(aka "surely we have enough Jews here that at least one person finds this funny")

MISHNA: Rabbi Ord says that the three permissible cause areas are global health and development, animal welfare, and long-termism. Why are these the three permissible cause areas? Because any charity outside of these cause areas is a violation of bal tashchit, the prohibition against wasting resources.

GEMARA: And why not four cause areas, because global health and development are two separate categories? Rabbi bar bar Hana answers: Is not global health valuable only because it later leads to development? Therefore, consider them the same category.

Rav Yehuda objects. He tells the story of a student who asked Rabbi Yohanan why there should not be a fourth category, meta-effective-altruism. Rabbi Yohanan answered: this is covered under long-termism, because it pays off in the long-term when the meta-charity provides more resources to effective altruism. But if meta-effective altruism is long-termist because it pays off in more resources later, shouldn't global health also be classified as long-termist, because it pays off in development later?

Rav Hisda asks, how can you think to compare these two? In meta-effective-altruism, the resources have not yet been used to help the poor. But in global health, the resources are already spent on the poor. From this, learn that the category of charity is determined when the resources are spent on helping the poor. The Gemara concludes: indeed, learn from this.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai says: it is permissible to count your contributions towards animal welfare as also being contributions to long-termism. For Isaiah 10-11 says "On that day ... the wolf shall lie down with the lamb". What is meant by "on that day"? It means "in the long-term future".

If it is permissible to count your contributions towards animal welfare as also being contributions to long-termism, then in what sense are they two different cause areas? Rav answers: Rabbi Shimon was only referring to contributions towards speculative wild animal suffering causes like genetically engineering predators into herbivores. Using the method of juxtaposition, we see that the next verse is "The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox". One who has pledged to donate a certain amount to animal welfare and long-termism may count these types of causes as either category of donation. Donations to normal animal welfare causes may not be counted as long-termism.

How long must it be before a charitable intervention pays off in order to count it as for "the long-term future"? Rabbi Hisda says in the name of Rav in the name of Rabbi Akiva: seventy years. The Bible says (Jeremiah 29:11) "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." And this passage is talking about the end of the Babylonian exile after seventy years. Therefore, the long-term future is seventy years from now.


MISHNA: Rabbi Eliezer said: one may work on AI safety but not on AI capabilities. What is AI capabilities? It is anything that makes an AI better at any of the the 39 categories of labor involved in constructing the Tabernacle.

GEMARA: The Exiliarch raised a question to Rav Hamnuna: Clearly language models are forbidden due to the prohibition against writing. But why is it capabilities research to work on an image model? Rav Hamnuna answered: that is the prohibited labor of dyeing. And is it dyeing if the image is in black and white? Rav Sheshet said: rather, say that it is still the prohibited labor of writing, because the user must prompt the image model.

Rabbi Zeira objects: the image model is translating the writing into its vector space; it is not, itself, improving at writing. Rather, say it is the prohibited labor of sifting, because the AI must separate pixels that should be dark from pixels that should be bright. The halakha is with Rabbi Zeira.

Rav Pappa raises a conundrum: is RLHF not the prohibited labor of sifting? After all, the AI must sift safe responses from unsafe responses. The Sages say: RLHF is different. There it is not the AI that is improving, it is the reinforcement model that trains the AI. The improvement of the AI is a secondary effect from the improvement of the reinforcement model. Nobody trains a reinforcement model for its own sake. Therefore RLHF is permitted even to a safety researcher.


MISHNA: Rabbi Karnofsky said: a work trial may be no longer than forty days, and one must give a prospective employee their answer within seven days of the end of the work trial.

GEMARA: On what authority did Rabbi Karnofsky say it is forty days? Rabbi Yohanan said: By an a fortiori argument from Noah's Flood. If G-d only held the world in limbo for forty days when he was punishing the wicked, even more so should we not hold in limbo a prospective employee, who is innocent. Rabbi Yehoshua said: By homiletic interpretation of the forty years that G-d kept the Israelites wandering in the desert. For "years", we should read "days".

Rav Ashi said: I heard in a baraita that the seven days comes from Genesis 7:4, where G-d gives Noah seven days' warning before He sends the flood. Granted, this works well for Rabbi Yohanan, who says the forty days derive from Noah's Flood. But how does Rabbi Yehoshua explain the seven days? The Gemara answers: Exodus 19 uses the words "speak" and "descend" seven times each. If the people of Israel had descended from their heights and spoken to their prospective employees about their work trials within seven days, G-d would not have cursed them to wander in the desert.

Rav Hisda said in the name of the Master: the pious reveal the result of work trials within three days, the G-d-fearing in five days, and only the fool waits the entire seven days allotted. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi said: in the days of Abraham our father, people would hire employees after only looking at their resume; in the days of Moses, they would hire after only an interview, and only after Saul took the kingship did they require work trials. The Gemara asks: but didn't Laban make Jacob work seven years to marry Leah, and then another seven years to marry Rachel? Rav Pappa answers: That was not a work trial, since Jacob's goal was not to continue working on Laban's farm.

The Sages continue to discuss other rules around notifying prospective employees after work trials, for example, for are you allowed to delay notifying someone if you have an illness? Abaye said: not for any illness except intestinal distress or tuberculosis. Rava said: so great is the dignity of the prospective employee that even for intestinal distress and tuberculosis, you may not delay notifying them.


MISHNA: Rabbi Wise says: the following people are forbidden to you: your coworkers, your subordinates, and your grantees. The coworkers of grantees are permitted to ordinary people, but forbidden to kohanim and Open Philanthropy employees.

GEMARA: On what authority did Rabbi Wise ban marrying your coworkers, subordinates, and grantees? The Gemara answers: the prohibition against your coworkers is from Leviticus 18:9, "Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father's daughter or your mother's daughter, whether she was born in the same home as elsewhere". Your coworkers are like sisters to you. And if you should think to say that the verse only referred to literal sisters, this is covered by the last clause, "Whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere". "Born elsewhere" metaphorically means those sisters who are not related to you. By the same logic, your subordinates are banned by Leviticus 18:15: "Do not have sexual relations with your daughter-in-law"; your subordinates are like daughter-in-laws to you. And grantees are banned by Leviticus 18:23, "Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it", because grantees are fed and cultivated, like animals.

Rav Ashi asks: And why is an additional stricture laid upon Open Philanthropy employees? And if it should enter your head to say "Because Open Philanthropy has large amounts of money", then why not also the Survival And Flourishing Fund, which also has large amounts of money? Rava answers: Survival And Flourishing Fund disburses money through that incomprehensible s-process thing, rather than by individual employee decisions. Therefore, its employees need not be as strict.

Rav Kahana says: I heard that it is also forbidden to ask people out on dates at parties. Rabbi Abba said: I heard in a baraita: in the days of the Second Temple, someone asked a woman out on a date at a party. A journalist heard this and told the Romans, and they massacred 70,000 Torah scholars in retaliation. Therefore Rabbi Akiva decreed that it is forbidden to ask people out at parties. Rav said: Rabbi Akiva made his decree for darkei shalom, keeping good relations with the Gentiles. In places like Eretz Yisrael where there are many journalists, let people follow Rabbi Akiva's decree. In places like Babylonia where journalists are few, Rabbi Akiva's decree is not binding.

A dilemma was raised before the study hall: if a married man accepts funding from an anonymous source, and later learns that his wife was the funder, must he get divorced? The followers of Shammai say: he must get divorced. The followers of Hillel say: it is forbidden ab initio, but he need not get divorced if he learns about it later. The halakha is with the followers of Hillel.

Another dilemma was raised: if a man marries a funder, and the funder anonymously distributes money to a regranter, and the regranter anonymously disburses money to the man, and then he finds out, then according to the opinion of the followers of Shammai, must he divorce his wife? No answer was found, so let the dilemma stand unresolved.





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Commentaries on the Mishnah of Rabbi Ord:

Rashi: "three permissible cause areas" - cause areas, not fathers.
Tosfos: "cause areas" - If the mishna calls these cause areas not fathers, per [Rashi's] notebooks, why does Rabbi bar bar Hana call them categories? Clearly, these must be categories. How, then, do we explain the words of the master [Rashi]? Perhaps the Mishna was careful not to use the word "category" because parent categories requires a listing of child categories, but the child categories are subject to an extensive dispute between charity evaluators. For this reason, it is clear that there are categories with subcategories, but the word categories is not used, thereby explaining Rashi's note.
Ritva: "cause areas" - The answer of Tosfos does not explain Rashi's words. Why is the dispute about subcategories enough to prevent the mishna from using exact language? Further, it is unclear which dispute Tosfos refers to, as there are disputes both about interventions, and individual charities. Instead, we see that cause areas are each a Father of Fathers [supercategory], and interventions are the fathers [categories], while specific donation opportunities are the children [subcategories].

Rashi: "long-termism" - the time required is explained in the Gemara.

Rashi: "global health" - The health of humans around the globe, not the globe itself.
Tosfos: "global health" - The sages of Greece and Rome have taught that the world is a ball.

Rashi: "Bal Tashchit" - as the verse says "you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them"
Tosfos: "bal tashchit" - As explained in [Rashi's] notebooks, this is referring to trees. How is it possible that animal welfare is included, but plant welfare, which is the source of the prohibition, is not? There are those who say that "animal" is not precise. This is difficult, because in that case it should have said "living thing welfare" It is brought in a Braitha that Brian Tomasik rules this way. However, this is a dispute with our Mishna, and does not resolve the contradiction.

Steinsaltz: "development" - This is the mitzvah of "Tikkun Olam"

Rashi on "categories of labor" - although some learners of the EA Talmud have been known to  include commenting on forums and debating philosophical turns of phrase within their definition of "labor", the Mishna is making a chiddush and excluding types of "labor" that cannot be of assistance when building a large tent. Nafka mina (emerges from it) the understanding that how-to youtube videos would be categorized as labor, by a rabbinical - not biblical - decree, but longwinded comments on obscure posts are not.

Here is with something approaching tzuras hadaf

MISHNA: Rabbi GWWC said in the name of Rabbi Singer: It is a mitzvah (good deed) to pledge 10%, but one is not required to take upon himself the chumra (stringency) of the Further Pledge.

GEMARA: Rava asks: One who takes the Further Pledge can be compared to the Nazirite, who is called a sinner, for he is depriving himself of what the Holy One, Blessed be He, has provided him. So how can Rabbi GWWC say that one who takes Further Pledge is a righteous man?

Abaye says in the name of Rabbi Singer: The mashal (parable) of the drowning child brings down that one is obligated to give up all of one's possessions to save another's life. For this reason Rabbi GWWC says one who takes the Further Pledge is a righteous man. As Scripture teaches us, "one who saves a life is as though he has saved the world entire".

Rava asks: But why then is 10% sufficient, if it is brought down that one must give up all of one's posessions to save a life?

Abaye says: In the matter of the city of Sodom, the Lord says that "for the sake of 10 righteous men, I would not destroy it". By homiletic interpretation, if one donates even 10%, for his sake the world will be spared.

To ruin the joke, cf. Taanis 9a and even more, Yoreh Deah 249:
שיעור נתינתה אם ידו משגת יתן כפי צורך העניים ואם אין ידו משגת כל כך יתן עד חומש נכסיו מצוה מן המובחר ואחד מעשרה מדה בינונית פחות מכאן עין רעה

Funnily enough, that verse is often referenced to me by religious Jews when I talk about how many EAs donate >>20%.

If you find anyone who quotes that as an excuse where a modern Halachik authority would rule that they don't have too much money for that to apply to them, I'll agree they are just fine only giving 20%. (On the other hand, my personal conclusion is less generous.) But DINKs or single people  making $100k+ each who comprise most of the earning to give crowd certainly don't have the same excuse!

For those who (like me) do not read Hebrew -- see this.

I am guessing this is the part translated: "But a man should not squander more than one-fifth to charity, so that he might not himself become a public charge. This refers only to his lifetime. Of course, at the time of death one may leave for charity as much as he pleases."

It was actually quoting the first bit; "The amount of charity one should give is that if you can afford to, give as much as is needed. Under ordinary circumstances, a fifth of one's property is most laudable. To give one-tenth is normal. To give less than one-tenth is stingy."

"Under ordinary circumstances" → "If you cannot afford [to give as much as is needed]"

I think I might add this to my DIY, atheist, animal-rights Haggadah.

This was fun, thanks for writing it.

Typos & edit suggestions:

  • better at any of the the 39 categories -> any of the 39
  • the seven days comes from Genesis 7:4 -> seven days come from
  • the pious reveal the result of work trials within three days, the G-d-fearing in five days, and only the fool waits the entire seven days allotted. -> only fools wait [plural, for consistency] // the pious reveals [singular, for consistency]
  • people would hire employees after only looking at their resume -> resumes
  • for example, for are you allowed to -> for example, are you
  • your subordinates are like daughter-in-laws to you. -> daughters-in-law
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