Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two approaches to the Yamim Noraim

First night Rosh HaShanah this year I was a guest over a friend's house. We were talking and I mentioned that I thought I was less prepared for the High Holidays this year than I had been for quite a while. He asked why, and I explained that between work, Malka Esther's health, and the large number of shiurim I was attending and the work associated with preparing for those shiurim I hadn't actually found much time for cheshbon hanefesh (self examination).

He commented that all my Torah study counted as a great zechut (merit) and thus I really didn't have much to worry about this year. I realized we were celebrating the same holidays two very different ways.

In my eyes, this was a time to engage in self examination, to review my spiritual goals from last year (cut down the personal sarcasm, check, make it to shul every Sunday morning for shacharit, oops, etc.) to decide what I need to work on for next year, to review where I've blundered badly in my personal relationships and figure out who to apologize to for what, and so forth. Since I hadn't done most any of that, I was poorly prepared. Torah study didn't really enter into it, other than my having set a goal of maintaining some serious torah study.

To my friend this was the time when Avinu Malkenu reviewed my actions over the past year, being pleased with my mitzvot and dismayed by my sins. All my torah study didn't just count towards one goal, rather it was a major plus in evaluating my entire status. While I needed to get forgiveness from those I had wronged in order for Hashem to forgive me, the merit of Torah study still counted a long way towards my receiving approval from Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

How do my readers see the holiday? Primarily a time for self examination(*) or primarily a time for divine judgment, or something else altogether?

(*) I wanted to make a joke about zman chesbon nefashenu but my friends who take grammar seriously would not have been amused, Plus that is deflecting via sarcasm again, and I'm still trying to stop that.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Shulchan Aruch and Technical Writing

When I first started studying Talmud, I thought it made a lousy technical manual. I fairly quickly understood that wasn't its purpose. The codes - the Mishneh Torah, the Shulchan Aruch, the Mishna Berura - that is where I would find decent tech writing, I decided. The memories I had of studying the Mishneh Torah just post bar-mtizvah reinforced this impression.

Years past, and I finally began to study the Shulchan Aruch. My first thought was - wow! the craft of tech writing has really advanced since this book was written. But eventually I came to the conclusion that one of the major problems was the way revisions to the SA were handled.

This is how it would go, IMO, if we did software manuals the Shulchan Aruch way.

The Microsoft Word 1.0 manual would be made by consulting the manuals for WordPerfect, Wordstar, and Notepad. Majority would rule, except where it wouldn't. Shortly after the first edition came out, some tech writer for one of the computer magazines would produce a fisked edition which would quickly become the standard. Other people would take this now standard text and hyperlink their commentaries to it. When new releases of the software came out the old text would be left unaltered, but new hyperlinks would be added. It would like like this:

Shulchan Aruch To exit the program, press Alt F4 Rema: And there are those who say that it is better to press Alt F and then Alt X and this is the custom and should not be changed

[Tons of other commentaries here]

[6 hyperlinks from the Shach which point to earlier comments in the Shulchan Aruch]
Shach It is best to save before exiting, but if one did not do so when the program asks if the text should be saved one should reply yes. In a case of great need, for example if one has completely screwed up shortly before the deadline one may exit without saving.

[On the other side of the page in a different font]
Taz The M"A has an alternate method of closing, which is preferred.

[To be really accurate this reference should be on another page entirely, but I'll spare you]
Magen Avraham: Hitting Ctrl Q requires fewer keystrokes to exit and hence is preferred.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bicycle riding on Yom Tov

Just because I keep needing to refer to this link, and it took me a while to remember the search terms to find it, I'm publishing it here. The Syrian decision allowing bicycle riding on Yom Tov and (within an eruv) on Shabbat can be found at The key search term I need to remember is Yom Tob not Yom Tov.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Cryptic Comment

Apparently Yated regards "de mortuis nil nisi bonumm" as chukat hagoyim.