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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘each’

Rationality, Not Rational

Friday, August 9th, 2013

“V’zeh yihiye mishpat haKohanim me’et ham me’et zivchei hazevach im shor im seh vnatan l’Kohen hazroah zerah v’halechaim v’hakevah.

The most frustrating conversations are with those with whom we have deep fundamental disagreements. If conducted in the right spirit, without personal animus and with sincere dedication to the pursuit of truth, they can be very rewarding. When we surround ourselves only with those who see things exactly as we do, we limit our growth. When we surround ourselves only with those with whom we have fundamental disagreements, we never get past the same discussions. We need a balance between the two.

I have a dear friend, a moral philosopher who is a Torah observant Jew. Our fundamental disagreement, one which we can never get past, concerns the relationship between God’s Law and God’s morality. Because the answers to such momentous questions lie at the heart of one’s hashkafa, we need to explore them periodically, testing the current state of our thinking for validity and coherence.  Parshat Shoftim gives us such an opportunity.

After stipulating that the Kohanim receive Divine gifts in place of a tribal portion of the land, the Torah enumerates the Matnat Kehuna. When the meat is slaughtered for consumption, they receive the right shoulder, the two bones of the lower cheek, and the stomach or gullet. The Ramban contrasts the midrashic reading on the significance of these body parts to that of the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim. The former identifies each of the body parts with a feature of the zealous act of Pinchas. The right shoulder representing the shoulder with which Pinchas took the spear in his hand, the cheek bones representing the prayers he verbalized, and the stomach representing the organs of his victims, penetrated by his spear. In other words, the Matnat Kehuna are not a sinecure for the Kohanim but a reward for the acts of their ancestor. In Moreh Nevuchuim, however, the Rambam offers a more direct explanation: each of these organs is the most select of the animal’s body parts, the shoulder being the most select of the extremities, the stomach of its innards, etc. The Matnat Kehuna represent then the recognition that the best goes to God, in this case through the Kohanim who have been designated to serve Him.

This is not the only such explanation that the Rambam proposes. In Chelek Gimmel we find a broad selection of other mitzvot for which he offers rational bases. There is no question that the Rambam maintained that the mitzvot each convey a benefit upon Am Yisrael. At the same time, Jewish law retains its positivist basis for observance since these benefits are not the rationale for observance. The Rambam makes an important move that allows him to accommodate within his approach both the inherent rationality of the Law with its positivist basis for observance: the general outline of a particular precept is rational while its details need not be. In Chapter 26 (Pines translation):

“The generalities of the commandments necessarily have a cause and have been given because of a certain utility; their details are that in regard to which it was said of the commandments that they were given merely for the sake of commanding something.”

The Rambam cites shechitah as his prime example. As he elaborates in Chapter 48, the general mitzvah of shechitah is intended to allow the people to have the good food they require while protecting the animals they slaughter from a painful death. The general mitzvah then exhibits a rational purpose intended to benefit the people. The details, however, e.g., the particular simanim which must be cut, are “imposed with a view to purifying the people.” The Rambam is referring to a passage in Berashis Rabbah cited earlier that asks what difference should it make to Hakadosh Baruch Hu if animals are slaughtered by cutting their neck in front or in back? The Midrash answers: Say therefore that the commandments were only given in order to purify the people.”

The diyuk in the Midrash is clear: “What difference do the details make to Hakadosh Baruch Hu? Say therefore that the [details of the] commandments were only given in order to purify the people.” The Rambam can therefore conceive of a functionalist law with a positivist rationale for observance. The generalities of the Law are rational; the details of the Law are positivist in nature. The fact that the Torah exhibits an interior rationality does not preclude an absolute mandate for observance. By asserting that the details serve the purpose of requiring commitment to law independent of rational understanding, the Rambam puts the halachic system firmly on a positivist footing.

When the Rambam declares the Torah a reflection of the rational Mind of God, he does not mean to assert that it has lost its essential character as commandment. Those who interpret Jewish law as a set of social policy prescriptions miss the distinction between rationality and rationale. This confusion plagued the Wissenschaft des Judentums movement, leading those who saw Jewish legal sources as rational responses within a historical context to deny their binding nature. Similarly, those who cast Torah entirely as positivist decree may be victims of the same delusion, denying rationality in order to preserve rationale.

Jewish ‘Leading Mayoral Candidate’ Needs your Help to Get on Ballot

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The following is an email sent by NYC mayoral candidate  Ceceilia Berkowitz sent last night to her (handful of) supporters, pleading for help in the remaining days left to get on the ballot for an independent run for mayor:

Hi Friends, Colleagues, Neighbors, Friends, and Citizens,

As a leading 2013 Mayoral Candidate in New York City, I wanted to share with each of you the Youtube.com video of a Mayoral Forum I attended at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York City on June 30th.



I wanted to show my commitment to the Arts & Culture, my strong and sophisticated and well-educated political views, and how important it is for New York City and its stakeholders (each one of you) for me to get on the ballot for our November election.

The only requirement to be on the ballot is to obtain 3,750 signatures via a signature drive. Some of you have seen in the news that Elliot Spitzer did a last minute signature drive. This costs anywhere between $20,000 and $500,000 if professionally done.

It can also be done with volunteers. At St. Peter’s University today, I met with Former Mayor of Bayonne Joseph Doria, who said he knew my father Dr. Berkowitz, from his business in Bayonne. He advised me to gather over 100 signature gatherers for shifts between now and August 12th, in order to secure our position on the ballot. We also need volunteers who can assist us with recruiting more petitioners, and others who are interested in this management and leadership building activity.

It is truly a privilege to have such a dedicated, talented, and sophisticated list of friends and contacts. I hope some of you can assist us with this, whether you are part of churches, synagogues, clubs, associations, universities, or other organizations in the NYC Metro area and beyond.

Would you be able to help me out with the signature drive, just to get the 3, 750 signatures to get on the ballot? If so, I copied my political strategy firm, Nino at Savi Political Consulting who flew in from Washington, DC to help me with this election.

I have had reoccurring severely sprained ankles from a previous injury at work in late 2010, so I cannot get all the required signatures on foot myself. In addition, I was robbed by my first fundraising firm, Apa Firm and Anastasia Apa, which the NYPD police told me was considered larceny, so I could not raise enough money afterwords.

Due to City Hall scheduling processes at 100 Gold St., I could not yet get an appointment yet from my good friend for almost two years, Mayor Bloomberg, to potentially borrow or receive enough funding for a signature drive. My credit also was stolen at work in 2006 and this identity theft was already proven in court with an affidavit -I hired some credit repair firms in Staten Island, and it will take one year to fix.

So since I have been a victim of theft and robbery, perhaps I could ask you all to assist me with a signature drive? I can perhaps give you all some compensation in pay expenses / prizes.

I think it would be great for NYC to have a younger, up and coming mayor, as they do in other cities and in Jersey City.

I just met at St. Peter’s Univ., where I taught MBA Finance this summer Mayor Doria of Bayonne and Dean of Education / former Director of HR, and he suggested to ask community groups to assist.

I also took on and hired (for pay in the future, assuming it is possible), Laurens Hunt, who is a long time member of your club and Now NYC, and who is vested in Hudson County Jersey City government with over 10 years of work experience and a graduate degree.

So we have a good and up and coming team, and NYC may need us this November if we can get on the ballot.

I am asking each of you to help do your part to email me and let me know how you can assist with recruiting signature gatherers. If you are too busy to help, perhaps you can donate $10 online to our political campaign, which will enable us to pay for commuting expenses for our volunteers who may have to work long shifts in the next week.

Also, if any of you is interested in cosigning a loan, and I can negotiate the terms and why it is good for you, please contact me.

 

Right now, we are most looking for team building activities with people of good leadership skills, interns and volunteers to help with signature gathering, and finance interns and employees who want to fundraise for some pay.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jewish-leading-mayoral-candidate-needs-your-help-to-get-on-ballot/2013/08/08/

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