Oops

I just had to link to this article, End of the Earth Postponed.  I guess all those who thought 2012 would be it should reconsider their plans for the future.  Seems we misread the Mayan calendar and that it doesn’t run out next year.

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The hidden aspects of depression

The NY Times blog, the New Old Age, has a post about depression amongst the elderly.  The basic premise is that we still do not have a good way of diagnosing depression on sight alone.  We assume depression must be accompanied by over sadness when in fact depression can manifest itself by means of a lack of desire.  What is scary is that those who are suffering from depression don’t recognize that they are depressed, instead many just assume they are in a rut.

Will the Rabba return?

It seems R. Avi Weiss has figured things out.  Instead of making a decision on his own regarding the use of Rabba, it will be up to the women’s Orthodox Yeshiva, Yeshivat Maharat, to make the decision on the title they will use upon graduation.  The Jewish Forward reports that the question of title is being discussed by the school’s advisory committee (see Rabba’ Roils Rabbis Once More as Orthodox Women’s Yeshiva Debates What to Call Its Grads – h/t Failed Messiah).  I am not sure what to make of this situation.  On the one hand, whether the title is Maharat or Rabba, why do people get up in arms about women being ordained.  If women are allowed and encouraged to learn, why not reward them upon completion of a rigorous training.  Besides, as I have argued countless times to people, what Yeshivat Maharat will do is create a cadre of women Judaic studies teachers with a formal title and will create a cadre of women Orthodox chaplains.  Synagogues will still be run by male rabbis.  Nevertheless, some would suggest that all we are witnessing now is another breaking point, as was seen when the small Union of Traditional Judaism emerged out of the Conservative movement’s decision to ordain women.

October 4 Reads

Third Party Rising

Thomas Friedman has come around to arguing for the need of a third party so that American politics doesn’t remain stagnant.  However, unlike the Tea Partiers, he is arguing for the moderate, third party candidate who wants to see change and not get bogged down in the politics of the two party system.  His piece is a bit of a doomsday prophecy in that he compares present day America to the early stages of the Roman collapse. 

At Risk from the Womb

Nurturing children begins from the time the fetus begins to form, not from birth, according to studies discussed in this piece.  Makes you wonder about how class systems in the old days might have been more true to form than we moderns like to believe. 

Scholarly Work, Without all the Footnotes

This piece really hits a problem in the head.  Journalism causes those of us who are into footnotes and citiing sources nightmares.  We become fearful that someone will read our piece and think we just stole it from another source.  A magazine could easily straddle such a fence by requiring sources and footnotes.  Many magazines already do this, though most of those are more scholarly in nature.  Nevertheless, why not cite a quote or at least give credit in a sentence on the subject (See the first link for an example of attribution without formal footnoting).

The Challenge of Free Will: comments on a Dvar Torah

I read the following Dvar Torah this past weekend on Bereishit.  It spoke about the first instance of free will, as in the Kayin having a choice to either go down the dark side or come to an understanding regarding the acceptance of his brother’s sacrifice over his.  As I was reading this, I was struck by a couple of problems with Rabbi Bieler’s approach which I want to share. 

1.  He implies that there was no free will before the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  To be more specific, the argument is that by G-d telling Adam not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he was placing an ultimatum but not actually presenting a choice.  Of course, if we think about it, all commands have choice.  If Adam chooses to ignore the command, there will be a consequence, which G-d spells out.  When Kayin is presented with a choice, he is not given a direct consequence, so much as G-d presents the two roads Kayin can travel depending on his choice (“If you do well, you will be uplifted.  And if you do not do well, sin crouches at the door, and to you shall be its desire. Yet you can rule over it.”)

2.  The dvar Torah implies that G-d made a mistake the first time by placing an ultimatum on Adam as opposed to laying out the options before him.  As such, when we get to Kayin, G-d fixes the mistake.  To me, that seems to be the polar opposite of how the creation story is to be read.  Adam and Eve live in a Utopian world.  G-d, being the all knowing, perfect, etc. would presumably know the proper approach to take regarding the prohibition of eating from the Tree.  He, however, assumes that G-d’s approach with Adam was wrong, because he disobeyed, and therefore G-d needs to rectify the mistake when the next potential sin could come by offering a concrete psychological choice. 

3.  The message is quite interesting.  The first born is not automatically removed from the seen in favor of the younger child.  Rather, the first born often fails to reach the expectations placed on him/her by the parents.

9/26 – Oct. 3 reads

Obama again sounds call for longer school year: Says underperforming teachers have “got to go”

I can’t say I completely disagree with his assessment of current American education.  To extend the school year is not something completely crazy, especially in our day and age when the summers just become complete vacation time.  Children do need breaks, but sometimes it seems the break becomes too much and then the first part of the year becomes review instead of new material. 

A Message from Israel

Michael Oren presents his take on how the book of Jonah is a tale of responsibility and making hard choices.

The American Jewish Revival of Musar

This is a review of two approaches to the new Mussar movement in American Judaism.  He looks at Alan Morinis and Ira Stone. 

When Kennedy Met Nixon: The Real Story

Granting the biases of the author, it seems that many of us misunderstood the general notion that Kennedy beat Nixon because of his looks.  It was clear that in 1960 Kennedy showed himself to be more substantive from the get go than Nixon.

Rabbi Says It’s Kosher To Have Sex With The Enemy To Further Israel’s Security

Rabbi Says It’s Kosher To Have Sex With The Enemy To Further Israel’s Security (h/t Failed Messiah)

Interesting.  I would love to get my hands on that article.  I remember studying the famous section in Talmud Sanhedrin about Esther qarqa olam (that Esther was passive) but never considered the idea of Sleeping with the Enemy.