Sunday, November 30, 2008

Breaking: Jewish Press Eats Crow

All honor to the Jewish Press for retracting some of the irresponsible remarks its editorial page made about Barak Obama during the campaign. Money quote: (all emphasis added)

While it's still early - the new president won't take office until January 20 - it appears that many of the concerns voiced on this page and in our community about an Obama administration may have been ill founded. The appointment of Congressman Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff and the expected choice of Senator Hillary Clinton as secretary of state should put to rest fears that Mr. Obama harbors any deep-seated animosity toward the Jewish state.

As has been widely reported, Mr. Emanuel was an IDF civilian volunteer during the first Gulf War, has been an unabashed supporter of Israel while in Congress, and his father fought in the Irgun. The fact that the president-elect chose someone with Mr. Emanuel's background to oversee his White House speaks volumes.

As for Sen. Clinton, she has long erased any reasonable doubt as to where her sympathies are regarding the Middle East. Indeed, she has emerged as one of Israel's strongest Senate supporters of the Jewish state. While we have no doubt that Mr. Obama's apparent selection of Sen. Clinton had a lot to do with domestic politics, it still is instructive that he chose as secretary of state someone with such a strong record on Israel... A secretary of state named Hillary Clinton will assuage many of our doubts. It is also reassuring to hear that Mr. Obama is seriously considering retaining Robert Gates as secretary of defense.

Ok, show of hands: Who else was shocked to see the Jewish Press not only compliment Hillary Clinton, but acknowledge that she's been one of Israel's fabulous friends? I know I was. If Yeshiva World News ever finds the courage to come to a similar realization I'll eat my hat. (Note: It isn't a Borcalino)

All in all, Obama has chosen some very high-quality people-- along with the Jewish Press, even David Brooks, house conservative at the Times has admitted it. Isn't it great to have a grownup in charge?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chabad Emissaries, Israelis Confirmed Among Dead in Mumbai Attacks

Click here , here-and to exercise the old empathy
ברוך די-ין האמת
אל תכסי דמם

I think now this may be a very appropriate tehilim passage to say and mediate on:

ט עָזְרֵנוּ, אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׁעֵנוּ-- עַל-דְּבַר כְּבוֹד-שְׁמֶךָ;וְהַצִּילֵנוּ וְכַפֵּר עַל-חַטֹּאתֵינוּ, לְמַעַן שְׁמֶךָ.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the sake of the glory of Thy name; {N}and deliver us, and forgive our sins, for Thy name's sake.
י לָמָּה, יֹאמְרוּ הַגּוֹיִם-- אַיֵּה אֱלֹהֵיהֶם:יִוָּדַע בַּגֹּיִים לְעֵינֵינוּ; נִקְמַת, דַּם-עֲבָדֶיךָ הַשָּׁפוּךְ.
10 Wherefore should the nations say: 'Where is their God?' {N}Let the avenging of Thy servants' blood that is shed be made known among the nations in our sight.
יא תָּבוֹא לְפָנֶיךָ, אֶנְקַת אָסִיר: כְּגֹדֶל זְרוֹעֲךָ--הוֹתֵר, בְּנֵי תְמוּתָה.
11 Let the groaning of the prisoner come before Thee; according to the greatness of Thy power set free those that are appointed to death;
יב וְהָשֵׁב לִשְׁכֵנֵינוּ שִׁבְעָתַיִם, אֶל-חֵיקָם;חֶרְפָּתָם אֲשֶׁר חֵרְפוּךָ אֲדֹנָי.
12 And render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, {N}wherewith they have reproached Thee, O Lord.
יג וַאֲנַחְנוּ עַמְּךָ, וְצֹאן מַרְעִיתֶךָ-- נוֹדֶה לְּךָ, לְעוֹלָם:לְדוֹר וָדֹר-- נְסַפֵּר, תְּהִלָּתֶךָ.
13 So we that are Thy people and the flock of Thy pasture will give Thee thanks for ever; {N}we will tell of Thy praise to all generations. {P}
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Good Luck Leaving Galut

by the Bray of Fundie (my last post of the week. Possibly the month)

Yesterday DovBear commented:

"The US is a nation of immigrants. All of us came from somewhere and all of us have an equal share. It may not satisfy your masochistic cravings to hear this but in America the gentiles aren't our masters - and they know it."

Human being have an incredible capacity to adapt to adverse situations. Even in the Concentration Camps many inmates developed coping techniques that, in some cases, actually helped them to survive. The downside of this is that having made adaptations people sometimes forget that the natural order of things was their pre-adaptation state.

Ever been to Israel and while you're in a rush when a counter person taking their sweet time purses their fingertips together and tells you Savlanut! SAVLANUT...? The Khidushei Ho'Rim (first Gerrer Rebbe zy"a) teaches us that the nascence of the redemptive process is when the captive/slave/exile reaches the end of his/her coping rope. He understands the verse ו לָכֵן אֱמֹר לִבְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲנִי יְהוָה, וְהוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מִתַּחַת סִבְלֹת מִצְרַיִם to mean (as in the modern Israeli parlance) "and I will bring you out from under the ability to tolerate of the Egyptians". In other words before geulah redemption can begin we need a Network moment. Among other things this probably addresses the issue of the futility of removing the slavery form bondage if you haven't removed the bondage from the slave.

The most dangerous nadir of any diaspora, the moment when the Tikva shnot alpayim might just flame out, is the moment when we get SO adapted to the situation, so unambivalently comfortable in the galut that we feel completely at home. Equal to our neighbors. The same as everyone else. if for no other reason THIS is why the American Diaspora represents an unprecedented danger to the Galut Jew.

No dear DovBear I beg to differ. The US is a melting pot nation. All of us have been homogenized into one vast undifferentiated mass. It may not satisfy your smug, comfortable, Havdala oblivious delusions to hear this but in America the gentiles are our masters - and the Jews don't even know it. America is the opiate of the Jews.

Woe to the slave that has so adapted to his slavery that it feels like mastery. Such a slave is not merely in Bondage...he is hopeless.

Gut Shabbos and through getting mad as hell and not wanting to take it any more may we all be zokheh to the יום שכולו שבת בב"א


If you are completely comfortable in Golus America then Buy Dov's book. Just don't expect to leave anytime soon.( please)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

An Ingrate's Thanksgiving

By the Bray of Fundie

Let me save DovBear the trouble. What follows is a magical thinking, mouth breathing, knuckle dragging, reactionary screed. The stupid in it burns to the third degree. It is in no way reflective of the opinions and outlooks of either DovBear or of any of the other August team members and it is boring and poorly written to boot!

Around here one hears the constant refrain of the USA being a מדינה של חסד= a Country of Loving-kindness and that our Gilded Golus in this sanctuary of Church-State separation has indeed been a Golden Age Diaspora unparalleled in Jewish History. Ans while it's undeniable that there is much to be grateful for, everything from penicillin to kosher sushi, there are many ways that America has been "bad for the Jews" in unprecedented ways. Below I submit a heartfelt but by no means comprehensive list:

We offer no thanks to a country and culture- that has served as an enabler for the most rampant intermarriage rate in Jewish History.

We offer no thanks to a country and culture- that has caused more Jews to assimilate and at a rapider pace than at any other time in Jewish History.

We offer no thanks to a country and culture- that has provided the most fertile soil in which so-called Jewish movements (Reconstructionist and Humanist Judaism to name a few) antithetical to Torah Judaism have taken root and flourished.

We offer no thanks to a country and culture-that is so sex-saturated that people have been reduced to walking talking libidos and where the sexualization of children rages unabated. This causes overcompensation among shlomei emunah manifesting itself in increased actual and cultural ghettoization and onerous and absurd chumras.

We offer no thanks to a country and culture-that so glorifies conspicuous consumption that the culture, including Jewish subculture grows ever more selfish, narcissistic, tasteless, showy and grotesque.

We offer no thanks to a country and culture-that is more secular than a supermarket . Whose intellectual elite broadcasts explicit and implicit messages that ALL Deists of any stripe are, by definition, abject ignorant morons unfit to partake in society or dialogues that concern public policy

We offer no thanks to a country and culture-that lionizes and aggrandizes empty-headed and soulless entertainers, mafiosi and sports figures and marginalizes teachers, Doctors and soldiers.

We offer no thanks to a country and culture-that eats drinks and abuses drugs way too much and that has created legions of obese addicts while draining the resources of third world countries over-fished and treated food-source animals inhumanely in the process.

We offer no thanks to a country and culture- that is addicted to fossil fuels and stubbornly refuses to develop alternative energy sources thus strengthening the hands of Israel's worst enemies.

We offer no thanks to a country and culture- that has created a culture of entitlement providing social welfare programs that rob our youth of initiative and industry and that tempts them with lives of indolence and fraud among other things filling Kollel benches with many mediocrities that don't belong there.

We offer no thanks to a country and culture- who's credo is "You are what you owe" and who's easy access to credit coupled with the above mentioned conspicuous consumerism has contributed mightily to a generation of Jews saddled with crushing debt and faced with the sad dilemma of deciding whether it is nobler to be פושט יד= schnorring for handouts or פושט רגל= absconding from fiscal responsibility by declaring bankrupcty.

and finally...

We offer no thanks to a country and culture-that insists on having the perennially awful Detroit Lions be one of the two host teams for it's Turkey day Football offerings. The games are NEVER competitive and this is bad for the football fans, Jewish and non-Jewish alike!

While I am no Reverend Wright shouting an angry "G-d D**n America" I think it is high-time that we reassess this land and it's culture as an unmixed, unmitigated blessing. While it is a land and culture abounding in eclectic blessings it is our historical job as Jews to make havdala and distill the pure good from the bad dross currently mixed into it.

Of course the USA is an undeniable מדינה של חסד= a Country of Loving-kindness, but maybe it's time for us to recognize another level of meaning and translation of the word " חסד= as in the following passage:

יז וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-יִקַּח אֶת-אֲחֹתוֹ בַּת-אָבִיו אוֹ בַת-אִמּוֹ וְרָאָה אֶת-עֶרְוָתָהּ וְהִיא-תִרְאֶה אֶת-עֶרְוָתוֹ, חֶסֶד הוּא--וְנִכְרְתוּ, לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי עַמָּם; עֶרְוַת אֲחֹתוֹ גִּלָּה, עֲו‍ֹנוֹ יִשָּׂא.
17 And if a man shall take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness: it is a shameful thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people: he hath uncovered his sister's nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity.

Sometimes love and kindness misdirected to targets one is too closely related to can have disastrous results. The resulting children are afflicted with an Appalachian imbecility. Odd that this nation that is so tolerant and embracing of it's Jews has produced the most illiterate, imbecilic, havdala/qedusha oblivious Jewry of all time.

If you are still convinced that this is the Goldeneh Medineh and an oasis of unmixed blessing for Jews then by all means Buy Dov's book. (please)

Giving a Loud "No Thanks"...a Guide for the Havdala Oblivious

By the Bray of Fundie

Qedushas Hazman= the sanctity of time is one of the great challenges to Havdala Consciousness, second only to Qedushas Haneshama= the sanctity of soul in it's ephemeral, unseen nature and in it's counter-intuitiveness to all the empirical evidence. How is a Saturday any different from a Friday or a Sunday? Other than the likely absence of inclement weather how is a week in the spring when we eat unleavened bread any different than a week in the fall when we sit in booth? What is it about the 10th of Tishrei, NOT the 9th nor the 11th that compels us to fast?

Yet it is in z'manim that the Creator of both soul, time and space chose to implement his Havdala program for the cosmos...

יד וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, יְהִי מְאֹרֹת בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם, לְהַבְדִּיל, בֵּין הַיּוֹם וּבֵין הַלָּיְלָה; וְהָיוּ לְאֹתֹת וּלְמוֹעֲדִים, וּלְיָמִים וְשָׁנִים.
14 And God said: 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years;

Moadim are a uniquely Jewish concept as Rashi comments ad locum : For seasons.55
[This is said] concerning the future. For Israel will be commanded concerning the holidays which are reckoned by the new moon.

Time as measured and governed by the celestial bodies is about havdala and creating "space" for sacred times, time to commune with G-d and with one another.

We already have a Thanksgiving Holiday...It is called Khanukah וקבעו שמונת ימי חנוכה אלו להודות ולהללWe already have a Family-get-together-around-a-big-festive-meal Holiday...It's called Pesakh. So when we observe Thanksgiving today we rob those otheres of their uniquness. We reschedule our appointed times/dates (Moed) with G-d and with one another. We declare non equations to eqaute. Most perverse of all the true Jewish Tahnksgiving -Khanuka's- major subplot is the havdala bein Yisrael L'amim by vanquishing the greeks who were hellbent on erasing this havdala.

So when Turkey=matzah and cranberry sauce= Marror then Matzah is not Matzah and Marror is not Marror.

If you can't tell the difference between a Tahnksgiving Turkey and a Pesakh K'naeidel then by all means Buy DovBear's book. (please)

Mumbai, India...Say Tehilim (click)

for -Gavriel Noach ben Freida Bluma Rivkah bas Yehudis and their son Moshe Tzvi Ben Rivkah. Commandos will be raiding the Chabad House soon. --------
if you don't own a Tehilim Buy Dovid haMelekh's book. (please)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A cornucopia of savory Thanksgiving posts

Pull up a chair

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Defending drug dealers

A Guest Post by Rafi G.
(cross-posted from LII soon)

Should Israel Help them? Eitan Haber writes in Ynet about the phenomenon of Israelis demanding Israel rescue their relatives in danger in other countries.

There is something beautiful about the fact that we feel the need to protect jews around the world. I have written about it before. We hear about backpackers in Chile or Peru that fall off a cliff and Israel sends a search team. We hear about various calamities around the world in which an Israeli gets himself caught in the middle of trouble, and Israel sends some sort of extraction team.

Jameel wrote about this being a symptom of the "Magia lee" attitude.

I want to know wher the Foreign Ministry, or any other government office, was when Pollard was caught and sent to rot in jail. Where were they when Gilad Shalit was taken hostage and sent to rot somewhere in Gaza. Where were they when Arad, Baumel, Katz and Feldman were taken captive and sent to rot in some cell in Iran or Kebanon.

Do we only defend drug dealers? Jerks like these two idiots and like Elchonon Tenenbaum (who got himself kidnapped in Lebanon during a drug deal), are the people we "go to the end of the world" to free. People who sacrificed themselves for Israel are let to rot while we expend ourselves around the world for stupid backpackers who can't stay on a trail, and for drug dealers.

Another thing, and this I left in the commenst by Jameel - why do they deserve our help in Thailand? Because they were given the death penalty? And what in essence were they giving to the people who were going to be buying their product? they were giving them the death penalty, as many of them would end up dropping dead from drug overdose, suicide, gang and turf wars that are drug related, and the like.

So why should we defend them and save them from the death penalty, when they were going to be giving the death penalty to many more people. And those people we would have let die without batting an eye. We would have said, just another druggie... but the dealers we have to protect.

Buy DB's book. (please)

this month's winner of Chumrah of the Month...

A Guest Post by Rafi G.
(originally posted on LII)

I just heard one of the greatest chumrah shticks of all time. Hands down winner of Chumrah of the Month club.

A very qualified woman applied for a job as kindergarten teacher (in Hebrew: gannenet) in a chain of local kindergartens. She comes with degrees and certifications from the best of seminaries and organizations she previously worked for.

They rejected her application.

The Husband contacted the administrator of the kindergartens and asked why she was rejected.

The response was because "your wife wears a blond sheitel. It is impossible to hire a blond gannenet to teach the children of avreichim, as it can cause them to falter..."

I am just not sure if the winner of Chumrah of the Month is either:
  1. Not to hire blond kindergarten teachers
  2. only hire ugly kindergarten teachers (by definition the response was saying only blondes can be pretty enough to be machshil the avreich, but a brunette could not possibly be pretty enough).
Either way, it is the hands down winner.

If she really needs to job, a solution would be for her to wear a dark sheitel to work. Or maybe it would not be allowed because that would be g'neivas da'as. But then again, maybe she is not really a blond and only wears blond sheitels because she thinks it makes her prettier....

Buy DB's book. (please)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanks to this month's nadvan

Hanukkah Gifts

This Chanukah, treat your guests with Hanukkah
thank your host with a Hanukkah gift Baskets and delight your kids with Chanukah Gelt All from Oh! Nuts. As the leading source for kosher candy, chocolates, nuts and gifts, Oh! Nuts is fully stocked with all your Chanukah party and Chanukah gift needs.

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How stupid is Sarah Palin?

The scary thought bouncing around my brain is that she might not be that stupid at all. This week she gave an interview at a turkey farm, while a burly man with a big smile stood behind her slaughtering turkeys. Sounds clueless, and of course it tempting to write the whole thing off as as poor media planning, but maybe not... Conservative idiots seem to love it.

Some (like Moron Menken the Mendacious) are having loads of fun pretending the so-called liberal media gives a damn, and are having a gay old time hurling around invectives like "elitist" and "hypocrite." Others on the right just seem to get the warm and fuzzies when something dies, and are praising Palin for her indelicate non-PC behavior. The rest of them think "God had a purpose" for her doing the interview, and are planning to order extra double helpings of turkey this weekend just to piss off liberals.

You have to figure someone on the governor's staff expected this.

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Platonic Relationships Redux

Another long guest post by JS:

I would have written this post earlier, but I couldn't stop thinking of all my female friends...

One of the main issues people seem to have with TO's post is exactly how one defines a Platonic friendship. I would define it as a friendship - a sharing of thoughts, feelings, emotions, trust, etc - that not only does not have a physical sexual component, but sexual thoughts are absent, or nearly absent from the relationship and if present are only fleeting and inconsequential and have no adverse bearing on the friendship itself.

As I understand it, Chareidim believe in separating the sexes as much as possible for the following reason: it is impossible to have a friendship between a man and a woman that is halachically acceptable. The relationship will either lead to an inappropriate physical relationship or to the man (or woman, I suppose) having inappropriate thoughts.

As has been pointed out, many people, including non-Jewish experts believe the exact same thing. I would note that these same people are not forcing segregation of the sexes through separate schools, separate seating at weddings and other events, walking on opposite sides of the street, etc. The difference being that Chareidim see the possible results of the friendship not just as "inappropriate" but as a serious sin. As Bray would I'm sure like me point out, this is in line with the Ramban's introduction to Parshat Kedoshim where he explains that kedusha is more than just following the letter of the mitzvot, it is following the spirit of the Torah as well.

I don't disagree with the philosophy of the Chareidim (especially as laid out by the Ramban), but I do disagree with the practice.

1) Simple human nature tells you that if you say something is forbidden a person will desire it more. This doesn't mean we shouldn't forbid wrongful acts, but it does mean we shouldn't forbid innocent acts. This is the lesson of Chava (Eve) who wrongfully said she was forbidden from touching the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil when in actuality she was just forbidden from eating from it. It is this wrongful forbidding of an innocent act that led to her desire and sin.

2) It promotes an all or nothing approach to mitzvot and aveirot. Similar to #1, once Chava touched the tree and saw nothing happened, she had no inhibitions against eating from the tree. Similarly, so much emphasis is placed on the innocent act, that when it is violated it doesn't just end there, many more violations ensue. Life is more nuanced, there are shades of gray between the white and black. This type of approach encourages one to see things in a binary manner, such that when one falters one falls.

3) It can lead to an abuse of power by those in control. By forbidding contact between the sexes, an entire people are dependant on shadchanim and the various rules and customs imposed by the shidduch scene. This is what is leading to the shidduch crisis moreso than anything. Those who aren't upright can exhibit sexual control over others which is just wrong. Similarly, completely forbidding outside influences like TV, secular books, newspapers, music, Internet, etc can lead the unscrupulous to fully control the hearts and minds of their followers on numerous issues due to lack of knowledge.

4) It promotes antiquated gender roles. If all a man sees growing up is women who have children, care for those children, cook, clean, and take care of men and never sees a woman in any other context, he will think women are only capable of this.

5) The sexes will have no concept of how to interact beyond established gender roles and will need to seek out rabbinical therapeutic help when more intimate issues arise. People who have been separated from the opposite gender don't understand how they think, how they behave, how they react, how they respond emotionally or intellectually, etc. Their interactions become stilted and remain along gender lines - a wife shows her love by cooking, a man shows his love by learning or taking the children to shul. Maybe this is controversial, but that's never stopped me before, there are many Chareidim who have genuine marital trouble for this reason and in particular problems in the bedroom - there are numerous sites and therapists out there now that this issue is being recognized more.

6) Interacting with the opposite gender can not only be harmless but can be highly beneficial. Someone who is around women often, doesn't think of them as purely sexual objects. Similarly, one who sees a woman's elbows or ankles daily doesn't find these parts of a woman's body terribly alluring. I won't say that men don't look at women sexually even if they are used to them being around. However, for most men, I think this sexualization takes place on a highly impersonal level - walking past a woman on the street, sitting next to a stranger on a train. Also, it is generally brief and not a lingering feeling. When one knows a woman, these feelings go in one of two directions, they expand and the man wants to date the woman (or have an affair if he married and a sleaze) or they diminish and disappear or become nearly nonexistent. For the man in the first category, he is like an alcoholic and should stop before the first drink. For everyone else, the benefits of a friendship with a woman are many and provide something that just "hanging out with the guys" does not. However, I will acknowledge that there are boundaries put in place subconsciously or even consciously in male-female interactions simply because no one wants to slip into that first category. I don't see how this diminishes the friendship just because there are limits. For example, I don't talk about every aspect of my life with my male friends - I don't talk about anything personal between my wife and I with my friends. But more commonly, I have male friends I talk about sports with but not my job, and those I talk to about my job but not what I like to read, etc. We compartmentalize our friends naturally and seek out people for certain types of interactions and others for other types of interactions, yet they're still our friends.

To wrap up and talk about sexual feelings in a friendship, it seems some want to diminish it as the guy may harbor desires that are never acted upon and the woman never knows about. So what? This is the age old question posed by Aristotle as to whether a person can be happy if everyone he thinks is his friend treats him as such but completely unbeknownst to him hate him. It has no answer, we only know and feel what our senses tell us. Lastly, acknowledging or feeling someone looks good does not necessarily have to be sexual just as being upset at someone doesn't mean you experience hatred.

Buy DB's book. (please)

Where's Yitzchak?

A guest post by JS:

Reading through the parshiot, Yitzchak is simply nowhere to be found when you most expect him to be present.

At the beginning of the Akeida, we are told:
ג וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם בַּבֹּקֶר, וַיַּחֲבֹשׁ אֶת-חֲמֹרוֹ, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-שְׁנֵי נְעָרָיו אִתּוֹ, וְאֵת יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ; וַיְבַקַּע, עֲצֵי עֹלָה, וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלֶךְ, אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר-אָמַר-לוֹ הָאֱלֹהִים.
22:3 And Abraham rose early in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he cleaved the wood for the burnt-offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

And yet, at the end of the Akeida, we are told:
יט וַיָּשָׁב אַבְרָהָם אֶל-נְעָרָיו, וַיָּקֻמוּ וַיֵּלְכוּ יַחְדָּו אֶל-בְּאֵר שָׁבַע; וַיֵּשֶׁב אַבְרָהָם, בִּבְאֵר שָׁבַע.
22:19 So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Be'er Sheva; and Abraham dwelt at Be'er Sheva.

Where's Yitzchak? We're only told that Avraham and the two young men go to Be'er Sheva. Afterwards, we're told that Sarah dies. Again, where's Yitzchak? He is never mentioned at all in connection to her death, her mourning, her eulogy, or her burial. We know Yitzchak cared deeply about his mother (see Bresihit 24:67).

And later, when Avraham dies, Yitzchak is elsewhere. This is in direct contrast to Yitzchak himself who had Yaakov nearby when he died (see Breishit 35:27-9), and Yaakov who had his children and grandchildren nearby when he died (see Breishit 49:33). Furthermore, each of the patriarchs blesses his children before his death, except Avraham; Avraham does not bless Yitzchak before his death (and obviously cannot since Yitzchak is nowhere to be found). Instead, Hashem blesses Yitzchak immediately after Avraham's death (and seemingly on behalf of Avraham, see Breishit 25:11).

So what's going on here? Where's Yitzchak? We are told:
סב וְיִצְחָק בָּא מִבּוֹא, בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי; וְהוּא יוֹשֵׁב, בְּאֶרֶץ הַנֶּגֶב.
24:62 And Isaac came from the way of Be'er La'chai Ro'i; for he dwelt in the land of the South.

And later:
יא וַיְהִי, אַחֲרֵי מוֹת אַבְרָהָם, וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים, אֶת-יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ; וַיֵּשֶׁב יִצְחָק, עִם-בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי.
11 And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed Isaac his son; and Isaac dwelt by Be'er La'chai Ro'i.

And yet, what is Be'er L'Chai Ro'i? It's the well Hagar named after she ran away from Sarah:
יג וַתִּקְרָא שֵׁם-יְהוָה הַדֹּבֵר אֵלֶיהָ, אַתָּה אֵל רֳאִי: כִּי אָמְרָה, הֲגַם הֲלֹם רָאִיתִי--אַחֲרֵי רֹאִי.
יד עַל-כֵּן קָרָא לַבְּאֵר, בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי--הִנֵּה בֵין-קָדֵשׁ, וּבֵין בָּרֶד.
16:13 And she called the name of the LORD that spoke unto her, Thou art a God of seeing; for she said: 'Have I even here seen Him that seeth Me?'
16:14 Wherefore the well was called Be'er La'chai Ro'i; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

Partial answer: I think the Akeida was a deeply traumatic experience for Yitzchak. While Avraham soared to new spiritual heights, Yitzchak sunk to psychological lows. I believe he could not bear to be around Avraham after the Akeidah, to the extent that even though he loved his mother deeply, he couldn't bring himself to be there for her funeral because Avraham was there. Similarly, Yitzchak is not there when Avraham is about to die. And yet, perhaps ironically, it is family that was most important to Yitzchak. I believe this is why he had Sarah's tent and why he disappears until Rivkah shows up. It takes a Rivkah who embodies chesed to start to bring Yitzchak out of his depression - to start to recreate the family bonds that were shattered by the Akeida. I believe this is why Yitzchak settles near the well that Hagar ran to. Because, this is where the family started to fall apart and this is where Hashem promised that nonetheless it would be OK, Yishmael would be alright. I believe this is also why Yitzchak tries to intercede with God on behalf of Rivkah and never seeks out another wife. While Avraham prays for a son, he never prays that Sarah should have a son. And this is what Yitzchak is all about, he desperately wants a cohesive family and wants what only Yaakov was able to finally achieve - a family unit united in worship of Hashem. Perhaps this is also why he is so attached to Esav. Esav is a hunter, like Yishmael was. If God blessed Yishmael, his brother, who was a hunter, surely God would accept Esav as well. Alas it was not meant to be, which is perhaps why Yitzchak shudders so powerfully when he realizes he has blessed the wrong child - it is a sign from God that Yitzchak's plan is not meant to be, Esav has been rejected, and the family will be torn apart again.

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WCBS "NEWS": NYC's Hasidic Using Internet For Sexual Escape

I saw the broadcast last night, having been tricked into thinking it would actually be something of substance. My main objection was this: At every commercial break the heavily-coiffed anchorman said something like "Coming up next: Hasidic Jews who break their marriage vows."

Each time he said this, I felt like reaching through the screen and throttling him. Marriage vows? What marriage vows? I made no marriage vows. No Jew does. Vows are not part of the Jewish wedding ceremony. If a major news station is going to put together a whole big expose for the purpose of embarrassing a community and/or driving up ratings can't they do six seconds of elementary research first?

The big expose itself was mostly a bust. Two heavily disguised Jews confessed their own personal sins for the camera, and that was it This one cheated on his wife with an Internet harpie. That one met a nice man in a chat room. Rah rah. Big deal. You can find more about what really happens between Hasidic sex fiends reading blogs. And those of you ready to scream media bias can hold your tongues: The reporter went overboard emphasizing that most Jews are loyal to their spouses and wouldn't dream of screwing around on the side. By declaring that the two Hasidic swingers he found (no doubt via a routine Google search for Hasid + "have sex with me") the reporter undermined his entire report.... but at least he was honest about it

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Stewart Sings!

You may have missed it, but Jon Stewart stopped by Steven Colbert's sing-along send-up of stupid Christmas Specials to do a song about Chanukah. No Jews were hurt.

NB: Take note of Stewart's face as he suffers through his song. The mask of impatient discomfort he's wearing is the look of a Jew trapped by a too-merry Christians into explaining Judaism. Its a look that says: "Buddy, you're not going to appreciate this, so why are you bothering me?" I've worn it myself, and all credit to Stewart for injecting that bit of realism into his performance.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

What's preventing peace in the Middle East?

Israeli politics, said Dr. Condi Rice. Not Arab mendacity. Not terrorism. Not Hamas. Hezbollah, or Islamic Jihad. Not Iran, and not Iraq. ISRAELI POLITICS are the problem. Or at least that's what the lady said. Money quote:
The fact that Israel and the Palestinians have not reached a peace agreement and will likely fail to do so by the end of 2008 is "largely due to" political turmoil in Israel, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday night. "Even though there was not an agreement by the end of the year, it is really largely because of the political situation in Israel," Rice told reporters.
You'll want to mark this post, liberal true-believers. If Hillary gets the job at Foggy Bottom, we're going to have to work over time reminding RWers about Bush's Secretary of State.


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Platonic relationships possible?

A guest post by TikunOlam

On the thread of my "What goes on in the bushes" post, one commenter wrote:

. . .The question of “is a real plutonic (sic) relationship possible between members of the opposite sex” is an age old question across all ethnicities and cultures. Anonymous | 11.24.08 - 11:03 am | #

Earlier, this is what JS had to say:

. . .In Chareidi society you only associate with the opposite sex for one reason and one reason only: to get married. Thus, interpersonal relationships between the sexes have only one purpose: sex. Thus, anyone who wants to or does associate with the other sex can only have illicit intentions. The idea of a platonic friendship, or even the idea of people liking each other but not acting on these feelings, seems impossible to a mentality where every inter-gender relationship is only sexual.To me, the biggest shame is that the opposite sex is looked at solely as a sexual object and not as a person. Thus, there are very strict gender roles, and anyone who tries to break these roles is too sexual and immoral.JS | 11.24.08 - 10:43 am | #

Where I stand:

I think the key is in where JS said, "the idea of a platonic friendship, or even the idea of people liking each other but not acting on these feelings, seems impossible to a mentality where every inter-gender relationship is only sexual."

I know that men and women can have platonic friendships. Not all men and women who are friends are attracted to each other in a sexual way. And as JS said, if there is an attraction between the two grown adults, they are fully capable of choosing not to act on that attraction. To say that platonic friendships are impossible, is to say humans are walking ids. They aren't. And those that are, won't be stopped by any rules forbidding them to associate with members of the opposite sex as walking ids tend to ignore rules like that.

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A schism in the house of Cross?

Toby Katz, writing on Cross Currents: It was a Rashi in last week’s parsha: Esav sonei le’Yakov. Our brother Esav tends to hate us, and anti-Semitism has a way of popping up again when and where you least expect it.

DovBear explaining why she's wrong on Cross Currents: It’s not a “Rashi”. It’s a quote from Shimon Bar Yochai that Rashi cites, and you’ve managed to mangle it. The quote doesn’t say that Esav the nation hates Jacob the nation. It says Esav the individual hated Jacob the individual which is obvious from the context.

Yaakov Menken defending her on Cross Currents: Toby Katz didn’t mangle anything at all, she merely knows how to read Rashi and Medrash.... What Mrs. Katz said was a simple matter that we all know to be part of Jewish tradition, [my emphasis] and hardly one to continue harping upon.

Yitzchak Alderstan siding with DovBear on Cross Currents: A third reason [for racism] can be found in the selective reading and misappropriation of rabbinic texts. [my emphasis] Many people “know” that all non-Jews hate all Jews. Chazal said so. הלכה היא בידוע שעשיו שונא את יעקב. Underscoring “halacha” means that this is a fixed, immutable rule. Just how Esav turned into all non-Jews, rather than just one group of them, is a bit of a mystery. In fact, I have a hard time figuring out how Esav the person turned into Esav the nation. Searching a few Torah databases a few years ago, I could find no source before the end of the 19th century that took Esav to mean a group of people, rather than Esav the biblical figure [my emphasid[] – who had every reason to hate Yaakov! Moreover, it is not at all clear whether the word “halacha” belongs there. One source has הלא instead of “halacha.” [and as I have noted the Saperstein chumash translates halacha as "fact" is in, Esav the person's hatred for Yaakov the person was a known fact]

Do you think Menken will tell his co-blogger that Toby's racist reading is more in keeping with Jewish tradition? Do you think he'll tell R' Alderstan that he's misread the Rashi? Do you think he'll concede that I was right all along?

Yeah, me neither.

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Pidyon Shvuyim= Redeeming Captive Prisoners...

Is the highest priority in Tzedakah. But Does this qualify?

By the Bray of Fundie

I confess to reading in this weeks (Ughhh) Yated (page 67) that Rabbi Tal Ginter has run up over 30K in legal expenses and is collecting for himself saying it's for "pidyon shvuyim." Can redeeming captives work retroactively?

If you think that it does send contributions for the legal defense fund to

Global Jewish Network
770 Empire Blvd. @ 2F
Brooklyn, NY 11213
If you feel that Jews who break laws of the land should not be bailed out then Buy Dov's book. (please)

Still Think the Anti-Prop (H)Eight Crowd Are An Innocuous Bunch? (CLICK)

by the Bray of Fundie

Frumster and Saw You at your backs.

Fastest growing religion members Buy Dov's book. It will confirm all your suspcions about Judaism. (please)

Quality Post

What's the fastest growing religion in the US? The answer may surprise you. Read it on CA's blog.

Additionally CA writes:

I have had a strange and possibly disturbing experience with some non-Jewish colleagues. Perhaps your legions of knowledgeable readers, and also the Bray of Fundie, could comment and give me some suggestions.

As I told you, I am currently in [flyover country] for business reasons. After work today, we all retired to to the pool at the motel and started drinking beer. Our conversation was friendly, and moved from politics (the county I am visiting went for McCain, but the colleagues are all Democrats), the fools in management, the dark starry night sky, the strange moving lights in the sky that might just be the red-eye to LA, but might also be alien space ships, and the nature of the world to come.

At this point we started talking about religion, and one guy, who works for our contractor and is my opposite number on this job (and who also knows that I'm Jewish, as he teases me about ordering the spare ribs at lunch) made a comment that suggested he considered Jews to be a variety of Christians. I tried to set him straight, but he was having trouble wrapping his mind around the concept. One of the younger techs, a Latino guy, nearly fell off his chair laughing at this and was trying to help me out. I tried to explain to him that, yes, Jesus was a Jew, but that Paul had rebranded the minor Jewish sect into a different product altogether. He was still having trouble with the concept, so I promised to discuss it in more detail the next day when we were sober.

Now this guy is a Catholic. And he somehow got the idea that Jews were just another kind of Protestant, or something. I mean, someone should look into the curricula of the Catholic school system, though I have to admit that I prefer this sort of reaction to being accused of killing "Christ." It just kind of amazes me at how ignorant people are, and this guy is otherwise pretty well informed. Should I offer to go to his church on Sunday and preach a sermon to explain the difference?

Incidentally, I had the same experience once with a very white, very waspy, very well educated professional, who having just returned from what he called a very inspiring Easter service asked with evident pain and surprise "and Jesus has nothing to do with your religion at all?"
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Smooth Stone Stupidity

The war on Obama's birth certificate continues to rage over at SmoothStone, where still another paranoid yet obsessively anti-Obama blog owner has turned Occam's razor on its head.

Recently, some high-ranking Kenyan told an American radio station Barak Obama's Kenyan birthplace is both "well known" and "already an attraction." Per the facts already in evidence this is impossible. We have Obama's birth certificate, and its been validated by Hawaiin officials; also no one suggests that that Obama's mother went abroad during the year he was born or conceived. Therefore, any Obama birthplace in Kenya must be a hoax. (and never mind the inherent absurdity of the accusation, as if a major party candidate for president would risk everything with a lie about his own status that could be uncovered with a simple check of state health records.) <- Snopes paraphrase)

But, instead of taking the parsimonious, evidence-based approach and concluding that the Kenyan bureaucrat misunderstood the question and/or misspoke, SS gets a little too happy and almost cartwheels across the page calling the Kenyan's statement an admission. Yes, yes. An admission, as in we've got you now Barak! Then, taking a page from the gematriya goons, he attempts to seal the deal with anti-Obama anagram. You almost have to feel a little sorry for the smoothstoner....

Friday, November 21, 2008

Parsha Notes (Chayei Sarah)

What follows is yet another instalment of the latest DovBear series (remember this one?) in which I will attempt to briefly summarize all that is odd and interesting about the current Parsha. [Others] You are strongly encouraged and absolutely permitted to print and distribute these discussions, preferably by leaving them on the shulchan at your favorite place of prayer.

Post shabbos wisdom in red

Chayei Sarah

What everyone should know:
The Talmud presents a view that Abraham had a daughter, based on the verse: "And the Lord blessed Abraham with everything." And what's everything without a daughter? (The Talmud shares a second view on this. One of the Rabbis argues that Abraham had everything specifically he had no daughter, and therefore no worries about marring her off.)

Famous Argument
- Did Sarah die right after the akeida? Unclear. Those who say she did have Rashi and the juxtaposition of the stories to hang their hats on; also the verse says "Abraham came", and the Midrash says he was coming from the akeida. Others more plausibly point to the verses that say that after the akeida Abraham and his entourage "rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba," while Sarah died in Chevron. [more]

- Was Keturah another name for Hagar? Probably not, though an often unremarked upon bit of evidence is this: when Yitzchak meets Rachel, we're told he's just returned from Bear Lachi Ro'ee, but no reason for his trip is given. Hagar's last know place of residence, per the text, is Bear Lachi Ro'ee, which supports the possibility that Yitzchak was the agent who brought Hagar back to his father.

Famous Rashi:
Genesis 24:39: Per Rashi, Abraham's servant wanted his own daughter to marry Isaac. How did Rashi know this? See my explanation here and here

Famous Vort
- During Abraham's negotiation with Ephron, the phrase "Kvor maysecha/ bury your dead" is used six times,while the words "v'es maysicha kvor/ and your dead go and bury" is said once. This corresponds to the seven people buried in Machpayla. The first six - the Patriarchs and their wives - were righteous, and the righteous never really die; correspondingly six times burial is mentioned before death. The last to be interred in the cave was Esav, who, arguably, was non righteous. The mention of death before burial refers to him. (Vilna Gaon)

Abraham has been assured again and again that all of the Land will be his, yet he's forced to bargain for a death plot with the Hittites. This, I suppose, is why Rabenu Yona considered this episode Abraham's final test.

(1) Gen 23:5-6: וַיַּעֲנוּ בְנֵי־חֵת אֶת־אַבְרָהָם לֵאמֹר לֹו שְׁמָעֵנוּ אֲדֹנִי נְשִׂיא אֱלֹהִים אַתָּה בְּתֹוכֵנוּ בְּמִבְחַר קְבָרֵינוּ קְבֹר אֶת־מֵתֶךָ אִישׁ מִמֶּנּוּ אֶת־קִבְרֹו לֹא־יִכְלֶה מִמְּךָ מִקְּבֹר מֵתֶךָ׃
Gen 23:14 וַיַּעַן עֶפְרֹון אֶת־אַבְרָהָם לֵאמֹר לֹו אֲדֹנִי שְׁמָעֵנִי אֶרֶץ אַרְבַּע מֵאֹת שֶׁקֶל־כֶּסֶף בֵּינִי וּבֵינְךָ מַה־הִוא וְאֶת־מֵתְךָ קְבֹר׃
In both places the MT gives "lo / to him" which is a problem because nowhere else in the story in the formula "לֵאמֹר לֹו" employed (see verses 8,10, and 13 where its לֵאמֹר alone) Alter suggests that in the two instances where the MT gives lo, the word isn't lo but "lu / pray." He notes that "lu adoni / Pray, my Lord" is a formal, polite way to introduce negotiations.

(2) Gen 25:8 ויגוע וימת אברהם בשיבה טובה זקן ושבע ויאסף אל־עמיו׃
The MT has only "sated." The Peshita, the LXX and the Samaritan give us the more common "sated with years"

(3) Bethuel is present at one point in the story but missing at others. Rashi, following the midrash, tell us he died during the night. Using ANE documents which describe how bridal negotiations were conducted in that time and place, Robert Alter gives another view.

(4) Gen 25:6: Rashi "[The word pilagshim] is written lacking [ie, with no yud, to denote] that there was only one concubine, [ie Hagar]" In the MT the word is malay (spelled with a yud.) Even the Saperstein chumash concedes this can only mean that Rashiw as working from a text that was, here at least, different from the MT.

Historical Accuracy
-Abraham weighs out the payment for the cave and field. This is accurate for the period, which predates the use of coins.
-When the servant propositions Rivka he presents her with a nose ring.

Motif Alert
The first of many betrothal scenes appears this week, all of which have the following elements in common: A well, a heroic act, someone rushing to deliver the news to others, and a meal. This week scene is unique in that a surrogate appears for the groom, and the woman, not the man, draws the water. This portrayal is in keeping with how Isaac and Rebecca are characterized: In other stories, he is week, bedridden, and withdrawn, while she is active, scheming and dramatic.

Changed Midrash
When Yitzchak brings Rivka into his tent, he's comforted. Rashi tells us the comfort came from the fact that three miracles that Sara enjoyed reappeared. The Midrash, however, says there were four miracles.

Camels in Genesis, the critics allege, are a problem as they were not domesticated until many years after the Patriarchal period. If so, how can they feature prominently as a prop in the betrothal scene at the well? See my solutions 1 and 2

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Menken Dissembles

I suppose he saw my post, because today Yaakov Menken is scrambling, without success, to justify some of the ridiculous statements he made the other day about the Valis case. Now his argument in defense of Valis boils down to this:

Sure, Valis may have been sentenced to six years in jail, but because I found two or three other child abusers on the Internet who went to jail for more than six years, its reasonable to conclude that Valis wasn't a child abuser. (Seriously, this is what he says)

The argument is a non-starter, and for perhaps fifty reasons, including the fact that not one of his online discoveries is an Israeli case. The most glaring problem with Menken's new kvetch is this: Yisroel Valis was convicted for manslaughter in the death of his son on the testimony of three different doctors who all reported signs of abuse. The judge, we must presume, accepted their evidence, which is why Valis is going to jail.

On top of this, we have Menken's OWN WORDS: Judge Hannah Ben-Ami decided to convict him of manslaughter (not murder) because it was “reasonable to believe that there was awareness of the possible fatal outcome” of his actions.

My only knowledge of Judge Ben Ami's words comes from Meken himself and it seems as obvious as the nose on my face that the judge is saying she believes that Valis did something, and whatever it was, it was far more reckless than drifting off to sleep with a child in his arms. It seems to me that she is saying that whatever Valis did he should have realized that it might lead to a death. (“reasonable to believe that there was awareness of the possible fatal outcome”) The dropped baby theory, which Menken continues to advance, can't co-exist with the judge's own words as he reports them, nor can it be reconciled with the medical evidence provided by three different doctors, or the fact that Valis is going to jail.

So why does Menken continue to present this theory as if it was not only plausible, but reasonable? Why does he tell us, as he did last week, that this convicted, imprisoned manslaughterer was "cleared of all charges?" Excellent questions. Here's one more: Why do Menken and his co-bloggers waste our time with convoluted defenses of child killers, child abusers, hypocritical ministers, anti-Semites, rioters, and other assorted trash, while simultaneously lining up to take one nasty shot after another at any Jew less religious than they are?

[Kvetcher thinks it might be because he's evil. I'll not go that far, but I can't say I haven't started to wonder.]

Update: Kvetcher looked up one of the random child abuse cases Menken pulled out of his hat in defense of Valis, and discovered (SURPRISE) that Menken misresprented it.

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Apart from the wardrobe it does look sort of neat...

HT: Amshi the Awesome

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What happens in the bushes at MO camps?

A guest post by TikunOlam

DB's post about the anti-cellphone movement in the chareidi community got me thinking about something that happened to me when I was about 13 years old. Somehow this event was seared into my memory. I was an eighth grader shopping for the right high school. So I applied and interviewed at a number of schools across the OJ spectrum. The most right wing school that I applied to can best be described as an all girls school somewhat to the right of Bruriah and SKA but to the left of a Bais Yaakov.

On the day of the interview at this one school, I met with the principal. At some point in the interview she asked me where I went to camp over the summer. I told her that I went to camp X, a sleepaway camp that is best described as to the right of Seneca Lake but to the left of Camp Morasha (for the non-initiates, that would be kinda like centrist MO). The prinicipal responded with a look of repugnance on her face and said to me "I know what happens in that bushes at that camp." I must have looked confused, as at the age of 13 I had not a clue as to what was going on in the bushes of my camp. In fact, I couldn't even remember the camp having any bushes. She continued to press, as though she believed that I was just playing dumb or something by saying, "don't tell me you don't know what I am talking about."

So, I was scared away from the school. That conversation creeped me out.

It wasn't until a couple of years later, at the age of 15, when I was attended another MO sleepaway camp, that I even understood what she must have meant. At this particular sleepaway camp most of the campers, including myself, attended coed MO high school during the year. But there was a contingent of girls from one particular Brooklyn based all girls school that hid their attendance at this camp from the administration and teachers of their school as they were not allowed to attend coed camps. My friends and I called them the "(name of school) sluts." We didn't understand why they were so "easy," why they would take scissors to their skirts that they wore for Shabbat, or why they wore lip gloss on hikes. But when one of them got thrown out of camp after she was caught fooling around with a boy in the bushes, that conversation I had with the principal of that school finally made sense to me.

It is interesting to me, the Chareidi phobia of the runaway Id. Growing up MO I never understood the need for g'derot on top of g'derot on top of g'derot. This idea that teen cell phone use may lead to mixed sharing jokes which may lead to coed socializing which may lead to mixed dancing which may lead to teenage sex is so foreign to me. Sure, I think there should be supervision of children and teenager, but as a psychologist, I believe that the way to raise responsible young adults is to raise children to value themselves and understand that there are consequences to their actions. Children grow into fine and responsible adults when they have active and consistent parenting in which children are encouraged to develop strong senses of identity, and gradually trusted as they get older to rely on their own ability to control their impulses.

As a rule, I am against unnecessary rules with children. It sets up scenarios in which there will be excessive power struggles between youth and the authority figures in their lives. In fact, because the task of separation and individuation , is the most essential developmental task of adolescence, if too many restrictions are placed on teenagers, teenagers will inevitably not be able to resist the impulse to rebel. Finding their own sense of identity is the job of a teenagers and they need to be allowed to go through the process if they want to reach "Identity Acheivement." Once Identity Achievement has been reached, individuals no longer makes decisions based on fears of the law, punishment or going to hell as they are making life choices bases on a set of values and sense of identity that is internal and permanent. Or as the American Humanist Association is saying these day, they become "good for goodness' sake."

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Peek a Jew

Fredo Leiberman gets popped by the Daily Show

Have to say the Jon seemed crueler than usual, but I will admit to a bias here. Fredo's a member of my sect, so my desire to protect him is, well, almost biological.

In the clip's second half law-and-order Republicans are likewise skewered

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The Berga Nazi Slave Camp

A guest post by JS:

Read an amazing story about a man who, after 63 years, finally found out what happened to his brother and how the US government denied justice to his brother and all those who were in the Berga Nazi slave camp.

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Media Bias

As part of our commitment to post good, solid comments denied for publication by Cross Currents, we give you this:

...and an even higher percentage "knew" that Palin said she could see Russia from her house, although she never said it.

She said, in her interview with Charlie Gibson, that "You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska." This was part of her attempt to convince us that living in Alaska qualified her to decide matters of foreign policy, a claim legitimately and hysterically satirized by SNL - not something reported by the media..

Your other complaints about the media, and their practice of favoring one candidate over another, are transparently partisan. This time around Obama (arguably) was their hero, and Palin (but not McCain) was their victim. During the last two presidential campaigns the shoe was on the other foot. Both times Bush ran the media was fully in his corner. He was portrayed as a "regular guy" and he was permitted to run on character, not issues. Eight years ago the media convinced us that Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet [untrue: he never said it, and the claim, anyway, tells us less about his suitability for office, than the Palin gaffe said about her.] Four years ago they told us John Kerry didn't deserve his war medals. [Also untrue: he qualified for them all]

I don't recall you getting quite this upset about those distortions that went in your favor, and I've never seen you acknowledge that the pendulum of media favor tends to swing both ways.
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Is he devious or oblivious?

The following is presented as a service to those of you who may be adverse to reading very long posts such as the one I published yesterday.

He deserves credit for chutzpah, I'll give him that. Tucked into a post about how his own frum blog is honest, while the Jew-hating media is not, Yaakov Menken manages to:

(1) mischaracterizes the Valis verdict;
(2) misrepresent his own efforts to defend Valis;
(3) distort the sentencing judge's opinion; and
(4) violate at least one Torah law.

(1)How he mischarecterizes the Valis verdict
Menken: The father, needless to say, was cleared of all charges related to abuse.
This is false. Three doctors testified that the child's injuries were inflicted. Valis was not "cleared." He was convicted and sentenced to six years in jail.

(2)How he misrepresents his own efforts to defend Valis
Menken: Of course, I had not “spread baseless, and ultimately damaging ideas,” [about the medical examiner and the police] but merely said that the police report should not be taken as fact before the trial.
This claim is debatable, but quite hard to square with the first post he wrote about Valis, a post titled "The Amona Police Ride Again." It's also fair to ask why we were subjected to several posts about alleged police errors, errors that ultimately did nothing to discredit the findings of the three doctors, if he was not trying to destroy the credibility of Jerusalem's Jewish police force. Likewise, calling the death an "accident" when the medical evidence clearly said otherwise, was another way of saying that the legitimate authorities are corrupt, and impossible to trust. Such an argument is dangerous to public safety, and in this particular case, fatal to Jewish unity. When you encourage people to distrust the police, you encourage lawlessness and vigilantism, and you encourage victims to leave crimes unreported. Additionally, his decision to frame the case as "Bungling Corrupt Secular Thugs vs A Neighborhood of Pious God-fearing Charedim" did nothing but fuel the fires of paranoia, and create unnecessary divisions within the family of Israel.

(3) How he distorts the sentencing judges opinion
Menken: Judge Hannah Ben-Ami decided to convict him of manslaughter (not murder) because it was “reasonable to believe that there was awareness of the possible fatal outcome” of his actions — which stunned legal observers familiar with the meaning of “innocent until proven guilty.” It’s also, by her own statement, reasonable to believe that the father fell asleep and dropped his son"
This is ridiculous. Given the testimony of the three doctors who reported evidence of violent shaking, and bruises and trauma, Menken's theory is barely plausible, let alone "reasonable." His suggestion that this theory is somehow supported by the conviction defies common sense: There was evidence of abuse and Valis was convicted of manslaughter on that evidence. Manslaughter does not mean he dropped his kid. It means he beat his kid without intending to kill him.

(4) How he violates at least one Torah law.
B. T. Bava Metzia 58b ואם היה בעל תשובה, לא יאמר לו זכור מעשיך הראשונים. I don't mean to cloak myself in a robe of piety - my views on certain theological subjects are well know - but I don't think its unreasonable to expect a blog that often wields the Torah like a cudgel, a blog that proudly considers itself an authoritative voice of "Orthodox Jewish thought and opinion," to live up to its own announced standards.

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It is time to free Pollard (video)

A Guest Post by Rafi G
(originally posted on LII)

I have written about Pollard before. i admitted that I was never a big supporter of the "Free Pollard" campaign. I always believed that while what he did was great and noble, it entailed risks that he took. he broke the law, he was caught, and he has to pay the price. Just because he broke the law for us, does not mean he should get off.

That was then. A few years ago I changed my mind, and decided that even if all that was true, and he deserved his jail time, without getting involved in the difficult and confusing details of the case, he had served enough of a punishment and he deserves his freedom. Whether you think he always deserved his freedom, or whether you think he deserved to sit in jail, he has now paid the price, far greater than any other spy in the history of the United States. Jonathan Pollard deserves his freedom.

Now is the time to call upon President Bush to free Jonathan Pollard Call: 202-456 -1111 or 202-456-1414 (Monday to Friday 9AM to 5PM - Eastern DST).
Every phone call is important. Everyone is encouraged to start calling the
White House and to call daily, repeatedly.

On Thursday Nov 27th the American people will celebrate the Thanksgiving
Holiday - a holiday traditionally associated with Presidential clemency.
Presidential clemencies are traditionally signed precisely at this time and
prisoners are freed in advance of the holiday to go home to their families
for Thanksgiving.

Hours for Israeli Calls: White House telephone lines are manned from 4 PM
Israel time to Midnight, from Monday to Friday. [To ensure a faster response, follow the instructions for "Rotary" telephones regardless!]

Bush has declared himself to be Israel's greatest friend. Olmert and Bush have developed a very close relationship. This is the best chance Pollard has had in a long time. Lev M'lachim b'yad Hashem, but we have to do our effort to try to convince Bush to free him, and to convince Olmert to try to persuade Bush to free him.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Valis: Conclusion

Man who killed infant son sentenced to 6 years in prison

The story of Yisroel Valis is an important story in the life of the blog, and the case was the subject of a long running feud between this blog and Cross Currents. [see here and here and here and here and here] Though I never took a position on Valis's guilt or innocence, I was deeply offended by the OJ defense put forward by some of his defenders who contended that the authorities who investigated the case were the Amona Police, or in the grips of an anti-Haredi bias. As I argued at the time:

The authorities have no reason to lie. Only Al Sharpton-types see bias under every badge. The responsible way to defend someone who is facing a mountain of evidence like the one assembled against Valis is to suggest that the evidence has been interpreted incorrectly, not to argue, (based on hearsay, lies and paranoia) that the police manufactured the evidence, and lied on official reports
I also strenuously objected to the excuse offered by some that the child's death was a "tragic accident"

The old “he fell off the bed” excuse is one that’s very common to investigators of child abuse, but a competent medical examiner can tell very easily the difference between a beating and an accident. They leave different injuries. A child who was dropped on the floor simply won’t look like a child who was beaten, or thrown against the wall. By suggesting the baby’s death was an accident, you are accusing the medical examiner of incompetence or of framing Valis. Are you prepared to do that? And on what basis?
As the case progressed, it became clearer and clearer that there was, in fact, no basis at all for saying the death had resulted from something innocent. The father, originally, admitted this - he first confessed to beating his son, and to throwing him against a wall, but afterwards changed his statement. At trial, Dr. Avi Rivkind identified bruises on the baby's face, and Dr. Iran Antebbe said the condition of the baby's left eye was consistent with abusive shaking. A doctor named Spector added that a CT scan indicated some trauma had occured, perhaps over the course of many weeks, and Dr. Ido Yatzivs stated that it was his opinion the child's injuries were inflicted, and not the result of an accidental fall. [Their testimony is summarized in this Cross Currents comment thread.]

When Valis was convicted, Jpost reported that the original findings of the police and the medical examiner had been upheld, and that this corroborated the crime to which Valis had admitted in his original confession:

Yisrael Valis was... found guilty of manslaughter for repeatedly biting, beating, pinching and punching his son Refael because he "did not accept him" due to a congenital defect in the child's neck muscles. [and later, at the time of sentencing, the paper explained that:] ...Valis did not intend to kill his son, and that his actions stemmed from recklessness. As such, the court saw fit to exercise leniency despite the severity of the offense.
In short, the daddy did it, but because he didn't do it on purpose, the judge was content to deliver a light sentence.

New complaint
None of this is news to anyone who has been following the story, and, alas, this next bit of information will not be surprising to anyone familiar with my aforementioned feud with Cross Currents. In his post today, a post, ironically, about media distortions, Yaakov Menken provides an object lesson. After leading off with a blatant contradiction of the newspaper account ("The father, needless to say, was cleared of all charges related to abuse."(!)) Menken treats us to the misreading of the century:

Judge Hannah Ben-Ami decided to convict him of manslaughter (not murder) because it was “reasonable to believe that there was awareness of the possible fatal outcome” of his actions — which stunned legal observers familiar with the meaning of “innocent until proven guilty.” It’s also, by her own statement, reasonable to believe that the father fell asleep and dropped his son"
Can he be that oblivious, or is the man best known for suppressing unfriendly comments showing us yet more of his deviousness? Judge Hannah Ben-Ami was not saying that the child's injuries were inconsistent with abuse. She meant that as he was inflicting them, Yisreol Valis was unaware that the injuries he was causing would lead to the child's death! There is no way the judge's statement can be construed to mean that "its reasonable to believe that the father fell asleep and dropped his son," nor can such an interpretation coexist with the medical evidence. Only someone wearing bulletproof blinders, and convinced that Orthodox Jews are incapable of criminal behavior could so confidently contradict the facts of this case. And only someone oblivious to his track record, would be surprised to see Menken attempt a distortion this flagrant.

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Cell Phones

I don't see any reason for a 14 year old to have a cell phone. Cell phones are time-wasters, distractions, and can easily generate charges in excess of $100 per month. The typical teenager can't be expected to use one responsibly; also I didn't have one when I was a kid, and nothing bad happened.

That's the shpiel I plan to give my my kids once they're old enough to start asking for their own devices. As a rejection, it has the merits of being logical, realistic, and true, and I believe the typical teenager can recognize that the argument is sensible. He may not agree, but he won't think I'm out of my mind, or insulting his inteligtance.

Meanwhile, over in Charadistan, where they are both out of their minds, and glad to insult the intelligance of their readers, a different anti-cell phone argument is being employed. It goes something like this:
“The father of a prominent family called me up and said, ‘I gave my children the best chinuch possible, sent them to the best yeshivos.Then my son gave me all the reasons why he must have a cell phone, and I eventually gave in and bought him one. Two months later he was out of yeshiva.’
Not scary enough? The post continues:
Because of the prevalence of forwarding jokes via text, it is not uncommon for a joke from a girl to reach that of an unknown boy – perhaps a brother’s friend. A casual response “liked your joke!” can be enough to trigger a relationship that can result in tragedy."
In other words, if you give your kid a cell phone, you can expect him to be shacked up, and OTD by the time the seasons change. Such a claim is manifestly false -thousands if not hundreds of thousands of teenagers have managed to both own cell phones and stay true to religious ideals - and because anyone with an IQ of more than 15 knows that it is false other, more legitimate anti-cell phone arguments are undermined, and the credibility of the parent or teacher using such an argument is shot.

PS: You won't be surprised to learn that the Charadistan post referenced above is essentially an advertorial for "Purely Voice." Though it's not labeled as an advert, my hunch is that money changed hands.

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The sort of thing I wish I'd done first


(I sort of did)

Heading for a fight

A Guest Post by Rafi G.
(originally posted on LII)

As the government and the Supreme Court continue headstrong into their upcoming pre-election anti-right wing, anti-settler positions, they are heading into a serious clash in Hebron.

Why this is so important to be done now, can only be answered with one word - elections. The left wing government, and the Supreme Court, need to retain their control of the country. They see the populace turning more and more to the right, and that means they are losing control, and their agenda will lose its momentum. The only plan they have to thwart that is by engendering hatred for the "violent settlers who are anti-state".

How do you get people who send their kids to the elite army units, people who are involved in every aspect of the state, people who are involved in settling the land, to appear as anti-state?

The easiest way seems to be by riling them up by knocking down their homes, destroying their villages, and ruining their lives. They never really turn anti-state, as we saw after the Disengagement. They continued to send their kids to the most elite combat units, they continued serving faithfully despite threats and concerns that they would not. But at least for a few days if they can be upset, and shown in the media as being violent, and get some salient anti-government quotes said in the heat of the conflict, then they can easily be branded and portrayed as being anti-state and violent.

So the Supreme Court decides it is time to throw out a bunch of people who paid for their house, with video proof and full documentation. The government says they are going to do it. The residents and their supporters (of which I count myself) start getting upset and defending their position and themselves as being persecuted, and we are heading for a violent clash.

The leaders of the families at Beit HaShalom are warning that the upcoming fights will make Amona look like it was a cakewalk.

And you know what? I hope they break some heads.

The government is very selectively enforcing the law. Their is tremendous illegal construction going on all over the country, some by jews, and most of it by Arabs and Bedouin. As a matter of fact, there is a report by a comittee appointed by Interior Minister Meir Shitreet recommending today that tens of thousands od dunams of land stonlen by Bedouins in southern Israel and illegaly built upon be formally and retroactively approved, even though nobody went through any process of apllying for permits and making it legal. Just wave your hand and make all that illegal construction, and land theft, legal.

Yet here a few people go and pay full price for a house in a city, and nobody has argued that what they did was invalid or illegal, and the governemt is going out of its way to evict them.

If they think this will be a cakewalk, they are wrong.

The problem is that the residents of Beit HaShalom are playing into the hands of the government. The government is trying to get images of violent settlers into the media right before elections. That is the only way to get the left wingers, and even more centrist people, to hate the right wing, call them violent, condemn them and the like right before elections.

But what else can the residents do? Just walk away peacefully? They cannot. If they do that, then there will be more razings, evictions and disengagements around Yehuda V'Shomron.

They need to fight back. They have to defend themselves against the governments selective enforcement and the governments redifa of the settlers. If I had any courage myself, I would go down there and move in with the residents of Beit HaShalom (Kol Hakavod to MK Nissim Zeev for doing just that the other day), and fight alongside them.

More strenght to the residents of Beit HaShalom. Do not stand down. Do not be intimidated. We support you!

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