Some of My thoughts

  1. Origin of Cooking Food: Originally people ate freshly killed animals which were still warm from the natural warmth of the live body. Leftover meat was eaten cold days later. This was less tasty. Later, people came upon the idea of heating the food up to make it more like fresh killed. As a byproduct the food got cooked. Then people just got used to eating their food like this all the time, cooked.
  2. Origin of Priesthood (not specifically Jewish priesthood): When a beast was hunted and killed, the tribe rejoiced and shared the meat, not letting it sit around to rot. When cattle were raised for slaughter the problem was that without refrigeration, the meat needed to be eaten quickly. So it would have been likewise distributed among all the tribe. Killing a cow produces a lot of meat. If two men of the tribe would kill a cow on the same day it would be a tragedy since much of the meat would rot. Therefore the slaughter needed to be coordinated to prevent redundant killings. (Even once salting was developed, it would produce inferior meat to fresh meat so there would still be an impetus to coordinate slaughterings.)

    The role of coordinator was called the butcher. All private slaughtering was prohibited and only the butcher was allowed to slaughter. This prevented excess slaughtering. This role was gradually invested with more and more importance. In fact is became a sacred job and anyone slaughtering privately was deemed a violator of the religious law and a offender to God. To further discourage the common people from slaughtering on their own, the task of slaughtering became more complex involving certain parts being burnt for God and blood being sprinkled. The butcher, or priest as he would have been called by this point, was given a share of the meat for his own consumption. Thus it was sealed that no layman would slaughter his own animal if he feared God in the least. He would have to bring his animal to the priest and only then get his share. To do otherwise would be stealing from God his portion and from the priests their portions.

    As the tribe became a nation, it became less important to centralize the slaughter since there were so many people. Thus non-holy slaughter was permitted. But the priestly role and rite persisted.

  3. Similarity between the Philosophy of Maimonides and Christianity: Judaism is often typified as an actions emphasizing religion. Salvation comes through doing mitzvot (good deeds) in this world. Christianity, on the other hand, is typified in general as believing that faith in the Saviour is what brings salvation. As such, Christianity is gnostic, believing that salvation comes via an intellectual achievement and closeness to G-d, not necessarily via actions in this world. Maimonides, surprisingly, actually emphasizes the same idea. For Maimonides the mitzvot are simply designed to create a perfect society to enable man (the philosopher) to perfect his intellect and to draw close to G-d. It is this intellectual closeness which is the criterion for salvation, not how many good deeds a person has done. (See Maimonides' explanation of Job's suffering.) In Maimonides' words "Providence is in accord with the intellect of the individual." I think it is fair to equate Maimonides' "providence" with salvation, since both amount to having eternal life of some sort. Maimonides' salvation, then, is actually based on one's intellectual achievements and not on one's good deeds in this world. It is no surprise that gnostic Christians like Aquinas saw in Maimonides a kindred spirit.
  4. Hassidut: Havdala (See what it is), Hachna'a (control Yetzer) , Hamtaka (Tzadik - use the good from the bad), Hashmal (quiet) cut apart the bad, in relation to self hashmal is quietness.
  5. It is odd that Maimonides, one of the very controversial thinkers within Judaism, should be the one to codify and decide what are the 13 beliefs that one must have to be orthodox. Shouldn't he have preferred to leave the issue open to opinion? But as the person who expressed such striking and sharp views, and controversial ones, he more than anyone had the need to clarify what views are acceptable and unacceptable. He was accused of having wrong views, so to defend himself he needed to explain what in reality are the acceptable views. He defined that belief in resurrection is required, but belief in human free will is not required (though he did believe in it). He also defined what is olam haba and gan eden. Once these are defined convincingly, he is then free to express whatever views he likes about issues which are not essential to belief. He is then free from attacks that he is unorthodox in these areas since these areas have been decided to be open ground for debate. When all the opinions and theories are mixed up then one can be attacked from almost any source. The conservative thinker will attack any idea that he thinks sounds different from one of the myriad sources in Judaism. It is precisely the person who does not come close to the edge of Epicurusness who can leave the definitions of what an Epicurus is open. But if one want to draw near that demarcation, one had better define clearly where it is. So Maimonides in coming close to Epicurus views had to define what is an Epicurus, and so define himself on the right side of that definition.
  6. Gabriel pointed out that Maimonides also did not count belief in creation ex nihilo in the 13 beliefs, though this seems to be important. In the Guide he claims in fact that one is permitted to believe in creation from pre-existent matter. Gabriel points out that Ikar 4 is that G-d is first and last. If he is first then the world can't be before him and so can't be eternal. I think this Ikar means he is first in the the sense primary not in sequence. This distinction is pointed out in the beginning of the Guide.
  7. Gabriel also pointed out that Yosef Albo's division of Maimonides' 13 beliefs into 3 can actually be found in the Guide itself. I forget the details.
  8. --draft-- What was the state of Adam before the Sin, after the Sin and what was the Sin? Rambam asks, How could it be wrong to eat of the tree before knowing what wrong is? How could he be punished? ( Maimonides implicitly asks this question when he writes that since Adam was punished it must have been wrong. This is not the same as the question of the fool that Maimonides deals with.) Some say that Maimonides answer is that it was not wrong per se but that it was false. But what does false mean then? Contrary to G-d's will, well isn't that what we mean by wrong? The correct answer is that he was not punished so much as made to suffer the consequences of his actions. Or to put it better, he did not really do any action at all. The story is meant to describe the necessary state of man in this physical world. Had man been an angel he would not need to know good and bad since good and bad are man-made, relative concepts which only exist in the physical world. They refer to what Maimonides calls mefursamot, generally accepted views, but not to absolute concepts. Had man remained in the ivory towers of pure reason he would not deal with matters of mefursamot, but he would then be an angel. In being a physical man he is required to "waste time" with the relative concepts of good and evil. So the question is why didn't G-d create man as angels? And the answer is that being a human being means to be in the physical world and deal with mefursamot. And actually, g-d did create angels also. From Gabriel.
  9. Examples of mefursamot: a rock is bad to eat, a cooked potato is good to eat. Wearing clothing is good to do. Is it good for a plant to do photosynthesis? Or is that True? Is conforming to ones nature good or true? The world of action only exists if we have good and bad, if we have no good and bad we also have no world. In this worldless world we can only talk of pure reason like mathematics. So any question dealing with the nature of existent bodies must be a question of good and bad and mefursamot. (Is this logical?)
  10. Statistics are Lies.
    There are lies and vicious lies (sounds better than damn lies) but the worst are statistics. Almost every study I hear proves some fact and then draws conclusions which are only possible but not necessary. I need some examples.
    1. 3 oddities of genealogy
    2. Assimilation does not reduce the number of Jews in the world. If there is a Jewish man and woman. If they marry and have 4 children, then the new generation has 4 Jews. If they marry Gentiles and also each have 4 children, then the children of the man are Gentiles but the children of the woman are Jewish. Thus the next generation has also 4 Jews. The same holds true for the next generation and so on. You might argue that the children of the couple with only the mother Jewish will retain their Jewish self-identification better. But I am talking about who is a Jew not who self-identifies as a Jew.
    3. You have over a billion ancestors. You have four grandparents, and 8 great grandparents . If you go back 20 generations you have 220 ancestors. There weren't that many people in the world back then. There must have been a lot of overlap. But it is quite likely that we are all related to King David and to Rashi.
    4. If there were 600,000 Israelites who left Egypt and only four cohanim, then today if there are 10 times that number of Jews (in Israel) there should be about 40 cohanim. Alternatively, if there are about 20,000 cohanim today then to keep the proportions the same as at the exodus, there would have to be 5,000 x 600,000 or about 3,000,000,000 Jewish males over 20 years old today (perhaps some are so assimilated they don't know they are Jewish). If you double the number to include the women then the entire world population is Jewish. Or a lot of Jews were killed through the ages.
  11. Were the ten lost tribes lost or just mixed in with the other tribes? If they were mixed up with Gentiles, then the Huns probably had a lot of Jews amongst them. So when they conquered Europe, the Jews actually spread to Europe.
  12. If there are only 5 tastes (our tongues have receptors for sour, sweet, bitter, salty and the new one meaty) how is it that we can distinguish so many tastes? Some people think we distinguish the different relative amounts of these tastes in any one food. This is not correct. We can distinguish something like three thousand smells. What we think of as different tastes is really our noses working and distinguishing different smells. Hold your nose hard and drink apple juice and then cherry juice. Can you taste a difference?
  13. Problems with Statistics:
    1. They are only informative about the test pool, not the general population.
    2. Medical statistics tell you odds, but you may be genetically or otherwise like the minority.
    3. In general, statistics express something about a group by use of specific examples from that group. But those examples need to be examined on their own. For example, if I show that most traffic fatalities are pedestrians. But if all those pedestrians are old or children, then I should not conclude that street walking is dangerous for youthful people. Unfortunately, publishers of statistics like these don't tell you this kind of detail.
    4. A regression analysis can be done on a million factors, then if one of the factors happens to show a correlation, you can write a paper. But this is just pure chance. Any sample will have correlations if you test enough factors.
  14. There can't be a military revolution in Israel because there are few career soldiers. In their 3 years of service, most soldiers have no time to develop strong allegiances to their generals.
  15. Society has changed from valuing people with knowledge. The Internet has cause a democratization of knowledge. And blogging and Wikipedias may lead to a further relativism of truth.
  16. The Arizal says we bless Haman on Purim to get his holiness, to extract it and use it for G-d. But we must do this in drunkenness so the blessing shouldn't be too pure a blessing.
  17. Nadadah sheinat hamelech means that until that point, G-d had been asleep, so to speak.
  18. At first Adam and Eve were connected as one being. In eyov it is written "miBasari echezeh Elokah" This means that we can learn about G-d's "limbs" by examining our own. [ It also means that when we do things in the lower world, it affects G-d in the upper world. ] When Adam sleeps , Eve is separated. Building the Temple is giving Eve (the Holy Shchina) its own existence. Shir Hashirim depicts G-d with black hair, thought elsewhere in the Bible (Isaiah) He is depicted with white hair. Adam in Gamatria is 45, and that is the Gamatria of G-d's revealed name. Eve in Gamatria is 19, that is the hidden part of His name. The letter Yood if spelt out is Gamatria 20. Man walks in front of the woman, and when they are connected man leads the back part of the letters. When they are back to back they cannot reproduce. In Bavel , G-d was back to back, He had no Toldoth, offspring. Then the temple was built and the shchina separated, while G-d was sleeping. Then G-d woke up.
  19. Queen Esther finds favor in people's eyes because she finds what is favorable in them.
  20. If you think to call a time-out if your team loses one more point, better to call the time-out now. You have already spotted the trend downward.
  21. Some of the Talmud is LeHalacha, Most of the Talmud is not LeHalacha. Most of the Halacha is not from the Talmud. -ND
  22. (Jan 2010) The name for Egypt in Hebrew is Mitzraim. This name has been understood by various Jewish scholars and Rabbis to come from the word meitzar meaning tight place. Accordingly they have explained the name to mean a narrow place, since that usable land tightly follows the Nile river. Or they have explained it to mean a place where the Israelites were put under tight pressure (i.e. oppressed). But if we look at what the Egyptians themselves called their land we can find a better explanation. Egyptians called there land "the two lands". This derives from the previous existence of two Egyptian kingdoms: one in the north and one in the south. Then a Pharoah in about 2000 BCE united the two into one united kingdom, hence the name, the two lands. In fact, the crown of this and following Pharoahs contained both a snake and a tube shape, the combination of the two previous crowns. So the name Mitzraim is derived from the word for land, Eretz, and means the two or double lands and could be in Hebrew originally Artzayim. The initial letter mem is added either to be derogatory, or is a grammatical form meaning the place of two lands, or simply a malformation.
  23. In our dreams we readily believe all kinds of fantastic events as plausible, things that in real life we would not accept. This occurs because we are processing the day's visual stimuli and ordering them and storing them away in in our long term memories. So we are in absorbing mode, not in observing mode. In observing mode we need to be skeptical, but in absorbing mode we assume any impressions in our mind have already been scrutinized and are valid. Our critical mind is not functioning. The fantastic images and events we come up with are random mismatching ups of various thought and stimuli we encountered during the day. They are a byproduct of the shuffling and filing our mind is doing.
  24. Thackeray threw the thorn through the threshold.(2010)
  25. The silver sliver slithered across the slipper. Who shaved the silver sliver she saved? She shaved the silver sliver she saved and slithered away. (2010)
  26. Kfir kvar hafar kever b'kfar azar.
  27. the happiest people are those who think of the happiness of others.
  28. haheder haNaki haAnchi haAnaki
  29. In my opinion, bunions in your minions keep the pinions from your onions. But unions come to minyans when its near to their dominion. (October 2011)
  30. Who saw the seahorse saw the seesaw she saw on the sawhorse? The straw horse saw the seahorse saw the seesaw on the sawhorse she saw.
  31. Quite Possibly Incorrect Theories:
  32. In Sefer Shmot the command to give a half shekel when being counted is not, as is commonly believed, designed to prevent an "evil eye", but it is a form of membership dues, membership to the Jewish nation. The threat that the sum must be paid or else there will be a plague is not because not paying will cause and evil eye to wreak havoc but is simply a threat to ensure conpliance.
  33. G-d skipped over the homes of the Jewish people in Egypt. This does not mean that in his travels past houses when deciding whom to kill, he did not check to Jews. But it means that he actively danced and skipped above the doorposts. The blood on the door posts is like the blood smeared on the side of the alter in the Temple. We know from the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel that the word pesach describes the dancing behavior of priests after a sacrifice has been given. The Egyptian first born were not spared because they had not performed the sacrificial ritual. As such the story can been seen as a vindication of the need to sacrifice the first born, or in its later form, sacrificing a sheep in the place of the first born. The Egyptian first born death is the result of not fulfilling (and not even knowing about) the need to sacrifice the first born.
  34. Similarly, the Sacrifice of Isaac in its primitive version may have been a tale promoting the sacrifice of the first born. Later it may have been reinterpreted as a story of the legitimacy of substituting an animal for this sacrifice. The Exodus story may have gone through a similar reinterpretation, in which the Hebrew kill a sheep, not their first born, and smear the blood on the doorpost. The whole concept of pidion haben is the later non-sacrificial solution to this same problem. First born of animals are still required to be sacrificed, as are first fruits. In fact, many of the Scriptural leaders were second born, or lesser sons. For example, Abram (second to Nachor), Isaac (second to Ishmael) , Jacob (Esau), Yehuda (Reuven), Ephraim (Menashe),Moshe (Aharon), David (youngest). There seems to be prejudice against first born sons. Or at least a sending of them off the stage. This pattern may have been originated by Cain's failure at being a good first born.
  35. When is ph not a ph? When it's a diphthong. A word with a ph that sounds like p, diphthong.
  36. Recent investigation has shown that Neanderthal man interbred with homosapiens and that we are 5% Neanderthal. It also show that Neanderthal were blue eyed and red haired, and I assume als o covered with hair. This can explain the Esau story. I.e. he was a genetic regression to Neanderthal, having red hair all over his body.
  37. As man became upright, his brain grew in size. The only limiting factor is the space between the female pelvic bones. In fact, sometimes the infant's skull gets compressed during birth. Two parts of the skull may overlap each other so that the head can squeeze out. Women have wider hips to permit the passage of the larger brain size. ( Interestingly, the wider hips put angular stress on the joints and causes a problem for upright walking. If we would go back to all fours, we could have even bigger brains at birth. But the large brains developed precisely because we started to walk and had our hands free to use tools and carry children and objects.) With this in mind, we can understand the Biblical account of eating of the Tree of Knowledge and the punishment given to womankind, pain in childbirth. There is in fact a causal relationship between the two. Our larger brains give us knowledge, but also cause pain and even death during childbirth.
  38. Two verses that can be read differently in the Torah. Ki yad al kes yah (shmot 17:16), kes is unintelligable. It should have the kaf in the word kes changed to the similar letter nun, and be yad al nes yah. Also in Zot Habrach (devarim 33:2), the single word eshdat is read as two words, esh and dat. Not a sensible formulation. Rather read it is mimino asherat lamo. Which was changed for obvious reasons.