Thursday, October 6, 2011

Silly Ideas (IMHO)

Some of the following quotes are from people around my age who've engaged in lengthy written correspondences with me and who I've gotten to know well in real life; I have of course not revealed their identities here, but they are considered thoughtful bnei hayeshivos in their respective kehillot. The other quotes are from the public domain of the Internet. Some of them are old and the contexts vary, but all contributing to an accumulation of some frustration on my part. I don't think of any of the authors as stupid, but just as people who happen to have rather silly ideas which they've shared (and I'm sure they think my views of their ideas are silly too; we're clearly on different wavelengths regarding these issues). I feel the need to share some of these with you so I don't have to engage in some sort of stress reduction exercise (I'm too lazy to bang a pillow against a wall until I'm exhausted :p ). Here they are:

"a few days ago, i watch an interesting episode on Tv about how we never landed on the moon in 1969. i felt he had a very strong argument based on testimony from other varies astronauts. When he tried to dig farther in to it he blocked and rail sided by the department of Defense. If the moon landing really did take place with the advancement of technology why wasn't it ever repeated again"

"...I realize that the JO did not show respect to Rabbi Soloveitchik zt”l the way they did to those whom they consider the leading Gedolei Torah. It’s a claim I’ve seen frequently, but no one has shown what they should have said, in light of the fact that the Moetzes of the Agudah did not seat him among them, despite how he was revered in other circles. No one seemed amazed that the passing of Rav Aharon Kotler zt'l did not draw adoring spreads in Chabad journals… But the evidence remains that people appear to bash 'to the right' more often than the opposite."
--Yaakov Menken

"...If we trust the mesorah for mitzvah observance, we certainly trust it for the Torah itself. This does not exclude the possibility that there might be letter differences, but...these are minor at best. Besides the last few possukim (which is a machlokes in the Gemara whether Moshe or Yehoshua wrote), we do not believe in post-Mosaic authorship. Anyone (I mean this) who believes otherwise does not believe in the same Judaism anymore. As it is, I could argue your sources* but what will ultimately happen is that you'll believe I'm an apologist and I'll believe you're reading things in. It won't lead us anywhere so I am not going to argue your sources. You can for sure find plenty of good peirushim on those sources."

" understanding is that R. Rubashkin was convicted of violating a law from the 1920s that requires slaugherhouses to pay for cattle within 24 hours, a law that had not been enforced for 50 years. He was sentenced to 27 years in jail, more than Jeffrey Skilling, more than the guy who was the head of MCI. Most of the charges he was originally charged with were dropped. Yes, I think he was the victim of injustice, and perhaps anti-semitism."
--Yaakov Menken Cross-Currents commenter YM on August 20, 2010

"Let's say, for arguments sake not that it is proven fact or even a real remote theory agreed upon by anyone with knowledge in this area, that the first being was simple as can be. So much so that the chances of this organism being created were a 2:1 chance. To evolve to more complex organisms this creature undergoes millions upon millions, billions upon billions of mutations, trillions upon trillions of mutations. Ok, so it makes sense to say that a 2:1 chance will come about. However, the fact that all of these mutations occur and lead to a complex organism like man is similar to flipping a coin more than a billion times and it always landing on heads. What are the chances of that?"
--Friend who tells me he's quite scientifically literate and reads the peer-reviewed literature

"The solution to the contradiction between the age of the earth and the universe according to science and the Jewish date of 5755 years since Creation is this: the real age of the universe is 5755 years, but it has misleading evidence of greater age. The bones, artifacts, partially decayed radium, potassium-argon, uranium, the red-shifted light from space, etc. - all of it points to a greater age which nevertheless is not true. G-d put these things in the universe and they lead many to the false conclusion of a much greater age. I said the evidence is misleading. Does that mean that G-d is tricking us? Not at all: He told us the truth! Only someone who [perversely] decides to ignore the statement of the Creator and rely only on what he can investigate will be lead to a false conclusion..."
--Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb

"...I have seen it cynically suggested that the contemporary TIDE opposition to TuM was only order to avoid the ‘taint’ of being associated with Modern Orthodoxy. The unswerving integrity, fiscal and intellectual, of the KAJ kehillah belies such claims..."
--Binyomin Eckstein

"Being less than fond of the mission of American imperialism, I am universally in favor of policies that turn would-be soldiers away from participation in the business end of bloody foreign policy. If one looks closely, he or she can derive from "don't ask, don't tell" the same wisdom that backs seatbelt and anti-smoking laws, both of which are engineered to protect people from their own terrible decisions."
--Elizabeth Stoker

"I have found creationists to be a tiny minority among us [Orthodox Jews]..."
--Fellow Doper

"Read 'The Eye of the Storm' by Rabbi Aharon Feldman. When you've done Shas a couple of times, maybe then we can talk seriously about you disagreeing with the Gedolim...."
--Acquaintence. In response, I sent him a letter I'd written to the Jewish Action at an earlier date listing errors in Feldman's book. He then wrote a response, reproduced below.

"You remind me of a Highschool student going up to a College Professor, and telling him oh, btw, you're wrong about such and such formula, cause I saw in my highschool textbook such and such. Its cute. But the reality is that your College Professor wrote the textbook. The point is that your disagreement is just as ridiculous. You haven't done shas even once. At least Rabbi Lichtenstein knows how to learn, and I wouldn't put it past him that he has done Shas a few times. His disagreement is valuable. Yours is infantile. Before you throw out Haredi views with the proverbial bathwater, you should maybe learn shas. Then you would understand that you missed the point. You want to argue, present your position, but you're not on a level playing field. As I said, learn Shas and then we'll have a serious discussion about the issues."
--Idem., follow-up correspondence

"Israel has become a spiritual wasteland. Ben Gurion said that Israel would become a 'light unto the nations,' but instead (according to a front-page report in the New York Times) Israel is the world’s greatest exporter of prostitution."
--Rabbi Aharon Feldman in Eye of the Storm

*My sources were the "ibn Ezra, R' Yehuda hachasid, Rashbam, R' Shlomo ben Shmuel, R' Shneur Zalman dov Anushiski, R' Shlomo Zvi Schueck, and Rav Avigdor Katz." I had of course found these via Marc Shapiro's book (which my friend hasn't read). I later wrote to this friend: "ftr various peirushim understand the ibn Ezra as believing that more than the last 12 verses are post-Mosaic." No response on that point.