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by Joel Rich

Readers comments requested:

Dear Dr. Randall:
I finished part one of Knocking on Heaven’s Door, which I believe has the material on religion that you referenced.
I wanted to put a few thoughts on paper, perhaps inarticulately, to give you some sense of my reaction. I would enjoy the opportunity to discuss it with you because I think the topic lends itself more to interactive discussion rather than to correspondence but fully understand that you are a very busy person (especially with the neutrino “thing” :-)) and do appreciate the fact that you even took the time to respond to my original e-mail so I don’t have an expectation of a response.
On page 56, you discussed external (e.g. God) influences that would have to be transmitted by a mechanism. I am curious whether you are a determinist, which to me means, do you believe that when science fully understands the chemistry and biology of the brain that one would be able to tell for each individual exactly what they will do at every particular time? If that turns out to be the case, then I think we are in agreement that religion and science would be in conflict as religion certainly believes in an individual having free will.
As to your original thoughts on the logical contradiction (bottom page 57), I am sure that there are many religious sects that do believe that science and religion are at odds and “choose” religion. For example, within Orthodoxy (Jewish) [where I inhabit some subsection], there are those that believe it is heresy to believe that the world is anything other than 5,772 years old (tomorrow actually) or that the world was created in 7 literal days (notwithstanding the fact that the sun wasn’t created on the first day in the bible).
However, there are those rationalists who believe that science and religion do not conflict (and I use the word rationalist with a sort of grin because I imagine you are thinking to yourself how can you be rational and religious and I agree that even the most rational religious person must take some leap of faith rather than just leave things as an open question [e.g. where did the big bang come from?]). However, as I understand it, our goal is to reduce that leap of faith to the extent possible. Maimonides is famous for saying that he believes in creation ex-nihilo but should science prove that this was not the case, he would reinterpret scripture to be consistent with the scientific evidence (i.e., there is only one truth and reason and revelation will converge to it).
I guess the real question that you raise is who’s in charge? I don’t see why one would necessarily believe that there must be a contradiction here. Why couldn’t the creator of the universe create the universe in such a way that the scientific rules you study are the rules the creator embedded in the universe.
I’d also point out that Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik understood Genesis 1:28 (“and subdue it”) as a religious requirement to harness the forces of nature for the betterment of all mankind.
Obviously, there’s a lot to say, but I fear my earlier flatlander remarks may apply here.
A closing thought:
Hamlet Act I, Scene 5
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
But in our case I’m guessing:
I’ll tell ya about the magic
It’ll free your soul
but it’s like trying to tell a stranger ’bout rock n roll
Keep up the good work!
Regards,
Joel Rich


From R’ Aviner:
Prayer for the State of Israel
Q: I heard that there are Religious-Zionist Rabbis who have stopped reciting the Prayer for the State of Israel?
A: Perhaps. But only a negligent amount (see the book Rosh Ha-Memshalah pp. 127-128). (me –Freudian negligent vs. negligible?)

Mother’s Blessing
Q: Can a mother give the children a blessing after the father on Shabbat night?
A: Certainly. (me- why on earth not? Rhetorical question , I can think why, but I don’t like it)

Serenity Prayer
Q: Who wrote the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”?
A: Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr, a liberal neo-orthodox, American theologian. 5652-5731. (me- chochmah bagoyim?)

Hashem does not interfere and force a person to do the good or the bad. If a person has the choice to steal or not, there is no inner, divine power which forces him in either direction (unless he has a severe emotional illness and thus does not have free choice. In this case he is controlled and by an unconquerable inclination, a fact which is taken into consideration both by Halachah and the secular courts of this world). [me- the comment in parenthesis should be a great post topic – R’ Gil?]


  • Rabbi Ozer Glickman -Is Hilchot Teshuva a Contradiction in Terms? Thoughts on Law and Philosophy

    R’Ozer talks philosophy (oops – perhaps I should say hashkafa/machshava). Knowledge and belief – what do we really “know”? R’YBS notes that medieval “proofs” were really experiential elements that were turned into proofs (e.g. cosmological) but in philosophical terms can’t “prove” that HKB”H exists [me – I’ve felt this for a long time – Is there general agreement on this in M.O.? Charedism?] So then what does the Rambam mean about “knowing” (leida) HKB”H. The verb also means to be intimate – experience oneness. Then some “proofs” of Rambam’s intention.
    Judaism is not pure formalism – while we do because we are commanded, there’s a lot more than that to it.

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz – Ten Minute Halacha – Bowing on the Floor on Yamim Noraim

    This one goes out to councilor K (who is comparatively mellow these days – but you have to know the baseline!). Analysis of how we bow and practices re interpositions between us and the Stones. Interesting limud zchut on what appears to be the seemingly incorrect majority practice by R’S Kaminetsky (no doubt will get as much ink as R’Broyde on head coverings).

  • Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein -My community # 7 and Yom Kippur- Write your own Eulogy

    Death emphasis on Yom Kippur (at least partial emphasis) reminds us that you must write your own eulogy. We answer with “ein kitzvah” joyously declaring our connection to HKB”H. (me – sounded like R’YBS on finite awareness). We get some quiet focused time to ponder our acts and what we want our legacy to be (councilor K knows what I always think about at a levaya).

  • Rabbi Nosson Scherman -Sichas Mussar: Changing Times

    Society has become more vulgar and we have become more desensitized. We need to be outstanding role models (we = bnai Yeshiva? All of us?) and be more demanding of ourselves – see world events through prism of impact on us (me – you really have to listen to this-I’d love to hear your thoughts). It’s hard to work on our emunah when so much of our lives seems under our own control (e.g. science).

  • Rabbi Yisroel Reisman-Teshuvah Drasha 5772

    Aleinu – Recognize the uniqueness of Klal Yisrael, especially important for those who must leave the protection of the Yeshiva and go to fancy offices (hmmm).
    May need the internet for business but need harchakot (protective measures) for content and general time wasting.(agreed-in life in general!)
    Side point – R’Yochanan ben Zakai showed misirat nefesh in post churban era by enacting takanot – ex. blowing shofar (not sure how “tricking” chachamim by saying blow and then we’ll debate and then claiming can’t change status quo, is mesirat nefesh?)
    Realize we talk to HKB”H face to face and centrality of Klal Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael.

  • Rabbi Yonason Sacks-Tochacha

    Review of Talmudic sources on giving rebuke (Tochacha) and how to reconcile them in order to devise a practical rule for giving tochacha! Is there a difference between addressing groups vs. individuals? Torah vs. rabbinic prohibitions? Purposeful vs. unknowing sins?

  • Rebbetzin Yocheved Goldberg-“A REAL HOUSEWIFE IN BOCA RATON” BEING AN AKERET HA’BAYIT

    Women are uniquely qualified to be the spiritual center of the family even in the modern (read they work outside the house) world. They teach experientially and are role models (R’YBS – torat Imecha vs. mussar avicha).

  • Rabbi Ysoscher Katz -Grappling with Theological Paralysis Avraham and Iyov as Competing Models

    Theodicy – Some level of our belief in HKB”H is rational but we need super rational as well (i.e. when we don’t understand). Living for a cause is important too.

  • RavSoloveitchik-Jealousy_Envy_Truth_Falsity_Boston

    Halachically, historically and psychologically avodah zara (idol worship) is defined as 1) Eli Atah (just verbally accepting a god); 2) bowing to a god; and/or 3) cultic worship of a god. Those all reflect a single principle of accepting someone or something other than HKB”H as a foundation or primary objective of our being.(me-Hakesef Yaaneh et hakol?(not))

  • Rabbi Aryeh Leibowitz – Chovos haLevavos – Introduction

    Introduction to a series. Here focus on different types of knowledge (throws in the GRA’s 100X formula on secular knowledge) and the obligations on our minds in terms of thoughts and beliefs (e.g. love HKB”H). Brief review of chapter headings.

  • Rabbi Dovid Miller -As Free Will has been Granted to All

    Compare Rambam in hilchot tshuva Chapter 1 to Chapter 7. In Chapter 7 he uses the noun “baal tshuva” (master of repentance) vs. Chapter 1 where it’s about the verb of doing tshuva (repenting). R’YBS spoke about this, R’Miller reformulates the differentiation as being a “chalot sheim” (defining) the individual vs. a process the individual goes through (towards the same end).
    Nice vort from his father – “Ish yehudi haya bshushan habirah ushmo Mordechai…” (There was a “Yehudi” man in Shushan whose name was Mordechai) implies that while his name was Mordechai his essence/definition was as a Yehudi.)

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Ten Minute Halacha – She’hechiyanu on New Keilim and Clothing

    For non-fruits, the determination as to whether to make a shochiyanu is based on joy generated and (to me) seems an individual by individual determination. Lots of technical issues (make bracha on first use vs. when bought? shoes? sfarim? engagement ring? what if financed, what if didn’t make the bracha right away?).(Me-you need to have a sense of such things grasshopper)
    Question – why don’t we follow S”A and say bracha of malbish arumim on new clothes?
    Question – Is it my imagination or does it seem recent poskim get asked every possible nitty gritty detail? Or perhaps earlier poskim got questions like this but didn’t record them? Or they weren’t asked? Or people just “knew” from practice?

  • Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein – My community # 8- Do I LIVE at HOME like I do in my SUKKA?

    Lessons from the sukkah – 1) make meals a family/religious experience ; 2) spend more time preparing for mitzvot; 3) know where your kids are (BTW, “It’s 10 PM, do you know where your children are?” is from the 1980’s); 4) know you’re always being watched (by HKB”H).

  • Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein -Taamei HaMitzvot #1

    General defense of machshava and studying reasons for mitzvot. How do we experience and understand them. First in a series.

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter -Parsha Shiur – Vzos Habrachah 5772

    Sforno on the difference between a bracha (blessing) and a tfilla (prayer). We never learn halacha from gematria – but then gives some examples of seeming counter examples (perhaps they are an asmachta). 613 – does everyone think the number important? Nidui reversal after death – yes. Why didn’t everyone but Shevet Levi do circumcision in midbar? It’s an example of a danger which is not required to be ignored but may be depending on the individual.
    Who wrote the last 8 psukim in the torah? Dateline issues.

  • About Joel Rich

    Joel Rich is a frequent wannabee cyberspace lecturer on various Torah topics. A Yerushalmi formerly temporarily living in West Orange, NJ, his former employer and the Social Security administration support his Torah listening habits. He is a recovering consulting actuary.

    9 comments

    1. John sebastian would be pleased to see you appended him to willie s!
      Anothe 60’s dropout

    2. “From R’ Aviner:
      Prayer for the State of Israel
      Q: I heard that there are Religious-Zionist Rabbis who have stopped reciting the Prayer for the State of Israel?
      A: Perhaps. But only a negligent amount (see the book Rosh Ha-Memshalah pp. 127-128). (me –Freudian negligent vs. negligible?)”

      Of course it is often forgotten how many MO Rabbis were opposedto the narrative language of reshit smichat geulateinu-for example I believe that majority of editors if not more of Tradition who were also pulpit Rabbis did not believe that the narrative sentence was appropriate.

    3. ” know you’re always being watched (by HKB”H”

      what does that mean and who knows what HKBH does=see eg Rambam that except for rare individuals no HP on the individual level.

      “Or perhaps earlier poskim got questions like this but didn’t record them? Or they weren’t asked? Or people just “knew” from practice?”
      probably all true

      “Women are uniquely qualified to be the spiritual center of the family”
      Why is that not just apologetics-
      .

      “They teach experientially”

      Still true for Drisha and advanced Stern students?

      “and are role models”
      who says fathers aren’t religious role models-

      “It’s hard to work on our emunah when so much of our lives seems under our own control (e.g. science). ”

      Science hasn’t yet taught us how to reach the fountain of youth-ageing process is going on essentially as it has for centuries

      “R’YBS notes that medieval “proofs” were really experiential elements that were turned into proofs (e.g. cosmological) but in philosophical terms can’t “prove” that HKB”H exists [me – I’ve felt this for a long time – Is there general agreement on this in M.O.? Charedism?]”

      I agree but certainly Chareidis don’t and suspect many MOs don’t. Of course a fortiori can’t prove truth of maamad har Sinai -R Yehuda Halevi notwithstanding.

    4. “Who wrote the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”?
      A: Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr, a liberal neo-orthodox, American theologian. 5652-5731. (me- chochmah bagoyim?)”
      Of course, Neibuhrs daughter was the first wife of Judge Charles Sifton who was the judge who ruled for Lubavitch against Barry Gurary in the famous book case
      see
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_Prayer
      for evidence that the prayer and or the basic ideas were in existence way before Neinuhr.

    5. I’m not sure why determinism is considered a threat to religion. In each situation, each person ends up acting in only one way. Surely the action is already “predetermined”, and only knowledge of the predetermined action is restricted to certain beings (God+prophets)? Why is it considered a qualitative change if a few biologists join the club of the informed? Religion, when speaking of free will, has always had to take into account this “predetermining” of actions. And its response was and still can be that regardless of philosophy, life as experienced by humans on a psychological and existential level has and always will involve decisions and “free will”.

    6. R’ Spoonfull,
      Sorry, the original had a space as if to say that while “willie s” said what he said, it would be difficult for me to convince her of it (as hinted at by John s’s line)
      ML

    7. R’ Mycroft,
      apologetics? I prefer to call it alternative narrative.
      ML

    8. R’ Shlomo,
      Was it the Rambam who said if all the seas were ink etc., we could never explain this? While I could agree as far as how we experience it, my bugaboo is how could we be punished (or rewarded)for it. I could theorize about alternative universes where each possibility is played out, but I fear hearing Napolean xiv sing “they’ree coming to take me away”
      ML

    9. On tefilla leshlom hamedina- there are a number of minyanim-shuls (including mine) who do not say tefilla leshlom hamedina but DO say tefilla leshlom chayalai tzahal. These are usually “Chardali places, either classic Poalei Agudat Yisrael like mine, or Neo-Chardali who deleted the prayer for the state after the disengagement from Gush Katif. These people continue to believe in “reshit tzmichat geulateinu” but now feel that the State is flawed beyond hope. Many of these people voted for Shas in the last elections. This of course is diametrically opposed to the views of Rav Tau of Yeshivat Har Hamor and leader of the “Mamlachti” trend of Dati Leumi Yeshivas. Rav Aviner although not connected with this trend would not I think protest if he were described as “Mamlachti”

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