Thoughts on Judaism

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Point of it All

Hat tip: The Gadol

Friday, September 23, 2005

Are you Chabad?

The genre is spent for now, and I had restrained myself from shooting fish in a barrel. But by special request, we have a new quiz. Again, all based on actual experiences. (Toned way down for Elul.)

1) The Chabad Rebbe is

a) alive, though he is dead
b) alive and hiding in his office
c) alive and the Moshiach
d) Moshiach and hiding in his office
e) both alive and dead like Schroedinger's cat
f) either the Moshiach, a cat, or alive

2) Moshiach is coming

a) right now
b) a minute from now
c) all right, NOW!
d) How about ....... NOW!
e) Ad Mosei???!!!!

3) You have a meeting with an executive of a large client of your firm, Mr. Ed Goldstein, whom you have never met, and several other people. The next quarter of revenue rides on the results of this meeting. What should you do first?

a) Ask igros for a proper course of action. Open a random page, discern some advice and follow it as you interpret it. Expect a miracle.
b) Ask Mr. Goldstein if he is Jewish (just to make sure, you never know nowadays, with mixed marraiges). Ask everyone at the meeting if they are Jewish.
c) Assume Mr. Goldstein is Jewish and ask him to delay the meeting while you convince him to put on tefilin.
d) Ask Mr. Goldstein if his wife is Jewish. Give him candles to take home to her.
e) Hand Mr. Goldstein a L'Chaim. Tell him that the Rebbe, King Messiah forever, wants him to do good deeds. Explain to him that the Rebbe is still alive.
f) Go the Oyhel first, write a "pan". Expect a miracle. If the meeting is successful write an article for the Beis Moshiach emphasizing the obvious miraculous nature of every aspect of the meeting.

4) Where do you work?

a) your uncle's ... uh ... real estate firm
b) your uncle's camera store
c) your uncle's Chabad House
d) your uncle's diamond firm
e) your uncle's store on Kingston Avenue
f) Direct collections
g) It's off the books

5) When it rains, I

a) remove my hat
b) cover my hat with a plastic grocery bag
c) turn the front of the brim up
d) leave my hat on and wear it thereafter with the front brim at a ninety degree angle

6) Which of the following is not the name of one of your children?

a) Schneur Zalman
b) Menachem Mendel
c) Shalom DovBer
d) Chaya Mushka
e) Devora Leah
f) Yosef Yitzchak
g) Levi Yitzchak
h) Naftali Nachman

7) Your relative has just fallen ill (lo aleinu, rachmana litzlan) while visiting your home. What should you do first?

a) Write Igros and plan an emergency trip to the Oyhel. Discern an answer based on your interpretation of a random page and follow its perceived advice.
b) Call a doctor or ambulance
c) Call a homeopath, acupuncturist or naturopath
d) Find someone who sells pigeons
e) Ask the relative to check their tefilin and mezuzas when they get home.
f) Ask the relative if they truly BELIEVE in the Rebbe as Moshiach. If you suspect that they do not, make sure that you write the story for the Beis Moshiach magazine upcoming issue, with that all important fact.

8) We believe in G-d because

a) the Torah tells us it is a mitzvah
b) the Chazal tell us it is a mitzvah
c) the AriZal tells us it is a mitzvah
d) the Rebbe tells us it is a mitzvah

9) Chabad is to Judaism as __________ is to __________

a) G-d / angels
b) professor / student
c) professor / vagrant
d) king / pond scum
e) greyback / lemur
f) Babe Ruth / tee ball dropout

10) What is the most solemn ritual of the year?

a) The eating of the afikomen
b) The singing of Napolean's March and blowing Shofar after Neilah
c) Blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashana
d) Drawing of Mayim Shelanu
e) Puking up of the quart of Smirnoff Red that you consumed on Yed Tes Kislev
f) Pulling of your chaver's beard at a Chai Ellul farbrengen

11) You are driving 80 mph in a 30 zone when some stinking antisemite goy cop pulls you over on the pretext that you are speeding. You should:

a) call him what he is, an antisemite
b) imply that his zeide was a nazi
c) ask him if he is Jewish and attempt to put tefilin on him
d) explain that you have some rough friends in the city, if he knows what's good for him ... etc.
e) yell "Yechi ... Melech HaMoshiach Le'Olam Va'ed" 3 times. Expect the cop to miraculously disappear.
f) drive more slowly and less alcoholically impaired in the future, especially in the school zone you just blew through

12) When davening, one should concentrate the most kavana:

a) during krias shma
b) during Chazaras HaShatz
c) during the chanting of Yechi 3 times after laining
d) during the chanting of Yechi 3 times after aleinu
e) during the chanting of Yechi 3 times after kaddish
f) during the chanting of Yechi 3 times at any moment that the mood strikes

13) Which of the following is a Chabad custom?

a) Saying Pirkei Avos after Shabbos Mincha in the Summer
b) Naming girls "Mushka" after the Rebbetzin
c) Not making kiddush between 6 and 7 PM
d) Not wearing paiyos
e) Wearing a black Borsolino with the front brim turned down
f) Waking up at midnight to say tikun Chatzos on Thursday and preferably every day

(See teacher's key below ****)

14) What is the most important holiday of the Jewish Year?

a) Chai Elul
b) Yud Tes Kislev
c) Yud Shvat
d) Gimel Tammuz
e) Yom Kippur
f) Yud Beis Tammuz

15) Someone has written a book that implies that the Rebbe is heroic, but not perfect in every way. You should:

a) question the author's lineage
b) threaten the author's family
c) publicize that the author has been influenced by misnagdim
d) depend on the fact that much of your base education does not include the ability to read English anyway
e) pretend that the book was never written, if anyone asks about it

16) How can you best exhibit the Rebbe's mivtza of Ahavas Yisroel?

a) telling everyone about how much ahavas Yisroel you have
b) inviting everyone over to get drunk ... er ... I mean "farbreng"
c) telling everyone how little ahavas yisroel the misnagdim have
d) telling everyone how little ahavas yisroel the Satmar have
e) telling everyone how the misnagdim learn only for self aggrandizement and can never understand basic tenets of faith without chasidus
f) telling everyone that only a follower of the Rebbe can have TRUE ahavas yisroel

17) Which of the following is not a mivtza of the Rebbe?

a) buying Jewish books
b) ahavas yisroel
c) lighting ner chanuka
d) tefilin and mezuza
e) compulsory Vodka consumption
f) erecting large billboards that declare the Rebbe to be the Messiah
g) raising money from wealthy intermarried lawyers that you personally disrespect, but are willing to court becuase you depend on them financially.
h) Jewish education
i) yelling Yechi during and after davening, and at crisis moments

18) How much knowledge of Torah do misnagdim have?

a) none, zilch, nada
b) less than nothing, they are practically goyim
c) anything they learn is poisoned with their hashkafa
d) zol zei gein in drerd! Chab zei in bahd! Rotten Snags!
e) they have a few sayings, but no true emunas chachamim without the Rebbe MHM
f) they are too busy "learning" to have any knowledge
g) they do not know the last two perakim of Rambam, the only pre-Chabad Torah ever worth discussing

19) What is the best indicator of how frum a person is?

a) he does not eat gebrachts on Pesach
b) he wears a proper hat
c) he does not use the eruv on Shabbos
d) he eats only Chabad shchita
e) (s)he uses only a Jewish name, like Mendy or Mushka or Zlota
f) he puts on Rebenu Tam tefilin
g) he eats only bishul yisroel potato chips
h) s(he) doesn't trim his (her) beard

20) Is the Rebbe Moshiach?

a) Yes of course
b) It is proven in Rambam and Navi'im
c) Shhhhh, don't say that
d) Many sources point to the prophecies of Moshiach and one who examines the life of the Rebbe might well conclude ... zzzzzzzz
e) Is the Pope Catholic?
f) What of all the miracles he did and prophecies he said? (The Rebbe, not the Pope.)
g) Lalalalalalalala, I can't hear you!

Teacher's key
13. F (This custom is documented in Tanya. None of the others are documented customs of Chabad.)
B is incorrect, as the Rebbetzin was not (clearly) called Mushka, but Moussia or Musenka.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Are You Jewish

A short quiz to determine if you have the mental and emotional wiring to be Jewish.

1) If invited to a wedding at 6 PM, when do you assume that it will actually start?

a) 6 PM
b) 6:05 PM
c) 7 PM
d) Whenever you arrive

2) When should you arrive at said wedding?

a) 6 PM
b) 6:05 PM
c) 7 PM
d) 11 PM
e) After I go out and get a few things, some shtick, a gift, a better gift, return the first gift, change clothes again and what is it called for? 6? The wedding is only 2 1/2 hours away. That's OK, they never start on time.

3) If davening starts at 7 and you see someone entering the shul at 7 that you have never met before, you should greet him with:

a) Kak Dyela
b) Velkumen, vas is dein nomen?
c) Burich Habu, shulem aleichim, vus herst dach a Yid?
d) Shalom Alaychem, mah nishma
e) Como Estas
f) Wazzup?

4) You call your son's cell phone, but he does not answer after 3 rings, you:

a) panic
b) assume he has been killed horribly in a fiery accident, even though you told him not to drive like that, they never listen!
c) assume he is ill and has been rushed to the hospital with bubonic plague
d) assume he was occupied with some business
e) try again in a few minutes
f) assume he is hanging around with his no good friends again and is avoiding your call
g) assume he is out of range or his phone is not functioning

5) Is it cloudy or sunny today?

a) Cloudy!
b) Sunny!
c) Yes it is!
d) It depends on what you mean by "cloudy" and "sunny".
e) If you consider cloudiness as one cloud per 4 cubits and there are no other climatic factors ...
f) It depends on how you hold on the question of Yashan

6) What is the proper response to "are you worried that it will rain?"

a) Yes
b) No
c) Should I be?
d) Nu?
e) Worried?

7) What is the proper response to "Nu?"

a) Shoulder Shrug
b) Bewildered look
c) "Nu nu!"
d) "Sha!"
e) Give him money

8) How do you purchase an automobile?

a) Research best prices and models, go retail dealer with information, select model, color and style appropriate
b) Go to your brother's friend. Has he got a deal for you!
c) Retail? What's up with THAT?
d) How much could a Lexus cost already?
e) Ask your son what to do. He knows about mechanical things.

9) You are 80 years old. You go out for fresh air and want to see the ocean. In which direction do you look?

a) East by southeast
b) West
c) Across the Sound
d) Toward the Keys
e) Over the railing of the yacht that you are on
f) North
g) East or South, whichever you prefer
h) Toward Catalina
i) Toward the television

10) What is your favorite holiday?

a) The fourth of July
b) Pesach
c) Purim
d) Thanksgiving
e) Big Bob's 24 hour Bash. Everything must go!
f) Yom Ha-atzma-ut
g) Yahrzeit of the (impossible to pronounce name of Eastern European town)er Rebbe
h) The one with all the honey and bees

Monday, September 19, 2005

Dr. Seuss Goes Off the Deep End

I am Shmil
Shmil I am
I do not hold like Rabbi Pam

I do not eat the OU meat
I' never daven on Linden Street
I'd never go to Chayim's house
I'd not have Lazer's daughter for a spouse.

I love the Yidden who praise to G-d
I hate the folks that go to Chabad
I am not a Chasidic fool
I go to Rabbi Feinshtein's shul

I go to the mikveh for ablution.
I do not believe in evolution.
In fact, those kofrim make me nauseous
With our kanayim, they'd best be cautious.

Women exist only for giving birth
I believe the Sun goes 'round the Earth.
Cooking and cleaning is G-d's plan
For every good girl of a Jewish clan.
So while I learn, go make a meal
And bear strong sons for good ole Shmil

I hope the Reform all gag and choke.
I hope my land scams don't go broke.
I'd kill Sharon, not let him live
That goes for the Conservative.
And I wish a wasting pox
On all the Modern Orthodox

And the Shvartzes don't mean beans
They shoulda been in New Orleans
Most of all, I thank Hashem above
Who taught me truth, compassion and LOVE.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Are you Fundamentalist?

Other quizzes of this type on the Internet have questions that misunderstand the basic belief systems. Therefore, the questions do not offer the best determination of your religious direction.

Take the quiz below: (Questions and answers based on true, actual discussions)
(Do not think about or check your answers. This is essential for a fundamentalist!)

1) How much disdain do you have for those who could, but do not, practice your religion?

a) Lots of disdain
b) Tons of Disdain
c) I spit in their direction

2) How much disdain do you have for people who practice your religion differently than you do, with different rituals, customs or beliefs?

a) I feel pity for them that cannot see the true way.
b) I feel pity that they will burn in hell.
c) I feel no pity. Let them burn in hell.

3) When it comes to science and religion, I consider myself

a) an expert in the theory of relativity
b) an expert in cosmology and quantum mechanics
c) an expert in genetics, biology, geology, chemistry, paleontology and archeology
d) an expert in the lost ancient medical arts
e) an expert in astronomy, astrophysics and especially the ancient true art of astrology

4) Evolution

a) is just a theory, not a fact
b) has never been directly observed
c) is proven false, internally inconsistent and evil
d) makes me wanna puke
e) makes me go into convulsions at every mention

5) Teaching evolution in school to innocent children

a) is less prefereable than exposing them to drugs and pornography
b) is an evil design of the state to atheize our children
c) exposes their souls to the Satan, evil inclination, or facsimile
d) should be balanced with the science of Intelligent Design.
e) makes me want to grunt threateningly and throw feces at the BOE

6) The Supreme Being

a) believes in my religion exactly as I do
b) wrote a book instructing the world to believe exactly as I do
c) interprets said book exactly as I do
d) will punish anyone who does not believe exactly as I do

7) Ancient religious sages seem to make mistakes about science

a) because scientists today are simply wrong
b) because we cannot fathom the depth of their mystical knowledge of these matters
c) because G-d has changed nature to test us
d) because G-d told the sages to intentionally make errors to test us
e) because scientists today are misled by false evidence planted by previous scientists

8) Sages of my religion

a) are incapable of error due to their connection with the Supreme Being

9) Is it possible that sentences or allegorical stories in the book of the Supreme Being may be taken figuratively?

a) No, they happened as stated 100%
b) No, G-d says directly what he means all the time
c) No, you stinking INFIDEL!
d) Yes, but I am a stinking infidel, so don't go by me

10) A religious tenet is true if

a) it says so in the Bible
b) the ancient religious sages say that it says so in the Bible
c) my religious leader says that the ancient religious sages say that it says so in the Bible
d) it is incomprehensible
e) a mystical book says that his religious leader said that the ancient religious sages say that it says so in the Bible
f) a mystic says that it is true
g) it is confirmed by equidistant skip codes in the Bible
h) it is confirmed by randomly opening a holy book and reading the page
i) I knew about it before you told me about it
j) it is written in a language that I do not understand
k) my grandfather believed in it

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Burning Synagogues

One of the battles to be faought in Gaza was whether the synagogue buildings would come down or not. Shaul Mofaz, the defense minister mounted a galant effort that eventually converted the Prime Minister and allowed the withdrawal without razing them. Of, course, it was a foregone conclusion that the Palestinians would destroy them in short order. In fact, I thought that this might have been the idea; let nature take its course and allow the UN to see what we are dealing with in allowing the Palestinians to "form their own state". The Palestinian leaders and street are among the most bigoted in the world. That is why they have been and should remain powerless.

So to the previous post I add this one Headline that you will never see:
Jews Destroy Abandoned Mosque; Jews Celebrate as Mosque Burns

How would the "world" react to such a headline? How many meetings of the Security Council? How many of their deeply effectual "resolutions" would pass unanymously (with only 4 possible objections, Israel, US, Micronesia and Marshall Islands)? How many International Court summonses would be issued for war crimes? How many against Sharon personally? How many Jewish groups would hold marches, vigils, sit-ins (do they do that anymore?), and whatever sympathetic bluster that their little atheist hearts could rev up for a "House of Prayer"? How many Ilsamic leaders in how many of the 21 Moslem countries and countless NGOs (read terror groups) would issue loud "annihilate the Jews" threats over the crickets chirping in Europe?

Sorry, I could have presented this sarcasticly, but the double standard of the world community activists against racism, especially at the UN (yes, some us still remember Durban, August, 2001), can only change the world in disasterous ways, that I find remarkably unfunny.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Headlines We Will Never See

Palestinians voluntarily Evacuate Israeli City; Bulldoze Mosques

Politicans in Louisiana Blame Themselves for Flood Disaster

Charedi Rav Finds No Proof of Divine Retribution in Recent Events

Palestinians Offer Compromise Peace Initiative

Charedim Give Rational Explanation for Recent Events

Chabad Cannot Say Certainly that Recent Events Prophesy the Iminent Coming of the Messiah

Right Wing Rabanan Consider (enter racial group here) Equal Human Beings

Disease Eradicated Using (enter favorite magic medicine here)

Modern Judaism Develops Custom Based on Reason

Friday, September 09, 2005

G-d is Moody Today

No doubt you've seen the quotes from Shas's Rebbe, Ovadia Yosef.
“There was a tsunami and there are terrible natural disasters, because there isn’t enough Torah study… black people reside there (in New Orleans). Blacks will study the Torah? (God said) let’s bring a tsunami and drown them.”
“Hundreds of thousands remained homeless. Tens of thousands have been killed. All of this because they have no God”.

Rav Ovadia will no doubt remember that the halacha prescribes the death penalty for nonJews who "are osek" b'Torah (eg Rambam, Hilchos Melachim, 10:11). Hence, G-d should have rewarded them by saving them from death. Were they punished for following halacha?

No doubt you also remember that Rabin dearly bought Rav Ovadia's support for Oslo, the opening play in this game. Rav Ovadia did not seem to incur G-d's wrath for that.

But while we are on the subject of hurricanes:
The latest storm, Ophelia, has been strengthening and weakening for a day or two. It looked poised to strengthen and hit the mid Florida coast, but now it seems to be weakening and heading out to sea. I guess G-d is a bit moody today. At times, he wants to strike the Florida coast to get back at all the Bubbys whose einichlach frei-ed out or that did not maintain shitelach when they came to America. At times, he thinks better of it, tshuva, Elul, Erev Shabbos, and turns back his wrath. One thing is for sure. Whether the storm hits or not, the Charedi prophets will know why it did what it did.

The global warming cassandras will also be able to explain how this storm weakened. As you know, the current models that support global warming indicate that storms may intensify over decades. THEY DO NOT SAY that GW (that's global warming, not the US president) will cause more FREQUENT storms . THEY DO NOT SAY that this will occur RIGHT NOW. However, as in any world of foregone conclusions, you can only consider supporting data. You must dismiss any data that does not fit with your foregone conclusion.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

100 dollar promise

This piece of hashkafa has perplexed me for the longest time. When we say that something is true, a promise of the Torah, a prophecy, a Chazal, Moshiach, Techiyas Hameisim or anything else. what do we mean by the term "TRUE"? Do we mean that we can rely on it? Or do we mean that it cannot be proven false, but that it will ultimately by reinterpreted or apologized, so we cannot rely on it literally either?

Take science, for instance. There was no problem with the Mishna sages, the Rambam, the Ramban and other greats discussing the scientific concepts that ruled in their day. It was infallibility doctrine that solidified these evolving concepts into a concrete form. Then, along come modern apologists to try and build a link between the “four elements” and atomic theory, or the mythical astronomical galgalim and “String theory”. How did Ptolemy know these amazing scientific facts, you ask? Why he got it from the Jewish sages of the time, of course. And we are forever stuck with trying to reconcile the medieval science with current knowledge, based on better observation.

Of course, many tools are available to save us. Nature changed, don’t you know. The theory of relativity (which the apologist has, no doubt, read through, at least once) corroborates. Science cannot really DISPROVE the relic of infallibility. Since it was stated infallibly, and science cannot DISPROVE it, it remains in its default state of truth. And, when the death blow comes ultimately, it retreats to Rabbi X never really said that.

And the what of the "TRUTH", OY! If we cannot reconcile our view of infallibility with real truth, we can always fall back to spiritual truth (presumably in the face of physical falsity), different levels of truth, or some other excuse why the infallible is false.

And here is the danger. It undermines the nature of truth, such that it is meaningless. A clear example is the $100 promise. A promises B a gift of $100 tomorrow. As the next day finishes, B goes to A to claim the money, and A refuses to taunts of “liar”. A retorts in one of the following ways:

1) By “tomorrow,” I meant some unspecified time in the future.

2) I meant to give you the spiritual equivalent of $100

3) If I was to threaten you with a gun, and I would accept $100 not to kill you, you would certainly give it to me. Since I am not threatening you, consider it as if I have given you $100, since you still have the money that you agree that you would have given away.

4) 4) The promise is beyond our simple, humble understanding. We do not have the ability to judge the truth of the promise, based on our deep inferiority to A.

In any case, A’s promise is tenably TRUE. But the promise is still meaningless. The entire TRUTH is meaningless, because it has been redefined. TRUTH is no longer something to rely on, but something to be molded when it fails to produce. B has a TRUE promise, which controverts the entire value of the promise, reliance on its truth.

If we say that fundamentalism today is defended in this manner, will the Ikarim, prophecy, Moshiach, and Techiyas HaMeisim be defended in this way tomorrow? And if so, why do they hold any meaning?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

End is Near - Part II

In August 2001, the UN held a conference on racism at Durban, South Africa. The conference degraded into an antisemitic hatefest, led by nongovenment organizations (NGOs), otherwise known as special interest groups and terrorist organizations. Mary Robinson, no particular friend of the Jewish people, was so shocked that she said "today we are all Jews", in standing against the drumbeat. Of course, she continued in the conference, even though the mood of antisemitism increased as the conference continued. Of all the nations in the world, only 4 withdrew their delegates. 2 small island states (such savages), Israel and the US. However, the US withdrawal effectively nullified the conference, due to the power that it wields in the world. Had the US stayed, it would have legitimized the resolutions that would undoubtedly have passed at that conference. Most US presidents probably would have stayed, even Reagan. However, President Bush stood up against the world, briefly paused to spit at the UN racism, and withdrew US participation.

One month later, many of the snubbed NGOs attacked or celebrated the attack on New York and Washington, the worst since World War II on American soil.

Would the same people who are saying that Hurricane Katrina was Divine Retribution against the President for Gaza like to say that somehow 9/11 was Divine Retribution for his bravery a Durban? Was G-d siding with bin Laden at that time?

Global Warming Hysterics

Scientific studies have a way of muddling hysterics, and this is no more evident than the drumbeat of the effects of "global warming" on the recent hurricane in the Gulf. Here is an actual scientific consideration of the matter, for instance. The matter was complicated when the political IPCC issued its usual hysterical opinion in 2004. Even Turkey Lurkey can report to the IPCC, apparently.

Layman's background:
Global warming is the natural effect that allows the Earth to maintain moderate temperatures, rather than unliveably hot by day and frigid by night. The blanket created by our atmosphere allows the temperatures to cool and heat slowly so that temperatures stay within our requirements for habitat. The main component, responsible for 97% of the warming is being pumped into the atmosphere by big corporations at a horrific rate, it is deadly if ingested into the lungs, it rots fruit, it degrades the integrity of metal, it is a compound of two volatile gases which feed fire and expolsion, and it causes thousands of deaths every year. There is no government control on this substance, and no politician will ever respond to a lobbyist pushing for a ban on this substance. The substance, of course, is water. But the easily generated hysterics and misinformation around how water and other substances react to global warming and whether global warming is amplified "anthropogenically", caused by man, has been debated since meteorology became an acceptable science for a "nice Jewish boy".

Sylvia: My grandson is a meteorist. He makes twelve thousand dollars a year.
Ethel: Well, at least his brother is a doctor.

Of the remaining 3%, carbon dioxide is the main component. Together, CO2 and a few others are referred to as "greenhouse gases", to give one the impression that the Earth is heating up like a greenhouse in the winter.

What is being asserted:
The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a body organized by the UN and others to prove that the US should do something about anthropogenic global warming. However, when they get down to science, this what they assert. They are saying that a gradual trend of increase in temperature over the past 60 years may be due to increases in "greenhouse gases" associated with cars, jets, air conditioners, manufacturing processes and host of other gadgets that differentiate us from jungle tribes. This may be as much as 0.6 C over the past century, though it is increasing in rate. However, there seems to have been a cold trend over the past 4 centuries, so the warming may be natural as well. Hurricanes may be intensified because of thermodynamics, as early as 2050. They will not necessarily increase in frequency because of global warming. So far, this is just the advocate's position.

If the sun were heating the entire Earth, what would we experience? More hot weather, more cold weather, more wet or dry weather, more all of the above. The IPCC has asserted ALL of these. However, physics dictates that any additional heat would not heat the air alone, but it would diffuse into the water until the new changes were equalized. There's lots of water, so the heat that enters the water will go deeper until the pressure becomes a greater factor than the external heat source. Thus, air and water would slowly heat together. The ocean constant temperature would start at a deeper level.

What this meant for Katrina:
The surface temperature in the Gulf is about 90F. Hurricanes intensify at about 81F. Hence, any hurricane that enters the Gulf is a threat to intensify rapidly. Such has always been the case. Florida has always been a curteous gatekeeper, blocking the US Gulf coast. The last major storms of this type, slipped past the goalie in 1969 (Hurricane Camille) and 1961 (Hurricane Carla, the original 9/11) and 1957 (Audrey). There have been lesser storms as well. Here's a list. The advocates claim that global warming may have intensified Katrina and that future storms may be as intense or more intense. However, no conclusion can be drawn from a series of one.

What is hysterics and what is science:
In short, the advocates do not claim that there will be more hurricanes, increasing with global warming. They claim that storms MAY intensify. They claim that the effect is gradual. They claim that global temperatures have not increased significantly at this point. They have no evidence that humans caused significant global warming to date, and there is no evidence that Katrina was caused by global warming, natural or man made. There is no evidence that Katrina was intensified by global warming or whether it is part of a natural cycle. The advocates seem more interested in making us concerned for the future, in monitoring and arresting man made increases in global warming. The effects are generally conceded, even among skeptics, but most moderates in both camps think of man made global warming as a problem of centuries, or more radicals, decades, not of years. There is a significant amount of warming that is occuring due to natural cycles, so any strides made in this area may see less effect than desired. It's not going to get hotter out, next summer compared to this summer, because of anthropogenic global warming, AGW. The sky is not falling and the rivers will not boil.

This is the matter in short, not at all exhaustive, since there are many excellent resources available. I did not want to dwell too much on the subject. It is just that so many people have run with the misinformation, I would strongly urge you to do as much research as a half hour google session will allow. Then, we can concentrate on aiding the victims of the hurricane, rather than how to blame or discredit and take future action on hysterical "science".

Friday, September 02, 2005

Kiddush between 6 and 7

Many people have the custom not to make kiddush between 6 and 7 in the evening. Magen Avraham on the Shulchan Aruch 271:1 seems to provide the source. In a siman that permits early kiddush, that is, before Shabbos enters, MA allows that it is better to make kiddush before the first hour of the night, when Jupiter is dominant, rather than during the first hour of the night, when Mars is dominant. Refinement of the custom limits it to red wine, the halacha-preferred kiddush wine for Friday night, having something to do with the red color of Mars, its similarity to blood or Mars' bad rap as a negative omen. "First hour" is from the time that it gets dark. In most cases, we divide the entire night into 12 equal hours and refer to the first twelfth as "first hour" or "6 o'clock". Thus, the length of this hour is deeply affected by latitude, hemisphere, and season.

In Chabad today, for instance, the custom is observed in a most contrived way. The term "6 oclock" is taken literally as the hour we call 6 (or 7 if your locality has daylight savings time). If it gets dark at 4, the forbidden hour is still 6 to 7. If it gets dark at 7:30, the custom does not apply. In Chabad, they do not make kiddush early, and they always use red wine (unless vodka is available). Hence, in Brooklyn, they rush home in December to make kiddush before six oclock, or they delay until after seven. Not only that, but this practice comes from the top, I am told. Among the Chabad Rebbe's comments are an adherence to the literal 6 oclock, though no one seems certain if he held the custom at all. No one remembers seeing him make kiddush on Friday night, and his comments are conditional ("for those who do not make kiddush between 6 and 7").

One thing is clear, though. The custom, as practiced by Chabad today, is NOT sourced on the Magen Avraham. The MA is a comment on why one is allowed to make kiddush early. This is not Chabad minhag. The MA is talking about the first hour of the night. The Chabad custom is 6 oclock on the clock, whether it is broad daylight or sometime into the night. Chabad Rebbes have held against using white wine between 6 and 7. If one cannot make kiddush by 6, Chabadniks will wait until after 7, a circumstance not mentioned in the MA (though he alludes to an earlier practice from the Yerushalmi)..

So we are left with questions which render the matter almost absurd.

What does Mars have to do with kiddush? Why is Mars negative? Does it go back to its Greco-Roman "war god" mythology? Where is this mentioned in sifrei kabalah?

Now that we know about time zones, do we adjust the hour for the time zone? As we proceed west in a time zone, should we start at 6:15, 6:30, 6:45 based on where we are in the timezone? Otherwise, isn't the hour 6:00 entirely arbitrary?

It seems that the only effects possible from remote planets are by reflected light and gravity propogation. (Electromagnetism is too weak for these planets at their distance). Both reach Earth from the source at the speed of light. Should we not adjust the minutes based on the distance (in light-minutes) of these planets from us at the time of kiddush? Note that these will vary quite a bit, depending on where we are in our respective orbits. Thus, if we are on the opposite side of the sun from Mars, we would have approximately 8 minutes for the sun and another 15 minutes for Mars to affect us. should the lead edge of time zone start at 6:23 in that case?

What basis do we have to make kiddush after 7? What is gained now that the astrology is not applicable after 7? The MA brings a Yerushalmi that says that they made kiddush an hour or two later in the night, obviously connecting it. But on what basis?

Note that we might say that the time is arbitrary so we can call for 6:00 whenever we designate it, but the custom is already adjusting for daylight savings time, an arbitrary distinction. Therefore, we must say that the custom intends something reality based, not just an arbitrary point in time that we call 6 oclock.

In the end, I cannot find anything to define this custom. It seems to be an arbitrary time loosely attached to some arbitrary astrology, that has no wide source in Jewish law or history before the Magen Avraham (and his sources, the Maharil and Tikunei Shabas and a single memra in Yerushalmi). Time to dump it into the "it's secrets of Torah" bucket.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Time's up

The "death curse" on Ariel Sharon has offically run its 30 day course. Shockingly, NOTHING HAPPENED. Any creative excuses out there?