Thursday, July 29, 2010

Conspiracy or coincidence?

I’m not a big believer in conspiracy theories, but the way that the Shechita ban was implemented in New Zealand, rushed through parliament with little debate or forewarning against the advise of the parliamentary committee seems to imply that there is more to the story than has been made publically available.

My father just posted the following message on a New Zealand Jewish Email List. Not sure whether this was the motivating force behind the ban, but if it is, it would certainly explain a lot of unanswered questions. (My father’s comments in blue)

Is there a possible connection between the banning of schechita on 26 May and the problems with the free trade agreement with the Gulf States negotiated just shortly before that?

Ink not dry on FTA

Sources say New Zealand's refusal to resume live sheep exports could be a sticking point in a Free Trade Agreement with the Gulf States

New Zealand's much-heralded Free Trade Agreement with the Gulf States is faltering, even though the Government said three months ago that the ink was drying on the paperwork.
In May a delegation travelled on what turned out to be a disastrous trade mission to the region ahead of the agreement's expected signing.
Trade Minister Tim Grosser now admits the signing, which he said in May was simply a matter of translating Arabic into English, has run into obstacles. However he says it is not in the country's interests to negotiate through the media, and he is trying to get a discreet resolution.
Sources say one of the big obstacles is New Zealand's refusal to resume live sheep exports to the region.,nrhl

Shipping live sheep to the Gulf is an inefficient way of sending meat over there. Could it be that the devout Islamic states want sheep killed according the uncompromising Hallal rites, without prior stunning, which they could not do in New Zealand and spotted the loop hole of the exception made for kosher schechita? Is it possible that The Hon David Carter, minister of agriculture, passed the regulation to stop schechita over night without further consultation, against the advice of his own staff, to help his colleague, Tim Grosser, Minister of Trade dig himself out of a difficult position?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Statement of Principles

Jewish Blogesphere has been ubuzz with talk on the Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community.

Firstly, let me say that I fully support the statement and agree with the intent and details of the endeavour.

I don’t believe that there is anything controversial about this statement, and the fact that it has to be written out and signed and isn’t self-evident is a huge failing of the Orthodox community.This failing is compounded by the fact that there are several Rabbis who have refused to sign.

In a nutshell the Statement says that certain Homosexual acts are forbidden by Halacha, but we should not use this as an excuse to shun Jews who are struggling to deal with Homosexual tendencies.

I like the fact that the Statement points out that it doesn’t matter whether Homosexual tendencies are “Nature” or “Nurture”, certain acts are still forbidden. The Statement also does not endorse “Correction Therapy”.

It also points out that we should be particularly sensitive to members of our community who are unable to achieve sexual fulfilment within the confines of Halacha.

What the statement doesn’t mention, is that there are many people beyond those with Same-Sex attractions who are also unable to achieve sexual fulfilment within Halacha.

This would include people with other types of sexual attractions, for example people who are attracted to young children, animals, multiple partners, etc.

There are also people with regular sexual attractions who are restricted by Halacha, for example someone who’s spouse is missing or physically (or emotionally) unable to be intimate. There are also many older single people who have been unable to find their Beshert and have no permissible outlet for their sexuality; this issue is especially problematic for older Cohanim (especially Ba’alei Tshuva), who are very limited in who they are able to marry.

To be in one of the situations listed above is truly tragic, and we as a Torah Observant community should be sensitive and supportive of these people, especially those for whom there is no Halachic solution.

We should not encourage people to openly flaunt Halacha, for example by openly living in a forbidden relationship (which includes all sexual relationships outside of marriage, whether homo or hetero-sexual), however it is also important to keep out of other peoples private lives. If 2 people are living together, we shouldn’t automatically assume that they are engaging in forbidden activities.

As a believer in an All-Compassionate G-d, it pains me to think of people who are denied an important part of human existence as a result of their commitment to G-d’s Law, and it is beyond human understanding why an All-Compassionate G-d would create a universe in this manner, but as they say in the Mama Loshen פוהן אַ קאַשיאַ שטאַרבט מען נישט (You don’t die from a question), although tragically with the high suicide rate amongst people with Same-Sex attractions, there are some questions that people do die over.

Quote of the Day

I know that the headline was borrowed from Life in Israel, but I couldn’t think of any other heading to put above this gem from The Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web:

Cameron: Settlers Back to Gaza
Britain's rookie prime minister, David Cameron, is weighing in on the situation in Gaza, where Israel has been enforcing a blockade to prevent the re-arming of Hamas terrorists. London's Daily Telegraph quotes him:

Mr Cameron said: "The situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. . . ."

So apparently he wants Gazans to send humanitarian goods to Israel and Israeli settlers to return to Gaza.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Environmentalism as Idol Worship

In a few weeks the Daf Yomi cycle will start Misechet Avoda Zara. In our day an age it is difficult to understand how people could worship idols that they themselves had made, however today there are other types of Idol Worship.

There are elements within the green environmental movement that strongly resemble idol worship. For example, This guy makes an argument for climate control which is almost identical to Pascal’s Wager, not sure whether he even realizes that he has drawn the same grid as used to explain Pascal’s wager, or that his argument has the same holes in it as Pascal’s wager has. (If you’re not sure of the logical problems in Pascal’s wager, or this environmental argument, please contact me, I wrote an essay on it in University)

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that it is important to respect and protect our planet, in fact Chapter 2 of Berashit (Genesis), immediately after HaShem creates Man, he commands Man as follows:

וַיִּקַּח יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם וַיַּנִּחֵהוּ בְגַן-עֵדֶן לְעָבְדָהּ וּלְשָׁמְרָהּ (בראשית ב’ ט”ו)

God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and watch it. (Genesis 2:16)

However, I believe that we should protect our planet for the benefit of future generations. Protecting the planet should not be a means unto itself.

I think that Rabbi Shmuley Boetach phrased it best in a recent column:

Saving a tree, however important, is never as significant as saving a human life. Stopping a rainforest from being decimated is still subordinate to stopping genocide.

Which brings me to the point of this article, there are environment-extremists who believe that saving the plant is more important than saving the human race, they are literarily campaigning for the extinction of the Human race. There is actually a Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT).

In a recent interview, VHEMT founder, Les U. Knight (sounds like a pseudo-name to me) describes the logic behind his movement:

How did the whole VHEMT thing come about?

A. It came about for me the same way it's come about for millions of other people. You just start looking at the world and thinking about the problems and solutions to the problems, and eventually you come down to the fact that our excessive breeding has increased the population to the point where we're not taking care of everybody, and if there weren't any humans on the planet, everything would be fine. The biosphere would recover, species that we are driving to extinction would no longer be endangered and could flourish, and there'd be no more human suffering.

It's an idea that's probably been around for a very long time -- I just gave it a name.

Q. Definitely we humans have made a mess of things on this planet, but we've made some great stuff too -- music, art, literature. Wouldn't it be a shame to see all of that human culture disappear?

A. We wouldn't see it disappear.

Q. Because we wouldn't be here?

A. [Laughs.] All those things are fun for humans, and I hope we continue doing them right to the last day, but we haven't done anything that benefits the rest of the planet.  The rest of creation could do just fine without us. Since even before we became Homo sapiens, we've been adversely impacting ecosystems that we inhabited.

In other words, as human beings are incapable of doing anything of benefit to the planet, and the “Planet” is all-important, we would best serve mother Earth by voluntary extinction.

Certainly sounds crazy, but also not unlike Idol Worship of yester-year that was prepared to sacrifice human lives for the perceived benefit of some manifestation of nature.

Lest there be any confusion, let me remind Mr Knight that although we are commanded to protect our planet in Chapter 2 of Genesis, Chapter 1 of Genesis says explicitly that we are here to enjoy and populate this World, as G-d phrased it:

כח וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם אֱלֹהִים וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם אֱלֹהִים פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ וְכִבְשֻׁהָ וּרְדוּ בִּדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּבְכָל-חַיָּה הָרֹמֶשֶׂת עַל-הָאָרֶץ.  כט וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים הִנֵּה נָתַתִּי לָכֶם אֶת-כָּל-עֵשֶׂב זֹרֵעַ זֶרַע אֲשֶׁר עַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָאָרֶץ וְאֶת-כָּל-הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ פְרִי-עֵץ זֹרֵעַ זָרַע  לָכֶם יִהְיֶה לְאָכְלָה.  ל וּלְכָל-חַיַּת הָאָרֶץ וּלְכָל-עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּלְכֹל רוֹמֵשׂ עַל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה אֶת-כָּל-יֶרֶק עֵשֶׂב לְאָכְלָה וַיְהִי-כֵן. 
בראשית פרק א'

God blessed them [Man and Woman]. God said to them, 'Be fertile and become many. Fill the land and conquer it. Dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every beast that walks the land. God said, 'Behold, I have given you every seedbearing plant on the face of the earth, and every tree that has seedbearing fruit. It shall be to you for food. For every beast of the field, every bird of the sky, and everything that walks the land, that has in it a living soul, all plant vegetation shall be food.' It remained that way.
(Genesis 1 28-30)

I doubt that Mr Knight takes Genesis seriously, however for those of us who are “מאמינים בני מאמינים” (Believers, sons of believers), it is important to realize that there are absolute moral values in this world, and extinction of the human race is not amongst them.

Jews are here there and everywhere

Frum Satire has a great link to MaNishtana, a black Jew (or as her calls himself, a Jew of Colour).

He has some cute videos, check out this explanation of Purim which includes flags of many countries with Jewish populations blended with the Flag of Israel – well I thought it was cute (Like the New Zealand Flag that he used?)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I wonder how common this question is….

The New York Times has a weekly column by Randy Cohen where he addresses ethical questions submitted by readers.

A few times the questions have been specific to the Orthodox Jewish community, but I think that this week’s question takes the cake.

I am a straight woman, and I was set up on a date with a man. We got along well initially, but I grew concerned about how evasive he was about his past. I did some sophisticated checking online — I do research professionally — and discovered that he [sic] is a female-to-male transgender individual. I then ended our relationship. He and I live in Orthodox Jewish communities. (I believe he converted shortly after he became a man.) I think he continues to date women within our group. Should I urge our rabbi to out this person?

Makes me wonder how common these types of issues are.

I actually know of at least two transgender people who are (or at least were) Orthodox Jews, although both were male-to-female individuals, so they couldn’t be the person described in the letter.

Interesting question of Lashon Hara – if you knew of a transgender person “Shidduch Dating” (for want of a better term) without telling their date that they were once of a different gender, is their an obligation to make the situation known publically, or at least inform people who have been set up on dates with the person?

Transgender people also raise interesting questions of where they should sit in shul (which side of the Mechitza), Kol Isha, and whether they should be allowed to teach at YU, But I’ll leave those questions to the Halachic authorities.