5/29/16

Introduction to Judaism - Free Online Course


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Introduction to Judaism
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Professor Tzvee Zahavy
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NYTimes on Your Google Afterlife: Who Will Say Kaddish Over Your Digital Soul?

After you die, your digital soul will live on - all the data in your Google and other accounts. That material contains personal and impersonal captures of aspects of your consciousness - what some creative social scientists might try figuratively to label as parts of your "soul".

From The New York Times BITS BLOG we learned that, "Google Introduces a Tool for Planning for Your Digital Afterlife. As Web companies and legislators grapple with who controls your digital life after you die, Google introduced a tool for designating what you want to happen to your data after you die." The tool is called the "Inactive Accounts Manager".
Google users can choose whether they want their information deleted or to name a beneficiary, as in a will. Users can have different directives for different products — deleting Gmail and Drive but sharing Picasa and YouTube content, for instance...

Google users choose whether to activate the feature after their accounts are inactive for three, six, nine or 12 months. Google will send a text message and e-mail before taking any action. The feature, called Inactive Account Manager, is accessible on the account settings page.
This subject causes us to reflect. In a truly digital mode, what do you say to a person about the loss of a loved one?

Perhaps this: "May your loved one's data live on in the cloud of eternal storage."


5/16/16

Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy - Yahrzeit

Photos
Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy

New York City 
September 8, 1918 - May 1, 2012

My father's most valuable autographs


In May 2012, during the shiva for my dad, Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy, I showed many people an important part of our inheritance from him - five valuable autographs.

Now these are not autographs of Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle or of presidents or anything like that. 

These are the five signatures on my dad's klaf - on his diploma of ordination from Yeshiva University's Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, which he received in 1942.

The priceless autographs are by five great Torah scholars, Rabbi Binyamin Aronowitz, Rabbi Bernard L. Levinthal of Philadelphia, Rabbi Samuel Belkin, Rabbi Moses Shatzkes (the Lomza Rav) and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik of Boston (the Rav).

Rabbi Yossi Adler looked at the klaf during the shiva and confirmed what I had been told, that it was rare to have five signatures on such a document. My own ordination has two (Rabbis Belkin and Soloveitchik).

I once asked my dad what it was like to go before these five great rabbis and be examined before receiving semicha - ordination. He told me, "They were tough. They made me sweat."

I greatly treasure this part of the legacy of my dad.

How a Jewish Soul Becomes Immortal Vertically and Horizontally - Remarks for my Father's Yahrzeit

The fourth yahrzeit of my father, Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy, is tonight and tomorrow.

At the breakfast at the Park East Synagogue in honor of my dad's first yahrzeit in 2013 I spoke briefly about the dimensions of the immortality of his soul. I explained that by observing the mourning customs and reciting Kaddish for the soul of the departed, we seek immortality on its behalf in heaven above and on earth as part of the eternal Jewish people. I summarized my thoughts on this process as follows below.

Is the Jewish soul immortal? Yes, tradition teaches us that if the proper procedures are followed, the Jewish soul is immortal. And the immortality is redundant. The soul of a departed loved one lives on in a vertical immortality in heaven and in a horizontal immortality as part of the collective of the Jewish people.

To guarantee the duplex immortality of a soul, a mourner must say the Kaddish prayer for eleven months in the synagogue. As an agent on behalf of my father's soul, I completed that process in 2013 for the recitation of the Kaddish for my dad, who passed away in 2012.

5/9/16

Talmudic Decision about boycotting North Carolina from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

This article is from StarTribune.com - the full article, with any associated images and links can be viewed here.
MnSCU drops North Carolina travel ban
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system has lifted a ban on travel to North Carolina over that state's law limiting the rights of LGBT people.

The ban was imposed after North Carolina passed a law requiring transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their birth gender, rather than their gender identity.

A MnSCU statement late Thursday said the system was confident that North Carolina's law was being addressed through a Justice Department order that it violated civil rights and can't be enforced.

The MnSCU ban had caused some athletic coaches to worry that they might not be able to travel to  the national Division II baseball tournament in North Carolina, for which a Minnesota team has a good chance to qualify, as well a national junior college tournament.

Pat Dolan, coach of the St. Cloud State baseball team currently ranked No. 3 in the country, told the St. Cloud Daily Times the change is " a total relief. (Wednesday) and the day before, you don't want to express your true feelings because you want to be polite and professional and you hope that the higher-ups make a decision to help."

The full Daily Times story is here.

The original MnSCU ban followed a similar directive from Gov. Mark Dayton to state employees.

"Governor Dayton agrees with the decision announced today by MnSCU's leadership," said Matt Swenson, a spokesman for Dayton.

"In light of recent actions taken by the U.S. Department of Justice, Governor Dayton is now considering whether to lift the travel ban for Minnesota's state agency employees."


[Hat tip to Barak.]

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5/6/16

Spouse of Souse and Wailing about a Wall: Questions to my Jewish Standard "Dear Rabbi Zahavy" Talmudic Advice Column for May 2016

I just realized that I've been writing this monthly column for three years!


Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

I think that my husband drinks too much. He has at least two glasses of wine every night at dinnertime. He often drinks more later in the evening. On Shabbat he has several drinks of hard liquor with his buddies in shul before lunch. I’m worried that he is an alcoholic. What should I do?

Wife of Wine Drinker

Dear Wife,

Wine plays a pervasive and positive role in the rituals of our Jewish tradition, as you doubtless know. Our Sabbaths and festivals are inaugurated at dinner by blessing a cup of wine and drinking it. We end the holy days with wine at the Havdalah ceremony. On Passover we make it through the stresses of the holiday and of the Seder meal with the help of four cups of wine, interspersed throughout the evening. On Purim there is a mitzvah that we must drink until we no longer can differentiate between cursing Haman and blessing Mordecai.

4/30/16

Is David Tepper Jewish?


Yes David Tepper is a Jew.

Wikipedia reports that: Tepper was raised in a Jewish family in the East End of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the Stanton Heights neighborhood. He was the second of three children born to Harry, who worked as an accountant, and Roberta, who was an elementary school teacher who taught at public schools in the city... In 2006, Tepper donated $1 million to United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey toward their Israel Emergency Campaign.

Forbes (5/1/2016) ranked him #85 in the world's billionaires, saying:

"David Tepper, one of the most successful hedge fund managers ever, recently moved to Miami Beach from northern New Jersey, which was seen as a big tax blow to the Garden State. Tepper also moved his $18 billion hedge fund firm, Appaloosa Management, to Florida. Tepper's hedge fund performance in the years following the financial crisis has made him an investing legend. Tepper added to his legacy in 2015, a year in which many prominent hedge funds lost money, showing he could navigate though a volatile market period as deftly as a bullish one."

Here's a story from The New York Times about his move from NJ to Florida.
NYTimes: One Top Taxpayer Moved, and New Jersey Shuddered re: David Tepper
The hedge fund manager David Tepper's relocation to Florida is a case study in how tax collection changes when income becomes concentrated in the hands of a few.

4/24/16

NYTimes: Talmudic Awareness - Mindfulness Without the Meditation

A Talmudic method of looking at life. The Times discusses achieving mindfulness without meditation. Ah, but the essay does not mention Talmud. Oh well.

Achieving Mindfulness at Work, No Meditation Cushion Required
Preoccupations

By MATTHEW E. MAY

In a recent seminar I gave for over 100 business professionals, I asked the
participants to play a simple word association game with me: “I say
mindfulness, you say ________.” The word that rang out in unison was, of
course, “meditation.”

Mindfulness, it seems, has become a mainstream business practice and a
kind of industry in its own right. Meditation instructors are the new
management gurus, and companies including Google, General Electric, Ford
Motor and American Express are sending their employees to classes that can
run up to $50,000 for a large audience. Many mindfulness apps exist, nearly
all of which focus on “mindfulness meditation.”