Saturday, January 22, 2005

Ranting and Confusion

I stayed at Brownsvillegirl’s house for Shabbat this weekend. It was Shabbat Shira. Her mom makes the most amazing pie you’ve ever tasted. Don’t tell her, but I’m smuggling the remainder of the dessert home in my messenger bag. After living with two roommates for this entire year, it was nice to be at a family Shabbat and not worry about whether or not I turned off the refrigerator light.
After taking a sabbatical over the past few months, I decided to go to shul on Shabbos morning. Coming from a Conservative family, growing up I always went to egalitarian (men/women mixed and equal) shuls on Shabbat. Even though I don’t spend much time in church (although I have to admit I’ve been inside churches out of mere curiosity at how people can sit in front of a giant picture of a bloody dying man on a cross and still be ok), I always felt like the conservative shuls around my area were frighteningly similar to Christian houses of worship. Maybe it was the oversized sanctuaries, gaudy stained glass, wooden benches, and a giant cross at the center of the Aron Kodesh…ok that one’s not true.
So I decided to do the Orthodox thing this weekend. I arrived at the shul and proceeded to the balcony so I could check out the mechitza. It was not as offensive as many I’ve seen, but the problem is that no matter what, I find any mechitza to be disturbing. The question repeatedly plagues my mind, “Why should women be pushed to the back, made to sit behind a curtain or a glass wall, and shut out of public t’fila completely?” It’s degrading.
I also see the flipside to this. Women need privacy to daven. They’re not meant to participate in public t’fila because they could be viewed as sexual objects and they wouldn’t want to compromise tz’niut. And then there’s a whole bunch of halacha that just makes the situation incredibly messy. The truth is, I have no problem with the idea of separation of the sexes. I actually think it’s a good idea. But why not have entirely equal, separate services, one for men and one for women. I know women are supposed to be on a spiritually higher plane than men, but I feel like that’s just a rationalization for the fact that in many cases, women are far less active in public t’fila than the men of their communities.
While it’s not such a problem for many women, it’s an issue that confuses me daily. Conservative Judaism has egalitarianism and openness while Orthodoxy has commitment and family unity. Do I have to choose one or the other; and if so, which one do I choose? Whatever. For now I’m just a Jew…ess.

52 Shpeils

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Blogger BrownsvilleGirl said...

So that's where the pie went...

Btw, there are a few all women minyanim around. Or rather, very few, but it's a catching on thing. The benefits, of course, are that the women can lein and be ba'alei tefilla and sing out loud all within the halachic allowances. It is possible, of course, that the reason this isn't so popular is because on an avergage shabbos there are not that many women who attend shul. You can argue that that's because as women they are subjegated blah blah blah and made to cook and prepare all the food and the table and menial tasks like that but I think it's really just because someone has to be home to watch the kids and since men have an obligation to pray with a minyan and women only have an obligation to pray but can do it where ever, they stay home. Although I do happen to know a number of families that the men will go to early minyanim so that they can come home early to watch their kids so their wives can sleep in late or go to shul, too.

And thanks for all you brought to my shabbos!

Saturday, January 22, 2005 10:26:00 PM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

well All my life when i had time to sneak away from my commie family and went to shul it was always conservative. I loved when the rabii brought in a guy with an electric guitar to sing Adon Olam.... I loved it...so a few months ago i kept shabbos for the first time with Dons Mirs and Dins and a few other people named steve after me and prince...both of whom i met that night...anyway i went to my first o-shul... i felt kinda weird cuz im used to cracking jokes with the old ladies behind me. or my friend denis who has blue hair carrying the torah around and everyone running to touch it...but the reason i can't be orthodox is becuase the other day i was told o-weddings dont dance to hava nagilah... I WAS SHOCKED TO SAY THE LEAST. and That women and men dont dance together...i mean comeon whats wrong with that. i Say dont be afraid of sexuality... EMBRACE IT... (i understand this isnt exactly what you meant lol...

Saturday, January 22, 2005 10:46:00 PM  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

messiah, just for you, at the next o-wedding you attend (mine and donsos) well be sure to play havah negila and ill dance with the dons and you can dance with dina...behind a curtain...where noone can see you...especially her mom...or rather her dad...and rabbi...and husband. jk, you can dance with whoever you want, but if the fanatic guests beat you up dont say i didn't warn you.

Sunday, January 23, 2005 1:00:00 AM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

ex-commie
one of the basic tenets of orthodoxy is to embrace the spiritual aka holiness (kedusha). im not saying that sex is bad. hell no! it is encouraged within the holiness of marrige, in which G-d can be served by producing children. however sexuality for sexuality is sinful because u are putting yourself ahead of G-d and spirituality. im not saying that im a perfect jew or anything close to it, but i still try to remain an orthodox jew even if i cannot bring myself to fulfill all of G-ds will at this point in my life.

lunatic cookie jewess
so its egalitarianism u speak of? hmm so woman are on a higher plane than men so all of a sudden its egalitarianism. i say its egalitarianism when u want it to be and reverse discrimination if it suits ure desires for gender domination. lol. traditionally woman and men have two distinct roles. woman are not obligated to take part in time constrained mitzvot b/c it will interfer with their distinct role. dont buy it? then ask a rabbi not bunch of punks. how bout a hillel celebrity wrestling, orthodox rabbi vs conservative dude. oy this is what happens when u try to think at 2 in the morning.

Sunday, January 23, 2005 2:07:00 AM  

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Blogger meshuganecookie said...

elder punk of zion, you insane secret world tyrant, you missed the whole part of my point that I thought separation of the sexes is a GOOD idea. Egalitarianism does not mean mixed, it means equal. And addressing the idea that women are not obligated to time specific mitzvot, I believe that only women who already have children are exempt from time specific mitzvot, not unmarried women. So maybe you're the crazy cookie here...even though that shouldn't be an insult because I'm a self proclaimed crazy sweet cracker.

Sunday, January 23, 2005 10:37:00 AM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

lunatic (a rabbi once asked us in class, what do we call people who G-d speaks to? my response was -lunatics. in hindsight i think the answer he wanted was a "Navi")

i love picking fights, this is the stuff to live for. u say that conservitavism is fair and equal, but yet u say that woman are on a higher plane than men? that doesnt sound too fair and equal to me (egalitarian?!?). the truth is that fairness has nothing to do with it. if the conservatives (as u say) chuck tradition ("family values" sounds like something from a red neck right wing political conservative townhall speech) in favor of some new ideal (openess and fairness?), then you have liberalism, not judaism. judaism is not about fairness or what we may conceive of as man made ideals. Judaism is the traditional ideals that G-d gave to us a long while back. our obligation in the ideal sense of judaism (at least the way i see it) is to live according to the nitty gritty of the life style that G-d set for us. that is the way that jews will ultimately suceed as a nation. however just by coming up with ones own ideals because one cannot understand G-d is arrogant. we need to look into our tradition for our ideals, not to egalitarianism and relatively modern french ideals. confusion solved!! now whose the lunatic? i demand lunatic status!

Sunday, January 23, 2005 1:33:00 PM  

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Blogger meshuganecookie said...

Elder,

Lunacy granted.
Thank God, God's wiser than you. I think that you should give yourself some time and think about why we have a written Torah and Oral Torah. If we are never supposed to reevaluate how we are doing things and what it means to serve God in our times--why wouldn't there just be one Torah written in stone and never to be changed or understood differently.
Do you think that God makes mistakes? I'm pretty sure that the ambiguous-at-times Written Torah that we have is like that for a reason and that the development of the Oral Law and the many different (and at times disagreeing) mephorshim [commentaries] are not flukes.
Think about it.

Sunday, January 23, 2005 2:13:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

nutty jewish cookie

The written torah is essentially amounts to an outline of the oral law. It explains the written torah, in a more elaborate and inclusive method. At first we could look into the written torah and understand its implications (oral torah) however over time things were forgotten because it was oral. Different opinions arose because we could not remember what was originally the correct one. eventually the oral torah was written down in the form of the mishna and gemara. but even that proves to be too ambiguous and so we have countless endless mephorhim trying to rectify seemingly contradictory statements and logic.

Torah never changes!! It is written in stone!! that is the whole concept of the Mesorah. one can never add or subtract from it. we need to look into the torah to guide our way. we shouldnt let the "way" guide our torah. hence what i presume to be the fundemental difference between our two viewpoints.

and is "thank God, God's wiser than you" a polite way of challenging my intelligence? well relax i already said i want to be a lunatic.

elder lunatic

Sunday, January 23, 2005 3:27:00 PM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

let me get this right torah written in stone----oral torah written on paper---however the people that wrote it down had the ability to change what the tradition was into what they thought it should be. So technically gemara and mishnah could just be crazy rabii rants....kinda like that thing they call the new testament...so maybe karaites are real jews and your just an offset of rabiis...but then since your the majority then your the real jews and they are just insane....or another scenario could be that with time tradition grows and changes and it was a mistake to write down gemara and mishnah and it should have stayed oral ... (like some other things lol)

Sunday, January 23, 2005 3:49:00 PM  

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Blogger meshuganecookie said...

Let's clear up one more thing here elder. I didn't say that women were on a higher spiritual plane than men. I said that this explanation is often used as a justification for why women are not so much included in public t'fila. If you're going to challenge what I said, read it carefully.

Sunday, January 23, 2005 3:55:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

if i read any carefully id be questioning the essence of meshugene cookie. and while we're on it, what does crazy cookie mean in essence?

ok, so men are still better than woman. cool i can live with that one, not that its fair or anything.

Sunday, January 23, 2005 4:10:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

oy, ure confusing my central wiring. im tempted to say thats a cop-out, but for the sake of civility ill consider u a true crazy egalitarian jewess cookie.

Sunday, January 23, 2005 4:14:00 PM  

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Blogger BrownsvilleGirl said...

Wow...oops!

Elder, the comment that begins, "Elder- Lunacy granted," was written by moi. Mushugane was still signed in on my computer and it came out as hers.

Sorry bout that!

Sunday, January 23, 2005 5:48:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

so who exactly am i now pissing off??

Sunday, January 23, 2005 8:37:00 PM  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elder,
I think that it is true that the Torah never changes. However, if you take that literally you end up with something like the Karaites. It is my understanding that the basic concepts presented in the Torah, particularly those dealing with moral issues, are universal and constant. The oral Torah is an attempt by man to understand and decipher the details that the Torah omits. While it is true that the ideas presented in the oral Torah have been passed down through the generations (keep in mind that the more something is transmitted by word of mouth the more it changes from its original form, hence the need to record the oral Torah in the first place) I feel that your definition of oral Torah may be a little too narrow. First of all not all the traditions have been recorded in the Mishna or the Gemara as is evident by the development of two separate and different commentaries on the Mishna. Secondly, Torah is said to have no beginning and no end. This means that the Torah is never finished; it is not written in stone rather it is organic and changes with society, obviously within bounds of the basic tenets set forth in the written Torah as well as the generally accepted mephorshim on the Torah. We can and should continue to expand upon the oral Torah according to the methods of study and deduction prescribed for us by past scholars. Through this we can change the face of Judaism while keeping its foundation strong. While we do need to look to our traditions for guidance, we also need to look at our surroundings and try to integrate our generation with the written and oral Torah.
We also need to be tolerant of change and new ideas, such as the ideas that meshuganecookie raised. Without this there can be no change and no growth and we will only remain the way we are, continually perceived as backward and at odds with our fellow humans. Change takes time but is not wrong or prohibited by Judaism in any way. A good example of this is the Rambam, he wrote the "Mishnah Torah", which was immediately criticized by many of the scholars of his time. Now this work is part of mainstream Judaism and is accepted by almost all rabbinical authorities. Someday the controversial ideas that we introduce will be taken for granted by observant Jews throughout the world.

Sunday, January 23, 2005 9:15:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

TM i presume

"I think that it is true that the Torah never changes. However, if you take that literally you end up with something like the Karaites"
i dont understand this statement can u please clarify it?

"The oral Torah is an attempt by man to understand and decipher the details that the Torah omits."

i would have to disagree. the oral torah was the understanding of the traditions handed down at sinai, they were forgotten over time and thus had to be written down to clarify the small but seemingly contradictory statements. for instance, nowhere in the torah does it explain teffilin in a visual manner, only a cursory mention. the oral torah which was also handed down in full at sinai explained it all. the same goes for tzitzit and other commandments. esrog is never mentioned by name, it calls it a "beautiful fruit" (pri aitz hador). there are however cases, where a clear cut torah explaination is simply not provided (ex. bioethics, zionism etc). that is when we have to dig into our roots, use our brains and find an answer, ideally without another schism.

the 8th article of faith by rambam implies that nothing in the torah is left up to man to decipher among other implications.

im not sure how 2 seperate commentaries on the mishna prove that not all the traditions are recorded?

"Secondly, Torah is said to have no beginning and no end. ...We can and should continue to expand upon the oral Torah according to the methods of study and deduction prescribed for us by past scholars."

i think this also contradicts rambams 8th principle of faith. i think there may be a different interpertation for the no beginning no end point, possibly that one can never finish studying it.

"We also need to be tolerant of change and new ideas, such as the ideas that meshuganecookie raised. "

we need to be aware of the needs of judaism, and less the needs of the changing environment. the conservative movement provided yet another schism in judaism, in exchange for so called egalitarianism. frankly i dont see how that is worth it. and please dont anyone get me wrong i have nothing against my friend meshugena eventhough i have qualms with the conservative movement(hopefully someone will enlighten me)i think peripheral changes are ok, such as the adaptations that modern orthodoxy made. however such taboo changes that affect our fundemental relationship with the law is too far. call me a fundementalist if u like. i am not familiar with the case of rambams outlawing, only that his works were burned by french jews. i dont know what fundemental principles were involved in this case. my understanding of conservatism in this conversation comes from what Meshugena described as the main dilemma (egalitarianism and openness vs. commitment and family unity).

Sunday, January 23, 2005 10:42:00 PM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

i say we revolt!!!!!!!!!! kill all those who want to destroy judaism.....those reform reconstrcution conservatice secular hasidish...anyone and everyone whose not modern orthodox we must kill them....but wait then there will only be 3 people left....so we can make them like us..but what if they dnt approve? whats there to do? let Judaism take its natural course of expansion? no it has to be Moeshes way or the highway...ahhh i figured it out its so simple why didnt i think of it before oh this is so perfect... just have a "whose the "biggest" jew contest" and who wins there way of life gets to be everyones way of life... agreed?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 4:04:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

no, not at all. Nature will take its course of events and the sects of judaism that are not efficient or viable will just peter out. just like what happened to the Karites, Sadducees, Essenes etc. no hard feelings. If there are no reform jews left in 50 years (maybe 100 years i dont know for sure) that will not be my problem. The real problem is, what shall us orthodox jews do about all those empty reform synagogues?? you dont like fundementilasts? too bad.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 10:12:00 PM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

who said i dont like fundamentalist? Moeshe i followed you when you started the hamas chapter for Jews. Listen dictators are awesome nothing gets done without them...Stalin sucked however he industralized russia. Ben Gurion was an ass but he was the first pm of israel, and one of the greatest. Judaism is great everything about it is great. Except for its tendencies to ostrasize and deligitamize other people. But thats not Judaism thats just run of the mill jews like you :) but you know what it does in away upset me that Jews like yourself and other can and do put down different movements of judaism

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 10:26:00 PM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

grrr i didnt finish... and pressed enter i have to write it in word from now on...

....do you understand how hard it is to fight off anti-semeites and jewish hating jews. WHy are there sephardi schools and Ashki schools...WE need to create a common love for judaism no matter how we practice so we can live together and create a better world for ourselves..I see jews draw swastikas i see nazis draw them...when both compare me to evil its not the greatest thing in the world...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 10:29:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

stalin killed more people than hitler and screwed up russia which is so dysfunctional today that it has a rising HIV rate that almost rivals Africa. ben gurion sold out the irgun and european jews in favor of the british making nice to him. orthodox judaism was the status quo, everything else is new and revolutionary. we just dont like people screwing with our faith and the faith of our forefathers, not mention justifying the assimilation and de-judaizing of millions of our brothers (sisters dont count - just kidding).

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 10:40:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

so sephardim descend from abraham's camels, what should i tell u.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 10:42:00 PM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

grrrr i pressed enter accidently i hope this doesnt show up twice...
anyway yes different sects of judaism keep getting put down...When i see in canada or not even in canada but he in brooklyn at Magen David HS and ashkenazi jew wouldnt go near there... Why because theres a war between sephards and ashkeez ?? what is that??its hard to fight jews and jew haters at the same time..why cant we become one people that love judaism in different way because we are all way to stubborn. YES@!wake up jews your humans too...im tired of being compared to a nazi by jews and jew haters...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 10:43:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

the only jews i really hate r noam chomosky, T.Hertzel before he became a zionist and moses mendelsohn. in other words, jews who make better goys than the goyim. i dont like these guys, however everyone else is cool, yes even u conservatives, reform, reconstructionist and jews for jesus. ok i dont like jews for jesus either, only jesus for judaism. i wonder what he would have thought if he were jewish today.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 10:48:00 PM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

many it came up twice sombody fix this blog.... STALIN YES WAS AN ASSHOLE but without a dick-tator like him russia would never had industrialized..Ben-Gurion yes but without him Israel wouldnt exist because he was the only jew that had the balls to sign the constituion while being under attack.,,, But unfortunately no jew has the balls to lead jews. I would love to but there are to many who hate me.. Kahane had the same problem...Not that im comparing myself to him or any great leader. But the problem with jews is that they cant ever allow understanding like i said "Moeshes way or the highway"...do you realise that every other jewish sect in the world has said what you said except they switched around the words..Nerui Kartai or however you spell Jews that are nuts, say that same thing about you... its a never ending cycle

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 10:49:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

and what did stalin style industrialization get them?
i am fairly certain that the irgun wanted to declare a state earlier. Ben Gurion was a sellout, he nearly caused a civil war, but menachem begin, the hawkish militant head of the irgun backed down. yes, a hawkish ultra-nationalist backed down in order not to cause an inter-jewish fratricide. free love among jews, id love to see the day. relax i dont hate that many jews, only a few.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 10:57:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

spell it neturei karta, something along along those lines anyways

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 10:59:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/WillYourGrandchildrenBeJews.htm

every non-orthodox jew must check this out!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 11:04:00 PM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

if u like i can teach you about russia any time you like..:) and about the free love with jews yes i wish i could see that one day too..except my type of free love isnt so hollohic...
we dont live in the time of our fore fathers its easy for you a modern orthodox jew to pass judgment on everyone else because you were raised that way...do you think its easy to accep judaism? i stopped eating pork in october and i still have cravings for pork chops... but my craving for a certain o-girl is stronger lol shes gonna laugh if she reads this.... Jews should love all jews... no matter what... (except Nurei Kartie and those anti israel ones )

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 11:12:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

you are right in that respect, i should be more tolerant in respect to the fact that this is how i was raised and others were not raised in this manner. i probably would be in your situation if not more secular if i had a similar upbringing. but remember this is not a personal attack. lol, im only saying that current alternatives to orthodoxy are not viable. i hold nothing against non-jews either, they inhabit the same planet as we do and are our neighbors and friends.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 11:19:00 PM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

just because non orthos use condoms doesnt meen it will fail...I want to have 200 kids and send 198 of them to serve in the army in Israel... SECULAR ZIONISM:::: ISRAEL TO ALL JEWS.... my nose is running my stomach is hurting from bad DIM SUM and yet i still reaspond to comments we can have in other places thinking people might actually read and learn somthing... however i see that orthodoxy is the end of judaism and you sayd secularism is...my reason is that you follow archaic laws that hold you back your reason is that these archaic laws survived for a reason.... and all i can say i love you cuz your my jewish brother but time will tell time will tell...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 11:24:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

time will tell bro. and then as the stats say, the majority of todays jews will no longer be jewish.

damn we reached a peaceful conclusion, this is wrong, is the messiah upon us? howd tht happen?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 11:26:00 PM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

the messiah is upon us..there is a messiah for every generation jews just have to unite under him..until then he/she will come and go...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 11:34:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

like shabtai tzvi and the lubavitcher rebber eh

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 11:35:00 PM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

maybe; maybe not; who can tell?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 11:38:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

i thought u were messiach?

thts an interesting quote though, did u hear it somewhere or did u produce it?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 11:38:00 PM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

i learn with the greatest rabii in the world. Dina, she said it to me but i expanded..

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 11:41:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

ok, did ure rabbi make it up or did she see it somewhere?? ok, irregardless the armageddon and final redemption is upon us because two jews came to a peaceful conclusion for the first time since forever.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 11:43:00 PM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

lol do u know how i know the you know how i know that we all know who you know that i know that she knows how i know you know that i know what he knows about what you know that i know that if a jew smiles all will be okay? :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005 12:03:00 AM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

oy

Wednesday, January 26, 2005 12:04:00 AM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

vey

Wednesday, January 26, 2005 12:05:00 AM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

i want the last word!! vas nicht?
a gutten nacht
zei gezunt

Wednesday, January 26, 2005 12:06:00 AM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

guten nacht, Kishen tuhus ze mishugana.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005 12:08:00 AM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

as we say in the hood, adios amigo.
buenos nochas

Wednesday, January 26, 2005 12:10:00 AM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

your a little rich jewish boy what hood??? i live 15 minutes from the projects...my HS was so much in the hood that this gang from Lafayette HS came and swung locks in socks and hit people in the heads,,,now thats the hood.
Layla Tov

Wednesday, January 26, 2005 12:15:00 AM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

ouch tht sucks. lol good point, but it was worth a shot.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005 12:19:00 AM  

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Blogger Mesiach said...

i get the last word

Wednesday, January 26, 2005 12:21:00 AM  

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Blogger BrownsvilleGirl said...

I get the last word.

This is it: the two of you, Elder and Mesiach, need to get lives! NOW!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005 2:41:00 AM  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I apologize for taking so long to respond. I wrote the post that began "Elder,
I think that it is true that the Torah never changes. However, if you take that literally you end up with something like the Karaites. It is my understanding that the basic concepts presented in the Torah, particularly those dealing with moral issues, are universal and constant."
To clarify, I am not TM.
If you accept that the Torah never changes at all then the laws must apply exactly as they are written, and have been interpreted for generations. This does not allow for the world around us to change or for us to adapt to it. While comparing it to the Karaites or Saducces may have been severe, I don't think it is that far off. The Saducces refused to accept the oral law because they didn't feel that man was qualified to interpret the Torah. In essence they claimed that man cannot interpret the Torah which means that whatever was written in the Torah is everything that needed to be known, they denied that the Torah could be expounded upon. By claiming that all oral law was given at Sinai and passed down, and by believing that we can no longer have new insights and interpretations of things in the Torah you are also putting a cap on what can be learnt form the Torah. Instead of putting that cap on written law you make the cutoff a little later, but either way you limit the knowledge that the Torah contains. By resisting change and remaining loyal only to what has been presented and discussed until now we risk falling into the same trap. We are afraid of adding interpretations of the written Torah, in which I include the Mishnah, Gemara and their well accepted mephorshim such as Rashi, the Rambam and the Mishnah Berurah. (I include these because while they are technically oral Torah they have been written down and in our minds and in our education systems, they are treated almost equally as the written Torah itself.) By doing this we deny the endlessness of the Torah.
You seem to believe that all of the oral Torah was given to Moshe at Sinai completely, and in the form that it takes today. I have several problems with this. First, if this was the case why is it that we have several versions of that tradition? The logical explanation for this would be that the oral tradition was not passed down completely. How can it be that there are different versions of this immutable oral law given to us straight from God? Just the fact that there are two versions of the Talmud proves that the oral law was not passed down exactly as it was given. If that is the case who are we to say that any one of those traditions is correct or that any new idea is incorrect. It is a well known fact that stories change as they are passed on. I am sure that this applies to the transmission of the oral law as well, in which case there is no reason to believe that the oral law that we hold so dearly today is the same as the one that was given to Moshe at Sinai. Also, if that is the case then we could not possibly learn anything new from the written Torah, as everything that we could learn from it has been given to Moshe and passed down through the generations. This invalidates all the new insights that we may have regarding the written Torah. Furthermore, you claim that according to the 8th principle of faith there is no beginning or end to learning Torah. If so, how can you possibly believe that all the oral law, everything that can be deduced from the written Torah, was given at Sinai and passed down through the generations? Obviously if we can never finish studying the Torah there must always be something new to learn, something that the all powerful rabbis that came before us did not or could not extract from the written law. I would like to make clear that I do follow the oral law, all that I am trying to show here is that the oral law and the writing that we have until now are not everything that can be learned from the Torah, and that new insights are valid and deserve attention. They should not be regarded as without merit merely because they have not been raised before. After all the Torah has no beginning and no ending, it can be constantly expounded upon.
Another point that I would like to make is that there is a well known story in the Talmud of a rabbi whose opinion differed from the majority. He called upon God who performed several miracles to prove that this rabbi's idea was the correct one. However, it is not the idea that was accepted. The reason for this is that a voice came from heaven proclaiming that the "Torah is not in the heavens" a statement that has been interpreted to mean that the Torah is now in our possession, it is our responsibility to interpret it and to learn from it and to apply its teachings to ourselves. We need to take control of the way that the Torah is practiced and we need to make sure that it is applicable to us, that it is relevant to the way we live and the opportunities available to us.
The example that I brought with the Rambam was meant to illustrate the need for our people to overcome their fear of change and accept new ideas. The Rambam made innovations in the way that Torah thought was expressed and organized and some people of his time burned his books, they wouldn't listen because his ideas were too new and different from those with which they were accustomed. Eventually, his ideas became mainstream. This only serves to strengthen my argument that Judaism is an evolving religion, one that can change its appearance over time. This is what allows us to survive for so long. We are able to conform to our environment and grow with it. I feel that this growth should be recognized and encouraged by our leaders rather than looked down upon as deviant and dangerous thinking.
Finally, I am not Conservative and I am not making any statements regarding its validity. All I am saying is that we as Jews need to evolve and change in response to world around us. The Torah is universal; it was intended to apply to all generations and to all situations. Our generation is not the same as those before us, we need to take that into account and see how the Torah can apply to our time. I am not proposing any major changes in the fundamental principles of Judaism or in the accepted laws, but only in the way that we think about things and particularly in the way that we view innovation.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005 11:29:00 AM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

i apologize for writing such a long response. i thank you if you do in fact read the whole thing. by the way, what is your bloggername? i doubt u are perpetually anonymous.

"there is nothing new under the sun" - kohelet
I think frankly, that if you think about it, there are really no events or changes that take place today that have absolutely no precedent. As far out as this may sound, I think one can find precedent for anything and everything in the Torah. Be it the written or oral law. I still hold that halacha as well anything with a precedent older than ourselves can never change. Halacha today essentially amounts to precedent, we cannot simply change something because we feel it goes better with the modern world. Those who came before us were closer to sinai and thus the real intentions of the Torah, every generation loses a little insight that the generation before had. Therefore we are not in the position to make unilateral changes, just like an Amorah in the Gemara cannot say anything without the precedent of a Tannah from a Mishnah. This does not put a cap on things you can learn from the Torah simply because one must find that precedent for "new" issues and decisions. Seeminly new issues have always been arising and the Torah has always had an answer that had precedence in something found before. The direct answer regarding stem cell research for example is not going to be found directly in the Shulchan Aruch. One must look for former precedents and decisions slightly similar to this "new" question in order to come to a ruling. Of course this does not leave Jewishkind expounding its own answers, rather the Jews are looking for precedent within the "ancient" Torah. I suppose this can be rather frustrating and challenging for my faith especially when it comes to issues such as the Agunot crisis and "end of life" decisions, when I personally find the answers accepted by orthodox judaism to be seemingly "cold-hearted".

We have several versions of tradition because things were forgotten over time. There were disputes and people tried to solve them. The torah applies to everything, and when it was handed down at Sinai it was complete. We can divine things from the torah if they have some kind of root in the mesorah that we can attribute to.

as far as the contradiction b/w "torah has no beginning and end" and it being handed down in totality. i guess it means that the torah and its principles were handed down in full. we just have to use those principles and not solely our own intuition to answer inevitable and infinite different variating situations.

torah was written in heaven and given to us in its totality its our job to apply cases of goring oxen to present day situation. this does involve human thinking, but it must involve precedent and basis in principles from the mesorah.

I think we almost completely agree on your conclusion, except that I don’t think we should contradict any previous precedents. Judaism has evolved in its facade, but I think when it comes down to it, (modern through ultra) Orthodox Judaism has remained essentially the same in practice since the destruction of the second temple. I hope ive addressed all the points in contention.

Thursday, January 27, 2005 10:34:00 PM  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that your response was very good, and I can agree with most of it. However, I am still having trouble with your idea that the oral law and tradition were given to Moshe in its totality. I believe that the concepts of the oral tradition, as well as methods for learning and deriving knowledge from the written Torah were given to Moshe at Sinai. The idea that the tradition was forgotten over time is also a big problem for me. If the tradition, that was given to Moshe from the mouth of God, was forgotten or changed over time that means that we are not actually following the laws in the way that God had intended for us to. Also, on what basis then do we decide which halachic opinion to follow, how do we know who is correct. I think that this opens us up to a lot more problems with the oral torah than we need. However, if we believe that man used God's principles to develop the oral torah then we are acknowledging that it is not totally divine. This allows us to accept the laws on the basis of majority rules, or consensus, which we see is in fact the way that laws are decided.
I agree with you on everything else in your post. Again, I do not think that we should change laws that were decided before our time. In some areas society is significantly different today than it was 1500 years ago and that should be considered when discussing halachic issues.
I do not have a bloggername. I chose to remain anonymous but if you are that curious I can tell you that I am part of the Punks of Zion group but I am not an officer.

Saturday, January 29, 2005 8:14:00 PM  

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Blogger elder punk of zion said...

anonymous

Thanks a lot for your response. all can say is that you should seriously come by TH 501. I like to call it the Debating Society of Hunter College, its popularly known as Hillel. As they say, two jews three opinions.

Kol Tuv

Elder Punk of Zion

Saturday, January 29, 2005 11:31:00 PM  

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