Monthly Archives: May 2006

Dispute in the Orthodox Community

Dispute in the Orthodox Jewish is something that has always been a source of discomfort for those involved and for those reflecting back into history. Here is a couple of sources that I feel shed some positive light on the mechanism of dispute as being of a positive religious value.

"When an individual does not intend to scoff – rather only to state his belief – even if these positions stand against your belief and system, don’t say to him: “Don’t talk, seal your mouth!” For then the system will not be clarified. On the contrary, in such matters we should say: “Speak as much as you want, all that you want to say, so that you will not be able to say that were you granted permission to expand you would have spoken further [and convinced me with your beliefs].” If, however, you do close his [the questioner’s] mouth and prevent him from speaking, that points toward a weakness in the system. This [approach] is the converse of the general impression, which is that it is not permitted to discuss the system, and that thus the system is strengthened. On the contrary! That approach undermines the system! … Thus [through the former approach] a person comes to the inner truth of matters… For [after all], any hero that comes to compete with another to demonstrate his might wants very much that his opponent muster as much strength as possible – then, if the hero overcomes his opponent, he proves that he is the mightier hero. What might, however, does the hero display if his opponent is not permitted to stand strong and wage war against him?"

– Maharal, Be’er Ha’Golah, end of Be’er 7 (free translation)

"You should not allow yourself to be disturbed by the various disputes between the Tzaddikim(as for example the differences of opinion between the Sages of the Mishnah, the Talmud and so on). If a person is troubled by these disputes and states raising all kinds of questions about them, it is a sign that he has allowed some impurity into his mind. It is this internal impurity that is the real source of his doubts. The danger is that his doubts could grow to the point where he becomes permanently separated from the Tzaddikim and their followers, who are the source of true and enduring life. A person should understand that if he finds himself troubled by doubts and questions about the Tzaddikim it is an indication that a flaw exists within himself. If he realizes this, it will help him return to the truth (5:4)."

(Par 1, Chapter on CONTROVERSY AND STRIFE, Likutey Eitzot by Reb Nachman of Breslov )

(1) For an interesting article on the matter of Reb Nachman of Breslov’s view on the matter see the article by Rav Itamar Eldar (

A must read

R’ David Guttman has a post that is a must read. I think it gives a valuable insight into contemporary issues. I guess some things just never change.

No Kippah?, no problem!

Hat Tip (Circus Tent by )

A world without laughter

This is a bit of a "confesional" post if you could classify it as such, but it is an issue that I have been pondering for quite some time. The truth of the matter is that I like to laugh. Growing up as a kid, I was friends with a guy from a fairly religious christian family, lets call him "John". I must of been anywhere between 7 – 10 years old at the time, I dont remember the exact context, but the event I remember vividly. We were in the car with his family, and he says "Do you want to hear a dirty joke". With eager anticipation, I hold my breath waiting for the punchline. He smiles, and calls out "Mud". This response was met with much smiles, satisfaction and bit of a giggle from his mother driving the car. He and his sister thought the joke was fantastic. I sat there giving a fake smile, thinking "man, this is a lame joke".

Now I wish I had John’s sense of humour, being able to laugh at such innocent little jokes. Some people have that kind of simple, pure sense of humour even as adults. I am sure you know such kinds of people yourselves. However unfortunately for me, I have a rather "coarse", "rude" sense of humour. What can I do.. thats what makes me laugh. Always has, probably always will.Over the years I have laughed myself silly to the likes of Eddie Murphy (Raw and Delirious), Richard Pryor, Russel Peters and any other standups on the Comedy Channel.

However, and this is where the problem comes in, how does one handle this kind of sense of humour with Judaism? Is G-d offended by the sense of humour of Richard Pryor? What is the specific issur? Is such viewing allowed in moderation or never?

These are the kind of questions I have been thinking about and for me its quite a dilemna. I know this may sound somewhat trivial, but laughter is the best medicine and I feel like my doctor has to be given the boot. Any thoughts?, similiar experiences?, advice? –  let us know.

Update: I sent this post to R’ Lazer Brody and this was his response:


Dear Rael,
Hashem loves the innocent, pure, and simple humor that is devoid of any harm to others and also devoid of lewdness and ridicule. For that reason, I think that Richard Pryor’s type of laughter has no place in kedusha. The more one deepen’s one’s personal identification with Torah and Yiddishkeit, the more one shies away from the lewd "Leytzanut" that has become popular. With blessings and best wishes, LB

Quote: R’ Nachman on Livelihood

I heard the Rebbe say, ‘Why worry about livelihood. The only thing to worry about is that you may die of hunger if you cannot afford food. And if you die, what is so terrible? You must die anyway.

[#250 Sichos HaRan Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom by Reb Noson of Nemirov]

(Just my two cents on this above quote since I feel that others are understanding the quote differently to me, kind of defeating the purpose for me posting it

I think the point of the message is clearly sarcastic. Of course R’ Nachman wants people to work, he just says not to *worry* about it. The point of the quote is it just paints things in terms of the extremes. The reality is, no matter how bad things get for the majority of people that doesnt mean you are going to starve to death. And if G-d forbid a person reaches that stage, you dont have to *worry* because it is inevitable because we all have to die anyway. The key thing is not to be upset, depressed or worry. Just take things in your stride)

A couple of insights…

Unfortunately, been busy with Uni work. However I just posting some thoughtful words that I came accross lately. One is from R’ Tzvi Freedman and the other R’ Aaron Moss (who I happen to know personally as he is a Rabbi in my community). In my opinion they are both among the most talented writers in the Chabad world today. You can find alot of their articles on Anyways enjoy, learn, and I hope to write again soon.

Angry at the World

Why are you so surprised to find evil and corruption running amok everywhere you look? This world is the coarsest and harshest of all worlds, the ultimate concealment. Almost all of it is darkness and emptiness. Only a tiny spark of good is buried deep within to keep it alive.

You could spend your lifetime dwelling on the outrages and scandals and things that are not right–or your could take a moment to search for that spark. You could find it, grasp it, fan its flame. From within its aura, you will see the darkness shining brighter than the heavens. In that moment of light, the night will never have been.

Fueled by your love, the light will swallow all that surrounds it.

A Daily Dose of Wisdom from the Rebbe
-words and condensation by Tzvi Freeman
Iyar 16, 5766 * May 14, 2006

What Do I Do If I Don’t Believe?

By Aron Moss


I don’t pray every day. Sometimes I’m not so sure that I believe in G-d enough to pray. I just don’t think I can have the unwavering faith that people like you seem to have. I’ll never be so sure. Can you pray and be a good Jew if your faith is unsteady?


To be a Jew means to struggle. The very name Israel means "one who struggles with G-d." Faith is not a light switch that you turn on and it stays on. Faith is a fire that you need to tend to and fuel, and sometimes rekindle. It is a wrestle that never ends.

The name "Israel" means "one who struggles with G-d." There are days that your faith shines through and everything fits into place. On these days, you feel at one with yourself and G-d, and prayer comes naturally. Then there are days that you wake up and all is dark, your faith seems to have dried up. G-d, soul, prayer, goodness–all seem like annoying insects buzzing in your ear, and you just want to just roll over and go back to sleep.

But even on those days, you have to find the motivation to get up and get on with it. Perhaps your faith won’t get you out of bed, so how about trying another approach. Putting aside your faith in G-d, what about G-d’s faith in you?

There is a powerful prayer that we say as soon as we wake up in the morning:

    I give thanks to you, Living and Eternal King, for You have returned my soul to me with kindness. How great is Your faith.

The faith referred to here is not our faith in G-d, but rather "Your faith"–G-d’s faith in us.
If your faith in G-d doesn’t get you out of bed, what about G-d’s faith in you? The very fact that we have woken up is proof that G-d believes in us. He knows that we are not perfect, is well aware of our failings and knows the mistakes we have made. And yet, in the morning after our sleep, He returns our soul to us and gives us another chance, because He trusts us. He has faith in our ability to change and make today a bit better than yesterday. We may or may not believe in Him, we may or may not believe in ourselves, but G-d believes in us.

Humans are fickle; G-d is constant. His faith in us is firm and unchanging, even if our faith in Him is shaky. That’s the faith of an Israelite, one who struggles with G-d. We may be struggling, but we are struggling with G-d – He is always there.

If you woke up this morning, if your soul was returned to you to see another day, then give thanks. Start your day with a prayer, if not out of your faith in G-d, then at least out of G-d’s faith in you. He trusts you enough to give you a precious soul. Use it.

Presentation for Uni

For a bit of a change of pace I am posting my part of a presentation that I will be giving on Joseph Weizenbaum at Uni this coming tuesday. I have been sick for the last week with a very bad flu and now that I am better I going to be swamped with work for the next couple of weeks. I have to prepare a 5000 word document on 5 different articles from Law / IT Journals, and a major assingment on Project Management. Anyways enjoy the presentation :)

There are numerous ethical raised by the work of Joseph Weizenbaum that needed to be discussed. His contributions to the field of artificial intelligence and the progressions that have been made with more sophisticated and intelligent software requires further analysis.

In an article on "How Artificial Intelligence Works" for, Artificial Intelligence was defined as:

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the science of designing computers and machines to solve problems just like humans do.”

But the reality of the matter is that no matter how smart / or intelligent a computer is, it will never replace a human being.  There are still aspects of humanity that will never be able to digitized.

So the question really is, since artificial intelligence has this inadequacy, is it safe, just and ethical to use artificial intelligence in delicate and personal areas of our lives.

Perhaps the magnitude of this question was not as profound as when Elizza was first developed, but a lot has progressed since Elizza. Today software has been developed and used in the field of medicine where symptoms are typed in and a diagnosis and medical recommendations are provided. Computers are predicting the weather, fireing missiles, exploring mars. The list is endless.

Joseph Weizenbaum discussed some these issues in his now famous book written in 1976  “Computer power and reason”. His conclusion reached already then in response to the above question “is that while Artificial Intelligence may be possible, we should never allow computers to make important decisions because computers will always lack human qualities such as compassion and wisdom.”

Joseph understood that not unbridled progress without recourse to ethical and moral investigation was an undesired path. In his own words “The real question for the Artificial Intelligensia, is not what computers will be able to do, but what we should allow them to do.”

Joseph also had some thoughtful words to the art of education in the computer science field. Below is an extract from his book Computer power and reason regarding the topic”

“I want them [teachers of computer science] to have heard me affirm that the computer is a powerful new metaphor for helping us understand many aspects of the world, but that it enslaves the mind that has no other metaphors and few other resources to call on. The world is many things, and no single framework is large enough to contain them all, neither that of man’s science nor of his poetry, neither that of calculating reason nor that of pure intuition. And just as the love of music does not suffice to enable one to play the violin – one must also master the craft of the instrument and the music itself – so it is not enough to love humanity in order to help it survive. The teacher’s calling to his craft is therefore an honorable one. But he must do more than that: he must teach more than one metaphor, and he must teach more by the example of his conduct than by what he writes on the blackboard. He must teach the limitations of his tools as well as their power.”

I will now hand you over to Elizabeth who will present her interview with Joseph."