Monday, November 07, 2005

Can one tell a lie to non-religious Jews to get them to keep Shabbos?

So begins a website authored by Caltech Prof. Barry Simon, a mathematician of the highest attainment. http://wopr.com/biblecodes/TheCase.htm Dr. Simon, a ba'al tshuva orthodox Jew, wrote the above line in a website devoted to debunking the so-called Bible Codes. (For all of you who haven't heard of the Codes, you are either being makarived after spending the last 10 years in cave with Bin Laden, or you might actually have kiruv rabbis that aren't using parlor tricks on you (as yet). If you haven't heard of the Codes, they are purportedly codes contained in the Torah which give rise to interesting unintended outcomes http://cs.anu.edu.au/~bdm/dilugim/Jesus/ but are alleged to prove divine authorship of the Torah and thus inspire belief. Aish is a big proponent of the Codes in their Discovery seminars, despite the Codes having been debunked and discredited by numerous well-known mathematicians, including Dr. Simon.

Now, here's my question. This post incidentally is inspired by a debate going on at Godol Hador's site: http://godolhador.blogspot.com/2005/11/accepting-truth.html

What keeps more open-minded Rabbis, such as Rabbi Yitchok Adlerstein frum? Isn't it interesting that when there's a popular "misconception" about Judaism afoot, Rabbi Adlerstein isn't too far from the fray to give a pithy quote or two? To put a fine point on my question- why would Rabbi Adlerstein spend so much effort debunking the Kabbalah Centre (he's been interviewed in print several times and appeared in a 20/20 special) or the Torah codes (he's written about the codes several times and appeared in a Discovery channel tv show about the codes), when Kabbala and Torah themselves are perhaps even easier to debunk?

Rabbi Adlerstein likes to taunt reform "rabbis" (note, I think they are frauds for calling themselves rabbis, but that's besides the point) by saying "at least my grandkids will be jewish." Kelemen seems to put a lot of emphasis on how reform and conservative kids intemarry a lot. Fine, but if that is their best argument, it would seem them should skip the scholarly realm.

Perhaps the question should the question be "Can one tell a lie to non-religious Jews to get them to become frum and have frum grandchildren?"

The fact is, the Zohar (kabbala's key document) has been debunked as a fraud even in orthodox circles. http://godolhador.blogspot.com/2005/07/zohar-is-fake-document.html

Why doesn't Rabbi Adlerstein therefore take the simple route in debunking Madonna et al. and simply say, "hey lady, you're an ignoramus- don't you know the zohar was written in Spain and is a fraud?" Did Hashem habla espanol? Why then is the Zohar replete with Spanish phrases?

Then, we have the Documentary Hypothesis. This was popularized by Prof. Richard Friedman's book "Who wrote the bible?" Now, why doesn't R. Adlerstein (or Dr. Simon) simply say, "hey aish and other bible coders, you can't have a divine code, if the book was written by prehistoric tibesmen!" There are also reasons based on orthodox scholarship combined with textual analysis that would prove the torah we have today is not the same one purportedly given to Moshe, which would cast doubt on codes as well. See Menachem Cohen's article (HT-Mis-nagid): http://cs.anu.edu.au/~bdm/dilugim/CohenArt/

I think you get the drift. There are a bunch of kiruv rabbis out there who garb themselves in psuedo-intellectualism. In a way, perhaps they are more dangerous than the Avigdor Miller types with their emunah pshutah. At least Rav Miller was talking straight. (irony intended).

Or perhaps, they can just come out and say they're conservadox. That they like the quiet time of shabbos or feeling like dutiful good boys for keeping the traditions. But, no psuedo-science or psuedo-scholarship, please! Otherwise, lay off Madonna and the Bible Codes- they're no less valid than the Zohar or the claim of the Torah's divine authorship (not to mention the Oral law). In the 20/20 show, R. Adlerstein crowed that Madonna and Britney Spears could have no idea what "real kabbala" is. Oh puh-leeze! R. Adlerstein knows the Zohar's a fraud, but just can't resist that "intellectually honest" farce. Is this "real kabbala Rabbi Adlerstein?": http://rantburg.com/poparticle.php?ID=131257&D=2005-10-03&HC=4

If so, why aren't you making aliyah? If not, why aren't you decrying it as utter nonsense?

Of course, the above questions are rhetorical. We know what R. Adlerstein's and Dr. Simon's answer is to the question posed by the title of this post: "Of course you can lie!"

If Rabbi Adlerstein or Dr. Simon wish to explain how teaching the authenticity of the Zohar is not a lie, or how teaching the Torah is divinely written is not a lie, I'd love to hear how so. They can post here or...

Just email me at: baaltshuvaanon@aol.com

25 Comments:

Blogger Shlomo said...

Kabala/Zohar/Chasidus are all versions of Platonism/Pythagoreanism mixed with Judaism. We can thank the Jewish Platonists of Alexandria for that. The BeSHt likey was caught up in the fascination with spiritual solitude and deveykus, too, but that was a trend began by the Russian Church and became popularized during his era.

Shabsai Tzvi, Nathan of Gaza, and others were part of this resurgence of mysticism, which spread among Jews like it did the goyim.

Since Plato, Aristotle, or Ptolemy provided the various world views, the Big 3 (Islam, Judaism, Xtianity) spent a good deal of time rearranging their ideas to match what was though to be the science of the times. A brief glance over the history of Scholasticism and apologetics confirms that.

Kol Tuv

11/07/2005 7:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

www.mirreryeshiva.blogspot.com

11/07/2005 8:37 AM  
Blogger Mis-nagid said...

"hey aish and other bible coders, you can't have a divine code, if the book was written by prehistoric tibesmen!"

Textual Criticism is far more damning for Bible Codes than Higher Criticism.

See here and here.

11/07/2005 9:42 AM  
Blogger Rebeljew said...

Most of the codes work is drawing the target around the bullet hole. There were a few that were impressive though. One was the Mishneh Torah reference in Ex 12, with 613 letters between the M and T and 49 between the others. I guess what was impressive was that the number of letters skipped was also meaningful.

Basically, Brendan McKay's team took RWW apart on most of the material.

11/07/2005 11:57 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Mis-nagid- you're correct. I've seen the Menachem Cohen article before. Not sure what the bible coders say about that, but who really cares?

My point was more that if Adlertein and others who hold themselves out as "intellectually honest" yet frum, Jews, they have a problem. Yet, Adlerstein came out the other day claiming Gil had shot the documentary hypothesis "full of more holes than a piece of swiss cheese."

Not even Gil had claimed to have done that. He just asked kashas on the theory itself from an OJ perspective. He pointed out some inconsitencies. But he provided no rational explanation of why there are doublets and triplets of the same stories in the Torah, something the DH elegantly, though not perfectly, does.

I'm just musing about why these Rabbis do what they do and whether they are any better than the gedolim if they keep obscuring the truth. Same goes for slifkin. Yes, he pointed out problems, etc, but not the BIG problems in gemara (the falsification of a god-given "Oral Torah" would be a good place to start). So why bother?

I guess I'd go with Freud and say they are sublimating their desire to criticize the big torah issues by picking on the safe ones e.g., bible codes.

11/07/2005 1:06 PM  
Blogger Shlomo said...

Michael Shermer (Skeptics Magazine) accurately describes the Bible Code as POST-diction rather then PRE-diction. As you said, drawing the target around the bullet hole. Good way to say it.

There is a little known mathematician named Bill Weinstein who is a freak about Gematria and other forms of Numerology. He demonstrated that word associations and numerical values can apply in any language and just about say anything you want it to.

11/07/2005 1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I guess I'd go with Freud and say they are sublimating their desire to criticize the big torah issues by picking on the safe ones e.g., bible codes."

documentary hypothesis *is* a lot like Freud. It's irrefutable; the theory can always generate endless new answers. If you're happy with the one, you'll be happy with the other.

11/07/2005 1:38 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Anon- most psychologists will say most of Freud is refutable. The dath urge, the penis envy.

On the other hand his concepts have so pervaded modern thought that it would be nearly impossible to think in a "modern" way without employing such Freudian concepts as the subconscious mind, repression, sublimation, reaction formation and so on.

Documentary hypoth is just that a hypothesis. It's not scientific, but it is very persuassive.

Also, it would seem your comparison of Freud and DH was intended to be pejorative. However, the talmud was filled with illustrations of Freudian theory. And chazal themeselves seemed very concerned with what was going on "behind the scenes" in a person's thoughts and actions.

11/07/2005 2:01 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

btw, let's not forget bircas cohanim where you can engage in "amelioration of a dream." Yep, I'd say chazzal and freud are closer than you think.

11/07/2005 2:15 PM  
Blogger YS said...

I have memories of a disscussion with Rabbi Ken Spero who is one of the Discovery Rabbis. On the topic of Bible Codes he said There was one (may have said two or three, but a very small number) scientificly done study which has held up to mathematical scrutiny. There are lots of other "codes" which were not subjected to the same level of scrutiny and do not hold up. If I remember correctly he said that only this one (or few) study is the only one they use and not the other junk.
I have not attended Discovery but this is my recollection of my conversation with Rabbi Spero.

11/07/2005 4:51 PM  
Blogger Shlomo said...

The Mesorah is also a lie.

11/08/2005 7:00 AM  
Blogger Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

"The fact is, the Zohar (kabbala's key document) has been debunked as a fraud even in orthodox circles." http://godolhador.blogspot.com/2005/07/zohar-is-fake-document.html

Please don't insult my intelligence and my religion by calling GH "Orthodox circles"

11/08/2005 6:22 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

well, the rabbi who wrote the pdf seems to know his stuff, don't you agree? and he isn't GH, who has learned, but not to that level on any topic.

just try telling me that pdf isn't well thought out or clearly written by a talmud chacham.

11/08/2005 6:35 PM  
Blogger Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

There's a huge difference between a very knowledgable Judaic studies scholar and a Talmid Chacham.
After learning full time in a yeshivah for over a dozen years, I can tell the difference. You cannot.

11/08/2005 7:39 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

I've never seen a judaic studies person write like that. There clearly respects the mesora, just not the Zohar. He brings sources in a yeshivish way, and states the prime directive is yiras hashem!

you may have a lot more expertise than I, but either you didn't read the document very closely (because the subject is bothersome or heretical to you) or you didn't get it.

Also, GH says the guy is a chareidi rabbi, not an MO one and not a judaic studies major of all things. Show me anything judaic studies that is on this level, while clearly pretending to be from a chareidi perspective.

Thanks for commenting though. I really do think you have a lot to say from what I've seen you write, although I am not convinced of the same things you are.

BTA

11/08/2005 8:07 PM  
Blogger Mis-nagid said...

Both scholars and talmidei chachamim have concluded that the Zohar is a "hoax." Not in an evil sense, but in the pseudepigraphical sense.

11/09/2005 10:52 AM  
Anonymous daat y said...

'EVEN' THE gh STATeD THAT WAS HIS BIGGEST MISTAKE DEBUNKING THE zOHAR.
you seem sooo angry that you were 'misled.'Since you are bringing up Freud and the subconscious could there be subconscious 'displacements ' from elsewhere?

11/10/2005 10:30 AM  
Blogger Rebeljew said...

The BT tends to feel misled when they are asked to give, with mesiras nefesh, everything that they know, alienated themselves fom their families and friends, and follow the "right path", only to find out that there are many facts that did not know.

In general, most kiruv people try rationalize that there is something wrong with the BT, rather than something wrong with the kiruv. We are fooling ourselves.

We must face facts, and I think one is hard pressed to avoid the following:
Being frum is very difficult if you have no family to depend on, from day to day chizuk to the support for having a large family, to the support for frum priorities in general, to financial support in younger years.

Sending your kids to a frum school is difficult if you cannot help them with at least half, if not all of their subjects.

Being frum requires changing your entire mindset even to the most generic job, working around holidays, Fridays, lunch and donuts, shomer negia etc. It requires a lot of accomodation.

Being frum is a phenomenally expensive lifestyle. If you have many kids, you have larger cars, larger bills, larger house etc. and that is before you even get to yeshiva tuitions multiplied by a factor of ... Even with breaks, a family of 5 kids or more is hard pressed to make it, even with 2 good jobs.

Being frum means changing your view of your own family, such that you must disapprove and disassociate from much of what they do, believe in, stand for.

So the question on the table is:
Does the kiruv "professional" owe it to the candidate BT to make sure that he or she is aware of these facts, or is it caveat emptor? And if we say the latter, when the BTs find themselves in over their heads, are they wrong for feeling misled?

11/10/2005 1:09 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

Maybe the reason is that even Rav Yaakov Emden who first engaged in textual critisism of the Zohar and concluded that is was not written by Rashbi, still held that the Torah in the Zohar was Holy! Gershom Sholom shows how Kabbalistic ideas around WAY before the Zohar.

In other words, the Kaballa, including the Zohar represents a legitimate mystical path in Judaism and therefore does not need debunking.

You people are too stuck on rationalist theologies but in truth, A mystic Jew sees a constant stream of newly revealed Torah every single day! (You can stop your reform quips before they reach your tongue, I am not talking about revelations that cross the bounds of Halacha).

In the end, it does not matter if Rashbi or Moses de Leon wrote the Zohar. What matters is that Klal Israel and its sages accepted it as True Torah.

In the words of Rav Kook Zt"l:

"Me shKofer BaNistar BaNigla, Sofo ShKofer BaNigla BaNistar"

11/10/2005 8:04 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"In the end, it does not matter if Rashbi or Moses de Leon wrote the Zohar. What matters is that Klal Israel and its sages accepted it as True Torah."

This is an absurd result. Who's "klal yisroel?" I take it non-OJ's are not Jews? Let's face it OJ's are 10% of klal yisroel.

The acceptance you are talking about is one based on fraud and oppression. The fraud got the people in the beginning. Many say the Gra and Maharal must have seen the marks of fraud but went along with it anyway.

The coerciveness of the "binding nature of klal yisroel's acceptance" is one of the ugliest aspects of frumkeit. There were a lot of Jews that "accepted" the Zohar without ever reading it and certainly many more without understanding it.

Also, binding or not- it is mystical crap that has no diagnostic, prognostic or other purpose except to incorporate the mystical traditions of christians zoroastrians and the like into judaism, much as catholicism brought the various pagan sects of their time into the fold by creating saints modeled on their resepctive deities.

And besides, you missed my point in bringing up the Zohar- Adlerstein and his ilk chastise the Kabbala centre for perpetrating a fraud and selling "not real kabbala," when the kabbala iteself is not real.

Sorry. And it's ironic that you quote Rav Kook, whose psakim are not exactly universally held by klal yisroel. Especially not the "gedolim".

11/11/2005 12:55 AM  
Blogger chardal said...

The coerciveness of the "binding nature of klal yisroel's acceptance" is one of the ugliest aspects of frumkeit. There were a lot of Jews that "accepted" the Zohar without ever reading it and certainly many more without understanding it.

Did I say the Zohar was binding???

I said it was legitimate, which it is according to all opinions. The Gra and the Maharal "went along with it"? They based the vast majority of their Hashkafa on Jewish Mysticism!!!!

Sorry. And it's ironic that you quote Rav Kook, whose psakim are not exactly universally held by klal yisroel. Especially not the "gedolim".

Not yet...

Also, binding or not- it is mystical crap that has no diagnostic, prognostic or other purpose

Ok, just as long as you are not emotionally biased against mysticism.

11/11/2005 11:22 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Ok, just as long as you are not emotionally biased against mysticism."

Well, I have a strong emotional reaction to ideas and statements that logical tells me are complete B.S.

"Maharal "went along with it"? They based the vast majority of their Hashkafa on Jewish Mysticism!!!!"

True, and don't forget Maharal couldn't have made his Golem out of clay and saved the town without kabbala either!

In seriousness, I acknowledge that you are open-minded about kabbala's origins and incorporate it somehow. But exactly does it fit into your hashgafa?

11/11/2005 12:14 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

True, and don't forget Maharal couldn't have made his Golem out of clay and saved the town without kabbala either!

Maharal never made a Golem and mysticism does not equal practical kabalah. The Golem story was invented by R. Yudel Rosenburg in 1909.

In seriousness, I acknowledge that you are open-minded about kabbala's origins and incorporate it somehow. But exactly does it fit into your hashgafa?

It is an essential part of my hashkafa. I just don't see rationalism accounting for the vast majority of my questions about the world. Plus there is a whole emotional/creative aspect to Man that only Mysticism adequately describes and maps. Rationalism is probably the best approach to understanding Olam HaZe but the mystical experience is the only way to appreciate the true nature of Olam Haba even in the Olam Haze.

The mystical thought of the Maharal, Ramchal, Chassidut, and Rav Kook saved me spiritually. They all based their thought on very esoteric sources. It is hard to call the thought of these Giant fake mystical expletive.

How do you account for the acceptance of ideas in the Zohar by people who were aware of the textual issues yet still adopted the ideas? Perhaps the Zohar being revealed in Sinai is only a challenge if you accept the model of Emuna most commonly presented by Kiruv organizations. The mystical model is much more complex and profound and leaves room for the individual to believe while not forcing him to let go of his rational faculties.

11/11/2005 1:35 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Chardal, you are manifestly a deep thinker about jewish hashgafa. It was hard for me to get to that point, or come close due to my disbelief in concepts such as "Hashem" and olam habo.

However, taking your statement that "Rationalism is probably the best approach to understanding Olam HaZe but the mystical experience is the only way to appreciate the true nature of Olam Haba even in the Olam Haze," I suppose I could substitute "the music of bach" for olam haba. True, I can analyze it interms of musical structure and mathematical relationships between notes. Or its historical influences e.g., Telemann, Vivaldi, etc., but that would be missing the forest for the trees. The music is beautiful. Perhaps the best answer as to "why" is a mystical answer. I have thought deeply about the poetics of music, unlike jewish hashgafa. I never claimed to be an expert or even very literate in judaism.

Now, addressing your next question with a psychological approach (another interest of mine): "How do you account for the acceptance of ideas in the Zohar by people who were aware of the textual issues yet still adopted the ideas?" My answer is very simple: The Gra and Maharal et al were all trained from such an early age in accepting what you call the "Emuna model," that their belief in "Torah" as both oral and written torah, was hard-wired.

Once you can accept that unquestioningly, you can accept anything, so long as there is a mesora for it. The Gra and Ramchal may have harbored secret doubts about a lot of things, but to publicly doubt such things in those days was unthinkable. I think that's a pretty satisfactory answer.

It also explains why, even today, the so-called modern era, it takes a tremendous push for an FFB individual with little emunah to go OTD. Just look at Rebel Jew and Responding to Blogs and many many others. The social and psychic pain (and doubt about a resonable alternative) are too great to bear. So they find alternative ways to stay in the frum world. I am in that boat presently.

I wonder how even the most inspired skeptic such as yourself can have any emunah while davening for example. I am curious to hear how. I already know FKM's approach- "Put your head down and run through that wall, soldier!"

Your approach must be far more nuanced.

Good Shabbos

11/11/2005 6:23 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

I wonder how even the most inspired skeptic such as yourself can have any emunah while davening for example. I am curious to hear how. I already know FKM's approach- "Put your head down and run through that wall, soldier!"

I don't have time to give you a full answer before Shabbat starts but I see from your comment that you already realize that it all depends on your starting point.

Emuna is much more an act of will than the result of a mental process. For a believer, it is the beginning of all mental processes. We all CHOOSE our basic assumptions about the world. I can honestly tell you that I would doubt my own existence before I would ever to so to Hashem, C"V. This is not because of the community that I was born into, I too am a BT, but rather from that which my soul senses is True. I understand that such an argument isn't good kiruv but it is the most honest one I have. I believe that every Jew at some point in their life sense this also. G-d's "Light" is everywhere and we must choose to embrace it or ignore it.

I believe that there is much Holiness in Jews such as yourself that will not settle for half truth. I think however, that, instead of rejecting half a truth you should strive for building a more solid structure of faith. I will try to post more on this on my blog in the near future.

Shabbat Shalom

11/11/2005 6:43 PM  

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