Tuesday, November 25, 2008

..a few more theses

Hello there peoples (...I don't know, sometimes I get the feeling like I need to say hello. ..I mean, if someone is reading it, they should be told 'hello', no? ..whatever..).

In order that it shouldn't pass from my mind as it came: I have two opinions about yeshiva reforms (in this context), one academic and one structural. One I pondered about many years ago, and one only a few years ago. One theologically reasonable and one a bit more questionable in a theological sense.

Firstly- it is my opinion that yeshivas are very much limiting themselves in regards to the diversity of classes that could be taught in such an institution, and that could be considered 'Torah' (or not far from it). Now, Yeshiva University and Stern College obviously have diverse classes, as well as the Jewish Theological Seminary (among others which are not quite worth mentioning in this context), but they are not 'yeshivot' in that sense, but rather Jewish Universities. I mean a place with 100 per cent religious studies; a place for a child and student of the West to go and find solace from the unG-dly elements which wish to contaminate their soul (Yeshivat Chovevei Torah is a good idea, but not really what I'm getting at here).

To-day, obviously, not much is taught in yeshivot outside of Talmud. If it is it's usually on a very 'fluffy' (if I may) level. But there is such a broad range of subjects that comprises 'Torah' in the most staunch sense. Aside from the Five Books of the Torah, the Prophets and the Holy Writings (and the myriads of ways they can be approached), there can also be Mishna 'for Mishna's sake' (outside the subjects of Talmud). The study of Tamlud itself can and should be greatly reformed in yeshivas in my opinion. But there is also the evolution of and differing opinions within the philosophical and ethical works of the Medieval Jewish scholars and those who followed them. Let us not forget the all-important subject of halakha- it itself has an infinitude of different venues one can take in it's study; one can study only the Rambam or only the Shulhan Arukh, or the latter with emphasis on different commentators (Mishna b'rurah and Yalkut Yosef for example), or an emphasis on their Talmudic basis. And then there is a subject which most would not consider part of a yeshiva curriculum, but I do; the study and analysis of all the millenia that comprise 'Jewish History', and the many lessons we must learn from it.

And yet till today, even us, the descendants of the Sepharadim (as well as the descendants of the Ashkenazim) choose to mimic the faulty academic system that existed in Eastern Europe before the destruction of those communities during the Second World War, instead of following in the ways of the Jews of Moorish Spain, who had in their institutions of learning a refreshing synthesis of Talmud and ethics, halakha and poetry, prayer and meditation.

Secondly- I also believe that yeshivot are harming themselves by not introducing a full credit system. By credit system I mean of course gaining college credits that are fully acceptable in a normal university. Now, while that aspect of the credit system does already exist in many places, what I am suggesting is being graded for these points by tests, proving ones retaining of knowledge in these subjects. Now, while there are many disadvantages to the 'test system', and many academic advantages to the system currently in force in yeshivot, still feel that only through testing and accrediting would the students be fully interested in the subject matter, and would it become a real class.

Of course I am not suggesting that every 'shiur' must be graded. Just the opposite; it should be stressed that the study in yeshiva is quite different than that of the University. We believe that just the very action of studying religious subjects itself is the fulfillment of a religious duty. And with grading, students might overlook this religious aspect. But grading must be, for without it the subjects would never be retained, or taken seriously enough. And even if one fails, they have still fulfilled their duty.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

מימרא דרבי יהודה בן תימא

Oh yes, another thing; a lad stopped me yesterday on the street(!) asking about the Mishna in Avot "יהודה בן תימא אומר הוי עז כנמר וכו וכו". I answered him in a very simplistic way, but after walking on I came to realize how little I understand that statement; what does it mean one should be "brazen", "light", "quick" and "strong" in G-dly service? It really shouldn't be over-simplified. Also: the end of his statement is "עז פנים לגהינם ובוש פנים לגן עדן" (but he just said "הוי עז כנמר")?

אלא שדבר זה נצרך לעיון

Here's something from Rav Menahem Mendel Schneerson I found discussing this (for the meantime).


Aging- Ones friend at first, later becoming a suspected acquaintance, and ultimately an enemy!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

..sorry, I just had to!

!בסליחה מכבודכם; I'm sorry to be posting something quite so inane, but; Man, this trippy video is, like, one of those things which is awesome when you've been chain-smoking marijuana(!), but otherwise is the kind of thing you're afraid will get stuck in your mind or something! ...למעשה I've always wondered what German bunnies did in their little caves!

(There's a better version, but it involves (female) dancers, so I wouldn't use it!)

For babysitter: The English Version of the song!

Thank G-d, at least the Mexican bunnies are still industrious! ; )

חן הבתולות

בעבר, בתקופות בהם היה הנייר יקר יותר, כשהיו מדפיסי הסידורים נתקלים בתופעה שבסופו של דבר דף או שניים היו מיותרים בסוף כריכת הסידור, היו מדפיסים באותם הדפים דבר קצר "לזכות את הרבים" (כגון ברכת המזון הקצר) בטענתם "כדי לא להשאיר את הדף ריקם". ..אף אני בדרכיהם אלך ו"לא אשאיר את הדף ריקם"!י; I've gotten into the habit of writing fairly often here (if one were to compare my current pace with that of last years, I seem to be writing a lot more). In recent days I've contemplated many things worth putting attention to, but, alas, they merrily skipped from my mind as they entered.. But anyway, this blog, for me, is not as much about fleeting ideas as it is about things that are on my mind for somewhat of a significant period. ...one reason not much has been on my mind is of course due to the half-term exams at my University, and my perpetual depression (which at times affects my creative faculties in a negative way)..

One thing that's been trodding about in my mind in various forms now and then the past few days is something which takes up a great place in my mind, but very little in my speech or actions- and that is the nature of the relationship between males and females in our society..

One thing that originally came to my mind was the ..lack of logic entailed in the enchantment men have for women, and the ..interest women have in men. ..I recall Avigdor Miller once mentioning "to a male rat there's nothing more beautiful than a female rat". ..what I mean to say is that we give such a large amount of our strength and energy seeking the favor of members of the opposite sex, while in the meantime they're no different from ourselves, and the only reason we find any attraction in them is solely because of a few chemicals that flow through our bodies. ..we all know that.. and yet we perch these people (of the 'other gender') in such a pedestal in our minds that we let our minds and actions be affected by them. ..I say this with a bit of wonder because I myself used to care much less about peoples opinions abut myself, and now there's a part of my mind that always thinks "what will [whoever] think". ...*sigh*
(It's been a few days since I actually thought this, and the message I'm trying to convey might be a bit vague)...

Another idea I aprehended while crossing my mind was that any possible notion of 'romance' that we might have is a creation of our minds (and yet, again, much thought and emotion are sacrificed to this creation of ours. But, like a malevolent god, it is never quite appeased). I once quoted here psychological research to prove the opposite, but I don't believe it.. ..the whole concept is obviously just an extension of our imaginations, mimicking what we've seen from the American Film and Television industries.. ....is it not?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

'Cause Sephardic girls are just hotter!

Man, this stuff is the sh-t! I know there've been many 'ביצועים' of this song, but you gotta' admit ain't nobody do 'שחרחורת' like Shlomo Bar! (..he looks really young in that video, no?)

I personally grew up with this stuff, but haven't heard this particular song in quite a while..I looked it up in Green Bay, but it seemed like at the time nobody downloaded that particular video to 'YouTube', but it seems like someone added it recently, ...and anyway I a) have nothing to post, and b) haven't posted a video in a while, so...

About the song: It turns out it's actually a Hebrew translation (same tune though) of an old Ladino folk 'Romance'. It was translated by משה אלימלך, and I suppose became part of Israeli Music in the 60's and 70's because of people like Esther Ofarim, and because there was somewhat of a Ashkenazi movement to 'beautify middle easternism'.


שחרחורת - לדינו עממי

שחרחורת יקראוני צח היה עורי

ומלהט שמש קיץ בא לי שחורי

שחרחורת יפיפית כל כך

בעינייך אש בוערת ליבי כולו שלך

שחרחורת יקראוני כל יורדי הים

אם עוד פעם יקראוני שוב אלך איתם

שחרחורת יקראני בן לאב מוֹלך

אם עוד פעם יקראני אחריו אלך


For the Babysitter!:

שיר השירים, פרק א

Song of Solomon, Chapter 1

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Two New Book Reviews

Maimonides: The Life and World of One of Civilization's Greatest Minds

First off is a new book by Joel Kraemer about the Rambam; "Maimonides: The Life and World of One of Civilization's Greatest Minds ". I looked through some of it and find it much more readable than, say, some of the books that were written about Maimonides early in the previous century. I mean first of all, that style is a bit stale, second of all a good book about Maimonides hasn't really come out in a little while. Not to mention this book is a lot better than the others because the author brings in a lot of the information about the rivalry and peer-environment that one of the greatest thinkers of Judaism lived in and around (..I obviously should like getting around to reading the whole thing).

The Rambam is one of the main people whom my thought pattern of Judaism is based on. That being so, it would be a good idea to find out as much about him and his motives as I can. For example, it seems like there were a few Spanish Jews in his time who converted to Islam, and even authored philosophical works about why Judaism became obsolete with the coming of Islam. ..reading those, and understanding what the Rambam wrote with that sort of backdrop in mind might prove interesting...

All about the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can't Save Black America
OK, now this is one black guy I not only respect, but who I kind of even look to for rational opinions and judgments about things. And he, of course, is John McWhorter. I don't know what it is about him, but he seems to have extremely well thought out opinions about many of the realities of our times (aside from his illuminating research on language of course).

His new book "All about the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can't Save Black America", has somewhat to do with what I see as the potential for an "Obama phenomenon" in Black America. The phenomenon I'm envisioning is African Americans looking at Barack Obama, and at his success, and how he earned it, and see a new potential in 'normative' ways of gaining wealth and prestige, as opposed to the 'gangster oriented' way that's being preached so much in Black media today.

I was on a train recently, and in walked a large, muscular black man with a 'do-rag' on his head, who looked like he wanted to start some trouble. He sat down...took out his text book, and studiously plugged away at it, while referring to his notes at times, until his stop came. : ). I'm not saying that that's at all uncommon, but with Barack Obama as a role model for American 'Blacks', that image might become a formidable opponent to the 'gangster' definition of what's cool in Black America.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Green Grass...

.דבר ידוע שאהובה את שאינו בהשג. שנאמר "וְעֵינֵי כְסִיל בִּקְצֵה-אָרֶץ" (משלי) י

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

ברוך אובמה

And for G-ds sake people!- Obama isn't Hitler, ok?! Nothing much can really be changed from the White House in the American system anyway. ...the Jews are still just wary from the Holocaust I guess..
I mean look, now he took Rahm Emanuel to be his Chief of Staff (Jewish lobbying is back baby! Yes ladies and gentlemen; four more years of killing and plundering innocent Palestinian men, women and children, while deying the humanitarian right for a Palestinian state!).
I wanted to mention that his speeches, especially his 'yes we can' ones (the victory speech for example) are of the same refrain as some of our ancient prayers, such as "הודו לה כי טוב- כי לעולם חסדו".
And one other thing! One reason I'm happy Obama won is because he's a tall thin guy, who's not black, and not white. Which makes people like me (tall thinguys who aren' black or what) more acceptable in the eyes of the American public!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

ק ברכות

I know this is a comparatively trivial point, but I was just doing a little count of how the 'brakhot' we say really add up to 100 every day (it says in the Talmud you should say 100 brakhot every day..the Rambam in hil. Tefilah 7:14 counts them up..but this is the only time I really did it of my own accord):

21-ברכות השחר
57-תפילת ה"עמידה" שלוש פעמים ביום
2-ברכת טלית ותפילין
7-ברכות ק"ש שחרית וערבית
1-ק"ש שעל המיטה
1-ברוך מקדש שמו
2-ברכת "אשר יצר" לפחות פעמיים ליום
4-ברכת המזון
5-ולפחות שלוש ברכות ראשונות ושתי ברכות אחרונות על מיני אוכלים

So we see if one just actually says the minimum prayers that must be said, and a few of the regular blessings throughout the day it usually comes to a hundred anyway. But still, it's good to be at least somewhat conscious of it.