Audio Roundup 2019:43

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by Joel Rich

A caterer recently told me that a segula for parnassa is to wrap leftover bread separately for disposal. Anyone know the source (I couldn’t find it) although I’m guessing it’s based on Chulin 105b (getting rid of even crumbs directly can cause poverty – at least in certain cases). So should all bread (food?) be treated like tashmishei mitzvah for disposal? Is bread different from other foods (and why?) ( Is kzayit a dividing line (and why)? )

The Rabbi’s Brain – Mystics, Moderns and the Science of Jewish Thinking – Andrew Newberg MD, Rabbi David Halpern MD

Our current knowledge of the brain reminds me very much of Steve Martin’s classic Theodoric of York (see here for the video YouTube link, the key line: “Well, I’ll do everything humanly possible. Unfortunately, we barbers aren’t gods. You know, medicine is not an exact science, but we are learning all the time. Why, just fifty years ago, they thought a disease like your daughter’s was caused by demonic possession or witchcraft. But nowadays we know that Isabelle is suffering from an imbalance of bodily humors, perhaps caused by a toad or a small dwarf living in her stomach.”).

With many basic issues up for grabs (how do we differentiate, if at all, between the mind and the brain? What is consciousness? Does free will exist? How do we measure happiness? Does the arrow of time only flow in one direction?) this book attempts to put a stake in the ground concerning neurotheology (the linkage of the neurosciences with religion and theology). It includes lots of definitions and survey results of 160 Rabbis (from all streams of Judaism)

Since the brain (mind) is the organ through which we experience the world, all our experiences (including religious/spiritual/scientific/physical…[you get the idea]), can be viewed through the lens of neurotheology. This book gives details of current thinking in this arena.

To me the best questions was the final one “How does the Brain know Reality?” I’d simply add for now that perhaps Descartes’ “I think therefore I am” (meaning all we really “know” is our thoughts), allows the degree of free will required for those who choose to believe, or not believe, to do so.

Check back in a decade to see to where neuroscience and neurotheology have evolved.

Please direct any informal comments to [email protected].

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.

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