thesis: life evolved/created to be progressively better at keeping time. the human body is the most advanced chronological device, with a resolution of 330 billion time units/day (# of cell divisions). it has cyclical (skin, menses, sleep) and linear (brain, telomeres) clocks.
Using Jewish thought’s 4 categories of the natural world:

🪨inanimate: stays the same forever
🌱plant: grows fast when young, then stays largely the same for a very long time
🐒animal: similar lifecycle to humans but no semiotic memory or free will, so limited ability to change
This can also be measured by the relative difficulty of determining age:

🪨: nearly impossible to determine age
🌱: once mature, very difficult except if you kill it to count tree rings
🐒: difficult to determine except in early and late life
👥: extremely easy—just ask for bday
The body is a good clock on an object level. It knows when it’s time to eat, sleep, go outside. It knows when its inhabitant’s time in the world is up.

but it’s also subjectively good. it records human memory, and allows easy access to it. like an old calendar or dated diary.
What further separates humans is that they can *consciously* speed up, slow down, or reset their clocks, either by making changes to their physical lives or reinventing their self-conceptions. This is why major life changes are often felt in the body and may feel like a new birth
These changes, in turn, affect the functioning of the largest of these clocks—the lifelong body clock, the one that stops when it breaks. think of interconnected gears or cogs, like in a real clock. the big one will turn too fast or too slow, if the smaller gears do that.
It’s all about the synchronicity of the body, a finite clock, with the soul, an infinite energy source. If the body can’t figure out a way to use the energy efficiently, it will short-circuit and fry out. it won’t break, but it will find other, less efficient ways to use energy.
Dumb example: Bob is an artist at heart stuck in a 9-to-5. He’s stressed from work and hates his job. But he ignores his creative urges and comes home and binges Netflix. All that bottled-up energy needs to go somewhere: self-loathing, workaholism, a blowup at work.
Bob’s body clocks are not synchronized with the powerful energy source of his soul, so they’re forced to deal with outbursts at opportune times. this wears them down. if he goes on like this all his life, the big body clock wears down too. we know that long-term stress does this.
Of course he can make small changes to his diet or sleep or whatever. But so long as he doesn’t allow his soul to truly express itself, and adjust his body accordingly, the gears will keep grinding against each other. the stress will return. it could morph into worse things.
This is why the 10 generations after Adam and Eve lived so long. Their bodies were so synchronized with their souls such that they were immediately responsive to their souls’ needs, instead of letting the energy bottle up. it’s a far more energy-efficient way to live.
Does that mean their moments of inspiration were less powerful? Perhaps, but they felt G!d *in their bodies* more powerfully than we ever could, because their constant body-soul synchronicity allowed the impact of the soul on the body to be cumulative, not intermittent like ours.

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More from @wordpaley

20 Sep
Sukkos is my favorite Jewish holiday, and there are a lot of annoying myths about it that go around because the Torah is fairly opaque about what it is, so here’s the first of what will hopefully be a few Sukkos mythbusting threads:

Myth #1: There isn’t actually a good reason to celebrate Sukkos now. According to 14th cent. halakhist R. Yaakov ben Asher, compiler of the code known as the Tur, we really should celebrate at Passover time, but we want to show everyone that we sit outside even when it’s rainy.
Truth #1: THE TORAH LITERALLY CALLS IT THE HARVEST FESTIVAL. In the eastern Mediterranean, harvest season is after the summer. And contra Tur, even the Talmud says the rainy season doesn’t really start until after Sukkos. So yes, there is a good reason why Sukkos is now.

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19 Sep
Just spent an uncomfortably long time choosing an esrog for the first time in a while (my dad usually gets handed one at random from my hometown shul). Is there a way to do it that’s not neurotic and/or selfish? Why do *I* deserve the nicest-looking/most mehudar esrog, not you?
I actually much prefer when I don’t get to choose—it feels like G!d chooses for me and then it becomes an exercise in acceptance of both my esrog and myself, blemishes and all. And when I choose I feel obligated to choose halakhic hiddur over physical beauty, which is weird.
why does the Talmud conceive of hiddur, which loosely translates to beauty, as comprising a set of rigid, “objective” characteristics, other than because the law by definition must aspire to some form of objectivity? why not leave beauty in the eye of the esrog-beholder?
Read 12 tweets
29 Aug
Thursday was Chai Elul (18 Elul), said (in Chabad sources) to be the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement. A lot of his teachings--brief but pithy--remind me of tweets. Here's 18 of them that can teach us how to be better on this website:
But first: who was the Besht, and why does the environment he was born in remind me of Twitter? Born to Eliezer and Sara in the village of Okopy, near the border of present-day Poland and Belarus, little Yisroel was orphaned at the age of 5.
He was born in a time of upheaval in European Jewry. The Chmielnicki pogroms of 1648-9 had killed 100,000 Jews, or ~30% of Poland's Jews. Shabtai Tzvi's failure left many followers disillusioned with Judaism or following new "messiah" Jacob Frank.
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23 Jul
For the 15th of Av, the Jewish holiday of love, and to respond to controversy about how #MyUnorthodoxLife presents the Jewish approach towards sex, a thread of 15 times Judaism is sex-positive, and 15 times it's sex-negative.
Because it's 15 times more complicated than you think.
Note: I am not going to use anatomically correct language here, but that's not because I'm sex-negative (or that anyone who chooses not to is sex-negative). I just want to be sensitive to some of my followers and others who will see this who feel uncomfortable.
Another note: this thread is heteronormative because the Torah is almost entirely heteronormative and sex-negative about queer sexuality. Reply to this tweet with Torah about queer sex-positivity! (Do not reply to argue with me on the Torah's view of queer people; I will block.)
Read 44 tweets
18 Jun
Gonna live tweet this episode of the popular podcast Headlines because I’m cooking and cleaning for Shabbos anyway and because I love pain
Wow. This guy is just doing his intro dvar Torah on the parsha and he’s already assuming women rabbis are a product of a philosophy foreign to Torah. Then lists feminism alongside socialism, communism, liberalism, progressivism as manifestations of Satan. What a great start!
First up is R’ Yitzchak Breitowitz of Yeshivas Ohr Somayach. He starts with a disclaimer that he in no way wants to impugn the intentions of the people involved in the ordination of women and that they are sincere servants of God. I wish that was obvious, but I’m glad he said it.
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1 Jun
Unsolicited belated Pew take: if you’re concerned about Orthodox retention and talking about “inreach”, know this: people don’t leave Orthodoxy because they can’t find meaning in it. They leave because Orthodox institutions and social norms are all Orthodoxy ever was to them.
Orthodoxy either A) doesn’t have a coherent spiritual vision (Modern Orthodox) or B) suffers from social problems so egregious or pervasive as to overshadow, for people who leave, anything good about them (Yeshivish+MO). You think people want to be rejected by their families?
Orthodox institutions are responsible for this. You can’t expect most people to articulate their own Jewish vision for their families. People rely on shuls, schools, youth organizations. And institutions bury their heads in the sand about issues they deem not significant enough.
Read 7 tweets

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