Thursday, July 07, 2005

SlifKings and Queens of the Stone Age

or: Dos Iz (Nit) Der Štegosaurus

Tonight I had the honor and privilege to attend a lecture by none other than Rabbi Natan Slifkin, the Zoo Rabbi himself, at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills.

The evening began with a trek through the hazy, hot and humid New York City weather by two subways and a bus to get to the shul. Upon arriving at the shul about ten minutes early, and going down to the room where the lecture was, I was approached by Steve Brizel, of all people!

And I completely (OMG! WTF?) freaked out.

Well, not completely, but hey, this was after all Steve Brizel, who out of nowhere upped and beat me SWAT-team style (that counts as an acronym, right?) during one of my first tentative intrusions into the world of the Judeoblogosphere. No sweat, though. IMNSHO, I held my own and defended my positions more than adequately (and have done so repeatedly since then). I just wasn't expecting the vociferousness of the argumentation or the Kung Fu snake-bob-and-weave style of jumping from one topic to another. But that's okay now, he seems like a nice guy. Mad props to my Worthy Opponent for being the guy in charge at the lecture. Check out all the bloody and gory action here, in Chakira's archives.

And then I met the Rav himself (no not RYBS). RNS (must... break... Steve Brizel... abbreviation... imitation... habit...) came up to me (I guess Steve had pointed me out to him) and said that he read my blog! I've hit the big time! Although, if I remember correctly, he said that the white-on-black text hurt his eyes. Sorry about that. I also met a few other people there who said they recognized me, and it is definitely both gratifying and really freaking scary to know that all these people are reading my ramblings and not even leaving comments to say that they've been here. Anyway, I then went on to attempt some friendly chat with Rav Slifkin, and foolishly asked him how his travel and lectures have been going, when anyone with an ounce of interpersonal skillz sense would have asked about something more meaningful, like how him and his family are dealing with everything. Ohwell.
Social Awkwardness: 74,391 — Steg: 0 .

But then came the lecture itself, and it was really good. Rav Slifkin was intelligent, funny, and knowledgeable. My one kvetch was that some of the science seemed overly simplified, so for instance in describing the Age of Dinosaurs he neglected to mention our ancestral furry little mammal forebears who cohabited the Earth with them. Other than that side of things, I was very impressed. Having bought a number of his books but not actually had the chance to read through them all, I hadn't encountered his critique of Concordism (not to be confused with Discordianism), which he expressed eloquently in the lecture, even though — multiple times — attendees threw Concordist questions at him, as if they were unable to break out of the Concordist mold and think outside the box.
The principle of Concordism as a technique for reconciling Ma‘aseih Bereishit with the findings of contemporary Science consists of the premise that what is described in our Torah is some form of a historical record. Time may be squished (6 days = 15 billion years), and details may be hazy (hataninim hagedolim = dinosaurs), but a core chronological scientific account is hidden there, describing the process of Creation. The only problem with this wonderful, popular, and very innovative theory, though, is the simple fact that the sequence is out of order. So it doesn't hold water, much less premordial soup.

Rabbi Slifkin discussed a number of other reconciliation strategies, including R' Eliyahu Dessler's theory that the six days of creation aren't meant to be taken in a chronological manner at all, but instead represent mystical forces God used in order to create the universe. Unfortunately, we didn't get to hear much about the details of these various forces, and how the different days represent them. However, he did use a very interesting analogy, describing the "Test of Faith" theory that God created the world with fossils already in the ground as equivalent to claiming that Adam Harishon was created fully-grown but with false implanted memories of a childhood that never happened.

The Zoo Rabbi passed around a dinosaur tooth, and mentioned how once someone had broken it and he had to put it back together. So after the lecture, I went up and started telling him my own broken fossil story, not remembering that I had already posted it in public in the comments to The Wolf's post here.
Social Awkwardness: 74,392 — Steg: 0 .

And on the way home I saw a firefly. If I remember correctly, it was the first one I've seen since moving to Israel for school two years ago, and then moving back here just two days ago now. Crazy glowing insects. God did a great job with the natural bling.

Ma rabu ma‘aseykha Hashem,
kulam behhokhma ‘asita;
male’a ha’aretz qinyaneykha...

Barukh hu Avinu Malkeinu
Bore’einu Yotzereinu
H a t z a y a r   H a ‘ e l y o n
shekakha lo be‘olamo...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You fought with Steve Brizel? Steve Brizel... the individual who disproves the Gemara's assertion that "Bnei Yisrael have three qualities: humbleness, compassion, and generosity."

7/07/2005 7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know how you deal with attitudes like the ones he expresses without flipping out or giving up.

The sheer unwarranted feeling of entitlement - "I'm going to take every excuse I can to act ugly, pretentious, solipsistic and dismissive, and pretend as if the Torah gives me warrant to do so!"

And the inversion of any plausible definition of Jewish morality - "And if anyone calls me on this lack of menschlishkeit, empathy, or sense of responsibility for any Other, I'm going to claim that they're just PC or Western or just Goyim! Because my values are the Jewish values, and anything that's not Jewish values are Goyishe values."

(quotes are paraphrased from Steve Brizel's head)

7/07/2005 9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

our ancestral furry little mammal forebears cohabited with diniosaurs???

oh my!
how scandalous!

tee hee.
-big brother

7/07/2005 9:44 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Good post, Steg. I am reminded almost daily what a small world the J-blogosphere is.

7/07/2005 10:48 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

big brother:

(btw, is that as in Qayin, or as in Orwell?)

I'd appreciate it if you suggested a better phrasing instead of just sitting there giggling into your keyboard :-P . "co-inhabited"? is that a word? Btw, did i spell "forebears" right? Maybe it should be "forebares"... no that just looks wrong, speaking of cohabitation...

ortho mom of 4:

Thanks! What shocked me the most is how the smallworldliness of the Jblog world can intrude onto RL (real life). Although i guess i should have expected it, seeing as how this was a Slifkin lecture after all.

Btw, speaking of small worlds, at the corner of Main St and Jewel Ave, near the shul where the lecture was at, is this Israeli restaurant where i grabbed something to drink on my way home. It was so Israeli that not only were the menus bilingual, but the people behind the counter were actually chatting with customers in Hebrew! Now if only they did that at Midnight Shawarma, in Brooklyn, i would be a happy man. Of course, the exorbitant prices remind you that you're not in Israel no matter how much Hebrew is going on...

7/07/2005 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tee hee! Just reading over the comment makes me laugh.

Keep it just the way it is.
-big brother, as in kayin

7/07/2005 11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you know, i wonder if next time i'm up in n.y.c. (or anywhere they get internet..)if people are gonna come up to me and be like "hey i read your weird-ass blog!" and i'll be like "dude i'm not steg."
-big brother

7/07/2005 12:02 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Did you just use the word "ass" to describe my blog?

7/07/2005 2:24 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Have you ever read Isaac Asimov's "In The Beginning"?

7/08/2005 9:31 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

I don't think so. Should I?

7/08/2005 12:37 PM  
Blogger Shifra said...

Good blogging.
How did S.B. (hee hee) indentify you?

7/11/2005 11:41 AM  
Blogger DarkBlueHat said...

Did you go to the Sunday lecture?

7/11/2005 10:24 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


Well, i actually introduced myself ;-) . Since he was the guy in charge, he came over when I walked in to say something along the lines of "Hi I'm Steve Brizel and the lecture costs $10". So I stared blankly at him like a deer in the headlights for a few seconds, and then introduced myself back. :-P


Yup, and i just posted about it.
Do you have a British accent? :-)

7/11/2005 10:41 PM  

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