1984 and the Language of Confusion

Sixty years after Orwell’s masterpiece, his message is more prophetic than ever.

And my apologies for the typo in the fifth from the last paragraph.  Essays on language should be pristine.

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  1. #1 by Yehoshua Friedman on June 17, 2009 - 12:27 pm

    It was a great essay. I saw it at Jewish World Review. I have great sympathy for you as a teacher trying to get that concept through the heads of current American high school students. Leo Strauss worked very hard to do that in the last generation of academia. Keep up the good (and hard) work.

  2. #2 by charlie on June 17, 2009 - 4:49 pm

    I am a gentile Christian who rejoiced in the truth of this article and look forward to reading other articles you have written. Absolute Truth is awesome!

  3. #3 by Keith Albers on June 17, 2009 - 5:50 pm

    Dear Rabbi,
    Regarding your article “1984 and the Language of Confusion,” you have certainly written about a complicated subject with much clarity. Our most recent presidential election has occurred because of the epitomy of the language of confusion.

  4. #4 by Wim de Vriend on June 18, 2009 - 1:12 am

    Dear Rabbi,
    I’ve greatly enjoyed your essays, particularly “1984 and the Language of Confusion”.
    The typo in this piece, which mixes up singular and plural, is less confusing than the one in the second paragraph from the end in “The Happiness Quotient”.
    Are you including typos to remind us that even rabbis are imperfect?

  5. #5 by torahideals on June 18, 2009 - 7:23 am

    Very few people need help remembering that rabbis are imperfect.


  6. #6 by Norm Pressman on June 19, 2009 - 11:24 am


    With regard to your statement on abortion-I thought that Talmud did not recognize the soul of a fetus embryo until quickening no earlier than 40 days after conception and thus aboriton to that poitn was acceptable-Am I incorrect? And while I know the Catholic Church does not accept abortion even in the case of the life of the mother-I am told that even Orthodox Jews accept it. Right?

  7. #7 by torahideals on June 19, 2009 - 1:08 pm

    The Talmud does teach that the neshoma (soul) enters the embryo 40 days after conception. However, life itself begins at conception, so abortion is prohibited any time. Even the male sperm and unfertilized female ova have sanctity because they are potential life, thus prohibiting the use of birth control under normal circumstances.

    However, as in most cases, there may be exceptions — always in accordance with Talmudic law and precedent. In cases of potential harm to physical or mental health, birth control may be permitted after rabbinic reveiw. In cases of extreme degenerative disease detected early enough (or, perhaps, cases of conception from rape), abortion may be permitted within the first 40 days, again after review by a rabbinic authority competent in these matters (which I am not).

    Finally, abortions are always permitted when necessary to save the mother, since her life takes priority until the moment the baby’s head emerges, for the simple reason that until birth, the baby depends upon the mother for life and not vice verse.

    These are the broad outlines of an extremely complex body of Torah law. Individual cases must always be decided in consultation with a qualified Torah authority.

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