Monday, April 30, 2007

Introducing David

I've started a book on Sefer Shmuel, and one of the things I've learned is that Sefer Shmuel introduces King David twice.

The first time we meet David, in Samuel 16, he's a shepherd tending sheep when Samuel arrives to anoint him. The great seer first attempts to anoint each of David's seven brothers, but eventually gets it right. Immediately after, a kind of demon strikes Saul, and his courtiers recruit David as his musical therapist. "Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him."

In the second story, told in Samuel 17, a still-unknown David arrives at the front to visit his brothers. Goliath the Giant challenges the Hebrew soldiers, and David is offended on their behalf. He volunteers to fight the Palestinian champion, and is introduced to Saul, who doesn't recognize him. [In the first comment, BSN cleverly compares this to Mr. Burns failing to remember Homer Simpson though they meet in almost every episode]

After David kills Goliath, Saul asks "whose son is that young man?" without seeming to know his court musician. Introductions are made, and "From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house" and as a reward, David is given Merav, Saul's daughter.

There's an incongruity between the two stories, one easily explained if we can accept that the Goliath story is a folk legend, and one that is familiar to us: An ogre, or dragon is slain, by an unknown man of slight stature and limited prowess. After his success, the king rewards him with the hand of his daughter.

However (and listen carefully Chaim G) the *possibility*, that the Goliath story is not true should not disturb us. Whoever wrote the story, and decided to include it here did not do so unreflectivly. Even if David never killed Goliath, the story is written in a way that demonstrates David's bravery and resourcefulness, while also illustrating that God protects his people, even when they are badly out-numbered and over matched.

A modern man expects strict accuracy from historical accounts, but ancient men didn't share this bias. To the ancients "history" or the retelling of stories, was about imparting lessons, about ethics or morals, not facts. To an ancient man the message the Goliath story contains was reason enough to weave the story into the text, while presenting it as history.

Don't spit in a well you drink from.

Israel is the world's best father-in-law[*], providing houses, healthcare and handouts to tens of thousands of Haredi families. Without the largess of the state, Israel's Haredi communities would fail, Torah institutions would shutter, and the Haredim themselves would be thrown into a state of perilous insecurity.

As a general rule, dependence breeds resentment, and a fine example of a dependant community's resentment toward its benefactors was published this week in the Yated Ne'eman in the form of a long article congratulating Haredim on their dedication to Torah. It had this coda: "...the truth must be told: This blessed [spiritual] prosperity in the yeshiva world after the Holocaust of European Jews has nothing to do with the state and its authorities. It does not exist because of the state. It exists in spite of the state."

It exists in spite of the state? What is the origin of this delusion? Does the author think Haredim lived comfortably and successfully in pre-state Palestine? Or in pre-War Europe? Though our memory of those days has grown cloudy, the average European Jew lived with less security and less comfort than the average Israeli Haredi. He was poorer. He was weaker. He was sicker. He lived in almost constant danger of disease and of his non-Jewish neighbors. And, most significantly, he had much less time for significant learning.

In the temple, the menorah, with its Ner Tamid, or Eternal Light, represented wisdom or spiritual acheivment. Directly across from the menorah was the shulchan, or table, which was always set with showbreads. The word "Tamid" is used to describe both the light and the bread. The lesson, of course, is that the sustenance of the bread and the illumination of the lamp are mutually dependant.

One doesn't exist in spite of the other. One exists BECAUSE of the other.

[*] I don't mean to bore you with displays of hyper-caution, but I have an inchoate sense this phrase didn't originate with me.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

JIB Voting

Chaim G writes:

Why not provide a link that takes me directly to the [JIB] voting in whatever categories you're nominated in?

Fine idea Chaim. I am nominated in the following 5 categories:

Best Overall

Best Religious

Best Jewish Culture

Best News/Current Events

Best Left Wing Political

Thank you in advance.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Quality Posts



Better Know a Blogger

Today we meet BOTH, the philo-ist of the blogword's philo-Semites, and a fine friend of the blog. He is also a Talmid Muvak of the RaPas (Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein) and the RoshYeshiva of Yeshiva Chipass Emess - West Coast.

His favorite thing about SF:
Strong coffee and Chinatown.

Bloggers he pals around with:
In the electronic world those are Dov, Steg, Tzipporah, Jameel, and Robbie. I also read RenReb and the non-Tefillin Hedgehog and several others. But I have only met Charismatic Megafauna in the world of basarvedam.

Morning routine:
Strong coffee, into the little room with reading material, pen, paper,and small cigars, followed by clothing, tea, rush to work. Head over to the cigar store after eleven to smoke a pipe. On weekends, until fairly recently, I'd wake up late and spend several hours ranting at Fox Newson the tv (only reason to watch: irritation - it wakes you up). Butnowadays I head over to Oakland with a protest sign and flags.

Evening routine:
Leave the office hours after everybody else. Either home for the company of Savage Kitten, or over to The Occidental Cigar Club for Scotch and a pipe. Sometimes to the Karaoke bar around the corner from the apartment o listen to some horrible singing. Once in bed, read until unconscious.

His first encounter with Judaism:
Being called a smous in grammar school because I didn't look or act like the local children (who were all related to each other - you wouldn't believe how appallingly inbred the hinterlands of Brabant are - five facial types, four of them repulsive). Smous is the Dutch cognate of shmaltz. I had no clue what it meant. Until a classmate named Moos (Moshe) explained it to me. But that wasn't really an encounter.

The searching out of Judaic material really got started after a conversation with a bunch of coworkers at the Indian restaurant where I worked in the early nineties. One of them opined that you could always tell the Jews, because they looked a certain way and acted a certain way. Bear in mind, these were Indians talking (who all looked a certain way, and talked a certain way). So I challenged her, telling her that she didn't know what the divvil she was talking about, for all she knew I could be a Jew! At which point they all pretty much screamed "I knew it!".

Later, not a single one could put their finger on what was so Jewish about me. Neither could I. So I started reading. And it helped, at that point, that I still remembered the broken Yiddish which Moos occasionally spoke, as well as the more fluent Yiddish I learned from uncle Chaim and uncle Chaim (one an old-friend of my father, the other a local merchant).

How he met Rabbi Pinky Shmeklestein:
Started when I discovered his shiurim on the internet, and wanted to share the humour with friends. Problem being that the friends I wanted to share the humour with are not strictly "Jewish-literate". So I copied over the texts and interpolated explanatory notes between the paragraphs.

A month or so later, as an example, and to see what he would say, I e-mailed the good rav himself. His response was that a number of his subscriberim had wished that he would do something like that. The people most likely to appreciate the shiurim being somewhat crippled by the language, the ones most likely to scream angrily have no problem at all with the language or the references. So for the next year we went through a large part of the five books together.

Why he hangs out in the Jewish blogosphere:
More interesting than reading food-blogs or political blogs, far far more interesting than visiting Jeebus and friends.

Current status of his relationship with Jesus:
Who? No seriously, who? There is just too much weird stuff in the Jesus story to take seriously, and when there is some real meat, they stole it from the Jewish table. Did he exist? Probably. Did he resemble what his acolytes wrote about him? Likely only in a few details - we actually know more about Rabbbi Akiva than about Jesus. And much of what we think we know about Jesus comes from the filter of Saul of Tarsus and his heirs. So no, I don't have relationship with
Jesus. Why? Did he say he met me?

Favorite torah teaching:
Hard to say favourite - I always find something interesting in the Sfas Emes, and something infuriating in certain Art-Scroll publications. The Ramban (in translation) is some purely great stuff, as is Rashi - but Rashi, as Ed discovered a while ago, also gets my bile going. The entire Abrahamic family history up to Egypt comes across as a great foundation metaphor, and it is easy to read and annotate. But once Moshe Rabbeinu starts lecturing about all the rules and details, it is hard to read between the lines, and hard to read period. Still working on the Hebrew - some words do not occur often enough to get a sense of their shades of meaning.

Who he voted for in 2004:
The lantern-jawed loser of the election.

His plan for ending the war in Iraq:
We stay, it's a mess. We leave, it's a mess. The only reason why we should stay a bit longer is to keep the proxies of the Saudis and the Iranians from blowing each other up and death-squadding each other's civilians. Put differently, give the locals more time to find a safe hiding place. But there's no chance of this ending well.

DovBear: Great blogger or greatest blogger ever?
Oh come now! You know how limited my reading is - there are oompty million bloggers out there.... But yes, after getting spitting mad every day reading the Algemeen Dagblad at the beginning of lunch, Dovbear is the first blog I head into. Followed by the Melech ha gawblinim. Sometimes I cruise into Beis Dov while on hold.

His true feelings about Chaim G:
Really like him. Might not agree with him. But like and agree do not necessarily go together.

The extent of his Jewishness, or the Jewish things he does:
Let's see, anything Jewish..... member of the "International Zionist Conspiracy, Bay Area Chapter", which consists of slightly more people than can fill a van - especially if there are tons of flags and signs in that van.I ended up grabbing flags and signs and heading off to the consulate five blocks away a number of times in summer of last year, once ending up being the only pro Israel demonstrator facing about two hundred very angry Muslims (yes, the SF Police Dept. are a blessing). I waved a shoe at them, and they screamed. In retrospect it was perhaps not a sane thing to do. But it was worth it.

The other Jewish things I do consist mainly of sometimes buying kosherfoods, wrestling with Mishna, and regularly whacking my way through the parshayos. Nothing in an organized or structured Jewish context - not social or confident enough to hunt out a shul, contact a rabbi, or find another chavrusa since the last one Z"L' passed away last year. A friend has encouraged me to come to his shul in the Eastbay, but sofar I haven't made it there yet. Oh, and I contribute to the Chabad telethon each year -non-denominational drug treatment is a darn good thing. Nobody needs to be whacked over the head with Jeebus when they're trying to kick another nasty habit.

Next OrthoMom who doesn't yet know I'm planning to profile her, but will, I expect, be more than happy to play. (What happened to RenReb? She's busy, apparently, with important, private, rabbinic business, and can't spare the time or energy for distractions. I respect that. )

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Golden Oldie

Defending Jews who don't say Good Shabbos:

...I'd like to respond to the two letters to the editor regarding people being unfriendly in the Boro Park-Flatbush area on Shabbos and weekdays (Jewish Press, July 4):

It is difficult to say Good Shabbos to hundreds of people passing you (compared to living in a remote area where there are relatively few Yidden). Moreover, you would never make it home for the chulent if you stopped to greet each passerby.

But there is another reason why in frummer areas people don't sayGood Shabbos. Simply stated, in frummer crowds people are more focused on the holiness of Shabbos. I see many frum people (unlike many of the Modern Orthodox ilk) who are almost in a state of awe. When you are so focused on the holiness of Shabbos, you tend not to notice many things around you in the mundane physical world. In short, it`s not that they don`t want to be friendly to a fellow Yid. Rather, it's that they are in an intense, uplifted state.

If one would see the kohen gadol doing the avoda in Yerushalayim, it would be easily understood why he couldn't be distracted with greeting everyone. The same is true of the lofty spiritual people of Boro Park. They are no different than the kohen gadol in the bais hamikdash. Don't forget, it's these very same frum Yidden who help all in times of crisis, be it through Hatzoloh, Shomrim, Chaveirim, etc.

With love for all Yidden,

(Rabbi) Yaakov Silver
Brooklyn, NY

This golden oldie belongs to The Town Crier, and was published on Wednesday, July 16, 2003

If you have a Golden Oldie, send it to DovBear

On Glatt

From an interview with Marc Shapiro, (via Fred, who points out, correctly IMHO, that Shapiro seems to be bucking for a ban)

The Jewish Press: In your opinion, what would Rabbi Weinberg, author of the Seridei Eish and the subject of your first book, think of the Orthodox Jewish community today?

He’d think what a lot of gedolim would think from that generation. They would be very surprised that things they took for granted are now considered unacceptable – that the yeshiva world today in Israel, for example, sees something wrong with earning a living.

I think the frumkeit would surprise them. For example, the turn to glatt kosher as a standard, as well as the number of chumrot. This would surprise them only because part of traditional Judaism is reliance on the gedolim of the past and it’s very unusual for a tradition that regards itself as following the past to reject what previous standards were.

Adds my new friend Barak:

Glatt is not a halacha for Ashkenazic Jews. It is a minhag widely held by Sephardim. In Europe, Ashkenazic Jews ate both glatt and non-glatt meat. [A full article can be found at the Star K's site (]

Do you know why glatt meat is do expensive? Approximately 70% of all cows shechted al pi halacha are ruled "non-glatt" and sold as treif at a loss (ie: the meat every supermarker sells for 1/3 the price of kosher) Additionaly, Ashkenazim have forgotten Traiboring, so the back half of even a glatt kosher cow mumust be sold as treif. Nonethless, the shochtim and mashgichim still need to be paid, so we consumers end up paying for the non-glatt cows and the back of glatt cows sold for treif.

What does all this mean? It means kosher meat industry has done a wonderful job making us believe that non-glatt is non-kosher. The proof: Does any kosher supermarket sell non-glatt meat? Is there even a reliable hechsher for non-glatt meat? No. And why? Because non glatt meat never has a chance to be sold as kosher!

Essentially, glatt meat is a Chumra that caught on to the extent that the rest of us who don't want to keep this chumra are forced to keep this chumra because there is no non-glatt meat available! Now, if someone wants to keep glatt kosher, I'm not one to say don't do it. But why do I have to pay the kosher tax for someone else to hold by a chumra?

At the end of the day we are all forced to pay way too much money for meat. One realistic solution is for these companies to take the non-glatt meat they shecht and put it on the market as non-glatt, but perfectly kosher meat! Anyone who wants to be machmir and buy glatt meat can do so and pay the price, while the rest of us will happily buy non-glatt meat.

I once wrote a post on my blog about the posuk Ki Karov Eilecha. Ki Karov Eilecha means it shouldn’t be a hardship to be frum and keep kosher, but as time goes on, it only gets harder and more expensive.

I think it’s now time to reverse this situation. DovBear, are any of your readers interested defeating the idea that non-glatt = trief? Perhaps the time has come to band together and contact the kashrus organizations and kosher slaughterhouses and let them know there are enough people out there who are tired of paying the price of being frum?

If so, let's hear from you.

Attention Yus and his kind


To: Yus and his kind
From: The bane of your existence, ie, me, the guy who entertains you all day for free.
Re: Below

It has come to my attention that xtreme gh is sublimating his knowledge for the wisdom of chazal, seeking to undermine our authentictraditions, and speaking in a tone sensitive flowers such as yourselves might describe as "mocking."

(1) That you immediately address XGH's deviation from the legitimately Jewish path of our fathers. Be sure to act snide, then get all offended when someone calls you on it. Use words like Torah True, and prove your integrity by lying about his blog's previous content.
(2) That you forget how to get back here.

(psssssssss: As soon as they leave, I'm changing the locks)

Dignity restored

And you thought Clinton was our black president?

Damn Liberal Media

Can you say double standard?

Pelosi approval - 53%
Cheney approval - 9%



True Lies…
and the Lying Truth Speakers that Tell Them
(with apologies to Al Franken)

Before Parshas Tazria Metzorah becomes a distant memory I’d like to share a (hopefully) paradigm-shifting Torah with the Bear, his cubs and the greater J-Blogosphere:

What is the opposite of a Kohen? A Levi? A Yisrael?…perhaps a gentile? Wrong wrong and wrong again. It is a Metzorah= an impure person afflicted with a metaphysical illness manifesting itself in physical, leper-like, symptoms.

Here’s what the Rebbe Reb Henoch of Alexander teaches as quoted in Siach Sarfei Kodesh (page 92 in the new print):
“Why is it that the purification process of the Metzorah is dependant upon the Kohen? Tzora’as (the illness afflicting the Metzorah) is the Divine retribution for the sin of Lashon HaRa. Now the Lashon HaRa*/Rekhilus* speaker, as distinct from the Motzee Shem Ra*=slanderer), is telling the truth. Lashon HaRa is when ‘B’ tells ‘C’ negative things ‘A’ had said about ‘C’. By and large this happens because ‘B’ cannot bear ‘C’’s ignorance of the true injustice that ‘A’ had done to ‘C’ by speaking negatively about him and feels that he (‘B’) must enlighten ‘C’.

(After all the truth will set you free. Trans.)

Aharon HaKohen was the progenitor of all Kohanim. His modus operandi emanated from his defining characteristic Ahavas Habriyos = love of humanity, and was the inversion of that of the Lashon HaRa speaker. Playing the role of ‘B’ he would pursue peace and patch up broken friendships and marriages by telling ‘C’ kind things that ‘A’ had said about him/her when in fact these kind words were complete fabrications. In so doing he would reawaken the dormant love that had informed their relationship and make peace between them. The Torah directs the Metzorah desiring purification and healing to turn to the Kohen exclusively (not to the dermatologist-trans.). And so it teaches us that the retribution for the ‘truth’ teller is that he/she seek his/her healing through the peace-seeker who was compelled to tell lies to make peace.”
The provenance of this insight is significant. Its author was an illustrious member of the inner circle of disciples–the Khevraya Kadisha of the Kotzker Rebbe zy”a. The Kotzker was arguably Jewry’s fiercest and most passionate truth-seeker of the last several centuries. [SIC]

A Torah insight like this raises fundamental questions and challenges cherished preconceived notions. Are truth and historicity synonymous? Does truth merely consist of accurate reportage? Was Aharon HaKohen truly an inveterate serial liar? Or, perhaps, is the inherent unity–at-the-soul-root level between spouses and Jews a higher, deeper truth that requires sundering of the “true lies” that conceal it in order to be revealed? Even if this last consideration is wrong... is it false? Even if it is false… is truth, as we know it, overrated?

In closing I leave the readers with these riddles: Who am I referring to in the post’s title and who would you rather be, a Kohen or a Metzorah?
* These are the three broad categories of gossip forbidden by the Torah. Reference the works of the Chofetz Chaim for a thorough exposition of the different categories.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Belated Yom Haatzmaut Post III


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)

Belated Yom Haatzmaut Post II

Chardal said something smart. It's here.

Belated Yom Haatzmaut Post I

Why is the obviously man-made holiday we, in the diaspora, celebrate on say, the "eighth" of Pesach or Succos any different from the man-made holiday celebrating the creation of the state of Israel? And if you're going to say that YA celebrates a military victory, and a secular deliverance there's precedant for that, too. Remember Purim? And not just the original Purim, but the local Purims established by Jewish communities to celebrate their own secular deliverance from anti-Semites and tyrants.

Can't we think of YA as just another local Purim?


If you're wondering about the JIB Awards this is as good a place to get up to date as any.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Better Know a Blogger!

Today, Harry Maryles is in the seat of heat, and tells us a little bit about what he does, what he thinks, and what he drives. Please ask your own questions in the comments, and Harry might answer them.

Previous BKAB

His morning routine:
Shachris 6:00 AM followed by Daf Yomi, breakfast (coffee and doughnut) while reading a newspaper. and then work. I have a small business, which I run out of my house. And of course I do spend a great deal of time blogging.

His evening routine:
It varies. When I’m home, I try and catch the evening network news (usually NBC) and then supper, spending some quality time with my wife and then later… intermittent blogging and occasionally a little TV that I’ve recorded, hardly ever during broadcast. Nightly news and weather (10:00 PM locally here) and then I try to get to bed early. Pretty boring stuff now that I think about it.

I also have an avocation which is videotaping Simchos, usually weddings, almost always at night.

When my children were growing up, I was far more active communally and would spend many an evening out at school meetings or related fundraising events such as concerts, banquets, and their preliminaries.

On Shabbos and Yom Tov, I spend most of my time with Seforim.

His favorite sitcom:
Nothing now. Of all time: Taxi

His prized possession:My children (If one can call them possessions. They are all married)

What he drives:
A 2005 Maxima

His favorite Jewish philosopher:
Has to be Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. His “Halakhic Man” I believe to be the essence of Judaism

Something that opened his eyes forever:
I’m not sure. Perhaps the banning of books by Rabbis Kaminetsky and Slifkin.

The book he most often goes back to:
Currently that would have to be “Logic of the Heart, Logic of the Mind” by Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik

His favorite clothing item:
Don’t have one.

A chumra he keeps:I do not use city wide Eruvin

A chumra he'd never keep:I don’t keep many. .

His opinion of gay marriage:
I’m firmly opposed to them. I am very sympathetic to people who have same sex attraction and they should be treated as human beings the same way heterosexuals should be treated. Sexual proclivity is not forbidden by the Torah, Only the execution of the homosexual act.

But I am opposed to normalizing any such union as just an alternative lifestyle which is what gay marriage would do. I am certainly opposed formalizing it in “holy matrimony”. I could never give my imprimatur on an act the Torah calls an abomination and for which it mandates the death penalty. And though the conditions needed to employ the death penalty are no longer extant, the Issur still exists intact. I doubt, in fact, that the punishment was ever carried out since it required two Kosher witnesses, and warning about the consequences prior to witnessing it… a highly unlikely scenario. I’ve written about this subject many times.

His view on the rest of what the torah calls a "toyavah"
My objection to the forbidden homosexual act is not so much to the fact that the Torah calls it a Toevah. It is more to the seriousness of the offense as a capital one. To that end, I equate it to Halachic adultry (a man and a married woman other than his wife). I consider them equally wrong.

But although I find homosexual acts more difficult to deal with emotionally, intellectually I think adultery is a greater ‘wrong’ (…for lack of a better word).

For a heterosexual, the sex drive need not be satisfied through adultery. There are legal ways to satisfy that drive. But to a homosexual, the drive cannot be satisfied in any way that is Halachic. Thus it is much more difficult for a homosexual to live a Halachic lifestyle than it is for a heterosexual. Transgressions by homosexuals should therefore get more sympathy, in my view, over transgressions by heterosexuals. But in this world, I’m afraid the opposite is true.

His view on inhabiting "the theological middle":I guess I’m a bit of a “Lonely Man of Faith” here. But I truly believe that somewhere between the two extremes lies the truth. And since extremism seems to be in vogue lately, I stand somewhat alone. But that doesn’t deter me since one of the main things that guides my life is Emes.

Why Reform Rabbis are entitled to be called Rabbi (or not):I’m am of the Rabbi Avi Shafran mentality on this issue. I do not recognize the religious legitimacy of non- Halachic Jewish denominations. That said, I will accord them the honorific if that is how they choose to be called. But I will always preface the first reference to them identifying their denominations. In other words if I write an article about, for example, Ammiel Hirsch, executive director of ARZA, I will first refer to him as Reform Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, and then subsequently refer to him as Rabbi Hirsch.

A new blog the JIBs introduced him to:
Do you mean the JIB awards? Or the world of Jewish blogging in general? Currently, I have not seen any that have piqued my interest. But In the past, I have. Amongst them XGH’s blog,

Gbroks or not?Not!

Hat or no hat?Depends on my mood. (My wife likes the way I look in a hat. But I am not theologically married to it.)

His favorite midrash.
I don’t know about Midrash but one of my favorite Mesechtos is Avos. There-in lies the basis for much of Jewish ethics. And one of my favorite people there is Rebbi Meir. What interests me most about him is his relationship with Elisha Ben Avuyah, also know as Acher.

These two figures have intrigued me ever since I “met” them in that Mesheta. I always held Rebbi Meir up be my role model with respect to knowledge. He did not fear learning truth from any source that offered it. Elisha Ben Avuya included.

Elisha Ben Avuya was of course a Tanna, quoted in Mesches Avos before he abandoned Mitzvah observance. That puts him in a very high category with respect to Torah knowledge, Rebbi Meir had absolutely no compunction about learning from him. When asked about it he simply answered “Tocho Ochel U’klipaso Zarek” …he took the food and discarded its shell. His philosophy of knowledge was MiKol M’Lamdei Hischalti. Everyone could be his teacher. He sought truth wherever he could find it. And Rebbi Meir was one of the greatest Tanniam of the Mishnaic era. Stam Mishan K’Rebi Meir. All Mishnayos without specific attributions are considered his. He was truly a role model for me in that sense. When my son was born, I had an opportunity to name him after my wife’s grandfather whose name was Avraham Meyer. It was perfect. I immediately thought of my great Mishnaic hero and have called him Meyer ever since. And that is how he is known.

Next: REN REB (Note: Ren Reb has not, if we're going to get technical, formally agreed to participate, in that her exact words when asked were: "No way Dovie."

Still, we're hopeful. Worst case scenario I'll just make stuff up.

Back in front of Cross Currents

Thank you for your support

Pinchas Giller on ED

My favorite scholar of the kabbalah comments on Ed

What Pinchas Giller says is true. In my defense I offer just this: Letting Ed have the floor is part of the mission of the blog: Tapestry of images, chorus of voices, mosaic of tiles, etc.

Shmuel's Response

Another guest post by ED (scroll down for Part I)

Shmuel was firm.

"Chaya, we never yet took a non observant babysitter, and this time we won't make any exceptions"

"Shmuel, what am I supposed to tell her?"

"Tell her that the Kids are used to Devorah...."

"OK, but what will we do tonight with the kids?"

"Do we have a choice? We'll just have to take them"

The short walk from Shmuel's study to the front door seemed to take forever. Mustering up her courage, Chaya somehow manged to explain to Tamar, the girl at the door why it wouldn't work out, as the kids are used to Devorah.....

Tamar promptly burst into tears. Not just crying. She was sobbing. Chaya was totally caught off guard. She offered Tamar to come in and have a seat on the couch.

To make a long story short, Tamar was from a non religious Kibbutz, and somehow found her way to the seminary. After a few weeks, she just couldn't get used to the religious lifestyle, and decided to return to the Kibbutz. But she had no money for the bus fare. When the babysitting opportunity came up, she jumped at it in hope to earn some money to buy a bus ticket. But now without tonight's job, she was back to square one with no money for her bus fare.

Chaya and Shmuel got into a long deep discussion with her, and finally convinced her to spend another week at the seminary. She would be welcome to come over at night to discuss her issues and questions. Upon looking up at the clock, Shmuel and Chaya jumped! It was almost 11:00pm!! They had been so busy talking to Tamar, they hadn't realized how fast time flew by! All the kids had found their way to their beds and fallen asleep. They wished Tamar a good night, gave a baby monitor to a neighbor and jumped into a taxi. They made it just in time to wish their family Mazel Tov.

During the week, Tamar visited nightly, and they held long discussions about many different topics about Judaism. On some nights, Shmuel even asked a friend who was involved in Kiruv to join them.

By the end of the week, Tamar decided to stay on, and she slowly but surely become more and more observant. She was a welcome guest in Chaya and Shmuel's home, and they did their best to give her as much Chizuk and encouragement as possible.

Three years later, Shmuel and Chaya had a wedding to go to. This time, there was no need for a babysitter, as all the kids were going. For it was the wedding of Tamar and Eli, a Baal Teshuvah who was doing very well in Yeshiva. Shmuel, Chaya and their children danced away the whole night. This Simcha was a Simcha of their own.

Why did I post this?

Because I thought that many of you would have been opposed to Shmuel "sticking to his guns" and to refuse Tamar to babysit.

But, had he not stuck to his principles, Tamar would have most likely returned to her non religious Kibbutz and not be a Shomer Torah U'mitzvos today. What would have happened had she simply left and gotten the money elsewhere? Good question. But apparently, in at least this circumstance, after sticking to his principles, Hashem awarded them with divine providence and the story ended as it did.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Breakfast at Ed's house

(Kidding! Obviously, this is nothing like Ed's house. Ed doesn't wear ties.)

The ad above is a vintage image from the fifties, back when men were men and women knew it. Traditional values ruled, and a man could boss his wife around without feeling guilty about it. Ah. Those were the days, right guys? Damn democrats, and their crazy ideas about women being people. Well, at least we he-men still have Friday night, the one night per week when God commands us to lounge around while our wives do the serving and cleaning.

Hey, here's a related fun fact to know and tell: Marie Antoinette had to cross a river naked upon her betrothal to the crown prince to symbolize, well, work it out yourself. This was done in front of everyone - courtiers, servants, other royals, her parents - everyone. And this was also an era, of slavery and serfdom and extreme poverty and extreme hunger. You know, the good old moral days, which, alas, ended forever on August 8, 1968.

Quality Post

Charlie Hall makes some excellent points about Pollard, two other Israeli spies, and the ineffable disaster that is our President


A plague strikes Australia

Did you see this?


...'ayin l'Ttziyon tzofee'ya... u'bochiya (The eye yearns for Tzion, and cries. A pun on a verse from Hatikava, Israel's National Anthem)

A Jew who lost his son in one of Israel's wars was tossed off the podium at a remembrance service for fallen soldiers, and prevented from leading the assemblage in the Kel Molay. Why? Because he is a reform rabbi. Also, a big stink was made about whether or not he should be called "Rabbi."

Can we please reason together? This wasn't a religious event. It was a community memorial. The man's role wasn't religious. His role was grieving father. Why did the right politicize the ceremony and chase this man away? Is it their position that only the sufficiently Orthodox are entitled to mourn publicly?

Side point: This whole silly refusal to use the word Rabbi to refer to reform clergy is tiresome. They want to be called Rabbi? Let them be called rabbi. What does it cost? What do you lose? Affording someone a bit of dignity and addressing him in the way he wishes to be addressed isn't to agree with everything the man represents. Osteopathy isn't medicine -it is the very opposite - but I'll call an osteopath "doctor." Wouldn't you? Same thing here. (Note: I don't use the word Rabbi for Reform Rabbis on this blog, but I don't use the word Rabbi for anyone, almost. This is a different, unrelated issue.)


Remember how mad Republicans were when Bill Clinton almost banned military uniforms from the White House grounds? [*] Soldiers have always appeared in unfirom at the White House, they cried. This disrespects our traditions. Well that, says Jeffrey Rosen at tnr, is exactly what the current Washington scandal is all about -- only the stakes are much higher.

Presidents have always been allowed to fire their prosecutors midterm. They just didn't. And the result of this longstanding tradition, or "norm" was prosecutoral independence, professionalism, and the guarantee that the US As would worry about the law and not politics.

Now the Bush has gutted the tradition and fired two US Attorney Generals for political** and not performance-related issues the norm has been violated to the detriment of us all. As TNR has said:
...once a president destroys an old norm, it isn't very easy to restore it. The next presidents, even high-minded ones, will have difficulty denying themselves the political advantages accrued by Bush. The history of reform, not to mention the annals of cultural anthropology, is filled with cautionary tales about the near-impossibility of restoring old standards. For example, every time a candidate or political party discovers a new loophole in the campaign finance laws--soft money, 527s--every other candidate quickly embraces the very same reform-skirting device.
[*] In fact, no such ban was ever considered. Like so many things the RW tell us, this was a lie.

[**]Bushies: Dont even try to argue:

(1) Carol Lam was the U.S. attorney in San Diego, and responsible for investigating powerful republicans who collaborated with former Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who resigned from Congress in 2005 after pleading guilty to accepting more than $2 million in bribes from defense contractors. On May 10, 2006, Lam notified the Department of Justice that she was planning to seek search warrants for the home and CIA office of Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, who had resigned two days earlier as the number-three official at the agency under a cloud of Cunningham-related suspicion. The following day, Sampson sent an e-mail to the White House: "The real problem we have right now with Carol Lam ... leads me to conclude that we should have someone ready to be nominated on 11/18, the day her 4-year term expires." What was the real problem? The fact that she was investigating Republicans, I bet. [Most of the preceeding paragraph is from here]

(2) David Iglesias was fired (according to the AG) for being insufficiently enthusiastic in his prosecution of alleged voter fraud committed by New Mexico Democrats. According to Iglesias in a recent New York Times op-ed, he received phone calls just before the November 2006 elections from Representative Heather Wilson and Senator Pete Domenici. Both asked whether he was planning to bring corruption charges against local Democrats before the election, and, when he said no, Domenici responded, "I'm very sorry to hear that." Soon after Wilson's call, Iglesias's name was added to Sampson's list of U.S. attorneys who were asked to resign. Iglesias convincingly argues that he took voter fraud allegations seriously. But, after he reviewed 100 allegations of voter fraud, he concluded that only one case warranted federal prosecution. Iglesias (in other words) believes he was fired for not bringing charges in a case he considered without merit--that he was, in other words, "fired for not being political."
[Almost all of the preceeding paragraph is from here]

Sunday, April 22, 2007

What was Shmuel's Response?

Guest Post by ed [All sic]

Shmuel and Chaya lived with their six children in a small modest home in Jerusalem. Shmuel and Chaya were each the youngest siblings from large families, and they had plenty Simchos from both sides of the families. So many in fact, that on average, it became their "one night out a week event". Thankfully, babysitting wasn't a problem, since they lived right down the block from a girls seminary. Shmuel and Chaya had both been raised in an ultra religious upbringing, and had chosen to pass their tradition down to their children. Thus although there was a wide selection of girls to choose from, Chaya sought out a girl who was fully observant, dressed modestly, and understanding to the sensitivities of an ultra religious household. Once Chaya found a suitable girl, she would seek to hold on to her as long as possible.

Being that it was the pre-every-teen-has-a-cellphone days, whenever Chaya needed "Devora" to come babysit, she would call the secretary and ask her to post a notice on the "message board" (on the old fashioned bulletin board). This method always worked.

It was the day of the wedding of Shmuel's nephew, and Chaya as usual left the message for Devora to appear at 6:30 pm. At 6:25, there was a knock on the door. The girl standing behind it was certainly not Devora. Why, she didn't even look observant! She was dressed "Ay yay yay"!!


"Hi, I came to babysit"

"Uh, What happened to Devora?"

"She left for the day, and I could use the money, so I offered to the secretary to come instead".

Chaya was in a bind. Never before had they had a non observant babysitter. Yet, it would be highly embarrassing to send her away. What should she do?!? Chaya excused herself and went to consult with her husband.


The answer will appear in a future post. In the meantime, discuss.

[Story is from Mishpacha]

To the anti-DovBear community, a small group that's been making itself heard on my blog and others this week: Ed is one of you. He is no friend of the blog, and no supporter of the sort of discussions we enjoy here. However, he asked for time on the blog and I gave it to him without hesitation (this is actually the second time Ed's appeared in this space.) Please make a note of it.

Rebbe Lex

Fellow bad actor Psychotoddler writes:
You may enjoy my grumpy old man post...
The post, as it happens, is very good, and also a good illustration as to why the victory of Capital "L" Liberalism over the monarchies of Europe was such an important win.

200 years ago whole countries were run like PT's shtieble. No rules. No professionalism. No accountability. You'd sit where the king or his gabbai told you to sit. If he, or his gabbai, wanted to give someone a shtender after point-blank denying one to you there was nothing you could to about it.

The King's word was the law, and the law was often capricious and unfair. In shteibles like PTs and mine something like Rex lex still exists. Call it Rebbe lex with a lifetime sinecure for his gabbai leading to abuses and indifference of the sort that PT describes in his post.

Quality posts

Friday, April 20, 2007

Quality Posts

From Steg:

From motel:

Oh yeah, the boy can play...

Jewish Guitar Hero (an ad for Chelsea Guitars)

Hattip: Mis-nagid.

Learning Midrah with the Learned Lay Person

Note: Many smart people, after all, learn midrash in the way I am about to denounce, and I suppose there isn't anything wrong with it per se. It's just that this approach is a pet peeve of mine, and I had the misfortune of being trapped in conversation, recently, by one of its practitioners.

Learned lay person: It's a fascinating thing...

DB: Uh oh

LLP: We know Moshe had a deal with his father in law, that one of his sons would be allowed to practice idol worship...

DB: We know?

LLP: Yes, refer to the mechilta. So the question is, how could Moshe make such a deal....

DB: Actually, um, the question is why are you so certain that this happened.

LLP: I told you. Refer to the mechilta...

Something similar happened a few months ago, where me and the LLP were discussing the appearance of the three angels to Abraham, our forefather, at the start of Parshas Vayerah.

The verse tells us that Abraham instructed Sarah to "Hurry! Three se'ahs of meal, fine flour! Knead and make cakes" but, according to someone who's name I forget, Sarah had begun menstruating that morning and therefore was forbidden to touch dough. So how could Abrham have asked Sarah to prepare bread? (I should note that I am relying on my RW Yeshivish friend for these details. I don't recall ever being taught that a niddah must not touch dough, or that Sarah's menses returned before the angels arrived at Abrham's tent.)

When I tried to address my friend's question in the obvious way, my answer was waved off. The idea that the laws of Niddah were not known to Abraham could not be accepted by my friend even as a possibility and he clenched his teeth angrily when I accused him of thinking ahistorically. In return, he accused me of dismissing the question, by which he meant only that I was refusing to indulge in speculative weavings about what may have happened 4000 years years ago in Abraham's tent, when it seemed perfectly obvious to me that whatever it was that happened, Abraham certainly would not have reacted to it like a post-Talmudic Jew.

Suffice it to say, the whole conversation was a dead end.

NRA Racist?

A Nazi German cartoon circa 1938 depicts the Jews as an octopus encircling the globe [Wikipedia]

The same image on the cover of the 2001 Egyptian edition of The International Jew by Henry Ford [Wikipedia]

Michael Bloomberg, the Jewish mayor of NYC, depicted as an octopus on the cover of the National Rifle Association's (NRA) magazine.

The story

Hattip: TTC

Down with Debbie

"[a] war criminal and proud Jewish Nazi" Those are the words RW pundit Debbie Schlussel used to describe a Jew and holocaust survivor. Isn't that an Imus-like offense? So where are the wolves? Why aren't they circling?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Blasts from the past

The blogging bug hasn't bit me yet today, so I've been browsing some of my old posts. What follows is an index I found during my browsing that was prepared back in February 2006, covering posts from October 2004 through February 5, 2005. The links the posts lead to are ok [*], I guess, and certainly worthwhile reading for anyone new to the blog.

Does anyone know a fast easy way to index the rest of the blog?

[*] By "ok" I mean "awesome."

Funny PicturesSleep? With Yeshiva boys?
Tutor wanted

ParshaSerach bat Asher
Marrying sisters
Small jugs
The long way around

Jabbing the GOP Jews
Zman Biur Needs Glasses
Charming Wish of the Season
Today's Orwellian Moment
Farah is a fool & Here too
Courtrooms aren't shuls
Fight terrorism
Did you know this?
Hear o Israel: These are your friends?
Bush Betrayal
Christian Betrayal
Cheney at the Death Camp
George W. Clinton

Slaughtering sacred cowsChanuka 1 2 3
Mixed Seating

Commenting on the culture (theirs)Madonna 1 2 3
Fox News 1 2 3
Jewish Press: Be Liberal
Readin' Writin' Racism
Springtime for Hitler

Commenting on the culture (ours)Hammering Hasidim 1
When Yeshivas Attack: 1
Kaballah 1
Chanuka Presents & Chanuka Menorot
Rubashkan v Peta 1 2
Crap Miracles
Aish's Chanuka Antics
Shabbos Chanukah mysticism
Teaching bigotry
Magic by mail

Taking on Tsunami Theodicy 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

SlifkinAge of the Universe
No thinking
Action Alert
5000 Years old? Not according to Chazal
Feldman's follies
Plaut's follies

Stealing Kids
Thanks for nothing
Papal sins

Maoz Tzur
Slapping Christians
Vox Populi

Rav Kook

Metziztza Palooza 1 2

Friends and neighbors
Lazer Brody 1 2 3 4 5
Shmuly Boteach 1 2
Not the Godol Hador First contact Again
Bill O Reilly 1 2 3 4
Dennis Prager 1 2: Loves Christmas
Yehupitz 1 2 3/a> 4 5
MoChassid 1 2
Gil Student 1

Arafat Death Watch 1 2 3 4
Media criticism
Blogger criticism
Dishonest Reporting
Beating a dead terrorist

Pounding the President
Charles Johnson: [W is an] ignorant puppet
Menken attacks
A boy and his boat
Which one doesn't belongNever go against the family George
Medals for Morons
Bowing to Satan
Bad to Israel

Election 2004
Rav Elyashiv's endorsement

Wolves: We're not terrorists
Bush Hearts Osama
Disrespecting Clinton
An Election Day prayer
Dirty Tricks
God bless the voters
Happy about the resultsSad about the results
Don't care about the results
Let those people go

Funny posts that don't fit
So you don't have to
Help me grow
Sheik's obit
Ding dull
The next Protocols is...
Kosher Matzot

Favorites that don't fit
My first post
Aich omrim "thong" b'ivrit?
What would the Vishnitz Rebba say?
Jewish Blood is not cheap
Put on your yarmulka

Calling all thoughtful moderates

My friend Rabbi Horowitz is under attack from the right. His correspondant thinks yeshivot are perfect just as they are, and wishes Rabbi Horowitz would stop attempting to supercede the wisdom of the gedolim with his own. Excerpt:

I was surprised and upset that Mishpacha printed a column which, reading between the lines, recommends going back to the “old school,” where subjects were taught which opened up “more careers” for the students — computers, math, science, etc.

I understand the logic: If the “best schools” would teach subjects which were interesting to children on the brink, these children might remain. Now these schools teach only Gemara, so these children are bored and fall even faster.

If we teach many secular subjects in our school, will Torah giants emerge? Or does that not make a difference? How does Rabbi Horowitz know that it’s more important to save the falling children? Maybe it’s more important to save the ones with true potential to reach the greatest heights?

Rabbi Horowitz is worried that within a few years many children will fall off the derech. I’m afraid that if his plan for the yeshivos is accepted then the children will fall off the derech — if not this generation, perhaps the next. The responsibility of changing the schools based on a doubtful theory is very scary. (Is the dropouts percentage smaller in girls’ schools which teach secular subjects? I don’t think so.)

If you disagree, stop by the Rabbis blog and show him some (platonic) love.

Everything you ever wanted to know about DovBear

but were afraid to ask.

Absence of Self-Awareness Alert

Seven Israeli Bes Yaakov girls were punished this week for daring to stand up during the Yom Hashoa moment of silence. The reason? A moment of silence is "goyish" not Jewish, and those who observe it are embracing a foreign custom.


And, I suppose that once upon a time bes yaakov girls were expelled from school for wearing masks on Purim.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Jewish Israeli Blogosphere Awards

You know what to do

Oded's Award

This picture, by Oded Balilty, was awarded the Pulitzer prize this week for "Breaking news photography." It shows an Israeli women in Amona "resisting dozens of police who have come to evacuate her."

Today's DovBear Challenge: Conspiracy theorists and arm chair media critics are invited to explain how the Pulitzer committee's decision to recognize this photograph "once again" proves that "the media" hates Jews, Israel, settlers, and the religious.

I know you can do it.

Messianic AND Misogynistic?

Actualy, it is not clear if the Chabadnik described here is a Meshichist. His view of woman, though, is clear as day:
At that point, Rabbi E. carefully checked if any women were present ( there weren't) and then gave a whole big drasha on... the halacha of stomping on your bride's foot under the chuppah right after the glass is broken. According to Rabbi E., this is an extremely important halacha (yes, he used that term) because right away the man needs to show his bride who is the boss, who is the mashpia and who will be the mekabel in this relationship. Apparently, there is a machlokes about whether this is allowed when the bride is niddah and so some people have stopped following this rule altogether, but this is a terrible mistake and Rabbi E. is hoping to correct it. He is, in fact, teaching his sons the correct way to behave under the chuppah and he hopes that his audience will take this message to heart and teach their own boys the proper way to start off their marriages as well.
I'd like to know why this moron wasn't chased out of town. What's gone wrong with the Jewish people? Why do we continue to tolerate these outrages?

Hatip: Tzippers

A kind word about Nancy Pelosi

I know you probably don't approve of Nancy's "San Francisco values" (whatever the hell those might be... a fondness for the Giants?) but the speaker still deserves the thanks and appreciation of the Jewish people.

During her face-to-face meeting last week with the Syrian dictator she spoke the following names:

Gilad Shalit
Ehud Goldwasser
Eldad Regev
Guy Hever
Zachary Baumel
Tzvi Feldman
Yehuda Katz
Ron Arad
Eli Cohen

According to her press release:
We requested Assad's help in freeing missing and kidnapped Israeli soldiers including: Gilad Shalit; Ehud Goldwasser; Eldad Regev; Guy Hever; Zachary Baumel; Tzvi Feldman; Yehuda Katz; and Ron Arad. And we requested the return of the remains of Eli Cohen for burial in Israel.
Still think Democrats are unkind to Israel? What else will it take to disabuse you of this foolish notion?

Hattip TTC

Put away your articles of mourning

Many of you have written to say that, of late, my blog's load has been lamentably slow. The offending script has been removed. You may get up from your ashes and sackcloth.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jewish heroism at Virginia Tech

CA writes:

Not only was one of the Va Tech shooting victims Jewish and Israeli, he was a Holocaust survivor -- and he died saving the lives of other potential victims. We spend a lot of our time on these blogs making necessary criticisms of the foibles and errors of Jews, but it's also fitting we should honor those whose who die al kiddush hashem.

Studying on the toilet

From my comments:

"The Rambam studied for being a doctor on the toilet [...]The Vilna Gaon wrote a math book (Kramer's Law) on the toilet as well, likely it would not be allowed in modern universities if written today since the Gaon had no degree (nor a job to my knowledge)."

Rambam: I've never heard this about the Rambam, and even given how little a 13th century physician needed to know, I can't imagine the Rambam taking his expensive scrolls into a smelly fly-filled outhouse to study medicine. My guess, in fact, is that no one brought books into the bathroom until toilets could be flushed.

Gaon: He wrote, according to my friend X, a treatise on mathematics called Ayil Meshulash and (X continues) "there is other evidence that he valued secular knowledge, so I suppose the [toilet] myth developed around that. I don't think it's written anywhere, but rather is a bit of mythical oral culture."

PS: If universities made a habit of rejecting books written by unlettered authors, the four Annus Mirabilis Papers Einstein wrote in 1905 would never have seen the light of day. At the time, he was a patent clerk, with nothing but a teaching diploma from ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

[X will be named on request]

A Tale of Two Tables

Marty tells us that Kiryas Joel Hasidim spent $250,000 to decorate their Rebbe's Seder table.

According to the US Census, the medium family income in Kiryas Joel is $15,372 and 62 percent of the village lives below the poverty level. Wonder how their seder table looked.

Baltimore Steps Up

The leaders of Baltimore's Jewish community have published a letter to the community on pedophilia, and how parents and rabbis can work together to stop it. Boro Park and Lakewood: Now it's your turn.

(A copy of the letter is available on request. Please send a note to


Three notes on Shaving and Sfira

During Nissan, we mourn the 24 thousand, not the 6 million: I expect all of you who wrote in yesterday to say that outward signs of mourning are absolutely, totally, and completely forbidden during Nisan have been shaving. You'd be surprised how many of my RW friends unreflectivly give that particular objection to Yom Hashoa even as they scratch at their stubble.

The Beadle, my British buddy, said this: My Rav mentioned this morning that there is no halacha explicitly stating its forbidden to shave during the Omer. I asked him why most frum people don’t do so then, to which he replied that it’s the most noticeable and easiest way to show how frum you are, even if it’s entirely unnecessary. In other words, it is a temporary extension of the black hat.

Naturally, his remarks offend me deeply.

On Friday, don't forget to shave: Men, women, and children are reminded that if they shave for work during the week, they are supposed to shave for shabos as well. Says Aaron Lichtenstein, the Harvard alum who serves as Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion, "kevod Shabbat takes precedence over mourning customs of the Omer (based on Ta'anit 26b), [therefore] it is not only permissible, but obligatory to shave before Shabbat."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Harry's Howler

In an otherwise okay post arguing that Yom Hashoah protests are rude and worse Harry says: "Whether this day should forever remain the day of observance is a question for posterity. I should not be debated now. Perhaps someday it can be folded into Tisha B’Av along with all other tragedies that befell us"

Uh Harry? All the other tragedies are folded into Tisha Ba'av? You mean like the...

- Loss of Jewish sovreingnty (Tzom Gedalya)
- Loss of Rabbi Akiva's school (Sfira)
- Crusades (Sfira)
- The murder of 34 Jewish men and 17 Jewish women in Blois France, 1171, as a result of the first ritual-murder trial in Europe. Rabbeinu Tam declared a fast day to mark the event. (Kaf Sivan)
- Chelmniki (Kaf Sivan)
- The Monsey chicken disaster (a day of fasting was declared)

And this is just the short list. Jews in every generation have declared the days of fasting, repentance and remeberance. The idea that all tragedies are folded into Tisha B'av is belied by the actual behavior of real Jews.

Great businessmen in Jewish history.

CA writes: Please point your reader to my blog, where I am starting a new series on "great businessmen in Jewish history." I am starting with the unrecognized genius of one Yisroel (Julius) Fromm, who left the shtetl for Berlin and gave the world the first latex condom, ans well as the first condom vending machine, as well as the first branded condom, which is still a bestseller in the Bundesrepublik. A story with some tragedy, by the way. He was forced to sell his condom empire to Goering at a great loss, but managed to escape with his life to exile in London. However, he died of a heart attack only 4 days after the allied victory over the Germans. His son had to buy back rights to the name from a relative of Goering, but, in the end, Fromms condoms proudly remain on sale, though I believe the company have been bought out by a conglomerate named "Mapa."

Go to it

A round of Quality Posts

If you'd like one of your posts listed here, please send a link to me c/o

My annual point about Yom Hashoa

It’s simply not true to say that Tisha B’av is the only appropriate day for mourning the 6 million. We have the long established right to establish, as a community, days for mourning, for repentance, and for remembrance. The proof is on your calendar: During Sefira we remember Rabbi Akiba's school and, per Samsom Repahael Hirsch in Chorev, the Crusades.There's a day for Gedalya's tragedy, and to remember Esther's fast. And for generations Jews remembered the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648(!) on 20 Sivan. Many siddurim even included selichos for that day.

Can you help me understand why these tragedies got days of their own rather than being subsumed into T'bav? If the 6000 Jews killed by Chelminiki merit a day, and the 24 thousand students of Rabbi Akiva merit a month, surely the 6,000,000 can be remembered independant of Tisha B'Av.

In short: Yom Hashoa isn’t rejected by the Haredim “because we have Tisha Bav.” It’s rejected by the Haredim because it wasn’t their idea, with the business about Tisha B’av being a convenient dodge.

Putting it less respectfully.

Kooky comment

Regular readers know I like to share noteworthy comments. Here's one I'm planing to have framed for over my bed:

Yaakov learned in yeshivas shem v'ever for 14 years. No secular subjects. No college. Im sure he would relate to the yeshivas in the chareidi community. He might even join the Mir.

Makes perfect sense. Of course, a bronze age goatherd would feel right at home in a Polish yeshiva. Why not?

Avraham kept the derabans - so he clearly understood the the actual practice of following the Torah is going to be developed and takanos added by the sages of each generation in order to safegaurd the halacha.

How about old Abe! Not only did he he smash idols he also knew what people would say and decide thousands of years after his death. That's a neat trick.

Im not such a follower of DB...


...but this looks like another one of his hashkafic issues with chareidim, that he feels the need to try to push them down. What is it that people say - if youre looking to bring someone down, its probably out of jealousy?

Probably. Of course, anyone using your logic must conclude that the whole of the Haredi Universe is "jealous" of gays, reformers, Young Israel Jews, women, secularists, the college educated, computer users, Sefardim, people who don't wear black hats, etc. etc. etc.

Last word on the Afikomin

As some of you know, an argument has been raging on my threads (300+ comments across three posts) about the meaning of אין מפטירין לאחר הפסח אפיקומון. [Psachim 10:8]

Here's how Herbert Danby translates it: "After the Passover meal they should not disperse to join in revelry." His note reads:
Heb Epikoman [Something (the word Afikomin?) in Greek] Cf. Is 30. The joy of the Passover meal with its solemn symbolism must not denigrate into an ordinary convivial gathering. The traditional interpretation, however, is: "They may not finish with desert."
It's been pointed out to me that the order of the Mishna itself militates against the traditional interpretation. By the time we get to 10:8 the meal is over. The end of Maggid is discussed in 10:6, and 10:7 gives instructions for bentching, hallel and for the third and fourth cups. 10:9 can't mean "don't finish the meal with desert" because the end of the meal and, indeed, the end of the Seder itself are discsussed in 10:8. The proper place to mention a desert prohibition would have been prior to the end of the meal described in 10:7.

An additional last word
"However, the Mishnah (Pesachim 10:8) commentary by Philip Blackman (Judaica Press, 1963) and Marcus Jastrow's Dictionary (page 104; Judaica Press, 1996) point in another direction. They both derive AFIKOMAN (originally, EPIKOMIN) from the Greek EPIKWMON (EPI + KWMOS), "aftermeal entertainment," and EPIKWMOI, "things belonging to the aftermeal. -- Solomon Landers"

Full disclosure: Danby was an Anglican priest and a famous philo-Semite. I wouldn't accept his opinon on a matter of halacha, but I do think he's qualified to tell us the historical meaning of the word "afikomin." He has no dog in the fight, after all- though I suspect many of you (or Yus, at least) will disagree. FWIW I very much enjoy his translation of the Mishna. It's exceedingly well written and compact. The whole book fits comfortably in your hand, allowing you to imagine what studying the Oral Law may have been like when Rebbi first compiled it.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Answer me this....

Answer me this with every ounce of honesty that you can summon from your tainted and subjective human soul: If Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Dovid, Yosef, the Tannaim, the Amoraim, the Geonim, or any of the Rishonim were to time travel into Boro Park would they recognize the rituals, customs and forms represented by the people as authentic and essential to Judaism?

An additional example (as if any more were needed) of the president's chronic mendacity

Speaking to the American legion, your president had the chutzpah to say this:

"...the Democrat leadership in Congress has spent the past 64 days pushing legislation that would undercut our troops just as we're beginning to make progress in Baghdad."

That's right boys and girls! We're FINALLY winning, and those mean old anti-American democrats who snuck into Congress without getting elected or anything are trying to WRECK it, just as the tide or the worm or the moon or whatever is FINALLY starting to turn. FINALLY!

Jon Stewart, a great American, rips the president yet another new one. [Scroll to the clip marked "Progress in Iraq"]

Join me

Attention readers: I've decided you and I are going to start a Society for Truth in Judaism. Other than the name, and the fact that I will be president-for-life and CEO, all I've worked out so far is the logo: My initials in the shape of a torah rising pheonix-like from the ashes of historical ignorance, and accumulated piety. We'll also have refreshments.

Watch this space for more information.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pummeled! Yus gets his clock cleaned again

Really, bro: It's time to give up

Yus: Even Lurker, DovBear's prominent authority for this posting, vanished when I posed the question which is at the heart of this matter:So the question of whether the symposia were respectable affairs, or forums for lewd behavior is not tangential to the issue. This is a central point. Can you resolve this?So I posed this question, and he just vanished.

Lurker: Um...excuse me? My last posting here was one day ago. What are you suggesting, that I should be sitting with bated breath at my computer 24 hours a day, so that I can jump to respond promptly to anything you come along and write? This may come as a shock to you, but I actually have a real life that includes things other than running to answer your postings. Things like going to work, davening, spending time with my family, and going to sleep at night. Let me get this straight: Because you didn't get an instant response, you drew the conclusion that I must have "vanished", cowering away from your withering glare. Man, what an inflated ego you have!Well, I'm not sure if I'm even worthy now of giving an answer, after my long, unexplained absence of an entire day, but what the heck; better late than never: [Read the rest]

Imus Unrepentant. Also Gone

CBS Drops Imus Radio Show Over Racial Remark - New York Times: "[Imus] also expressed bitterness that MSNBC had “pulled the plug” on televising his program less than 12 hours before the fundraiser was to begin. “They got their pound of flesh and made their decision,” he said."

Thanks BSCI

NOTE: CNN is also reporting Imus was fired by CBS. If that's so, Glenn Beck ought to be next, followed quickly by Limbaugh, Hannity, and Savage. If they aren't fired, its clear those suddenly self-righteous media emperors have no clothes. Oh, and, speaking of self-righteous, I'd really like to see Fat Al and Jesse go to a record company to protest they anti-black messages propagated by rap artists. None of this excuses the "nappy-headed ho" remark, but its fair to wonder why the professional protesters bestirred themselves this time, and equally fair to wonder why their protests were, for once, successful.

Four more quality posts

The Friar Yid is a fine friend of this blog, and I am pleased to point you to four of his best posts:

Remember: If you've written a quality post, please send a link to


The unspoken bigotry contained in this letter to Rabbi Horowitz makes my stomach turn. Not to mention the way the way the author attempts to mollycoddle his adult son.

Here's hoping the rabbi sets him straight.

Leave Imus alone

The PC vultures are circling for the bones of one J. Donald Imus, and though I agree with their central complaint, I think there's something disingenuous about the whole campaign.

Let's begin at the beginning: Imus and his pals should not insult young black women - or anyone else. Unfortunately, part of the appeal of the Imus show is that he insults people: Jews, Catholics, Hispanics, Women, and Republicans all have been on the receiving end of the show's dismissive humor.

So it's fair to ask the vultures: Where were you until now? Where were you when Jews were disparaged by Imus and his pals? Why weren't the advertising dollars pulled and the apologies demanded when Imus referred to the "Jewish" management at CBS records and called them "money grubbing bastards?" Or when he "called the book publishers Simon & Schuster “thieving Jews” (Imus in the Morning, 12/15/04), returning to the subject later in the program to offer a mock apology, saying that the phrase he used was “redundant?""

Anyone who cares to look, can find a long list of Imus "offenses", offenses that were for the most part ignored by his audience, and by the A-list guests who clawed over each other to appear on his show. I'm guilty, too. Once, I called into complain after the show's producer, Bernie McGurk, said something horrible about Rabbis and Christian children. The call screener gave me a glib excuse ("Do you hear what Bernie says about priests?") and I remained a listner. Was this because I accept casual bigotry, or because I understand that Imus's equal-opportunity racism is rooted in satire and shock-jockery rather than hate?

I honestly don't know. And though I can recognize the racism in his remark about the Rutgers team, I don't think it's a firing offense. The women weren't abused or denied an opportunity. They were simply insulted, in the way Imus has been insulting people for years. If you're tired of the shtick, vote with your feet. Listen to another morning program. Boycott his advertisers. The rest will take care of itself.