Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Current Trends Predicted In The Gemara?

After reading numerous stories of rabbinical figures, judges, or otherwise people known as community leaders failing to be truthful, judge truthfully, or deliberately concealing the truth, such as this recent post by Rabbi Maryles on Emes Ve-Emunah, I was shocked to learn several sections of Gemara in today's Daf Yomi (Shabbos 139) that seem to talk about the results of these actions we Jews have brought upon ourselves. The translation has been modified slightly per that found in the Koren Talmud Bavli.

It was taught. R. Jose b. Elisha said: If you see a generation overwhelmed by many troubles, go forth and examine the judges of Israel, for all retribution that comes to the world comes only on account of the Judges of Israel, as it is said, "Please hear this, heads of the house of Jacob, and officers of the house of Israel, that abhor justice, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money; yet will they lean upon the Lord, etc."

Shortly after that, the Gemara continues:

And the Holy One, blessed be He, will not cause His Divine presence to rest upon Israel until the wicked judges and officers cease out of Israel, for it is said, "And I will turn My hand upon you, and thoroughly purge away your dross, and will take away all your tin. And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning, etc."

Lastly, interspersed with Rabbi Steinzaltz' commentary (p.319) in bold italics.

R. Melai said in the name of R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon: What is meant by the verse, "The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, the rod of the rulers?"  'The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked' refers to the judges who become a staff for their attendants;  

The attendants abuse people, and the judges provide the attendants with legal backing and moral support.

'the rod of the rulers' refers to the Torah scholars in the families of the judges. 

These Torah scholars assist their relatives, the judges, conceal their faults.

Mar Zutra said: This refers to the scholars who teach the laws of the public to ignorant judges.

They teach ignorant judges just enough Torah and modes of conduct to prevent the people from realizing how ignorant they are, enabling them to maintain their positions.

I think these sections speak all too clearly about the frightening, increasingly prevalent problem of individuals and groups who are meant to be, or insist they are, halachic authorities and then abuse the power they have gathered or proclaimed upon themselves. 

We have many troubles, one of the most significant is child abuse, which seems to be quite a plague in communities where this sort of irresponsible judgments and abuse of communal power take place on a regular basis.

We have seen judge's attendants - the so-called askanim of gedolim cause inordinate amounts of trouble for people such as Rabbi Natan Slifkin, Lipa Schmeltzer, and others undeservedly, creating a huge public ruckus that helps no one in the end.

And we wonder why the Beis Hamikdash hasn't been rebuilt - the Gemara plainly says that HaShem won't rest His divine presence on us until these wicked judges and officers cease to exist among us.

I wonder if the thousands of others out there learning Daf Yomi took a moment to consider these passages with any serious thought and self introspection?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Smuggling Seed To Sow A Terrorist Future

After Shabbos was over, I turned my phone on and checked up on the news in the world. I came across this article on CNN.com called "Sperm smuggling alleged at terror prison." As soon as I began reading it, I was horrified, dismayed, and angry.

Wives of convicted (and often self-confessed and proud) Palestinian terrorists serving life or near-life sentences have arranged their incarcerated husbands' sperm to be smuggled out of the prison so that they can conceive children. They are denied conjugal visits, whereas Israeli prisoners are allowed such visits from their wives - though the only specific Israeli prisoner referenced was the assassin of Yitzchak Rabin.

It isn't fair, they say, to be denied the right to be with their husbands, who can then sire more children, all to prevent rumors being spread that they are unfaithful to their jailed husbands, or that their husbands may leave them for still-fertile women if their jail sentences last beyond the women's menopause.

I think the whole thing is utterly ridiculous.

Why, you ask? Because who are these children going to become, and how will they be brought up?

"You're father is a brave soldier, fighting for our freedom, he heroically murdered dozens of Jewish men, women, and children who all stole our homeland from us."

"You're going to grow up just like him!"

"Isn't it not fair that your dear father is still stuck in prison for doing the great thing that he did for us? We should be celebrating with him right now, not mourning is absence!"

This is what will happen to these poor, innocent children. They'll be raised and indoctrinated with hate, fear and prejudice. They'll be encouraged to take more life in murderous plots, just like their fathers did. The very same women who in all likelihood supported, encouraged, and cheered on the fathers who are sitting in jail will be the same women, along with other relatives, who will raise these children to hate Israel, despise Jews, and desire to kill and murder more people, in revenge for their fathers' mistreatment or just because it's the right thing to do.

I don't believe for a second that this is not the unspoken ulterior motive. If these women were already successful in helping groom their husbands to become terrorists, I have no doubt they will attempt to do so, using their husbands' absence as a motivational factor.

True, I wonder about why someone such as Yitzchak Rabin's assassin was allowed conjugal visits - shouldn't all murderers be deprived in this fashion as part of the punishment they are receiving in jail?

Part of me says yes, they should. Someone who takes another's life without just cause should lose privileges, just as they stole everything from the person(s) they killed.

However, the one difference I can see between the two criminals is that Rabin's assassin was a one-time wack job. He didn't grow up in a culture that celebrated and taught murder of other people as a cherished life value. He wasn't indoctrinated from preschool with lies and propaganda, all with the intention of turning him into a celebrated killer and martyr.

In all likelihood, as someone who became convinced of his crazy plan, he never confided in his wife or any relatives or associates. He deserves to be punished, rightly so, but his wife, innocent of all wrongdoing should not. She suffers enough for the crime that was thrust upon her and shattered her life in a most unexpected, and unwelcome fashion.

The women who are pleading their case about being denied conjugal visits with their terrorist husbands in jail were in all likelihood, part and parcel of the lifestyle that led their husbands to shed Jewish blood. They knew what their husbands intended to do, probably knew it was possible they'd be killed in the bombings they planned, or shot by the IDF defending innocent civilians, or caught and tried for their disgusting crimes. They don't feel an ounce of remorse for the lives lost by their husbands' actions, and I bet they'd encourage their husbands to do it again, given the chance to take more innocent Jewish lives. They educate their children to call their fathers a hero for what they did, to grow up to be just like them and do such courageous things like they did.

And that's why they don't deserve to have conjugal visits, or to bring more children into this world with their convicted terrorist husbands. They too, deserve to be punished, in their own way, for encouraging and supporting acts of terror and murder, for they are accomplices to the murders their husbands committed. There may not be enough evidence to convict these wives in a court of law, but I think this denial of access to their husbands' semen and thus more children from them, is a just enough punishment. Their continued loyalty and devotion to men who willingly and happily spilled innocent blood of men, women, and children who had done no wrong, is a testament to their guilt and reason enough to be denied conjugal visits.

I sincerely hope that these alleged claims are false, and that the Israeli courts do not give in to their ridiculous demands.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

It Seems Men And Women Can't Really Be Just Friends After All

Last January, I wrote about a video that was making the rounds on Youtube that consisted of a somewhat unscientific series of interviews that indicated opposite-gender relationships aren't as platonic as most people (especially women) would think.

Now, Scientific American has written an article describing an actual study conducted that heavily indicates that men and women have very different perspectives on how these relationships function, including whether opportunities for romance exist, and if there is some level of physical attraction or not.

In short, men statistically look for the possibility of furthering the relationship romantically, tend to be far more physically attracted to their female friends, and also make the often unsupported assumption that the attraction is mutual. Women are far better at maintaining the viewpoint of keeping things strictly friendly as well as being able to be close friends with someone they are admittedly not attracted to.

She's just laughing, but what is HE thinking about? And where is he looking, mmm?
Image source: http://www.sodahead.com/fun/can-guys-and-gals-ever-be-just-friends/question-2833827/
From my personal experience, as I mentioned in my earlier post - this seems to be very representative of what went on in my own head when I was single and had female friends during high school and even during my time at YU. Aside from the base-level physical attraction that was more likely than not always there, getting to know a girl - both in dating and in these friendships - often creates an even greater level of attraction that transcends the baser physical element. Thus, the closer I became in the friendship, the more attracted I was, and the physical attraction also was magnified.

I think this is simply how guys, on the majority (since there are always exceptions) seem to function.

I'm not here to preach about the evils of being friends with someone of the opposite gender, since I myself greatly benefited from such friendships at times in my life when I needed the advice, support, or encouragement that I felt only a female friend could provide (and none of those things have to do with anything physical whatsoever). I was always one who felt, and probably was, more mature than the majority of my male peers, and I tended to mentally and emotionally connect more to either adults or the girls my age who were probably farther along in their brain development than the guys.

At any rate, I do think this study should give some food for thought for those who are fairly haphazard with their opposite gender friendships. Certainly girls should be aware of the potential issue of their guy friend feeling attracted, and if the feeling isn't mutual, to not give any indication otherwise. Guys should also be more mindful not to have an agenda with such friendships, nor believe that any feelings of attraction are automatically shared by both parties.

Thoughts, anyone?