by Joel Rich
Conscience – Pat Churchland
Conscience is a brain construct rooted in our neural circuitry, not a theological entity thoughtfully parked in us by a divine being. It is not infallible, even when honestly consulted. It develops over time and is sensitive to approval and disapproval; it joins forces with reflection and imagination and can be twisted by bad habits, bad company, and a zeitgeist of narcissism. Not everyone develops a conscience (witness the psychopaths), and sometimes conscience becomes the plaything of morbid anxiety (as in scrupulants). The best we can do, given all this, is to aim for understanding how an impartial spectator might judge us.
No good comes of insisting that unless conscience is infallible or religion provides absolute rules, morality has nothing to anchor it and anything goes. For one thing, such a claim is false. For another thing, we do have something to anchor it—namely, our inherited neurobiology. In addition, we have the traditions that are handed down from one generation to another and, to some degree, tested by time and over varying conditions. We do have institutions that embody much wisdom. Those are the anchors. Imperfect? Yes, of course. Still, an imperfect foundation is better than a phony foundation. What we don’t want to do is fabricate a myth about infallible conscience or divine laws, peddle it as fact, and then get caught out when people come to realize, as they most assuredly will, that it was all made up.
Thus a biological take on moral behavior and the conscience that guides it.
I read your new book with great interest. While I would certainly love to discuss it with you I do have one question that I was hoping you might address.
On page 147 you note that conscience is a brain construct rooted in our neural circuitry. My simple question is once one becomes aware of this fact, why should he feel bound to act according to his conscience? If such an individual had a ring of gyges, why would he choose not to use it to his full benefit?]
Vayikra 25:17 states, “V’lo tonu ish et amito” (“And you shall not wrong one man his fellow Jew”). Rashi comments that this includes onaat dvarim, which includes giving inappropriate advice (Eitzah Sheena Hogenet). I thought this specific application (Eitzah) was forbidden under lfnei Iver (one practical difference would be what hatraah [warning] would be required if you must warn on the specific prohibition). Any thoughts??
- Rav Asher Weiss-תפילה לרפואת החולים
Can you violate Shabbat to send a message for someone to pray for another? How do we evaluate the calming effect of such an action? Prayer is a key element in bikur cholim! R’Weiss believes we should never pray for death (me-interesting take on Rebbi’s maid servant)
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-The Impact of Hashkafa on Halacha – Part 1 – Medinat Yisrael
Psak can reflect an individual poseik’s personality (hmmmm!). Ikrei emunah must be subject to psak (else how know who is an apikores) but other hashkafic issues maybe not.
How one hashkafically views Eretz Yisrael/Mdinat Yisrael will obviously have an impact on their halachic decisions. (me-but not on R’YBS/Sat mar Rav on shmitah etrogim???)
- Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein-חזן בכסא גלגלים- אפשרי, בלתי אפשרי או…רצוי?
As long as the congregation doesn’t object, a wheelchair bound chazan is fine. (me-should they?)
- Rabbi Jeremy Wieder-J’s Dr. William Major Memorial Advanced Shiur in Talmud with Rabbi Dr. Jeremy Wieder
Ongoing general shiur – topics include carrying on Shabbat, non-Jew touching wine and the differing definitions of reshut hayachid for Shabbat and for tumah
- Rabbi Chaim Brovender-True Conversion
True conversion means new beginnings.
- Rabbi Yonatan Shai Freedman-Tefillin on Chol Hamoed
Sources and poskim on whether or not to wear tfillin on chol hamoed
- Rabbi Ezra Schwartz-Lashon Hara for Toeles: Shidduchim, Business, Therapy and Venting
Lashon hara/toelet situations in shiduchim. Implications of whether it is hutrah (not a case of lashon hara) or dchuya (permitted lashon hara)?
- Rabbi Jonathan Ziring-From Yirmiyahu to Eicha
Even though prophets knew people wouldn’t listen, they needed to prophesize destruction so the people would look back later and understand what HKB”H wanted from them.
- Rabbi Yitzchok Fingerer-Shavuot: Getting Up When You Are Down – How Do I Know Matan Torah Happened?
Mass revelation proves the authenticity of Torah. We need to grow and on Shavuot to feel the burn of Torah
- Rabbi Yehuda Turetsky-Does Kabbalah Impact How We Pasken? Chofetz Chaim and Rav Yitzchak Meir Morgenstern
How did the Mishna Brura take kabbalah into account in psak? What about R’Morgenstern?
- Rabbi Hershel Schachter-Pirkei Avos Perek Vav
Focus on limud hatorah: L’shma defined; L’lmod al minat l’aasot; Impact of learning on self; Reward for learning; Humility and much, much more
- Rabbi Jeffrey Saks-R. J. David Bleich on his 50-Year Survey of Contemporary Halakha
Fifty years worth of R’Bleich’s pieces in Tradition concerning contemporary halachic literature. How does he do it and how did his work evolve over the years?
- Rabbi Yoni Levin-After Staying Awake All Night Shavuos: Appreciating Sleep in Halacha
What is an individual’s halachic status when they are asleep? How do we view dreaming? etc.
- Rav berel wein-behaaloscha 5779
What happened to Yitro?
- Rav berel wein-behaaloscha 5779 #2
Why are Leviim special?
- Rabbi Shay Schachter-Early Shabbos: May I Ask My JEWISH Neighbor to do Melacha for Me?
How forbidden to you must something be in order for you not to be able to ask someone else, for whom it is not forbidden, to do it for you?
- Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer ,Rabbi Zev Leff,Mr. Jake Turx-6/8/19 The state of Anti-Semitism Today and the partnership of Yissachar Zevulun
How and when does the whole Yissachar/Zveulun thing work? What should one learn?
Antisemitism – what’s the state of the world today?
- Rabbi Isaac Rice-The Mitzvah to be Blessed by the Kohanim
Many authorities hold there is a mitzvah for Yisraelim to be blessed by the Cohanim.
- Rabbi Shay Schachter-Must We Wait For 10 Men to Participate in Chazaras Hashatz?
The Shulchan Aruch seems contradictory on the point, so it’s best to have 10 responding/listening to chazarat hashatz but in a pinch 6 will do.
- Rabbi Yoni Levin-Accidentally Picking Up Muktzah: Can You Carry it Anywhere?
Should you drop muktzeh where you are when you realize you have it? It’s a machloket
- Rabbi Etan Schnall-The New Normal? Guarding Our Religious Sensitivities
Our religious sensitivities need to be maintained as we seek to impact the world around us.
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz ,Mrs. Elisheva Kaminetsky ,Mrs. Mindy Eisenman-When Our Children Date
Raise your kids to be resilient and to know their values. Dating is about them, not you. Most importantly, are they really ready?
- Rabbi Azarya Berzon-Halachik guidelines for using the internet, Part I
Part 1 -The internet can be a good thing if you can be positive and deal with the privacy, transparency, onaat dvarim, bitul zman and gezel.
- Rabbi Hershel Schachter-Nasso 5779 – Political Considerations in Torah voDaas and Paskening Halacha, Nazir, Sotah, and Vinegar
Parsha thoughts including: Retirement; How long to apprentice; Learning vs. marrying first; Ger Shenitgayer; Sotah; Heter mechirah; Sotah; Nazir; tumah and duchening.
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-The Impact of Hashkafa on Halacha Part 2 – Yerushalayim, Secular Studies and Values
Examples of where hashkafa impacts halacha: status of Jerusalem (e.g. ripping on desolate cities); Secular studies (eg blessing on secularly learned Jewish Scholar); feminism (e.g. women’s zimmun) and smartphones (e.g. owners’ testimony status)
- Rabbi Michael Taubes-Parshas Nasso Is There A Retirement Age According to Halachah
Leviim, Cohanim, Judges, Shochtim all provide insight into the hashkafa of “retirement” – basically there is no mandatory retirement (me-the question to me is whether there is voluntary retirement in our hashkafa. I have a shiur on the topic)
- Rabbi Azarya Berzon-Masechet Sanhedrin 6a: How many Judges are required for דין and פשרה?; is פשרה a good thing?
“On the daf” shiur discussing the talmud’s view of din (strict law) and pshara (compromise). What is the nature of pshara
- Shmuel Reichman-Medical Halacha Chabura #14- The Trolley Problem and Self-Driving Cars: Can We Ever Play God?
First shiur in a series on Trolleyollogy and self-driving cars. What is the nature of sumac tfei (whose blood is redder)? (e.g. hutra or dchuya, result or action oriented, existential truth or just not within our ability to measure)
- Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Eruvin 353-2
Can you toss something above 10 tfachim from a house on one side of a reshut harabim to the other?
- Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Eruvin 352-2 and 353-1
If you have a 4×4 shelf outside your window (10 tfachim above ground), can you take something in from the window?
Please direct any informal comments to [email protected].