Monday, October 29, 2007

Buddhism and Avoda Zara

From a recent Ask the Rabbi in the Jerusalem Post. The rabbi in question is Rabbi Chaim Brovender, president of the ATID Foundation ( and Rosh Yeshiva of Web Yeshiva.

Q: I was recently on a business trip, and while I found the city to be very nice etc., I am a bit concerned. I visited an Asian restaurant, not owned by Jews, (Under the local Rabbis) There seemed to be active idolatry taking place. There was a statue of Buddha, where they had placed a large bowl of oranges and burning incense right in the entrance to the place. At the end of the meal I was served oranges (Possibly ones that were previously in front of Buddha) Is this place considered a "Bais Avodah Zorah" ? And can a Jew eat there?

A: Avoda Zara should certainly be avoided. For that reason going into a Catholic church (perhaps real idolatry) is problematic. However,Buddism is different. There the reference is to a great religious teacher called "the enlightened one". It is hard to imagine why this might be called Avoda Zara.

If you ate an orange, I do not Imagine that Avoda Zara was the problem.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Where is Ashai-Ray's commentary ?

An excerpt from the complete bible translation into pig latin:

1:1 In-ay e-thay eginning-bay Od-gay eated-cray e-thay eaven-hay
and-ay e-thay earth-ay.
1:2 And-ay e-thay earth-ay as-way ithout-way orm-fay, and-ay
oid-vay; and-ay arkness-day as-way upon-ay e-thay ace-fay of-ay
e-thay eep-day. And-ay e-thay Irit-spay of-ay Od-gay oved-may
upon-ay e-thay ace-fay of-ay e-thay aters-way.
1:3 And-ay Od-gay aid-say, Et-lay ere-thay e-bay ight-lay: and-ay
ere-thay as-way ight-lay.
1:4 And-ay Od-gay aw-say e-thay ight-lay, at-thay it-ay as-way
ood-gay: and-ay Od-gay ivided-day e-thay ight-lay om-fray e-thay
1:5 And-ay Od-gay alled-cay e-thay ight-lay Ay-day, and-ay e-thay
arkness-day e-hay alled-cay Ight-nay. And-ay e-thay evening-ay
and-ay e-thay orning-may ere-way e-thay irst-fay ay-day.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A quick thought about Rabbi Akiva

It is out of season I know, but it occurred to me that 1000 pairs (couples?) of students died for each additional year Rabbi Akiva stayed away after from Rachel after he became a Talmid Chacham.

Monday, July 30, 2007

First BeyondBT post

My first post to BeyondBT is up. I hope people like it.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

When Church and State mix

From the ever useful Religion Clause comes an account of some schools in England who are trying to supply halal meat to their Muslim students:

Two local Councils in Britain find themselves in the middle of a dispute in the Islamic community over which bodies are the appropriate certifiers of Halal meat. Schools in the localities have halal meat on their lunch menus, but have recently changed their meat supplier.

This Is Lancashire yesterday reported that the Lancashire Council of Mosques has urged parents to have their children select vegetarian options or take their own lunches until the controversy is resolved. The new supplier gets its meat from New Zealand, and the meat is certified by the non-profit Halal Food Authority.

Salim Mulla, secretary of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, says they want the meat certified instead by the Halal Monitoring Committee. Lancashire County Council has replaced meat with an alternative option until the situation is resolved, while Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council is keeping halal meat on the menu, but is meeting with mosque council leaders to resolve any problems.

Couldn't you just see this happening if US public schools tried to supply kosher lunches? You just know they'd buy Hebrew National and other Triangle K products, along with Tablet K cheese. And then the board would be so bewildered at the outrage ....

Sunday, May 27, 2007

On post-death baptism by Mormons

Rescuing this from an older source and posting it in response to a friend's post:

According to Mormon theology, all post-death baptism offers is a chance for the deceased person to join the Mormon religion. Since they think everyone else is in hell, they naturally assume everyone accepts. Here's how I picture it.

It is a lovely Shabbat evening in heaven. (It is always Shabbat there). Mr and Mrs Levy and their children have just finished singing Shalom Aleichem when there is a knock at the door. Mr Levy opens it and an angel is standing there, looking uncomfortable.

Mr. Levy smiles. "We were just singing to welcome you. What a pleasant surprise! What a great timing!".

The angel squirms. "Actually, Mr. Levy, I'm just here to ask you if you want to become a Mormon." Mr Levy roars with laughter, and says "No thanks. Are you sure you don't have time for some kugel? In heaven there is always time for kugel!"

The angel enters, says amen to the kiddush, winds up staying for the full meal, and then sadly departs to ask the next person if they want to convert.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Never complain about a 3 day chag again

Taken out of context from religion clause:

From November through February, traditional Hopis are prohibited from engaging in government or significant non-religious pursuits.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Another reason to want to be Sephardi

I so dislike the difficulties caused by the Ashkenazi rules about dairy and meat equipment. Bad enough to need 4 sets of pots, but 6 is really ridiculous. It is interesting to me that in this issue they don't cite Ashkenazi practice. Although the list in question is Sephardi, they usually mention Askhenazic custom when it differs.

The Rabbi Jacob S. Kassin Memorial Halacha Series
Authored by Rabbi Eli J. Mansour (5/8/2007)

To dedicate Daily Halacha for a day please click here. Thank you.

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Description: Is It Permissible to Use A Meat Pot To Cook A Parve Item That Will Be Mixed With A Dairy Item

Is it permissible to cook rice, or some other parve food, in a pot that had been used for meat, and then eat the parve food with milk or another dairy product? We refer, of course, to a case where the pot is clean and does not contain any actual particles of meat on its surface. Does the fact that the pot had been used for meat render it forbidden to use the food cooked in that pot with dairy foods? (This question arises with regard to the traditional "M'gedra" (rice and lentils) which is commonly eaten with yoghurt.)

There is a Halachic concept discussed in the Yoreh Dei'a section of Shulchan Aruch called "Notein Ta'am Bar Notein Ta'am Le'heteira." This term refers to a case like the one described above, of a clean pot that does not contain any meat, but does contain the taste of meat within its walls. When food is cooked in that pot, the taste embedded within the walls now enters the cooked food, and we refer to this "second degree taste" as "Notein Ta'am Bar Notein Ta'am." According to Halacha, if the food cooked in the pot is parve, and thus no violation occurs when it is cooked in the pot (as opposed to a case of dairy food cooked in a meat pot), the food remains parve and may be eaten together with milk. Since the parve food contains only a "Notein Ta'am Bar Notein Ta'am," and not the original taste of meat, it retains its parve status, and one may eat it with milk or other dairy products.

The question then becomes whether or not one may prepare a parve food in a meat pot with the initial intention of eating it with dairy foods. Thus far we have established that a parve food that had been prepared in a meat pot may be used with dairy products. But does this Halacha apply only if this occurred inadvertently, or even "Le'chatechila" (optimally)?

The Shulchan Aruch rules that one may use the parve food with dairy foods only "Be'di'avad" (after the fact, if it was mistakenly prepared in a meat pot). However, in "Bedek Ha'bayit," revisions to the "Beit Yosef" that Maran (author of the Shulchan Aruch) published after writing the Shulchan Aruch, he cites the position of Rabbenu Yerucham (Provence-Spain, 1280-1350) who allowed cooking parve food in a meat pot even with the initial intention of using it with dairy products. This is, indeed, the ruling of Chacham Ovadia Yosef, in his work Yabia Omer. Rabbi Shlomo Amar (current Sephardic Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel) likewise follows this position in his work of responsa, and Chacham Ovadia, in an introduction he wrote to Rabbi Amar's work, commends Rabbi Amar for his courage in publishing this lenient position.

It should be noted that this Halacha applies equally in the reverse case, of a parve food prepared in a dairy pot that one wishes to eat with meat. One may cook a parve food in a dairy pot even with the initial intention of eating it together with meat.

Furthermore, this Halacha applies regardless of whether or not the pot had been used with meat or milk within the previous twenty-four hours. Although regarding many Halachot we distinguish between utensils that had been used for meat or milk within the last twenty-four hours and those that have not, with respect to this Halacha no such distinction is made.

Summary: It is permissible to cook a parve food in a meat pot and then eat it with dairy foods, or to cook a parve food in a dairy pot and then eat it with meat, provided that the pot is clean. One may cook the parve food in a meat pot even with the initial intention of eating it with dairy foods, and vice versa. This applies regardless of whether or not the pot had been used with meat or dairy foods within the previous twenty-four hours.

See Halichot Olam, Helek 7, Page 74.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Difficult Halachic problems

Over Pesach I was thinking about the places where halacha and my ethical intuitions clash - not in big abstract ways like the Amalekite baby problem, not in controversial ways like homosexuality issues, but the day to day problems that both halacha and I regard as settled, but where each of us have settled on contradictory answers.

One of the reasons I call myself 'traditionally observant' is that I tend (at least in the abstract) to act according to what the halacha dictates, even as I strongly feel I am doing the wrong thing. I don't have the ability to do polls, so here are some hand made ones:

1) Your cat is chas v'shalom hit by a car on Shabbat and needs the attention of a vet. None live within walking distance. Do you
a) drive your cat to the vet/phone the vet yourself
b) ask a non-Jewish neighbor to drive your cat to the vet/phone the vet
i) and stay behind yourself/don't talk with the vet
ii) and get in the back seat with the cat/talk once the call is in progress
c) stay beside your cat and comfort it as it dies
d) euthanize your cat to put it out of its pain

For the record I think 1.b.i is just over the border of not being defensible within halacha, 1.c is plainly ok, and all the others are plainly against halacha.

2)Imagine (may it not happen for 120 years) you are at the funeral of one of your in-laws and your spouse is completely bereft. They really need a hug or some other form of non-sexual physical support. Unfortunately, the niddah laws completely prohibit this at the moment. You don't think they will kill themselves without comfort, but at the moment they are unable to function except to wail their grief and beg for support. Do you
a) comfort your spouse physically,
b) abandon them for a moment to find a friend who can provide support
c) provide verbal comfort alone, while frantically looking for someone who can halachically touch them?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Nightmare 2

In Nightmare 1 I described my fear that in some hashgachot within Judaism the average person isn't expected to be a moral agent at all - all moral decisions are deferred to the gedolim, and a person's free will is exercised by choosing to follow their decisions.

I encountered that thinking again this week, in a discussion with a chassidic friend in Brooklyn. I was describing to him how my wife treats the lottery as a game. She buys one ticket per lottery if she buys one at all. "If Hashem wants me to win, then one is enough; if he doesn't want me to win then buying lots won't help." Then she spends hours plotting how to use her winnings, in great detail. Usually about 80% goes to some form of tzedakah - building a new women's mikveh at one end of time, buying out her financially strapped parents' mortgage, starting a trust fund for Mazon, etc.

My friend said that if he won the lottery he would put it all in a trust fund and sign it over to his rebbe, then go back to his normal life. He quoted some mussar that if Hashem makes you wealthy the reason is Hashem wants you to redistribute it properly.

I was appalled by this answer. If Hashem wanted his rebbe to have the burden of redistributing the wealth, Hashem would have his rebbe win the lottery! This attitude seemed gross ingratitude on my friend's part. An analogy would be if the young shepard David, having been offered the kingship, abdicated in favor of Shmuel.
After all, a navi would do a much better job ruling Israel as Hashem wished than David could hope to. So let Shmuel rule and David be a shepherd!

Thoughts? When Hashem sends us tests, is it our job to struggle with them, or to pass them along to people more likely to pass?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Why did the dinosaurs die?

This past weekend my shul had Dr. Gerald Schroder< as scholar-in-residence. Dr. Schroder is a physicist who writes on issues of reconciling science and Torah. Despite being a physicist, Dr. Schroder spent a fair amount of time discussing evolution and abiogenesis (the creation of life from non-life).

I talked with Doctor Schroder after one of his lectures, and he mentioned he believes that just as Hashem intervenes in human history, Hashem intervened in earlier times in the history of Earth. He identified two such points at the Cambrian explosion and the destruction of the dinosaurs. He stressed this was belief and not science.

I started thinking about the death of the dinosaurs at the hands of Hashem, and I came up with the following fable:

When the time came for Hashem to give the Torah, he went to all the species of dinosaurs. Hashem approached Tyrannosaurus Rex and asked "Will you accept my torah?" T. Rex asked "What does it say?" Hashem said "Of all the animals that walk on the land, these you may eat..." T. Rex said "I am the mightiest carnivore to ever walk on the land. Anything and everything is my prey. I will not accept the Torah."

Then Hashem approached the Apatosaurus. "Will you accept my Torah?" "What does it say?" "The fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually, it may not be extinguished." "Oh no", the Aptosaurus replied. "Fire is wild and uncontrolled, and when the land burns we must flee before it or die. I couldn't keep a fire burning. I won't accept the Torah."

Hashem went to the Velociraptor, from there to all the other species of dinosaurs. None would accept the Torah.

Then a small Hadrocodium wui, the earliest mammal spoke up. "I will accept the Torah, Hashem". Hashem said "But you are too small and feeble - you cannot fulfill the mitzvot. But because your desire to serve me exceeds your ability, I will make sure your descendants have the ability you desire. And the dinosaurs shall learn that without my Torah they have no purpose."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Little Mosque on the Prairie

I've started watching Little Mosque on the Prarie, a Canadian comedy, on youtube. It is mildly amusing. The thing I find worth mentioning here is the resonances with Orthodox life, especially that of 40 years ago. Episode 2 discusses whether the mosque needs a barrier separating men and women praying. Episode 4 talks about whether Muslim kids should trick or treat, as well as dealing with efforts to get woman only swim time at the municipal pool. There is an ongoing internal debate as to the importance of keeping cultural markers - should goat be served at a Ramadan breakfast, or are cucumber sandwiches ok? If you watch videos it might be worth taking a look - nothing deep, but an interesting glimpse in a funhouse mirror.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Religious accomodations in stores

I found the following post in the Star Tribune interesting. Some Muslims working as cashiers in a supermarket are refusing to touch (wrapped) pork products, instead asking the customers or another cashier to scan them and put them into the bags.

I remember a few years ago a local Rabbi was asked for a psak about a teenage who wanted to work in the snack counter of a local theater that served hot dogs with cheese and other basar b'chalav combinations. He suggested she not take the job.

The sources quoted in the article seem to think that the cashiers' actions are legal, and that this falls within the requirement to 'reasonably accommodate' the religious beliefs of employees. Initially I thought this was unacceptable, but after more thought I'm inclined to agree.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Unintended Consequences?

YNet reports on a bill filed by Shas to prohibit proselytizing in Israel:

Shas was also sure to defend the bill from accusations of violating Israel's freedom of religion principal, saying that "we do not mean to violate freedom of religion or freedom from religion. We mean to allow everyone to believe in their own religion, and prevent harassment by any source trying to harm the basic democratic right according to which 'every man may live in his religion.'"

The proposal pointed out that the law does not specify which religion it applies to and therefore also forbids the proselytism of non-Jews to Judaism.

"The law also applies to Jewish sects bringing Muslims from the Old City to convert to Judaism," it said.

I worry about the (hopefully)unintended consequences of this bill. (I also worry about the intended consequences, but that is another issue). Will this bill hinder efforts to enable non-Jewish Russian immigrants to convert? Will the Reform movement be forbidden to offer 'Introduction to Judaism' classes? How will the government distinguish between efforts at conversion and simply making educational efforts available? Will it be ok to open an Xtian science reading room, but forbidden to advertise its existence? Will atheism be considered a religion, and organizations such as Footsteps be outlawed in consequence? In principle, could Aish Hatorah be required to confirm people are Jewish before letting them into a Torah codes lecture?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Remembering to Forget Amalek

The pasuk says Therefore, when the Lord your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!.

This passage is peculiar. Why are we commanded to blot out the memory of Amalek when we are at peace? Shouldn't Amalek be blotted out as part of the process of war and conquest?

I interpret this to mean 'When you are not at peace, you may have to do terrible things to survive and prosper. Fighting wars are necessary, but they are dangerous to the victor as well as the vanquished. When you have defeated Amalek and are at peace, do not take up the ways of Amalek. Instead blot out the memories of what you have suffered, and behave as though the coarsening effects of war had never touched you.'

Monday, February 26, 2007

Reimagining Purim

One of the most mentchlidik and torahdik characters sitting at the King's gate was Shushan boy.

"I just cut an onion in half with a milk knife but I want to cook the onion with meat. What do I do, Shusan boy?"

"Cut off a klipah from the cut sides of the onion with a pareve knife and you're fine".

"Thanks, Shushan. You're metchlidik and torahdik."

"Bless you, sir".

Little did anyone know that whenever there was a call for help....


Shushan boy became in real life that member of the Beis Din Hagadol, Mordechai!.

Guest Post - Encoding Jewish Internet Debate

A Modest Proposal for Encoding Jewish Internet Debate

by Steven Weintraub (stevenw at

With well over a 2 and a half decades of experience in the Jewish Internet I have noticed the problems that were discussed back in 1981 and those of today are either similar or the same. In fact, I notice the arguments used are the same as in 1981 and that the arguments used in one issue and the arguments used in another are often the same. As a result I thought I would aid in efficiency and number the most common arguments, and save much Internet bandwidth.

In doing so, I discovered a remarkable phenomenon. That like elementary particles, each basic argument has an equally compelling anti-argument. One does not arise without the opposite arising in the same argument.

Moreover I have discovered that true net Rabbis are adept at using both sides of a pair - depending upon which flavor supports the desired outcome of a particular issue.

Here are the pairs I have so far discovered and are immediately obvious to me. I am currently researching and developing more. If you know or discover any, please add them to the list as an aid for the whole community. I hope to have a fairly complete list by the 14th of Adar II.

I present these in hope that their use will aid in shortening our argumentation here.


1+ These are the halacha on which I base my opinions.
1- These are the opinions on which I base my halacha.

2+ Current practice is wrong, the halahca I cite is right
2- Current practice is right, the halacha you cite is wrong

3+ Rabbi X does it this way
3- Rabbi X's practice is irrelevant

4+ Rabbi X says this is the halacha
4- Rabbi X's opinion is not to be trusted.

5+ This newest issue/scandal/ruling proves the moral bankruptcy of Orthodoxy
5- One incident/person/ruling shouldn't tar the whole movement, there are
bad apples in every movement

6+ This newest issue/scandal/ruling proves the moral bankruptcy of Conservatism
6- One incident/person/ruling shouldn't tar the whole movement, there are
bad apples in every movement

7+ This newest issue/scandal/ruling proves the moral bankruptcy of Reform
7- One incident/person/ruling shouldn't tar the whole movement, there are
bad apples in every movement

8+ The liberal movements of Judaism are the main cause of assimilation
8- The liberal movements of Judaism are rescuing those who have assimilated
and are bringing them back to Judaism.

9+ The Jewish people would not follow such a ruling
9+ The Jewish people need to be educated about such a ruling

10+ Current practice is mixed in this area
10- There is only one obvious way this should be, regardless of current practice

11+ We must put up fences to protect the Torah
11- Its a needless Chumra that detracts and cheapens halacha

12+ You're stretching the halachic envelope to meaninglessness
12- Its necessary to understand the bounds of halacha to know what is actually

13+ This is a social/economic/political argument, has no religious relevance
and thus does not belong on the list.
13- Torah encompasses all aspects of life, so this is fair game.

14+ This is the sort of criticism you would expect from a self-hating Jew.
14- This is a heart felt response from someone who truly is trying to see
a flaw in a traditional Jewish view.

15+ Criticism of Israel is antisemitic or self-hating.
15- Israel is a Jewish state which we are responsible to bring to the highest
moral ground.

16+ This halacha is just plain wrong and immoral.
16- Halacha is THE definition of right and wrong and morality.

17+ This is the right way and we must change halacha to match.
17- Until a way is found in halacha, we can not do that.

18+ The halacha in this area is X. (often found in combination with
argument 4+)
18- That is one valid practice, there are many others (often found in
combination with argument 4-)

19+ To participate in that would imply the validity of less halachic movements
19- To participate in that would lead to greater Jewish unity.

20+ To do this would imply the suzerainty of more halachic movements
20- To do this would lead to greater Jewish unity by allowing halachic
movements to participate.
------------- Here start Larry's additions ------------------------------------
21+: It is best to be stringent so as to satisfy all opinions
21- "Greater is he who can rule leniently than he who can rule stringently"

22+ We cannot hope to approach the authority of the earlier generations
22- Halacha follows the most recent opinion

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Maryland Aguna Law

From Religon Clause comes some new of progress on a proposed Maryland Get Law which featured testimony by the OU and a letter from Maryland's attorney general giving his opinion that the law does not violate the Establishment clause.
Jewish Group testify in favor of Maryland Get Law. It is interesting that there were apprarently representives of the Agudah present as well.

Ger Tsedek: Defining frum

Ger Tsedek: was nice enough to take a comment of mine and give it an extensive analysis in Defining frum.

Take a look and join the conversation.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Field Trip?

A number of people are meeting at the YU book sale on Thursday night, probably between 6 and 6:30. We'll do a short shopping trip there and then go out to eat and socialize. Anyone who might be interested please contact me. The email address is larry at lennhoff dot com.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I was just thinking

It is forbidden by halacha to make a 3 dimensional representation of a complete human being. This is because man is made in the image of Hashem, and we are forbidden to make an image of Hashem. The question is, does this prohibition apply to aliens? It seems clear to me that it does, as is made clear from the language of the commandment "Lo Sasson E.T.".

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Bo knows free will

Parshat Bo continues the issue of Hashem's hardening of Pharoah's heart. There are a lot of good takes on the issue, most of which I've read for the first time in the past few years.

I’m sure someone came up with this before (and if you know I’d love a reference) but here’s my take on the hardening Pharoah’s heart. I think it was measure for measure punishment. Pharoah claimed to be a divinity, and he took free choice away from an entire nation by enslaving them. In response, Hashem showed Pharaoh that not only was he not in charge of his nation, he was not even in charge of his own choices.

N.B. This post originally appeared in slightly different form as a comment on Yesh Omrim.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Contrarian thoughts on Shemot

Parsha Shemot offers an account of how Bnai Yisrael went from free men in Egypt to slaves to pharaoh. Just about every commentary I see views the Egyptian reaction as based on paranoia. Rabbi Barry Leff speaks for the overwhelming majority when he says pharaoh was the world's first anti-Semite. The Egyptians were the first people to persecute the Jews as a people.

Let me offer some contrarian comments. I think there is a reason behind the Egyptian elite's decision to enslave the Jews, the Jews' passive acceptance of the initial stages of enslavement, and the Egyptian populace's total lack of sympathy for the Jews' enslavement.

That reason is Joseph, and his behavior after the famine began in Egypt. As you will recall from Vayigash, Joseph reduced the populace of Egypt (except for the priests) first to penury, then to outright slavery. He was able to do this by selling the Egyptians the food that he had taxed away during the seven good years - food that he had stored in such abundance that he could feed not only Egypt, but many people from Canaan as well.

Having reduced them to slavery, he then imposed mass population transfer in order that the Egyptian people would be uprooted. No one could say 'my father owned this land, and my grandfather before him'. He essentially exiled the people of Egypt within the borders of their own country.

This seemingly left Bnei Yisrael as the only other free group within the land of Egypt. What could be more reasonable to the Egyptians that they feared that the Jews would misuse freedoms that the native Egyptians were deprived of? What could be more reasonable than for Bnei Yisrael, when asked to volunteer their labor, to accept? After all, everyone around them were slaves - demanding that they perform labor for the government as well no doubt seemed reasonable.

And lastly, while perhaps the Pharaoh 'knew not Joseph' I would not be surprised if the Egyptian commoners remembered perfectly well who was behind their present situation. Schadenfreude at the Jews' troubles seems a nigh inevitable reaction.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Nightmare 1

I've been hanging around the JBlog world for a couple of years now. Sometimes I find it very depressing, and need to hang out with my real world community to convince myself observant people who think and believe like me actually exist. Charlie Hall is always very helpful in this regard, as are a number of non-bloggers in my own community.

Here's one view of normative Judaism I get from J-Blogs:

There exist between 10 and 200 Jews on Earth who have full free will to make moral decisions. These are the Gedolim and poskim of our generation. They are the ones who when presented with new types of problems that Jews have not been faced with before actually make the decision for what the proper halachic response is. This responsibility humbles them, but the rest of us need not worry because the game is fixed - they get divine assistance so that the decision they make is the correct one. It is a matter of dispute whether they come to the correct answer, or whether they answer they come to becomes the correct one.

All other Jews exist to create the problems these great people solve, and to face their own lesser test - they can do as the gedolim bid, or they can sin.

Lakewood Yid, Ed, Gil, and others - is this summation correct according to your perspective?