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.

The GNU Testament

If you were following Protocols a while ago, you might be familiar with Douglass Rushkoff and his recent book Nothing Sacred. I know I’m a little late with this, but there is one point of Rushkoff’s thought which I would like to address.1 Specifically, Rushkoff suggests a Judaism modeled after a popular software movement which he calls, “Open Source Judaism.” (OSJ)

According to Rushkoff:

An open source religion would work the same way as open source software development: it is not kept secret or mysterious at all. Everyone contributes to the codes we use to comprehend our place in the universe. We allow our religion to evolve based on the active participation of its people. We internalize and engineer Jewish laws and ideas as adults, rather than following them by rote, as children. We come to realize that the writings and ideas of Judaism are not set in stone, but invitations to inquire, challenge, and evolve. Together, as a community, we define Judaism as the ongoing resolution of our individual sensibilities.2

Superficially, OSJ is nothing more than a restatement of Reconstructionism. However, through his analogy to open source software, (OSS) Rushkoff actually offers a different model, one which requires its own analysis.

To understand OSJ, we must first understand the culture it’s supposed to emulate. As its name states, OSS programs’ code is “openly” published and is freely available to the public. This allows users to modify programs to suit their specific needs, add functions to the program, and find bugs or security holes.
However, OSS is more than a just a programming model, but it is a culture unto itself. According to the GNU Foundation, OSS is about free software. By “free,” GNU primarily means autonomy. Licenses may not restrict the implementations of a program – a user may run a program in any way s/he sees fit. Users are free to study and modify the code to suit their needs. Although they advocate the ability to redistribute software, GNU insists, “‘Free software’ is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of ‘free’ as in ‘free speech,’ not as in ‘free beer.'”

With these freedoms, developers have created stable and secure operating systems, advanced web browsers, powerful graphic manipulators, and absurdly powerful text editors. Developers create projects and publish code on sites like Sourceforge where other programmers may download, test, and debug their programs. Developers therefore share their code with an entire community, the totality of which in turn promotes creativity and innovation.3

Since the strength of OSS is its dependence on the community’s voluntary contributions, its anti-model would be Microsoft. All of MS’s software is proprietary and available only through purchase. Normally, we would simply call this “capitalism.” But companies who choose themselves to MS software also commit to MS’s fickle licencing policies and costly forced upgrades.
Furthermore, MS refuses to release its code to the public and is constantly responding to several various security holes. That MS uses their ubiquity to create their own programming standards and blackmail other companies does not endear them to the public. Unlike the communal nature of OSS, MS’s culture dictates that MS is the supreme software vendor, and clients must only go through them.

As Eric S. Raymond writes, the differences between MS and OSS are comparable to a cathedral and a bazaar. The cathedral is hierarchical and monolithic whereas the bazaar is democratic and diverse. This distinction echos various denominations of Judaism which promote individual autonomy over institutional authority.
“Classic” Reconstructionism tries to preserve Jewish culture through evolution, and it operates on a macro-social level. Rushkoff claims that the only constant throughout Jewish history was evolution. Generation after generation modified Jewish theology and practice to better adapt with their world. In order to know the needs of the community, the religion depends on the members to participate and contribute. Furthermore, we allow the individual the freedom to “debug” someone else’s “code” or “hack” it such that it best suits himself. For example, Rushkoff created an Open Source Haggadah where people may contribute their own liturgy or rituals to the community. Individuals may use the exact submissions or further alter them as they deem necessary.

My critiques of Ruskfoff’s model come two different perspectives. As a (former) programmer, I find Rushkoff’s OSS analogy flawed. Although OSS is an open community, it succeeds through extensive quality control and programs are held to some objective standard. A program either works or it doesn’t. Once a program is functional, it may then be optimized for superior speed or resource management, or enhanced security as the case may be. Before a program can be useful to a community, it first must meet certain requirements of functionality and efficiency, and to some extent serve as an improvement over its predecessors. Even an “average” programmer will find it difficult to have his/her project “accepted” by the community. The programs which are assimilated into mainstream usage are most often written by superior developers.
OSJ has no such quality control, nor can it. Religion is not an objective science. But if there are no standards or rules of submissions, then the community has no mechanism of policing itself. If anyone can submit anything, and all submissions are legitimate, then OSJ runs the risk of intellectual hijackings. There is neither a system nor criteria for weeding out garbage. Furthermore, if in fact everything is acceptable for OSJ, then it becomes tautological and subject to the Pluralism Equation.

As a Rabbi, I partially agree with Rushkoff’s model. Torah is “open source” in that the texts are accessible to everyone; it is neither in heaven nor across the sea (Deut. 30:12-13) and there is no hidden law. Torah is democratic in the sense that kings and water gatherers are all equally bound by the same laws. However, Rushkoff confuses the technical definition of “open source” with “modification.” In the computer world, OSS implies that the users have rights of modification. However, if one were to rewrite Apache web server such that it becomes a word processor, i.e. the primary function changes, s/he could no longer call it “Apache” – or if he did it would not have the same meaning.
Judaism may also change and evolve, but it must stay within certain parameters. Sages may have the authority of interpretation (Deut. 17:11), but even they are subject to its rules.(B. Horayot 2a-b). The Torah is complete (Ps. 19:8) and although we have the free will modify some rituals in Judaism, once any commandment is removed, the system is no longer Torah.(Deut. 13:1)

Orthodox Jews might be able to salvage something from Rushkoff’s model by reaffirming some objective standards. Following the OSS analogy, God should be the “project owner” who opens the project to the community. People may contribute, but must follow certain rules of submission and modifications. Or to put it succinctly, the Torah’s source is open, but God retains the copyrights.

1. In all honesty, I didn’t finish the book, although I really tried. Rarely has any piece of literature evoked such levels of frustration. Not that I thought the ideas were heretical, but it was just riddled with fallacious assumptions, poor textual analysis, and faulty logic. The lack of footnotes didn’t help. Naiomi Chana reviewed the book much better than I can. Also see his interview with the Protocols people. Neither Protocols nor Naiomi Chana dealt with the Open Source Judaism part, so this post will not be redundant.
2. On OSJ’s front page, Rushkoff quotes his book. I don’t have my copy with me, so I cannot cite the page number.
3. Though OSS movement is subject to its own myths.

Posted in Jewish Culture, Jewish Law / Halakha, Religion, Science and Technology, Society.

Return of the Intern

A heads up to the Loyal Readers:
I’m spending this shabbat in Washington Heights and I’m giving the derasha at the Bridge Shul where I interened last year.
The plan is to tie in Mikeitz, Hannukah, and contemporary Sociology of Religion. I have the ideas, just need to work on the ending.
It should be a fun derasha, so if you’re in town, davening starts at 8:30.

Posted in Personal.

Structuralism and Brisk

Although the MAPPS program offers unparalleled academic freedom, the directors of my program require one particular survey class, “Perspectives in Social Science Analysis.” Over the 10 week quarter, Dr. John MacAloon and various other professors present 9 different perspectives with Dr. MacAloon presenting an overview and another scholar discussing contemporary applications of that perspective.

In week 8, we covered “Structuralism,”1 and I was surprised to see the similarities between this perspective and ” lomdus” – specifically the Brisker Derekh. There are several decent summaries of Structuralism on the web and some more on one of its main advocates Claude Levi-Strauss.2

For those too lazy to click the links or God forbid do your own research, I’ll give you the short attention span summary.4 Levi-Strauss, an anthropologist, utilized aspects of linguistic theory to interpret social phenomenon beyond language.3 Linguists, like Saussure, distinguished between the words used in language and the effect, the symbol and the meaning, the langue and the parol’. How did they do this? After analyzing how speech works throughout all cultures, they realized that some phenomenon repeated themselves and they explained the different phenomenon through polar binary opposites.

Levi-Strauss applied this methodology to social phenomenon like myths. In his work The Structural Study of Myth, Levi-Strauss demonstrates that the Oedipus myth contains elements found in myths from other cultures. He identifies the patterns by breaking down the myth into atomic elements, and “re-structures” these elements into classifications. Once Levi-Strauss classifies these elements into categories, he then uses his categorization to compare the Oedipus myth with similar myths. Although the categories are arbitrary, Structuralists like to formulate categories in binary opposites. E.g. symbol and meaning, personal and communal, etc.

How is this like the Brisker Derekh? Unfortunately, there isn’t much directly written on the methodology of how to do “Brisk.”5 However, I picked up a few things from my numerous years in yeshiva, and I can say that the analytical methodology is similar – though perhaps not identical.

Like structuralists, Briskers tend to explain several sources and rulings though binary comparisons. Some popular ones are heftza (object) and gavra (person), shem (name) and halos (legal status), mitzvah hiyuvi (obligatory commandment) and mitzvah kiyyumi (fulfilling a commandment), or simply “qualitative” and “quantitative” differences. Although this might apply to other areas of “lomdus” I’ve noticed that Briskers tend toward the binary opposites more than others. Just about every shiur I can remember from Gush involved a two-way mahloket and tannaim, amoraim, rishonim, and achronim neatly fitting into one of two arbitrary abstract categories.

Some Briskers also apply this perspective to areas of Jewish Thought. R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, perhaps the most famous descendant of the “Brisker Rav” and his tradition. In “The Lonely Man of Faith, R. Soloveitchik contrasts the personalities and religious attitudres of “Adam One” and “Adam Two” from the creation narratives. Elsewhere, R. Soloveitchik’s rational “Halakhic Man” stands in opposition to the more emotional “Homo-Religiosus.” Again, his thought leads him to present theological and religious ideas through manufactured binary oppositions.

Methodologically, Briskers construct and categorize the concepts in ways similar to the structuralists. Specifically, they first remove the sugya from the original context of the gemara. The sugya becomes the unit of analysis as opposed to a chapter, or even a page of talmud. Consequently, Briskers will not concern themselves with literary analysis or even finding the correct version of the talmud,6 because the details are not as important as the structure or the concepts. Like structuralism, these concepts are arbitrary and subject to the whim of the scholar. Unlike structuralism, yeshivas have canonized the scholars i.e. the rabbis, and therefore artificial structures become sacred and part of the “tradition.”7

I am not surprised that the Brisker Derekh attracts so many followers, nor am I surprised at the criticisms. Structuralism can be useful, and often it may be the best method for explaining a particular data set. Critics, however, will note that as a standalone system – as an “ism” if you will – structuralism assumes and imposes too much on the data. Furthermore, in the social sciences critics will complain that structuralists remove the human participants from the analysis. Social interaction becomes a bloodless game of abstract categories with no attention to human emotions. Similarly, critics of the Brisker Derekh deride the lack of attention to detail of the sugya in its original context. Literary approaches and historical evidence may often contradict the structures imposed on the text of the talmud.

I am not going to speculate on who got what from whom. Levi-Strauss was born and raised Jewish, and it’s likely his background influenced his scholarship. I also don’t think I’m saying anything radical or new here, it’s just an interesting similarity I noticed in class. Take it as you will.

1. Unfortunately, the laptop was in limbo then, so I don’t have typed notes from the lectures.
2. Not to be confused with the guy who made jeans.
3. See Structural Analysis in Linguistics and in Anthropology
4. I.e. don’t cite this description for anything useful.
5. When I was in Gush, a small book called “The Brisker Derekh” came out and it was pretty close to a “How To Brisk.” As I recall, most of the ramim and students dismissed the book as too simplistic, which was probably as good of an endorsement as it could get. At any rate, I can’t find a link to it on the web.
6. The standard “Vilna” edition is loaded with errors. See Dikdukei Soferim or the Lieberman Project for other versions of the Talmud Bavli – and manuscript work is ongoing. If this sounds too heretical for you, consider that a passage may appear in several places throughout rabbinic literature (Bavli, Yerushalmi, Tosefta, Mishna, Midrash Halakha…), but there will be significant changes in their presentation. See for example, Dr. Elman’s Authority and Tradition and many, many, other works.
7. For some ramifications in education, see Hakirah or Mehkar: The Religious Implications of an Historical Approach to Limmudei Kodesh by Rachel Furst and Mosheh Lichtenstein, “What Hath Brisk Wrought: The Brisker Derekh Revisited” Torah U-Madda Journal, volume 9, 1-18, 2000.

Posted in Academia, Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava, Random Acts of Scholarship.

Talent Show?

Those wacky UC’ers are at it again.

    Do you have a talent you’d like to show off? Can you sing, dance, recite
    poetry, juggle, eat fire, etc., etc.? If so, come be in the MAPSS Winter
    Talent Show sponsored by your MAPSS social committee!!

One would think that people wouldn’t have that much time on their hands to plan or participate in this thing. I barely knew we even had a social committee. But I do have to admit, I am intrigued.
Poll Closed
Of course if this thing is on a Friday night or Shabbat, all bets are off.

Posted in Personal.

Theorizing Judaism

I’ve made some veiled references to “Theorizing Judaism.” I’ve recently completed Dr. Martin Risebrodt’s class, Theorizing Religion. Unlike typical survey classes, Dr. Riesebrodt used this class as feedback for his currently unpublished book on religion. Dr. Riesebrodt would present his ideas and one class a week would be a discussion. After he presented the main points of his thesis, the students presented examples from specific religions which may or may not have supported his thesis. In addition, we were to submit two written essays discussing the merits and flaws of his thesis. The following post will explain his thesis, and my applications of the thesis to Judaism.

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Posted in Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava, Random Acts of Scholarship.

Top 10 Dating Questions

About a week ago, someone sent me an e-mail of a “shidduch meeting” form. For those who don’t know, a shidduch meeting is when a group of (usually) women get together and see who knows whom and if there could be any possible set ups from that group.1 Since everyone knows different people from their various circles, it’s reasonable that two compatible people would never have met nor would they even have people in common who could get them together.

The organizer wrote up a form with “basic” information. I don’t know how seriously the participants used the forms – it’s possible they just used the names had the “sponsors” describe the singles – but disliked several of the questions asked. Independently, each question provides some information about a person and perhaps indicate if X would be shayachet for Y. As a unit, many of these questions are insufficient or inappropriate to describe the entirety of a person.
For example, here are the 10 questions from the form (in addition to personal background info like occupation, school, etc) with my comments. I copied the questions as they appeared on the form and as you will see, many are horribly phrased. Also, the questions are presented in the order in which they were received, but order should not be confused with importance.

1. Do you/are you looking for someone who intends to cover her hair?
Some may consider hair covering as merely a religious barometer, like a guy wearing a black hat (see below). The major difference is that there are actual halakhot of married women covering their hair. Consequently, if a woman does not plan to cover her hair, or she plans to cover her hair not in accordance with Jewish law,2 then she would not be appropriate for a significant population of the Orthodox dating pool.

2. Do you/are you comfortable with (a girl) wearing pants?
Awkwardly phrased. The gist is if you’re a girl, do you wear pants, if you’re a guy, do you care? This infers from the culture religious issues of modesty, but the halakha is not as clear cut as the hair covering. As phrased, this promotes stereotypes of what modesty is halakhic or socially acceptable. Some context would help, as there are many times when pants would actually be more modest than a skirt. At any rate, whether or not one agrees with the implications of women wearing pants, it’s a practical question for determining if two people from the vast modern orthodox community would be appropriate.

3. Do you/are you comfortable with (a boy) wearing jeans?
I don’t understand this one at all. Maybe on some level wearing jeans has some religious implications and indicate where someone is “holding” religiously. It might be a factor for some people, but in my opinion, not enough to make a top 10.

4. Do you/are you looking for (a boy) who intends to wear a hat?
Like #3 this one is directed to the right end of modern orthodoxy. Depending on the people involved, this may or may not make a top 10.

5. Do you plan on having a television in your home?
Interesting idea, but horrible presentation. It’s a religious indicator, but I don’t think television should be reduced to a simple yes/no, good/bad dichotomy. Instead, I suggest the following scale (work in progress):

  1. I tape the weather channel to see what I missed.
  2. I talk about Rachel, Ross, and Joey like they’re real people.
  3. Just give me Law and Order and the Simpson’s.
  4. Nothing but PBS and the History Channel.
  5. I need it for the VCR…and the news.
  6. Box of Satan.

This way you find out not only religious beliefs, but some degree of personality (or lack thereof)

6. Do you plan on attending movies with your spouse?
This one is even more vague than the TV question. What type of movies are we talking about? Finding Nemo? Yentl? Sallah? School of Rock? Blazing Saddles? Lord of the Rings? The Big Lebowski? Dogma? Sound of Music? Rocky Horror Picture Show?3 Furthermore, you could plan on sneaking out to see the movies by yourself without your spouse, or even rent them.

7. Do you/are you looking for someone who will be learning or engaged in a profession?
Is this a choice? My spouse can either be learning or engaged in a profession? Do I want a stay at home wife? Kollel husband? Applicable to a small percentage of modern orthodoxy, this question might be more of a personality indicator than a religious one.

8. Do you/are you looking for someone who will learn on a regular basis?
Regularly setting aside for learning establishes Torah as an important part of Jewish life. Children who see their parents learning may come to value Torah more themselves, or minimally not get as cynical at a society which asserts the importance of Torah and then promptly neglects it.
I just wonder if this applies to women learning too.

9. Do you/are you looking for someone who will attend minyan on a daily basis?
Yet another religious indicator (noticing a pattern?), but practically useless for a marriage, especially once kids come.

10. Are you a Kohen?
According to halakha, a Kohen cannot marry a divorce or a convert and the convention is not to set up kohanim with people who have questionable Jewish lineage. Very important question.
Most of these questions attempted get a religious sense of a person. While society is obviously important in a modern orthodox society, many of the questions are irrelevant to having a successful marriage. Several questions merely reinforce harmful stereotypes of what is and what isn’t religious. On the other hand, if people think in these stereotypes then these questions may be useful. So my question is, for men and women, what are the top 10 questions you think would be most applicable to the most people in the modern orthodox community? What questions would best define you as a man or woman?

The goal here is not to tell everything about a person, but to have a sense if two people would be compatible. Also, the questions have to be phrased in such a way that they will be useful. People don’t always like thinking about themselves, or would just lose patience with a long survey. More questions would help, and so would asking how important an issue is to someone. For example, I may not want a TV, but I won’t care if my spouse does.

Grayson Levy does a great job of this with Frumster. He asks a nice mix of religious and personal questions, and he forces members to express themselves beyond simple multiple choice questions.

I also acknowledge that most of the forms tell more about the person who constructs them than it does about the singles.
Anyone else have suggestions?

1. Not to be confused with kiddush or shabbat lunch. This at least has no pretense of being anything else but a shmooze fest.
2. Or at least the “Jewish law” as understood by the guy, or more realistically the guy’s rabbi. I’m not going to discuss here the laws of hair covering and what is “real” halakha and what is custom. My point is that if a guy thinks that what a woman plans to do is forbidden, don’t set up those two people.
3. My personal opinion is that some of these movies are assur to see, others are mehuyav on everyone. No, I will not say which is which. My father likes to tell following story from R. Faur’s shiur. One day R. Faur said the only movies which are mutar are cartoons and westerns. After naively seeing Fritz the Cat (or part of it at least), he then told his shiur that cartoons are also assur.

Posted in Jewish Dating, Personal.