Saturday Night Links

First, I want to share links related to Mathew Vines, a Christian homosexual who took two years to study the Bible and homosexuality. If you listen to his Youtube lecture, I have one thing to add: If you susbtitute the principle of “The Torah’s ways are pleasant and peaceful” for the “the law must bear good fruit” principle, and substract the whole “The New Testament frees us from Old Tetament” laws thing, his speech could basically be about Judaism and homosexuality. To clarify: Dr. Rabbi Daniel Sperber has documented (in his book “Women and Torah Reading”) that the “The Torah’s ways are pleasant” principle has been used to legislate Jewish law: Rabbis have, in the past, rejected certain interpretations of laws, on the grounds that, since by definition, the Torah’s laws are pleasant, if a certain interpretation would be unpleasant and be a significant hardship on people’s lives, it could not be the correct interpretation – by definition, something unpleasant can not be a true law. Of course, this principle has limits: It can be applied to interpreting law, not to uprooting a Biblical commandment that has a clear meaning: For example, “Do not eat pork” is clearly worded enough that you couldn’t uproot it on the grounds that life is more fun with bacon for breakfast – and the unpleasantless must be major, not simply a minor inconvenience – like not eating bacon – for the principle to be appled. In the case of homosexuality in my (unauthorized, laywoman) opinion, there is room to apply this principle to at least allow forms of affection other than anal intercourse – or perhaps even anal intercourse if one defines anal intercourse as “lo kidarkah”, not the way one normally has sex with a woman, meaning, it would not fulfill the definition of “sex as one lies with a woman”, which is what the Bible prohibits between men. Then the question is though, what exactly is the Bible prohibiting – it must be prohibiting something. Mustn’t it?

Now on to a little bit of night music.

This NY Times Book Review piece is an incredible critique of scientism: Faith in science’s ability to solve all of the world’s problems.

A brilliant piece on menstrual blood and circumcision. (For why this is especially relevant to Passover, click here.)

This satire hits the nail on the head viz a viz much of modern society and women.

The complciations of religion and relationships.

Public service announcement: Some Starbucks frappucion flavors contain beetle extract and thus are not kosher. Strawberry flavor is one example.

I’m a fan of this Ted talk on “The Art of Choosing”, by Sheena Iyengar. (Hey, our first names are similiar!)

In memory of Adrienne Rich, an awesome Jewish lesbian poetess and activist.

I have not seen the recent “Bullying” documentary, but am sharing this review and would be glad to hear the thoughts of readers who have. I think that the topic of bullying in American life is extremely important. and am glad its getting publicity.

On Studying Talmud in France (Just in general, I am a big fan of The Talmud Blog.)

The age of puberty in American keeps on getting younger and younger.

On collecting hagaddahs

Ok, I said I wouldn’t get political. Here is the problem: I read a lot about Israel, and suddently, when its connected to the Middle East, everything becomes political. Say the word “West Bank”, and you’re making a political statement. (I am not exaggarating, but will leave it to the reader to dsicover other appelations for that area.) Say the word “Palestinian”, and you’re making a political statment. (Ditto.)

So yes, I am sharing these links, because I feel they have something important to say. If that ruffles your political feathers, please forgive me, and know my intent is to inform, not to persuade.

The redrawing of Israel’s relationship with its Arab citizens – and the potential risk it could cause for Israel.

Marwan Barghouti is predicting a third intifada – I pray to God (literally) that he’s wrong, but security experts were already worried in September, and when I was in Israel recently, I certainly felt things were much tenser than they’ve been in a while.

On the Holocaust and Arab Culture The author, Tom Segev, is an expert on the Holocaust and the Middle East.

Since I’m in the region, I’ll move to Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is fronting a candidate for president, which worries me both in it and of itself, and because this breaks a pledge – and anytime a powerful, extremist party, starts breaking promises, its not good news. Nevertheless, I remain a proponent of democracy in the Middle East, not just because I believe that its healthier overall for the region, but also because I think pro-West despots are temporary solutions: No despot rules forever – in the end, someone always rises up against him (or her). That being said, the transition from despot to democracy is a crucial period prone to instability and violence (hello, French Revolution. Hello, writings of Fareed Zakaria.), and the West is not doing all it could to make sure the transitions in Middle Eastern countries are safe, secure, and succesful.

Since I am already being political, here is a Dahlia Litwick piece on Obama’s healthcare bill and the Supreme Court. Whether you agree or disagree with her, and are pro or con Obama’s plan, at the end of the day, her main point: that the social contract of mutual responsibility in America seems to be eroding – is poignant and powerful.

To end with beauty:

A Susan Sontag Sample

A German Jewish playboy: joie de vivre!

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