Sago Boulevard

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Sago Boulevard has moved! Visit me at my new home.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Demanding Military Benefits For Non-Service

An Arab couple is petitioning an Israeli court, claiming that the government policy of giving greater mortgage benefits to veterans of the military is discriminatory. (Via David Bernstein)

First, it should be pointed out that the couple, "based on the number of children and siblings they have," is entitled to a NIS 207,000 mortgage by law. Had they served in the military, however, they would receive a mortgage of NIS 255,000. This discrepancy, according to the couple, is discriminatory.

But discriminatory against whom? Arab citizens are permitted to volunteer in the Israeli military, even if not many do. But that is besides the point. Veterans are awarded benefits because of their national service. They give up 3 years of their youth, delay education and career aspirations, and risk their lives. That Israeli Jews are drafted while Israeli Arabs may volunteer doesn't strike me as a relevant difference.

I'd go a step further and argue that even if Arabs were not permitted to serve, it would still not justify this claim. In such a situation, I would be sympathetic to a law suit demanding that the Israeli military allow Arabs to serve, but not one demanding financial benefits as though they had served.

Consider the following analogy. If I am wrongly discriminated against in seeking employment in, say, the NYPD, it's reasonable for me demand accountability and perhaps even compensation. But, when I turn 65, is it reasonable for me to demand that NYPD pay me a pension and award me other benefits on grounds that they discriminated against me? Of course not. The pension is payment for a life of service and only those who serve receive it. Similarly, the benefits Israel affords its veterans should be limited to, well, veterans.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Halakhic Reality

I've been thinking about a distinction between "'al pi din' [according to the law] and 'metzius' [physical reality]" cited and partially endorsed by Godol Hador in a post last week. GH already noted the similarities with Brisker study and R. Soloveitchik's refrain about "halakhic reality".

While flipping through an old issue of The Torah u-Madda Journal, I reread an article by Mark Steiner, "Philosophizing in Yiddish: Rabbi Reuven Agushewitz on Freedom of the Will". In it, he describes how R. Soloveitchik used the techniques of contemporary philosophy in articulating the hashfakah for which he is famous. As scientific discovery continues to wreck havoc in the batei midrash of Orthodox Judaism, I believe we will find ourselves, in one way or another, turning to the Rav for support.
[R. Soloveitchik] puts forward the idea that halakhic Judaism involves intrinsically an alternative description of the world to that of natural science.
By reading the works of R. Soloveitchik, one gets an intuitive insight into the meaning of concepts like “freedom” as applied to halakhic man.

At the end of day, we may not need to work out a consistent understanding of Genesis and the natural sciences. The Torah describes creation in our language but from God's perspective. As R. Soloveitchik himself writes:
There is a Bereishit-logic which reflects the wisdom of God embedded in nature.