25 August 2006

My Critique on My Rabbinic Sleep Ethics paper

As YCT has recently published the second volume of Milin Havivin, there is much to discuss. In fact, KAAB has already discussed one of Dr. Friedman's articles. Clearly, the biggest, most researched article was written by my classmate, Steven Exler, though I'm still trying to work through it, is on something that is very relevant to this month: it's entitled "Teki’ot Transforming Texts: Elul Shofar Blasts in Medieval Minhag". Also of note is David Kasher's "Defending Derash: The Gur Aryeh’s Approach to Hermeneutics", which is beautifully written and deals with people (mainly MO) being a little unsatisfied with Rashi's commentary to the Humash and with people being also a little unhappy with Artscroll. Very worth checking out.
However, I wanted to deal with my article (Drew Kaplan, "Rabbinic Sleep Ethics: Jewish Sleep Conduct in Late Antiquity," Milin Havivin 2 [June 2006], 83-93) in this posting. I welcome comments on my paper - you may e-mail me at drewkaplanis@yahoo.com, though I request that people try to remain cordial in their comments. Before anybody submits any comments, compliments, or criticisms of my paper, let me offer some of my own first.
Although I was happy with my paper on the whole, I do have what to say regarding it.
Firstly, the title - I probably should've thought about the title a second time as the "Jewish Sleep Conduct..." sounds like a description, whereas I was trying to discuss not what they did so much as what they said to do. Just because someone says something doesn't mean that they do it ("Do as I say, not as I do."). However, in response to this argument, I think it's reasonable to assume that they tried to follow it (although we know what happens when we assume...), so the title doesn't totally not fit.
Regarding the term of "sleep ethics", which, although I didn't coin (see various postings on the Internet for this term (that I Googled): here, here, and here), I refer to it in a certain way. I don't mean how do we treat others or others treat us in times of trying to sleep or when one is sleeping (although it can/could include such understandings), but how one is to conduct or not to conduct oneself when sleeping. True, this is more individually focused, but still good. When one thinks of ethics, one probably thinks about how to treat others, but that's not the understanding, per se, with which I am operating.
Next is the problem with trying to discuss how the Rabbis spoke of sleep ethics without trying to deal with larger issues of how they viewed sleep (a larger philosophy of sleep). Yes, there are a number of footnotes that show that I actually was engaged in this endeavor, but I think a more accurate description would be to say that I actually tried to avoid discussing larger philosophies of sleep operating at the time of our Sages. This is a problem for this article, but I hope to explore it further in future articles.
One gaping hole that not only could I not help but noticing and which I'm sure many others would see and easily scratch their heads is that on the penultimate page (p. 92), I record Rav's proscription against diurnal sleeping more than a horse sleeps and discuss it, but I don't say how long a horse sleeps. Now most people reading that would see that as a glaring error. However, in most of my drafts of this paper, I had included a little discussion of this length of time, citing the same article as I had in n. 45 about horse sleeping habits and tossing in an aharon's citation of two other aharonim's opinions (yes, he actually cites three, but the third is a bit unlikely). However, this is missing. In a later article, I hope to mention it - probably in my Zohar and sleep article.
This mention of
aharonim brings me to me next criticism - that aside from citing Rashi a lot and Tosafos a little, I brought in a couple of aharonim in n. 14. I imagine that in future papers, I will cite more, as my facility with them will increase.
Those are my main criticisms. I am happy about a few other things in the article, but I will leave them for others to notice.

What it do

Drew in front of the Bronx ZooYeah, I haven't posted in nearly two weeks, but I haven't been as close with my computer as I usually am. However, I've been fine with that, as it has been a little like a little vacation (a la Menachem). It's funny, I have found, that there is somewhat a balancing act which occurs: trying to avoid being on the computer, perhaps hurting my eyes, or my time spent doing other things, such as working on actual articles (similar to Menachem (though I haven't totally quit blogging just yet)), etc. as well as trying to read others' blogs and get a more well-rounded perspective on things going on the world, Judaism, ideas, etc. and posting, myself. Yes, I have had a greater reluctance to post as I am afraid to get verbally attacked on the Internet or in person by what I type on the blog, which also has been a damper on my frequency of posting (does that suggest a little lack of backbone?).Drew in front of the New York Aquarium
Anyways, last week, and a little bit of this week, I visited the Bronx Zoo for the first time, the New York Aquarium for the first time, and a brief view of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for the first time. I also went to check out the Brooklyn Museum, though it was primarily art stuff, which interests me not. It was nice as it was almost like being a tourist, except that I didn't have to pay to travel to another city, nor stay at a hotel. How often does one check out attractions in their own city? One thing which kept striking me at the zoo and the aquarium was that a lot of the signs were describing the dwindling populations of this or that animal and how their habitats were being destroyed by humans. Now, of course, what should strike one is that these institutions are really trying to push their message that the world is going down the drain and it is our fault, but we need to help out. HoweDrew next to a column at the Italian garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardenver, inasmuch as they were trying to stuff this message down the visitors' throats, they are right and, moreover, this is the place where the message needs to be made. For if it were not being made as strong as that, where else would the message be as understood. I was feeling rather helpless as to what I could do to combat this utter evil that has taken hold over our planet, destroying it, and within our midst. Simply, I saw that they were really pushing the Wildlife Conservation Society, which was working to try helping out fauna on our earth, so I joined up. Granted, I also get free passage to the four zoos in the New York City area and the aquarium, plus discounts, etc.
Anyways, I'm back now to blogging and it was a nice time. School starts up Monday....

13 August 2006

Returning From Boston back to New York City

The Summer Beit Midrash program that began 4 July ended Thursday. It was a different day than usual, as we went to the Boston Beis Din (sorry, I don't know of any web links for this place), which was neat, as we got to see parts of a few גיטין (gets) given (I had never seen it done before). In addition to watching the proceedings, we also finished up looking over some of our תשובות (responsa) on the שאלה (query) that we were given on our topic.
Afterwards, I headed back to my hosts' house, where I packed up and left, heading to the bus terminal, picking up a 10.30 bus and arriving back to the City at 3am. I was around for shabbas, with a great number of inquiries as to my absence and I confirmed that I was back in town from having been away. Also, I got to meet a fellow JBlogger over shabbas, which is always pretty neat.

At some point, I hope to post both the query and my responsum soon.

09 August 2006

Lecture on the Meiri - Last Public Lecture of this Year's SBM

Rabbi Klapper speaking at Congregation Shaarei Tefillah on 9 August 2006 on paskening like the MeiriTonight, Rabbi Klapper spoke on the topic of "Paskening like the Meiri" to round out the public lecture series during this year's Summer Beit Midrash program in the Boston area. I had been thinking of trying to quote this piece or that piece, but it was not only overwhelming of the choices from which I could have chose, but that it also would have been tremendously time consuming. So, I highly encourage you to listen to it as it is tremendously informative about paskening like Rabbi Menahem Meiri. Additionally, he also showed briefly how he disagreed with Dr. Moshe Halbertal's article in the first Edah journal.

News in Drew

- I know I haven't posted in the last two weeks, but, don't worry, my posting frequency will be up a little over the next week or so.

- The Summer Beit Midrash program is coming to an end - ending tomorrow. I hope to post my teshuvah as well as some other stuff when it ends.

- I also hope to post about my recently published sleep article soon.

- Ever since my hard drive crashed, my ipod was working well until I decided to synch it with my new hard drive. Fortunately I had transferred all of my files from my ipod first to my computer when I got to Boston over a month ago, although while synching, my ipod then didn't seem to have anything on it. Recently, I have begun trying again, though with limited success. We'll see how it goes.

- I have had an empty apartment spot (see here for info on the spot) since the beginning of June, which I had thought we were going to fill for July, which fell through, and then someone else for August, which also fell through. So, now I am in search of a new roommate to room with my new roommate who will be moving in this month.