Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Everything you wanted to know about sex, but were afraid to ask

The Chassidisha Yingerman From BP has prepared a shiur on sex. Not for the faint-hearted- though not much there that we didn't learn in school. I suppose I had brave teachers.

Intrestingly, some of what he discusses is illegal in the middle states, and the Christian mob forming in way-out places like Kansas, would like to criminilize it everywhere. Yet another reason for Jews with strange tastes in the bedroom to oppose Daniel Lapin.

(One quibble: At the very end, he makes the common mistake of assuming that men in 2005, in the agregate, are less moral than the men of other times. We won't fault him for falling for that hooey. He's hasidic after all. Some day soon, we'll try to debunk it.)

More white men whining


House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is outraged over the season finale of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," and is accusing NBC of "deliberate misuse" of his name. Detectives on the Wednesday episode of the ripped-from-the-headlines cop drama were investigating the slaying of two judges by suspected right-wing extremists. "Maybe we should put out an APB [all points bulletin] for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt," says Detective Alexandra Eames, played by Kathryn Erbe, after a black appellate court judge is killed.... "This manipulation of my name and trivialization of the sensitive issue of judicial security represents a reckless disregard for the suffering initiated by recent tragedies and a great disservice to public discourse," said DeLay in a letter to NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker

Well boo-hoo-hoo. Cry me a river Delay. And maybe think twice before you insist that all the judges you don't like will one day "answer for their behavior."

White men whining

NASCAR driver Robby Gordon took whining to a new level when he complained that Danica Patrick had an unfair advantage in the Indianapolis 500 because she weighed only 100 pounds, or far less than most male drivers.

Uh huh.

In other news, Manny Ramirez, a hitter for the Boston Red Sox said he thinks Randy Johnson should have to back up because he throws the ball harder than most pitchers, and Andrew Agassi called for Roger Federer to keep his shoes tied together on the tennis court because he's faster than most opponents.

Point / Counterpoint


"For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously." ---Vice President Dick Cheney


"He doesn't take torture seriously; he doesn't take the Geneva Convention seriously; he doesn't take due process rights seriously; and he doesn't take international law seriously. And that is more important than whether he takes Amnesty International seriously." ---William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA

As I wait for a new Deep Throat...

...the old Deep Throat outs himself. It's W Mark Felt, 91 years old and a real hero. Glad he came out in time to take a well-deserved bow. Though, I am sure there are some, on the right, who still think Deep Throat was motivated by "hatred of America."

Perhaps some good publicity for Mr. Felt will help the MSM remember what it was like to have a spine.

What does "moral" mean?

Yudel points us to a stinging indictment of the Christian right, an indictment that would apply equally to the moaning moralists on the right-wing of political Judaism who think that morality relates to sex and nothing else:

"But it is hypocrisy and nonsense when contemporary Christians who have sold off and abandoned every vestige of the traditional Christian understanding of wealth turn around and insist that the Christian understanding of sexuality is fixed, immutable and eternal. These people strain at the gnat of same-sex love while swallowing the camel of credit card usury. They are so obsessed with their mistaken belief that they live in the most promiscuous society of all time that they have failed to notice they live in the most affluent, the haughtiest, proudest and least concerned with the poor."

My two cents

Miriam, the Hock and the new kid, have been beating on Toby Katz, for saying that the Gedolim understand women.

Of course, I agree with Miriam, et al, and you need only to look at the Gedolim to see the essential problem. A phalanx of identicals, the closest they come to daily contact with women is with those who keep house for them. Half the world is out of bounds.

For those who say this doesn't matter, I have nothing but contempt. They argue: “Do I really need to know what it's like to be a woman in order to make halachic rulings? Why is it necessary for a jurist, in the strictest sense, to see the world from other perspectives? A jurist needs to understand the law. Not people. The law and nothing else.”

This is an adolesecent argument, and could only be made by someone who's studied neither law nor people. The "law" isn't plain and it isn’t simple. It can't be studied, and law can't be imposed without our own perspectives creeping in, and influencing the decision. The Gedolim are human. They don't teach and study and rule from the confines of a vacuum. The life of a Godol is greatly removed from women and their concerns, and his view of the world can’t help being influenced -for better or for worse - by that reality.

The real question, then, is not "Do the gedolim understand women?" The real question is this: If the noble ideal of a jurist objectively committed to the law, and nothing but the law, is unsustainable and perhaps, a bit naive, how do we reconcile this reality with our system for making religious decisions?

The Ramban on Hebrew

Last week, we spoke about the Ramban's view on Hebrew. Unlike the sages of the Midrash, who believed that Hebrew was the language originally spoken by all human beings, the Ramban thought Hebrew was merely a local Canaite language. Here's the citation: (Gen. 45:12). "For Abraham did not bring it from Ur of the Chaldees [in Mesopotamia] and from Haran, for there they spoke Aramaic... And it was not a private language spoken by a single person but a language of Canaan..."

From the information that we possess today we must think Ramban correct in the main, un-Jewish as the view may seem. Archeology and the study linguistics support his contention, but so does common sense: As children, did we really believe that Hebrew was the private language of Abraham's family, spoken, for a time, by as few as 7 or 8 people?

All Honor Ateres

A letter from Monsey

Dear DovBear:

Aters Bes Yaakov is one of our neighborhood schools for girls, in Monsey, NY. It is the only girl's school in town with no uniform policy. The dress code is very strict, but students can choose their own clothing. The thinking is that girls need to express their individuality and they need to learn how to dress according to halacha. When you wear a uniform, your individuality is stifled, and you never learn how to make kosher choices.

This Spring, that policy almost changed. A right-wing element within the parent body pressured the administration to implement a uniform policy, and last week, the school had it's first uniform fair (Fittings, and the paying of deposits)

Dov, it was a disaster. The uniforms, like all uniforms were ugly and uncomfortable. The girls were miserable. And we were so disappointed that the school had, seemingly, sacrificed it's principles on the later of conformity.

Thank god we were wrong. The very next day after the uniform fair, the principle sent home a letter canceling the uniform policy! In a nutshell, she said, "we were wrong." Isn't that amazing? After accepting deposits, and after selling the new policy over the course of many months, the school still had the integrity and the self-awareness and the bravery - at the very last minute - to say: This is wrong. We're not doing this.

After reading so many stories on DovBear about gutless, close-minded Jewish institutions, I know you'll be happy to see that in Monsey, at least, there's hope.

What a great story! And for the record, I've confirmed the account with my Rockland County sources and it's all true: A group of fundies pushed the school's administration to the brink, singing all the toneless songs about "What all the other frum schools do." They almost won. But at the last second, the school pushed back, and said: "Not in our house. We don't care what they do at other frum schools. We're not insecure. We can't be bullied. We have principles, principles that are perfectly in keeping with Jewish law, even if other Jewish schools don't share them, and those principles matter. "

Well done Ateres Bes Yaakov!

Monday, May 30, 2005

Thoughts on Memorial Day

Was I supposed to do something today? Was I suppose to think certain thoughts and perfrom certain rituals? Or did the day belong to me to do with it as I saw fit?

I took some heat earlier on the comment thread of another post for revealing that I planned to celebrate Memorial Day with a barbque. Is that fair? A legal holiday isn't a Jewish holiday, it carries no obligations. Jewish holidays are heavy with Meaning and Purpose. Legal holidays aren't - unless you, of your own volition, choose to weigh them down.

Earlier, I was chastized for disrespecting the soldiers. That's unfortunate. I honestly believe that if our soldiers died for anything, it was to free us from the obligation of agreeing about what has Meaning and what has Purpose. We honor the soldiers and their sacrfice not with ceremonies, but with our freedom. What's more valuable than freedom of conciousness?

Beyond that, it's a gift to be able to relax, away from work, with friends on a legal holiday. A gift. Yes, this gift coincides with a day set aside to honor dead soldiers, but the dead soldiers aren't all that give value to the day.

Another thought: Some of my friends work for Jews, and they were required to be at their desks today. No one is stingier with vacation days than a Jewish boss. If you work for a non-Jew, you're free to stay home on both yom tov, and the legal holidays and the world continues to spin on its axis. But Jewish bosses like to pretend that vacation on yom tov is a great gift, unknown in non-Jewish firms. They use this self-servbing fantasy as a cudgel to deny you other off-days. This sucks, so if you do work for Jews, you have my sympathy.

Nothing further today

Sorry darlings, but I have burgers to grill and beer to drink. Look for me to resume my usual frantic posting schedule tomorrow morning. In the interim, why not spend some quality time with any of the excellent writers listed on Blogs that aren't bad?

Of if you've been dreaming of tip of the shtreimel from DovBear, find something critical to say about Cross Currents (Jewish.)

That seems to work.

Update: Here's how it's done.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Chana v. Toby

If you read my comments, you've seen this already. It's Chana's answer to Toby's rebutal of Chana's complaint about a post Toby published at CrossCurrents(Jewish)

I thought Chana's objection deserved a wider audience:

..the real point of my message ]was] the double-standards you hold. The double-standard where you claim Jews cannot understand the Holocaust without the prism of Jewish History, but apparently whites can understand blacks without the prism of black history, and men can understand women without the prism of women's history.

The fact that you think that whites can ever learn to have the same feeling as a black child when they sit in class and hear about the Civil War is laughable. More than that, it goes against the Torah. We are consistently reminded to be kind to the convert because "we were strangers in Mitzrayim/Egypt." Not, if you notice, because of the bond of our common humanity. Rather because of our personal experiences. We are reminded to be kind to the orphan and widow. If the Torah does not have a single extra word, and this was something that could have been inferred due to our "common humanity," don't you think it would have skipped on that reminder?

Do you think men can ever truly understand the way in which society degrades women? I believe Shmuley Boteach has just recently written a book on it. Are men portrayed as nothing more than playthings? Are men shown in all kinds of offensive postures in pornography? Have they suffered through a history that discriminated against them? Have whites suffered through a history where they were discriminated against? No. And since they have not, there will never be the bond of experience to cement understanding. No, empathy and understanding CANNOT be learned in this situation. It is experience that binds us together. Do not be cruel to the convert, because you, too, were once strangers in Egypt. Not because of common humanity. Because of common experience.

Which whites and blacks, male and female, do not share. Which a woman who has never lost a child cannot share with one who has. Sympathy, perhaps. Never empathy.

And this is what you fail to understand. All Jews can empathize with one another about the Holocaust, because all Jews went through it. Those who have been through any kind of genocide, the Rwanda genocide for instance, though Non-Jewish, can empathize with Jews. It has nothing to do with "Hitler being our posek." It has to do with the bond of experience that we share. That Jews, even without a "sense of history," have, simply because they know of the Holocaust, have been taught of the Holocaust. The Holocaust is the single most binding Jewish experience we know of in this time. To claim a Jew is "obsessive" or his actions are "pornographic" because he is unaware of his history is to be close-minded and extremely condescending.

Experience, not common humanity. That's what I was stressing. That's what you failed to understand. A majestic failure.

I dare you to post this rebuttal in its entirety. I feel reasonably sure you will not do so. Unless, perhaps, I have shown you a small glimpse of the truth. Somehow, I doubt it.
Chana Homepage 05.29.05 - 12:57 am

Friday, May 27, 2005

All tangled up in knots

See Toby Katz perform summersaults at Cross Currents (Jewish).

Once upon a time we had a feature here called "Geek of the Week." I'm really tempted to bring it back for old Toby. Her current post is a masterpiece of shuffling evasions.

Word to the GOP-Jews

Via The Town Crier:
Attention fanatical idiots (Romanoffs, Sackett) with blatant disregard for awful chilul hashem like the ones caused this past Sunday in New York and Tuesday in Washington. Stop villifying Ariel Sharon; Remember what happened to Rabin? Quit your sick holocaust analogies, Sharon is not sending anyone to Majdanek! Bush is the real schmuck here, quit your blind loyalty to the Saudi kiss up and be honest with yourselves. Unlike the failed Oslo Accords, which were the work of Rabin And Peres, this asinine road map which Abbas has not kept to, is all Bush's doing.

Marc Salem's Mind Games

Yuter, who's back from the dead, I guess, points us to Marc Salem, a talented magician who makes his living pretending to have special powers and psychic talents. Here's how Salem describes his show:

Mind Games is a captivating excursion into the power and possibilities of the human mind. Using psychological techniques, a sharp eye, a quick wit, and 20 years of training, Salem engages the audience in a series of mesmerizing and mystifying Mind Games. Through the course of these humorous interactive exercises, Salem unlocks the minds of audience members and encourages them to figure out how he does it

He further describes himself as "student of the human mind" and an "academic" and "authority" and a "researcher"

On Sixty Minutes last Sunday night, he was given the full treatment, hailed as a "mind-reader" with "special skills."

I've seen Marc Salem. He's an excellent performer, but I have a serious beef with his approach: He deliberatly encourages people to believe that he uses psychology to read minds, when really, he's using tricks, tricks you can learn yourself, and teach yourself how to do.

The two tricks he did on Sixty-Minutes, for example, are both famous magic tricks, performed by many other entertainers, entertainers who don't pretend to have special psychological expertise. One of them, the Book Test, is a trick I've often done. If you use Google, you'll easily find people willing to tell the secret behind these tricks, or to sell you the gimmicks that Salem, likely, uses.

In other words, Marc Salem's a fraud. A talented fraud. An entertaining fraud. But a fraud, doing the dangerous and dishonest work of encouraging people to beleive that "psychic powers" are real, when they are not.

Piling on

What do irreligious Jews, Zionists, the Amish, DovBear, and, now, blues musicians have in common?

Cross-Currents (Jewish) offends us all.


Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink

First, those of you joining us from the yeshiva world are probably wondering about the quote we used to slug this latest entry. It is a line from a famous poem by Samuel Coleridge, and if you stick around you will see why it was chosen. A poem, for those of you joining us from the Hasidic world, is a vivid and imaginative way of conveying experiences, ideas, or emotions. Yeah, just like a Nigun.

Today we're off to ancient Egypt. Snap quiz: During the first plague (blood) what happened whenever an Egyptian touched water? It turned to blood, right? So the Egyptians had to buy all their water from the Jews, right? And the Jews got rich, right? But as soon as the Egyptians put their hands on the purchased water, it turned to blood, too, right?

This says, the Ibn Ezra, is seriously weird. Because (I'm translating his comment to Exodus 7:24) "if so, why wasn't this miracle recorded in the Torah? ...we should stick to what it says in the text [acharai hacatuv nirdaf]"

And in fact, the Torah does imply that the Egyptians had no trouble acquiring water on their own. Here's Exodus 7:24: "The Egyptians dug around the Nile for drinking water, since they could not drink any water from the river."

Unfortunately, this isn't a clean win for fans of pshat. One of the commentaries on the Ibn Ezra, Avi Ezer (written by R. Shlomo HaKohen of Lissa, 18th Century), disagrees with this entire approach. He will have none of the Ibn Ezra's reasonableness, and would perfer you look away from the words of the torah as they appear in Exodus 7:24. He writes: "Everyone knows that the Jews got rich during the plague of blood.. this Ibn Ezra comment is obviously the work of a wayward student [talmid to'eh] who is poor in knowledge."

A wayward student! What a great way to disqualify an idea you don't like. How long before the Republicans says that whole mistake we call the Bill of Rights was actually the misguided work of some student of Thomas Jefferson? Will that work on anything?

Here's another possibility. Perhaps the Ibn Ezra's comment was changed by some sinister force. Paging Alexander Haig!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Word to the wise...

About Chandira

Tomorrow, perhaps we'll run one of her guest posts.

Reader suggestons

Given the discussion here our good friend Shanna thought you might be interested in this.

Lag B'omer thoughts

Those of you who oppose Yom Hazikoron observances like the siren, on the grounds that this is not a Jewish practice are required to oppose the practice of lighting bonfires on Lag B'omer.

Bonfires were known in Christian Europe as a way to honor Chirstian saints as far back as the tenth century. They don't appear as a Jewish practice until the 16th century.

Christian scholars say that this practice of celebrating saints with bonfires is traced to pagan, pre-Christian practices, which were later adapted by the local people to Christianity. Indeed, the Celtics made bonfires to honor some of their deities and spirits. No one would ever claim that these Celtic practices, going back into old England, were originally of Jewish origin.

The Lag B'omer bonfire is every bit as foreign as the siren. If one is out, so is the other.

The immoral logic (or the illogical morality) of George W. Bush

A photo of President Bush gingerly holding a month-old baby was on the front page of yesterday's New York Times. Mr. Bush is in the habit of telling us how precious he thinks life is, all life.

The story was about legislation concerning embryonic stem cell research, and it included a comment from Tom DeLay urging Americans to reject "the treacherous notion that while all human lives are sacred, some are more sacred than others."

Ahh, pretty words. Now I wonder when Mr. Bush and Mr. DeLay will find the time to address - or rather, to denounce - the depraved ways in which the United States has dealt with so many of the thousands of people (many of them completely innocent) who have been swept up in the so-called war on terror.

People have been murdered, tortured, rendered to foreign countries to be tortured at a distance, sexually violated, imprisoned without trial or in some cases simply made to "disappear" in an all-American version of a practice previously associated with brutal Latin American dictatorships. All of this has been done, of course, in the name of freedom. Read the rest

Gulag of our time?

Ok, calling the prison pit at Gitmo a "gulag" is a little harsh, but let's not lose sight of the fact that Gitmo isn't living up to American values:

* More than 500 detainees being held without charges
* No lawyers
* "Secret" evidence has been used
* As of January 2004, not one of the detainees has had the legality of their detention reviewed.

Gitmo makes a mockery of the Constitiuon, and the basic rights of man, two of the very things this bogus "war on terror" are supposed to be protecting.

More on the Syrian Mikva

Aaron Abadi responds to his critics.

You may not like the tone, but the man's premise is spot on. Too much of Judaism in 2005 is about keeping people out, keeping people down, and mantaning the bogus snob appeal of so-called high standards.


Tip of the big, black hat to OrthoMom

And the difference is...?

The JewZoo has posted a live speech presented by a 19th century Pope. Or a 21st century mullah.

I really can't tell the difference.

McClellan: I did say "people lost their lives" before I didn't say it.

Is this a flip flop?

"As I said last week... the protest may well have been pre-staged. The discredited report was damaging. It was used to incite violence. But those who espouse an ideology of hatred and oppression and murder don't need an excuse to incite violence. But the reports from the region showed how this story was used to incite violence." -Scottie, 24 May 2005

"This report, which Newsweek has now retracted and said was wrong, has had serious consequences. People did lose their lives." - Scottie, 17 May 05.

"The images that we have seen across our television screens over the last few days clearly show that this report was used to incite violence. People lost their lives..." - Scottie, 17 May 05.

"I mean, it's - this report has had serious consequences. It has caused damage to the image of the United States abroad. It has - people have lost their lives." - Scottie, 16 May 05.

No jury would convict me

(Maariv. Last night)

DovBear: Yesterday I bought that Rabbis new book...

Dolt: Sefer

DovBear: Huh? Yeah that's what I said...

Dolt:(grinning like he's the cleverest person alive now that Ben Franklin is dead) No, you said book. It's a sefer.

DovBear: Tov. Ata rotze l'daber ivrit? Nidaber ivrit. Yallah.

Dolt: Huh? You think I speak Hebrew? Do I look modern to you?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Today's day

What's the difference between 10 million Christian fundamentalists and 10 million human sperm?

One of those sperm has a chance of becoming a thinking human being.

Today is the 80th Anniversary of the indictment of John Scopes. the schoolteacher from the hillbilly town of Dayton, Tenn, who, as the charges put it, "did unlawfully and willfully teach in public schools of Rhea County, Tenn., which said schools are supported in part and in whole by the public school funds of the State, certain theory and theories that deny the story of Divine creation of man as taught in the Bible and did teach thereof that man descended from a lower order of animals."



Gil says:

You're complaining about missing out on treif hot dogs? If you're going to complain do it about better food...

Been there, done that.

The mystery of the missing bloggers thickens


Could something like this have happened to GH?

Messing with History

This frame is from the very end of the new 2004 DVD Edition of Return of the Jedi, where, as you can see, Anakin's Force ghost is now played by Hayden Christensen instead of Sebastian Shaw.

Other changes to the canon are found here [no spoilers, unless you're the sole remaining life form in the galazy who (SPOILER ALERT) doesn't know that Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader]

(Who wants to bet that Mis-Nagid will soon post a sharp comment about how the Star Wars cannon isn't the only cannon changed by a later, agenda-driver editor? The guy can turn absolutely anything into an anti-frum polemic. It's really quite amazing. For an example, see his comment on the hotdog post below)

I feel cheated

At the begining of a very long article on New York's best hotdogs, Ed Levine, of the anti-hamburger, steak-hating Times, tells the Jews what they've been missing:
What I call kosher-style franks are also all beef with a lot of the same spices, but they have a natural casing, these days made from sheep's intestines. It is the natural casing that gives the best hot dogs their wondrous snap and bite.
Authentic kosher hotdogs, of course are skinless or stuffed into collagen casings. So no snap and no bite for the Jews.

In other words, no one kosher has ever tasted a real hot dog. What a summer bummer.

The Victimhood of the Jews

Did you take time to read Clyde Haberman's latest (Needing Help From New York to Leave Gaza) in the paper of record? First class stuff.

Toward the end, our intrepid reporter shares a bit from a sad conversation he overheard:
The anger was apparent on the streets outside Baruch, where hundreds of protesters gathered. Some called Mr. Sharon a traitor. A few likened him to the Nazis.

Ugly words. They troubled one man who seemed about 70 and wore the knitted skullcap of a modern Orthodox Jew. He told a knot of young Hasidim surrounding him that he, too, was uncomfortable with the Sharon plan. But cries of "Nazi" and "Auschwitz"? That was unacceptable, he said.

"How is it different from the Nazis?" a young Hasid screamed. "Telling Jews they have to leave where they live - that's what the Nazis did.
No difference? Listening to this youg Hassid (and others like him*) you would think Ariel Sharon was Hitler or the Czar. Which is crazy talk.

"...that's what the Nazis did." Man. How can anyone be so wanton with the word "Nazi?" Don't we have more than a rough idea of what Nazism looks like? The end of Ofra and Elon Moreh and Itamar and Bracha and Tappuah is not Nazism.

The end of Ofra and Elon Moreh and Itamar and Bracha and Tappuah is not, as Leon Weiseltier has argued, even a crime-- except against the plans and the fantasies of the men and women, giants in their own eyes, who live there; and worse things can be imagined, much worse.

* I want to link "and others like him" to someone approriate. Any suggestions?

Scotty says Ooops

Wow. As it turns out, that Newsweek story didn't cost lives in Afghanistan, and Snowball, I mean Scotty has his straight face on insisting he never, ever said it did.

All together now: Liar

It's a black fly in your Chardonnay... It's a death row pardon two minutes too late

A traffic jam when you're already late
A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
It's meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife
And isn't it ironic... don't you think?

-- from Ironic, a 1995 song written and performed by singer Alanis Morissette, who has confessed that the irony of Ironic is that there is no irony in the lyrics.

My point? Read on...

Dear Chaim Rubin:

"Ironic" is not a synonym for "coincidental."

Love, your friend and role model,


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Junie B. Jones, the Cat in the Hat and... Psalm 118?

A very stupid mother showed up at a Pensylvania kindergarten last week, and tried to read the class an excerpt from a very difficult, very violent poem: Psalm 118

The principal objected. So of course the mother is suing.

I happen to agree with the school, but not because of the bogus Establishment Clause argument the principal invoked. The loathsome harpy was supposed to read to the class from her kid's favorite book. She failed to do that. Instead she tried to push the school's limits by attempting to prosyltize the kindergarten.

Besides who does she think she's fooling? Psalm 118 a 5-year old's favorite book? The principal was right to banish her agenda-driven-butt from his school house.

The woman's a moron. If she wanted to sneak the bible into the classroom, she might have at least chosen a bit little kids would find entertaining: The Flood story for example, or the tale in Ezekial about the dung cakes.

Straight Outta Crown Heights

Gawker: Neither Jewish nor funny --> Oy

DovBear on the Parsha

(Yes, yes: Last week's Parsha.)

The son of the Israelite woman pronounced the Name in blasphemy, and he was brought to Moses—now his mother’s name was Shelomith daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan—and he was placed in custody, until the decision of the Lord should be made clear to them. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands upon his head, and let the whole community stone him. (Leviticus 24:11-15)

(their hands) They say to him: "Your blood is on your head, and we are not punished for your death, for you caused [it] to yourself

Huh? Why are the witnesses putting their hands on the blasphemer's head? That's not usually done in a capital case. Moreover, come to think of it, this shouldn't even be a capital case. By law, Jews only execute people who have been warned. This person hadn't been warned, so how can he be executed?

(Pay attention Akiva. I'm about to quote a Hasid. The Lubovitcher Rebbe, no less) The blasphemer wasn't executed. The stoning was symbolic - only one token stone was throne - with no intent to kill. However, hurling a rock at another human being is dangeorous business so before begining, the witnesses reminded the blasphemer that if he happened to die, by accident, it was his own damn fault.

The verse tells us God commanded a stoning, but the words "and he died" (or a variation thereof) do not appear. Every other time, God calls for rocks to be thrown, the verse concludes with a mos yoomas or a vayamutoo, or something like it. Not here.

i don't want to alarm anyone but...

... bloggers are dropping like flies:


Not to sniff, but I only ever read three of these, (you can guess, if you must.)

More Mezizah

There's an email making the rounds urging people to write the York City Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene about the so-called meziza crisis.

First: What crisis? Is the Department of Health really contemplating a ban on metzitza ba-peh? Or is this just alarmist behavior from the usual gang of anti-modern idiots?

Second: The sample letter mindless sheep are urged to send to the commissioner contains at least one bald lie (to go along with the vauge and muddled polemics:
These people hold themselves out as modern, “enlightened,” Orthodox Jews, but are – as you are certainly aware – actually in flagrant conflict with a very large segment of the religious Jewish population, whose rabbinical authorities have unequivocally stated that metzitza ba-peh is an indispensable requirement of the Biblically-mandated commandment to circumcise every Jewish male.
I've said it before, I'll say it again: Most religious Jews do not agree "metzitza ba-peh is an indispensable requirement" of mila. Great Rabbis, including the Csam Sofer and Samsom Rephael Hirsch have ruled otherwise, and indeed the Yecki community gave up the practice more than 100 years ago.

note: I wouldn't want to see a ban on metzitza ba-peh, and I agree there seems to be no medical evidence that would support such a ban. Certainly, the Health Commissioner is intelligent enough to reach that conclusion on their own. My purpose with this post is to express unqualified disgust at the 'rabbis' who, with letters and rallies, are flaming this particular fire.

Update: If there is interest, I'll post the whole letter.

"Dobson Stamps his feet and holds his breath about the Filibuster 'Betrayal'"

James C. Dobson, dog abuser, friend of Lapin, and high-ranking Christian overlord, is most displeased with his governmental droids:
"This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats. Only three of President Bush's nominees will be given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote, and it's business as usual for all the rest. The rules that blocked conservative nominees remain in effect, and nothing of significance has changed. Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist would never have served on the U. S. Supreme Court if this agreement had been in place during their confirmations. The unconstitutional filibuster survives in the arsenal of Senate liberals
Boo hoo hoo My wittle heart is bweakin'.

What a joke

Times reports that two old geezers (Robert C. Byrd, 87, a West Virginia Democrat and John W. Warner, 78, a Virginia Republican) spent the night shteiging over Federalist #66 in an effort to divine Alexanders Hamilton's original intent, on the filibuster question.

What a joke.

(1) "Original intent" is a chimera.

(2) There's no reliable way to read the mind of people who lived 200 years ago

(3) Anyway, the founders didn't speak in one monolithic voice. You might be able to convolute Hamilton, in #66, to support the Dems position, but perhaps I can convolute Jay, in a decision he wrote during his tenure on the Supreme Court to support the GOP?

(4) And why do we care about the opinion of men who thought that slavery was a good idea? That a black man constituted 3/4 of a white man? That a woman couldn't vote? The founders weren't prophets. They had no way of anticipating the challenges of our age. Why should their antiquated views be binding on us?

(5) Most importantly, when 21st century politicians talk about "original intent" they're almost always playing the cynical and partisan game of projecting their biases on to the founding fathers. They don't care what the Founders really thought. The object of the original intent game isn't to divine the true intentions of the Founders. The object is to find a way to recruit the Founders as a defender of your own cherished beliefs.

Guest Post Wanted

If you're a reader who flipped-out*, as Blue Fringe might put it, you're cordially invited to compose a guest post. Tell us what it was like after 5 or 6 years. Did you have any regrets or second thoughts? Did you find it difficult to avoid your old friends and behavior patterns? Did the ferver ever subside? &c.

Flipped-out (flĭp-ed out)


1. Intoxicated with religion to the point of impaired mental faculties.

2. Overcome by strong religious feeling or emotion esp. as an 18 or 19 year old, after having spent a year or two in an Israeli seminary: "Barry's so flipped-out he carries a sefer in his hand wherever he goes - even at the movies!"

Monday, May 23, 2005

Liars and cheaters

Eliyahu points us to a Times article where the president is caught repeating Karl Rove's filibuster talking points:

''People ought to have a fair hearing and they ought to get an up-or-down vote on the floor,'' Geroge Bush said at a White House news conference.

Um, says who? The Constitution says the the Senate "may determine the Rules of its Proceedings," and those rules have recognized the filibuster since 1806. Republicans, we must note, have never been unhappy to use the filibuster. In 2000 alone Republican senators filibustered two of his nominees.

Rules in the senate are changed by a two-thirds (67) vote. If the Republicans could muster 67 votes, I wouldn't object to a rule change. No one would. Unfortunately, the Republicans (surprise!) plan to cheat, as explained here.

And another one bites the dust

Pravda Ne'eman's also done

Is CrossCurrents next? (please, please, please, please)

Make the women pay!

OrthoMom, (who can spell like a champ, but dogmatically refuses to use the phrase "begging the question" correctly) directs our attention here.

Delicious highlights of the bar date from hell:
When the BILL(S) came she sobered up fast. I caught a glimpse of hers, 5 drinks plus a little finger food $319.00 I think it was. She looked shocked and sick to her stomache when she saw 2 bills. Guess she thought I was buying. Think again...Her face was beat red and she was speechless. She left the bill on the table and excused herself for the restroom... Sure enough my date was heading out toward the front door. I slowly grabbed my coat as the waitress ran after her. Then security or a bellman grabbed her at the door and a small shouting match ensued. Can you imagine, she was trying to leave - without paying!
I think this should be SOP on all shidduch dates at the Marriot, or wherever kids today hang out. Not the "running out without paying" part. The "separate bills" part.

What, in this day and age, entitles the woman to a freebie?

What God Owes Jefferson

Right-wing Jews believe that the more conservative the society, the better matters will be for religious conservatives. This is the premise of their politics; but the premise is false. It is, in fact, a spectacular mistake.

In the current TNR, Alan Wolfe tells us why.

Short Summary for Those Foolish Few Who Don't Subscribe

(1) Today's religious conservatives live off the accomplishments of previous generations of religious radicals (think Hassidim, but also certain evangelical groups.) Their willingness to challenge received doctrine, to confront established authority, to dispense with encrusted tradition, to develop their own vernacular, and to insist on the dignity of the individual believer pierced the heart of everything conservative around them. This sort of free exercise requires a free society.

(2) The First Amendment's other clause--the one separating church and state--is also a liberal idea without which conservative religion could not exist. It creates a free market in the salvation of souls, and forces congregations to live or die by their own efforts. European religion--not only in its Catholic form, but also in its various Calvinist and Episcopal manifestations, burdened by the privileges secured by established churches--withered and, in the opinion of many, died. But American religion, banned from the state, infused the culture. The more it was kept out of politics, the deeper would be its reach into every other area of life.

Out with the old, in with the new

Last night we raised a glass of the good stuff in tribute to the Godol Hador, a blogger par excellance who said goodbye last Saturday night. GH was often funny and often intelligent, and always insistent on honest leaders and honest scholarship in the Jewish community. A good man, who faught the good fight with wit and wisdom, he will be missed.

Do you remember GH's first appearence on DovBear? We do: It was here via this. Later, we saw his talent for humor, a talent he put to good use with his first post.

Fittingly, on the day we say good-bye and god-bless to one blogger who, in some small way, cut his teeth on DovBear, we say hello to another rib from the unblemished body of this blog: Shifra, who you certainly remember from her provocative guest posts, and intelligent comments.

Good luck Shifra. Godspeed Godol.

Watching the Times

[tounge in cheek]

Armchair media critics are alerted to the instance of blatant and unmistakable bias that appeared in this morning's New York Times:

Front Page Photo: First Lady Laura at the Kotel
A9 Photo: First Lady Laura in the Dome of the Rock.

Like the rest of you, I am in a self-righteous froth about the pro-Israel paper of record's demonstration of contempt for the Islamic shrines. I expect angry letters, marches, immolations and whatever else you people do when you imagine the Times has fallen short of your lofty standards.

[tounge out of cheek]

Demolishing Dumb Arguments IV

The argument: A woman's prayer group goes against the established order of Judaism. Our tradition is to be treasured, not abandoned at a whim. Innovation is forbidden! A woman's prayer group is an act of rebellion and something radical, and for this reason alone it must be opposed.

Permit me to demolish this argument, by describing the specimen who made it. He wears a long dark coat, and, a black felt hat. At his side, is a two year old boy, who has never had his hair cut. And though it's 11 am, the man hasn't davened shachris (which he says using the nusach of the hasidim, and not the nusach of the geonim) or said shma yet, though he's already been to the mikva, a place he religiously visits each morning.

Remember what the man said: Innovation is forbidden!

Friday, May 20, 2005

No I didn't write this

But, I sort of wish I had

Death to Newsweek!


Like flies on stink

Thoughtful people are urged to come to Shira Schmidt's rescue.

Yesterday, she wrote something thoughtful and generous (on Cross Currents, no less) and, of course, the benighted right-wing commenters who buzz around that site, like flies on stink, are killing her.

I've often disagreed with Cross Currents, so I feel somewhat duty-bound to offer my support when one of their writers produces something intelligent. Go, and show some love.

Postscript: Isn't it odd that Yaakov Menken is allowing one of his writers to be abused? After all, when Toby Katz was rightly destroyed, for dismissing 90 percent of the Jews in the world with a click of her mouse, Yakov Menken rushed to defend her in the comments. He also deleted many comments from people who disagreed with Toby, including several of my own and others written by Shragie and The Hedyot. (Others who opposed Toby's post included Joe Schick)

Now, Yakov Menken leaves Sara Schmidt, and her left-leaning, more magnanimous opinion, to be crucified.

Odd, but not unexpected

Rabbis with egos

Dm sings one of my favorite tunes:

"The pompous rosh yeshiva is the one who insists on being introduced to be mesader kiddushin as 'one of the gedolei hador.' Personally, we'd be embarrased to be introduced like that. We've run across similar characters in the past too, like the out-of-town Rosh Yeshivah we've run into a few times, who stands near the band in the back, even though it's pretty obvious that if he's made the trip into NY for the wedding he'll be receiving some kind of honor under the chuppa. This way, he gets to make the long stroll down the aisle when his name is called. We particularly like the way he adjusts his frock before doing 'The Rosh Roll' TM down the aisle to the chupa."

I've seen these clowns. In the past I've even tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. As the Rabbi pushes his way up to the front of the room, I'll say: "Wow. He's much too modest to sit up front." or "It's a shame no one reserved a seat for him." And after hearing some unpublished hack from Monsey introduced as "'ne of the gedolei hador" I'll say: "My, that particular groom certainly does have an unhealthy respect for his dean."

But no more.

Now, thanks to DM, we have confirmation that at least some of these freaks deliberately plan their entrance, and make vainglorious demands on the person doing the introductions. And we let these prima donnas teach and mold our children? We let then lecture us about ethics?


On Cows

AidelMaidel asked me to rule on the kashrus of this cow. Pretty funny, but sorry, Aidel: I'm no expert on mutated calfs, but my gut tells me it's kosher, and why not? It's just a defect, not a new species.

For further clarification, maybe see what the Zookeeper thinks

On the Eighth

Yonatan Schreiber, a Brit, though he seems unlikely to mug me at a soccer match, asked me if I accept the Rambam's Eighth Principle, which says: "One must believe that all parts of this Torah that we have today is the Torah that was given to Moshe who got it in turn from God himself. If any person is of the opinion that any anecdote or date is superfluous he disbelieves that Torah is Min Hashomayim."

The answer, of course is yes, I do accept the Rambam's Principle, but let's recall that we're dealing here with a two-tiered verity, ie: the truth of fact, or reality, and the truth of law.

Often reality is set aside in favor of law. If a piece of pork, for example, were to fall into a very large vat of kosher meat, it becomes kosher according to the laws of bitul. The law says that under these conditions, the pork is kosher; though the facts haven't changed: it's still pig meat.

Two famous Talmudic stories validate this principle. In the case mentioned in Rosh Hashana 2:8-9, Rabbi Yehoshua celebrated Yom Kippur according to the calendar reckoning of his rival, Raban Gamliel. Though Rabbi Yehoshua continued to insist on the reality of his own position, and his own calculation of the date for Yom Kippur, in practice he conceded to the law, as set forth by the Nasi.

More explicit is the dispute between Rabbi Elazer and Rabbi Yehoshua. (B. Metz 59b) In that story, Rabbi Elazer defied the law, as set forth by the majority, and was excommunicated - even though God Almighty Himself served as his defender. God represents reality. He can't ever be wrong. Yet, in this story even He bowed to the law.

When the Rambam articulated the Eighth Principle he was speaking as a jurist, not a historian. His ruling, therefore, has the force of law, not fact.

As an historian, the Rambam has, perhaps, been overruled by historians with access to tools that weren't at the Ramabm's disposal, tools like archeology and linguistics. The same Rambam who told us "Do not ask me to reconcile everything that they (the sages) stated about astronomy with the actual reality, for the science of those days was deficient, and they did not speak out of traditions from the prophets regarding these matters (Moreh Nevuchim (3:14) )" would likely concede, when faced with the scholarship of the last 200 years, that his own knowledge of antiquity and of ancient languages and practices was deficient. He might even admit that the truth of the Eight Principle as a matter of fact was open to question.

What can not be questioned, however, is the law. As a jurist the Rambam can not be over ruled. The law says Jews must believe that the "Torah that we have today is the Torah that was given to Moshe who got it in turn from God himself," and so I believe. I accept the law, though, like Rabbi Elazer and Rabbi Yehoshua, I can't avert my eyes from the possibility that, in this instance, too, law and fact do not coincide.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Slate: Bar Mitzvah Madness

Slate on the Bar Mitzvah:
"Until recently, Judaism never treated 13-year-olds as adults. In biblical census counts recorded in the books of Exodus and Numbers, the age of majority is 20. The Talmud uses the term 'bar mitzvah' in reference to a blessing a father gives to God when he's released from responsibility for his son's observance of Jewish law. The first description of a 'bar mitzvah feast' comes from a Polish rabbi writing around 1500 about a German custom. The event in its current form -a reading from the Torah in Hebrew, an explication of that reading in the vernacular, a food-and-drink celebration- didn't catch on widely until it reached New York in the late 19th century. There, it became, in the words of one rabbi, 'the greatest of holidays among our Jewish brethren."
A great 'graph, for the history, but I have a quibble with one point: Becoming Bar Mitzvah has nothing to do with becoming an "adult," in the way the word "adult" is understood today. A Bar Mitzvah boy isn't expected to begin reading The New York Times, or to begin making his own way in the world. It means only that the law looks as you as an adult, and the community expects you to begin keeping it. Why 13? Well, when you consider that life expectancy in antiquity was, perhaps, 30, welcoming a boy into the communty at age 13 sounds about right.

Nowadays, however, some KIPPERS (Kids In Parents Pockets Eroding Retirment Savings) stay in the nest until they're past 30, which, I suppose, raises questions about the relevance of a coming of age ceremony at 13, an age that, in 2005, amounts to the begining of adolecense, and not the begining of adulthood.


Abuse Week

Slate says it:
The problem with the Bush administration excoriating Newsweek's insensitivity to Islam isn't just hypocrisy. There's a larger issue of bad faith and an underlying lack of appreciation for the necessary role of a free and independent press. With increasing forcefulness, Bush has tried to undermine the legitimacy of the media, or at least that subculture within it that shows any tendency to challenge him. When the Bushies say there ought to be more of a check on the Fourth Estate, they aren't really asking for more care and accuracy on the part of journalists. They're expressing frustration that they still have to put up with criticism at all.

Is the devil wearing ice-skates?

Bobo said something smart today.


Many of my friends on the right have decided that the Newsweek episode exposes the rotten core of the liberal media. Dennis Prager, who is intelligent 99 percent of the time, [ed: Ha!] writes, "Newsweek is directly responsible for the deaths of innocents and for damaging America." Countless conservatives say the folks at Newsweek were quick to believe the atrocity tales because they share the left-wing, post-Vietnam mentality. On his influential blog, Austin Bay writes that the coastal media "presume the worst about the U.S. military - always make that presumption."

Excuse me, guys, but this is craziness. I used to write for Newsweek. I know Mike Isikoff and the editors. And I know about liberals in the media. The people who run Newsweek are not a bunch of Noam Chomskys with laptops. Not even close. Whatever might have been the cause of their mistakes, liberalism had nothing to do with it.

Then I click my mouse over to the transcripts of administration statements and I can't believe what I'm seeing. We're in the middle of an ideological war against people who want to destroy us, and what have the most powerful people on earth become? Whining media bashers. They're attacking Newsweek while bending over backward to show sensitivity to the Afghans who just went on a murderous rampage.

Talk about the bigotry of low expectations.

Maybe we should all focus on what's important. Newsweek's little item was seized and exploited by America's enemies in a way that was characteristically cynical, delusional and fascistic.

The people who seized upon this item, like the radical clerics in Afghanistan, are cynical in the way they manipulate episodes like this to whip up hatred and so magnify their own standing.

Birds of a feather

Facinating post from the Shaigetz (Doing it maai vey since 2003) on Hasidic thugs, and honor smack-downs.

Can anyone comment on the prevelance of this in Williamburg, Boro Park and Monsey?

What's a Wookiee?

Here's a very well-crafted guide to Episode III for non-geeks.


The Hasidic Musician says: "Then, after the fact, Lenny was faxed a rabbinical ruling claiming that not only is it a Mitzvah to take secular songs and place them into the liturgy but it is an obligation"

Does anyone have a copy of this ruling?

The guy who sits next to me at Shalosh Sedot is the Rabbi's go-to-guy for Dror Yikra and, for like 6 years, I've been begging him to use the tune from Scarborough Fairs but the guttless wonder won't do it.

Which is unfair, of course, becuause all the best loved Hasidic melodies we use during davening came into the world as Russian military marches or Polish peasent songs.

Christian Love

From the May 17 broadcast of The Glenn Beck Program:

"Hang on, let me just tell you what I'm thinking. I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out -- is this wrong? I stopped wearing my What Would Jesus -- band -- Do, and I've lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, 'Yeah, I'd kill Michael Moore,' and then I'd see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I'd realize, 'Oh, you wouldn't kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn't choke him to death.' And you know, well, I'm not sure."

Poor Sarah

...only (shh don't tell her) it's eight days to lag b'omer. Not four.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Open thread for those of you who still wish to discuss the ups and downs of Reform Judaism (started here)

Be excellent to each other.

On the stingines of the Jeee-yews

I'm planning a cook-out for Memorial Day Weekend. Old friends. Their kids. Etc.

My deal with Mrs. DovBear is she handles the inside, and the outside is mine (though I make spectacular soups, and she occasionally takes out the garbage.) So, I went to the ladies I work with (another clue!) for some advice on how to entertain styishly and correctly. Their suggestons were excellent, of course, but I took offense here:

Co-Worker: Poterhouse steaks are what I recommend.

Me: Oh. I don't think the Porterhouse is kosher.

Co-Worker: Sure. It's $7.99/lb. Of course it's not kosher.

Hello! Do you know what I pay for a measly, stinkin' rib-steak? $9.99/lb!

Of course, I didn't say that. Instead, I called up my Look of Death (TM) the look that peels paint off old sheds. The look I use when I wish to communicate the fact that I am most utterly pissed.

She apologized. And I'm using her recipe for hamburgers. (The secret? Vegetable juice.)

Demanding Payback

"'There is lasting damage to our image because of this report. And we would encourage Newsweek to do all that they can to help repair the damage that has been done, particularly in the region."

--Scott McClellan

Here's Tbogg:

In other words, Scotty wants a big wet kiss from Newsweek despite the fact that the White House sent us off to war (where more people died) and damaged our image abroad using much the same methods as Newsweek. I'm sure McClellan has drawn up a list of possible Newsweek cover stories for them to choose from to get back in his good graces:

George Bush - Best. President. Ever.

Hey. Let's Invade Iran!

The New Crusades: Good For Christianity. Good For America

Hell Yeah, We're Winning!
More suggestions in the comments, please.

Frist is a fraud and a hypocrite

The likely GOP candidate for president in 2008 is Bill Frist, which should be cause for serious concern if you care about honesty and integrity.

Today, you see, Frist confessed that he only objects to fillibusters when he's not a party to them.

That's shocking, precisly because previously the Majority Leader said he thought that fillibusters were "unconsitutional." Now it appears that this, like his claim that the fillibuster was an attack on people of faith, was only craven posturing.

But what do you expect? It's all completely in character with the cynical creep who, in March, invoked some grainy video footage and his cardiology training to overturn the prevailing medical consensus on Terri Schiavo's brain.

Missing email

I am really starting to hate Hotmail. More than once it's put me in the awkward position of having to say, "Huh? I didn't get that email?" ;now it's penchant for dropping messages has cost me the guest post of the century. (Yes, apparently Mis-Nagid sent it to me, too, only I never saw it.)

If you've sent me a message, I've left unanswered please send it again. And if Hotmail has lost any of your incoming mail, I'd love to hear about it.

Meanwhile, who has a g-mail invitation?

The Truth About Newsweek

Riots ensued across the Islamic world and people died because of what one reporter wrote? No way.

Those wingnuts are desparately trying to make it seem like the Newsweek story was motivated by a "Get Bush" ideology, when, in fact, this orchastrated, wholly unsubstantiated attack on Newsweek is really just the Bush Administration's latest shabby attempt to undermine the media.

Oral Law Apikorsus (not really)

Ok, so we agree that God gave us an oral torah, along with a written torah, but what exactly was contained in the oral torah God revealed?

I had a teacher, who currently has a position of responsibilty with one of the major Orthodox communal groups, who believed with a complete belief that every word of the oral torah was delivered at Mount Sinai, exactly as it appears today on the pages of the Mishna and the Talmud. In other words, he beleives, for example, that thousands of years before Rabbi Akiva lived, Jewish students knew that one day Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Tarfon and the others would have their famous walk on the Temple Mount, that they knew what Rabbi Akiva would say before he actually said it.

Strange as this opinion sounds, it has support: "The Holy One blessed be He, showed Moshe the minutia of the Torah" [Meg 19b] and in Pesachim (17A) we're told that Moshe received the whole Torah, including the "comments" and even the questions an astute student will one day ask in the presence of his teacher.

According to this view, the maximalistic view, there are no new ideas, and no new rulings. It was all given to Moshe at Sinai, and the halacha Orthodox Jews follow today was contingent on nothing. Every word, every decision, and indeed our every practice was inevitable from Sinai.

A more radical view of the revelation is found in Tana debei Eliyahu Zuta where we are told that God gave man "a kab of wheat (from which to produce flour) and a bundle of flax (from which to produce cloth)." Not every law was determined beforehand. Some laws and explanations he had to determine for himself. Man isn't a passive receiver, but and active creator. God provided the principles, the raw materials, and left it to us to work out the details, to use those principles to create a system of law and life.

An intermediate position is attributed to R Yannai (P. Sanhedrin 22a) who said that the oral law "was not given as a clear cut decision;" instead "He offered 49 arguments by which a thing could be proven unclean, and 49 arguments by which a thing could be proven clean." This position accepts the maximalistic view that God literally revealed to Moshe the whole Torah, minus the final decisions. The final decisions are not inevitable, but contingent on the decisions of the scholars of each generation. According to this opinion, God does not decide. All arguments (all legitimate arguments anyway) are potentially true.

By my lights, the first position, the maximalistic position, is untenable. However, I want to keep this short, so more later.

Star Wars Apikorsus

[Calling all Star Wars Experts]

Friend and I were talking last night about my heretical Star Wars theory. You remember: It's the idea that Lukas made the first movie before he had fully fleshed out the force mythology and the details of the Luke / Leah / Anakin back story.

Some of the clues we think we discovered:

1 - In the very begining of Episode IV Vadar uses his hands to lift and choke a rebel agent; later, most famously, when he strangles General Motti, the Force is used. In fact, aside from Ben's mind trick outside the famous bar (where they don't serve droids) I don't think the Force is ever used as a matter controlling power in episode iv.

2 - Is the word "Sith" ever heard in any of the old episodes? Is the Emperor himself even mentioned in "A New Hope?" I don't think so.

3 - Why are Vader's men so skeptical of the Force in the original movies? They disparage it as "a sorcerer's trick" and "old time religion" but they're all old enough to remember the Jedi. (Anyway the Phanton Menace revealed that the Force isn't a religion, but a genetic mutation of some kind.)

4 - In the first movie, Vader appeared to work for Tarkin. Here's the description of him in the original review of the first movie in The New York Times: "In opposition to these good guys are the imperial forces led by someone called the Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) and his executive assistant, Lord Darth Vader (David Prowse), a former student of Ben Kenobi who elected to leave heaven sometime before to join the evil ones." Executive assistant? A Sith Lord? I'm sorry, but no. Yet, that's how I remember the movie, too. Vader was originally Tarkin's pit bull.

I'm sure there are plenty of similar examples.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

JMM's take


Part of me can't help but appreciate the irony of a White House which took the country to war on shaky (and later discredited) evidence going to war against a news organization that published a short article on shaky evidence...

Meanwhile, White House says move [i.e., Newsweek's retraction] 'a good first step,' but demands more action."

A question. What "more action" should a White House ever be in a position to demand after a story has been retracted, especially in a case where the White House is not even directly involved in the facts of the case?

More of my mussar

I'm in limited email correspondance with a Reform Rabbi. I don't know her very well at all, but she strikes me as a legitimately religious person. Not observant. Religious.

Anyway, she didn't like the triumphalism present on the comment thread of Bopping Bishy, and can you really blame her?

Here is what she wrote:
I am too cowardly to take on the entire orthodox blogosphere right now. You know my philosophy: decline a battle you know you cannot win.

I am up to my ears in tending to the vineyard of the Lord from my blasphemous Reform perspecitve. (Yes, Reform rabbis actually learn and teach Torah, celebrate with bride and groom, attend the bereaved, and bury the dead k'halacha) Tomorrow, I bury the AIDS patient that the Orthodox refused a Jewish funeral. This is why our numbers are growing, while Bishul Akum dances on our apocryphal grave.

(I doubt many of the people here could define Reform Ideology. We are having enough trouble doing ourselves.)

Anyways, I don't have the time, or the calm to take the bait. Maybe after the Omer when I'm not so overwhelmed trying to attend to the Jews nobody else will help.

Who me bitter? Nah baby nah.
Here's what we must remember: The Reform Jewish conscience is not a human failing. It is another kind of conscience. It has reasons. It is a thing of principle, not a thing of taste.*

We, on the Orhtodox side of the fence, may not agree with the Reformist take on law and theology, but we must not condecend to Reform Judaism by regarding it as moral corruption, when it is, in fact, a moral creed. Orthodox Jews are often punctilious about serving God, but they can usually learn somehting from less-than-Orthodox Jews about serving man.

Of still more importance is this: Until proven otherwise, Reform Jews are Jews. And we drive Jews away from Judaism at our own peril
*Yes, sharp-eyed readers. I've paraphrased something Leon Weiseltier once said on another subject.

Giant Gaping Plot Holes

(calling all star wars geeks)

To celebrate the arrival of Revenge of the Sith me and the monkeys pounding on typewriters who produce this blog, are pleased to present: STAR WARS PLOT HOLES

1 - Darth Vadar can sense the presence of his son Luke from across the galaxy (ep vi), but when his daughter Leah is standing directly in front of his face (ep iv) he feels nothing?

2 - Vadar mocks the Death Star (ep iv) saying "Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force." but wasn't the Death Star created by Dooku and the Emperor (ep ii)?

3 - And if destroying a planet is nothing for the Force, why go to the time and trouble of building the Death Star in the first place?

4 - We can understand why the driods don't recognize Ben when they reunite (ep iv), but why doesn't Ben recognize the droids?

5 - Why hide Luke on Tatoonie under his real last name?

Of course, the biggest, most annoying plot hole in the history of plot holes is not in Star Wars, but in Harry Potter, Book Four. We'll discuss that later this summer when book six is released.

Step Down Scotty!

Keith Olberman says:
I smell something - and it ain’t a copy of the Qu’ran sopping wet from being stuck in a toilet in Guantanamo Bay. It’s the ink drying on Scott McClellan’s resignation...

Last Thursday, General Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff... told reporters at the Pentagon that rioting in Afghanistan was related more to the on-going political reconciliation process there, than it was to a controversial note buried in the pages of Newsweek claiming that the government was investigating whether or not some nitwit interrogator at Gitmo really had desecrated a Muslim holy book.

But Monday afternoon... Press Secretary McClellan said, in effect, that General Myers [was] ...dead wrong. The Newsweek story, McClellan said, “has done damage to our image abroad and it has done damage to the credibility of the media and Newsweek in particular. People have lost lives. This report has had serious consequences.”

Whenever I hear Scott McClellan talking about ‘media credibility,’ I strain to remember who it was who admitted Jeff Gannon to the White House press room and called on him all those times.

Whenever I hear this White House talking about ‘doing to damage to our image abroad’ and how ‘people have lost lives,’ I strain to remember who it was who went traipsing into Iraq looking for WMD that will apparently turn up just after the Holy Grail will - and at what human cost.

...if stuff like the Newsweek version of a now two-year old tale about toilets and Qu’rans is enough to set off rioting in the streets of countries whose nationals were not even the supposed recipients of the ‘abuse’, then weren’t those members of the military or the government with whom Newsweek vetted the plausibility of its item, honor-bound to say “you can’t print this”?

Or would somebody rather play politics with this? The news organization turns to the administration for a denial. The administration says nothing. The news organization runs the story. The administration jumps on the necks of the news organization with both feet - or has its proxies do it for them.

That’s beyond shameful. It’s treasonous.

Craven McClellan

"Our image abroad has been damaged."

----Scott McClellan, White House press secretary

My, isn't that exquisite. Scotty's finally worried about what the rest of the world thinks of us, and our cowboy president. Anyone want to guess what it is that's gnawing away at poor Scotty's conscience? Here are your choices:

(a) The unillateral attack on Iraq.
(b) The lies that justified the unillateral attack on Iraq.
(c) The Abu Gharib prison scandal.
(d) The confirmation as Attorney General of the immoral scumbag who wrote the memo that made possible Abu Gharib.
(e) The US policy of extraordinary renditions, or "outsourcing torture."
(f) The allegations of Koran desecration at Guantanamo Bay.

The answer of course is (f) which I suppose makes sense to a souless Republican. Those other scandals? Nothing embarassing about that. Which fits: This administration is willing and happy to torture human beings --and they don't care who knows about it - but a book? Oohh. Musn't desecrate the book.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Bopping Bishy

Bishul Akum washes his hands of, perhaps, 2 million Jews, writing: thank godness the truth is winning out,people arn't intrested n half baked la di da judaism,db you must be crushed that these infidels are losing numbers [sic]

Much as I hate to make a mockery of someone on his very first visit to the blog, Bshul's cruelty deserves a wider audience. In this comment he is speaking of Reform Jews, and his hard-to-miss-victory dance is being performed over their open graves.

For Bishy isn't celebrating the return of Reform Jews to Orthodoxy's warm embrace. If they were, I could understand his glee. Unfortunately, shrinking numbers among the Reformers means rising intermarriage rates, and the final loss of affiliation with the Jewish community. So in fact, what Bish is cheering is the loss of Jewish souls. And by suggesting that I "must be crushed" at the news that Reform Judaism is losing Jewish souls to the dark sith-like forces of assimilation, Bishy's letting us know that he isn't.

Too hard-hearted even for me, that is.

Blame the media!

How typical.

The right, but not so bright, are blaming Newsweek for provoking riots in Afghanstand and elsewhere, with a poorly sourced blurb about Koran-desecrations at the Guantanamo prison. How stupid.

As OrthoMom says, "Instead of accusing Newsweek magazine of "causing" this unrest, maybe we should all stop being apologists for this out-of-proportion response in Afghanistan to the alleged offense."

Yes, but this won't happen. Not in my shul anyway. The right prefers to condecend to the Arab world. It's easier to blame Newsweek, than to admit that it isn't rational or logical for a community to respond with rioting to some bad press. But for the right condecending to the Arab world isn't anything new.

After all, haven't they spent the better part of 10 years insisting that Arabs are biologically incapable of anything but violence? Oslo won't work, they hollered, because Arabs are violent. Even today, there are whole entire blogs dedicated to the proposition that the road map must fail because those blood-thirsty Arabs want violence and nothing but violence.

So of course today's rioting is all Newsweek's fault. According to the right-wing view of the world, Arabs are brutal savages, and by taunting them, Newsweek, irresponsible Newsweek, was tempting fate.

Shul emails

I've just received an Official Email from the Shul, so two things are given:

(1) The clever people will crack jokes, and share them with everyone hitting, "Reply to All."

(2) After a while, the idiots will take offense and make it clear to everyone that they're, well, idiots. Some of what they'll say:

Is this really appropriate for a shul email list?
[Translation: Yes, I'm frum. Frummer than you anyway.]

Don't you people work?
[Translation: I'm a little slow at the whole reading thing - and I don't care who knows it!]

Stop Hitting Reply to All!!!
[Translation: Why should I quietly hit delete, when I can send an obnoxious email to the entire shul for the same money?]

And another thing: Why aren't Official Emails from the Shul ever signed?

The FreshView: On Monday the Rabbi got censored

Shragy gives Cross Currents (Jewish) a piece of his mind.

We like.

Yeah, it's time to check the mezuzos

Guest Post: Larry Lennhoff

Larry Lennhoff, who says he is willing to have his future kids change their name and move to another continent, if necessary, writes:

Isaac Asimov a"h was born Jewish, but stayed a devoted atheist from his teen years to the end of his life. You can see some of his attitudes towards Judaism in his books Pebble in the Sky and in the early section of the first part of the Foundation series. Whenever someone says that we can only base our opinions on the mesorah, I think of what he wrote in Foundation. To set the scene an apparently decadent aristocrat from the capital of the Galactic Empire is sent to an obscure planet on the rim. During a break in the negotiations he talks with the local mayor about his hobby, archeology. He speaks in an awful dialect, which I will spare you. If someone wants to translate into yeshivish, I'd love to see it.

Diplomat: I have done an awful amount of work in the science. Extremely well read in fact. I've gone through Jordan, Obijasi, Cromwell.. all of them you know. [He describes a machlokes in contemporary archeology, citing a particular author, Lameth.]

Mayor: When did Lameth write his book?

Diplomat: Oh - I should say about 800 years ago. Of course he has based it largely on the previous work of Gleen.

Mayor: Then why rely on him? Why not go to Arcturus and study the remains for yourself?

Diplomat: Why, whatever for dear fellow?

Mayor: Why to get the information first hand of course.

Diplomat: But what's the necessity? It seems an uncommonly roundabout and hopelessly rigamarolish way of getting anywhere. Look here now I've go the works of all the old masters - the great archeologists of the past. I weigh them against one another - balance the disagreements - analyze the conflicting statements - decide which is probably correct - and come to a conclusion. That is the scientific method - at least as I see it. How insufferably crude it would be to go to Arcturus and blunder about, when the old masters have covered the ground so much more effectively than we could possibly hope to do.

Does anyone see any resemblence between the diplomat's attitude and the UO hashkafa?

A 23 psalm for 21st century America

Sent to me by email

Bush is my shepherd; I dwell in want.
He maketh logs to be cut down in national forests.

He leadeth trucks into the still wilderness.
He restoreth my fears.
He leadeth me in the paths of international disgrace for his ego's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of pollution and war, I will find no exit, for thou art in office.

Thy tax cuts for the rich and thy media control, they discomfort me. Thou preparest an agenda of deception in the presence of thy religion. Thou anointest my head with
foreign oil.

My health insurance runneth out. Surely megalomania and false patriotism shall follow me all the days of thy term, And my jobless child shall dwell in my basement forever

On Judaism and Absolutes

From the Times review of "The Revenge of the Sith"
"This is how liberty dies - to thunderous applause," Padmé observes as senators, their fears and dreams of glory deftly manipulated by Palpatine, vote to give him sweeping new powers. "Revenge of the Sith" is about how a republic dismantles its own democratic principles, about how politics becomes militarized, about how a Manichaean ideology undermines the rational exercise of power. Mr. Lucas is clearly jabbing his light saber in the direction of some real-world political leaders. At one point, Darth Vader, already deep in the thrall of the dark side and echoing the words of George W. Bush, hisses at Obi-Wan, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy." Obi-Wan's response is likely to surface as a bumper sticker during the next election campaign: "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes."
And what about Jews? Must Jews think in absolutes? Though the pious frauds who pose as our spiritual and community leaders say we do, the happy truth is this: Pluralism is hard-wired into Judaism.

Some examples:

(1) The talmud says, in Chagiga, that the teachings of Rabbi Meir were not repeated in the heavenly court; first he had to be exonerated, on earth, of the sin of studying with the heretic Elisha ben Avuya.

(2) In Baba Metziah, we're told that the sages ignored a heavenly directive and ruled against Rabbi Eliezer. Later, the prophet Elijah told R. Natan that when this ruling was issued, God danced, laughing, "My children have defeated me."

I ask you: How can you subscribe to absolutes, if even the heavenly court can be defeated and over-ruled by the subjective and falliable judgements of mortals?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Today's sign of the Apocalypse

Wikipidea cites Rachak as an example of a religious blog.

Condolences to Hirhurim, also cited by Wikipedia in the same section. Somehow that honor doesn't seem so hot anymore, 'eh, Gil?

Friday, May 13, 2005

God's bullies.

At the Air Force Academy (where God is your copilot) the evangelicals are digging in.

According to the Washington Post, Capt. Melinda Morton, the Luthern Minister who first reported that the academy gave preferential treatment to evangelical Christians -while putting command pressure on non-evangelicals- has been fired. Among the abuses she reported was this golden nugget:
One staff chaplain reportedly told newly arrived freshmen last summer that anyone not born again "will burn in the fires of hell."
I say we rebuild the Collosium, and introduce these constitution-subverting traitors to an arena full of hungry lions.

Who's with me?

Reform Jews, Adrift in a Sea of Black Hats

The Times dedicates a few column inches today to Progressive Temple Beth Ahavath Shalom of Borough Park, Brooklyn, the last Reform Jewish congregation left in Borough Park.

Their rabbi is the handsome woman on the left (hat tip Zoo for the photo)

I kind of know how they must feel. It sucks to stand out. Of course, my clothing is gender-appropriate.

Amazing discovery

Golda Leah writes:

After the passing of Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals had the duty to go through the late Pope's personal effects. One of the Cardinals noted that there had once been an inscription on the inside of the Pope's skull cap. The inscription was obviously very old and much obscured from wear and the passage of time.

Curious, the Cardinals sent the skull cap for study at the Vatican's antiquities department. Experts applied themselves to the task utilizing the latest in computer technology and encryption analysis.

They found that the inscription was in the ancient Hebrew language and after much work, they cracked the code and translated the text.

Bernie & Ruthie's Wedding
October 18, 1937
Krakow, Poland

Mazal tov to the new president of SOY

Now, let's see you do something about the book fair, please.

[Related I, II, III]

Yakov Menken: Spin Meister

Writing on Cross Currents (Jewish) Yakov Menken tells us: A few weeks ago several commenters were apoplectic over the idea that both Rabbi Adlerstein and I had positive things to say about observant Christians

Well, yes. And I was one of them. And do you remember why we were "apoplectic?" Menken thinks he does, but, in fact, he's either he's (a) very forgetful; (b) not very bright; or (c) spinning.

He writes:

On the one side you have people insisting that non-Jews say good things about us, and on the other side people who cannot bear to find something good to say about them.

This is absurd.

As I tried to explain on a comment (deleted, of course) no one objects to praising gentiles. The trouble (and this is the point Menken conviniently misses) is that Cross Currents chose to praise a non-Jew for something that is not admirable.

Had Alderstand and Menken said "Boy, Michael Jordan was one hell of an athlete" or "That Ian McEwan sure does write like an angel" who would have objected? Not I.

But that isn't what they did. Instead they heaped praise on the Pope for persistently holding to rituals and ideas that are, frankly, rediculous.

Judaism rejects what is false. A backwards old fool, clinging to backwards old ideas, deserves mockery and scorn. Not praise.

By our lights, none of the Pope's theology is admirable and worthy of praise. Except, perhaps, to the cross-loving folks at Cross Currents(Jewish.)

Faux Fantastic

If there is anyone in the world who still believes that Fox is "fair," "balanced," or "unbiased," please take away their fingerpaints, wipe the drool from their chins, and show them this

Piling on

Shragie and Moishe don't either like CrossCurrents.

Please note - Bloggers are advised that, with these two new additions, the bashing-Cross-Currents (Jewish) field appears to be oversaturated. If you're a blogger with a Cross-Currents grudge, please consider bashing one of the many other Cross-Currents instead:

Cross Currents (Zen)
Cross Currents (Christain)
Cross Currents (Stocks)
Cross Currents (Flyfishing(!)))
Cross Currents (Central European Culture)
Cross Currents (Arts/Music/Origins/History/Ecology)

There's plenty of Cross Currents for everyone. [Please note: Cross Currents (Christian) is, in fact, the quarterly journal of The Association for Religion and Intellectual Life. Giving your own little religion blog that name seems to me to be the equivlant of calling your home-grown sports blog Sports Illustrated, but accidents happen, I suppose.]

Thursday, May 12, 2005

A Poem for the Holiday


On a roof in the Old City
laundry hanging in the late afternoon sunlight.
the white sheet of a woman who is my enemy,
the towl of a man who is my enemy,
to wipe off the sweat of his brow.

In the sky of the Old City
a kite
At the other end of the string,
a child
I can't see
because of the wall.

We have put up many flags,
they have put up many flags,
to make us think that they're happy.
To make them think that we're happy.

Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000) was born in Germany and emigrated to Palestine in 1936. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages including Chinese, Estonian and Albanian. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Israel Prize, the country's highest honor. In Hebrew especially, this poem rocks.

Oh, do I hate Pat Buchanen

Shorter Pat Buchanen:
Jews? Who are the Jews? Never heard of them. Why do you ask?

Money quote:
When one considers the losses suffered by Britain and France – hundreds of thousands dead, destitution, bankruptcy, the end of the empires – was World War II worth it, considering that Poland and all the other nations east of the Elbe were lost anyway?

If the objective of the West was the destruction of Nazi Germany, it was a "smashing" success. But why destroy Hitler? If to liberate Germans, it was not worth it. After all, the Germans voted Hitler in.
Why is this contemptuous clown still on cable TV?

Afterthought: Perhaps Patty's article was better in the original German.

Quote of the Day

The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held Excalibur aloft from the bosom of the water to signify by Divine Providence ... that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur ... That is why I am your king!

Look, strange women lying on their backs in ponds handing out swords ... that's no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.


Be quiet!


You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some Watery Tart threw a sword at you!

Shut up!

I mean, if I went around saying I was an Emperor because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, people would put me away!

The point? Nothing but a rebuke for RenReb and MoChassid, and anyone else who thinks that opening a shteeble is a basis for a Rebba to declare himself Supreme and Ultimate Ruler of the Neighborhood.

(Note: The original post conflated shteebles with shuls. These are two different types of institutions, and the post has been changed to reflect that. )

Back to politics

The blog's been a bit Jewy lately, for which I apologize to my non-Jewish readers. Here's my attonment:
Repeat: When confronted with the facts once again [Michael Medved]accused me of lying and said he doubted that there was really a member of Congress named Chris Chocola
Incidentally, for those not in the know, Michael Medved is a GOP-Jew par excellence, meaning he whines a lot about culture, plays fast and loose with the facts, and thinks that fundamentalist creeps are "friends" of Israel, conveniently overlooking the fact that their "friendship" is predicated on the idea we’re sacrificial pawns in the rapture story.


Do you have trouble saying 100 brochot per day?

Zoo can help

Are you wearing blue and white today?

Typical, but no one I know wants to have a deep and insightful Yom Haatzmaut conversation about the meaning of Zionism in 2005, the success of the state, or anything like that. Apparently, I live among the stupid people.

All anyone seems to care about is this: Should we say tachanun? Should we say Hallel? With a broacha? Without a bracha?

So let's have at it.

Tachanun: Don't say it, especially if you're a Hasid. Why? Because Hasidim, typically, take every possible excuse to avoid saying this prayer. They don't say it at mincha. Many won't say it on Friday or Sunday. They skip it on important yartzheits. Lubovs, in fact, skip it on the day their Rebbe was released from jail. So why not skip it on the day that every Jew in the world was released from jail?

We non-Hasidim should skip it, too. There are old sources that recommend skipping tachanun on market days, and other days of public celebration. On a day when most of the Jews in the world are celebrating, Tachanun seems inappropriate.

Hallel: Don't say it. I think it's presumptuous for an ordinary person to go around praising God whenever he feels like it. We're little. He's big. And when a small person praises something tremendous, the praise tends to be insuffecient, or worse insulting. Could any of us non-physicists adequately praise Einstein or Newton? Or course not. It would be a joke.

Moreover, if you say Hallel (with a brocha anyway) you are saying that you are 100 percent certain that Yom Haatzmaut was a miraculous act of God. Happy as I am to have Israel in Jewish hands, I can't read God's mind. I'm arrogant, yes, but not arrogant enought to say that I know God's plan. To me abstaining from Hallel is a demonstration of humility.

Finally, I think a full hallel (with a brocha anyway) is a tremendous error. “God is not happy at the downfall of the wicked. ... When the angels tried to sing songs of praise to God at the Red Sea, God silenced them: ‘My handiwork, my human creatures, are drowning in the sea and you want to sing a song of praise?’” (T.B. Megillah 10b) For this reason, we say a half-Hallel on the last six days of Pesach. And how many Arabs died on Yom Haatzmaut related events? It seems to me that if we can temper our Pesach celebrations out of respect for the people who enslaved us for 210 years, we can, likewise, recognize the humanity of the Arabs on Yom Haatzmaut, as well.