Monthly Archives: June 2006

Working for a living 3

On the Areivim mailing list which I subscribe to, a highly insightful letter was pasted in from the Yated newspaper. It just emphasizes the real realities that are faced by those in the Orthodox community, especially those who do not persue some form of post high school secular education.

letter from yated excerpt——-As we see countless times, the husband will
decide that the time has come to face the inevitable: he will prepare to
enter the work force. Suddenly, as a working citizen, he no longer has
access to NJ Care, WIC, and other programs he previously relied upon,
leaving him with an even greater burden.

To help out our mathematical whizzes, let me give them a start:

$18,000 – Rent for a 4-bedroom house/apt.
$12,000 – Health Insurance
$15,000 – Discounted (!) tuition
$6,000 – Prorated purchase and maintenance of one reliable car (for work),
and one not-so-reliable car
$6,000 Utilities, gasoline, phone bills
$9,000 Groceries ($175/week), including Yomim Tovim
$4,000 Clothing, medical co-pays, dentistry, miscellaneous

Total: $70,000 a year (after (!) taxes)

Remember, this is just for the basic minimum. It does not include any winter
or summer vacation, eating out, gifts (jewelry, etc.), orthodontics, day
camp (forget the dream of sleep-away!), or any hope of home-ownership.
Why in the world should these young men be making such a far-off cheshbon so

For one simple reason: There are few…no, let’s rephrase that…there are
zero $70,000 jobs available for an entry-level applicant with no previous
experience. The only 70K jobs out there are the ones in which the
job-holders started at 30-40K, and built them up into a 70K job.

The challenge has been taken!

The other day I put up a challenge, under a blog titled "Reveal Thyself". Well it turns out my challenge has been taken up by someone, but not who I intended. (Chardal we still waiting on, R’ Harry Maryles kindly emailed me explaining why he chose not to take the challenge. Dont worry R’ Harry, I forgive you :), Happy blogging and G-d bless).

Anyways, the person who took up the challenge is a lady by the name of Chana Meira. You can find here blog here. She also has a website named

Interesting articles by a person with an fascinating life story. Truly inspirational and should be read by everyone. In particular this article entitled "My spiritual journey to Orthodox Judaism" was of great interest to me.

Chana, thanks for taking up the challenge and I invite you to tag someone else :)

“Reveal thyself”

There are many bloggers on the internet. Some are anonymous, others are not. Even those who are not anonymous, including myself, very few people actually post up pics. So I have decided to challenge this trend. I am going to post a pic up of myself, and then I am going to tag a fellow blogger who will then have to do the same. Here it goes…

Rael Levinsohn 19 June 2006

I tag Chardal and R’ Harry Maryles
Let the revelation begin…..
(Even without the tag from me, feel free to start this yourself on your own blog)

Quote: Bertrand Russel vs Proverbs

An illustration of the the difference of approach between a Man of Religion and an Athiest

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
Bertrand Russell

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline
Proverbs 1:7

The disdain for Science in the Yeshiva World by R’ Moshe Tendler

In the 14th Edition of B’or Hatorah there is an article by R’ Moshe Tendler entitled "On the interface: Immutable Torah, Unchanging Laws of Nature, Ever-Changning Understanding of these laws". In the article he basically gives the same approach advanced by R’ Slifkin and others, citing the Otsar Hagaonim and R’ Avraham ben Ha’Rambam. Below is an interesting, if not sharply worded rebuke of some contemporary trends in Orthodox Judaism

The disdain for Science in the Yeshiva World:

I have just mentioned solutions to an objection in the name of science that some people express about G-d. Now there is a serious problem to discuss from the other direction: the disdain which has developed in the yeshiva world.

There are rabbinic authorities today, such as the great posek Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliasvhiv, who object to using group blood tests or DNA blood tests to determine paternity. Rabbi Eliashiv refuses to accept identification of body parts using DNA idenity. Unfortunately, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel does not accept DNA identity. We have individuals who do not want to take advantages of the best knowledge that we have today. Their refusal has nothing to do with religion and causes us embarrassment.

A biography of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Aurebach, of blessed memory, by CIS publishers attributes to him the advice that when theres a conflict between medical wisdom and Talmudic remedies, one should use Talmudic remedies. I knew Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach well. He had a great, broad mind, and I do not believe that he said this. Five Hundred years ago, the Maharshal said it was forbidden to use Talmudic remedies.

I am certain that Rabbi Aurebach’s cardiac problems were not treated with the embryo of a white monekey, as the Talmud advises. But there is unfortunate trend of disseminating this type of hocus-pocus.

You know the story about the Reform “rabbi” whose son become a Lubavitcher Hasid and the other son joined the Brisker Kolel? He went to his “rabbi” and asked, “What should I do?”

“Check your mezuzas”, he was advised

Many Jews today believe that checking mezuzahas will explain an illness. They believe that because rain seeped into a mezuzah and erased a letter on the parchment, a woman becaome ill with cancer. Why are we willing to believe such a thing? Because the mind doesn’t function anymore. Because we gave up Hashem Elokim. Sure you should check the mesuzas. Check your tefillin, check your tongue, check your business records, make sure you do thinkgs better next time so that G-d will have mercy on you. But to think that there’s a cause and effect relationship? Nonsense/

I’ll give just one more example of this type of nonsense to convince you. The Viznitser Hasidim threw out a man for living with a non-Jewish woman. Then they took him back after checking his ketubah, his marriage contract. They found a mistake in the ketubah. Instead of the words zekukum kesef (pure silver) was written zenunim kesef. Zenunim means licentiousness. Therefore, it was not his fault, and they took him back.

These kinds of things hurt us. People who should be attracted to Torah are turned away by this type of behaviour. We need to explain to these people that our Torah is a the Torah of Ha’shem Elokim. Everything makes sense. Theres nothing futile in the world.

The Talmud says that if you check the coop at night just before sunset and there are not eggs there, then if you find an egg there in the morning before sunrise – which was laid on Shabbat or festival – you may use it that same day. In this case surely the egg came halfway out the day before and went back in. How can the Talmud say such a thing? I checked this in the embryology books. Sure enough, if an egg is about to be laid, as soon as night falls, the hen will not lay it. She’ll save it for the next day. There, the completely ready egg does go back into the hen.

It is not necessary to find an answer to every question, but never accept the notion, G-d forbid that Hashem is in conflict with Elokim. We have only one G-d, the creator of the universe who gave on Torah to one nation, Israel.

Responding to the challenge constructively: The Slifkin Saga

On a recent post at Hirhurim, in relation to “Slifkin” matters  I posted the following comment

No offence to anyone, but hasn’t this entire issue been exhausted ad nauseam. I mean is there really anything more to add? Seriously… We all know what everyone holds respectively, and yes, I personally agree with R’ Gil and others that this whole witch hunt and rejection of great authority figures is a a very sad state we find ourselves in. But really, havent we been through this all before….
Rael Levinsohn | Homepage | 05.31.06 – 12:33 am | #

To which someone responded:

Rael Levinsohn – This is not just a sad state. This is the murder of Torah, for it will make it impossible for future genrations to believe in it. As long as the stabbings continue, there needs to be those who protest it. This is not screaming at a rapist after he commited his heinous act. It’s     screaming at him while he’s in the middle of it. If anything Gil’s reaction is too calm, but he hasn’t found a more agreessive apporach which he feels will be effective.
UnAnonymous | 05.31.06 – 8:30 am | #

This comment actually got me thinking about the matter a bit more. Maybe "Unanoymous" had a point.  Then suddenly I had an innner revelation, an epiphany if you will.  The following soltution came to me like a flash of lightning, and here it is. The idea is still in its state of infancy, but I will write it up as far as I have developed it.

I prepose we write a book… The book will be entitled the “The Slifkin Saga” and will contist of a couple of volumes / chapters and will cover the following:

Volume one: Source Material

    The incident (Slifkins version of events)
    The condemnations
    Sources in favour of Slifkin (Hebrew and english)
    Sources against Slifkin (Hebrew and English)
    *ie those sources that hold sages knowledge of science is divine and that 6 days of creation are literal*
    People who come out in support of Slifkin

Volume two: The blogs respond

    All essays, articles, comments culled from blogs across the board that dealt with this issue.
    Essays can include the topic of daas torah, the effectiveness of banning, etc

Volume three: The future

    Preposed solutions about interaction between Rabbinic authorities and baalebatim, how can a greater degree of dialogue be reached.
    Reforms about educaiton, respect for other peoples views, eilu v eilu,
    Constructive suggestions to achieve a greater degree of respect and comradery

The book will be a joint effort, an online endavour over the internet, using some kind of wiki book programme. If it is successful we can even publish through or Yashar.

The reason for the book is as follows:

All the main Slikfin related material has been online, with all the give and take and comments, etc. Unfortunately it has not been able to get an even wider audience by not being in book form. By publishing a book, we will reach that audience

The amount of Slifkin related material is huge, being located in many different posts and web forums. Consilidation is required, getting the best and most relavant of the material into a proper structure.

Way of creating a fun, interactive, social enviroment for people commited to the issue which hopefully will yield a beautiful result

At the end of the day the Slifkin issue was a major challenge to many people on a variety of levels. I really feel we are living in a historic moment, reminiscent of the controversy over the Chassidic Movement, More Nevuchim and the Mussar Movement.

All great moments in history should serve as a source of creative energy and constructive output. We are living through a time of change, why wait for the historians to reflect apon it decades from now? I put the challenge forth for you to do to make this proposal a reality. All the above is just a tentative, rough draft. I cannot persue this project without your help. Please email me with solutions as to how this project can be brought into reality.

First initial steps:

– Need an online wiki book service provider (Wikipedia, Twiki, TwidlyWiki, etc). Someone with a bit of experience in the matter to recommend how to go about it. A model that I was thinking of would be like this one by Lawrence Lessig (

– Need a means of communication eg Google groups, something like that to keep people updated, requests, etc

– People willing to take on particular roles, eg editor, graphics designer, etc.