Thursday, February 04, 2016

Natan Sharansky's plan to destroy an archaeological site at the Kotel

My feelings about Natan Sharansky's plan to destroy an archaeological site at the Kotel so that men and women can have an egalitarian prayer site are mixed. While I want the Kotel to be a welcoming place for all Jews, I also appreciate the value of archaeological site. I'd like to have both.

Wouldn't the old status quo be a better solution? I don't mean the disgrace and the disaster created by the Women FOR the Wall who turned every Rosh Chodesh into riot day at the Kotel. I mean the status quo that came before that when women met at the Kotel without incident. That's how it was for over 20 years.

For over 20 years WOW members read from the Torah and donned Talis and Tefillin at the Kotel and no one cared. Can we go back to that? Can we return to the day when the Haredim behaved like grown-ups and WOW was left alone, just as Christians praying to Jesus are left alone and just as Calbachians with their strange ecstatic rituals are left alone?

No, of course we can't. The genie is out of the bottle, and thanks to police inaction and women FOR the Wall incitement every Haredi carrying pent up rage against women, now knows that on the first day of the month, he can go to the most sacred place in Judaism and vent his anger without consequence.

Thanks to police inaction and women FOR the Wall incitement the Kotel became a circus every month.

Thanks to police inaction and women FOR the Wall incitement we, all of us, the family of Israel, were made to look petty, stupid, violent, misogynistic and backward.

And now thanks to police inaction and women FOR the Wall incitement we're going to lose an archaeological treasure -- and all because a bunch of mini-ayatollah fanatics refused to practice elementary tolerance.

Less than 48 hours after cabinet approved historic overhaul for a gender-neutral prayer space, Hebrew University professor says construction will “absolutely…

.Search for more information about ###

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

If the 5 front-runners attended my shul...

Let's say the five front-runners were members of my shul. Which roles would they play?

Clinton would be the Rabbi. Not because she's godly, learned or trustworthy but because she is wonkish, deeply experienced and capable of standing on a stage with gravitas while making platitudes sound fresh.

Marco is the shul president, of course, but bare in mind that a shul president is usually a fresh faced little eager beaver who is fully controlled by the back room oligarchs who actually run things.

Cruz can be the Gabbai, which I realize is deeply unfair to all the excellent gabbais in the world. But a subset of the profession are venal, little Uriah Heeps who weasel their way into everything, leaving behind a thin trace of grease on everything they touch. With deep apologies to the good gabbaim, that's the sort of Gabbai Cruz would be.

Trump leads the kiddush club. He loves to talk, has racist and misogynistic bluster to spare and no respect for anyone. Also, he can be counted on to deliver a good bottle every week.

Bernie is the crank in the back of the shul. Now, back room cranks are my favorite. I love how they toss spitballs at the Rabbi and always have something new to complain about. (when the complaints and spitballs aren't gratuitous trolling, I mean) So maybe that explains my growing affection for Bernie.

Search for more information about ###

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

A brief elegy for Failed Messiah: A valuable and important blogger

FailedMessiah has hung up his sneakers.

I didn't know Shamrya as well as I would have liked, but I had a real respect for his ability to ferret out scandals. He was muckracker in the grand old tradition of muckrackers, shining a bright light on the dank corners of Orthodox Judaism.

Lots of people thought he was an embarrassment to Judaism, but I dissent from that opinion. Shamrya wasn't an embarrassment to his people. Shmarya was a national treasure. The corrupt, thieving, phonies who were daily described on the pages of Failed Messiah were the Jewish embarrassment. If they didn't exist, Shamrya wouldn't have come to point them out.

Some people were disturbed that Shmarya, in the style of an Old Testament prophet, chose to focus primarily on Orthodox Jewish malfeasance. It should bother you more that such a focus was possible. If Jews were as great as we say we are, Shmarya would have been out of business a long time ago.

I usually didn't like what Shamrya found, but I was glad he was out there looking. I hope his presence kept some people honest.

As a send off here are some posts of mine in which he is mentioned. Read them all:

Query: Now that Shmarya is gone, am I the longest serving Jewish blogger? Who's left from the area other than Gil?

Search for more information about ###

Who will the men in shul support?

I think the sharpers in my shul are going to have a problem this time around. While they are innately inclined to vote Republican which of the Big Three are they supposed to rally around in 2016?

Trump, certainly, has macho douche-bag characteristics the Big Swinging Dicks in my shul will find appealing; however, he's also gone bankrupt several times and, let's be honest, everyone who is not a moron Christian gun-lover sees right through the cynical game that is his candidacy.

Cruz has his religiosity going for him because many of the men in my shul have a sickening respect for Christianity, but Cruz is also about as likable as a stink bug.

So that leave Marco. He's certainly eligible to receive the "Best Friend Israel Has Ever Had" appellation that always seems to accompany the GOP nomination but does he have the credentials the shrewd wheeler-dealers in my shul will demand? I don't know.

Too bad for Jeb. He definitely would have been their guy. Also too bad for Hillary (because Girl) and Bernie (because Socialist) Neither stand a chance of winning their support.
Search for more information about ###

Iowa 2016

My main takeaway from listening to the five frontrunners last night is that all but one of them were acting.

Rubio, a Roman Catholic who came in third, was acting like a generic and chipper Ned Flanders Christian who had won the whole thing.

On the other stage, Clinton was putting everything she had into acting like an alpha dog in control Bill Clinton. While she lacks his warmth and magnetic personal charm she can miminc his cadences and hand motions.

Cruz looked like he was auditioning for the role of venal, God-pandering, sleazebucket politician. Nothing about him seems real (or likable). When he takes the stage and affectates that speaker's voice all you see is a little kid struggling to act like some grown-up he once saw in a movie.

And in the most convincing performance of the night Trump acted like he didn't care that he'd lost the race the last eight Iowa polls assured him that he would win. He was quick, breezy and indifferent. Which is a shame because i was hoping hard for a Howard Dean style meltdown.

Meanwhile, that old socalist jew didn't seem to be acting at all. I felt like I was seeing the real man. True, the real man is a curmudgeonly, socialist, billionaire-basher with a bit of a Jeremiah complex but that is who was on stage last night.

And I'll tell you something else. That old socialist Jew pushed a lot of my buttons. At long last I think I understand why GOP Jerks are always so flushed and breathless when their guys talk about guns and God. I'm not quite ready to join seemingly all of my Twitter feed and jump on the Bernie bandwagon but I admit that last night, for the very first time... I felt the Bern

Monday, February 01, 2016

Last night Ted Cruz asked Iowa voters to ""awaken the body of Christ that we may pull back from the abyss." What did he mean here?

My suggestion is "body of Christ" is intended as an allegory for the Christian voter's conscious. When he says he wants the body of Christ to wake up, he means the each individual voter should rouse his or her own sense of Christian morality and cast his or her vote through that frame of reference. Or at least that's what I think.

I mention this because it brings to mind a fascinating Rashi. Numbers 20:15 says: " our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers." [King James]

Rashi tells us "From here [we learn] that when Israel is afflicted with punishment, the Patriarchs grieve in the grave."

Is this also an allegory? Or is Rashi [*] simply trying to describe an event with no underlying meaning? Is he saying something in code as Ted Cruz presumably did when he called for Jesus to wake up? Or does Rashi think that Abraham, Issac and Jacob are actually "grieving in the grave" when Jews are afflicted?

My answer: There are two reasons to conclude that Rashi is describing an event here:

(1) He's responding to a specific grammatical cue. he vocalization of the word "v'la'avoseinu" suggests that the fathers this verse has in mind are specific and particular fathers. The patach under the lamed indicates a definitearticle, so the last part of the verse should be read "to THE fathers." This tells us that the fathers spoken about here are not ordinary and generic ancestors, but specific fathers,

(2) Rashi did not consider himself a darshan. Though he will at times cite a drash (by which I mean something not suggested by a reading) he almost always introduces it with a formula like "And our Rabbis darshaned as follows." Even when he does this, he almost always provides the pshat first and only introduces a drash when there is some shortcoming in the pshat.

On Numbers 20:15 Rashi offers only one reading. Typically, when Rashi offers just one reading, that reading is what he understands to be the pshat.

[Please note: Rashi is citing the Tanchuma, but the discussion I wish to have is about what Rashi imagined happens to the Patriarchs when Israel suffers, not what the author of the Tanchuma thought]

Search for more information about ###

Please Let Cruz Lose

As we reach the first milestone of this awful and disgraceful election I see that someone who works for Ted Cruz, someone who presumably has an actual brain, is under the mistaken impression that Shmuley Boteach is some kind of noted expert or leader. This is posted on the Cruz website

Right. because supporting Israel in the US Senate requires bravery.

Meanwhile, in other Ted Cruz news, the least liked person in the history of the US senate called on Iowa voters to "awaken the body of Christ that we may pull back from the abyss.” Not being extremely well versed on evangelical Christian nightmares, I can't work out what exactly Cruz wants.

Is he just asking people to get psyched up about their religion, and to use their newly awakened enthusiasm to oppose at the ballot box all of the things the evangelical Christian God is said to dislike? Probably. But how does that help Ted? All of his opponents are squarely in line with Evangelical Christian God's tastes. They all hate homosexuals and abortion and brown people. The all support robber barons and anti-poor policies. They are all very much in line with the teachings of Republican Jesus.

So even if Ted does manage to wake up Jesus - which I take as an allegory for the Christian voter's conscious - how can he be certain that this will help him at the polls? Wouldn't a vote for Rubio or Trump also pull us back from the abyss?

Search for more information about ###

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A beloved celebrity has died... now what?

Let's say a beloved non-Jewish celebrity has died. How do the Jewish vertically integrated digital-media companies report it?

BNJC's manager's cousin was married to a Jew, therefore we deserve credit for all of his accomplishments.

BNJC is dead and it's Obama's fault.

Eight depressing Israeli novelists weigh in on BNJC .

Honest Reporting:
ALERT! Read the NYT and Guardian headlines about BNJC's death and you can't miss their virulent anti-Israel bias.

Yeshiva World News:
EXCLUSIVE: YWN is now EXCLUSIVELY reporting that our reporter has EXCLUSIVELY confirmed that BNJC has died.

Cross Currents
BNJC may have bashed homosexuals and women all the time, while publicly calling for Jews to convert but we admire him anyway because he was such a devout Christian.

Rabbi Stephen Pruzanskey
Now that I have written 10,000 words of self-righteous, high drodgeon blather containing dozens of facts I personally invented, I leave you no choice but to accept that Obama is Hitler incarnate. Oh and some hippie liberal died.
Israelly Cool:
Separated at Birth: Check out the muppet or troll to whom BNJC bares a passing resemblance!

Rabbi's drasha (Modern Orthodox):
Here's a gratuitous and irrelevant positive mention of BNJC (He loved Israel!)

Rabbi's drasha (Yeshivish ):
Here's a gratuitous and irrelevant negative mention of BNJC (He had no idea what real happiness is!)

Local Jewish fishwrapper:
Elderly resident recounts meeting BNJC at airport. Awkward photo included.

Viral Facebook post:BNJC was being treated with a drug developed in Israel. Why is no one mentioning this!?!??

NOTE: 98 percent of this great post was written by Yehudi Pashuti  )

Search for more information about ###

Friday, January 22, 2016

Why did God take us into the desert rather than on the road to the land of the Philistines

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt. So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.-- Exodus 13:17-18

Question on God: According to the traditional way of reading this passage God took the people into the desert, rather than in the direction of the Philistines, because He wanted to avoid war.

Only the very next thing that happens is the Red Sea confrontation with Egypt! God's entire plan seems to backfire. Instead of avoiding war, we end up right in the middle of one. And just as God feared the Jews immediately started complaining that they wanted to return to Egypt. So what was gained by God's change of direction?

And what about that change of direction in the first place? Weren't we always suppose to go into the desert and receive the Torah? Wasn't that the whole purpose of the Exodus? Didn't God say "And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain." So why does our verse seem to suggest that going to that mountain is now something of an afterthought?

 Search for more information about ###

Thursday, January 21, 2016

What do actual Israelis think about Obama's deal with Iran?

What do actual Israelis think about Obama's deal with Iran?

Well, many people on the street are convinced that the deal spells disaster.

More in the know Israelis see things differently, including:
  • Efraim Halevy, Mossad Director; former head of National Security Council
  • Shlomo Ben-Ami, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Internal Security
  • Shlomo Brom, brigadier general; former director of IDF strategic planning division; former deputy national security advisor
  • Uzi Arad, national security advisor
  • Dov Tamari, military intelligence chief; former head of special operations
  • Chuck Freilich, deputy national security advisor
  • Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, Chair of Israel’s space agency; former IDF general
  • Uzi Even, lead scientist at Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor
  • Eran Etzion, Deputy Head of the Israeli National Security Council; former Head of Policy Planning at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Israel Ziv, major general
  • Eli Levite, deputy director general of Israel’s atomic energy commission

So who are you going to trust? Some semi-racist big mouth who gets his news from A7, or the high-ranking Israelis who have dedicated their professional careers to keeping Israel safe?
Haaretz reports that an impressive list of top Israeli military brass support the deal with Iran. These military leaders wrote a letter to Netanyahu urging…

  Search for more information about ###

Police brutality in Israel

This is a story of police brutality and malfeasance told by a Jewish man from Modi'in. He says he was physically and mentally abused, harassed, separated from his family and terrorized by the Israel police despite the fact that he is completely, totally and utterly innocent.

During the ordeal, he was interrogated in a language he doesn't fully understand and beaten when he wouldn't sign a document he couldn't read. And this being Israel they were allowed to do all of it without an attorney present.

Arabs of course have been telling these types of horror story for years. Their homes are invaded in the middle of the night. They are accosted in the street, held without charges, beaten, tortured. When one of them is shot, the cops tell everyone the victim was a terrorist (just as every block man shot by the police in America "was reaching for what looked like a gun."

The typical Jewish response to these atrocities is always to defend the authorities. Any Arab who tangles with a cop or soldier is automatically presumed guilty as "our boys" are always professional, courteous and committed to justice. 

Well, after you've read the man from Modiin's experience let's see see what you think about that.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Monday, January 18, 2016

God is incapable of feeling pain

A "godol" who suggests something we do causes God pain is a godol I find immediately suspicious. If you dial the number, hold on to your wallet.

Search for more information about ###

Friday, January 15, 2016

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Rooting for Daniel Shwartz

Rockland Lawyer Daniel Schwartz now has a huge X on his back and I fear for what the forces of the Inquisition might do to him, but man.... I leapt out of my seat when he landed this blow on fat, arrogant Gordimer's nose:
Gordimer’s tactics do achieve one purpose; they squelch free and open debate. It’s always been true, that throughout history, as information became and becomes more and more available to the masses, Judaism in any of its forms, is only as successful and meaningful to people as its ability to compete in the free marketplace of ideas. That’s especially true of any Orthodoxy as it draws its legitimacy from defending tradition and cleaving to practices that appear anachronistic or worse to the casual observer or neophyte seeker. Modern Orthodoxy has the added challenge of articulating how to go about incorporating practices and values that are not specifically Jewish into the Halachik orbit, whilst not altering Judaism’s basic form. But Gordimer, via his denigration of Open Orthodoxy and its leadership, refuses to engage in free and open debate, to compete in the free marketplace of ideas. And that refusal is tantamount to an admission on his part that in fact Modern Orthodoxy has nothing to contribute to the discussion, has nothing to offer those who are troubled by the status quo. For Gordimer, one is either “in or out,” a true believer or a heretic. But it is Gordimer’s worldview that is rendered out. Why should an outsider take him seriously, when he takes no one, other than himself and those who think as he does, seriously?"
Team Gordimer operates under the premise that some truths are self-evident, and just not up for debate, but they forget that Jews have been debating interpretations and applications since the time of the mishna at least.

Moreover, if human history has shown us one things it is this: the only way to get at the truth is via dialogue and debate. You've got to constantly  test and defend and refine your ideas, always allowing the best argument to carry the day.

Truth, by definition, is available to human beings only in partial ways - our knowledge is imperfect. When people bring their own thoughts and their own experiences to the group -where they offer and accept criticism, and honor the positions of others- our ideas are refined, and this process makes the ideas better. When Judaism teaches that there are 70 faces to the Torah it is recognizing that human knowledge is subjective, and that truth can only be reached cooperativly. So though I agree that Judaism is not a democracy, I insist that democracy has a certain holiness because when it is used correctly and in good faith, the community draws nearer to the truth.

This is what Gordimer seeks to undermine, and its why he must be stopped

Search for more information about ###

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

OK God, it's put up or shut up time. Lakewood is in the game.

For their next #histadlus move, the yeshiva will be putting your paycheck down on red 27  

Search for more information about histadlus

Idiot of the day: Joe Scarborough

Here's an example of a very stupid tweet:

Some of the better rejoinders.

And then we have this, which says it all

And of course, who doesn't feel bad for the Cruz and Rubio speech writers who were up all night writing awesome anti-Obama demagoguery that now reads like "Dewey Beats Truman"