Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Last Chapter.

This is the last chapter in the series analyzing Oswald Spengler's classic work, "Decline of the West." I wanted to post it here not because it concerns Jewish communities specifically, but because it concerns the overall economy and predicts the sad outcome of our current predicament - a sad outcome that has overcome Cultures before us and will overcome other Cultures after us. The analysis of all the Civilizations that preceded us indicates that the die is cast now - and I don't see any reason to disagree.

So without further ado: Here, finally, we have arrived at the last chapter.

Decline of the West
Oswald Spengler
chapter twenty-one
The Form-World of Economic Life: The Machine

Technique is as old as free-moving life itself. The decisive turn in the history of higher life occurs when the ascertaining of nature's laws is followed by their practical application. With this, technique becomes more or less sovereign and the instinctive prime-experience changes into a definitely "conscious' prime-knowing. Thought has emancipated itself from sensation. It is the language of words that brings about this epochal change. With that, the system of identification-marks develops into a theory, a picture which is arrived at from the technique of the day and not vice versa - whether this be a day of high-level Civilized technics or a day of simplest beginnings - by way of abstraction, as a piece of waking-consciousness uncommitted to activity.

By numerical experience man is enabled to switch the secret on and off, but he has not discovered it. Life makes use of thought as an "open sesame," and at th epeak of many a Civilization, it is great cities, there arrives finally the moment when technical critique becomes tired of being life's servant and makes itself tyrant. Western Culture is even now experiencing an orgy of this unbridled thought, and on a tragic scale. The stock of discoveries grew and grew. Often they were made and forgotten and made again, were imitated, shunned, improved. But in the end they constituted for whole continents a store of self-evident resources.

On this foundation arose the technique of the higher Cultures. It need hardly be said that Classical Man, who felt himself and his environment alike Euclidean, set himself a priori in hostile opposition to the very idea of technique.

Very different is the Faustian technics, which with all its passion of the third dimension, thrusts itself upon Nature, with the firm resolve to be its master. Here, and only here, is the connection of insight and utilization a matter of course. The Westerner strives to direct the world according to his will.

Our whole culture has a discoverer's soul. To dis-cover that which is not seen, to draw it into the light-world of the inner eye so as to master it - that was its stubborn passion from the first days on. Here, if anywhere, the religious origins of all technical thought have manifested. These meditative discoverers in their monastic cells, who with prayers and fastings wrung God's secrets out of him, felt that they were serving God thereby. But for all of them, too, there was the truly Faustian danger of the Devil's having a hand in the game, the risk that he was leading them in spirit to that mountain on which he promises all the power of the earth. Again and again they succumbed to this ambition. They forced t his secret out of God in order themselves to be God. They listened for the laws of the cosmic pulse in order to overpower it. And so they created the idea of the machine as a small cosmos obeying the will of man alone.

Until then Nature had rendered services, but now she was tied to the yoke, as a slave, and her work was as though in contempt measured by a standard of horse-power. The numbers of the population increased and increased, on a scale that no other Culture ever thought possible. This growth is a product of the machine, which insists on being used and directed, and to that end centuples the powers of each individual.

And what now develops, in the space of hardly a century, is a drama of such greatness that the men of a future Culture, with other soul and other passions, will hardly be able to resist the conviction that "in those days" Nature herself was tottering. The technique will leave traces of its heyday behind it when all else is lost and forgotten. For this Faustian passion has altered the Face of the Earth.

Never save here as a microcosm felt itself superior to its macrocosm, but here the little life-units have by the sheer force of their intellect mastered inert matter. It is a triumph, so far as we can see, unparalleled. Only this, our Culture, has achieved it, and perhaps only for a few centuries.

But for that very reason Faustian man has become the slave of his creation. The machine has forcibly increased his numbers and changed his habits in a direction from which there is no return.

[Here I might object just a bit - sustainable farming and sustainable living can carefully incorporate many non-petroleum technologies and techniques. But we have to make a concerted effort to LEARN those old-fashioned or alternate ways and TRANSMIT that knowledge to our children so that it is not lost.]

Out of a quite small branch of manual work there is grown up, in this one Culture alone, a mighty tree that casts its shadow over all the other vocations - namely, the economy of the machine-industry. It forces the entrepreneur not less than the workman to obedience. Both become slaves, and not masters, of the machine - which now for the first time develops its devilish and occult power. Not merely the importance but the very existence of industry depends upon the existence of talented, rigorously schooled brains that command the technique and develop it onward and onward.

When, and only when, the crop of recruits for this army fails - this army whose thought-work forms one inward unit with the work of the machine - the industry must flicker out in spite of all that managerial energy and the workers can do.

[We see two aspects to this problem - one, education in America is the joke of the world now, with American kids coming in 19th, or 20th, or 21st amoung the industrialized nations in every academic area measured. And if that wasn't bad enough, the Chereidi community shuns even the dismal standards of ordinary American students when it comes to secular academic studies, making Chereidi the least employable of the uneducated overall. Not only do the Chereidi shun the obviously immoral and unethical exploitative giant industries that have stolen control of the economy away from ordinary decent people, but they even shun basic arts, crafts and skills that any society needs for its food production and its own long-term survival. In rejecting the broader decadency of Western Culture, they also have rejected the most basic work ethic that must underlie ALL viable cultures.]

Suppose that, in future generations, the most gifted minds were to find their soul's health more important than all the powers of this world. Suppose that, under the influence of the metaphysic and mysticism that is taking place of rationalism today, the very elite of intellect that is now concerned with the machine comes to be overpowered by a growing sense of its satanims. Then nothing can hinder the end of this drama that has been a play of intellects, with hands as mere auxiliaries.

[Ironically, this is indeed happening. American kids in general are starting to realize there's no point in going to college if they're just going to be saddled with debt forever afterward. There's no point in giving any loyalty or creativity to a corporation because the ideas they give birth to will simply be stolen from them. It will profit them nothing - and since the debt-interest economy has made it practically impossible to start new businesses that can succeed, the great ideas of today are dying unborn. Those ideas that do see the light of day are bought up by big business and buried deeply so as not to compete with the status quo. The result of all this is that the next generation IS rejecting the system, and IS refusing to be further educated, and IS trying to get away from or around the machine and not participate in the dysfunctional system. But this movement is small right now, and big business is doing everything in its power to squelch it and strangle it.

Chereidi society has taken this good, basic idea, however, and as usual gone way too far with it. An entire generation of young people is SO uneducated that they can't even make intelligent efforts to understand the geo-political situation, global-vs.-regional economics, historical trends or the philosophies of those who are running this country into the ground. They can't oppose what they don't understand, and they understand basically nothing. They have been told money will fall from the sky if they just have enough faith - they don't need to work at all. No Culture can withstand such a wrong-headed ideology. Our entire Judaic infrastructure is in imminent danger of failing due to the burden of the numerous able-bodied men who simply refuse to accept their God-given responsibility to support their wives and children.]

But titanic, too, is the onslaught of money upon this intellectual force. Only high finance is wholly free, wholly intangible. Since 1789 the banks, and with them the bourses, have developed themselves on the credit-needs of an industry growing ever more enormous, as a power on their own account, and they will (as money wills in every Civilization) to be the only power.

[And they were, until last year. Now, however, people are starting to see the trap they were in and work to avoid it - to get out of debt, to not be reliant on credit, to find other ways of meeting their needs, to not be dependent upon petroleum by walking, biking, using mass transit and moving nearer their jobs, to not be dependent upon money but to create a community where things are NOT ruled by the almighty dollar.]

This battle is the despairing struggle of technical though to maintain its liberty against money-thought.

The dictature of money marches on, tending to its material peak, in the Faustian Civilization as in every other. And now something happens that is intelligible only to one who has penetrated to the essence of money. If it were anything tangible, then its existence would be forever - but, as it is a form of thought, it fades out as soon as it has thought its economic world to finality, and has no more material on which to feed.

The machine with its human retinue, the real queen of this century, is in danger of succumbing to a stronger power. Money, also, is beginning to lose its authority, as the last conflict is at hand in which Civilization receives its conclusive form - the conflict between money and blood.

[And that is where Western Civilization is at this very moment, when lives are thought to be worth less than the ghosts in the machine used to pay them, when children are viewed as economic burdens, when even the "compassionate left" starts to think they and the poor should be exterminated rather than nurtured - as should anyone else who stands in the way of the moneyed elite.]

The coming of Caesarism breaks the dictature of money and its political weapon, democracy. The sword is victorious over money, the master-will subdues again the plunderer-will.

This battle is also the battle of money and law. The private powers of the economy want free paths for their acquisition of great resources. No legislation must stand in their way. They want to make the law themselves, in their interests, and to that end they make use of the tool they have made for themselves, democracy, the subsidized party.

A power can be overthrown ONLY by another power, not by a principle, and only one power that can confront money is left. Money is overthrown and abolished by blood.

And so the drama of a High Culture - that wondrous world of deities, arts, thoughts, battles, cities - closes with the return of the pristine facts of the blood eternal that is one and the same as the ever-circling cosmic flow.

Time triumphs over Space.

For us, however, whom a Destiny has placed in this Culture and at this moment of its development - the moment when money is celebrating its last victories, and the Caesarism that is to succeed apporaches with quiet, firm step - our direction, willed and obligatory at once, is set for us within narrow limits. We have not the freedom to reach to this or to that, but the freedom to do the necessary or to do nothing. And a task that historic necessity has set WILL be accomplished, with the individual, or against him.

[And here it ends. Modern Western Culture will fall just like every Civilization before it has fallen. There is no "difference" this time. Every other Culture before American Culture thought it was "different" and would last forever. They didn't, and neither will we.

Unable to shake the bonds of slavery that the moneyed elite has imposed on us, we will look to a Caesar to break those bonds and give us the Jubilee that we were supposed to have from the crushing insatiable hunger of the debt-interest economy. And he will break it - and us. That is the path we are on and at this point there's no way to get off of it. All we can do now is try and position ourselves in such a way as to get out of debt, relocalize our buying of both food and household goods, and make our communities as self-sufficient as possible, so that when the multinational corporations go down, we don't go down with them. But the sad fact is that most people are already going down - losing their homes, their cars, and their livelihoods on the altar of the debt-interest economy that God forbade - and the greed of the CEOs and their cronies who have sucked the Earth, the Economy, and you dry. We thought we were so much smarter than God, and we will now reap what we have sown.

Chereidi Culture has, unfortunately, bound itself apparently irrevocably to Western Culture - which is terribly ironic, really, when you consider that Jews have more reason to mistrust the powers-that-be than any other group in history. Yet we rely to a staggering extent on the misguided principles of Western Culture to keep our communities going - even if the face of the terribly obvious fact that it isn't working. Rather than making a herculean effort to make our communities self-sufficient and sustainable, the Ravs are busy doing the EXACT OPPOSITE - promoting the false something-for-nothing mentality and teaching that honest labour, work, and the arts, crafts, and skills that sustained our forebears for generations are somehow beneath us. It can't last, class. This path has no future.

And speaking of shooting ourselves in the foot: Some 83% of Jews supposedly voted for Barak Obama on the promise of "change," and he very promptly showed his true colors by making it clear he is on the side of Israel's enemies and for "change" he intends to throw Israel under the bus for "peace" - and many if not most knew or suspected this all along. Make no mistake, petroleum is more important to the US Government that the lives of Jews, either in Israel or here. But we didn't care - we want prosperity at any cost, apparently. We could have remade our communities so that they are not even affected by the economic calamity going on in Western Culture. We could have saved not just ourselves but Israel, too. But we didn't, and we aren't going to. Just imagine what we'll vote in when we're really broke and really hungry. I shudder to think about it.]

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Housing Market still has nowhere to go...

...but down.

UPDATE: I just realized the chart I had uploaded to Blogspot was not the one I wanted. That one was hanging on my pegboard. So I have just scanned it and posted it in this article. The original chart, which is older and used different criteria, actually gives a worse result. I have appended it to the bottom of this article. Shalom!

This is a rough and very generous trendline. First off, as you can see for yourself, it ignores the mini-hyperinflation of the mid 1890s caused by a currency panic in 1893. Secondly, it ignores the deflationary effects of the years from WWI to WWII (which include, of course, the great depression. Finally, it presumes that housing values have been more or less undervalued for most of the post-wwII era. Even with all that very excessive generosity, the trendline still shows that in spite of adjusting for inflation, the median value of an average existing home should be about $125,000 or so. Let's say 130,000 for good measure, since this chart only goes to 2006 and it's now almost 2009.

However, in this chart provided by the US Census Bureau, the median home value as of September 2008 was $218,000 which is a lot more than the trendline shows it should be.

Granted, that does not mean that all houses will or should lose $80,000 in value in order to be at market equilibrium, because these are averages for the whole nation. As has been seen in other articles, homes values near established rail/subway transit lines and in walkable urban neighborhoods have actually gone up, even since this crisis started. Obviously, they are in far higher demand that places way out in the 'burbs that requires hours to commute and multiple tens of gallons of gasoline each week. Your individual neighborhood has its own unique characteristics that may put it above the trendline, too.

But the market as a whole has a long, long way to drop.

The sad fact is that the average American salary can no longer afford a $218,000 house - much less the nearly $300,000 average that appeared at the height of the housing bubble. This page at the census bureau gives links to average incomes by state according to the latest data, and some year-to-year averages.

In my state, for a one-earner household, the average is about $35,000 and for two-earner households the average is still only $68,000. Here are some other stats:

New York
Total: 64602 +/-548
No earners (dollars) 27047 +/-643
1 earner (dollars) 44803 +/-627
2 earners (dollars) 83447 +/-752
3 or more (dollars) 103046 +/-994

New Jersey
Total: 81823 +/-755
No earners (dollars) 34647 +/-1,260
1 earner (dollars) 55008 +/-1,001
2 earners (dollars) 98145 +/-1,081
3 or more earners 117404 +/-1,945

Total: 65761 +/-393
No earners (dollars) 30341 +/-777
1 earner (dollars) 45604 +/-605
2 earners (dollars) 79835 +/-670
3 or more earners 98121 +/-1,293

In order to afford an average house in your area, above $300,000 most likely, you would need 3 or more adult wage-earners, which is why multi-generational living arrangements is starting to make a big comeback. Even a reasonable fixed-rate mortgage for a mere $110,000 house requires about $50,000 in income, meaning the vast majority of traditional households (that is one works the other doesn't) were actually never able to afford a house in the first place, and could only do so by way of financial shenanigans like flaky ARMs and other teaser options. This whole problem started back in the 80s when a mandate was put forth by Congress to get people into home-ownership by whatever means were necessary. But since that time, the globalization scam took hold and people's wages have gone down. This ugly end was therefore pretty much inevitable. People couldn't really afford to buy a house, but banks gave them mortgages anyway.

I personally don't think that the powers-that-be want to see housing prices fall so far - but there have been analysts warning as early as 2005 and 2006 that we could see a 40% or more drop in housing prices from the peak. From about $300,000 to $125,000 just happens to be 41.6%. So if it does happen, it will be a simple market correction, even though the effects of it will be devastating for most people's equity.

With wages continuing to fall, not only can people still not afford mortgages, but the whole idea of home ownership is going to have to be re-evaluated in light of the fact that financing for people with average wages and average incomes just isn't available at for-profit mortgage banks and may never be again, since we seem to have no plans to rebuild our manufacturing infrastructure which gave people living wage employment for so long. The problem, then, isn't going away. If housing prices fall to where people can actually afford to buy a house, the prices will be very, very depressed from their peak and continue on that way for years to come. And if prices don't fall that far, the situation will be even worse since the market will over-correct due to lack of buyers.

So here we are. Which way it goes is anybody's guess, but things can't go back to the way they were. That's just an unfortunate fact.

Appendix - the older chart, which gives an even worse result, which I had originally posted by mistake but will leave here for your reference.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

"PERHAPS ONE SLIPPED THROUGH OUR FINGERS!" From Matt Salomon's drivel at the Agudath Israel convention.

One child rapist Matt? - I will not be asking McCain to put you at the head of Homeland Security!

Rabbi Matt Salomon - Rug salesman from Lakewood, New Jersey

A Charge Of Double Betrayal In Williamsburg

Joel Engelman thought he had a deal. The Satmar rabbi who he says molested him would stay away from children. He now charges he was violated twice.

by Hella Winston --- Special To The Jewish Week

Joel Engelman was 8 years old the first time he was summoned to the principal’s office at his Satmar school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Not knowing what he might have done to provoke the call, Joel was nervous, as his principal, Rabbi Avrohom Reichman, had a reputation for being strict.

Much to his surprise, however, when he arrived, the principal put him on his lap and began “to change character,” talking to him like a “loving granddaddy,” Engelman told The Jewish Week. But what the principal at the United Talmudical Academy did to the boy that day — and several times a week over the next two months — was far from grandfatherly, Engelman charges in a suit he filed last week.

It alleges that in 1993, Rabbi Reichman, now 57, regularly molested him, and that the Satmar school, United Talmudical Academy, later committed fraud by agreeing to dismiss Rabbi Reichman — and then reneging on this once the criminal statute of limitations had passed. Engelman’s sexual abuse allegations are the latest in a string of such charges made by former male yeshiva students in ultra-Orthodox schools in Brooklyn.

Last April, Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a first grade teacher at Yeshiva Torah Temima in Flatbush, pleaded guilty to two counts of endangering the welfare of a child after being charged with several counts of sexual abuse. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes defended the last-minute downward plea bargain, citing the young age of the plaintiffs who would have had to testify at a trial.

Several civil suits pending against Rabbi Kolko and the school seek a total some $50 million in damages.

The suit filed by Engelman, however, is the first to emerge that involves the Satmar community, one of the largest chasidic sects in the city. Repeated calls to Rabbi Reichman and to UTA for comment were not returned.
“He would swivel the chair from right to left and ask me, ‘How are you? How was your day?’ Engelman said, recalling his meetings with Rabbi Reichman as a child. “And then he would start touching me, starting at my shoulders and working his way down gradually, until his hands passed over my genitals.”

According to Engelman, now 23 and far removed from the insular Satmar community, the rabbi would rub and fondle him for about 15 minutes, all the while asking him how he was doing and what he was thinking. Engelman remembers trying to escape, to no avail. When the rabbi was finally finished he would utter the word — “Dismissed” — and then elicit a promise from Joel not tell his parents what had happened.

And Engelman kept that promise — for about 10 years, after enduring bouts of anxiety, drug use and suicidal thoughts he says were brought on by the abuse. “I realized that this was controlling my everyday life,” Engelman said. “I have a lot of trouble trusting people. I cannot trust anyone.”

When he finally mustered the courage to confront Reichman, in April, the statute of limitations on a criminal prosecution was drawing near. A letter from Engelman and his family to Reichman stipulated that if Reichman were to resign from his position in the yeshiva and also in a Satmar-run summer camp, where he taught, Engelman would take no legal action.

He thought he had a deal that month, hammered out with Satmar officials acting on UTA’s behalf. But in court papers filed last week, and first reported on The Jewish Week Web site last Wednesday, Engelman is alleging not only sexual assault and abuse but also “breach of promises and oral contract” in a $5 million civil suit against Rabbi Reichman, UTA and the Satmar Bungalow Colony — a Satmar children’s summer camp in White Lake, N.Y. Rabbi Reichman was videotaped by Engelman in July teaching at the summer camp, though apparently he had not been teaching at the school since Passover. Engelman said he has since learned that Rabbi Reichman is the camp’s principal.

“The defendants fraudulently induced Joel Engelman to enter into this exchange of mutual promises, and oral contract,” the suit alleges.

It also claims that various Satmar officials investigated Engelman’s allegations and found that “there were multiple, credible complaints of sexual abuse made against Reichman.”
“I really didn’t want to get this in the courts,” Engelman told The Jewish Week. “Had [the school] done things differently [and fired Reichman], I probably wouldn’t have sued. This is the last thing I wanted.

“They could have admitted the guy had a problem,” Engelman continued. “They could have said, ‘We’re very sorry this happened to you.’ They could have dealt with this honorably, but they didn’t.”

Rabbi David Niederman, the only community official who would agree to speak with The Jewish Week, expressed skepticism that school officials had ever agreed to the deal Engelman proposed.

He viewed Rabbi Reichman’s return to the summer camp after his initial suspension from the school as an indication that UTA officials did not ultimately find sufficient evidence to back up Engelman’s allegations.

“It’s only normal when charges like this are brought to suspend the teacher in question and conduct your investigation,” said Rabbi Niederman, a confidant of the Satmar sect’s grand rebbe and head of the United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, a community-wide advocacy organization. “That’s a totally normal reaction. Then, when you have gathered your information, you act on what you have found.”

Rabbi Niederman himself had initial contact with the case but says he quickly turned the matter over to “people who have the time and expertise to deal with this.” At his request, Rabbis Meshulem Jakobowitz and Zalman Leitner — part of an informal committee that “deals with sensitive social and religious issues in the community” —got involved, mediating between the school and Engelman. Reached by The Jewish Week, Rabbi Jakobowitz declined to comment. Neither Niederman, Jakobowitz or Leitner are defendants in the suit.

Rabbi Niederman disclaimed direct knowledge of what happened afterward. Engelman disputes this, claiming that one of the rabbis he worked with on the abuse issue told him of regular calls he received from Rabbi Niederman, a senior community leader, requesting updates.
Efforts to reach the rabbi in question, whom neither Engelman nor Rabbi Niederman would publicly name, were unsuccessful.Today, Joel Engelman is a thoughtful and intense 23-year-old who works as a graphic designer. He is tall and slim, with long hair and a narrow beard, and he favors jeans and heavy metal T-shirts (he plays drums in a heavy-metal band on the side). His life in Greenpoint — he no longer keeps kosher or the Sabbath — is about as far removed from the cloistered life of Satmar Williamsburg as is possible.

In nearly three hours of interviews over several days last week, Engelman spoke candidly about his life, weaving a tale of long-held secrets and sexual abuse not just at the hands of the rabbi but by older teenage boys and adults as well. It’s a tale of shattered faith and, ultimately, flight from the Satmar womb in which he was raised.

“I felt that the world was upside down,” Engelman says now, looking back over what he sees as the “hypocrisy” of Rabbi Reichman and other rabbis. “We had the holiest of guys telling us not to look at ‘non-kosher’ things, but look what [Reichman] did in private.”
What the rabbi allegedly did became a private hell for Engelman. Within several months of the onset of the abuse, Engelman began to change. He started having panic and anxiety attacks, and nightmares. He would often roll around on the kitchen floor crying and became unable to sleep at night.

His schoolwork also began to suffer, as he could no longer concentrate in class. “I was spaced out,” Engelman remembered. “I didn’t concentrate and I didn’t care to concentrate. I didn’t want to think about [the abuse] but I was constantly thinking about it.”
His parents took him to a doctor who prescribed medication for the anxiety, but never spoke to the boy, so the story of the abuse never came out.

But it turns out that the alleged abuse at Rabbi Reichman’s hands was not the first time Engelman had been subject to such acts. A month or so earlier, he says he was repeatedly sexually abused by a 13-year-old boy, a neighbor who attended the same school. The teen, Engelman said, had threatened to kill him if he ever told his parents.

Engelman’s older sister, inquiring why he was always late getting home from school, figured out from his vague responses what was going on and told their parents. “Why didn’t you tell us?” they asked me,” Engelman said. Their concern came across to 8-year-old Joel as blame, not an atypical interpretation for a young child, according to psychologists. And he was scared to reveal to them that this had happened again — with Rabbi Reichman, no less — fearing that they would see it as his fault.

Engelman’s parents would eventually complain to Rabbi Reichman, telling him about Joel’s abuse at the hands of his 13-year-old schoolmate. Engelman was told that the boy was beaten up (he never knew by whom); the older boy never touched Engelman again. But soon after his parents reported the abuse to Reichman, the rabbi called Joel into his office for what would become the first fondling session, he alleges, the strict principal becoming a sweet grandfather to an innocent 8-year-old. To this day, Engelman wonders whether Rabbi Reichman took his prior abuse as a cue that he was perhaps primed for more abuse, a vulnerable target.

By the time he was 13, Engelman says he couldn’t trust anyone. But he was hoping to get a fresh start at yet another yeshiva. (His parents had removed him from UTA several months after Reichman’s alleged abuse began for unrelated reasons). As it turned out, it was “hell on earth,” the teen studying 15 to 16 hours a day. At this point, he wanted out, often wishing that someone would kidnap him. He was even resigned to having to live on the street if he had to. When he witnessed another boy, a friend of his, being “groomed” for abuse by an older man’s obvious flirtations, his own past history of abuse came rushing back. “I saw abuse all around me,” Engelman said of those days.

At 14, Engelman started to hang out with Puerto Ricans on the fringes of his neighborhood.
He snuck around, changed his clothes, hiding all of this from his family. He says he dropped acid. He felt trapped. He still kept kosher and Shabbos, but he wanted out.
Finally, at 18, Engelman was able to leave his old neighborhood, moving to Bensonhurst. He joined a heavy metal band, playing the drums (he was always interested in music; his parents bought him his first drum set). Yet he was still tethered to his old life, continuing to keep kosher and Shabbos, the sole Jewish guy in the band.

That year, living at a safe remove from Williamsburg, he finally broke the long secret and told his parents about the abuse he suffered at Rabbi Reichman’s hands. “They were shocked,” Engelman recalled. But they believed there was little recourse available, he said.It turns out that a key to helping Engelman finally confront Rabbi Reichman was recently finding out that he may not have been the only victim. One former student of Reichman’s came forward to Engelman’s brother, who told Joel. Eventually, through various community activists, Engelman began making presentations to school administrators and boards of directors about sexual abuse in the community — identifying himself as a victim and drawing on his own experiences.
At one of the presentations at a Satmar school, Rabbi Reichman’s name was mentioned. A board member offhandedly said he recalled a complaint about the rabbi from five years ago but that nothing was done.

This second report of another victim was the spark to action Engelman needed, realizing that other kids were likely suffering what he had gone through.
Engelman consulted with his family about confronting Rabbi Reichman, and they decided to write a letter, which the elder Engelman would deliver to Rabbi Reichman. It was just before Passover of this year.

The letter, written in Yiddish (an English translation is part of the civil complaint), is plainspoken and laden with emotion. It begins: “We wish to let you know that since our son, Yoel Nechemia is a victim of you, you MOLESTED him as a child — you corrupted his soul, you were the cause of many years of anguish and suffering from him as a result — and because we know of other children who were victimized (molested) by you at least from 1993 until now — therefore you are a danger to children.”

It goes on to say that the family will take no further legal action if Rabbi Reichman agrees to resign his position as teacher at UTA and the upstate summer camp. The letter, signed by the Engelman family, ends: “The One Above should give you the right thoughts to have mercy on your family and take correct action.”

On the day his father delivered the letter, Engelman waited for two hours outside the rabbi’s Williamsburg home. He wanted to confront him face to face. “He was scared [expletive],” Engelman remembered. “Here I was, this heavy metal guy, dressed up in leather. He tried to get on my good side, saying ‘Oh, you lived on U Street.” I told him: ‘I will do everything and more than [what was written in] the letter if you come back to the school after Passover.”
Engelman said the rabbi told him that this wasn’t the right place to talk about this. He remembers the exchange vividly, the rabbi never denying what had allegedly happened. “You know exactly what you did.”
“What did I do?”
“You put me on your lap.”
“So what?”
“I am here to tell you that I am on top of this and it’s up to you.”
The next morning, Engelman recalled, a representative of UTA showed up at Engelman’s father’s workplace, saying, “We have a zero tolerance policy for abuse and we are going to take care of this. If he is found guilty, which we will investigate, he will be out the same day.”
Throughout a week of negotiations, Engelman said, the school made repeated promises to remove Rabbi Reichman from his teaching duties, and he was in fact removed from UTA after Passover. When Engelman got wind, however, that in July the rabbi was teaching at the Satmar Bungalow Colony, he put up fliers at the camp warning parents that the rabbi — “someone who is a great danger to your children, a danger to their body and soul — was in their midst. He then traveled to White Lake with a videographer and filmed the rabbi teaching a class.
Engelman’s case rests on what experts say is a risky legal strategy.

His attorney, Elliot Pasik, argues that United Talmudical Academy and the Satmar officials who helped negotiate the supposed deal with his client, perpetrated a fraud. He claims in court papers that the “defendants’ motivation was the expiration of the criminal statue of limitations for sex crimes on the 23rd birthday of Joel Engelman on June 24, 2008.”
“Satmar officials admitted to my client that Avrohom Reichman had committed child sexual abuse,” Pasik said. “They even administered a polygraph by a reputable company, and Reichman failed. The same Satmar officials admitted there were other credible complaints of child sexual abuse against Reichman.”

Pasik continued: “[Satmar] took advantage of Joel. They promised him that [Reichman] would not be working with children. Joel wasn’t looking for money — just keep him away from kids and he would forgo criminal prosecution. Once the school year was over, they put him in the Bungalow Colony. They broke their promise. An oral promise is enforceable.”

But Rabbi Niederman, noting that UTA had seen fit to ultimately return Rabbi Reichman to a job working with children, said he doubted some aspects of Engelman’s account. “If someone is addicted [to molesting children], why aren’t there more kids who have come forward in all these years?” he asked. “To say they were afraid — the kids or the parents — in this day and age doesn’t make sense. Parents are much more vigilant now about these kinds of issues.”
He voiced confidence in UTA’s integrity in investigating the matter. “If UTA wanted to cover up things, why would they take back this melamed [teacher] if they knew there was another case out there?” he asked.

Indeed, Engelman’s case may prove a hard one to make.

“The reliance argument [when a case is based on relying on a promise] makes perfect common sense but hasn’t worked all the way up,” said Marci Hamilton, a professor at Cardozo Law School. “States like Pennsylvania and New York have been resistant to it. The view is that if the statute of limitations [SOL] is being misapplied it is up to the state legislature to change it.
“This case just shows that the SOL is too short. When a 23-year-old can’t get into court, the SOL is too short. The majority [of abuse victims] come forward in their 40s. This reinforces that another state legislature that needs to act. When children are young [and within the SOL] they are often not psychologically ready to come forward. It can be very frustrating.”The Satmar yeshiva boy turned drummer and graphic artist is sitting in a diner on East 57th Street, drinking a cup of coffee and reflecting on his long ordeal. In one sense, Joel Engelman’s break with his native community is complete. And yet, he cannot walk away. “I often wonder why I am putting myself through this,” he muses, acknowledging how difficult it has been to dredge up old memories and confront his abuser.

“I don’t live that life anymore and it would be easy just to forget about all of it and move on. But then I think about how another kid might be suffering what I went through, and I realize I can’t.”

And so the lawsuit has brought all of the bad feelings back in a rush. He says he is coping, though. And he hopes coming forward with his story will result in changes in the way the Orthodox community deals with the kind of sexual abuse he says he faced. Mostly, he wants to prevent what happened to him from happening to another child.

“He’s still out there,” Engelman said of Rabbi Reichman. [Without legal action], what is going to stop [UTA] from taking him back, from another school taking him?”
Breaking the general silence in the ultra-Orthodox community on the issue of sexual abuse is seen by experts as a key step.

“Our community has to address some of the hypocrisy of strictly not tolerating even minor adult sexual activities that are outside the realm of halacha, while remaining silent when otherwise frum people are sexually abusing children,” said Dr. Asher Lipner, a psychologist who treats victims of sexual abuse within the frum community. “Psychologically, it is devastatingly painful for its victims to come to terms with, and there is the need for society to teach out to its victims and to comfort them.”

“In order to change [this situation],” Lipner continued, “concerned parents need to lobby their yeshivas to develop safety protocols, to teach the children about safety and to agree to oversight by some kind of outside watchdog. Otherwise, I’m afraid that this will not be the last that we hear of school cover-ups for child molesters.”

Throughout her son’s torturous ordeal, Pearl Engelman told the Jewish Week the family was solidly behind him. “We cooperated with [Joel] on this,” she said. “His main objective was to get this man away from children. ... We tried to do this in a way that would be the least humiliating and shameful to [Reichman’s] large, extended family, who are really innocent.

“Our community, the Satmar community, and the whole chasidishe community, owes Joel a debt of gratitude. He’s very young to do this; most victims are much, much older when they confront these issues. He is putting himself on the line to protect other children from this type of trauma.”
According to Engelman, Rabbi Reichman reads from the Torah in the shul, which is considered to be a great honor. “People don’t believe he could possibly be an abuser,” Engelman said. “If that guy did that, then the world is over.”

Engelman says Satmars are reluctant to try to change things within their community, for fear that change will undermine the whole communal structure. “No one voluntarily says, ‘We want a better system. Any change will bring down the whole system,” Engelman said.
But he hopes that by standing up and telling his story publicly, change may eventually happen.
“Without shaming and lawsuits [nothing is going to change],” Engelman said. “That’s what happened in the Catholic Church, in the Boy Scouts.”

L’maan Hashem – What Will It Take?

L’maan Hashem – What Will It Take?
Let’s Finally Start Protecting Our Children

By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

It is difficult to describe the sickening, gut-wrenching sensation I experience when I get phone calls from parents whose children were sexually abused or from adults who have carried the horrible scars of childhood abuse for decades, often shredding their relationships and ruining their lives. And, I am sad to report that those calls are getting more frequent as time goes on.

L’maan Hashem – what will it take for us to take this issue seriously? How many more indictments of frum pedophiles will it take for us to cut through the denial and deal with the fact that we have a real problem? Not a Jewish problem, but a human one. (As I’ve written in the past, abuse and molestation are issues that all communities face. It only becomes a Jewish problem when we choose to bury our heads in the sand and ignore it.) How many more suicides or drug overdoses do we need to endure before we will start understanding that this is one of the pressing challenges that we need to squarely face? And, in my opinion, sexual abuse is by far the leading cause of high-end drug use and ruined lives of the teens in our community.

The saddest thing of all is that the steps that need to be taken to prevent today’s innocent children from future abuse are not terribly complicated. From my vantage point; all it takes is to:
1. Raise the awareness level by having community leaders write and speak about this issue in a forthright and unequivocal manner
2. Teach our parents and educators how to speak to their children about personal privacy. And this can be easily done in a modest, Torah-appropriate manner.
3. Develop the righteous indignation to finally protect our children by sending a clear message that those who molest them will be treated like the rodfim and murderers they are – reported to the authorities, arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

This is not only a school issue; it is a communal one. Abusers are far more likely to be family members or kids on the block, rather than educators. This is not to say that schools should not address this matter squarely; rather to note that simply dealing with it in the limited scope of school will not eradicate the scourge of abuse. We are all in this together and it will take broad-based initiatives to improve things.

Is there any more sacred obligation than protecting the children entrusted to our care? Shame on us, for failing to treat it as such.

Shame on us, for allowing ourselves to repeatedly get distracted with meaningless and often silly non-issues raised by self-appointed “askanim” that purport to pose spiritual risk to our children while our paramount communal responsibility to keep evil people from destroying the physical and spiritual lives of our children keeps getting bumped to the back burner.

Shame on us, for allowing people like Avrohom Mondrowitz, and others like him, to live peacefully in our communities while their victims live tortured lives. Please excuse my sarcasm, but lately, when people ask me what they ought to be doing to rally support in their communities to keep our children safe from predators, I occasionally tell them, tongue-in-cheek, that it might be a good idea to spread rumors that the pedophiles are distributing non-kosher candy to their children while molesting them. Who knows; maybe that might get people to take notice.

I began writing about sex abuse in these pages more than four years ago – before this was thrust in our faces when we were shamed in the national media with reports of the abusers in our community. I wrote about the scandal of our silence over Mondrowitz’s alleged crimes months before it became public news, when efforts were made to finally extradite him to America to face a small modicum of justice after all these years.

Shame on us that little has changed in that time despite all the chillul Hashem we have endured over this matter since then.

Recently, my wife and I had the incredible zechus of walking our fourth child to the chuppah and it is exactly one year since Hashem blessed us with the birth of our first grandchild. Knowing what I know and listening to what I listen to on a daily basis, makes me fearful for his safety and the safety of our grandchildren yet to be born. For so long as we do not make every effort to have the warped pedophiles in our midst locked up in prison or in treatment facilities − trust me, when I say that none of our kids are safe. At this moment of great simcha in our lives, I am committed to see to it that our grandchildren will be raised in an environment where the evil monsters that prey on our children live in fear – not the parents and grandparents of our kinderlach.

Here is how I ended a column I published on the matter of sex abuse in these pages in January of 2007. The final question is one that I still ask – on behalf of the many silent, silenced and voiceless victims of sex abuse in our community.

I think it is a terribly sad statement that an individual who sold non-kosher food in my hometown of Monsey ran for his life the moment the story broke and was not seen since, while a fiend who allegedly molested both Jewish and non-Jewish children in Boro Park is living comfortably in Jerusalem while evading extradition. I am most certainly not promoting or condoning vigilante violence. But it would be a positive step forward when child molesters in our community need to ask for police protection for fear of being harmed by righteously indignant people.

Incredibly, in that case, only the non-Jewish parents pressed charges. Here is text from a Nightline article on the subject: “The only victims that cooperated with the investigation were Italian. They were neighborhood boys who trusted the rabbi because he bought them gifts like bicycles. Not a single Orthodox Jewish boy or their parents would talk to the police. The statements of four Italian boys aged 11 through 16, were the basis for the indictment against Avrohom Mondrowitz. He was facing eight counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, endangering the welfare of a child, and five counts of sodomy in the first degree.”

I ask, “Are Jewish children less sacred and worthy of protection than are non-Jewish children?”

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What Makes A Godol and Why We Are Being Lead Down The Wrong Path!

A reader's thoughts....

First in a three part series.

As a child growing up in a community out of town, we were always taught that the large yeshivas in New York and other places were where we should aspire to go. My first experience with the culture of New York was when I went to a camp with other children, many from New York, who instead of welcoming me into a group with a nice sholom aleichem where are you from as I had been brought up to do instead came with we don't know you just stay out of our way this summer.

Thank G-D I have been raised with enough self confidence to ignore that, and B"H they came around after a period of time and I enjoyed my summer but even after 30 years I do not value any one of them as a true friend. Lessons learned in youth stay forever.

I recently spent a Shabbos in Camp Morris and while davening in the shul and the beis midrash I did not receive one sholom aleichem. Believe me it was not because every bochor was learning, it was because they couldn't care about making a Jew feel welcome . It is not just a Chaim Berlin problem it is a problem in Lakewood and other places as well.

Why is that? Because the rabbinical giants of of yesteryear don't exist today . Read the stories of Rabbi Aryeh Levine, how every Jew was made to feel welcome, religious or not, in his home. How he took orphans in and fed them worried about a child in the street. Read the stories of Rabbi Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld who despite his advanced age went to the Diskin orphanage to visit the orphans before every yomtov, and when a new arrival came into his community he did not rest till suitable accommodations where found. Read the stories of Reb Moshe Feinstein taking the time to teach a child mishna at night, so that he could enter his school. (unfortunately the Tendler family is destroying that legacy with their very existence)

Read the stories about Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz who greeted everyone with a broad sholom aleichem, and cared for bochurim like they were his children, not a cash cow. Read the stories about the previous Lubavitcher rebbe who under threat of death under Communism made a pact with his chassidim to educate Jewish children under Communisim. Read the stories about the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l who worried about every single Jew around the world and created a baal teshuva movement that has saved countless of Jewish souls from assimilation. Read the life story of Mottel the shochet who stayed in Russia to help Jews, even when given and exit visa, only to come to America in his eighties and have his life story translated and stolen by Dovid Goldwasser and published by Artscroll (crooks, liars and thieves).

Today these so called rabbis are interested in themselves, not their students. Interested in their kovod and not humility, and they truly have destroyed a generation of boys and girls. (who among us who has a daughter coming home from seminary, believe we need to have a detox program for their own safety).

Now in today's age of children who instead of taking care of the parents,they are now sponging of their parents. With thanks to UOJ for a forum that is dedicated to helping turn back the clock to when Jews were G-D fearing Jews, and hardworking and frum meant just that, not food stamps - relief - unemployment and medicare.

Humbly - from someone involved in tzorchie tzibbur.

Lessons from the grave

Jonathan Rosenblum
Aug. 21, 2008

Never have the boundaries between the private and public been so blurred. Agonizing deaths from cancer used to occur off-stage. No longer.

In some cases, at least, that blurring of lines has been salutary. Three million viewers have watched Randy Pausch's appropriately named, The Last Lecture delivered to a packed auditorium at Carnegie-Mellon University, after the 47-year-old professor (and everyone in the audience) knew that he had only a few months to live. One watches transfixed by the knowledge that someone so alive, so exuberant will soon be dead. Not once in the nearly hour and a half lecture does he lapse, even momentarily, into anything resembling self-pity.

He convinces us that he would not trade his life, no matter how truncated, for any other. With the exception of playing in the NFL, he has realized every one of his childhood dreams - winning lots of stuffed animals in amusement parks, meeting Captain Kirk of Star Trek, being an Imagineer at Disney World. (After The Last Lecture became famous, he even got to scrimmage with the Pittsburgh Steelers.)

He will not live to see his greatest contribution to mankind - software programs that will allow millions to learn difficult material in such a fun manner that they will not even know they they are learning - in mass production. But he is cool with that: Like Moses, he offers, he can see the promised land, even if he will not enter it.

In the Jewish tradition, we wish ourselves and others "length of days and years." The former refers to the amount of living packed into each day. And by that standard, Randy Pausch lived a very long life.

Religious faith is one of the subjects that Pausch explicitly excluded from The Last Lecture. The only deathbed conversion to which he would admit was to Macintosh. Much of what he has to impart, of course, would make good sermon material. The biggest thrill of a popular 10-year course, in which student teams create virtual realities, was helping students experience the joy of making others happy. If he could give one piece of advice, it would be: "Tell the truth - at all times." His summary of his life lessons: If you do the right thing, good things have a way of happening (though not necessarily in the way you expect).

UNLIKE PAUSCH, Tony Snow Jr., US President George W. Bush's former press secretary, who passed away recently from colon cancer at 53, left no final speech. But he did address the "unique gift" of a life-threatening illness several times in his syndicated column - and from the point of view of a man of faith.

Winston Churchill once observed that there is nothing that quite sharpens one's perceptions so much as being shot at without effect. The heightened perception of a bullet whizzing past one's head is momentary; that of cancer, however, lasts at least five years until remission is assured. In the meantime, Snow wrote, "The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense."

He relished the clarity he had been granted, "the field of vision others don't have [about] the mystical power of love... the gravitational pull of faith... the power of hope and limits of fear, [and] a firm set of convictions about what really matters and what does not." He came to see the prospect of death as an opportunity to "fight for the things that give life its richness, meaning and joy."

As they confronted death, Pausch and Snow both felt a strong need to share some of the lessons they had gleaned from the process of dying. Pausch confided that the theme of his talk - "realizing your dreams" - was really an example of what he called "head fake" learning. His real subject: How to live your life. For his part, Snow rejoiced in the "street credibility" he had gained when it comes to counseling cancer patients. He wrote of his obligation to share the insights he had gained with others, "the most important of which is: There are things far worse than illness - for instance, soullessness."

While the approach of death might be expected to increase self-involvement, the lesson both men drew was the opposite. "Focus on others," said Pausch. "Life does not revolve around us. It envelopes us," wrote Snow. They were clear about the immense amount of good that lies within most people. Snow discovered in sickness how much "people want to do good for others; they just need excuses." And one of Pausch's cardinal rules was: "Wait long enough, and people will both surprise and impress you."

Both achieved much in the short span of years allotted to them, but in the end it was the relationships made that counted most - friends, mentors and, above all, family. Pausch concluded his lecture by revealing his second "head fake" - "This wasn't for you; it was for my kids" - as the names of his three children appeared on a blackened overhead screen.

"We count our hardships, but not our blessings, Snow wrote in one column. And chief among those was the love of his wife and children.

I FIRST ENCOUNTERED Tony Snow's reflections on dying through William Kristol's eulogy in The New York Times. The Christian Snow had caused the Jewish Kristol to question his lifetime assumption that melancholy and existential angst are the hallmarks of intellectual depth. "Could it be that a stance of faith-based optimism is in fact superior to one of worldly pessimism or sophisticated fatalism?" Kristol wondered.

And I wondered, with sadness, whether Kristol had ever been exposed to the riches of his own tradition on the challenges faced by Randy Pausch and Tony Snow - what the rabbis called "accepting afflictions with love."

Has he read Making Sense of Suffering, a book version of classes given by Rabbi Yitzchak Kirzner, after he had "earned" the right to speak on the subject by being diagnosed with terminal cancer in his early 40s? Could he imagine a young woman who did not even know she was Jewish until her early 20s, but who as she lay dying, surrounded by her husband and young children, less than 20 years later, could say, "I really have to work on my fear of God because I'm so overwhelmed by His love?" Has he witnessed the quiet strength of someone stricken with the dread disease still struggling to make it to the early morning minyan on time, while hiding his plight from others?

A woman once told Rabbi Noach Weinberg, the founder of Aish Hatorah, about a new group for strengthening the family. One of their main ideas was a day every week, in which the family spent time together, cut off from external distractions like TV, cellphones and Internet. Another was regular periods of sexual abstinence between husbands and wives to keep the fires of passion stoked, while forcing the couple to relate on other levels as well. "Why couldn't Judaism have something like that?" she asked the dumbfounded rabbi.

We owe Randy Pausch and Tony Snow an immense debt of gratitude for their courage, eloquence and examples of how living well is the best preparation for death. The debt will be even greater if they spur Jews to examine their own tradition concerning death and dying.

Devorim: The Destruction and Restoration of Dignity!

By Rabbi Simon Jacobson

Devorim: The Destruction and Restoration of Dignity. Nine Days Minus One. A few days ago I bumped into an old friend whom I have not seen for 34 years. He was my high school classmate, and back then we were close friends.I could not control my tears – not over meeting my friend after all these years, but over the state he was in.

Unnaturally thin and jittery, (I shall call him) Michael was clearly a junkie. He had an awkward smile on his face and I saw that we would not be able to have an honest conversation.He was such a promising student. Bright and creative, shy and gentle, we always thought that Michael would do some great things with his life. Here he stood before me on a street corner nervously rolling a cigarette, shifting eyes, a mere skeleton and specter of the Michael I once knew and admired.To my question "Where do you live?" he sadly answered, "I don't have my own place, I move around. Housing in New York is expensive…" "Are you working, earning an income?" "Yes, I'm eking out a living here and there." I offered help, but knew that Michael would not follow up.I touched upon some of the deepest beliefs that we shared together, back when we ere teenagers in Yeshiva on Ocean Parkway. But Michael was detached. He spoke about the past as if it was not about him. He was far gone, in a different orbit. Had I tried to hug him he would have recoiled.

I will never forget the Shabbos walk we took together when Michael began sliding so many years ago. At the time he was trying to convince me to join him in, what he called an innocuous, game of gambling at cards. As we walked down Eastern Parkway he asked if I minded that he lit up a cigarette. Always the gentle soul, Michael was being sensitive to my sentiments about Shabbos. I chose not to answer, and Michael took that as an ok.As time passed I noticed the visible differences in Michael as he became consumed with the "weed" and his daily routines began to orbit around his next "hit." Conversations, usually so stimulating, began to dull. His usually clarity and sharp wit became an afterthought. He would spend hours in his basement apartment all alone. He was slipping and slipping fast, in a vicious ruinous cycle. It was the first time I was ever exposed to the utter wasting of a human being due to drug addiction.

Nothing else matters. You look forward to nothing as much as the drug and its effects. "It" becomes your nurturer, your best friend, the one you turn to in times of need, the final recourse when all else fails. Every minute of your waking hours – and even asleep – every decision, every move, is determined by the next "high."And then, perhaps worst of all, is the loneliness. A loneliness that I cannot begin to imagine – and one that demonstrates how utterly destructive this "lifestyle" can become – you are all alone with your obsession, with your compulsion, only you and your dark desire. And every time you succumb, the lonelier it gets. At some point the human psyche must snap into a submission to this "new reality" simply to be able to survive and not be overcome by sheer shame and desperation.Once caught in this mad whirlpool, there seemed no way out for Michael. And then we graduated, each of us going our own way.

Now, 32 years later, he is still controlled by the dark demon within. He lives in world of shadows, seemingly always on the run. Escaping what? Himself above all. Why they call it "substance abuse" seems odd; it's not abuse of the substance, but of yourself. What happened to this young man that I knew? And to so many others like him?-- As I am writing these words I realize that they may come across as judgmental or condescending. That is the farthest of my intentions. We all have our vices and ugly corners. We are taught that seeing a fault in another is like looking in a mirror: It is a reflection of our own shortcomings.

Michael for me is a mirror image of the dark obsessions that we all are capable of falling into. --What happened to Michael and what happens to each of us when another force takes control of our lives?Your inner dignity – what the Kabbalists call Malchus – is damaged.And that's why I chose to write about this subject today. We now stand in the Nine Days, the saddest period of the Jewish calendar, due to the destruction of the Holy Temple and other tragedies that took place during these days, culminating with Tisha B'Av (this Sunday) – the saddest day of all, when the Temple actually went up in flames.Annually this period is honored as a time of mourning and grief over our losses. Tisha b'Av is a 24-hour fast day (beginning at night), the lights are dimmed, we sit on low stools and recite lamentations.As continuously discussed in this column, we are not simply grieving over past events, but over all forms of destruction in our lives – every form of grief and loss evolves from the rupturing of the bond between spirit and matter that occurred when the Divine presence in the Temple no longer found a "home" in our material universe and was compelled to go into "hiding."Each of us has an indispensable soul within, which is the ultimate root of all confidence and sense of purpose.

Our convictions, hopes and greatest dreams flow form our inner "malchus' – a profound sense of dignity and majesty that stems from the Divine image in which we were all created. It is the feeling that "you matter" and you have the power to achieve anything you set your mind to.In contrast, what is the root of all destruction? The annihilation of malchus – when this dignity is violated.The Arizal explains why the Fifteenth of Av is the greatest of holidays ("there were no greater holidays for Israel than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur"), because its full moon follows and repairs the "destruction" of the "moon" (Malchus) on Tisha b'Av, when the Temple was destroyed. The greatness of the ascent is in direct proportion to the depths of the descent that precedes it.Looking now at my old friend Michael, meeting him during these Nine Days, I see with my own eyes how his malchus/dignity was destroyed. Destroyed on a conscious level. Once that part of you – your purest element, the one that feeds your sense of self-value – is compromised, it's just a matter of time that your life begins to spiral downward out of control, in one form or another.

For some it takes on the shape of raw dysfunctionality. Others are creative enough to find ways to remain functional ("functional addicts") to some extent, and learn how to "cover their tracks" as they maneuver their way day to day. Variations are as numerous as people themselves. Seeing someone use their creative juices – not to mention the energy, time and money wasted – for such machinations is, of course, one of the saddest things to observe. Often arrogance is one of the mechanisms used (usually unintentionally) to cover up low self-esteem (a weak sense of malchus).The question, however, begs: What could bring someone to compromise their own sense of self-worth? Who in their right mind would allow their inner dignity to be violated?

Human nature is such that we would anything to not allow ourselves to be humiliated, let alone to allow our entire dignity to be undermined.The answer is obvious from the question: At the outset no one ever damages their own malchus/dignity. Any such damage is always initiated by someone outside ourselves: A parent, an educator, an adult – anyone that we may have trusted can hurt us, especially in our most vulnerable and impressionable childhood years.Not along ago, I conversed with a psychologist who specializes in youth at risk, focusing primarily on kids in the religious Jewish community. I asked him for his experienced opinion on why some young adults break away from the lifestyle and traditions of their own families and communities. None of us are immune to temptations and challenges. In most cases people learn to cope with their vices – some carry them undercover, other carry on dual lives or worse – without a need to break away ostensibly from the larger community.

Why then do others make an actual public and pronounced break – they cease to be openly observant or some other manifest expression of changing their lifestyles? Are they simply more honest? Do they have greater temptations than the norm? Is it due to their upbringing? Is it genetic? Do they lack certain coping skills, and if so, why? Or is it perhaps the other way around: They are smarter and actually deny faith due to their philosophical skepticism? His answer startled me. "First I considered all the factors you mention – honesty, intelligence, family – but I came to realize that they cannot account for most cases and don't reflect any patterns that point to one cause or another.

There are children from excellent families as well as broken ones that remain within the community. The same is with both skeptics and conformists, and the other identifiable categories."People are natural social creatures. They gravitate to groups and communities, and in most instances loath total isolation. They crave peer approval. Even non-conformists (which is a minority in any group) need social interaction. Most people, even radical individualists, will usually maintain their social identity, identifying with the communities of their upbringing. In most cases, only a radical jolt to the psyche will cause someone to explicitly break away from their peer group.

"In my experience I am slowly coming to the conclusion that in many of these cases the radical jolt began with some form of sexual molestation, in which the child's inner dignity was violated.

When someone is hurt on that level it defiles the innermost, intimate dimensions of the psyche; it drives the child into silence (out of shame and fear he will not speak about the abuse with parents or teachers), a silence and loneliness that eats away, like a cancer, at the child's inner dignity."In many such instances a child has enough resilience to absorb the blow and come out intact. But in sustained abuse, or if it is a particularly sensitive child, or other unique factors, the violation – and the related shame, silence and loneliness – will jolt the child into another orbit, making him susceptible to further radical changes.

Then, when you add pot or other drugs into the equation – which a young adult may take recreationally; or due to escapism; to relieve the inner anxiety and shame; out of mediocrity and boredom and the search for a high – these drugs diminish natural inhibitions and thus can actually alter human personality, including the need to remain within ones family and community structure."So, combine all the above, coupled with hormones and other natural factors – the volatile combination, ignited by the jolting catalyst, can actually cause someone to make the radical jump and abandon their past."I know that this is a radical theory, which may be impossible to substantiate, due to the fact that most victims do not acknowledge or may bee unaware of the effects of their own experiences." "So, what do you suggest?" I asked the psychologist.

"Zero tolerance of any form of abuse in our schools, homes and camps. Absolute and unequivocal action must be taken to not allow any such behavior, and to immediately take action if any such report is made, and not push it under the rug due to 'inconvenience' and scandal."Whether you agree or disagree with this psychologist's ideas, it definitely provides food for thought.

Obviously, great care has to be taken not to stereotype anyone and try to over generalize and develop formulas without regarding the complexities of life. Not everything can and needs to be explained. Yet, due to the serious crisis – and so many beautiful souls adrift – we are behooved to look into these issues and see what preventive medicine can be employed in our homes and schools, and what interventions need to be immediately deployed once there is a violation.I know that this is a heavy – and terribly sad – topic.

But when else to speak about it then in the Nine Days…The lesson of these days teaches us the terrible consequences of malchus/dignity violated. But awareness of the problem is half its cure: It also instructs us how to repair the rupture: Just as dignity (malchus) on earth was destroyed on Tisha B'Av, we have the power of the full moon on the Fifteenth of Menachem Av to restore dignity, and with even greater intensity then the original.For the sake of our children and their future we need to address these issues head-on, and come up with both preemptive actions as well as appropriate methods to rebuild dignity once it was compromised. Parents and educators must know that we carry great responsibility and power – with life and death consequences – in cultivating and nurturing the dignity and souls of our children.

And this begins not when the child is twenty, ten, or even two years old. It begins at the moment of birth, and even at the moment of conception.We live in a profoundly insecure world; malchus/dignity is the most lacking dimension. Even if we may have plenty of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, love, discipline, compassion, endurance, humility and bonding (the first nine sefirot) – they are only nine, as in the Ninth of Av; without the tenth – and most important – dimension, we are missing the foundation of all life: inner security, self-worth and dignity that makes all the other nine worth their weight and imbues us with the confidence to use our nine faculties with conviction and sense of urgency and destiny.Now the challenge is:

How do I convey this to my friend Michael and to so many others? I am open to any ideas.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Meaning of Numbers

Disclaimer: I don't know if UOJ actually read this before he asked for it to be posted. Some parts may be offensive to people who believe the mesorah and gedolim are infallible and scientifically correct.

Some not-so-light reading for your weekend - math as an expression of cultural worldview, both Jewish and Western, and how those world-views brought us to our current situation in the world of high finance.

Decline of the West
Oswald Spengler
Chapter One Excerpts

There are two ways of regarding the entirety of knowledge...One is the world as history, the other the world as nature (these words being used in an unusual sense). It is necessary to study the language of a Culture.

The West has developed, especially concerning economics, accounting and business mathematics, a language of obfuscation. We are seeing the results of that language, which intended to hide the true meanings of words and numbers, on the front pages every day now. It is a language of dishonesty.

A soul seeks to actualize itself in the picture of its outer world. Mathematics, accessible in its full depth only to the very few, holds a quite peculiar position amongst the creations of the mind.

It is a true art.

Every philosophy has hitherto grown up in conjunction with a mathematic belonging to it. Number is they symbol of causal necessity. ...The existence of numbers may therefore be called a mystery, and [even] the religious thought of every Culture has felt their impress.

The real secret of all things-become, which are ipso facto things extended (spatially and materially), is embodied in mathematical number as contrasted with chronological number.

The figure, formula, sign, diagram - in short, the number-sign in which one thinks, speaks, or writes exactly, is (like the exactly used word) from the first a symbol of these depths, something imaginable, communicable, comprehensible to the inner and the outer eye.

Ultra Orthodox Judaism fears, with a great fear, the expansive and unknowable millions of years that science has demonstrated the universe has undergone. The ten thousand years of recorded human history is bad enough, but humanity in it's current form is about 60,000 years old (as I learned recently watching a show about "scientific adam" on the history channel, using DNA, mutations and telemers to trace humanity back to a common male ancestor). Mankind as a distinct species is around 100,000 years old, or more. And our own sun is 5 Billion years old, if I recall correctly.

The deep-seated need of Ultra-Orthodox Judaism is first to know and second to control our relationship with Hashem. Numbers on that scale cannot be known, and the events on such a scale cannot be controlled by them. They fear scientific knowledge and scientific numbers because it reveals them for what they are, mere children with a mere child's understanding of Hashem and His Universe.

They insist that all of time be compressed into small numbers, numbers they can apprehend, because it gives them control: control of history, control of knowledge, control of Hashem. In the last couple of decades a fundamentalist insistence upon a "young earth" reflect not anyone's ancient understanding of time or or the scripture, but the current psychological and Cultural need for control of everything. It is also this need for control that has spawned the daily additions and stringencies required in Chereidi communities by the Ravs. Making people change or restrict how they do something is the ultimate manifestation of control - the ultimate rejection of big wide numbers and big wide concepts and big wide tolerances. Their numbers are narrow because their thinking is narrow. And the shtelt based Culture that they have created for themselves allows no other thinking.

The origin of numbers resembles that of the myth. It is by means of names and numbers that the human understanding obtains power over the world.

Nature is the numerable, while History, on the other hand, is the aggregate of that which has no relation to mathematics...exact natural science reaches just as far as the possibilities of applied mathematics allow it to reach.

The mathematical vision and thought that a Culture possesses within itself is as inadequately represented by its written mathematic as its philosophical vision and thought by its philosophical treatises. Number springs from a source that has also quite other outlets. Gothic cathedrals and Doric temples are mathematics in stone.

The great arts are, one and all, modes of interpretation by means of limits based on number.

The world of numbers includes something more than the science thereof.

The mathematic of the Classical soul sprouted almost out of nothingness, the historically constituted Western soul, already possessing the Classical science (not inwardly, but outwardly as a thing learnt), had to win its own by apparently altering and perfecting, but in reality destroying the essentially alien Euclidean system.

The relationship between the form-language of a mathematic and that of the cognate major arts, is in this way put beyond doubt. The temperament of the thinker and that of the artist differ widely indeed, but the expression-methods of the waking consciousness are inwardly the same for each.

The mathematician is only complete insofar as he feels within himself the beauty of the true. Here we feel how nearly the secret of number is related to the secret of artistic creation. Mathematics, then, are an art.

And like all art therefore expresses the inner needs and philosophy of the one so using them. Art itself is interesting in Judaism - "acceptable" art is comprised almost entirely of letters and numbers in some communities - landscapes being considered an old and outdated artform and paintings of people are limited to portraits of old, tallit wearing men. An occasional heavily veiled or faceless woman lighting shabbat candles is permitted. How profoundly these reflected on the shtetl culture are never noticed by most people.

Interestingly, art done outside these communities, done by Reform or Conservative or Secular or Unaffiliated Jews, tends to lean towards the beautifully abstract - a clear rebellion against the confinement and stagnation of the shtetl mentality.

Numbers (accounting, money, economics) are reflected in the shtetl mentality by the fact that they are used - in ways no different from that of the false Western monetary language of obfuscation and deceit - to serve the interests of the shtetl at the expense of the "outside world."

Number is the essence of all things perceptible to the senses.

The worked stone is only a something insofar as it has considered limits and measured form. What it is is what it has become under the sculptor's chisel. Apart from this it is a chaos, something not yet actualized, in fact for the time being a null. The same feeling transferred to the grander stage produces, as an opposite to the state of chaos, that of cosmos, which for the Classical soul implies a cleared-up situation of the external world, a harmonic order which includes each separate thing as a well-defined, comprehensible and present entity.

Anaximander's "apeiron" [note: "indefinate"] is that which possesses no "number" in the Pythagorean sense of the word, no measurable dimentions or definable limits, and therefore no being - the measureless, the negation of form.

Anaximander's fragmentary manuscript is also one of the earliest known surviving writings of science. Ultra Orthodoxy rejects science because they reject the idea that they don't know everything.

The "archi" [note: beginning, origin, outset, prime, principle, start, threshold] [is] optically boundless and formless, which only becomes a something (namely, the world) after being split up by the senses. [Euclid] defines a line as "length without breadth." In our mouths such a definition would be pitiful - in Classical mathematic it was brilliant.

On this account, the idea of irrational numbers - the unending decimal fractions of our notation - was unrealizable within the Greek spirit. ...In fact, it is the idea of irrational numbers that, once achieved, separates the notion of number from that of magnitude, for the magnitude of such a number (pi for example) can never be defined or exactly represented by any straight line.

There is a singular and significant late-Greek legend, according to which the man who first published the hidden mystery of the irrational perished by shipwreck, "for the unspeakable and the formless must be left hidden forever." It is the deep metaphysical fear that the sense-comprehensible and present in which the Classical existence had entrenched itself would collapse and precipitate its cosmos (largely created and sustained by art) into unknown primitive abysses. And to understand this far is to understand the final significance of Classical number - that is, measure in contrast to the immeasurable - and to grasp the high ethical significance of its limitation.

For the transformation of a series of discrete numbers into a continuum challenged not merely the Classical notion of number but the Classical world-idea itself, and so it is understandable that even negative numbers, which to us offer no conceptual difficulty, were impossible in the Classical mathematic, let alone zero as anumber, that refined creation of a wonderful abstractive power which, for the Indian soul that conceived it as base for a positional numeration, was nothing more nor less than the key to the meaning of existence.

"Nirvana" is not "heaven," it is literally nothingness. The Hindu and Buddhist religions have never had a "heaven" as their goal - only complete absorption into a final "echad" which causes them to cease to exist as individuals, an "echad" which in fact absorbs everything, so that there is nothing left but nothingness. Therefore the concept of "zero" was natural to their thought and their Culture.

Every product of the waking consciousness of the Classical world, then, is elevated to the rank of actuality by way of sculptural definition. That which cannot be drawn is not "number."

The "waking consciousness" of Judaism is that there is no such thing as "nothing" - even if the whole universe was destroyed there would not be "nothing," there would be Hashem. Hashem is therefore quantifiable against the background of what He is not. The whole philosophical mindset still swirls back to being able to know, and therefore control. "My children have defeated me," Hashem cried - deifying themselves. But they do not know everything, not even all their own history, and they certainly do not know Hashem. Their childish need for control drives them farther away from Hashem - every stringency is a rejection of Hashem in its own way. His Torah was inadequate, they needed to fence it and improve on it. They are the real righteous and knowledgeable beings in the universe - not Hashem. Don't believe me, just ask them.

Clearly, out of this no conception of zero as a number could possibly come, for from the point of view of a draughtsman it is meaningless.

And what draughtsmen they are, drawing fences around everything!

We, having minds differently constituted, must not argue from our habits to theirs and treat their mathematic as a "first stage" in the development of "Mathematics." Within and for the purposes of the world that Classical man evolved for himself, the Classical mathematic was a complete thing - it is merely not so for us.

Numbers are images of the perfectly desensualized understanding, of pure thought, and contain their abstract validity within themselves. Their exact application ot the actuality of conscious experience is therefore a problem in itself - a problem which is always being posed anew and never solved - and the congruence of mathematical system with empirical observation is a present anything but self-evident.

Numbers are the symbols of the mortal. Set forms are the negation of life, formulae and laws spread rigidity over the face of all nature - numbers make dead.

The Classical arithmetic, we are always told, was first liberated from all its sense-bondage, widened and extended by Diophantus (CE 25), who did not indeed create algebra (the science of undefined magnitudes) but brought it to expression within the framework of the Classical mathematic that we know - and so suddenly that we have to assume that there was a pre-existent stock of ideas which he worked out. But this amounts not to an enrichment of, but a complete victory over, the Classical world-feeling.

There emerges from under the surface of the Euclidian intention the new limit feeling which [Spengler designates] the "Magian." [Diaphantus] did not widen the idea of number as magnitude, but (unwittingly) eliminated it.

And this Arabian indeterminateness of number is, in its turn, something quite different from the controlled variability of later Western mathematics, the variability of the "function."

In place of the sensuous element of concrete lines and planes - the specific character of the Classical feeling of bounds - there emerged the abstract, spatial, un-Classical element of the point which from then on was regarded as a group of co-ordered pure numbers. [ie the plane coordinate system] The idea of magnitude and of perceivable dimension derived from Classical texts and Arabian traditions was destroyed and replaced by that of variable relation-values between positions in space...and in which no one any longer dreams of actually drawing circles or working out powers.

The Western soul in the persons of Descartes and his generation (Pascal, Fermat, Desargues) discovered a notion of number that was the child of a passionate "Faustian" tendency toward the infinite. The symbol of the West is an idea of which no other Culture gives even a hint, the idea of "function." Not only the Euclidean geometry (and with it the common human geometry of children and laymen, based on everyday experience)but also the Archimedean arithmetic, ceased to have any value for the really significant mathematic of Western Europe. Henceforward, this consisted solely in abstract analysis.

As to our present predicament in the markets, this Faustian infinity has freed Western accountants to use the ideas of "formula" to remove accounting and economics from any semblance of reality - derivatives, hedges, and so on are insurance against the fall of "real" numbers, the securities and the complex formulas used to analyze stocks, bonds, money and interest are completely divorced from "real," that is, Archimedean and Euclidian mathematics that anyone can understand. They have whatever meanings the analysts want or need them to have. They are infinately malleable. "Lies, damn lies, and stastics," you have probably heard said. By distorting the language of mathematics, numbers can be made to mean anything now.

[This is] a victory over the popular and sensuous [in the academic sense of the word: meaning "able to be sensed," or "apprehended] number-feeling in us, a victory which the new mathematic had to win in order to make the new world-feeling actual.

In all history, so far, there is no second example of one Culture paying to another Culture long extinguished such a reverence and submission in matters of science as ours [Western, Faustian] paid to the classical. ...But though the wish to emulate the Classical was constantly present, every step of the attempt took us in reality further away from the imagined ideal. This history of Western knowledge is thus one of progressive emancipation from Classical thought, an emancipation never willed but enforced in the depths of the unconscious. And so the development of the new mathematic consists of a long, secret and finally victorious battle against the notion of magnitude. The present day sign-language of mathematics perverts its real content.

In fact, directly the essentially anti-Hellenic idea of the irrationals is introduced, the foundations of the idea of numbers as concrete and definite collapse.

Of course, along with this, all Western ideas of anything being concrete and definite collapsed - including but not limited to morality and ethics. Judaism has learned this language, unfortunately, not just resulting in welfare scams, insurance fraud, ponzi schemes, investment schemes, and so on, but the language of falsity and deceit permeate the Orthodox relationship with the rest of the world. It's all about obfuscating and distorting language to make sure the shtetl never "looks bad" to others - and the first casualty is truth. The incident of the Bochur and the 17 hour plane ride continues to linger in my thoughts. He gleefully watched every film on the airline's menu - forbidden films, films depicting sex and violence - because he thought no one was watching. This person has rejected concrete and definite concepts as applying to himself - and others have followed. The introduction of the false language of deception and obfuscation into Judaism has lead to hedonism and decadence which is known to everyone but denied by anyone who is asked. The language of falsity and deceit thus spreads from the top levels of our society to every nook and cranny. When the top brass lies about molestation and scams, lies are normal, accepted and to be expected. This is what the shtetl has become. It can only lead to the death of the community.

Here is the root of our eternal dread of the irrevocable, the attained, the final - our dread of mortality, of the world itself as a thing-become, where death is set as a frontier like birth - our dread of the moment when the possible is actualized, the life is inwardly fulfilled and consciousness stands at its goal.

I have seriously wondered if the Rabbis are not purposefully sabotaging the coming of Mashiach. After all, if this actuality is realized, all of their control vanishes. Hashem Himself returns, fights for us, and the Shekinah returns to the Temple - meaning all questions will now be answered by Hashem Himself, not them. Their need for control simply does not allow them to truly work toward the day when they will be stripped of all control. The power will be restored to the priesthood, of which few of them qualify. This may not be a conscious thought, but it is a deep one, so deep they may not be aware of it in themselves.

The element of direction, too, which is inherent in all "Becoming" is felt owing to its inexorable irreversibility to be something alien and hostile, and the human will-to-understanding ever seeks to bind the inscrutable by the spell of a name. It is something beyond comprehension, this transformation of future into past, and thus time, in contrast with space, has always a queer, baffling, oppressive ambiguity from which no serious man can wholly protect himself.

Like a secret melody that not every ear can perceive, it runs through the form-language of every true artwork, every inward philosophy, every important deed, and although those who can perceive it in that domain are the very few, it lies at the root of the great problems of mathematics. Only the spiritually dead man of the autumnal cities [that is, removed from rural life and sensibilities] loses it or is able to evade it by setting up a secretless "scientific worldview" between himself and the alien.

And Talmud, as it should be obvious, is a manifestation of this secretless "scientific worldview." In it all decisions are made and everything is "known."

We find that every Culture is aware (each in its own special way) of an opposition of time and space, of direction and extension, the former underlying the latter as becoming precedes having become.

The subtlest, as well as the most powerful, form of this defense is causal and systematic knowledge, delimitation by label and number. The world-fear is stilled when an intellectual form-language hammers out brazen vessels in which the mysterious is captured and made comprehensible. The method common to all the great Cultures - the only way of actualizing itself that the soul knows - is the symbolizing of extension.

Our universe of infinite space, whose existence, for us, goes without saying, simply does not exist for the Classical man. It is not even capable of being presented to him. The fact is that the infinite space of our physics is a form of very numerous and extremely complicated elements tacitly assumed, which have come into being only as the copy and expression of our soul, and are actual, necessary and natural only for our type of waking life. The simple notions are always the most difficult. The whole of our mathematics from Descartes onward is devoted to the theoretical interpretation of this great and wholly religious symbol. In the Classical mathematics and physics the content of this word is simply not known.

Here, too, Classical names...have veiled the realities. The mathematics of the West has long ceased to have anything to do with both these forms of defining, but it has not managed to find new names for its own elements - for the word "analysis" is hopelessly inadequate.

Of course, by using the "old words" with an unacknowledged but obviously present "new" interpretation or meaning, we get to pretend that things are as they have always been. Again, a deception wherein we deceive ourselves as well as try and deceive others.

Thus, inevitably, the Classical became by degrees the Culture of the small.

Just as the Greek tongue - again and again we shall note the mighty symbolism of such language phenomena - possessed no word for space, so the Greek himself was destitute of our [Western] feeling of landscape, horizons, outlooks, distances, clouds, and of the idea of the far-spread fatherland embracing the great nation. Classical geometry...concerned itself with the small...the difficulties that arise in establishing figures of astronomical dimensions, which in many cases are not amenable to Euclidean geometry.

All the mathematical ideas that the West found for itself or borrowed from others were automatically subjected to the form-language of the Infinitesimal - and that long before the actual Differential Calculus was discovered. Arabian algebra, Indian trigonometry, Classical mechanics were incorporated as a matter of course in analysis.

The nexus of magnitudes is called "proportion," that of relations is comprised in the notion of "function." The significance of these two words is not confined to mathematics proper.

As we have seen, the form language we employ reflects our Culture and in a feed-back loop extraordinaire helps define it. This applies both to Western and Jewish culture - and Jewish Culture has borrowed heavily from Western, too. The language of obfuscation and deceit has become ours.

The alpha and omega of the Classical mathematic is construction (which in the broad sense includes elementary arithmetic), that is, the production of a single visually present figure.

For the last two centuries - though present day mathemeticians hardly realize the fact - there has been a growing up in the idea of a general morphology of mathematical operations, which we are justified in regarding as the real meaning of modern mathematics as a whole. All this, as we shall perceive more and more clearly, is one of the manifestations of a general tendency inherent in Western Intellect, proper to the Faustian spirit and Culture and found in no other. The great majority of the problems which occupy our mathematic and are regarded as "our" problems...would probably have seemed to the Ancients, who strove for simple and definite quantitative results, to be an exhibition of rather abstruse virtuosity. And so indeed the popular mind regards them even today.

Thus, finally, the whole content of Western number-thought centres itself upon the historic limit problem of the Faustian mathematic, the key which opens the way to the Infinite, that Faustian infinite which is so different from the infinity of Arabian and Indian world-ideas. Whatever the guise, infinite series, curves or functions, in which number appears in the particular case, the essence of it is the theory of the limit. A number of this sort has ceased to possess any character of magnitude whatever: the limit, as thus finally presented by theory, is no longer that which is approximated to, but the approximation [itself], the process, the operation [itself]. It is not a state, but a relation.

This was the grand course of Western number-thought.

And it's how we arrived to a day where financial statements have no real meaning, money is a thing of air and relativity which is based on nothing at all [a "means of exchange, completely infinite, instead of representing a finite amount of real wealth], stock prices are divorced from any underlying reality of the value of a company's assets - and indeed, the whole idea of "value" is now relative and subject to the whim of those stating said "value."

This mathematics of ours was bound in due course to reach the point at which not merely the limits of the visual itself were felt by theory and by the soul alike as limits indeed, as obstacles tot he unreserved expression of inward possibilities - in other words, the point at which the idea of transcendent extension came into fundamental conflict with the limitations of immediate perception.

It is pure abstract, and ideal and unfulfillable postulate of a soul which is ever less and less satisfied with sensuous [in the academic sense of the word] means of expression and in the end passionately brushes them aside. The inner eye has awakened.

The critical proposition of this geometry, Euclid's axiom of parallels, is as assertion, for which we are quite at liberty to substitute another assertion.

Even the simple axiom that extension is boundless (boundlessness, since Riemann and the theory of curved space, is to be distinguished from endlessness) at once contradicts the essential character of all immediate perception, in that the latter depends upon the existence of light-resistances and ipso facto has material bounds.

Although it was not till about 1800 that the notion of multi-dimensional space (it is a pity that no better word was found) provided analysis with broader foundations, the real first step was taken at the moment when powers - that is, really logarithms - were realized from their original relation with sensually realizable surfaces and solids and, through the employment of irrational and complex exponents, brought within the realm of function as perfectly general relation values.

Once the space-element or point has lost its last persistent relic of visualness and instead of being represented to the eye as a cut in co-ordinate lines, was defined as a group of three independent numbers, there was no longer any inherent objection to replacing the number 3 by the general number "n." The notion of dimension was radically changed.

And the aggregate of all points of n dimensions is called an n-dimensional space. In these transcendent space-worlds, which are remote from every sort of sensualism [that is, apprehension], lie the relations which it is the business of analysis to investigate and which are found to be consistently in agreement with the data of experimental physics. This space of higher degree is a symbol which is through and through the peculiar property of the Western mind.

And here if anywhere it must be understood that actuality is not only sensual actuality. The spiritual is in no wise limited to perception-forms for the actualizing of its idea.

But the Rabbis have laboured hard to make it so. "The Torah is not in a voice from Heaven..." exept that's exactly where it came from. But they can't control voices from Heaven, so a voice from Heaven, Hashem's voice and thus Hashem Himself, must be removed from authority over them.

From this grand intuition of symbolic space-worlds came the last and conclusive creation of Western Mathematic - the expansion and subtilizing of the functoon theory in that of groups. ...and with this culmination of our Western mathematic, having exhausted every inward possibility and fulfilled its destiny as the copy and purest expression of the idea of the Faustian soul, closes its development in the same way as the mathematic of the Classical culture concluded in the third century.

Both, expanding in all beauty, reached their maturity one hundred years later, and both, after flourishing for three centuries, complete the structure of their dieas at the same moment as the Cultures to which they respectively belonged passed over into the phase of megalopolitan Civilization.

[Thus] the time of great mathemeticians is past. Our tasks today are those of preserving, rounding off, refining, selection - in place of big dynamic creation, the same clever detail-work which characterized the Alexandrian mathematic of late Hellenism.

The "preserving, rounding off, refining and selection" of Halacha has reached absurd heights - imposing stringency after stringency - all the while failing to recognize that doing so is the dying gasp of the Civililzation we built on the shtetl mentality and the need for control.

Next: Chapter Two: The problem of world history.