Posts Tagged Jewish Philosophy

Tanor shel Achnai

One of the most fascinating and perplexing episodes in talmudic literature is the fierce debate between Rabbi Eliezer and the sages over an apparently arcane point of Jewish law.

Thank you to Rabbi Yaakov Berkowitz of the St. Louis Kollel for inviting me to contribute to the Amud Yomi program with this discussion.

Click here to watch and listen.

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Unmasking Frum Women

My unpublished letter to Mishpacha Magazine, 12 November 2016:

Dear Editors,

I found interesting the juxtaposition between last week’s letters regarding Hillary Clinton’s cover picture and Rabbi Grylak’s weekly insights into the parsha.  His essay began with the introduction, “From age three, Avraham was asking questions, challenging the pervading belief system of the time.”

So I’d like to ask some questions of my own.  If I can sit across from a woman at the Shabbos table, if I can pass a woman in the grocery store aisle, if I can survive spiritually crossing paths with the secular women who live in my neighborhood or work in my office, why is my neshoma so profoundly threatened by a picture of a modestly attired woman in a magazine?

And, assuming that there is indeed a reasonable answer, then what about this:  is it not possible — given the mores of the modern world — that some young women and girls in our communities might interpret the exclusion of feminine images from Torah publications as symptomatic of a society that degrades the value and contribution of women, and who therein find a pretext to reject normative hashkofah?  If so, is the gain worth the loss?

I’m no gadol, so these are not my questions to answer.  But I’m reminded of what Rav Nota Schiller is fond of saying, that the Torah allows the Jews to change enough to stay the same.

It’s worth at least contemplating which changes will ultimately benefit Klal Yisroel in the future even as we fiercely defend the traditions of the past.

Yonason Goldson

Click here to see what prominent rabbinic figures have to say on the issue.

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Save the date — November 4 book launch event

PB Meme -- Awareness we cannot do everythingIf you live in the St. Louis area, please join me on Wednesday 4 November at 6:30 PM when Subterranean Books will be hosting a launch party for my new book, Proverbial Beauty: Secrets for Success and Happiness from the Wisdom of the Ages.  There will be a reading, Q & A, and a book signing.

6275 Delmar Blvd, in the Loop

I hope to see you there, and bring a friend!

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The Real Rainbow Coalition

rainbow_wallpaperI can always count on my friend Daniel Jacobsen to pose simple questions with complicated answers.  Whenever I see him coming at me with that look in his eye, I know my brain is in for some heavy lifting.

This time was no exception.  “I’ve been wondering about the rainbow,” he began.  Here we go, I thought.  And I was right.

“Why did God choose something so beautiful as a symbol of destruction?”

Much has been made of the shape of the rainbow:  even as the Almighty points the arrows of divine wrath away from us, it is only His promise to Noah that protects us from the natural consequences of our own moral corruption.

But what do the colors and the beauty of the rainbow signify?  Here was another simple question that had never occurred to me.  I told Daniel that I’d have to get back to him.

What is a rainbow but the refraction of white light into a multitude of colored bands?  Like the air we breathe and the water we drink, we take white light for granted; by doing so, we fail to appreciate the very blessings that are most essential to our existence.  Indeed, as Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato observes in the introduction to his ethical classic Mesillas Yesharim, those things that are most obvious to us are the things most easily forgotten.

Only when moisture in the air disperses photons into a spectrum of color do we stop and marvel at the beauty of light.

In the same way, the unity of the Almighty that we declare daily when we recite Hashem echad is far too abstract a concept to guide us as we seek to infuse Godliness into our lives.  We therefore partition the Divine “white light” of the Creator through the prism of human comprehension into 13 individual descriptive qualities on which we can focus one at a time.

When we do so, the primordial beauty of God’s indivisibility manifests in a rainbow of separate middos, or characteristics.  Individually, they represent our journey; collectively, they represent our goal.

Now let’s apply the same principle to the Jewish nation as a whole.

An old joke tells of the Jew who proclaims his love for the Jewish people but denounces Steinberg as a cheapskate, Lebowitz as a crook, and Schneiderman as a nogoodnick.  The sad reality, however, is that too often it isn’t a joke.

Read the whole article here.

 

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Why are you missing out?

What does the bar-headed goose have to teach us about striking spiritual balance in our lives?  Is the separation of church and state really as fundamental to the constitution as everyone thinks it is?  When is stress really a good thing?

If you’ve been following my new blog, you know the answers.

imagesBut for some reason, the majority of you who follow this blog have not switched over to my main blog yonasongoldson.com.

If you’ve enjoyed my articles up to now, why miss out by not updating your subscription?  Just click on the link and look for the “follow” button, then add in your email as you did when you began following Torah Ideals.  Alternatively, send me an email and I’ll sign you up myself.  You can reach me at yonasongoldson [at] gmail.com.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

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Spiritual Dialysis and the Biology of Virtue

question_headIn an old stand-up routine, comedian Steve Martin proposed his way to get out of anything with two simple words: I forgot. As in the statement, “I forgot bank robbery is a crime.” Absurdly funny, since we’ve all learned by middle school that ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.

Even those who consider themselves religious are quite capable of rationalizing their way around almost any moral impediment. People whose aversion to murder makes them challenge the morality of capital punishment may be equally passionate in their support for euthanasia, partial-birth abortion, and the “selected non-treatment” of handicapped newborns.

Even the most righteous among us are not immune from moral indiscretion. As the sages taught: Most people are guilty of theft; a few are guilty of sexual immorality; and everyone is guilty of loshon hara (malicious gossip).

So what makes some of us more moral than others? Is moral conduct simply the absorption of cultural values or submission to some doctrinal code? Are we nothing more than products of our environment, or is there some moral imperative programmed into the human psyche that we can channel through sheer force of will? Why is the path of virtue often so hard to find and why, even in moments of moral clarity, do we experience such dissonance between our minds and our hearts?

Click here to read the whole article.

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The True Rewards of Giving

12012228_f520Would most people rather save one person or save the world? The answer might surprise you.

University of Oregon psychologist Paul Slovic asked subjects for donations to save a little girl from starvation. To one group he gave no other information; to the other group he added that this girl was one of millions of other starving people. Logically, that extra bit of information should make no difference, since the girl being saved is the same.

But as one of my mentors likes to say, human beings are psychological and not logical creatures. Case in point: subjects in the second group donated about half as much money as those in the first group.

Click here to read the whole article.

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