Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cheating revisited - what would you do?

A few months ago, I wrote about my disgust when another blogger of college age expressed the notion that there was nothing wrong with cheating in school. Her rationale was a whole host of mitigating circumstances.

Recently, I was speaking to some others of a similar age to the aforementioned blogger and they expressed similar sentiments. While I haven't changed my mind, one scenario that came up in the conversation provided food for thought:

What if a test was stolen before the final exam and the entire class got hold of it. Let's say you are offered the exam as well. Normally, you would refuse, but in this case the professor grades on a steep curve, and if you get less than an A in the course you will lose your hefty scholarship and that scholarship is the only way you can afford college. Let's say further that you cannot inform the administration anonymously of the theft. If you tell, your role will become public knowlege.

Do you:

A) Rat out everyone else, and live with the consequences, and gain many enemies?

B) Take the test honestly and hope that though unlikely, you'll still get an A and not have to drop out of college?


C) Cheat

Personally, I would do either A or B, never C, but I can understand that there can be a gray area. Things are rarely black & white.

What would you do?

Monday, April 6, 2009

So what if Birchat Hachama isn't "true"?

DovBear points out, here and here, that Birchat Hachama, the blessing over the sun, recited once every 28 years, and which falls on this Wednesday, isn't accurate in its claim that it happens when the sun is in the same place in the sky at the time of the creation of the world, 5,769 years ago.

But does that matter?

Even before reading his first post on the topic, and before looking into the background, I assumed that the stated reason for Birkat Hachama was not literally true. It can only be true if one believes in a literal sheshet yimei bereishit (6 days of creation).

But like many other practices in traditional Judaism whose origins may not be "true" in a literal sense, I will still say the bracha without any discomfort or loss of emotional significance. Judaism is an evolving religion - it always has been. Therefore, every evolving tradition is meaningful in the history of its very practice, not just in its origins.

And a tradition going back 2 millenia, where Jews gathered to say a bracha honoring the Borei HaOlam every 28 years, is significant enough. It is an event - an opportunity to gather with other Jews and acknowlege in a deep sense that Hashem created the world. So what if it's not literally accurate in its astronomical claims?