Music Video For Shwekey's 'I Can Be'

Nice video. Actually enhances the song, I think, which is unusual for Jewish music videos.

(This one aside — as it very nicely portrays the children’s center that the Shwekey’s run, and is thus a real counterpart to the song — why do Jewish music videos exist?)

Oh, and it seems that all proceeds from this single do, in fact, go towards the children’s center. That explains the higher price. So that answers that. Still don’t love the song, but overall, very nice.

Rabbi Pruzansky Chimes In On The SCTOUS Rulings

Rabbi Pruzansky is not someone that I always find myself agreeing with. He has a knack for rubbing many people the wrong way — myself included, many times. But this piece on the recent SCOTUS rulings happens to be well, well worth your time. Again, I can’t say I agree with everything he says — nor do I think, as is usual, that he says everything in the best of ways. But his general theme here cannot be denied, and, whether you agree with him or not — and whether you like it or not — I really feel that this is something that everyone should read. Indeed, as I was looking for a paragraph to quote here, I found myself unable to choose between close to a dozen choices. It’s a heavy article.

Where Are The Women Scholars?

Another good post on DovBear, based on a comment, on the topic of women and Judaism:

Not saying that women need to be on batei din, or eidim, or that ritual needs to change, or anything like that. Men's attitudes about women need to change. Maybe after talking about the issues things will change, and maybe they won't.

Bottom line - Women's absence from rtitual is a symptom, not a root cause. Most women that I have met take Yahadut seriously and want to discuss the issues with men. Most men that I have met want to talk about women rather than with them.

Indeed, this is quite similar to what I spoke about in my piece on the topic a few weeks ago. In short, I think we could use some women scholars. Right now, we really don't have any.

It Is A Legitimization Issue

Decent opinion piece on the gay marriage ruling on Emes Ve-Emunah:

It is now the law of the land. And we have to deal with it. But we should all recognize what really happened here. Marriage is not a rights issue. It is a legitimization issue. The Supreme Court has done away with centuries old American traditions based on the bible. Traditions valued by their parents and grandparents going all the way back to founding fathers. I think it’s important to recognize that this is what just happened. And it is equally important to make sure to teach our children that our eternal biblical values override the ever changing and fleeting values of the culture.

Official Statement From OU On Gay Marriage Ruling

Smart and level-headed response:

We also recognize that no religion has the right to dictate its beliefs to the entire body politic and we do not expect that secular law will always align with our viewpoint. Ultimately, decisions on social policy remain with the democratic process, and today the process has spoken and we accord the process and its result the utmost respect.

In particular, they bring up the very real issue of religious freedom:

In the wake of today’s ruling, we now turn to the next critical question for our community, and other traditional faith communities – will American law continue to uphold and embody principles of religious liberty and diversity, and will the laws implementing today’s ruling and other expansions of civil rights for LGBT Americans contain appropriate accommodations and exemptions for institutions and individuals who abide by religious teachings that limit their ability to support same-sex relationships?

Will synagogues/Rabbis ever be legally obligated to perform same-sex marriages? The day that happens is the day I leave this country.

It's Always Been A Problem

Rabbi Gil Student writing for Jewish Link:

Perhaps we can take comfort that this is an age-old problem, dating back to the time of the giving of the Torah.

The Torah (Num. 11:10) tells us that “Moshe heard the people weeping, family by family.” The Gemara (Yoma 75a) interprets this as meaning that the people were crying “about family matters,” the newly forbidden relationships. Rashi (ad loc., sv. hanach) explains that the crying was about the new prohibitions above and beyond the seven Noahide commandments. This is implied in that Gemara and explicitly stated in the Yerushalmi (Ta’anis 5:4).

However, the Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Issurei Bi’ah 22:18) seems to say that the people were crying over all the forbidden relationships, even those of the Noahide commandments.

What About The Dinosaurs?

Rabbi Slifkin is at it again discussing what appears to be one of only two things he ever writes about anymore: namely, yet another problem with Rabbi Meiselman’s book Torah, Chazal, and Science (the other being Chareidim). This time it’s the fact that he never addresses the topic of dinosaurs:

In fact, I would say that an even stronger question is, how can you write an 800 page book purporting to present the sole legitimate perspective on these topics, and not even address this most basic of questions? Have you never even thought about it, or are you really that afraid to confront it? If the former, then you have no place presenting yourself as an authority on this topic. If the latter - well, then even the Christians have you beat.

Rabbi Slifkin has sure got a point. I’ve read Rabbi Meiselman’s book. It is indeed way too long (unnecessarily so), and is utterly unsatisfying. And at right about the point that he declares much of Rav Avraham ben HaRambam’s writings as forgeries, his obvious agenda became too much to bear.

If you ask me, the best book on the topic of the confrontation of science and the Torah, in broad strokes, for the typical Orthodox Jew, is without question Rabbi Slifkin’s own The Challenge of Creation. Feel free to skip Torah, Chazal, and Science. You’re not missing much.

Rabbi Fohrman Takes On The Meaning Of Life

New lecture series on Aleph Beta on the meaning of life. No fancy/cute animated videos, though. It’s audio only — which is just fine, thank you very much. It calls itself a podcast, but there doesn’t seem to actually be any feed like that, so you have to listen on the site. Oh well.

I haven’t actually even had a chance to listen to all the parts yet, but it’s Rabbi Fohrman, so…

On Gay Marriage — I Just Don’t Care

I’ll be honest. The SCOTUS ruling was met with complete passivity by me. I didn’t cheer, I didn’t jeer. I didn’t exclaim, nor did I sigh. I just read it, and moved right along. In short, I just don’t care all that much, because it simply does not a difference to me. I just don’t care. Maybe I should. I don’t know. But I can only be honest.

But I think, rather, that my outlook might be perfectly suited as an Orthodox Jewish response to the ruling. What I think is exactly not suited for us, however, is most of what I’ve been seeing. Slurs, quoted Biblical verses, idiotic idioms (“Adam and Steve…”), and worse. This gets us nowhere, and is without question a tremendous chillul Hashem. Stop being stupid about this.

Yes, the Torah prohibits homosexual intercourse. It will forever view it as a sin. But it never says we should go around shouting that in people’s faces! Especially in a culture like the one in America in 2015! We don’t go around shouting at people who eat shellfish how disgusting and despicable they are, and how they are morally ruining our country! And yet, the Torah uses that same word, “toeyvah/abberation”, to describe both acts. So some seichel here, please. The Torah-view remains unchanged. What the US allows and does not allow people to do has no affect on that whatsoever. We know the Torah view, and we know what actually happens around us. What was ruled by SCOTUS is nothing more than one more thing to add to that list.

Now, it is true that the Gemara no doubt views homosexual intercourse as more severe. It is a “yeharog v’al ya’avor”. And reading this statement today kind of hurts:

Ula said: Non-Jews [litt. Bnei Noach, the progeny of Noah] accepted upon themselves thirty mitzvot [divinely ordered laws] but they only abide by three of them: the first one is that they do not write marriage documents for male couples, the second one is that they don’t sell dead [human] meat by the pound in stores and the third one is that they respect the Torah. (Chullin 92ab)

But ok. So, again, we add something pretty hefty to our list. The sad fact is that there is nothing much we can do about it. Acting like ignorant religious bigots certainly won’t help. Indeed, halacha recognizes that in such a situation there is no need to push our religious agendas on non-Jewish governments. It is, rather, a chillul Hashem and we need to stop it.

From a Torah perspective? I disagree vehemently with SCOTUS’s ruling. I believe it is a Biblical prohibition, and that the Creator of the universe, and all that inhabit it, has commanded said creations, for whatever reason, against it. I don’t know why. I don’t care why. But either way, it is prohibited just like murder is prohibited. End of story. But vehemently viewing homosexual intercourse as a sin, and vehemently opposing a democratic ruling for freedom in the United States are two different things that need not go together.

Thus, from a US legal policy perspective, I’m not pro-gay marriage, nor am I anti-gay marriage. (Really, I don’t believe the government should be involved in marriage at all! If they pulled out entirely, left marriage as solely a religious thing (which it is), and instead sanctioned “X amount of people living together” for tax purposes, I think we would solve all of our problems.) But what I do not think is that in the year 2015, in exile, given the current state of things, that the US government needs to be making laws based on the Torah. They don’t discriminate against us, and that’s more than enough. And there is not question that this SCOTUS ruling is a huge step for freedom and democracy in the modern age. In general, the progression of history to give more rights to more people is viewed only as a great thing by Judaism. And, as a whole, it has done nothing but make our lives as Orthodox Jews easier. We need to remember that too. In the end, I do not care about how the US legally views a homosexual relationship because it has no bearing on my life. I simply Do. Not. Care. And I honestly don’t really see why so many people (who are not affected by the ruling whatsoever) do…

I should also like, at this point, to introduce this quote on Facebook I saw someone link to:

Orthodoxy supposes that what God wrote in the Torah and passed down oral explanations are true. So here’s what I’m wondering. We all know that one of the Noahide laws is that not person can curse the name of God. We also all know that in the USA, such behavior must be legal, and we also know that though we think its wrong to curse the name of God, since God told us so - it shouldn’t be done even though it should certainly not be policed by our government. If the supreme court had ruled that it’s completely permissibly to curse the name of God publicly (or any other of the Noahide laws, like letting brothers marry sisters legally, or like permitting explicitly people to savagely rip limbs from live animals, or anything else that we believe God said it’s not right to do) would you celebrate that?

No one is saying be happy with the ruling today. Remember and recognize that America is drifting further and further away from the morales and ethics of Sinai. And that should bother you, no doubt. But recognize that it is only one entry in a huge, huge list of things. Why we are so upset by this one, specifically, is nothing more than a product of our generation. Realize that.

So, you add all of this up — that our religious perspective does not change at all, that I don’t see how/why we would be angrily opposed to this, but that to celebrate this ruling is utter dissonance — and I think a reaction of passivity is proper. At least, as stated, that was my natural reaction.

No ruling by any court is going to change how we view homosexual intercourse. Not a thing has changed for our lives as Orthodox Jews since the SCOTUS decision. Some people you probably do not even know will now be able to enjoy certain legal benefits that they were not once able to do. All halacha remains the same. All our views, outlooks, and laws remains the same. Everything remains the same.

At which point I say: I just don’t care all that much.

This Is Why People Hate Republicans

Bryan Fischer:

From a moral standpoint, 6/26 has become our 9/11.

On this day, June 26, 2015, five justices of the Supreme Court became moral jihadists who blasted the twin pillars of truth and righteousness into rubble. They did this by imposing sodomy-based marriage on the United States through an act of judicial tyranny.

We the people have ceased to be our own rulers and are now serfs on a plantation run by cultural elites wearing black robes who use their gavels like the slaveholders of old used whips, to lash uppity social conservatives into abject submission.

Oh boy.

I'm not sure what the right reaction is to today's rulings, but I am sure that it's not this.

Supreme Court Rules Gay Marriage A Right

NYTimes:

In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a nationwide right to same-sex marriage.

The 5-to-4 decision, the culmination of decades of litigation and activism, came against the backdrop of fast-moving changes in public opinion, with polls indicating that most Americans now approve of same-sex marriage.

Wow.

(Pretty different spin than this, by the way.)

See the official documentation here.

Song Review: ‘I Can Be’ By Shwekey

Shwekey has just released his latest. It’s a single called I Can Be. It’s written for the children he and his wife care for at their Center in Lakewood. (I’ve been there — it’s a phenomenal place.) And the sentiment is nice, and all that is good… and I hate to be a downer… but this is far from Shwekey’s best work.

This comes from, by the way, a huge fan of Shwekey in general. I’ll listen to anything he sings in. I bought this song as soon as I got the chance without even listening to the preview. But this song is just not good. I don’t find it particularly catchy, the words in some places are cringe-worthy in their cheesiness, and I just have no desire to ever hear the song again.

And it was $1.99, twice the usual price of a song (is it going towards the Center?), so that’s saying something…

Shwekey has been, until now, I suppose, the master of english Jewish songs. Most others’ are cheesy. His have always been excellent. Not this one. (And I aw well aware that Yaakov Shwekey himself does not write (most) of his songs, but he certainly chooses and executes damn well.)

Why can’t they give us what they want and release the latest HASC concert CD, in which Shwekey and Simcha Leiner sang together? In fact, I’ve actually heard rumors that they won’t be releasing this CD at all. Which is terrible news if true. (Perhaps they decided that the world just can’t handle Shwekey and Leiner singing together?)

In short, color me disappointed. Looking forward to his next full studio album, though. Whenever that may be.