by Joel Rich
So I think my recent unscheduled trip to the dentist was so that I should see an old Time magazine cover story (me – when you read the rest, you’ll realize this is a witty opening J). See here for the entire piece: link.
While the whole article is worth reading, two points in particular made me stop and think.
“Ajit Varki, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego, argues that the awareness of mortality on its own would have led evolution to a dead end. The despair would have interfered with our daily function, bringing the activities needed for survival to a stop. The only way conscious mental time travel could have arisen over the course of evolution is if it emerged together with irrational optimism. Knowledge of death had to emerge side by side with the persistent ability to picture a bright future” reminded me of Thomas Cahill’s “The Gift of the Jews” (my summary – awareness that time is not circle but a spiral) and R’YBS and the lonely man of faith’s existential finite awareness (cue – Country Joe & the Fish – “Whoopee, we’re all gonna die”) which we address by tying ourselves to the infinite!
The second point was “A canceled flight is hardly tragic, but even when the incidents that befall us are the type of horrific events we never expected to encounter, we automatically seek evidence confirming that our misfortune is a blessing in disguise. No, we did not anticipate losing our job, being ill or getting a divorce, but when these incidents occur, we search for the upside. These experiences mature us, we think. They may lead to more fulfilling jobs and stable relationships in the future. Interpreting a misfortune in this way allows us to conclude that our sunny expectations were correct after all — things did work out for the best.” Reminds me of how some folks struggle to make sense religiously out of tragedy and pretend to know the daat elyon.
Perhaps HKB”H hardwired us this way to get these results (or is that my optimistic wiring justifying my decision to be religious?)
From R’ Aviner
Q: How much money should one spend on organic food in order to eat in a healthier way?
A: There have been about two hundred research studies on the topic of organic foods, and there is almost no evidence that they are healthier.
Q: But everyone says that they are healthier!
A: “Everyone saying” it is not scientific proof.
Me- it’s not???????????????????, dang
A summary of R’Simon’s Shavuot shiurim analyzing the Talmudic sources related to non-standard parenthood (very thin) and how these evolve into halachic results for AI, IVF, etc. in terms of identity of parents and halachic status of father/mother.
Interesting beginning of insight into what is the basis of the court’s zchiya (acceptance for?) by ger katan. [me – never been 100% clear to me how zchiya works – the whole time/space continuum thing if the zchiyee later says – “no way Jose”]
2 types (surprise!) of shlichut (agency) – limited specific focus agency and broad agency. Our role is to make our role as agent work with confidence and understanding. Includes one of my favorite R’Kook’s on “ad shelo notzarti” – we are all born at the right time to fulfill our destiny (now if someone could help me figure out what mine is, I’d be much obliged).
Can (me – should is also a great question) you ask multiple Rabbis the same question? (At least someone is asking!) Talmudic sources reviewed – the inclination against is either due to kavod harav (honor) of first rabbi or naasah chaticha d’issurah (you prohibited it on yourself by getting an answer). Possible halachic differences based on the alternative reasons plus some possible exceptions to the rule.
Teaching children of different ages about the 3 weeks et al. General focus is on turning the abstract into reality through age appropriate analogies. [me – now if we could only figure out how to get adults to feel the void caused by the lack of the beit mikdash]
Should there be a “Modern Orthodox” approach to halacha? Spends some time rejecting different possible definitions of MO halacha before settling on something between complete authority (gadol hador decides all) and “roll your own” yielding something with enough flexibility so that community values are reflected but the halachic process respected. Individual decides on some issues based on where he stands within hierarchy of knowledge.
Excellent review of Israeli and some other countries rules on end of life issues – throw in halacha as well! Good history of issues, definitions and practices and why things have changed. Dynamic tension between autonomy and authority (what else is new). Subset by state of individual involved, advance directive and type of intervention.
Sounds like first in a series – here R’Oshry on whether you make a bracha or Kiddush Hashem if you are about to give up your life [Hashem Yracham] (yes – based on general rules of when to say brachot [me – IIRC none of these rules explain all the data points]). Also discusses form of bracha (al vs. l).
Question – Since the gemara also IIRC learns the personal daily requirement of Kiddush hashem (e.g. a rabbi not “buying” meat and saying he’ll pay tomorrow) from the same verse, would there also be a bracha in that case?
Explains seemingly contradictory Talmudic sources on mitoch shelo ishma ba ishma (doing [mitzvot etc.] for the wrong reasons will eventually lead to doing them for the right reasons).
Understanding Chazals’ understanding of the psychology of the robber and the robbee that allows the robbee to take the life of the robber in specific break in situations. Possible implications thereof.
Analysis of R’YBS on aesthetics based text in introduction to Confrontation. Sounds like one should find an article by R’Shubert Spero which consolidated a number of sources from R’YBS on the topic (I wonder if the article includes anything from the more recent Torah Harav works). Main thrust is R’YBS felt one must be aware of both freedom and commandness in order to be “redeemed”. Then discussion on morality and halacha.
It’s OK to be sad (angry) about life events but must accept there’s a limit (in terms of actions? beliefs? both?). R’YBS on saying baruch dayan emet – right now it hurts even though in the future it will all be good. [see opening to this audio roundup!]
Rabbi/therapist/MD relationships all need to create “sacred space” while still maintaining boundary awareness. Violation occurs when a boundary is crossed that involves something you wouldn’t tell anyone else about. (Rich’s Wall Street Journal rule).
Be aware of transference, manage time, remember you need to think about keeping some “specialness” (i.e. should you play basketball with patients/congregants?).
Note – I didn’t review all the shiurim from the Torah in Motion medical issues meeting but the ones I did review were worth listening to. Also worth noting, the range of sponsoring organizations!
R’Weinreb discusses issues brought to him through multiple channels. He importantly points out that it’s hard to generalize about an entire population based on the anecdotal subset of those who seek therapy.
* spouse & child abuse (R’YSE says go straight to police)
* “flipping out – left and right (R’Weinheb sees this somewhat [I didn’t fully get this] as kids (encouraged?) to play out their parents’ midlife crisis models)
* JLI (Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus) – kiruv krovim/give kids a (meaningful) experience
* internet porn’s impact on marriage (not good)
* midlife regrets (cue Frank Sinatra – Regrets, I’ve had a few)
*Disillusionment (don’t judge Judaism by Jews doesn’t wash)
* eating disorders
New technologies/techniques – do we assume prohibited, neutral or mandated? [me – excellent general philosophical question- does everything in life require a “heter”] Then discussion of pre-marital genetic testing, PGD (pre-implant genetic testing) – R’YSE allowed. The most interesting (to me) point of the discussion – RYSEover the last 20 years just gives thumbs up or down – with no explanation!! (me – throwing them fish but not teaching how to fish?)
What genetic selection (e.g. eliminate tay sachs vs. blue eyes) is prohibited neutral or mandated?? Meta Halachic concerns!! [me – will be interesting to see who lines up on which side of the meta questions – e.g. those who reject meta issues on women’s issues, will they accept them here?]
Discussion of interrelationship between decision making capacity as defined in “secular sources” and halacha. Does halacha recognize individual decision making (can one refuse treatment?) Specific examples and issues discussed
Understanding the downside of the “unity” of the generation that sought to build migdal bavel – need to be unified towards a spiritual goal.
Abarbanel vs. R’YBS on civilization as a curse (Adam I & II).
Seeing parallels between punishment of Adam and the generation of the tower.
R’Asher Weiss reviews the basic opinions concerning those from Chu”l who are in aretz for Yom tov Sheini and renders his psak which is driven by defining incidents of “Toshavness”. Then some nice mussar on how to identify a torah defined zealot vs. a self defined one (hint – it’s not about asking them which they are!)