an American tourist woman feared kidnapped by Arab assailants while hiking with a friend near Jerusalem the day before.

Logan's friend, 46-year-old Kaye Susan Wilson, was hospitalized after she managed to escape her attackers despite multiple stab wounds and her hands tied behind her back. [...]

Medical science reverses itself on carbohydrates

Los Angeles Times

Most people can count calories. Many have a clue about where fat lurks in their diets. However, fewer give carbohydrates much thought, or know why they should.

But a growing number of top nutritional scientists blame excessive carbohydrates — not fat — for America's ills. They say cutting carbohydrates is the key to reversing obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

"Fat is not the problem," says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases." [...]

Bloody Muslim ritual in Lebanon

Caution graphic bloody scenes


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Humans, Like Animals, Are Fearless Without Amygdala


In the 1930s, researchers discovered that when a certain part of monkeys’ brains was removed, the animals became fearless. They approached snakes, started batting them around like sticks and played with their hissing tongues.

This experiment has been repeated in animals numerous times, and the scientific consensus is that when the amygdala is removed, an animal loses any sense of fear.

Now, scientists have confirmed that a missing amygdala results in similar behavior in humans, according to a study in the journal Current Biology. [...]

Somber Farewell Melava Malka For Spinka Rebbe Before Being Sent To Prison |

Queens Jewish Community to host child safety program on January 2

In an effort to educate people about protecting children from improper
behavior, the Queens Jewish community is hosting a critical program for
parents, teachers, and rabbonim that will focus on prevention, awareness
and action strategies. The program, which is entitled "Keep Kids Safe
from Inappropriate Behavior at School and in the Neighborhood," will
take place on Sunday, January 2, 2011 at 7:30 PM at the Young Israel of
Kew Gardens Hills, which is located at 150-05 70th Road in Kew Gardens
Hills, New York.

This program is provided free of charge as a community service and is
being sponsored by the National Council of Young Israel, the Queens
Jewish Community Council, the Queens County District Attorney's Office,
the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and JBFCS' UJA-Federation's Partners in
Caring @Pride of Judea.

Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum, the Mara D'asra of Congregation Nachlas
Yitzchak in Queens, New York, will discuss halachic perspectives; Dr.
Shloimie Zimmerman, Psy.D, a psychologist in private practice in
Brooklyn, New York, will discuss psychological perspectives; and Lois
Raff, Esq., Counsel to the Queens County District Attorney, will discuss
legal perspectives. The communal response will be discussed by Rabbi Zvi
Y. Gluck, Clergy/Liaison to the Community Affairs Division, NYPD/Queens
South; Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, the Mara D'asra of the Young Israel of
Kew Gardens Hills; and Daniel Maurer, the President of the Young Israel
of Kew Gardens Hills.

For more information about "Keep Kids Safe from Inappropriate Behavior
at School and in the Neighborhood," call the National Council of Young
Israel's Director of Programming, Rebbetzin Judi Steinig, at
212-929-1525, or send an e-mail to

Massive hunt for US woman feared snatched near J'lem


A huge police and IDF search was under way on Saturday night for a woman feared kidnapped in the Beit Shemesh-Jerusalem area, in what police think could be a nationalistically motivated incident.

The search, which was joined by volunteers, was launched after another Kaye Susan Wilson, found with her hands bound and several stab wounds in her chest and back, reported being attacked by two Arab men in a forest near Mata, located outside Jerusalem, within the Green Line. [...]

Convictions upheld in murder of French Jew Halimi


A French appeals court has upheld the convictions of 16 people for their roles in the 2006 kidnapping, torture and murder of a young French Jew - handing down sentences of up to 18 years in prison.

The appeals court in Creteil was hearing the appeals of defendants already convicted by a lower court into the slaying of Ilan Halimi, who was lured into their custody by a young woman, then sequestered and killed.

The ringleader, Youssouf Fofana, was not on trial in the proceedings that began Oct. 25: He chose not to appeal his conviction and life sentence. Fofana, a 28 year-old of Ivoirian origin, expressed no remorse and expressed defiance throughout his trial. On various occasions, he smirked at Halimi’s relatives, shouted "Allahu Akbar!" and at one point threw shoes at lawyers. [...]

Lieberman leads Senate Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’


The Senate on Saturday struck down the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, bringing to a close a 17-year struggle over a policy that forced thousands of Americans from the ranks and caused others to keep secret their sexual orientation. [...]In a last-ditch effort, Mr. Lieberman and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a key Republican opponent of the ban, encouraged Democratic Congressional leaders to instead pursue a vote on simply repealing it. The House passed the measure earlier in the week. [...]

New York priest defrocked for child sex abuse


A high-ranking New York priest has been found guilty by a church tribunal of sexually abusing a minor in the 1970s, according to a statement obtained Saturday from the Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

Monsignor Charles M. Kavanagh was dismissed from the priesthood following the decision Wednesday by the tribunal, which was acting on authority from the Vatican.

The accuser, a former seminary student of Kavanagh's, brought the case to the Manhattan district attorney in 2002. He then wrote to Edward Cardinal Egan, the former Archbishop of New York, informing him of his claim, according to the Office of Communications for the Archdiocese. [...]

Beneath the Dead Sea, Scientists Are Drilling for Natural History


 Five miles out, nearly to the center of the Dead Sea, an international team of scientists has been drilling beneath the seabed to extract a record of climate change and earthquake history stretching back half a million years.

The preliminary evidence and clues found halfway through the 40-day project are more than the team could have hoped for. The scientists did not expect to pull up a wood fragment that was roughly 400,000 years old. Nor did they expect to come across a layer of gravel from a mere 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. That finding would seem to indicate that what is now the middle of the Dead Sea — which is really a big salt lake — was once a shore, and that the water level had managed to recover naturally. [...]

Astronomer Sues University, Claiming Religion Cost Him a Job


In 2007, C. Martin Gaskell, an astronomer at the University of Nebraska, was a leading candidate for a job running an observatory at the University of Kentucky. But then somebody did what one does nowadays: an Internet search.

That search turned up evidence of Dr. Gaskell’s evangelical Christian faith.

The University of Kentucky hired someone else. And Dr. Gaskell sued the institution.

Whether his faith cost him the job and whether certain religious beliefs may legally render people unfit for certain jobs are among the questions raised by the case, Gaskell v. University of Kentucky. [...]

Transplants cut in Arizona justified by incorrect data


First, it was distraught patients awaiting organ transplants who protested Arizona’s decision to no longer cover such operations under its Medicaid program.

Now, Arizonans who received such transplants, and are alive and well as a result of them, are questioning the data that lawmakers relied on to make their controversial benefit cuts.

“They say it’s too expensive,” said Star Boelter, 52, who had a stem cell transplant that was paid for by Arizona’s Medicaid program in 2009 after suffering from leukemia. “Well, how much is life worth? They say most people die. Well, I’m alive because of my transplant.” [...]

Friday, December 17, 2010

Scientist alleges religious discrimination in Ky.

Fox News

 An astronomer argues that his Christian faith and his peers' belief that he is an evolution skeptic kept him from getting a prestigious job as the director of a new student observatory at the University of Kentucky.

Martin Gaskell quickly rose to the top of a list of applicants being considered by the university's search committee. One member said he was "breathtakingly above the other applicants."

Others openly worried his Christian faith could conflict with his duties as a scientist, calling him "something close to a creationist" and "potentially evangelical." [...

Laws fail to keep sex offenders from working in schools, federal report finds

Washington Post

People with a record of sexual misconduct are often able to land positions in public and private schools as teachers, support staff, volunteers or contractors, slipping through a system of background checks meant to thwart them, federal investigators reported Thursday.

Among the 15 cases the Government Accountability Office reviewed was that of former Manassas teacher Kevin Ricks, who pleaded guilty this year to abusing a male student and faces other sex and pornography charges related to his long career in education. The Washington Post in July disclosed questions about Ricks, his school employment record, and allegations against him of sexual advances toward several students in Maryland and Virginia.

Eleven of the 15 cases, the GAO reported, showed that offenders who had previously targeted children were able to obtain positions in schools.

"Even more disturbing," the report concluded, they were able in at least six cases to use those positions to abuse more children. The report found: [...]

Maharal: The dangers of universal education and access of the masses to clear texts

From Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Maharal (Tiferes Yisroel #69): It is not proper that the words of the Torah, which are words of wisdom, should be in the hands of fools so that each person can think they are just as competent as anyone else to say what is in the Torah. I discussed this in my sefer Be’er HaGolah. I explained that our sages have deliberately concealed their words in many places in order that fools should not have ready access to them. Therefore if the Torah had been written clearly and explicitly – it would be difficult to distinguish who is truly wise from one who is lacking in wisdom. As a consequence it would produce great disputes. This is the opposite of the intent of the Torah that everything in it should make connection, order and unity in creation. It is in order to prevent dispute and schisms that the Torah says that a rebelious elder is deserving of capital punishment (Sanhedrin 88a).  Therefore it is proper that the Torah be in the hands of the few in order that they be listened to. This would prevent the many disputes that we have our day in which everyone imagines that they are a scholar and outstanding religious authority. They believe this because they say, “I can also read seforim.” This causes a number of bad thing which I don’t want to write about. Therefore the Torah is written in a manner that only the elite will comprehend it and so it will be inaccessible to the masses. This universal access to Torah was the cause that the Sanhedrin was not utilized and everyone built a private sanctuary for himself and there was no connection or unity. Thus Devarim (17:11) commands us that when there is a difficult matter it should be dealt with by the Sanhedrin. Thus we see that not writing down the Oral Torah and that it be given to the Sages (rather than the masses) is something inherently necessary for our well﷓being.

Incident on Lakewood bus: 4 teen boys accused of bias intimidation of their school bus driver

Asbury Park Press

Four teenagers were arrested Tuesday night and charged with bias intimidation of their bus driver after praising the Ku Klux Klan during the ride home from school, township police confirmed.

The four boys, all about 15 years old, are accused of crowding behind their black female school bus driver after she objected to their conversation, during which they used racial slurs about the KKK's violence against blacks, Lt. Paul Daly of the Lakewood police said.

"They stood behind her instead of being seated," Daly said Thursday. "She felt intimidated."

They boys were arrested on the bus and released later into the custody of their parents.[...]

Sefer HaBris: Due to the great stature of the Rambam - theology took a look time to develop

From Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Sefer HaBris (Section 1 2:6): The Givat HaMoreh wrote in the introduction to his sefer that the reason that it took such a long time for the full development of philosophy was because of the great wisdom of Aristotle and his unprecedented stature. Because of this his views were followed by all the scholars generation after generation in a slavish manner. It was viewed that anybody who disagreed with him was as if he were arguing on self-evident reality. In exactly the same way, the reason that there has been a long delay in the development of our theology is because many think that to disagree with something that the Rambam said is to disagree with something which is self﷓evidently true. The two processes are almost identical because in fact the concepts of the Rambam are those of Aristotle - as is well known. However all men of integrity while they love the Rambam – love the truth more. This is as the philosopher said, “I love Aristotle and I love Socrates but the truth I love more.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Phone-Wielding Shoppers Strike Fear Into Retailers


Tri Tang, a 25-year-old marketer, walked into a Best Buy Co. store in Sunnyvale, Calif., this past weekend and spotted the perfect gift for his girlfriend.

Last year, he might have just dropped the $184.85 Garmin global positioning system into his cart. This time, he took out his Android phone and typed the model number into an app that instantly compared the Best Buy price to those of other retailers. He found that he could get the same item on Inc.'s website for only $106.75, no shipping, no tax.[...]