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Archive for the ‘Seen on the web’ Category

Saw this on Shaul B’s blog “free thought”.

[Click here to watch, if the video doesn’t show]

Made me think of the old paradoxes connected with free-will, pre-destination, time travel and the like. How far do the consequences go? What would happen if you were to fiddle with natural cause and effect?

More down to earth; how far does your responsibility go to mend the wrongs in the world? Can you at some point just pack your bags and run away? 

In the movie, I see the DJ as scared, even fearing for his sanity if he remains. Others may see him as a coward.

I believe he had two legitimate choices; either to fix everything or to dispair, return reality to its course and walk away. He could not leave the scene half fixed because then others would have suffered from his meddling. Once done he could leave because there is a limit to human capabilities.

A hasid (as a opposed to a zadik) would have stayed and cared for his street corner for the rest of his life.

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An article I saw in Technology Review. A researcher named Michel Maharbiz at the University of California, Berkeley has fitted out giant flower beetles like the one on the right with electrodes and a receiver. He can then fly them from a remote control connected to his laptop.

Dr. Haharbiz is very proud of his creations that he sees as having extensive military as well as hiumanitarian uses. The hardware on each beetle costs a mere $5 using off the shelf components that he grafts onto the creature using his expert knowledge of both biology and engineering to successfully mesh an animal’s nervous system.

I was reminded of Ray Kurzweil’s singularity. where he predicts that humans will become indistiguishable from robots within the next 50 years.

I think that this technological advance raises several ethical issues:

  1. The ability to perform ubiquitous and invisible surveillance has just taken a massive leap. While possible evil uses of a new technology has never been a good reason to prevent research, the possibility that every common fly could be spying on you and sending a constant video feed back to base is rather frightening.
  2. While I support the (controlled) use of animals for vital experimentation an I also eat animals, the idea of wiring and radio-controlling an animal for the advance of technology seems wrong to me. True the beetle has no self-consciousness and rudimentary senses, but all the same it doesn’t sound right.

What do you think?

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    By a series of chances, I happened upon a couple of interesting web pages about the Jewish sites in the town of Ziegenhain, Schwalmstadt in Germany. Ziegenhain is the town where my father’s family came from. We know of two generations of Sterns from Ziegenhain as well as a whole lot of other Sterns from there who are somehow our relations as well. 

    Our earliest Sterns are the couple Abraham (1772-1827) and his wife Keile (1784-1852) Stern who lived there. Their son Salomon (1814-1870?) moved to Frankfurt Am Main and married into the Goldschmidt family who hailed from Eschwege and Oberlistingen (also in the same area) who had also moved to Frankfurt at the same time when Jews were first allowed to live outside the Judengasse.

    I was in Ziegenhain in 1987 and visited the Jewish cemetery there. My brother had been in Ziegenhain previously but had not known of the cemetery. He enquired in the local museum who also didn’t know but they later sent a map by post which I used to find the site. If you want to take a look, it is at [50°55’9.96″N, 9°15’10.28″E]. Anyway it turns out that there is a web page all about the Jewish cemetery (or here translated to English). Looking at the pictures, I remember some of the tombstones and I have pictures of some of them as well. Another picture I have that they don’t show is the stone of Keile Stern my great-great-great-grandmother which reads:

    אשת חיל עקרת
    הבית תפארת
    פעלה מרת
    קיילה אשת
    אברהם שטערן
    נפארה ר”ח אב
    תריב לפק

    While I was looking I also saw the page about the Ziegenhain synagogue (or here translated into bad Google English). This shows photos as well as reconstructions of the interior and some documents related to the community. In an article that the local museum sent to my brother (photocopied from “Die Steuerpflichtigen des Jahres 1840 in den Synagogengemeinden des Kreises Ziegenhain” by Alfred Höck from “Schwälmer Jahrbuch 1978”) is a list of synagogue dues paid in 1840 including by “Abraham Sterns Witwe” – i.e. Keile Stern, but this list isn’t shown in the web page.

    Two action items:

    1. Digitize the photos I took in Ziegenhain, post them here and send them to the “Alemannia Judaica” web site
    2. Scan the article “Die Steuerpflichtigen des Jahres 1840 in den Synagogengemeinden des Kreises Ziegenhain” and do the same.

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    This is a must look. The Brick Testament is a very cool Tanakh (and New Testament) irreverently enacted out in Lego bricks (and not missing the juicy bits either).

    Recommended for believers with a good sense of humor.

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    Rafi G wrote a post yesterday about the latest haredim vs. everyone else fight in Beit Shemesh. The proposal has been made to create a shomrei shabbat section in the Beit Shemesh cemetery. This is something that exists in other places as a way for the Orthodox community to define the the line between “us” and “them” in burial and not allow “them” to be buried amongst “us”.

    Here the action is opposite. They are the newcomers and they want to make sure that “they” won’t be subjected to being buried amongst “us”.

    This has of course caused a small uproar in the local press, though I get the feeling that like most of these issues, it is going way over the heads of the majority of citizens. A columnist – David Louk – wrote an article attacking the proposal on the grounds of its divisiveness and that it is halakhically unnecessary (none of the distinguished rabanim of Beit Shemesh have ever seen the need for it till now). Last week the haredi extremist camp hit back with an equalkly long article explaining that unity is not the be-all and end-all and that the halakha does require it and that they will fight for truth and their rights, etc.

    The whole issue is based on a gemara in Sanhedrin 46 that discusses where and how to bury people who have been executed (harugei beit din). They are not buried in their family plots and  the gemara raises the issue of not burying resha’im together with tzaddikim. Not only that but different levels of executed resha’im need to be buried separately. From here we get to the halakha in the Shulhan Arukh (Yoreh De-ah kuf-tzadi-tet) that:

    אין קוברים רשע אצל צדיק, שנאמר אל תאסוף עם חטאים נפשי. ואפילו רשע חמור אצל רשע קל, אין קוברים. וכן אין קוברין צדיק ובל שכן בינוני וכשר אצל חסיד מופלג.

    Incidentally, if this leaves you feeling uncomfortable the Arukh HaShulhan (Yoreh De’ah shin-samekh-bet) says:

    ואין קוברין רשע אצל צדיק, אפילו רשע חמור אצל רשע קל. וכן אין קוברין צדיק, וכל שכן בינוני, אצל חסיד מופלג. אבל קוברים בעל תשובה אצל צדיק גמור.

    Seeing as someone may have had hirhurei teshuva before he died and would therefore be considered a baal teshuva (Gemara Kidushin 49b) that solves that one (assuming you want to solve it).

    And what of “ameich kulam tzaddikim“? and what of koneh olamo be-shaah achat, and what will be of the tzaddikim nistarim?

    The problem is not one of unity but of hillul hashem. It is one of people coming with a message of uncompromising division, judgment and hatred in the name of God and his Torah.

    When newcomers come along and start telling people what to do they resent it. When they come in the name of halakha and claim that the local respected rabonim don’t know the right thing to do, they resent it even more. When they come in the name of halakha (she-kol derakheiha darkei no’am) and claim that even their beinonim are too big tzadikim to be buried next to the locals, they get incensed.

    And so do I.

    Don’t they understand that lo ba-esh hashem? How long will it take for these sikrikim to understand that their way leads to more hurban?

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    By coincidence Climate Progress had a post yesterday about environmental action by faith communuities in the US. I looked at one of the links – lo-Watt Shabbat. Not amazingly exciting. I’m looking for an halakhically acceptable solution for wasting less electricity keeping an urn of hot water and a hot-plate heated over Shabbat.

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    Rafi G blogged today about an article on RabbiHorowitz.com – “Charedi Classic“.

    Rabbi Horowitz seems to be a school principle and educational advisor and writer. The article in question describes how the education and values passed to him by the previous Haredi generation seem to him to be much more balanced and successful than those that he as part of the current Haredi generation are passing on to their children.

    The Haredi Classic set of values were simple. “…be a mentch [an upstanding and honest person]. Learn and master our Torah. Farbreng nisht der tzeit [sic] — make the best use of every minute of every day. Make a kiddush Hashem [sanctification of God’s name by your good behavior] wherever you go – don’t ever forget that you are wearing a yarmulke. Get an education, be self-sufficient, and give something back to the community”.

    The new Haredism is bogged down in stringencies, mixing custom with law and in superstition. It is frightened of the world around it and fraught with facades within.

    I don’t want to gloat, but I think his Haredi Classic is called Modern Orthodox today. Unfortunately we don’t always know what we have going good and there are strong forces trying to send us in the Haredi direction. Let’s stick with Judaism Classic.

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