Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Moshol

Once a man was zoche to own the Mona Lisa. He wanted to be in a position to fully appreciate all the qualities of the painting. And so he studied - he learned about the history of painting, the Renaissance, the biography of Leonardo DaVinci. Then he moved on to learning about other paintings in order to appreciate the Mona Lisa better.

A friend came by and told him he was doing the wrong thing. "What if you find that you like some other painting better? What if you are looking at the painting one day and you find yourself thinking "The Mona Lisa is nice, but the color in Van Gogh's Starry Night is nicer"? And your study of painting techniques might lead you to mistakenly think that the painting could have been done better. The best approach to fully appreciating the Mona Lisa is to avoid any interaction with other paintings and restrict yourself to the Mona Lisa alone.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cleanliness is next to Hashemliness

In my community there are occasional problems with 'frumming out' - a phenomenon where kids become much more stringent religious than their parents.  Parents could either take advantage of this trend or nip it in the bud with the following lesson:

The quote below is from Rav Shlomo Aviner's On the Air #46 a summary of his twice weekly radio broadcast.  The shows can be heard at

Clean your room!

Q: I am eleven years old. I do not like cleaning my closet and it is pretty messy. My parents say that it is important. Is it important to have a clean closet?

A: Yes, there must be order. If a person has a clean closet, he also has a clean head. If he has a messy closet, he also has a messy head. If he is not responsible in his closet, he is not responsible in life. If he fulfills the mission to clean his closet, he becomes accustomed and educated to accept other missions and advance in them. Therefore, there should always be order. I understand that it is difficult for you to clean, but you need to see this as a challenge and begin in stages. Let's say that your closet has eight different areas, you can clean one or two areas a day. It does not matter how much as long as you are progressing. In the Mussar Yeshivot, there were two opinions regarding order. Some said that order was a preparation for serving Hashem. Others said that order itself was serving Hashem -- not serving Hashem like observing Shabbat, but serving Hashem nonetheless. The Master of the Universe created the world in disarray as it says (Bereshit 2:1): "And the earth was chaotic and darkness was upon the surface on the deep." Hashem organized the world and He asks us to continue to organize the chaos that is in the world.

I find it interesting that Rav Aviner does not mention kibud av v'aym in his response.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Sanhedrin vs. the Government of China

The nascent Sanhedrin has urged the Chinese government to cease persecuting the Falun Gong:

With this background, the Court found that in cases involving persecution by governments, Justice cannot be achieved by adherence to normal rules of procedure and of evidence. Adherence to such rules would be “stopping ones ears from hearing of blood, and shutting ones eyes from looking upon evil” [per Isaiah 33,15]. The only way to discover the truth is to allow indirect, hearsay and circumstantial evidence, since that is all that is available. This type of evidence is acceptable in Noahide jurisprudence.

On the basis of the accumulation of the various testimonies and indirect evidence, the International Court of the Nascent Sanhedrin, came to the conclusion that there were unnumbered cases of killing of innocent Falun Gong practitioners, perhaps also out of consideration of material benefits derived from organ harvesting.

The Court wishes to clarify that it does not reject capital punishment in principle, in accordance with the seven Noahide commandments.

The Court finds it appropriate to turn to the Government of the People’s Republic of China with an unequivocal demand to assure the minimum of liberties as indicated by the seven Noahide commandments, as given to Adam, to Noah and to all humanity, which include:
1. Prohibition of Murder
2. Prohibition of Theft
3. Dealing Justly with Criminals
4. Honoring internationally accepted humanitarian law to the extent that this law is not in contradiction to Torah and to basic human morals.

These laws include prohibition of torture, unlawful confiscation of property and organ harvesting without the consent of the donor.

The Government of the People’s Republic of China is required to implement the Chinese law, which was enacted in the spring of 2007, which will put an end to the killings without trial and to organ harvesting without consent.

The Government of China is required to allow missions sent by a coalition of international public organizations to investigate freely the compliance of the Chinese government agents with the basic elements of the seven Noahide commandments as stated above, which are the Human Rights Charter according to the Torah [The Five Books of Moses]. These missions are to have freedom of travel and are to have the freedom to grant protection – including extradition - to anyone who testifies or who tries to testify before these missions. These freedoms are necessary to ensure that the missions will be able to verify compliance with the said elements of the seven Noahide commandments.

Full decision in English (pdf)

Hat tip: Religion Clause

This is how we should do it

A rabbi in Israel has reviewed the kashrut at many different restaurants. He doesn't just list who the certification authority is, he describes their standards and whether they live up to them. This is such an improvement over the US, where a supposed fear of lawsuits(*) results in rabbonim and other certifying agencies simply saying 'recommended' or 'not recommended' and refusing to give a reason. Even worse, most commonly one doesn't even consult with a rav but simply listens to the common rumor on the street.

Hat tip Kmelion on livejournal. Actual report available in Hebrew pdf format starts on page 5.

(*) "The truth is no libel" has been an established principle in the US since colonial days. Don't want to lose a lawsuit? Don't lie. Furthermore, courts are extremely reluctant to rule over religious issues such as whether a store is really kosher or not. Also, Lashon Hara rules do not apply when it comes to preventing someone from commiting an averia. Arguably one commits more Lashon Hara by saying "Restaurant A is not kosher" then by saying "Restaurant A's mashgiach comes in once a week, and he doesn't thoroughly check vegetables".