Three Great Weekend Reads

In case you missed them…

Do you know how to draw a shoe?

Why are we so afraid of robots?

Is your success getting in the way of your happiness?

Over the years, people develop a manner of “seeing” that relies heavily on their brain telling them what’s there without really looking, because it saves time. Drawing depends on the opposite — bypassing the brain and really seeing what’s in front of you… Drawing a shoe is a common assignment for students and artists.

In a critical evaluation of AI, the cognitive and computer scientists Gary Marcus and Ernest Davies demonstrate that the state of the art of AI is still quite far from true intelligence. When asked to provide a list of restaurants that are not McDonald’s, Siri still spits out a list of local McDonald’s restaurants; she just doesn’t get the “no” part of “no.” [.] This doesn’t bode well for the AI conspiracy.

Though it isn’t a conventional medical addiction, for many people success has addictive properties. To a certain extent, I mean that literally—praise stimulates the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is implicated in all addictive behaviors. (This is basically how social media keeps people hooked: Users get a dopamine hit from the “likes” generated by a post, keeping them coming back again and again, hour after miserable hour.)

Three Great Jewish Reads

In case you missed them…

What’s wrong with “opting out” of the High Holidays this year?

What can Tisha B’Av teach us about humility?

What makes sourdough bread so good for the soul?

Phrases like “opting out” or “taking a break” don’t exist when you see yourself as a spark of a greater light that penetrates the darkest corners of this world. Staying a member of a community is a covenant, a promise to God and one another that you will step up when your voice is needed. And if you find yourself not currently in a community, we welcome you to join one, strengthening all of our souls during these moments of great uncertainly and fear.

Perhaps this year, when our perception has been anything but clear, can help answer this question. Perhaps a year in which we realize just how little we truly understand, will help bring us a heightened sense of humility. Perhaps a year in which our collective ego has been utterly humiliated will shake us from our narcissism.

Sourdough bread, with its airy texture, crispy crust and tangy flavor has experienced a popular resurgence. The bubbly magic of slow fermentation increases the prebiotic and probiotic properties, which are believed to aid in digestion. During this pandemic, our Jewish community has taken advantage of the extra time at home to bake some good, old-fashioned sourdough bread.

Commentary on Parashat Vaetchanan

This week at the Jewish Journal, Parashat Vaetchanan is under discussion. In Parshat Vaetchanan: Moses tells the people of Israel how he implored G‑d to allow him to enter the Land of Israel, but G‑d refused. Continuing his “review of the Torah,” Moses describes the Exodus and the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Moses predicts that in future generations the people will turn away from G‑d, worship idols, and be exiled from the holy land. The Parshah includes a repetition of the 10 Commandments, and the verses of the Shema.

“This episode we’re going through right now, this time of the coronavirus, can help us understand what Moses was feeling being denied entry into the Holy Land. How many of us had plans, set goals, said this will be the year, and then all of a sudden we had to pivot and say that everything we worked on is not going to happen.”

Personally, I don’t think Moses is retelling the story here because the Israelites might forget… The Israelites have, up until this point, always known a very present and imminent God—the God of Har Sinai, the God of the midbar, who provides for their every need. Moses, now, is setting them up for the God they will know in the future—a God who is more distant. He gives the Israelites the power of narrative to move themselves from what they have known and become accustomed to in the desert, to the unknown future that lies beyond the Jordan river.

Be sure to keep the commandments, decrees, and laws that the Lord your God has enjoined upon you. Do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord… (Deut. 6:17-18)

Surely doing what is right and good is no more and no less than keeping God’s commands, decrees, and laws. Are these not two ways of saying the same thing? However, as the Talmud explains: “And you shall do that which is right and good in the eyes of the Lord” means that one should not perform an action that is not right and good, even if you are legally entitled to do so.

Three New Jewish Podcasts

Just in time for the weekend, three new podcasts about Judaism, Jewish culture, and Israel.

Reflections on the clash between a crisis of the body (COVID-19) and a crisis of the soul (racial unrest.)

“How do we handle two major crises at once? We’ve been living through the crisis of the century- something that none of us expected- the COVID-19 pandemic. And then, simultaneous to that, came the George Floyd killing, which triggered this enormous unrest around racism.”

Gil Samsonov discusses the Israeli Likud princes and their clash with one of their own—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The princes are the second generation after the generation that fought for independence for Israel. They joined politics young. Today they are the most dominant force in Israeli politics, but their influence is coming to an end.”

No, they’re not actually bringing bagels to you, but the Bagels are giving it their all this week. Rolling out some regular segments, Esther and Erin still manage to make their regular mentions of shows they love while taking a delightful diversion into the weird world of “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.”

Today’s Hot Issues

Three Great Weekend Reads Three Great Jewish Reads Commentary on Parashat Vaetchanan Three New Jewish Podcasts