Monday, August 30, 2004

Dualism: Common Sense vs. Sceince 

Although those of us who are religious are often accused of being scared of the findings of science, be it evolution, physics or neuroscience, I often find that the greatest scientists are more scared of many of the rationalist findings of religion.

While the scientific method is supreme when observing measurable things many of our major scientists are not able to think "outside the box" when discussing those things that happen in the physical world that can be observed but can't really be measured. I am thinking here mostly of human behavior.

Psychologists, biologists and even economists try to explain how and why people do what they do. These questions are not new of course. Since the time of the ancient Greeks and Jews we have wondered about the behavior of humans, plants and animals. The ancient Greeks and the medievals who followed them believed to a certain extent that the planets had consciousness. They observed and experimented (to the extent that they could) and came to common sense conclusions that they were willing to change had the evidence, common sense or further observations forced them to do so.

As R. Soloveitchik has pointed out in his most difficult work "The Halakhic Mind", the religious man or "homo religiosis" can in his religious world reject both the "microscopic idea of reality" of the scientist and the anti-rationalist methodology of the mystic. The homo religiosis "… calmly but persistently seeks his own path to full cognition of the world. He claims freedom of methodology".

And this is what the scientist, against all common sense is unable to accept. I say against all common sense because this is what the developmental psychologist Paul Bloom admits. In a fascinating talk that is on the very interesting and very strange web site called Edge (a site for very rich and very smart scientists of which I am none of the three) Bloom speaks of the evidence he has assembled that nearly all people and even infants believe in the dualism of the body and the soul not from some mystical irrational speculation but from life's everyday experiences.
Bloom writes: "Our dualistic conception isn't an airy intellectual thing; it is common sense, and rooted in a phenomenological experience. We do not feel that we are material things, physical bodies. The notion that we are machines made of meat, as Marvin Minsky once put it, is unintuitive and unnatural. Instead, we feel as if we occupy our bodies. We possess them. We own them. Because of this, we talk about my brain, or my body, using the same language of possession that we use when we talk about my car, or my child. These are things that we possess, that we are intimately related to—but not what we are."
Yet, after going through the research he himself has performed that proves one thing, he himself cannot even "believe" the common sense that he has seen, witnessed and experienced and cannot "believe" in a non-physical soul. He is caught up in his microscopic empiricism and cannot accept any methodology for the study of any of the disciplines and "worlds" other than the One.

Even after admitting that "[T]he most severe moral relativist, if he were to see someone murder a child, would feel that it is very wrong indeed. A radical behaviorist can’t help but wonder what other people think of her; and there really are no atheists in foxholes" he cannot admit that the methodology that led to these conclusions really have a place in our intellectual world. He still believes that the "mental life is the product of a purely physical brain".

And so we have an apparently brilliant scientist who accepts only two possible worldviews: The scientific and the mystical. He himself cannot accept the "common sense" rationalist worldview that is at the center of mind-body dualism and of religion, even though his research using this method helps to explain so much about human behavior.

Like the religious fundamentalists that the scientific community so loves to laugh at, these scientists too cannot understand how people can use reason in methodologies other than the scientific one and that by using reason they can come to conclusions about human behavior, thought and being that the scientific method can never supply.

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Sunday, August 29, 2004

Boys, Girls and Torah 

The school year is about to start.

My two youngest children are twins – a boy and a girl, and this year they will go to separate schools since religious education in Israel has deemed it necessary to separate the sexes from at least after the 6th grade. This in itself would not be so bad, if the curriculum was even close to being equal.

My son will go to a private Yeshiva and study in addition to Tanach, 10-12 hours a week of gemara and my daughter will go to the local state-religious school for girls and in addition to Tanach will have a few hours a week of learning Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. We do have a choice and can send our daughter to a "more religious" private school and she will have more hours of 'limudei kodesh', however, this extra learning will not be of the text based learning that the boy's education is based on and the goal of the education is not necessarily to challenge the girls' intellectually.

We have been trying unsuccessfully for about a year and a-half to remedy the situation by arranging extra classes within the framework of the local school. Although we may in the end succeed so far the prospects don't look too good. A major part of the problem is the unwillingness of the parents of the daughters (at least according to the very supportive principal) to spend 200 shekel a month for this project while they pay 1,200 shekel a month for their boys.

Which brings us to an article and response (sorry, Hebrew only) in the current issue of De'ot (from Ne'emanei Torah Va'avodah) on women's and girls' education.

The article is by a student at Yeshivat Har Etzion ("Gush" as the Americans call it), Amit Gevaryahu critiquing the women's midrashot that have opened over the last few years. He concentrates not on those that he says are from Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav that are less serious intellectually, but on those like Migdal Oz, Ein HaNatziv, Midreshet Lindenbaum (Brovenders), Nishmat, etc that are as close to the serious men's Religious-Zionist yeshivot as you have in Israel.

The response is from Rachel Koren, who heads the Midrasha in Ein HaNatziv.

The critique is really a challenge to the orthodox women's movement in general and the midrashot in particular to get women to learn Torah like men and to practice Torah, as much as possible, like men. He basically says that the midrashot are not serious enough because they don't provide enough time - only one year in most cases – and the women come out of them with less Torah than they should. He also critiques the old/new practice of women saying "techinot" (special prayers or requests of God) and in place of or in addition to regular prayers.

I won't go into the details of the critique and the interesting response by Koren, but I would like to focus on the first of his three solutions:
1. We should equalize boys and girls Torah education in elementary , Junior High and High School.
2. We should raise the levels of expectation of Torah learning and practice of the mitzvot in the midrashot.
3. We should stop talking about learning "women's Torah" - there is only one Torah, God's Torah.

I know that things are changing but the changes start after the girls become women. I know many women who can "learn" but I don't know any young girls of 16 who can learn Torah on a level even approaching my 16 year old son. (The only exception I know to inferior girl's Torah education in Israel - in the religious-Zionist stream - is Pelach in Jerusalem).

And that is the tragedy. Why are we cheating our daughters out of the best of our tradition? Why are we not demanding of our schools and of our daughters the same which we demand of our sons?

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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

More on the Jewish DP's 

We have written in the past (here and here) about the plight of the Jewish DP's after the Holocaust and how they were treated by the Germans and other Europeans, by the occpying forces and even by the world Jewish community. I recently received from the JCPA an article by Nathan Durst a German-Jewish psycho-therapist and noted lecturer on the Holocaust and trauma. In the article he describes the compensation plans for the survivors and how the psychological profession thought of and treated those whose lives over previous years was one of closets, tourture, concentration camps and forests.

From Durst's introductory paragraphs:

"At the end of World War II, tens of thousands of Jews, who had survived the Holocaust, died of illnesses and starvation. For them, liberation came too late. Those who did survive were mostly alone, and as they had no place to which to return, they stayed in Displaced Persons camps throughout Germany for several years. Regaining their physical strength was the main objective, and attention was mostly given to the visible consequences of the war. The survivors met a world that could not believe and in the beginning, and although there was much pity, mostly there was a wall of silence. The Allies wanted to restore Europe and the shattered image of Germany, and to forget the unbelievable. Mental health professionals (among them victims themselves) participated in the mass denial involved in rebuilding the future and not looking back.
Only two professional papers about the emotional long-term effects of the Holocaust experience were written at that time. In 1946, J. Tas, a Dutch psychiatrist and Bergen-Belsen survivor, wrote about the suppression of the many emotions, such as anger and fear, in the returning survivor and, as this mechanism will continue to exist, he considered them to be prone to serious psychic disturbances in the future.1 P. Friedman, an American sociologist, reacted very strongly against the rehabilitation plans in the D.P. camps. He proposed an overall psychosocial program, including psychological support, as well as measures for economic and social integration of the survivors in their new homelands.2 Nobody acted upon these ideas, and it took at least 25 years until it was clear that the needs of the survivors were more complex than estimated. "

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Sunday, August 22, 2004

An Interview 

De'ot, the journal of Ne'emanei Torah Va'avodah (English) has a few interesting articles and I would like to focus on two over the next few days. The first piece is actually an interview with the R. Nachum Rabinowitz, Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshivat Hesder in Ma'ale Adumim. R. Rabinowitz is an interesting man, born in Montreal, learned at Ner Israel in Baltimore with R. Ruderman. He completed a masters in mathematics at Johns Hopkins and later received his doctorate in the History and Philosophy of Science in Toronto.

He is also in the midst of a scientific edition and commentary on the Rambam's Mishneh Torah called "Yad Peshuta".

R. Rabinowitz is interviewed by Aviad Stollman. The interview is in Hebrew and is well worth reading in its entirety. I have taken the liberty of translating a few passages:

Q. The Rav (throughout, as is custom, the Rabbi is referred to in third person) is known as a posek (halackhic decisor) around the world. Is it possible to elucidate general principles to the Rav's decisions?

A. Whoever wants to be a posek needs to know a few things: First, he needs to recognize the foundations of the halacha in its sources and not be satisfied with [Halakhic] collections that abridge … sources. It is important to clarify the halacha and its reasons (ta'ameha)… The Torah was given to all of Israel and everyone has to learn the Torah so that he will know how to act according to the law…"

Q. We often hear that there is a crisis in the Zionist Yeshivot. What is the Rav's view on this? Does the learning in our Yeshivot reach real Torah accomplishments?

A. I can't say for sure that I know all that goes on in our educational system, but I have the impression that much of the 'crisis' is imaginary. There have always been problems in education … When I look at the 'chevra' that sit in our Bet Midrash, I can tell you for sure that in general the average level of Torah learning of the fathers of these students does not reach their level …

This success is also [true] in comparison to the haredi world; I am convinced that our Yeshivot have reached levels that are not less and in many cases even higher that the 'black' (i.e. haredi) Yeshivot…. Again, I don't know all the Yeshivot and all the students but I do have a lot of exposure to what happens there and what happens in our Yeshivot.… Although the number of true scholars (talmedei chachamim muvhakim) that come from all the Yeshivot is small, it couldn't be otherwise… This is the way it is in all professions.

Q. What, according to the Rav is the meaning (essence?) of the State of Israel?

A. According to my opinion, the meaning of the National Home is exactly like the meaning of our private home and existence. Just as man does not need and cannot explain the depth of meaning of his family and home, so too, it is not possible to explain the full meaning of the National Home. Is the State of Israel the fulfillment of prophetic visions? Only a prophet could know this. Are the bells of the messiah ringing on the mountains? Who amongst us would dare to interpret the signs? There is a basic and simple fact clear to the whole world: Israel exists, and she bears the name of God, and she has returned "God's crown to its pristine state". However, we must recognize the basic truth that the religious significance of the State of Israel does not [allow us to use it] to attain religious goals and not even to use it to attain the redemption, even though we pray that it does … Zionism has given the only possibility to fulfill the [religious] needs within the new political realities.

Q … What is the Rav's view on [conversion of] the immigrants from Russia that are not Jews according to the Halakhah? How would the Rav solve this problem?

A. We need to try out of love to get them to convert. This is not an easy job … But there are those who want to convert or who can be easily convinced, but we need to keep at it and understand that there is no quick solution…

Q. Regarding conversion, there is the Halakhic question if the convert needs to accept mitzvot…

A. The Halakhic problem is not the central problem; the big problem is that many don't see any reason to convert. Those that do are ready to accept mitzvot in general. And that is the law: We say to them, 'some of the hard mitzvot, some of the easy mitzvot', and that is enough…

Q. What is the Rav's opinion on the women's Midrashot [of higher learning]?

A. They are welcome with a 'bracha', why not? If a certain Bruria (the wife of the tana R. Meir and the only women quoted in the Talmud) would arise … then definitely it would be great….

Q. And what of women being Halackhic decisors (poskot)?

A. That is fine, why not? I was of the first that encouraged Nishmat (their program training women to make a psak in hilchot niddah). A woman that deals in Torah and is able, can decide (lifsok) in any [Halackhic] matter, why not?

I have left out a lot. You don't get the full feeling of R. Rabinowitz's views without reading the whole interview. One item which I left out is his very interesting view on bilingualism and the Arab citizens of Israel. I didn't want to mistranslate his views on this important issue.

Its not that we have to agree with everything R. Rabinowitz says or thinks – but it is important to know that there are many rabbis in the religious-Zionist camp who think, analyze and lead in ways that can move us all as individuals and as a society to greater levels.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Jew as the Secular Devil 

The second Azure piece that I want to discuss here is the lead essay in the current issue called "In the Name of the Other: Reflections on the Coming Anti-Semitism" by Alain Finkielkraut. I had heard of Finkielkraut a number of years ago when he was either mentioned in an article in Commentary, or wrote one – I can't really remember. In any case, it caused me to buy his book "The Imaginary Jew" – which was one of the most disappointing books I had ever read.

Finkielkraut was supposed to be the up and coming French Jewish intellectual and the book didn’t really say anything other than - no one really practices Judaism properly.
Much to my surprise then, the current essay is a tremendous effort to place the current and the coming anti-Semitism in its proper philosophical framework. Finkielkraut essentially uses the whole concept of caring for the "other" – I guess from Levinas – and shows how the Europeans have been able to take the Palestinian as the "universal Other" which of course puts the Jews in the position of oppressing that "other" - the one we are all commanded to sympathize with and support.

It is a brilliant effort and we will just quote a few paragraphs to give you a taste of what someone who has had a front row seat at the unveiling of this new/old anti-Semitism has to say:

" What the Jews must now answer for is not the corruption of French identity, but the martyrdom which they have imposed—or allowed to be imposed in their name—on the Palestinian alterity. We Europeans no longer denounce the Jews’ cosmopolitan vocation; on the contrary, we exalt it, and we reproach them for having betrayed it. We lament that “Jewishness” is no longer what it once was, with the admirable exception of a few righteous men, a few dissidents and stubborn prophets who will not be intimidated and who dare to think freely. Yet instead of appreciating the disquieting foreignness of the Jews, we take them to task for joining us Europeans at the very moment when we are taking leave of ourselves. We are upset about their untimely assimilation among the nations, about the winding paththat led them to the idolatry of Place just when the enlightened world has switched en masse to borderlessness and wandering. Instead of accusing these inveterate nomads of conspiring to bring about the deracination of Europe, we now charge these latecomers to autochthony with falling into that very state which characterized the Europeans before remorse gnawed at their egos and compelled them to put universal principles above territorial sovereignty.
The Italian journalist Barbara Spinelli, in a sensational essay published in November 2001, contrasted Jewish self-confidence with the humility of the Catholic Church, which repented for its sins of omission, indifference, and violence. “If one feels that there is something missing in Judaism,” she writes, “it is precisely this: A mea culpa towards the populations and the individuals who had to pay the price in blood and exile for allowing Israel to exist.” The result, according to Spinelli, is that Judaism today is uninhibited in its aggressive and barbarian urges. It has no conscience to curb its arrogance; nothing stops the self-affirmation of its will.
All European peoples, all states, institutions, and professional associations, have learned to look their past in the eye and bravely admit their faults. All proscribe the teaching of intolerance and doggedly practice a pedagogy of repentance. All confess the crimes that they committed or let others commit. All admit their share of darkness. All accept humbly the civilizing burden of guilt. All adopt a reflective distance with regard to what they are. All make it a point of honor to free themselves of themselves and to rein in their immutable drives through all manner of devices. All distrust the Nazi that sleeps within them. All have a hangover.
All, that is, except the Jews. For them, there is no obligation of memory and reparation. Used to being the superego of the Old World, they forget to have a superego. Full of excuses, they feel no sense of duty. Thrilled by their sovereign power, filled with their existence as a national state just in time for the great penitential deconstruction of nation states, they alone, concludes Spinelli, live in a condition of absolute liberty. In other words, they look remarkably like the anti-Semites of old. Indeed, the Jews pick up where fascism left off. "

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Monday, August 16, 2004

Judaism and Private Property 

The new Autumn issue of The Shalem Center's "Azure" is out and there are two articles that I would like to discuss over the next few days. The first (actually the second of the issue), "Foundations of a Jewish Economic Theory" is by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Lifshitz, the unofficial "Chief Rabbi" of the Shalem Center and a "gaon" of Briskian proportions (according to a good friend who knows such things).

I first read of the article as Ha'aretz tried to rip it apart a few weeks ago, before the issue of Azure ever came out. In their schizophrenic way, Ha'aretz feels it their responsibility to de-bunk any and all ideas that might come from the capitalistic-right in spite of the fact that their economics and business section was edited by Nehamia Stroelser and is currently edited by Guy Roelnick – two of the better informed and honest business journalists in the country – and unapologetic free-marketeers, to boot.

In the article R. Lifshitz writes in defense of capitalism and locates the concept of private property and the accumulation of wealth in the Jewish tradition. These could be said to form two of the three legs of the capitalist way of life – freedom being the other. Although he for some reason left out a discussion of the clearly anti-private property Halacha of land returning to its original owner during the 50th Yovel year – the article is comprehensive and is worth reading for all who still need to deal with crypto-socialists on a regular basis (as we have to do here in Israel).

I look forward to a future article by the scholarly rabbi who is currently writing his doctoral dissertation on the Maharam of Rotenberg, on the Jewish origins of free markets.

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Thursday, August 12, 2004

Women, Parrots and Shameful Men 

As long as we are on the topic of RFIMD (Rabbinic foot in mouth disease), let us continue to a controversy that has been hacked to death over the last few weeks all over the Internet: The Rabbi Herschel Shachter women as parrots controversy.

The modern Orthodox world is up in arms in what R. Shachter wrote about women reading a Ketubah during the wedding ceremony. He wrote: "They say that 'halachically there is nothing wrong with this!' In a certain sense this statement is correct. If one only judges the issue from the perspective of the laws of 'siddur kiddushin' there's nothing wrong. Yes, even if a parrot would read the kesuba, the marriage would be one hundred percent valid. Strictly speaking, the reading of the kesuba is not at all a part of the marriage ceremony."

The problem here though is that everyone missed the point. (This could even be a smokescreen by R. Shachter to assure that people don't recognize the fallacy of the main point of his argument, or could he actually have the dreaded RFIMD?) In any case, we will ignore the inconsequential and go to the consequential.

His main points are in the following paragraphs:
"Sometimes the halacha requires of us to act in a public fashion (b'farhesia), as for example to have tfilah b'tzibur, krias haTorah b'tzibur, etc. On these occasions the halacha distinguishes between men and women. We only require and demand of the men that they compromise on their tznius and observe certain mitzvos in a farhesia (public) fashion. We do not require this of women. They may maintain their middas hahistatrus, just as Hashem (most of the time) is a Kel Mistater (Yeshaya 45:15). Of course, if there are no men in the shul who are able to lein and get the aliyos, we will have no choice but to call upon a woman, and require of her to compromise on her privacy and lein, to enable the minyan to fulfill their obligation of krias haTorah. If there is a shul where a woman gets an aliyah, this is an indication that there was no man who was able to lein, and this is an embarrassment to that minyan. This is what the rabbis meant when they said that a woman should not lein - for this would constitute an embarrassment to the minyan.(Megillah 23a.)
And the same is true regarding a woman reading the kesuba in public at a chasuna. Of course the kiddushin will not be affected in the slightest! An animal can also read the kesuba without affecting the kiddushin! The truth of the matter is that no one has to read the kesuba! We have a centuries-old custom to create the hefsek through the reading of the kesuba. Because we plan to satisfy the view of the Rambam that the kesuba must be handed over to the kallah before the nissuin , the rishonim thought that we may as well read that kesuba which we're just about to hand over. But nonetheless it is a violation of kvod hatzibur to have a woman surrender her privacy to read the kesuba in public. Were there no men present who were able to read this Aramaic document?"

Let us focus on his two main points: Women are not obligated, except under extreme circumstances to give up their "tznuit" and appear in public, while men are obligated to do this: And, if a woman is forced to give up her "tzniut" and appear in public then it can only mean that the men in the kehilla or congregation are not capable of doing what they are obligated to do and therefore, are guilty of shaming the community.

Let us go back to the principle first enunciated by R. Lichtenstein, that we used in an earlier post (using his principle in no way insinuates that he would agree with our arguments) – that today's rabbis ought to look at the sociological changes in society as much if not more than the technological changes.

For good or for bad (we will be value neutral post-modernists here) women have given up their right of "tzniut" by taking on positions such as college lecturers, attorneys, doctors and businesswomen. This is true in the modern-Orthodox world as well as in the Haredi world. Haredi women are often more involved in the outside world than Haredi men – I know of a haredi female member of the faculty of Brooklyn College and I am sure she is not the only one. I know of Haredi women attorneys here in Israel. Women are allowed now to argue before a Rabbinic court in Israel – they have rabbinic approval to give up their right of tzniut.

Since this right has already been abrogated - where is the applicability of "kavod ha'tzibbur"? Will R. Shachter not go to a female medical specialist for his children because this act would embarrass the male doctors in the community? Is there anyone around today who would laugh at the community that allowed women to do what is not halachically objectionable and assume that there were no capable men in the community?

I understand when there are Halakhic objections to women participating in religious ceremonies – what I don't understand are the sociological objections. How is it that we can accept our women giving up their tzniut and appearing in classrooms full of men, in courtrooms, in corporate boardrooms, or at medical conferences – but we can't allow them to participate in the most inconsequential (as reading the Ketubah apparently is according to the article) religious activities?

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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

R. Elyashiv Reconsidered 

I want to encourage everyone to read the comments on the previous post by a reader called "Der Raditchkover" who apparently was able to read the tshuva of R. Elyashiv. It certainly puts things in a different light and although I would stand by my generalities about Haredi (and not only Haredi) rabbis, I would have to reconsider what I wrote of R. Elyashiv - at least regarding this issue.

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More on R. Elyashiv 

There have been many interesting comments on the previous post regarding R. Elyahsiv's apparent claim that cancer is a "punishment" to people who "distance themselves from religion".

I would like to add my own comments here. First, as Alan S. and Tamara wrote, one has the right and maybe the obligation to look inward when things go awry in one's life. Was there something in our lifestyle that caused a physical of psychological illness? Is it the way that I talk to people that was part of the cause of my loosing my last job?

As they continued though, no-one else has the right to do that for me – although qualified individuals, be they, parents, friends, teachers, rabbis, even psychologists may help guide us.

As for "knowing the divine will" – orthodox and other Jews believe that the proper study of the Torah will help us 'know" what God wants us to do. What it won't give us is the knowledge to know what God does to those who don't follow the divine will – either by accident or on purpose. As George wrote, cancer may be caused by a certain sin, but we will never know it.

The essence of the problem of R. Elyashiv though has to do with which community he claims to speak for – for the Jewish world at large or for the (Haredi) Yeshiva world ? If he claims to speak only to his Yeshiva world, then his words are irrelevant to us and ought to be ignored. If he claims to speak for the Jewish world at large then he has an obligation to learn a bit more about it, to understand what it means to live in a modern scientific world and to realize that our knowledge of science and the scientific method has changed the way we interpret events.

To tell a medieval person that his illness was due to sin might have consoled him by the knowledge that by repentance either he would get better or would have a place in the "world to come". To tell the same thing to a modern person provides no consolation, only insult – and in some cases may prevent him from getting the medical help he needs.

I don't know where I read it – but I once read that R. Aharon Lichtenstien said that it is more important for today's rabbis to understand the sociological changes in society than the technological changes. This goes to the heart of the problem. Today's Haredi rabbis – and R. Elyashiv in the lead – won't accept the sociological changes of modernity because they made a decision 100 or so years ago to create a wall that would separate Judaism from the world around them.

This wall was not around during Talmudic times, nor was it around during medieval times. It started when they saw an intellectual challenge to their worldview that they had not the strength or will-power to meet. The Rambam met the challenge of his times, as did Rabbenu Tam, Abarbanel and others. Today's Haredi rabbis are unable to meet this challenge because it would force them to admit that to be Jewish is to be human.

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Sunday, August 08, 2004

A Rabbinic Disease 

I wanted to pass over the comments by the eminent halachist Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv that cancer is a "punishment" to people who "distance themselves from religion", as reported in the the Jerusalem Post - but I couldn't.

We won't make the obvious responses that condemn this statement as immature, ignorant and arrogant - but would rather ask one quick question.

What sin did the esteemed R. Eliashiv commit for God to have given him the apparently incurable "foot-in-mouth" disease?

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Two on Ida Fink 

Both Talya Halkin in the Jerusalem Post and Dan Tsalka in Ha'aretz have articles on Ida Fink, the Polish-Jewish writer, in honor of the translation of her stories into Hebrew (English translations here). Fink was born in 1921 in Zbaraz in Eastern Poland and used forged Aryan papers to survive the Holocaust.

Halkin writes of Fink:

"Fink's stories, which are rarely more than three or four pages long, are like telegrams dispatched from the past. In them, memory delivers its message in a language whose lyrical, sensuous quality is uncompromised - even heightened - by its succinctly urgent tone. Many of these stories revolve around the rupture of the bourgeois paradise that Fink experienced in her childhood and adolescence. Over and over again, its idyllic quality is intruded upon as its protagonists are jolted into the reality of World War II. "

Two interesting articles, one interesting person.

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