Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tales of HP

Another example of why I love this town. Letters are boiled down and not acutal quotes. Rabbi Sephardi is not the head of the local Sephardi shul.

From: me
To : Rabbi Ashkenazi, Rabbi Sephardi
Subject: Eruv Tavshilin

Can I make an eruv tavshilin using a baked food and a roasted food, rather than the traditional baked food and boiled food?

From: Rabbi Ashkenazi
To : me
Subject: Re: Eruv Tavshilin

After the fact it is ok, but if you haven't made it yet you should use a boiled food rather than a roasted one.

From: Rabbi Sephardi
To: me
Cc: Rabbi Ashkenazi
Subject: Re: Eruv Tavshilin

According to the Rambam [detailed cite], an eruv tavshillin may be made with boiled, fried, pickled or even salted foods.

20 minutes later:

From: Rabbi Ashkenazi
To : me
Subject: Re: Eruv Tavshilin
After getting Rabbi Sephardi's email I checked the Shulchan Aruch. He is correct and I am therefore changing my psak - roasted food is ok to use in the eruv even l'hatchila.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mazel Tov to Professor Charlie Hall

Since I know he's too modest to promote himself, I'll quote Professor Hall's Daily Kos column:

Twenty years ago next month I set out to apply to graduate school in an attempt to have a career in academia as a professor. Last week I was informed, first by telephone calls from the department heads from each of my two departments, and then by a letter from my dean, that I am going to be promoted from Associate Professor to full Professor effective July 1.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Schrodinger's Chicken

This scenario came out of yore deah class tonight. Imagine that you strap a chicken into a Schrodinger's box before Shabbat starts. Seal the box closed. If something is emitted by the radiation source in a fixed interval before Shabbat the chicken dies, otherwise it lives. Because you've read too many comic books, you're worried the radiation may cause the chicken to acquire superpowers. As a result, you've equipped the interior of the box with a spring loaded kinfe that will decapitate the chicken and push the head outside the box when you pull a catch, which purely mechanically releases the knife.

No it is Shabbat evening and your whiney adorable child wants to play with a ball, only he doesn't have one. Can you decapitate the chicken, thus both giving him a ball and ensuring a lifetime of therapy bills for the poor kid?

Note: There are probably lots of shabbat violations in this setup. I'm interested in them, but the key issue I'm focused on is the following: We don't know whether the chicken is alive or not. Assuming decapitating a dead chicken is not a Shabbat violation, may we pull the catch or not?

I'll offer analysis later, but let's see what people say first.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sauce for the gander

I really feel for this anonymous man who is being deprived of the opportunity to shep nachas from his daughters and grandaughters for no reason other than gender. May this injustice and others like them quickly be corrected. The letter appears in this weeks Yated.

Dear Editor,
Recently, certain Bais Yaakov schools have changed their policy in regard to both high school and elementary school graduations. Whereas fathers and zaides were previously allowed to attend, now they are herded into a separate room and only allowed to enter the auditorium at the end of the ceremony for the handing out of diplomas. These schools might as well forbid males to attend the entire ceremony. It is demeaning and insensitive to treat fathers and zaides this way. On the day when they want to shep nachas from their daughters and granddaughters, they are treated like second-class citizens. If the administration feels men shouldn't listen to girls' valedictorian speeches, they should ban them from coming outright. One is either given a proper invitation or not invited. Becoming "frummer" should never be at the cost of hurting another's feelings. As Chazal tell us in Pirkei Avos (4:2), "Who is honored? He who honors others."
Name Withheld

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

XGH Anthem

Ben Newman is an acquaintance of mine. He's presently a graduate student at Brandeis, but he also writes and sings folk songs (including filk, for those who know what that is). One of his songs strikes me as the perfect anthem for the Modern Orthoprax movement that XGH is presently pushing.

Here's the mp3 of the song and here are the lyrics:
"That's My Story (and I'm Stickin' to It)"
lyrics and music by Benjamin Newman

/ D G / Em GA / 1st /[1. Em A :/[2. EmA D /

In every single culture since the ages of old,
Folks have found their meaning in the stories they told --
Their ethics and identity, the values they hold --
And the stories were for reading out loud.

But then the age of reason came, and somebody said,
"Those stories never happened, so mythology's dead,
And you're gonna have to look for meaning elsewhere instead,"
But me, I gotta go with the crowd:

/ D C / G D / 1st /[1. G A :/[2. GA D /

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it;
I'm gonna interpret the whole world through it.
It may not be factual, but it's true,
And that's good enough for me.

That's my tale, I tell it with conviction,
Though I know it's practically entirely fiction,
Still, it keeps me moving in the right direction --
That's the way that it oughtta be.

The facts are strangely silent on the right and the good,
'Cause logic can't compel you from an "is" to a "should".
Open up your moral code and then look under the hood,
You'll see you've made a few assumptions to start.

But what should those assumptions be, and how could we know?
Well, that's been an open question since forever ago,
And if your favorite answer is "A book told me so,"
That's 'cause it fits with what you feel in your heart.

It's your story, and your choices reflect it
And the notions it proposes of what's true and correct --
It's from a long time ago, and yet you've kept it connected
To the way of life you're living today.

It's your tale -- it forms your moral foundation,
It's played a major role throughout your whole education,
It ties you to tradition, culture, people or nation,
And it colors every word that you say.

Mythology and reason both have something to teach,
But sometimes the perfect balance seems a bit out of reach,
So on behalf of both of them I humbly beseech
That you take the matter seriously.

A myth can keep us steady or can call us to change,
While reason can reveal the way the world is arranged.
The truth has many facets (and they're all a bit strange),
And you gotta open both eyes to see.

It's your story, but it's not the whole picture --
There are things you oughtta know that aren't recorded in scripture --
And yet it still provides you with the context in which you're
Gonna place the other things that you learn.

It's your tale, it should be kept in perspective --
It's beautiful and true, but not exactly objective --
But if you can approach it thinking like a detective,
You'll find clues everywhere that you turn.

Each people has a story, handed down from the past --
They teach it to their children and they cling to it fast --
But other stories also may be destined to last,
And there's wisdom to be found in each one.

So, get to know your people's stories, and the other ones, too,
And keep an open heart and mind, whatever you do,
'Cause there are many different ways in which a thing can be true,
And there are stories that we've only begun...

They're our stories, and we're stickin' to 'em;
We're gonna interpret the whole world through 'em.
They may not be factual, but they're true,
And they've served us ably so far.

They're our tales, we tell 'em with conviction,
Though we know they're practically entirely fiction,
'Cause myth and reason, mingled, are our common condition --
That's the reason we're the way that we are.

Larry explains it all for you

Shira of On the Fringe quotes extensively from some of my comments about C Judaism here.