The Sceptic Blog

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The Book of the Film of the Play of the Blog

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And now, in response to overwhelming public indifference, I am delighted to announce the Book of the Blog.

WHAT IF GOD’S A CHRISTIAN?

An annotated compilation of blog posts from The Sceptic Blog, an orthodox but sceptical Jewish view of the world.

For many people, organised religion creates or contributes to the world’s most significant problems today, and causes or foments division, mistrust and hatred.  But most people for whom religion is important would like it to be part of the solution, and not the world’s biggest problem.  What if God’s A Christian? provides reactions to a wide range of events and issues (including a mini-series on business ethics) from an orthodox but sceptical Jewish perspective, in an attempt to demonstrate that a religious approach can contribute ideas that people of other religions, or no religion, may find interesting and even helpful.

Available from Amazon.

HOW TO ORDER DIRECT

  1. Send £10 (includes UK postage) cheque or cash to Daniel Greenberg Limited, 74 North End Road, London NW11 7SY. Include address for delivery.
  2. Email daniel@danielgreenberg.co.uk including address for delivery, and I’ll reply with bank details to transfer £10 to (includes UK postage).
  3. For overseas orders please enquire postage cost by email before placing order.

 

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Written by Daniel Greenberg

November 1, 2017 at 10:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Rabbi Dweck, Rabbi Bassous and Homosexuality

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  1. Rabbi Dweck is an enormously charismatic personality and he clearly cares very deeply about the Jewish community, particularly those who are finding it increasingly hard to straddle the two worlds of orthodox Judaism and the modern secular world.  He got a bit carried away at one point in a shiur when he used certain phrases, which he has since publicly modified or retracted.  And personally I think he is suggesting detaching a particular biblical prohibition from other aspects of an accompanying lifestyle in a way that runs contrary to the traditional halachic approach of surrounding prohibitions with fences, the laws of yichud being perhaps the most relevant example in this general area.
  2. Rabbi Bassous is one of the rabbis who has given a public lecture denouncing Rabbi Dweck – I listened to his lecture on YouTube and personally I found the tone much more repellent than the tone of anything that Rabbi Dweck said; it seemed to me to be a piece of rabble-rousing in the best traditions of religious bigotry and intolerance, and did nothing to help heal wounds or advance understanding.
  3. Most of the reaction to Rabbi Dweck has been to play the man and not the ball: rather than focusing on the subject of homosexuality, the controversy has turned into a general tirade against his general approach.  (He is, as I say, burdened with enormous charm and charisma, both serious handicaps for a religious leader that make it very difficult to avoid saying the occasional daft thing – and which inevitably attract the envy of less effective leaders.)
  4. Homosexuality and other gender issues are among the most pressing issues confronting young Jews today.  The modern world is readjusting at such an enormous pace that it is becoming very difficult to keep up.  Much of halachah is necessarily reflective of culture, and the faster culture is changing around us the more difficult it is to work out what parts of halachah can and must develop to remain reflective of and relevant to the modern world, for those of us who choose to live in it and not to hide from it.
  5. Unless religious leaders openly and regularly confront the substance of gender issues, the Jewish orthodox community will necessarily be left behind by the pace of change, and a generation of young Jews risks being alienated, excluded and lost.
  6. I don’t know exactly where we should end up on all this.  Ideally, we would deal with much of the problem by a combination of tolerance and sensitivity on everybody’s part.  If a young male couple come to my shul every week, are known to live together, and address each other affectionately, there is no reason why they should not feel as fully welcomed as part of the community as anyone else, and as fully involved  in the community’s religious and social activities: as Rabbi Dweck says, none of their  behaviour involves a prohibition, and I don’t need to make any assumptions about what they do in their own home and I don’t need to start any witch-hunts.  If they come in wearing gay-pride teeshirts and demand the right to give a shiur about sexual equality and the barbaric nature of certain biblical prohibitions, I will need to explain that I cannot accommodate them within an orthodox Jewish community.  And hopefully whatever we do will be done sensitively and in a way that expresses love of humanity rather than smug self-appreciation of our own supposed holiness.
  7. So discretion and tolerance could get us a long way: but I fear things may have got beyond the point at which either “side” will be content with that.

Written by Daniel Greenberg

June 25, 2017 at 10:06 am

Another Rabbi goes to prison – no news there …

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  1. The really depressing thing about the reports that former Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger is to plead guilty to corruption charges in a plea bargain is how completely un-shocking the reports are.
  2. I don’t suppose anybody is surprised that an Israeli Chief Rabbi was prepared to take bribes.
  3. How shocking is it that it’s no longer shocking?
  4. Never mind – let’s just keep repeating the mantra Mi K’Amcho Yisroel and not worry about the real world …
  5. Sometimes it seems that almost every large Jewish religious institution around the world is beset by scandals of corruption and abuse.
  6. Perhaps that means that individual Jews need to become completely self-reliant for recognising and applying Jewish values in their own daily lives, and cannot expect to get much in the way of reliable guidance from anybody else.
  7. And perhaps that’s no bad thing …

Written by Daniel Greenberg

January 7, 2017 at 10:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Small Claims Beis Din

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  1. A UK Beis Din (rabbinic court) has just announced a new small claims service for claims between £500 and £5000 where both parties choose to use it; the guarantee is that they will “receive a brief, written, binding psak within 72 hours”.
  2. I must be missing something.
  3. It’s great that a Beis Din is promising a swift decision: one of the embarrassing features of the Beis Din system in this country is how long cases are sometimes allowed to drag on.
  4. But what’s that got to do with the value of the claim?
  5. Everybody knows that the complexity of a claim and its value do not necessarily correlate.
  6. In secular courts, there are a number of practical reasons why small claims are provided with a range of faster tracks.
  7. A Beis Din is meant to do one of two things: (a) determine a compromise; or (b) decide the truth of liability.
  8. There is no reason why either of those should be quicker with a “small” claim (and which part of the community is the Beis Din prioritising if it considers £5,000 a “small” claim?).
  9. The speed of the resolution should be determined by the complexity of the case, not its value.
  10. Instead of offering a service that equates complexity with value and thereby inevitably risks giving decisions that are poorly thought out in order to meet an artificial 72-hour deadline, all Botei Din should concentrate on treating all cases as urgent, and providing answers as quickly as is consistent with the search for Torah justice.
  11. If the parties don’t care whether a decision is right or wrong but just want it quickly because the claim isn’t big enough to matter much to either of them, they’d do better tossing a coin.

Written by Daniel Greenberg

January 7, 2017 at 10:04 pm

Copyright and Copywrong

with 5 comments

  1. I sat in a shiur a few weeks ago given by a rising star presently learning for a dayonus semichah (ordination as a judge of Jewish civil law) in a prestigious institution in America.
  2. The handout included a diagram which he mentioned he had copied from a particular contemporary edition of a standard Jewish work.
  3. After the shiur I suggested that he should add to the handout the details of the permission given by the copyright owner for the reproduction, in order to avoid the prohibition of ma’aris ho’ayin (creating reasonable suspicion that he might have behaved improperly).  He beamingly replied that this was why he had mentioned that he had copied the diagram, because that made it okay.
  4. I had to explain that telling people where you’ve copied from doesn’t make the copying lawful: any more than it becomes lawful for me to steal money from your pocket just because I tell the shopkeeper where I pinched it from when I spend it.
  5. He thanked me politely, but I’m not sure he was convinced.
  6. And he is going to be a dayan …
  7. (Even if they hadn’t got around on the course to learning about intellectual property, you would hope that they would enter the course with enough common sense to work out for themselves that just saying where you got something doesn’t make it yours.)
  8. It’s about time that everyone got the message that any shiur handout sheet that contains a reproduction from any work that is likely to be under copyright protection anywhere in the world should be treated like poison and avoided unless it clearly states that permission was sought and obtained, and recites compliance with any conditions.
  9. (Anyone who thinks that so long as it’s only a few pages nobody will care is wrong: a few years ago Rabbi Cooper ztz’l asked me to make a few copies of the Terumah and Ma’ser Brochos from the Artscroll Siddur – I contacted Artscroll and although I only wanted to make a few copies for non-commercial use they were rightly careful to inquire into the precise circumstances, and they kindly gave their permission on specified conditions.)
  10. Tzion b’mishpot tipodeh – which roughly translates as “Until we bring up our youngsters with a reasonably instinctive understanding of right and wrong, and an appreciation of the difference between meum and tuum, we might as well save ourselves the trouble of praying beseechingly and endearingly for Moschiach to come.”

Written by Daniel Greenberg

January 3, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Carlebach Minyanim and Nigunim

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  1. This has been worrying me for a while.
  2. Shlomo Carlebach wrote wonderful tunes that without doubt help people to make their prayer and song spiritually richer.
  3. But some people say he also behaved inappropriately: there are allegations of sexual abuse of minors and of other sexually inappropriate behaviour.
  4. These allegations are anecdotal and appear online in a few places: so far as I can discover, during his lifetime he was never charged formally with any offence.
  5. There may be something in these allegations; and there may be nothing in them.
  6. So – “innocent until proved guilty” and sing on?
  7. I’m not sure it’s so simple.
  8. If I were a victim of sexual abuse by Carlebach, how would I feel every time I saw another Carlebach Minyan starting up?  And how would I feel every time one of his songs was started up to turn a service into a rousing chorus?
  9. I would feel neglected by a community that seemingly doesn’t care whether or not I was abused.
  10. Having thought about it for a while and investigated a little bit online, it seems to me that the allegations are sufficiently serious to need some kind of investigation (the only investigation I have seen mentioned online does not seem to me to have been sufficient).  The international Jewish community should find a way of setting up a credible investigation into the allegations, followed by a report (difficult, but not impossible – there are some precedents we could draw on).  That report would either conclude that it is beyond reasonable doubt that Carlebach behaved improperly; or that there is no credible evidence that he behaved improperly; or that there is some credible evidence, but insufficient to be sure either way.
  11. After that, individuals could make up their own mind about what that meant for their own attitude to his music.
  12. But until then, the only message we are giving is that we don’t really care.  To embroider a theme from Blowing In The Wind, if we have sufficient ears to hear the beauty of Carlebach’s music, we should have an equal ability and desire to listen to the cries of those who claim to have been abused by him.

Written by Daniel Greenberg

December 27, 2016 at 8:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Clarifying Jewish Orthodoxy by Disowning Murderers and Paedophiles

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1.  The vicious and depraved lunatic Yishai Schlissel who murdered a marcher on the Gay Pride event in Jerusalem is described in the press – not unreasonably given his appearances and pretensions – as “an ultra-Orthodox Jew”.

2.  The chillingly sane child-abuser Todros Grynhaus is similarly described for similar reasons.

3.  Grynhaus’ Counsel told the judge in court that “Part of the punishment for this man is of course the shame and exposure and social ostracisation within his own community”.

4.  So far, that is, of course, unhappily not true.  The only people who have been shamed, exposed and ostracised are the victims.

5.  Orthodox Judaism needs to act fast and decisively.  Unless we all act together both to proclaim that violence and abuse are incompatible with orthodox Jewish observance and show by the community’s actions that knowledge, zeal and money will not be reasons to acknowledge murderers and paedophiles as part of our community, then we will be rightly tainted as a community in the eyes of the world.

6.  Community is about membership with rules.  If the rules of the Jewish orthodox community are not effective to protect the vulnerable and to enforce basic standards of human decency, it will no longer be morally tolerable to be seen to identify with it.

Written by Daniel Greenberg

August 2, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized