Thursday, August 18, 2005

My Thoughts on the Disengagement

Throughout the debate I have been conflicted: on the one hand, unilateral concesions do not make sense; on the other hand, the will of the parliament must be followed (and soldiers must obey orders). Finally, here is my take:
I am sure it was worth the wait.

UPDATE: I don't know if it's the casual angle of her CAR-15, the cocked hip, winning smile, or the sunlight on her face, but that middle soldier is really cute.

Jewish Blog Tedium

You know the J-blogosphere is at an ebb when you can't tell a Dov Bear post from a Counterpunch article.

Not to mention the usually articulate Godol Hador calling those who disagree with him "dummies."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Lord Has Returned Me

Seeing how Tisha B'Av is primarily an emotional holiday, it's not surprising my most recent surge of heresy is receding. Work has been crazy this past week, so posting has been light. The only bad news is that it will be at least another week 'til my shoulder can lift heavy objects.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Return Us, Lord

Although this is nothing like the lamentations of the Yeshiva I used to go to for Kinos, it is haunting.

I was planning on posting a link to on-line texts of the Kinos, but all I could find were shiurim on the topic. If it weren't the three weeks, I would gripe about rabbis coming between the people and the tradition.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Real Conspiracy Against the Palestinians

This via Haaretz:

Palestinians abandoned a quest to build the world's longest sandwich on Wednesday after health officials told them their 750-metre construction risked rotting in the West Bank summer sun.


"We were planning to add the mortadella and stuffing at the last minute to rule out any possibility of rotting," chef Ahmed Nazzal told Reuters. "There must be a conspiracy against us by other competitors."

UPDATE: This marks the first time I beat little green footballs to a piece of Mid East news. Blogosphere notoriety cannot be too far behind.

The Origins of Religion

What makes us religious?

A few of the posts at Godol Hador helped me form a semi-solid theory on this. Ultimately, the choice to believe in God involves an emotional response. It is currently impossible to prove the existence of God or Free Will, because each proof essentially defines its terms as the proof. The definitions then become axioms which you can take or leave. Godol Hador writes:
Most people who grew up frum have strong positive emotions for Orthodox Judaism. These emotions are powerful enough to withstand a rational enquiry in many cases.

Clearly, emotion is an important aspect of religion. Many Orthodox Jews describe the beauty of the Shabbos Table, of Zemiros, and the overall warm, gooshy feeling of being "spiritual," when explaining why they believe. "How can you experience a Shabbos and not believe in God?"

While I recognize that emotion is probably a very strong component of the decision to believe, it is also important to take into account the enormous social pressure the Orthodox community bring to bear on its adherents. This is less evident in the MO world, but readily apparent in the Chareidi velt.

When I made the decision to go to graduate school, the rabbis I spoke to were concerned that I would remain in the fold of some Orthodox community. In their argument, they were concerned with the soical factors of the secualr world, but the argument cuts both ways. The truth is that religion relies on the adherent's desire to avoid stressful breaks with their social environment and emotion.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I Knew Harry Potter Was Trouble

Harry Potter bewitches Guantanamo Bay prisoners

Harry Potter has bewitched detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, where tales of the young wizard and mysteries by Agatha Christie top the list of most popular books, a prison librarian said on Tuesday.

"Harry Potter is a popular title among some of the detainee population," said the librarian, a civilian contractor identified only as "Lorie" who works at the prison camp for foreign terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Apikorses in the Air

Godol Hador tackles one of the biggies, the meaning of life. His take:
Seems to me that the basic fact of our existence is incomprehensible, no matter which way you look at it. Scientifically, why and how does anything exist at all? Religiously, what is G-d and why would He create us?

Either way you look at it, it makes no sense to us. The Atheists and the Theists are both faced with the same ultimately unanswerable question: 'why are we here?' There is no difference between having faith that there is some scientific explanation for it all, or having faith that some intelligent moral being created it all. Both are equal attempts at explaining the incomprehensible. Both are equally irrational to our feeble minds. Both require faith.

So which faith should one chose? The faith of Theists, or the faith of the Atheists? Well, the Theists have one important advantage; according to them, life has meaning. And faced with a choice of a meaningless, directionless existence, or a meaningful goal oriented existence, which do you think is the rational choice?
GH's rhetorical question reveals his answer to this question, but I think he is wrong. If one were to fully adopt the scientific view of the world, there are no meaningful questions. The question of why we exist is irrelevant. We exist. Our existence alone does not reveal a purpose or an ultimate goal to that existence.

Naturally, many people do not find this to be a very comforting thought. They are left adrift. How can self-aware people lead a meaningless existence? Surely there is something driving the human experience, some power behind the scenes taking notice of us, rewarding us when we are good, punishing us when we are evil, and protecting us from harm. Our emotions tell us that there must be some purpose to existence and our intellect is only too happy to follow. But how do you create a purpose to your life? How do you connect to the power you so desperately believe is going to notice your brief life? See where this is going?

People find comfort in religion. It is a complete system. It answers all your questions and soothes all your fears. It gives you direction, as well as a moral and legal code to follow. But let's not pretend that it's a rational choice.

NB: This post is a little harsher than usual. Think of it as a Hegelian thesis. I would love nothing more than for someone to present an antithesis.

Candystriped October Found

Thank God, the crew of the AS-28 has been rescued. I guess this means my atrocious joke was not in bad taste.

Update: I changed the time of the post to keep Apikorses in the Air on top.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Pray For Me

Once more friends, into the breach!

My shoulder is feeling better so I am going to attempt a measly four-miler. On the bright side, it's 94 degrees out.

And yes, the title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to interesting discussions of the role of prayer found here and here.

The Hunt for the Candystriped October

A Russian mini-submarine carrying seven sailors snagged on a fishing net and was stuck 625 feet down on the Pacific floor Friday, and the United States and Britain were rushing unmanned vehicles there to help in rescue efforts. Link.
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Update: I changed the title of the post, please let me know if it is in bad taste. I changed it once I heard that Russian naval craft successfully snagged the AS-28 and are towing it to shallow water.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Lessons I've Learned

A longtime ago a cliched-ridden friend told me that if I wanted to keep on everyone's good side, I was never to discuss "politics, religion, or baseball." So far this blog has hit the former two, but I have discovered a new unmentionable. Harry Potter. I never understood the Harry Potter craze. Grown adults reading children's books with the sort of religious frenzy that I tend to associate with Mecca or Lakewood. So when my friends who rarely crack a book started pushing this latest fad on me, I smiled and politely declined. And I stayed safe. Someone would ask me what I think of Harry Potter and I would be able to say that "I've honestly never heard of it, but I hear good things about it." I have now lost my innocence. A few weeks ago, I read the first Harry Potter book. I'm sure it's a great read for a ten year old, but I honestly have more important things to do with my time. JK Rowling is no Roald Dahl and Harry Potter is no Great Brain. Unfortunately, now when someone asks me what I think of Harry Potter I am forced to reluctantly admit that I read it and didn't like it, which is a good way to tick people off. And before you start going off on me let me tell you this- I never watched a single episode of Survivor, American Idol, the Blair Witch Project and other meaningless, flash-in-the-pan fads full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Blogging will be light as I catch up on work and mend what is hopefully a bruised rotator cuff. Heshy will be convinced I hurt it because I occasionally use foul language, but I am pretty sure basketball and running do not mix.