Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Is Rabbi Zev Farber Orthodox?

So much of the reaction to R Farber's big essay has focused on whether he can still be considered Orthodox or not, whether Orthodoxy should nor reject him, etc, etc.

If R Farber isn't Orthodox, than I definitely am not. Not being a rabbi or a community leader, I don't really care what label people slap on my set of beliefs. I'd just like to see more focus on what R Farber actually wrote. Is it a viable theology or not? (irrespective of labels).

I'm in the middle of writing my own essay in reaction to what R Farber wrote and some of the other reactions, as well as outlining my own theology and how I approach the challenges of Academic Biblical study. Look for it here in a few days.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

From liberally minded to racist

What is it that makes liberally minded individuals become mild racists once they become frum? Does entering an insular community mean you leave your egalitarian ideals behind and suddenly believe the worst stereotypes about other ethnic groups?

It's just sad.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I was discussing the term "Orthoprax" over on Sefer Hapanim and how I dislike it. It implies people that secretly disbelieve in all religion, but only stay publicly religious for social reasons or fear of condemnation. Because of simplistic thinking, many frum Jews place anyone who doesn't adhere to the Maimonidean dogma in the category of "orthoprax", and assume that those like myself who don't believe in a literal Torah MiSinai must all be secretly irreligious.

A more fitting term might be "Observadox"

Friday, July 19, 2013

An old stone wall - part of King David's palace?

Some archaeologists claim to have found one of King David's palaces: http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/.premium-1.536594

One of the biggest problems I've noticed in these archaeological wars is that there's very little consensus on scientific method, as opposed to, say, the field of biology. Half the archaeologists (who also tend to be the loudest) seem to come with many many preconceptions & agendas, and they make wild assertions, both in the biblical maximalist and minimalist directions. And these aren't armchair archaeologists, these are the people who are actually carrying out the excavations. So it's very hard to get objective information about what was found, to have a purely scientific perspective.

Ancient texts, including Tanach, are, of course, relevant to ANE archaeology. But many archaeologists seem to have already made up their minds about the Torah and then interpret what they dig up in light of those preexisting beliefs. There's no objective standard.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Is Judaism 3,300 years old?

Someone on Facebook, while making a point, claimed Judaism was 3,325 years old. Because it was relevant to his point, I felt the need to respond. Here is what I wrote:

Actually, what may have existed 3,000 years ago was a proto-Judaism, an Israelite sacrifice cult. YHVH had physical form and lived in various temples, which were eventually centralized in Jerusalem, mostly for political purposes. The Israelites descended from the hill-dwelling Canaanites. This way of life ("religion" wasn't a separate concept back then) was mostly concerned with ritual purity and sacrifice.

Judaism itself wasn't really its own thing till late in the 2nd temple period. (The Maccabees were most likely Sadducee). Rabbinic Judaism was a remarkable achievement, something that was built to serve the masses who lived outside the land of Israel, even while the beit hamikdash still stood. It continued to evolve after the temple's destruction, and it still evolves today. That's the Judaism I love and keep. I feel it's a conduit to spirituality & God, even if it is man-made.

But it's most certainly not 3,300 years old.

Egypt's dilemma

Egypt has a big problem. Morsi was elected democratically, fair & square. On the other hand, he's Morsi. A new uprising may bring him down, and most of us in the west won't be sorry to see him gone. But what's next? Do they go to new elections? What if the results of those elections is another Muslim Brotherhood president? Will there then be yet ANOTHER uprising?

On the one hand, the people of Egypt deserve democracy, as do all people on earth. But what if that democracy keeps producing a theocratic regime that suppresses the rights of women and ethnic minorities?

I don't envy the Egyptians their dilemma.