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According to the mishna, ten genealogical classes of people returned to Israel from Babylon after the first exile. These are: kohanim (priests), Levites, Israelites ("regular" Jews), halalim (disqualified priests), proselytes, freedmen, mamzerim (products of a forbidden union), netinim (temple assistants, possibly Cana'anites), shetuki (to be defined), and foundlings. On these last two, the mishna says that the shetuki knows who his mother is but not his father (so he knows he's Jewish but doesn't know his tribe), while a foundling was gathered in from the street and knows neither his father nor his mother (but if he's circumcised the g'mara assumes he's Jewish).

The mishna goes on to list who may marry whom (which may be why it bothered to enumerate these ten groups). Kohanim, Levites, and Israelites may all intermarry. (These are, by the way, the three main groups; if you hear people talk about three categories of Jews, this is what they mean.) Levites, Israelites, halalim, proselytes, and freedmen (but not kohanim) may all intermarry. And prosselytes, freedmen, mamzerim, netinim, shetuki, and foundlings may all intermarry. (69a)

If you map this out, you'll see that these last few categories, who mostly have uncertain or non-Jewish parents, are pretty limited in whom they can marry. One reason for the restriction is to prevent accidental forbidden marriages -- for example, we don't want a foundling who doesn't know who his parents are to accidentally marry his sister. I guess the rabbis see the odds of this being very low if they stick within these groups; in principle two foundlings could have the same parents, but the only alternative would be to forbid them from marrying at all. (Skimming ahead a bit, it looks like they do in fact make the rarity argument on 73a.)

TIL #1:

Somebody linked to this question on Stack Overflow about some unexpected results when doing math on dates in Java. The problem, according to Jon Skeet, is that the date being used in the calculation is near midnight on December 31, 1927 in the Shanghai time zone -- when Shanghai moved its clocks by 5 minutes and 52 seconds. So the time in question existed twice, and Java chose the one that the programmer wasn't expecting.

That answers the programming question, but my question from that was: why in the world would somebody move clocks by 5 minutes and 52 seconds? I understand shifts of an hour (that happens all the time), and there are timezones out there that have 30-minute offsets and even one with a 15-minute offset, so that wouldn't have much surprised me either. But 5:52???

So I asked Google, which led me to a question on History Stack Exchange about this, where an answer explained that 1927 was not a good year for political stability in Shanghai, and one of the side-effects was a change in who had control over the central astronomical institution, with the result that the reference point moved east from Beijing to Nanjing. Greenwich was apparently not yet a thing as far as they were concerned.

A comment on the answer, from Taiwan, casts doubt on whether there was a time shift at all -- but, if not, doesn't explain where Java got the idea. Curious.

TIL #2:

A few days ago on Mi Yodeya somebody asked if, during the Exodus, the commandment to place the blood on the doorposts and lintel was just on one door or all of them. (Is it like mezuzot, which are on every door, or like the chanukiyah, which we place next to one door only?) My first thought was that there might have only been one door in ancient Egyptian slave housing. Last night I learned a little about ancient architecture and then wrote an answer about the four-room house, which appears to have had one outside door. I argued that we're given the reason for the commandment: it's to mark which houses are to be passed over. To me, that says blood on exterior doors, of which there was one.

Not TIL #3:

Today on Mi Yodeya somebody asked how many people the Pesach offering would feed. The torah says to use a lamb or kid, that it all has to be eaten that night, and that if you don't have enough people to do that, get together with your neighbors. So how big a group are we talking about? One can find plenty of information (not always in agreement, mind) about the weights of modern livestock animals, but animal husbandry has worked its magic over the centuries -- heck, even within my lifetime we've seen "standard" chickens for food get a lot bigger. So knowing how much a yearling lamb weighs today doesn't necessarily tell us what it might have weighed in ancient Egypt or in the time of the first or second temple, when this was done.

I considered asking on History SE, but I haven't yet. Anybody happen to know?
A mishna on today's daf teaches: if a man betroths a woman thinking she is the daughter of a kohein and it turns out she's the daughter of a levite only, or the reverse; or he thought she was poor and she is actually rich, or the reverse -- she is betrothed, because she did not deceive him. (He failed to properly investigate what he thought to be true.) On the other hand, if a man says: be thou betrothed... after I become a proselyte, or after you become a proselyte, or after you are liberated, or after your husband dies -- in all these cases she is not betrothed. The g'mara explains why not -- these are actions that are not in his power. But, the g'mara asks, surely becoming a proselyte is in his power? No, because you need the approval of a beit din, a court of three judges. (62a-b)

The g'mara does not here comment that in order to say "after you become a proselyte", the man must be betrothing a non-Jewish woman (at the time). I don't know if a betrothal to a future Jew would be held to be valid, or if the discussion just never gets that far because of the other issue raised.

Today is Yom HaShoah (Holocaust remembrance day). I don't know what is done elsewhere, but my Conservative morning minyan adds a short service after the torah service. It consists of some psalms and some modern writings, and ends with an unusual Kaddish. The Kaddish text is the usual text, but it's interspersed with the names of camps -- Aushwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, and so on through the entire list. The reader reads the Kaddish; the congregation reads the names.

I led the service today, but someone else, someone who is old enough to remember first-hand, always leads this special service. So after he finished he turned to me to continue and it was time for...Aleinu. Aleinu is the prayer where we look forward to the day when the whole world will follow God.

I stumbled, tripped up by the cognitive dissonance.

I know that, even in the light of outrageous suffering at the hands of monsters, individuals can retain faith in God. People did, then and in earlier times (the Nazis were far from the first). People do today when murderous Nazis have been replaced with murderous Arabs. People will in the future too. Not all people, but some. This I believe.

This morning I found it a little harder to believe that at some time in the future the whole world will come around. I realize that Aleinu is looking ahead to messianic times, but the messiah will come only after we have done the groundwork. God won't send the messiah when we've sunk into the depths and all hope is lost; rather, God will send the messiah when we collectively deserve it. I hope that day will come. This morning I found it a bit harder to know that it will.
The mishna is still discussing the objects with which a man may or may not betroth a woman. (Betrothal calls for a gift of a certain, small, monetary value.) Today we learn: if a kohein (priest) betroths a woman with his portion of the offerings (the part designated for the priests), she is not betrothed. This is true whether it is of the higher degree of sanctity (the sin-offering, eaten only by priests) or of the lower (peace-offering, eaten by priests and the person who brought it). This is, it will be explained later, because these offerings belong to God; the priests may eat them, but they do not belong to the priests, and a man must own the object he uses to betroth a woman. The mishna then makes a similar statement about the second tithe, which also goes to the priests -- no betrothing with them, either. This is the view of R' Meir. R' Yehudah says: if he did it unwittingly she is not betrothed but if he did it deliberately, she is. (52b)

(Today's daf is 55, and part of a long discussion arising from this mishna.)

When a man betroths a woman he must give her something of (at least small) value. Today we use a ring, but it could be anything so long as its value can be ascertained. The mishna teaches: if a man says to a woman "be thou betrothed to me with this wine" and it's found to be honey or "with honey" and it's found to be wine; or "with this gold dinar" and it's found to be silver or "with this silver dinar" and it's found to be gold; or "on condition that I am rich" and he's found to be poor or "on condition that I am poor" and he's found to be rich -- in all these cases, she is not betrothed. R' Shimon says: if he deceived her to her advantage (for example in the case where the silver coin turns out to be gold), then she is betrothed. (48b)

I don't understand conditional betrothals. As far as I can tell this isn't about some future state (if I am wealthy when it's time to get married); betrothal takes effect, or doesn't, immediately, so the state of the condition must be known, right?

Last night, as has become traditional (three times makes a tradition, right?), I held a second-night Pesach seder that I bill as the "it takes as long as it takes; you had lunch, right?" seder. In other words, the goal is plenty of good discussion, tangents welcome, and we'll get to the meal when we get there and meanwhile I'll put out some snacks.

We were five this year, having lost a couple people at the last minute. Our group included our new associate rabbi and another minyan member joining us for the first time; the others have been to this before. I asked everybody to bring something to share -- something from another haggadah, other readings or teachings, new songs, etc -- and, of course, plenty of questions.

We had a blast! We left few tangents unexplored, and I saw some haggadot that were new to me and interesting. (When people have a chance to answer the email I just sent, I'll update this post with specifics.) I heard some new songs (learning will take more than the one hearing, but now I know about them), and it turned out that some of the melodies I know were new to some others. And I take it as a good sign when a discussion about torah text gets to the point where somebody says "do you have a BDB" (a standard lexicon) or "pass the Jastrow" (dictionary of Aramaic terms). Why yes, we were taking apart grammar on the spot to answer niggling questions.

Here's a thing that only registered for me this year, despite using this same haggadah for three years now: you know that part at the beginning of Magid (the story) where many haggadot say "My father was a wandering Aramean"? Our haggadah (Silverman 2013) says "An Aramean sought to destroy my father". !!! The latter understanding is Rashi's (we learned), reading oved (wandering) instead as ibed (destroyed). That raised some eyebrows over grammar, and it turns out it does with Ibn Ezra too, who opts for the "wandering" version. Huh, interesting. Tonight I found an article at My Jewish Learning that talks about this.

I didn't notice exactly when we started, but it was about three hours until we got to the meal. To make that possible and not butt-numbing, I continued something I learned from Lee Gold: do the pre-meal part in the living room on the comfy chairs. We're supposed to be able to recline in comfort during this part; if space permits, I've found it helpful to actually do that. This wouldn't work with a large group, but with a large group we probably wouldn't be able to have this kind of discussion and interaction anyway.

Dinner conversation was enjoyable and wide-ranging, and then we went back to the living room for the after-meal parts, including a pretty rousing Hallel. It turns out we all like Hallel. :-)

I was able to share some things from "Hagada - Mi Yodeya?", and I sent everybody home with a copy. (You can download yours here.)

Food notes: During the earlier part, in addition to the ritual foods, I put out raw vaggies and almonds to munch on. Dinner was: (hard-boiled eggs,) ginger-coconut soup (with assorted veggies), gefilte fish, baked chicken with rosemary and sage, roasted red peppers stuffed with butternut squash and sweet onions, roasted small potatoes (golden and red) with sea salt, green salad with fruit (brought by a guest), and assorted desserts including cookies brought by a guest. (I was a wizard of multi-tasking on Friday!) For those wondering about the soup: everybody is presumed to have had chicken soup with matzah balls the previous night and one guest is a vegetarian, so I wanted something non-meat and didn't want to just use something that came in a box. I saw this soup recipe in a newspaper recently (it was a fish soup but I adapted it) and decided to make that.
Three years ago, we at Mi Yodeya put out our first publication, a Hagada supplement full of questions and answers related to the Passover seder, hand-picked from the thousands of great Jewish Q&As at Mi Yodeya. Seders around the world were enlivened, thanks to people bringing printouts of this booklet.

Today, for Passover 5776, we are proud to present a second edition, significantly expanded and improved. With eleven additional Q&As, "Hagada - Mi Yodeya?" now covers every step of the seder, from preparation (how can I make an engaging seder?) to the closing songs (why does Echad Mi Yodeya stop at 13?). It includes questions of theology and philosophy (did hardening Paro's heart mean he wasn't really responsible?), practical questions (what do you do with the wine in Eliyahu's cup?), and other things you might have wondered about (is two zuzim a lot of money for a kid goat? how much is a zuz anyway?).

You can download the new edition at http://s.tk/miyodeya. Please download, enjoy, and share! I'll have copies at my seder; perhaps you will at yours too?
The mishna discusses who is obligated in which mitzvot. For positive commandments limited to certain times, it says, men are obligated and women are exempt. For positive commandments not limited to certain times, and for all negative commandments, both men and women are obligated (except for three specific negative commandments, two of which have to do with facial hair).

Now we get to the g'mara. What are positive time-bound commandments from which women are exempt? The g'mara lists: dwelling in the sukkah, taking the lulav (a special ritual done during Sukkot), hearing the shofar, wearing tzitzit (fringes), and wearing t'filin (phylacteries). And what are positive commandments not bound by time? Placing a mezuzah on your doorpost, building a guard-rail on your roof/balcony, returning lost property, and sending away the mother bird before taking the eggs from the nest. These are not complete lists.

But the g'mara goes on to object. It points out several positive time-bound commandments that women are obligated to, including rejoicing on festivals, eating matzah on Pesach, and assembling at the Temple on Sukkot (when we were able to do so). And there are positive non-time-bound commandments from which women are exempt, such as studying torah and procreation. R' Yochanan answers: we cannot learn these from general principles. Over the next couple pages the g'mara presents sources about specific commandments. (29a mishna, 34a g'mara)

Remember that the talmud doesn't always start from "we have these facts; what can we derive?", but, rather, often starts from "we know the law to be X (because the oral law is a received tradition); from where do we know it or how can we characterize it?". We aren't here given a principle from which we can derive that women are exempt from sukkah, lulav, and so on; we're given a list.

"Don't read the comments" -- common, often-correct advice when browsing the Internet. But comments are important, if you want to build community instead of just publishing stuff.

The Guardian looked at trends in the 70 million comments they've received. Not too surprisingly, articles posted by identifiable women get more abusive comments than those posted by men -- except in the fashion category. About 2% of the comments they get are blocked by moderators as way over the line; I'm surprised it's not rather higher, actually.

People who find themselves abused online are often told to ignore it – it’s only words; it isn’t real life. But in extreme cases, that distinction breaks down completely, such as when a person is doxed, or SWATed, when nude photos are posted of the person without consent, or when a stalker assumes the person’s identity on an online dating site and a string of all-too-real men appear at their door expecting sex. As one woman who had this experience said: “Virtual reality can become reality, and it ruins your life.”

But in addition to the psychological and professional harm online abuse and harassment can cause to individuals, there are social harms, too. Recent research by the Pew Centre found that not only had 40% of adults experienced harassment online but 73% had witnessed others being harassed. This must surely have a chilling effect, silencing people who might otherwise contribute to public debates – particularly women, LGBT people and people from racial or religious minorities, who see others like themselves being racially and sexually abused.

Is that the kind of culture we want to live in?

Is that the web we want?

They talk about their research methods.
The talmud has moved on from talking about acquiring a wife and then acquiring a slave to acquiring property. The mishna teaches: property which offers security (real estate, which can be held as collateral for a loan) is acquired by money, by deed of sale, or by "hazikah" -- doing something to it such as plowing a field. On the other hand, property which does not offer security (movable goods) can be acquired only by meshikah, physical transfer from hand to hand. You can acquire both types of property together with money, deed, or hazikah (you don't need to physically pass the movables from person to person), but if there is a dispute over the transaction you will be obligated to take an oath. (Oaths are serious business.) (26a)

The mishna's position on adverse possession is unclear to me. I asked on Mi Yodeya.

(Today's daf is 27.)

For the past couple weeks -- but not before then -- both Firefox and Chrome have been randomly seizing up on me on my Mac at home (running Snow Leopard). When this happens, first that application and then (about 10-15 seconds later) the entire machine become unresponsive, presenting the spinning beachball of doom. After a minute or so, but occasionally longer, things go back to normal. Sometimes I see a Chrome pop-up about an unresponsive site flash by. When this happens and I can watch in the Activity Monitor, neither CPU nor memory is pegged. Sometimes this happens once a day; sometimes it happens a couple times in an hour. It's becoming a pretty big usability problem.

All browsers are up to date (and not beta versions). This doesn't happen on my work machine (Win7). Dani says this happens to him on his brand-new iMac with maxed-out memory, but only with Firefox. (So he uses Chrome -- problem solved.) For me on my dusty old Mac Mini, it's happening with both browsers. I can't figure out what changed -- why is this happening now?

Googling told me that disabling the Flash player extension/addon/plugin/whatever could fix this, but it didn't. I've also looked through extensions and disabled anything I'm not actively using; it's pretty bare-bones. I do have several userscripts, none written by me, but I don't see anything glaringly suspicious in their code. I've already disabled the ones I can live without at least for a while, but a couple of them really are critical. I'm not finding any help on the Apple forums.

I've been thinking about upgrading my hardware anyway, as even before this started my Mac was starting to get sluggish sometimes. I bought it in something like 2009, so that's not too surprising. But the Mini hasn't been updated since October 2014, so this is the wrong time to buy -- something better should be coming before too much longer.

Meanwhile, I'd like to diagnose and fix this problem. But I'm out of ideas. :-(
Having discussed how a man acquires a wife, the talmud goes on to discuss how one acquires a Hebrew slave, how the slave acquires his freedom, and how he is to be treated in between. The g'mara on today's daf talks about how he is to be treated. From "because he (the slave) is well with thee (the master)" (Deut 15:16), we learn that the slave must be with -- equal to -- the master: the master cannot eat white bread while the slave eats black bread; the master cannot drink old wine while the slave drinks new wine; the master cannot sleep on a feather bed while the slave sleeps on straw. Hence it was said: whoever buys a Hebrew slave is like buying a master for himself. (20a)

The Hebrew slave goes free in the seventh year (it's not forever). The verse cited here, though, is from the case where at that time the slave says he loves his master and refuses to go -- in that case he remains forever. This decision is entirely the slave's, so while you think you might be acquiring him, and thus taking on the obligation to treat him as one of your household in exchange for his labor, for six years, it could end up being for much longer.

Rav Yehudah said in Rav's name: one who does not know the peculiar nature of divorce and betrothal (I think this means one who doesn't know the laws of how to effect them) should have no business with them. R' Assi said in R' Yochanan's name: such people are more harmful to the world than the generation of the flood, for it is written: by swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they spread forth, and blood touches blood (Hosea 4:2). And it continues (4:3): therefore shall the land mourn and everyone that dwells there shall languish with the beasts of the field and the fowls of heaven and even the fish of the sea. But with the generation of the flood nothing was decreed against the fish, because it says: all that was in the dry land died -- what was in dry land, but not what was in the sea. So those who commit Hosea's list of transgressions cause a punishment more harsh than the flood, and the rabbis understand that to include those who try to act on betrothals and divorces without knowledge. (13a)

Whatever Hosea is talking about involves a penalty more dire than the flood (it all comes down to the fish). How do we get from Hosea's list of transgressions to those who don't know what they're doing with divorce and betrothal? I think it's about the adultery -- if you bungle a divorce then she's still married but doesn't know it, leading to adultery. This is my speculation; it's not completely clear to me in the text that this is the reasoning.

It's Purim Torah season at Mi Yodeya, where, in addition to the regular, serious questions, we also welcome parody questions. Our policy (yes, we have a policy) says:
It's gotta be distinctly "Purim" (not serious), distinctly Torah, and distinctly Q&A. Purim Torah questions that don't have all three of these qualities may be closed.

So, post sincere-looking questions (you know, the kind that invite answers) that:

  • misinterpret a real Torah concept or Jewish text, or
  • apply a distinctly Torah style (e.g. Talmudic analysis) to an irrelevant topic
Here's a sampling from this year. Purim Torah is welcome through this week, so feel free to join in.

There are a lot more, over 250 from this and past years.

Having finished Gittin (divorces), we now move on to Kiddushin (marriages). No, I don't know why they were recorded in this order.

The first mishna of Kiddushin says: a woman is acquired in marriage in three ways: by money, by deed (a written document), or by intercourse. On money, Beit Shammai requires a dinar in value, but Beit Hillel requires a perutah (a very small amount). The g'mara then discusses betrothal through money for several pages. Shortly before today's daf we learn how this works: if a man gives a woman money (or its equivalent value in goods) and declares "behold, thou art consecrated to me" (or "betrothed to me" or "wife to me"), and she accepts the gift, they are betrothed. Apparently a gift by itself doesn't effect the betrothal without the declaration, so it's safe to give gifts to your single female friends. (2a mishna, 5b g'mara)

Today's daf is 6.

If a man refuses to give his wife a get then she is trapped in the marriage (even if he has left her) and cannot remarry. This is why the laws of gittin are so important -- as a protection for her. A mishna on today's daf tells us that we can go so far as to compel the man to give her a bill of divorce even under duress and the get is valid -- if under an Israelite court. If it is done under a heathen court, on the other hand, the get is invalid. However, the heathen court can flog the man and tell him "do what the Israelite authorities command", and if he writes a get it is valid. (88b)

So the compulsion can come from any court, but the instruction must come from an Israelite court -- we don't entrust gentile courts to rule on matters concerning Jewish law.

Note: This has been an issue from before the time of the mishna through to today. The mishna's view is not the final word on this nor the halacha, about which (I understand) there is some controversy. I'm just presenting what the talmud says here; don't draw broader conclusions from this.

According to a mishna on today's daf, if a man writes a get (bill of divorce) for his wife and then changes his mind, Beit Shammai says he has disqualified her for marriage to a kohein (priest). (A kohein cannot marry a divorced woman. I assume that we are talking here about the case where they stay married and she becomes a widow; according to Shammai she has some divorce-related impairment by the mere act of the get having been written.) Beit Hillel, on the other hand, says that even if he actually gave her the get, if it was conditional on some event that did not occur, so they were never divorced, she can freely marry a kohein (again, presumably after he dies).

The next mishna (also on this daf) says: if a man divorced his wife and then they are seen staying together in an inn, Beit Shammai says that she does not require a second get from him (i.e. we do not worry that they re-consumated the marriage) while Beit Hillel says she does require it. Both are talking, the mishna says, about the case where they were married; if they were only betrothed (which does still require a get to dissolve), then Beit Hillel agrees that she does not need it because he would not take liberties with her in that situation. (81a)

So it seems that Beit Hillel holds that if they were married (and then divorced) he will not resist the opportunity to have relations with her (which can effect a marriage), while if they were only engaged (and then divorced) he can control himself. The reasoning is not given.

And it was that when Moshe came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the law in his hand, when he descended, Moshe did not know that the skin of his face sent forth rays of light when he talked with Him. When Aharon and all Israel saw that his face sent forth rays of light, they were afraid to come near. Moshe called to them, and Aharon and the chiefs of the people returned to him and he spoke to them, and after that, all Israel came and Moshe commanded to them all that God had spoken on Mount Sinai. And when Moshe was done speaking with them he put a veil over his face. (Exodus 34:29-33)
Moshe had a problem. Ok, he had several problems -- the people who had encountered God built themselves the golden calf only forty days later, lots of them died, God wanted to destroy the rest and start over, and Moshe persuaded Him to relent. But Moshe also had another problem, covered in just a few sentences at the end of the parsha.

Moshe was different, different in a way that bothered other people. He had come down from the mountain the second time literally aglow with God's splendor. The bright light shining from his face was painful to look at. His abnormal condition frightened the people and prevented them from working with him.

This condition -- this disability -- was not under his control and it wasn't his fault. It's just the way God made him.

So what did Moshe do? He could have said to the community "this is from God; suck it up" and expect them to deal with it. It wasn't his fault, after all; there was nothing wrong with him. He could have placed the burden and the guilt on them. If they were sensitive, caring, and inclusive people they would just ignore his disability no matter what effect it had on them, right?

But that's not what he did. Instead, Moshe put on a veil. He took on some extra work and inconvenience to mitigate what he could mitigate. This allowed him to meet the community part-way -- he adjusted what he could adjust and they adjusted what they could adjust.

Moshe and Yisrael are a model for how communities can function and be inclusive. Everybody does what he can and we all meet in the middle. Nobody places the burden entirely on the other.

I have some vision problems. To mitigate this, I have to sit in the front row if a presenter is using slides -- even though I would otherwise sit farther back, even though it can be ostracizing to sit alone up front. (C'mon, we all know nobody likes the front row.) I carry a magnifying glass to read smaller print. The community, in turn, provides large-print copies of the siddur and paper copies of the Visual T'filah slides, and is understanding if my torah reading is a little bumpy sometimes. And I, in turn, understand that if things get too bad, if my torah-reading moves from "occasional problem" to "near-certain failure", it's not fair for me to insist, to impose. Not all people can do all things, and that's ok. So we work together. It's not my burden alone and it's not the community's burden alone.

A friend tried for years to have a child and finally succeeded -- but her daughter has cerebral palsy. She has good days and bad days and sometimes has uncontrollable outbursts. My friend and her daughter go to Shabbat services -- and are ready to step out of the room if need be. This is a burden for my friend, but it's what decent people do. The community, in turn, understands that there will be some noise sometimes.

My friend doesn't demand that the community smile and nod and say nothing if her child has a prolonged crying burst; she takes her daughter out into the hall. I don't demand that presenters avoid using visual materials if I can get my own copy and follow along. Moshe didn't demand that the people just shut up and avert their eyes until sunglasses could be invented; he put on a veil. All of us also make some demands on the community, expecting the community to make accommodations, but we have to do our part first.

Inclusive communities do not place the whole burden of dealing with disabilities on the disabled. But well-functioning inclusive communities also don't place the whole burden on their other members. The whole point of being in a community is that we work together, each contributing what we can and striving to be flexible.

A veil is inconvenient and probably uncomfortable, but because Moshe wore it the people were able to stay together and ultimately enter the promised land. It is my hope and prayer that, when we're the ones who are unintentionally and unavoidably placing some challenge before others, we too can take the steps we're able to take instead of expecting others to take on the whole task.

The talmud discusses the practice of a conditional get, a divorce document that becomes effective only if a stated condition occurs. (I have heard that this was sometimes used by men going off to sea, to avoid leaving their wives stranded if the ship was lost and bodies were not recovered.) The mishna talks about the case where he says "this is your get on condition that I die from this illness". In the intervening time, what is her status? R' Yehudah says she is married in every respect; R' Yose says she is both divorced and not divorced. What does that mean? In the g'mara R' Meir says that if she has relations with another man then judgement is suspended: if he dies then she was divorced and all is well, and if he doesn't die he has to bring a sin-offering (but she is not guilty of adultery). (73-74a)

I don't see a discussion here about why somebody would want to divorce on condition of dying from an illness -- what benefit does that provide? It's not an agunah problem (the trapped woman) like in the lost-at-sea case. I can imagine in modern times somebody whose illness precludes marital relations wanting his wife to be able to get satisfaction outside the marriage (and that "not adultery" ruling would help), but that sounds like a very modern sensibility, not one I would expect from mishnaic times.

Dear LJ brain trust,

I use the Ghostery browser extension to notify me of (and disable until approved) third-party trackers on web sites, because I don't really want random sites snooping on my browsing habits. I just restarted Firefox, picking up some updates in the process, and the notifier thingie has gotten super-annoying and hard to dismiss. I looked at the configuration options and set it for the shortest period of time before (supposedly) auto-dismissing, five seconds, but it's still taking more than that. And it's bigger and more intrusive than it was, on every single site regardless of trust settings:

New Ghostery notification

I want big and intrusive on untrusted sites, or if something new has shown up, but for sites I've said I trust, where nothing special is happening, I want it to just shut up already.

Is anybody else seeing this? If so, do you know how to fix it or revert, or are my choices to live with it or disable the extension entirely?

Is Ghostery actually still useful? Are there better tools for this?
People in the Reform movement have been talking a lot lately about inclusion, with a particular focus right now on disabilities. rant alert: lots of Kool Aid, not much common senseCollapse )
The Worldbuilding blog, Universe Factory, is still fairly small; we're new and trying to grow. So I was surprised when my latest article, Worldbuilding As You Go: A Case Study, in which I describe a process by analogy with train games, got lots of views in just a few hours. (I mean hundreds, not hundreds of thousands, but more than I'm used to.) Curious about where it was linked (it must have been linked, right?), I looked into the referrers and found Reddit. I didn't know there was a worldbuilding sub-reddit, though I guess I shouldn't be surprised. There are sub-reddits for practically everything, after all.

I've not used Reddit before. Is bookmarking that page and occasionally visiting it the best way to keep an eye out for other interesting material on this topic? Assuming I don't want to commit a large amount of time to that, is just going with the community voting to cull the vast pile of material the way to go, or are there easy personalization options?
The mishna teaches: if a man is delirious from new wine from the vat (that is, he's drunk) and he says "write a get for my wife", his words have no effect. If he says "write a get for my wife", then becomes delirious from wine, and says "no don't do it", they ignore him. (We don't listen to his instructions when it's the wine that's talking, regardless of whether he's asking for action or inaction.) If he is struck dumb and they ask "shall we write a get for your wife?" and he nods his head, they test him with three more questions. If he signals the correct answers for all three, then they conclude that he is still of sound mind and they write the get and deliver it for him. (67b)

By the way, the g'mara gives us the remedy for the wine-delirium: red meat broiled on the coals and wine highly diluted.

Worldbuilding moderator election: four positions, 19 candidates (ten proceeding to final election), single transferable vote (AKA "Australian ballot", like the Hugos). With the Hugos you're choosing one winner; applying the scheme to a race with multiple winners can get a little odd.

I don't understand all the math, but with multiple seats the algorithm sets a "threshold", a number of votes a candidate needs to win a seat, and excess votes are then transferred away to other candidates to try to determine the next round. ("Meek STV", for those to whom that means something.) If that doesn't advance things then the candidate with the fewest votes drops out and those are transferred to other candidates. Iterate until done.

The first three winners were determined in the first two rounds of vote processing. It took another twenty rounds to determine the fourth. Some of those vote transfers are tiny, as in "I'll take your word for it that there are changes there".

Each voter got three picks but there were four seats. We all expected a lot of jockeying for spot #4 because of that. I wonder how the dynamics would have been different if voters had as many picks as open seats.

The (anonymized) ballot data is available for download. I'm curious about patterns but not quite sure how to look for them.