The Tiferes Yisrael on Laughter

Tiferes Yisrael Avos 6:6
 במיעוט שחוק – מלתא דבדיחותא ג”כ מיעוטו יפה, כדי לשמח הנפש ולהבריקה בחריצות וזכרון [פסחים קי”ז א’].

Some Offhand Thoughts as I Work on the Ebook

I am busy with my upcoming, free (about 20-page short) Ebook on surviving an encounter with an atheist, so my thoughts are a bit more in that direction, even though this is isn’t our usual subject matter.

I just came across the following Wikipedia article titled “Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit” summarizing Richard Dawkins’ counter-argument to the Design Argument.

(If this doesn’t interest you, skip this.)

Here’s Wikipedia’s summary:

The Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit is a counter-argument to modern versions of the argument from design for the existence of God. It was introduced by Richard Dawkins in chapter 4 of his 2006 book The God Delusion, “Why there almost certainly is no God”.

The argument is a play on the notion of a “tornado sweeping through a junkyard to assemble a Boeing 747” employed to decry abiogenesis and evolution as vastly unlikely and better explained by the existence of a creator god. According to Dawkins, this logic is self-defeating as the theist must now account for the god’s existence and explain whether or how the god was created. In his view, if the existence of highly complex life on Earth is the equivalent of the implausible junkyard Boeing 747, the existence of a highly complex god is the “ultimate Boeing 747” that truly does require the seemingly impossible to explain its existence.

I didn’t read Dawkins’ book and don’t want to go into whether knowledge is an intrinsic “quality” of God, the anthropic principle, etc., but rather to point out that whether his counterargument follows or not is irrelevant, because, firstly, I don’t think there is any “proof” of God’s existence, secondly, because the Argument from Design is no good anyway, and thirdly, God is not a scientific explanation of anything (Yeshayahu Leibowitz).

Postulating a prime mover that is capable of indulging in intelligent design is, in Dawkins’s opinion, “a total abdication of the responsibility to find an explanation”…

But could an explanation be eventually found, even theoretically? If we speak, not of abiogenesis or evolution or the like, but of all everything; the “universe”, then since nothing can be said of the universe itself, the nihilistic quest is vain and misconceived.

Parenthetically, I assume the reason most all “Theist” debaters ignore this point is because they are actually Cursedian idolaters, not believers in one, transcendent God.

Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles Are Not All They Seem

I didn’t read Marc Shapiro’s “Limits of Orthodox Theology”, but from the blurb, it sounds like the anonymous Hebrew pamphlet we recently posted here.

It is commonly asserted that Maimonides’ famous Thirteen Principles are the last word in Orthodox Jewish theology. This is a very popular notion, and is often repeated by scholars from all camps in Judaism. Yet such a position ignores the long history of Jewish theology in which Maimonides’ Principles have been subject to great dispute. The book begins with a discussion of the significance of the Principles and illustrates how they assumed such a central place in traditional Judaism. Each principle is then considered in turn: the reasons underlying Maimonides’ formulations are expounded and the disputes that have arisen concerning them are discussed in detail. Marc B. Shapiro’s authoritative analysis makes it quite clear that the notion that Maimonides’ Principles are the last word in traditional Jewish theology is a misconception, and that even Maimonides himself was not fully convinced of every aspect of his formulations. Although structured around Maimonides’ Principles, this book can also be seen as an encyclopedia of traditional Jewish thought concerning the central issues of Jewish theology.

The diversity of opinion in Jewish tradition on such issues as God, Creation, and the Revelation of the Torah is sure to surprise readers.

From book summaries I’ve seen (maybe somewhere here), not all of his points are valid, and some are self-admittedly conjectural, but enough is good enough to make his point (and the book itself is probably even better).

Is Every ‘Melech’ in Megillas Esther Hakadosh Baruch Hu?

No, of course not. This doesn’t fit with half the pesukim in any discernible way. Chassidim separate the words, so when it says “King Achashverosh” made a feast for those living in Shushan, it means Avashverosh plus Hashem. Except this adds nothing, because Hashem does everything, anyhow, so you might as well take all words to mean Hashem.

As usual, people rely on a half-quote from a preacher.

Here’s the original Chazal, Esther Rabba 3:10:

אשר למלך אחשורוש, ר’ יודן ור’ לוי בשם ר’ יוחנן כל מקום שנאמר במגלה זו “למלך אחשורוש” במלך אחשורוש הכתוב מדבר וכל מקום שנאמר “למלך” סתם משמש קדש וחול.
In other words, not “Melech” or “Molech” or “Hamelech”, but only “Lamelech”, and even there, only when not accompanied by the specifier “Achashverosh”. And even then, it’s only a maybe; maybe Kodesh, maybe Chol.
Now we’ve narrowed down the list considerably, let’s see where it can or cannot mean “Kodesh”:
ויודע הדבר למרדכי ויגד לאסתר המלכה ותאמר אסתר למלך בשם מרדכי.
Probably not.
ויאמרו נערי המלך משרתיו יבקשו למלך נערות בתולות טובות מראה.
Definitely not.
ותאמר לו זרש אשתו וכל אהביו יעשו עץ גבה חמשים אמה ובבקר אמר למלך ויתלו את מרדכי עליו ובא עם המלך אל המשתה שמח…
ויאמר המלך מי בחצר והמן בא לחצר בית המלך החיצונה לאמר למלך לתלות את מרדכי על העץ אשר הכין.
Haman praying to Hashem, maybe?
וכל שרי המדינות והאחשדרפנים והפחות ועשי המלאכה אשר למלך מנשאים את היהודים כי נפל פחד מרדכי עליהם.
That’s it.
I figured I’d better say this now, so you still have time to prepare something else – unless you want to say Purim Torah.