Thursday, May 31, 2007

Laws of Zaken Mamre and the Mesorah

It is my understanding that Orthodox Judaism places an extreme amount of importance on the unbroken chain of tradition for its validity. In light of this attitude, I am having a hard time understanding this quote from Rambam Hilchos Mamre, beginning of chapter 4:

One who disagrees with the Supreme Beis Din on a matter whose intentional commission is punishable by death (caret) and whose unintentional commission one must bring a sin offering, be it something they forbid and he permits or something they permit and he forbids, he is punishable by death, even if what he says is from tradition and he says 'I received this from my rabbis' and they say 'this seems reasonable to us.' Since he discusses the matter with them, if he acts or teaches to act [according to his opinion] he is liable."

It seems like Rambam is saying reason trumps mesorah!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Cold Shot

I can't take it anymore, Stevie Ray e-kvetcher!

You love that guitar blog more than you love me!

All year long you're out on the road Internet with that thing,

And when you come home, I can't even get a one night stand!

You keep this up and I am going to pack up my bikini and move to RRRIOOOO!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Crimean Jews - Krymchaks

You can live a hundred years and still find something you've never heard of. Here is the story of the Krymchak Jews of Crimea.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Of Chestnut Blossoms, Poplar Sex, and Stalin

On the way to Tein Li Chow saw several chestnut trees growing by the water treatment plant. You can tell chestnuts easily from a distance by their pyramidal blossoms. The chestnut blossom was the symbol of the city where I was born; chestnut trees lined the boulevards and streets, draping the city in their dark green leaves.

Poplar trees were also common. My dad told me that most of them were planted as part of Stalin's greening campaign before the War. As most things done by the communists, it was a complete disaster. You see, poplar trees come in the male and female variety. For whatever reason, perhaps not realizing this was the case, the communists planted too many females. The consequence of such poor planning is the release, every summer, of a cloud of unfertilized seeds into the air, floating on bits of cotton which cover the city with sticky fluff, to the dismay and annoyance of its inhabitants.

Reading Stalin's Folly right now. More on Stalin later...

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Colette Sirat: A History of Jewish Philosphy in the Middle Ages

Should I buy this book? It was recommended to me by a PhD candidate at the U of C divinity school, so I was already dubious about my ability to "get it" and then I read one of the reviews...

One of the Greatest Books of the 20th Century!
Colette Sirat's erudition and her grasp of very subtle philosophic distinctions, places this magnificent work beyond most surveys of Philosophy. Her excellent Bibliography and her magnificent Chapter 6 on Maimonides are well worth the price of admission! It's the second hardest book that i have ever tackled, for it's the equivalent of a massive shoehorn for expanding the mind...yet i caution the prospective reader with a warning: familiarity with Plato & Aristotle is a vital prerequisite for understanding the great Jewish & Arab philosophers. They bequeathed the lost writings of the Ancients to the West. [...for the record, The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers by the late Werner Jaeger is the hardest book i have ever encountered and also worth the glorious ascent up the mountain.]

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Lord of Litigation (or Shiva the Plaintiff)

For religious Hindus, images of the gods are not merely representational; they can be inhabited by the deity they depict. The faithful anoint the statues with oils, camphor, and sandalwood, garland them with flowers, and make offerings of food, incense, and music. (The word "idol," though largely abandoned by Western academics because of its perceived pejorative connotation, remains in use in India to describe these objects.) When, in 1986, the Indian government sued for the return of a twelth-century bronze Shiva that had been looted from a village in Pathur, it did so on behalf of the offended god himself: Shiva was named as a plaintiff in the case.

The New Yorker - May 7, 2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Train de vie - Klezmer vs Gypsy