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Posts Tagged ‘Torah’

Parasha Lech-Lecha – Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on October 19, 2007

Torah Portion: Genesis 12:1 – 17:27 Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27 – 41:16

Focal Point: Bereshit 12:1-3, 7-8

1 The Lord said to Abram, Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

2 I will make of you a great nation,
And I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
And you shall be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you
And curse him that curses you;
And all the families of the earth
Shall bless themselves by you.”

7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will assign this land to your heirs.” And he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and he built there an altar to the Lord and invoked the Lord by name.

 I am going to be lazy this week.

On the surface this is the very start of the Jewish People – The Call of Avraham. Let’s leave that as it is and narrow this to a personal level. Our personal evolution as humans.

It basically all starts when we become adults – we move out and we set up a place for ourselves. That’s the easy part. What is not at all easy, is moving out of our family values and unwritten rules and create our own set of rules and create an adult relationship with our parents, ourselves and with G-d.

What?! Aren’t we to stay with the Torah our father and mother taught us? No. You have to re-examine those values, and make them your own – your way. It’s called growing up. Until you have done this you haven’t left home for real.

The values and unwritten rules you inherited from your parents may be just fine – but for you to have an adult relationship with your parents and with G-d, you have to re-examine them. You also have to re-examine the rules that G-d has given, and determine how YOU are to respond to them.

Tradition teaches us that Avraham questioned his father’s polytheism, and built a personal relationship with ONE G-d. We have to do the same – question our parents’ relationship with G-d, and create our own personal relationship with G-d. This doesn’t mean that we throw Torah out the window or that we distance ourselves from the Community, but we HAVE to start relating to G-d and the community from our own point of view, from our understanding of Who G-d is and what our place in the community really is.

So: Lech-Lecha – Go, Go!

Shabbat Shalom!


Posted in Genesis 12:1 - 17:27, Parasha Lech-Lecha | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“All this is mine – now get lost” (literally).

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on October 5, 2007

My friend Yael wrote:


But to the wicked, God said, ‘To what purpose do you recount My decrees and bear My covenant upon your lips?’ For you hate discipline and you threw My words behind you….These have you done and I kept silent, You thought that I was like you – I will rebuke you and lay it clearly before your eyes…..He who offers confession, honors Me; and one who orders his way, I will show him the salvation of God.

Let’s do a modern take on this passage:

But to those who say My Torah has been ‘fulfilled’, God said, ‘To what purpose do you claim to know my decrees? What’s this new covenant on your lips? Give me a break. You hate the discipline of following Torah and claim it’s all been done away with in the past. You did this and because I didn’t knock you up side the head you thought I was cool with what you were doing. Not hardly. Why don’t you go back and read Torah again without all your preconceived ideas of what it says? All I require is confession from your mouth and following mitzvot. All who do this will be shown My salvation [which is NOT your version of it!].

One thing more than anything annoys me with most, if not all Xians. How they claim to know better than us Jews what Torah means. How they claim some sort of interpretational ownership of OUR Holy Scriptures. It’s so arrogant, and condescending. Like some distant second cousin they come and lay claim to the Jewish Birth Right, that without even offering a bowl of lentel soup for it. They just step into OUR house and says: “All this is mine – now get lost” (literally).

Then it turns out they don’t want it, they just want bits and pieces here and there, that they fancy to be true, the rest they just flush down the toilet, like so much crap. They don’t care about Shabbat, or Family Purity, or about Kashrut, they just want what is “comfortable” and that fits with their Greek religion.

I don’t know how many times I have argued with Xians over Isaiah 7 – how that is not some messianic prophecy, how it’s a prophecy for a specific Israeli King at a specific time, and how the words in Hebrew don’t even match their interpretation, and how that specific prophecy was actually fullfilled in the time it was given, but no, I am Jewish, so I am blind, I can’t see straight, I, in my evil Jewish heart (if I have one) am so corrupted by my denial of their truth, that I, and all my ancestors, must have mis-read, mis-understood and must be so evil that I am deliberately spreading lies, because that is in my nature as a Jew.

Now, I do know a lot of Xians who don’t see it this way, who are respectfully trying to learn and accept the Jewish interpretation of the Tanakh, and even live by it – I can respect that – but the rest – Pffft.

Posted in Interfaith, interpretational ownership | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Parasha Bereshit – What’s bothering Kayin?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on October 3, 2007


Parasha: Genesis 1:1 – 6:8 Haftarah:Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10 – Sefardim reads: Isaiah 42:5 – 42:21

Focal Point: Bereshit 4:1-5, 10-16 – What’s Bothering Kayin

“And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said: ‘I have gotten a man with the help of HaShem.’And again she bore his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto HaShem. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And HaShem had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell….[…]And He said: ‘What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground. And now cursed art thou from the ground, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand. Then thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be in the earth.’ And Cain said unto the L-RD: ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, Thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the land; and from Thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth; and it will come to pass, that whosoever findeth me will slay me.’ And the L-RD said unto him: ‘Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the L-RD set a sign for Cain, lest any finding him should smite him. And Cain went out from the presence of the L-RD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. “

It’s pretty understandable, Kayin’s anger and depression. Who wouldn’t be angry and depressed if one’s best effort at showing appreciation and gratitude, was spurned? Kayin’s problem isn’t with G-d or with Hevel. Kayin’s problem is that instead of taking responsible for his own feelings and turn to G-s with a simple question: “Why, what’s wrong?” he looks down and inward, at his own anger, depression, feelings of rejection and fear of inadequacy, away from G-d. Because he feels rejected and inadequate, he feels lonely – to alleviate that loneliness he seeks out his brother. But instead of alleviating his pain, the sight of Hevel flips Kayin’s mind, and Hevel becomes the reason why he feels rejected by G-d. It’s more than he can bear and in his anger and fear, he murders his brother. Was Kayin’s anger and fear wrong? Or his offering? No. But the way he dealt with the situation was. Kayin went first – offering to G-d the best he had from his crop. Then Hevel did the same – only with a twist – to me the ‘he also’ implies that Hevel offered grain, fruit and such, just as Kayin, but then Hevel added to the offering of grain and fruit some of the “firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof”. Seeing Hevel’s offering, so much more abundant than his own, Kayin is suddenly struck by fear that G-d won’t accept his offering – this is the “but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect” – it’s all in Kayin’s mind!

To G-d Kayin’s offering was fine, just as fine as his brother’s, which to me is implied in the events that follow the murder. When Kayin realizes what he has done, he exiles himself from G-d “Behold, Thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the land; and from Thy face shall I be hid”. There was never any need for that, G-d never said that – He said that Kayin would be exiled from farming the earth, not from G-d’s presence. On the contrary, when Kayin adds to his punishment that he will be outlawed and that every man will be against him, G-d says ‘Not so, I will make sure that no one kills you for this!’ So in the eyes of G-d Kayin’s offering was ok, Kayin was OK. But to Kayin it wasn’t good enough. What he had to offer wasn’t good enough compared to Hevel’s offering, and the price Kayin paid for his low self-esteem was even more fear, the loss of his brother and the self-inflicted loss of his G-d.

Poor Kayin! Fearful and shame-ridden, he turns away from the only source that could have saved him and his brother – G-d – Had he turned towards G-d with his feelings of shame, fear, inadequacy, envy, anger and rejection, he would have found a G-d ready to say: ‘Not so, you are my child just as much as Hevel’.

The other side of the Story is that of Hevel – and the lesson of not shaming a fellow in public. By adding to his offering what was not inherently his to offer (the fruit of the earth) he shows off, and creates the implication that what he offers G-d is better than that of Kayin. The price he pays is steep, but on the other hand they say that shame is the killer of the soul – something that becomes quite clear through the re-actions of Kayin.

Did Hevel draw death upon himself? No, but he wasn’t an innocent victim either – his need to show-off, to be better, to best his brother, became his own downfall.

So where does this leave us?

From Kayin we learn that it’s better to look outward and upward when we feel downcast and doubtful, than inward and downward, we risk missing the loving and caring words and help from our Father and those friends around us. We are never so bad off that G-d doesn’t want us, that is just our stinking thinking that speaks. We are so much better of sharing with others what is on our minds than holding it in.

From Hevel we learn that showing off and besting others at their expense is just another expression of pride that goes before downfall. We also learn that using others to shine causes them shame, and shame is the #1 soul killer, and we might just end up in deep shit as a result. If we share our good fortune, try and make others part of our success, we will in the end be richer than before.


This article, including artworks and photos in this Blog is Copyright © Henric C. Jensen aka Shadow Bear/Silly Old Bear and are NOT public domain – unless otherwise specified.

Posted in Parasha Bereshit, Torah, Weekly Parsha | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Parasha Bereshit – In The Beginning – Bereshit 1:1-6:8

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on October 1, 2007


Parasha: Genesis 1:1 – 6:8 Haftarah:Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10 – Sefardim reads: Isaiah 42:5 – 42:21

Focal Points: 1:1-5 – Creation that continues

1 When God began to create heaven and earth —

Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’arets.

2 the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water —

Veha’arets hayetah tohu vavohu vechoshech al-peney tehom veruach Elohim merachefet al-peney hamayim.

3 God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

Vayomer Elohim yehi-or vayehi-or.

4 God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.

Vayar Elohim et-ha’or ki-tov vayavdel Elohim beyn ha’or uveyn hachoshech.

5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day.

Vayikra Elohim la-or yom velachoshech kara laylah vayehi-erev vayehi-voker yom echad.


“In the beginning of G-d’s creating…” that’s what the very first line of Torah says. Literally. This to us indicate two things:

Creation is an ongoing process and G-d didn’t create out of nothing.

G-d creates out of that which is already in existence. This is good news to us – this means that G-d can use whatever chaos and deformity we are at the moment to make something great out of, and that we don’t have to despair at being slow to learn or taking our time to “get it” – G-d’s creative work is an on-going process, so we don’t have to worry about a timetable.

“…with darkness over the surface…”

G-d starts out His creating in darkness and then He decides to make a counterpart to Darkness – Light.

This is important for us – because for most of us life up till now has been much on the Dark Side, we too started out in darkness. We need Light to counterpoint the Darkness of our unmanageable lives. So G-d creates Light, makes distinct lines between Light and Darkness to separate them from each other.

Notice that He doesn’t remove Darkness, He makes a special room for it – “Night”. Now, if He is G-d, then why on earth didn’t He just get rid of Darkness and go completely with Light? Perhaps because without each other Light and Darkness would be meaningless. Creation needs both to function, and so do we.

Darkness in our lives works much like Night in nature – it provides dew, moisture that feeds/waters nature, inspires it to grow. If nature never experienced Night/Darkness, it would very quickly be scourged to dry dust by the Light/Day. That same way we need to soak up “moisture” from Darkness in our lives in order to grow during the times of light. We too would be scourged to dry dust if all we ever experienced was light.

And G-d saw that it was good…

On the other hand – the Light that explodes onto the scenery in v.3 is a Light that leaves no shadows. To that Light we are totally transparent. That is good, because it means that G-d knows exactly what He has to work with, so that in the end we become exactly what we are supposed to be – not what we might have been if the Light had been just any other light.

So the to-and-fro between Light and Darkness has another function – every now and then we need to be completely transparent in order to find the areas in ourselves that needs working on. At those times, Darkness is the Sweet Shadow in which we can rest between turns at digging in ourselves.

Whether we are in Light or Darkness – we are exactly where we are supposed to be, in the middle of G-d’s Continued Creating

Shabbat Shalom!

This article, including artworks and photos in this Blog is Copyright © Henric C. Jensen aka Shadow Bear/Silly Old Bear and are NOT public domain – unless otherwise specified.


Posted in Parasha Bereshit, Torah, Weekly Parasha | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Sukkot – Dwelling in Trust

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 26, 2007

Torah Portion: Leviticus 22:26 – 23:44 & Numbers 29:12 – 29:16 Haftarah Zechariah 14:1-21

Focal point: Vayikra/Lev 23:34

“Say to the Israelite people: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there shall be the Feast of Booths to the Lord, [to last] seven days.”

“Sukkot reminds us that ultimate security is found not within the walls of our home but in the presence of God and one another. Indeed, there is a midrash that says that sukkot are not buildings at all but the glory of God. This holiday helps us understand that sometimes the walls we build to protect us serve instead to divide us, cut us off, lock us in.

The walls of our sukkot may make us vulnerable, but they make us available, too, to receive the kindness and the support of one another, to hear when another calls out in need, to poke our heads in to see whether anybody is up for a chat and a cup of coffee. In contrast, our walls of concrete and steel can enslave us in our own solitude and loneliness. Sukkot reminds us that freedom is enjoyed best not when we are hidden away behind our locked doors but rather when we are able to open our homes and our hearts to one another.” From Kolel

This ties in very nicely with what I quoted from Alcoholics Anonymous when I wrote about G-d, Promises and The Days of Awe:

That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that G-d is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.” (Alcoholics Anonymous p83-84)

On Yom Kippur we had a close encounter of the third degree with G-d during which we looked at who we are, what we have been and how to go on, and now on Sukkot we are asked to trust that G-d is going with us into the New Year, just like He went with the People during the forty years of wanderings in the desert. In fact we are to physically build that trust as we build the sukkah, and dwell in it for seven days, eat in there and invite our friends into our sukkah to share with us. And we are to visit others’ sukkot and share with them.

The sukkah is a fragile building, but as it is made of tree branches it is also resilient. It gives some protection from view, but that’s it. Trust is the same, it does give protection – inner protection – because when we trust, G-d, ourselves and others we build strength and wholeness, we learn to deal with the past, let go of it and move on with our Program trusting that G-d will care for us like He took care of our ancestors.

In one of our Bed Time Prayers we say: “Spread over us Your Sukkah of peace, direct us with Your good counsel, and save us for Your own Name’s sake.”

There are many versions of this line – some have say “wings” others say “presence” – but I like this version best, because it indicates something tangible, a structure, and since it’s G-d’s it’s constant, it’s always there for us, to take shelter in and learn more about what trust and wholeness is.


Posted in Sukkot, Torah, Weekly Parasha | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

G-d, Promises and The Days of Awe

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 21, 2007

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that G-d is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.” (Alcoholics Anonymous p83-84)

“This Phase” of course refers to working the 12 Steps of Recovery 1-9.

Note that it says, “before we are half way through…” – what’s half-way through 9? 4.5 – so perhaps we are teetering on the edge of Step 5 – what an excellent opportunity to do our 5th Step right before Yom Kippur, so that we can turn to G-d having cleaned out all that old shame, fear, guilt about what we have lived through! Regardless what we decide to do, the result will be a renewal.

Another angle:

“When you make any vow to the L-rd your G-d, you must pay it without delay…If you refrain from making a vow, that is no sin for you; but you must be careful to perform any promise you have made with your lips.” (Deut. 23:22)

I seldom make promises to G-d, but I sure make them to myself all the time – and somehow I think Torah here is talking about both kinds of promises. Promising things and not keeping them, forgetting that I made that promise – somehow I and G-d always end up with the shorter end of the stick in the Promise department. They get shuffled out as “not important”. But Torah says that they are. One reason for this is that broken promises, or non-fullfilled promises erodes our trust and our sense of self-worth. Constantly making little promises to oneself and not following through is demoralizing. Torah abhors broken people, so Torah creates a mitzvah – “Follow through also on the vows you make to G-d (and yourself).”

Yom Kippur has a very specific formula to take care of the erosion of our souls tha comes from making all those little promises, commitments and resolutions to ourselves and G-d that we failed to honor: Kol Nidre.

The Ashkenazi version, which has “from this Day of Atonement until the next (whose happy coming we await)” rather than “from the last Day of Atonement until this one”, in my mind is rather useless in terms of having any healing properties, so I will quote the Sefardi version:

“All vows, obligations, oaths, and anathemas, whether called ‘konam,’ ‘konas,’ or by any other name, which we may have vowed, or sworn, or pledged, or whereby we may be bound, from the last Day of Atonement until this one, we do repent. May they be deemed absolved, forgiven, annulled, and void, and made of no effect; they shall not bind us nor have power over us. The vows shall not be reckoned vows; the obligations shall not be obligatory; nor the oaths be oaths.”

This is said 3 times – so it should give us plenty of time to let go of all those failed promises made to ourselves and G-d, during the past year, so we can step into His Presence and get straightened out, so our recovery can continue unhindered, that we may be all we can in the time until the next Yom Kippur.

May our sealing be for life, goodness and healing!


Posted in The Days of Awe, Torah | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Nitzavim-Vayelech – Teshuvah – A New Beginning

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 4, 2007

Torah Portion: Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 31:30 Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10 – 63:9 Isaiah 55:6 – 56:8

I have decided to try an weave two of my most precious life-lines together – Torah and the 12 Step Program of Recovery – there really is no better place to start that challenge than on the second Last Shabbat before Roshashana and Yom Kippur.

So this weeks Dvar Torah is dedicated to my friends in Recovery – you all know just who you are 🙂

Focal Point Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:6-14

Then the L-rd your G-d will open up your heart and the hearts of your offspring to love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul, in order that you may live. The Lord your G-d will inflict all those curses upon the enemies and foes who persecuted you. You, however, will again heed the L-rd and obey all His commandments that I enjoin upon you this day. And the L-rd your G-d will grant you abounding prosperity in all your undertakings, in the issue of your womb, the offspring of your cattle, and the produce of your soil. For the L-rd will again delight in your well-being, as He did in that of your fathers, since you will be heeding the L-rd your G-d and keeping His commandments and laws that are recorded in this book of the Teaching — once you return to the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul.

Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. impart it to us, that we may observe it?”

  1. We admitted we were powerless over [insert your drug, process of choice here], that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of G-d as we understand G-d.

Did you know that in the original “order” of the 12 Steps [which were actually 6], steps 1, 2 and 3 were baked into one?

Why was that? Because realizing that we are powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable can be very overwhelming, and more often than not there are behaviors we need to stop right away if we are to save our very lives, so we need to move from powerless and unmanageable without anywhere to go, to powerless and unmanageable with not only hope of a place to go, but to a place where we can actually be restored to some resemblance of sanity – and that my friends happens in step 3.

See, step 1 won’t tell you anything but that your are powerless and unmanageable, step 2 will only tell you that sanity is possible – but neither of them will actually provide sanity so being confronted with steps 1 and 2 is rather harsh – that’s why, originally, people were asked to take the 3 first steps as one, because step 3 will restore sanity on a daily basis, because step 3 is where we give up trying to control ourselves and the world around us and let G-d (as we understand G-d)take control of us one day at a time.

“But I don’t believe G-d loves me, that He cares about me or that He even exists!”.

One of my sponsors once told me that it doesn’t matter what I believe – it matters what I do. So my beliefs is immaterial, because if I tell G-d every morning that I turn my life over to Him (whoever or what ever He is) He will do the work as long as I do my footwork – go to meetings and check in with my sponsor. Did I believe it would work? No. But I did it because it was my last way out of a life that had brought me to the abyss where I was seriously staring suicide in the eyes. I was in so much pain that I would probably have done acrobatics if my sponsor had told me it would work.

But the simple wisdoms “Act as if” and “Fake it till you make it!” is actually in Torah: “And he took the Book of the Covenant and read it within the hearing of the people, and they said, “All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.” (Shemot/Exodus 24:7)

Children learn through mimicking what adults do – they do before they understand what they are doing. Torah tells us that, in regards to a functional life (because that is what living according to Torah leads to) this is the attitude we need to take – learning/understanding through doing what we need to learn/understand.

So, I can work Step 3 even if I don’t believe it, just because I need to, and eventually it will be something I believe, something I do with faith and hope and trust that G-d as I understand Him, is restoring me to sanity on day at a time.

So how is this all connected to Torah and being Jewish?

Well, for one working step 1 is a natural part of the Jewish Path – every year, with the start of Elul, Jews all over the World begin a process of self-reflection, self- examination that will eventually lead them to identification of areas in their lives where they are out of control and need to do Teshuvah (return to Torah and G-d). Hope is also built into the Jewish Path – that G-d will restore that which was broken and bring sanity, because when the Gate closes on Yom Kippur all of Israel has been forgiven and a new beginning is declared.

“In all their troubles He was troubled, And the angel of His Presence delivered them. In His love and pity He Himself redeemed them, Raised them, and exalted them All the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9)

Step 3 is just a natural sequel to all of this in Judaism – Teshuvah – Forgiveness – Renewed Observance. All in the manner that fit each of us and our recovery.

Here’s a Jewish Prayer that fit perfectly to say at the end of any 12 Step Meeting:

Adon Olam

The Lord of the Universe who reigned
before anything was created.
When all was made by his will
He was acknowledged as King.

And when all shall end
He still all alone shall reign.
He was, He is,
and He shall be in glory.

And He is one, and there’s no other,
to compare or join Him.
Without beginning, without end
and to Him belongs dominion and power.

And He is my G-d, my living G-d.
to Him I flee in time of grief,
and He is my miracle and my refuge,
who answers the day I shall call.

To Him I commit my spirit,
in the time of sleep and awakening,
even if my spirit leaves,
G-d is with me, I shall not fear.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Science vs Religion or Scientists vs Religionists?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 12, 2007

…Dawkins replies “What expertise can theologians bring to deep cosmological questions that scientists cannot?”

“Neo-Darwinism, with its random mutations and lack of any goal, “cannot be reconciled” with the theological teachings of the Torah.

“…this “need” among theologians and scientists to “reconcile” evolution with theology, or in some cases prove that they are the very opposition of each other, raises another question: Why this almost obssessive urge from either side, position in this?”

The quotes in Green and Red above represent an Atheistic and a Theistic approach to the issue of Science and Religion on the Topic of the Origins of Life, the Universe and Everything.

The quote in blue is me looking at the brawl from the out-side.

Many years ago I resolved the seeming conflict between Science and Religion by looking at what questions they answer respectively on the matter. I think perhaps I intuitively knew that the conflict lies not between the two Disciplines, but between the Disciples of both, because the answer to the conundrum of Science vs Religion I found looks as follows:

Torah/The Bible/Religion answers the Questions Who and Why?

Science/Evolutionary Theory answers the Questions How, When and Where?

Put like this there is no conflict, because in this “model” both Science and Religion are doing what they are designed to do. If we let them do that all is well. Because Torah doesn’t say one word about exactly how G-d did it – except alluding to ideas Science has already established (such as man being made from clay, which can very well be the “primordial soup” Science says all life came from) and Science doesn’t say one word about Who did it, though the very study of the mechanism of Evolution can lead individuals to the conclusion that some Prime Cause is behind it all. However neither Science nor Religion/Torah needs the other for verification or validation.

The problems start when we try to mix them, like Intelligent Design is doing or make them, two inanimate disciplines, responsible for what is really the doing of their animate proponents.

How ridiculous does that look? Two puppets on strings being forced to whack away at each other by Puppet Masters, not seen by the Audience, yelling at the top of their lungs:

– “Your puppet is beating my puppet!” Whack, whack!

– “No, your puppet is beating my puppet!” Whack, Whack!

– “Look what your evil g-dless puppet did, it broke the arm of my puppet!” Whack, slap!

– “Grrrr, that does it! Your brainwashed, fundamentalist puppet is going to Die!” Slap, whack!

Intelligent Design/Creationism doesn’t work, not primarily because it’s not scientifically sound, but because it attempts to create a synthesis of two ideas, substances that are not designed to be mixed, using tools that are alien to one of the substances, Science.

ID/Creationism presupposes a Prime Cause – that is after all why it exists, there would be no need for ID if that was not its prime purpose – but since a Prime Cause cannot be proved or disproved ID/Creationism violates the first premise of any scientific statement – verifiable evidence.

Science cannot answer ontological or theological problems, and Religion cannot answer scientific problems – both can lead towards the understanding of the other, and they do so frequently, but they cannot take over each others’ role in human life and be expected to lead anything anywhere. They work best side by.

Other Sites that discuss this issue:

In the Name of Towelie!

Posted in Evolution Theory, On the Matter of Belief in G-d, Science vs Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

“Is Darwin Kosher?”

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 12, 2007

“Is Darwin Kosher?” Discovery Institute Hosts Orthodox Jew who says “No!”

“According to Rosenblum, Neo-Darwinism, with its random mutations and lack of any goal, “cannot be reconciled” with the theological teachings of the Torah.

Would you expect a tree to have a goal? Or a salmon to be aware that it’s life is going to end at the very place it was spawned? Of course not! Just as little as I would expect my printer to be aware of the words it prints when printing the weekly parasha for me – does this lack of awareness disqualify the printer for its job? Does it make my understanding of how the printer works less valid? No. Why? Because the printer does the job it was designed to do.

In a way Science is like my printer – it can only do what it is designed for, and Science is not designed to answer theological questions or even cast light on those matters. The question that this “need” among theologians and scientists to “reconcile” evolution with theology, or in some cases prove that they are the very opposition of each other, raises another question: Why this almost obssessive urge from either side, position in this?

One very big reason is tradition – Science has traditionally been maltreated by the Church, and has therefore naturally adopted a skeptic and cautious attitude towards the Church.

Traditionally the Church has been obsessed with proving the truth of its claims and doctrines, one of them the existence of G-d, and since The Evolution Theory doesn’t require the existence of G-d to be accurate or even mentions G-d, it has been at odds with the Church from get go.

What does this have to do with Judaism? Well, in the view of many Evolution theorists Genesis is Genesis, regardless of who is reading it. But the truth is that Judaism has never bothered with such matters as proving the existence of G-d – that has ALWAYS been an axiom in Judaism – nor is Judaism really interested in the literal veracity of Written Torah, since Oral Torah is the basic Guiding light in Judaism. The Sages have always been reading Torah from a more or less loose point, through allusions, anagrams, allegories and general midrashing. Science, and a logical process has always been part of Jewish education, even back when our ancestors were mere farmers and hunters. So for Judaism the question of Science vs Religion is irrelevant.

Rosenblum was adamant that Orthodox Judaism in its reading of the Bible is not driven by a simple literal approach, but he maintained that Neo-Darwinian evolution stretches the theological truths of the Torah beyond their intended meaning.

Now, this is an interesting statement. Again this claim that “theological truths” have any bearing on Evolution or the other way around. Besides, anyone who has been just half awake for the last 10 years knows that it is actually the theologians that are trying to stretch Evolutionary Theory in a manner that was never intended.

Rosenblum clearly grasped the scientific issues. His article last year in the Jewish Observer challenged Darwin on the grounds of a lack of transitional fossils and the inability of natural selection to produce complex systems.

“Rosenblum grasps the scientific issues” to a degree where he is able to establish something that is not true – how brilliant! Sorry, I just couldn’t let that one be. “…on the grounds of a lack of transitional fossils”. On the matter of transitional fossils – perhaps the good Rosenblum need to read that?

Instead, Rosenblum, who himself is a graduate of Yale Law School and the University of Chicago, gave a lucid explanation of how Neo-Darwinism survives:

First step: Exclude all non-natural causes as a priori inadmissible. Second step: If Darwinian Evolution were true, it would explain observed taxonomic similarities between different living things. Third step: Since no alternative explanation exists to explain those phenomena, Darwinism must be true. … Fourth step: Since Darwinism is true, all explanations based on non-natural causes are vanquished. Note how that which was a priori excluded at the outset is now deemed to have been somehow disproved. (Jonathan Rosenblum, “The Myth of Scientific Objectivity,” Jewish Observer (May, 2006).)

That last quote is a nice and pretty little logical fallacy:

First statement is false in and of itself, since Evolution Theory does not have any claims whatsoever about non-natural causes – it’s purely agnostic in that realm, and on top of that it is irrelevant to the three following statements – it has no connection to the other parts of the chain. And since his fourth statement is dependent on the first for validity, that falls away too.

Now, how about Statements 2 and 3? Well, the problem is that Evolutionary Theory does explain the taxonomic similarities between different living things, and since Rosenblum stated “If so – then so…” he has disqualified his own reasoning and ends up with no need for alternative explanations, since only his second statement needs verification, and that fails. Simple logic.

The appearance of the idea of “non-natural causes” in this discussion is purely theological and is given power only because theologians have mistaken the aim of Science for the personal opinions of the scientists on theological matters. Rosenblum is no different.

Posted in Evolution Theory, On the Matter of Belief in G-d, Scientists vs Religionists | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

BTs – two perspectives

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 2, 2007

This clip could easily be stood against another Clip about how Bnai Teshuvah are being discriminated against within the Frum Community.

clipped from

At the Beyond BT Shabbaton in Passaic, Rabbi Yitz Greenman – Executive Director of Aish NY and Producer of Inspired Films gave a shiur on Integrating into the Frum Community.Rabbi Greenman started off by giving two scenarios which he thought were unhealthy:
1) Feeling that you always have to hide being a BT
2) Advertising you are a BT and associating only with other BTs.He felt that a person should find a community where (s)he would associate with people who weren’t BTs and at the same time the person shouldn’t feel that (s)he needed to hide being a BT.After presenting the above position, the floor was opened to questions and a lively discussion ensued.


Many people in attendance felt that the reason that people hid being a BT, was because people are judgmental about BTs. Rabbi Greenman was not sure that judgmentalism was the cause and thought that perhaps people felt judged, but really weren’t.

clipped from

This is a child born to a woman who had not immersed herself in the mikvah, or ritual bath, prior to sexual relations, as is commanded by Jewish law.Of course, the vast majority of liberal and secular Jewish women do not go to the mikvah prior to resuming sexual relations, and therefore most children of liberal and secular Jewish backgrounds are designated as “b’nai niddah.” In fact, the term BT (baal teshuvah) is today essentially synonymous with “ben niddah,” and this may be why the term baal teshuvah is employed more frequently in the haredi world for designating a newly observant member of the community than in the Modern Orthodox world. A BT does not just come from a different background as a haredi FFB (“frum,” or observant, from birth), but is also of a different status than an FFB. This is because there are negative personality characteristics associated with such a classification according to many ancient rabbinical commentaries.Bnai Niddah are “corrupt and sinners.” They have a genetic disposition to do evil. They are prone to brazenness and rebelliousness, and do not treat great rabbis with the proper respect they deserve. Baal teshuvahs are not properly deferential towards great rabbis just because they were brought up with and retain vestiges of a liberal democratic approach to life and society. It is because their mother did not immerse in the mikvah, or at least, the BT’s unfortunate world view is exacerbated by the unclean bloodstains of menstruation on their souls.

It might be slightly hard (you think?) to feel at home and feel that you are a part of the Community, if you are being looked at as something “ritually unclean” where ever you go. Especially if you are truly trying to do everything by the book, and are successful.

Add to this that this treatment of Bnai Teshuvah is actually a violation of Torah, which says that G-d takes great pleasure in each sinner who returns to Observance of Mitzvot.

Posted in Baal Teshuvah, Torah | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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