Sunday, October 30, 2016

Questions about בראשית

Over the next few weeks I am going to post some of my questions about the Parsha. Note, as I have done in the past I am going to be focusing on internal questions not external questions.

My big question this week is how did Adam sin with the עץ הדעת if before eating from it he had no free will? How can a creature with no free will sin? The Rishonim (Ramban, Rambam, Rabenu Bechaye) give IMHO unconvincing answers. The Ramban and Rabenu Bechaye write that man was like a מלאך before the חטא and even so he sinned just like מלאכים sometimes do bad things. WADR, that makes little to no sense. If you have no free will then how can you choose to sin? One answer given by the Nefesh Hachaim is that before he ate from the עץ הדעת the yetzer hara was external. He had perfect clarity as to what was good and what was evil. After the חטא the yezter hara became part of man and now the yetzer hara can convince us/trick us into thinking good is bad and bad is good. The problem is that if he had perfect clarity why did he sin?

Additionally, we can ask that if man was like a מלאך with no free will then what was the point of creation? Hashem already had מלאכים why did he need man?

In truth the whole story makes very little sense. Chazal say that if Adam hadn't sinned and had made it until Shabbos the world would have fulfilled it's mission. and none of us would be here. Lets think about that. God creates the world with a certain outcome in mind and then Adam sins and upsets the applecart and everything changes from a to z. The world becomes a completely different place with new challenges and a new way of life. Why would an omniscient God do that? Why would he create a world one way and a few hours after the creation of man change the whole world? If God knew that man was going to sin why not just create the world that way? The same applies to the Mabul, why create the world and destroy it a thousand years later? Why not just start from Noach?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The past few weeks were really tough

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur this year were very very hard. On one hand, as everyone reading this knows, I have become a skeptic and have serious doubts about Judaism. Therefore the whole idea of Rosh Hashana being the Yom Hadin and God judging everyone is hard to believe. [In fact, the Gemara has no source for Rosh Hashana being the Yom Hadin, the Ran says that Adam was created, sinned and judged on Rosh Hashana so therefore it became the Yom Hadin for mankind and Adam passed that bit of information along. Since it is patently clear that the creation story can't be taken literally then the Ran's explanation is completely untenable. Rosh Hashana seems to me a good example of the evolution of Judaism where the holiday evolved over the years into what it is now. ] On the other hand, it is hard not to get swept up at least partially in the atmosphere when everyone around you including your wife and older kids takes it very seriously and you spend 7 hours in shul on Rosh Hashana and 11 hours in Shul on Yom Kippur. As I davened on both RH and YK I felt very strange, I said the words but in the back of my mind a little voice was screaming, you don't believe this. You don't believe that God runs the world, you don't believe that God punishes people for their sins, you don't believe that the sins that you are beating your chest for are really sins...

Succos got a little easier as I enjoy building a succa and I took the pain free alternative in buying my 4 minim, I bought a closed box set that was supposed to be mehudar.

I have always hated Simchas Torah even when I was a true believer and learned 10-12 hours a days. I am by nature an intellectual and have never been able to really let go, dance like a maniac etc. The dancing on Simchas Torah never really gave me any pleasure, I would much rather have heard a good severa. This year, it grated on me even more because of my scepticism. For one of the hakafos they sang the song טוב לי תורת פיך מאלפי זהב וכסף which means that Torah is better then 1000 pieces of gold and silver. This year that song drove me crazy. Torah is intellectually interesting but is it worth more then other knowledge? No. It hammered home the point that the Litvishe world today doesn't actually worship God but worships the Torah, and not the written Torah but the תורה שבעל פה that is so clearly man made. The Rav of the shul gave a speech stating that the way to understand God is to learn his Torah, that Torah gives us insight into God. IMHO that is absolutely silly. Learning about שור שנגח את הפרה teaches us about God? If so, then God is not very godlike.

In short, I found it really hard to participate in the activities of RH, YTK, ST while realising/believing that none of is it it true.

I would love to know how everyone else (who is in the closet) deals with this conundrum.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Why does the Gemara give outlandish explanations for Mishnayos?

Anyone who learns Gemara knows that many times the Gemara has a question on a Mishna and answers by saying the Mishna is talking about a ridiculous corner case. I am learning Daf Yomi and 2 days ago I came across a perfect example of this which I would like to share.

The Mishna (Bava Metzia 12a) states:
מציאת עבדו ושפחתו העבריים ... הרי אלו שלהן
A Jewish slave who finds a lost object is entitled to keep it

The Gemara on 12b asks from a Baraisa which states that a worker who finds a lost object, the object belongs to the employer. The Gemara asks, if a worker who finds an object must give it to the employer certainly a slave must give it to the owner (as the owner is at least equivalent to an employer). The Gemara gives a number of answers:

  1. R' Yochanan says that the Mishna is talking about a slave who works with precious stones and therefore the owner doesn't want him to pick up lost objects because the slaves work time is so valuable. Therefore, the slave can keep the lost object and needs to pay the owner for his lost time. 
  2. R' Papa says that the Baraisa is talking about a worker who was hired to pick up lost objects.
WADR, there is no way that the Mishna wrote a general statement like מציאת עבדו ושפחתו העבריים and meant only a slave who works with precious stones and the Baraisa wrote מציאת פועל goes to the employer and meant only a worker who was hired to pick up lost objects.

Did the Amoraim really believe that these answers are what the Tannaim meant? Or did they not care about the historical truth and simply were looking for a logical answer to their questions? 

IMHO the Mishnayos are meant to be interpreted simply as they read and contradictions are simply that contradictions. When you are dealing with a work that was complied from a whole bunch of oral traditions, the fact that there are contradictions shouldn't surprise anyone. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Why are so many babies being forgotten in cars and dying?

R' Chaim Kanievsky is reported as answering as follows:

הסיבה לצרה כזו, היות ויש בשנים האחרונות הרבה פושעים ביננו, לכן באה כזה צרה לעורר אותנו לבער את הרע מקרבנו, ולשוב אל ה

The reason for these tragedies is that since in the last few years we have so many sinners among us these tragedies are coming to wake us up tid ourselves of the evil within the community and to return to Hashem

Really??? God is killing innocent babies so that the we should rid the community of sinners? Why not just kill the sinners? 

It is beyond me how anyone can think that they know why an omniscient and omnipotent God is doing anything.