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Showing posts from 2009
Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

It's an old joke. It is funny because it is so outrageous to even imagine someone displaying such total lack of sensitivity that he could ask such a question. Obviously no one is that insensitive and clueless. Ask a woman who had seen not only her husband, but an icon... a symbol of unity and humanity gunned down in cold blood about other events that evening?? Especially since she probably feels that if they just hadn't gone to the play that night. If they had just decided to do something less public that evening, her husband might be alive today. And this boor and worse is asking her to ignore the most devastating moment of her life and talk about mundane things?!? So its funny, because no one is actually that insensitive.

Except I just realized this afternoon that I am that insensitive. I asked another Jew today, "Other than another Tisha b'Av in galus, how are things going?" I thought is was cute. Till t…

Thought for the Day: Chess -- Orthodox, Egalitarian, and Reform

Please bear with me, this really is a d'var torah kind of thought. We all know how to play chess, at least the basic rules. Moreover, we have seen different size boards, different colors, different shape pieces. I have even seen a Star Wars chess game with wookies and darth vader and whatnot. It's all still chess; as odd as the pieces and board may look: every version has all the same types of pieces recognizable by how they move and they have the same goal.

Let's invent a couple of new games. First game: same board, pieces, and moves, but lets remove the inequality between the king and the queen. The game ends whenever either the king or queen is captured, the king can move the same as the queen. Oh, and we don't let pawns become queens (or anything else) when they reach the other side of the board. We'll call this Egalitarian Chess.

Second game: this time we feel that it is very unfair that pawns cannot move backward. We also don't like that pieces c…
Yes, Virginia, There Really is Good and Evil

I think this is a question that nags at all of us:

Do you think that a basic knowledge of good vs. evil is inherent in our psyche (in a sort of Jungian way)? Or is it something we learn? I guess a question I have always had since childhood is how do you know if what you are doing is actually good?

The Rabbis tell us (Eruvin 100b):

אמר רבי יוחנן אילמלא לא ניתנה תורה היינו למידין צניעות מחתול וגזל מנמלה ועריות מיונ
R' Yochanan says, had the Torah not been given, we could learn modesty from the cat, [not to] steal from the ant, and fidelity from the dove.

Why wouldn't we learn not to be modest from a dog, stealing from ravens, and infidelity from the cat? On first glance, then, it seems like we *do* have some inner moral compass. We may not be able say what is good and evil, but we recognize it when we see it. As is often the case, first impressions are misleading. First, the Torah *has* been given and it could very well be tha…

A New, Gentiler Perspective

Before continuing with the narrative, I'd like to reflect a bit on what had just happened. I had grown up believing I was Jewish. I had often done a show and tell about Judaism in school, usually around Chanuka time. The teachers made a point of allowing me to work on "winter holiday" projects according to my (ie, the Jewish) calendar. I always knew I would only marry a Jewish girl and rear a Jewish family. I now had my children enrolled in a Jewish school and going to an authentic, Orthodox Jewish synagogue. And now I wasn't Jewish. I didn't buy into the whole "only the orthodox won't accept you" nonsense. I had grown up believing I was Jewish and being proud of being Jewish and making a point of letting others know that I was Jewish. And now I wasn't Jewish.

It goes without saying that this was a blow to how I viewed myself and who I was. That, in fact, is an issue with which I struggle even now. But this was absolutely the death kne…
Why Reconciling Torah and Science is a Non-issue

I was asked recently by a long lost and recently rediscovered family member:
How do you reconcile your faith and what you believe to be true as a scientist?

I liked the phrasing of the question. Not, "How do you reconcile your faith with current scientific theories?"; something I certainly cannot do and to not even believe is possible. Rather, "How do you reconcile your faith and what you believe to be true as a scientist?"; that is something I can do, but even believe is essential. To that end, I make the following assertions:

First bold statement: There is no scientific data that contradicts the Torah view of how we got to where we are. Not in general, and not even in the details. That includes origin of species, age of the universe, development of civilization; all of it.

Second bold statement: Given a reasonable criterion for acceptance, it will be found that the Torah view is the most consistent with the evidenc…

Moving to Dallas... to become not Jewish (again!)

The blame for this next step up in observance lays squarely on my wife's shoulders (hi, honey!). One small step in education, one giant leap in hashkafa (outlook).

When my oldest daughter was about to start 2nd grade, my job moved us to Dallas, Texas. I was working on the Superconducting Super Collider (RIP) project, and it had finally been decided to locate the lab south of Dallas. It just so happened (yeah, right...) that my wife mentioned the impending move to Dallas at a Sisterhood function and one of the lady's there just happened to have a sister in Dallas who just happened to be visiting for Thanksgiving. That sister called my wife to tell her about the Dallas Jewish community and to invite us for a Shabbos when we came down to look for a house. It came up that there was a Jewish day school in Dallas; then and there my wife decided we needed to take our children out of public school and take advantage of having a Jewish day school for them. Her decision was largely…