You Can’t Hurry Love

In yet another Sunday in the Library I randomly found yesterday’s Dear Abby:

    DEAR ABBY: I’m 19. My boyfriend and I have been together for a year and a half. Eventually we want to be married. Our relationship is great. We are committed to each other in every way. Of course, we have our disagreements, but neither of us has ever cheated.
    I’m considering marriage now rather than later because I will be moving to Florida for school next fall, and he won’t be coming with me right away.
    Abby, is it silly to think about marriage as a way to ensure that the distance between us won’t tear up apart? Or should I wait till I finish school? — THINKING ABOUT MARRIAGE
    DEAR THINKING: Wait until you finish school. The college years represent a significant intellectual and emotional growth spurt for most people. There is the possibility that by the time you’ve graduated, you won’t be the same person you are today — and neither will he. Please don’t be afraid of this. Growth is positive.

Rebbetzin Jungreis she isn’t, but more Jews follow Dear Abby’s advice than you might realize.
Although the trend is to marry young, the society does impose a minimum standard of development. For most of Modern Orthodox, the most drastic changes occur during “the year in Israel” before college. Based purely on anecdotal research, yeshivot and seminaries often (but not always) encourage students to end existing relationships so that they may concentrate on their own personal development. Only afterwords could the student adequately know what is appropriate to look for in a spouse.
If a person is about to enter a personality changing experience, it does not make sense to commit at that time. Although everyone changes (hopefully matures) over the course of their lives, some periods are more formative than others. People who get married too early would have greater risk of feeling stifled later on in their marriage.
Of course you can argue just how developed one is after 10 months of intense yeshiva/seminary life, or if one is really ready to get married at that point. I’d say that the logic is in place, we just need to work on the details.

Posted in News & Events, Odds & Ends.

What? Me Buried?

George Woodbridge, longtime illustrator for Mad Magazine passed away on Tuesday at the age of 73.
I haven’t read Mad in ages. I’ve heard it’s gone downhill in recent years, but I used to be a fan.1 In fact, my grandmother gave me a subscription which brought many many hours of joy and distraction from schoolwork.2 I still remember from one of the big bonus collections Woodbridge’s 43 Man Squamish.
Simply a classic.

1. Everyone was. Even Haham Faur read Mad back when it was really good in the 60’s.
2. And I still have my collection of not-quite good condition back issues. That is, I had them when I left for Chicago.

Posted in Odds & Ends.

Don’t Know Much About History

Dei’ah veDibur has a nice summary of the Haredi communities recent struggles with the Israeli education ministry and the required “core” curriculum. In a nutshell, the Israeli government wants to force the Hareidi schools to teach secular subjects such as “science” and “English.” The government plans to link state funding with compliance to this core curriculum, such that a school which teaches 75% of the curriculum will only get 75% of its alloted funding. Naturally, the Haredi world is quite upset at this, and managed to delay this implementation for at least another year.
The Haredi community opposes any teaching of secular studies in any form. They blacklisted “hareidi” yeshivas which tempt the boys with secular knowledge, and as mentioned here a while back women may not even receive professional training. Instead, all Hareidi men and women should strive to “toil in Torah.”
But according to Shinui MK Ilan Shalgi , chairman of the Knesset Education Committee, “They want to keep them severed, ignorant and poor, under their authority and dependent on them . . . ”
So, how to we get these two to make up? I’d suggest teaching that which the Talmud explicitly permits and/or encourages. Keep in mind, the Tannaim and Amoraim were not “from the knitted-kippoh ranks.”
Instead of teaching English, teach Greek which is permitted for men (B. Sotah 49b) and perhaps encouraged for women.(Y. Peah 1:1 15c).
If the Hareidi community doesn’t just want to keep their client?le “under their authority,” then train them to become gedolim. That would mean learning 70 languages (though not neccesarilly English, although the context of the gemara would require it).(B. San 17a) Furthermore, R. Yohanan requires that members be “ba’alei keshafim.” So we can add to the curriculum comparative religion. Or perhaps alchemy.
Biology? Teach the guys how to do shehita and how to check for t’reifot. Physics? How to calculate the new moons. Even Ra’avad couldn’t do that. Art? Teach safrut. Seriously, I know someone who took YU’s safrut class to fulfill the art requirement. History? “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations.” (Devarim 32:7)
See – it’s all a matter of packaging the material. You can still teach all these things in the context of Torah – and better yet practical Torah.
Now about this serving in the army thing…

Posted in Jewish Culture.

The Clothes Have No Emperor

I’ve been slacking on blogging (again) because I’m working on the major project(s) of the year. I am also beginning to get frustrated. There is an obsession around here about asking “Why?” questions, whether or not one has the “What?” question answered. Of course, these “what” questions need social data you can’t really get good social data on Jewish society because there isn’t any – or at least nothing that’s accessible. (Don’t get me started on the Jewish Data Bank).
The following dialogue between me and an adviser will explain:

    Him: You should be asking, “Why is X the case”
    Me: But I don’t know that X is actually the case
    Him: Find out
    Me: That would require data which either doesn’t exist or is restricted

We did this a few times with the adviser substituting different things for X. Most real data involving the Jewish community, like conversions and what not, is in the hands of rabbinical bodies who are bound by religious or ethical confidentiality. One professor suggested I research why Rabbis wouldn’t release the information, basically studying the lack of data, the argument of silence.
So, I have a tight deadline to invent a “Why?” problem regardless if I have supporting facts as to the reality or if I would even be able to get the data I would need.
At least I have my answer to, “Why are there so few good sociologists of Judaism?”
Update: I’ve decided to go back to what I was interested in when I first came here. Much more much later.

Posted in Academia.

The Stein Line

It’s time now for my response to Rabbi Daniel Stein. Sorry for the delays, but I do have schoolwork to do here. I’ve been working on a response that will adequately address R. Stein’s points, while not succumbing to ranting. As comical and entertaining as a Grach-type review would be, I feel that R. Stein’s article deserves a serious analysis and critique.
(Rants may come at the end)

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Posted in Jewish Culture, Jewish Law / Halakha, Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava.

High Society

YUTOPIA has broken the 10,000 hit barrier since its launch in July and notched over 17,000 page views.
Many thanks to the Loyal Readers, and everyone who came here by accident while searching for dating questions, The Alphabet of Ben Sira, Frumster, secular colleges, most recently jewish guitar chords, and my favorite: apikorsim definition (to the old site).
I know the content has been slow as of late. I’ve been working on a detailed response to R. Stein’s Beis Yitzhack articles which is taking much longer than I would have liked and I do have other work to do in grad school. I should be done with it within the next couple of days.
Oh – and a shout out to Avraham Bronstein on his new solo project.

The title is a reference to the movie Rounders which you should see if you haven’t yet. John Malkovich as Teddy KGB must be seen and heard to be fully appreciated.

Posted in Personal.

Chicago “Life” – January ’04

The blog has been getting kind of intense and serious as of late. So, to lighten the mood a bit, some updates as to what’s been going on at the glorious U of C.
As it turns out the Talent Show will be held on a Friday night. Considering that 58% of you voted that I should “Maintain Dignity (i.e. nothing)” then I suppose it’s all for the best.
Here are the rest of the results:

    11% – Beatnik Poetry (2 votes)
    26% – Interpretive Dance (5 votes)
    5% – Stand-up Comedy (1 vote)

Apparently, no one liked my cover of Rockin’ in the Free World last year…
Before vacation, I went to see The One-Man Star Wars Trilogy. How geek-centric was this evening?

  • I first heard of this performance from Slashdot. When you get your social events from Slashdot, you know you’re in trouble.
  • I went with two astro-physics PhD. students.
  • The ushers dressed up as Stormtroopers, and EVERY person1 went up to one of them and asked, “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtooper?” Believe it or not, the usher did not in fact kill everyone in the theater.2 She must have been strong in the force…

At any rate, the guy was spectacular. In roughly one hour, he basically performed the entire trilogy (with sound effects) minus the boring scenes.3 His impersonation of Admiral Ackbar was just fantastic.
In other areas of obscure geekdom, since my vacation started I caught up on Homestarrunner and Red vs. Blue, and read Alan Moore’s Watchmen.
All worthwhile, in their own ways.
Pathetic you say? Perhaps. But this is what happens with a T1 line, no classes, and more importantly, no car. Anyway, I have a class on “Theology and Mythology of Evil” in a bit, so I’ll just end this before it gets worse,
Excelsior, True Believers!

1. Although the thought did cross my mind, I decided to have mercy on the poor usher.
2. Bad for repeat business.
3. It should be mentioned that the audience did in fact notice when he did not recite the EXACT dialogue from the movie.

Posted in Personal.

House Of Blues

The Yeshiva part of YU’s student council (SOY) publishes an annual “Torah” journal called “Beis Yitzhack.” Each year, Roshei Yeshiva, rabbinic alumni, Kollel or rabbinical students, and some undergraduates submit Hebrew articles on a variety of topics. This year, Kollel Elyon member R. Daniel Stein published two articles which offended many readers and embarrassed YU’s Kollel.
Normally in order for BY to get such negative reaction, someone has to make a big deal out of it.1 A few years ago, some students published a “mehqar” (academic talmud) -type piece in BY and attributed something to Ha-Gaon R. Shaul (GRAS”H) Lieberman.2 Probably no one would have noticed it unless the authors themselves hadn’t pointed out to everyone that were able to publish this piece in the typically “traditional” BY.3
I’m not around YU this year, so I don’t know exactly what is currently happening between the walls of the Yeshiva. I do know that Protocols posted something about this edition, and consequently sparked a vicious flame war in the comments and a subsequent follow-up post. I’ve been told, The Forward got wind of this and will cover it soon.
Thanks to Avraham I managed to get copies of the offending articles.4 My reaction? Honestly, I didn’t like either article.5 Are they worthy of the extreme reaction they’re getting? That’s a different story, and a more complicated issue.
What gets published or rejected is ultimately up to the editorial staff of the BY. What are their standards? I have no idea. Assuming they accept everything submitted, BY would be ideologically “open,” but it would eventually have to publish articles which diminish its credibility. However, in order to reject submissions, BY would need some objective acceptable criteria, which would invariably alienate some if not all of its intended readership.
What about R. Stein’s responsibilities? He took positions, and defended them based on his (or other’s) interpretation of selected sources. Should he have not quoted controversial opinions?
Once an opinion is published, it’s part of the public record. If this opinion is actually Torah, then why should we be embarrassed? The sages of Israel did not hide anti-secular laws from the Romans.(B. Bava Qamma 38a) Or following the mentality of the yeshiva, if these “gedolim” are at a level in which we may not question them, then who are we to censor them? If you find that they have ridiculous opinions, then perhaps they are not as great as you would like to believe.
In one of his articles, R. Stein belittles a methodology employed by at least one of YU’s Roshei Yeshiva. If he gives himself the right to evaluate and criticize one of the Roshei Yeshiva, then certainly R. Stein should not be held to a higher standard and above criticism himself. R. Stein chose to put his position in print, and consequently opens himself to peer evaluation.
There are certain rules of discourse which are determined by “common sense” or basic civility. If R. Stein is wrong, prove it. Demonstrate how he misreads sources. Prove how his logic and conclusions are incorrect. Many of the commentors in Protocols didn’t even read the article and were relying on one person’s abridged translation. With no actual evidence, people hide behind “anonymous” screen names and feel free to hurl invectives at anyone who disagrees with them. This is less of a problem with Protocols than it is with the entirety of the web. Slashdot and Kuro5hin both depend on the community moderating itself such that the insightful get read over the trolls.
I’m not a fan of censorship, but on the other hand we can’t accept every single possible position as part of every discussion. For now, I’m just advocating accountability. Accountability for Roshei Yeshiva in terms of their own methodologies and how closely they follow Torah. Accountability for the critics to demonstrate why they disagree. And finally accountability for the “netizens” for their comments.
Don’t censor articles from BY, but make sure they’re well argued. Don’t hide issues of the BY, but RTFA and respond coherently. No one is above criticism, but no one deserves an intellectual lynching either.
If you really think you’re right, put your name on the line and defend your position. Don’t suppress others and don’t hide behind anonymity.
If YU wants to maintain any credibility, it has to stop hiding from controversies and civility.
It’s time to put up, or shut up.
Update: I “put up” my own review of R. Stein’s article.

1. The fact that it’s written in Hebrew probably has something to do with its readership around YU.
2. R. Lieberman taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Despite being a world class Talmid Haham, many in YU do not take him seriously simply because of his affiliation with the conservative movement. Other might reference his Tosefta Ki-fshuta, but for the most part he is ignored. In this case, authors sinned by attributing the hallowed honorific reserved for select sages.
3. The best analogy I can think of is a high school yearbook. Every year someone puts in a “hidden” message which normal people won’t see. Nothing happens until someone points it out to the administration at which point, people get banned from graduation, pages get ripped out, etc.
4. As per my arrangement, I will not distribute my copies under any circumstances. Don’t as me, don’t ask Avraham. Just buy the book.
5. I realized in my GNU Testament post, I took a “cheap shot” at Rushkoff in that I disparaged his book without providing the exact flaws. For this, I apologize. Since I will not go into detail about the article’s content, I am intentionally not elaborating here. I may blog about the specifics later.

Posted in Jewish Culture, Jewish Law / Halakha, Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava.

Jewish Guitar Chords

This is the message board part of the Jewish Guitar Chords Archive. If you have comments, compliments, or requests, post them here. If you have your own submissions, send me an e-mail and I’ll add them to the archive as soon as I can.

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Posted in Jewish Guitar Chords.

One for the Road

Thanks to everyone who commented on The GNU Testament. People made some really thoughtful points to which I’ll respond after I get back to Chicago.
Surprisingly busy yet restful vacation. Met many old freinds, made some new ones, and haven’t lost any that I know of. Spent enough time in the heights to remember how much fun it was, but not enough time to remind myself why it’s better that I left when I did. At any rate, it’s time to get back to “normal.”
One last tidbit while I’m still in NJ:
Life imitates The Simpsons

Posted in Odds & Ends, Personal.