Tuesday, June 30, 2009
So how do we explain Arad's nerve? Why didn't he melt away? Why had no terror fallen upon him?
According to an aggada recorded in BT Rosh Hashana (3a) Arad attacked Israel because he saw the Cloud of Glory had been removed. Both Ramban and Ibn Ezra disregard/ignore this teaching, and instead say that Arad atacked because of the spies. In fact, the King James Version of the Bible translates the verse in question as: And when king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by the way of the spies; then he fought against Israel.... Most Jewish translations give by the way of Atharim instead, but from the perspective of the two Spanish giants, at least, KJV's gloss seems superior.
I bring all this up because I wish to make a point about Israel and Barack Obama. According to Nechama Leibowitz "by the way of the spies" means that Arad saw that the Jews had lost faith in themselves, and in the God who had brought them to this point. The spies said "and we were in our own eyes like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.” When Arad heard that the Jews were without confidence, Ms. Leibowitz continues, he knew the time was ripe to attack.
Listening to RW bloggers fret about Barack Obama, I find myself mystified. Never mind that I hold Obama means us no harm. Let's stipulate that I'm wrong. Let's stipulate that Obama desires the destruction of every Jewish settlements, and the removal of every Jewish settler. Let's further stipulate that he's actively working behind the scenes to bring about this outcome. Even after making all those rhetorical concessions, I'm still mystified.
I'm mystified, because from the time I was knee high to a real grasshopper, I've heard from my RW Jewish friends, neighbors and teachers that the modern state of Israel is God's gift to the Jewish people. Not one of them ever expressed the slightest, tiniest bit of doubt about this. "All of its ours," they said. "Our right to settle every centimeter of land is absolute, and divinely proclaimed." Some even added, "This is the beginning of the Messianic era"
Yet, now that famous certainty seems to have melted away. The terror of Barack Obama has fallen upon them. Suddenly these same supremely confident Jews who once spoke unabashedly for God are worried that His promise has been withdrawn. Contrary to every Jewish teaching about gentile rulers and their relationship with Israel, these RW Jews seem to believe that Obama has the power to damage us absent God's express approval.
Instead of proclaiming confidently that every move they make carries God's blessing, they've turned themselves into grasshoppers
I hope no modern day Arad is listening.
Imagine the scenario - you are walking down the street and you see a sign. One of those advertising signs strategically placed in the middle of the sidewalk. The sign is advertising a lingerie shop with a scantily clad supermodel adorning it. Yet the sign is defaced, hiding her airbrushed beauty from you, as someone has spray painted black paint all over the sign.
What goes through your mind at that moment? "Those crazy religious fanatics! Always defacing other peoples property!" or maybe "we need to get rid of those haredim" or maybe "those advertisers have really gone overboard with the smut they put all over the city. at least someone won't put up with it!" or maybe "they give the rest of us religious people a bad name" or maybe something else.
This happened in the city, mostly mixed Modern Orthodox, National Religious and secular, of Ranana.
Yet after some name-calling, throwing blame around in various directions and debate, some investigating turned up the news that the ads were initially created like that. They came pre-defaced. Yes, the advertisers made ads of scantily clad women with black spray paint graffitied over them.
So you have to wonder what they were trying to accomplish by this. Were they just playing on peoples imagery to increase their bang for their buck? Meaning, they knew their posters, or at least some of them, would eventually be defaced, so they did it themselves to get people talking about their ads? Maybe they did it to malign the haredim who would be blamed for it, again drawing support for themselves on the backs of the haredim? Was the objective more benign and simply meant to be an eye-catcher and pique curiosity?
Rabbi Stewart Weiss addresses the Ranana situation and says this:
YES, FOLKS, we do have our problems, and we should not take them lightly. There is a legitimate debate over Jewish values, land for peace, pluralism and army service versus yeshiva study. And our situation isn't made any easier by kippa-clad demonstrators - in an obvious effort to bring honor to God and Torah - launching loaded diapers at police protecting a parking lot on Shabbat. Or by mustachioed men in bikinis riding on floats through the streets of Jerusalem in an effort to show off the joy of being a gender-bender.
But the fact is, we have more in common with each other than we realize. The vast majority of our country has a genuine respect for Judaism, though we may express it in different ways. We abhor corruption, whether by a secular Avraham Hirchson or an observant Shlomo Benizri, and we cheer when we see justice done. We want our children to be safe on the streets, well-educated and able to live securely, now and in future generations. We love Israel, we are in awe of its beauty, we are dedicated to its survival and we are willing to place our lives on the line - just by living here! - to demonstrate our loyalty to this country.
All this may sound overly optimistic, even naive. But I believe it, because Hope springs eternal. At least in life, if not in lingerie.
Search for more information about [defaced lingerie advertisements] at 4torah.com.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Today, following my post about Wosner's fundraising activities on behalf of an accused child molester, his name is gone and a note has been added to the top of the page.
“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white. Or a rape.”
Or, how about this phone call with Billy Graham, in which the president suggests that Jews bring hatred on themselves, or as he put it:
"This has happened in Spain, happened in Germany, and now it'll happen in America if they don't start behaving."
This prompts a mini-sermon from good Christian Graham about the two kinds of Jews, one of which is the "Synagogue of Satan" Jew who puts out "the pornographic material." Nixon offers no objection.
On the same call, Nixon says that Israel's attack on a Libyan passenger jet which killed 108 people was "worse then what happened at Munich" The two men agree Israel should pay reparations for it, and Nixon promises he "would talk pretty straight to Ms. Meir about it."
Before ringing off Graham bizarrely worries that all Christians might be expelled from Israel, Nixon sympathizes and offers this explanation:
“It may be they have a death wish. You know that’s been the problem with our Jewish friends for centuries.”
Ah well. At least he called us "friends"
Moral of the story: Steal from working people and you get a juicy bailout. Steal from rich investors? 150 years in slammer.
Just when you thought that we Jews were orphans, sheep without shepherds traveling on rudderless ships without captains, a Merciful Providence sends us a new, genuine Ba'al Ruakh HaQodesh= A "Master of the Holy Spirit" empowered with Likhtigeh Oigen= enlightened eyes that allow him to see what others cannot and prognosticate the future like and Old (New???) Testament prophet.
It seems that Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (reach for Boteach) could see the hand inside the glove and the glovewriting on the wall years before it happened.
Message to Shmuley; JUST SHUT UP ALREADY!
Search for more information about Michael Jackson at 4torah.com.
The "Chosen People." A concept that, at minimum, smacks of cliquishness and low-level xenophobia and that if taken to its logical conclusion is nearly indistinguishable from the concept of "the Master Race."
The Question: How does a 21st Century Jew living 70 plus years after the Holocaust, especially in the post-colonial, post-nationalist West, come to terms with the concept of the Chosen People?
The Solution: Easy. The Jews are NOT a People at all; hence it is preposterous to speak about a Chosen People.
Search for more information about The Chosen People at 4torah.com.
The assertion: Obama wants to destroy existing settlements!
From the Times: The Obama administration believes that in order to build a solid regional coalition to confront Iranian ambitions, West Bank settlement building needs to stop as a sign of Israeli willingness to accept a Palestinian state.
Again, RWers are invited to explain why they are so certain the Obama wants to see settlements destroyed and Jews removed from East Jerusalem.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
One of my little birds tells me that a dayan in Montreal, Canada, is raising money on behalf of Elior Chen, a ringleader of what the Jerusalem Post called "one of the worst child abuse cases in Israeli history."
You can see what looks like some of the fundraising paraphernalia here.
The name on the material is Yochanan Wosner. He is a member of the Montreal Beth Din. I've written to the Beth Din to ask if its true that one of their judges is offering succor and protection to Elior Chen, and invite you to call or write as well. The telephone number is (514)739-6363 and the website gives firstname.lastname@example.org as the email address.
Friday, June 26, 2009
I've been doing a lot of thinking about the demonstrations in Iran, particularly after the infamous video of Neda being killed by Iranian Revolutionary Guards (you can see a video here, but please be advised it is graphic and disturbing).
An article today on MSNBC is a must read, in my opinion. The article focuses on other democracy movements in the Arab world, in particular in Egypt, and asks the question I've had on my mind ever since the Iranian demonstrations started: What causes some people to rise up and what causes others to be complacent?
The article offers some theories from actual activists, many of whom have been beaten, jailed, and made to suffer countless times:
1) Lack of courage;
2) No support from other countries (particularly the US);
3) Stronger, more organized, more devious police force;
4) People are used to a dictatorship;
5) Limited number of social elites who care about politics; and
6) Cultural and religious reasons.
I'm curious what people think about the article and what is going on in Iran. Why do revolutions occur? What causes some people to rise up? Why do other people remain under the thumb of oppression and/or dictatorships for so long? What was the special ingredient(s) that led to a successful democratic revolution in this country?
Under what circumstances would you be willing to give up everything and demonstrate?
Search for more information about political activism at 4torah.com.
From where I sit, the real problem is that the Torah and the tradition and the law permit Jewish women to do lots of things that the 2009 culture frowns upon.
There are dozens and dozens of things we could do that are perfectly legal to make Orthodox Judaism more female friendly. For example, women can:
- daven with a minyan everyday
- learn anything they want
- receive aliyot (allowed by law, banned by tradition and a concern for the honor of men)
- form their own mezumen (100 percent ok per the mishha berurah)
- be yotze a man in any mitzvah that they are required to do themselves (eg any brocha on food, such as hamotzie)
- wear t'fillin (Tf'illin belong to the same category as a lulav; a woman has no chiyuv but she can do it as a kiyum. She doesn't by tradition)
Also, there is nothing in the law or tradition that says synagouge architecture must be so unfriendly to women.
Unfortunately, OJ refuses to do anything but frown on women who wish to pursue their own spirituality and sense of fufillment via the performance of permitted actions. That is what opens OJ to charges of sexism.
I say all this as an introduction to Bray's latest.
@DovBear is dejected.
@DovBear Posted asking why RWers are *certain* #obama wishes to *destroy* settlements. Received no good answer.
@DovBear will admit that Obama believes settlement building and growth must end. But so did W and Clinton and GWHB and Reagen and Carter!
At this point @MarkSoFla averred: "No answer will satisfy you!"
To which @DovBear replied: The answer that would satisfy me is a direct quote. None exists. Ergo RWers are wrong.
I'm not a dishonest guy. Had the president stated plainly and clearly that he wants the settlements dismantled and their residents relocated I wouldn't deny it. But he hasn't said that. He hasn't said anything like that. No unambiguous criticism of the Israeli presence in the West Bank exists. The only objection is to "continued settlements" and "construction." He has not said one word about current settlements or buildings that have already been constructed.
And this gets to the root of my dejection about the whole Obama's-war-on-the-settlement thing. Everywhere I look, I see RWers saying they are certain the president wants Israel to withdraw all civilian populations from the West Bank, including Jerusalem and its suburbs. Again and again I've asked for the source of this certainty, but no one seems able to provide it in the form of a clear and unambiguous presidential statement. Instead, they talk subjectively about tone and style or point to statements that hardly differ at all from the anti-settlement statements made by every president since Carter, including both Bushes and Reagen.
So I'm left with two possibilities: either the RWs are predisposed against Obama and entirely unable to judge him failrly and objectively because of [something], or there's something very wrong with my own ability to gather and process information.
Either way, I'm dejected.
Search for more information about Twitter at 4torah.com.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
I've looked very carefully, and I've found no justification for this claim. I've directly asked two bloggers to explain the basis for it. No answer was given. Instead, additional claims were made, and I was accused of being unwilling to help Israel fight this "unprecedented" threat.
So let me be clear. I'll be glad to help Israel fight any battle that needs to be won, but first I need to be convinced that a threat exists. I agree that Obama, like every president since Carter - including George W. Bush - has called for an end to settlement growth* but I see absolutely no evidence that he wants or expects Israel to destroy settlements.
If you are aware of any substantiation for this claim, please share it with me.
*Yes, George W. Bush also told Israel to stop all settlement activity, including natural growth, and as the Wall Street Journal reported today, he also forced Ariel Sharon to destory various Gaza settlements.
A few weeks ago I debuted as a DovBear guest poster with an ethical quandary. If you recall, I had befriended a Jewish homeless fellow who lives in his van in Venice Beach. A struggling artist, he was down to his last few pennies. He came to me asking for Tzedaka and I simply did not know what to do.
I presented the issue in greater detail in the original post and the response was tremendous. There were a lot of comments to the post ranging from the hard-lined "give him a penny and you are a 'Rasha'" to the "who cares what he does with the money - it is still Tzedaka".
At first DovBear was unwilling to let me post, as he did not want a first-time guest post to seem like a solicitation. He was right so I made sure to indicate that our shul had the funds,
Turns out an anonymous reader of DovBear sent me some money anyway. He said he would cover the $1000, no questions asked. He was not concerned with what happened with the funds and was only concerned that this fellow be given the opportunity to leave Venice Beach.
[DB: I'm pleased as punch that my readers are so generous. As a totaly unrelated point, I'd like to remind the readership that donations and contributions are gladly accepted here, as well. Just click on the donate button.]
I made sure he was serious and that I offered no warranty as to what would happen with the money after I gave it to the homeless fellow.
He sent me $1000 via Paypal and made no stipulations.
[DB: Holy crap]
I went to my friend and told him that an anonymous person had given the shul $1000 for his benefit. I then added my own stipulation. He had to guarantee he would use the money to get to Montreal.
At first he hemmed and hawed as many of you predicted, but in the end, he decided he would go.
I told him after the money cleared it was his and he should make necessary arrangements. The morning that I was to deliver the money to him he asked me a "shaila". He said - "how important is it to be at my grandfather's funeral?". His mother's father was dying in Montreal and he wanted to be there. I told him, it is a huge Kibbud Em to be there for your mother before and during Shiva. He replied that it was a sign.
You see, he was having second thoughts. He was thinking that maybe he would take the money and go to British Columbia and sell some art there and hopefully he would have enough to get to Montreal. (A terrible plan.) As soon as he heard that his grandfather was very sick, he realized the folly in that plan and rededicated himself to getting to Montreal.
I gave him the money, he called me every morning until he got to the Canadian Border and he is now back in Montreal.
He is enrolling in a government sponsored vocational school and expresses his immense appreciation to those who believed in him and got him this second chance.
Meanwhile, it must be said (again) that despite the crazy talk on various RW blogs, Obama has not demanded the "destruction" of anything.
I have 2 points to make here, and I know DovBear will not like this: [DB: I like it just fine. See the first comment.]
1. The past weeks we have seen debates in many arenas, especially here, with the Obama denial strongly defended by DovBear himself, about whether or not there was a promise by the Bush administration, possibly a secret promise and understanding, to the Sharon government about natural growth. Sec. State Hillary Clinton and various aides have categorically denied it, saying straight out the the Bush letter to Sharon is extremely vague and contains no such promise, and there has been no promise substantiated elsewhere.
In the following opinion piece written by Elliot Abrams in the Wall Street Journal he says straight out that there was such a promise and understanding by the Bush administration and the Obama administration is wrong in their denial of the agreement. The agreement was part of a broad agreement on various issues that came up between Ariel Sharon and George Bush's government and there was a clear understanding to allow natural growth in the settlements.
2. During George Bush's term as president he was dubbed as the greatest friend of Israel. I personally said a number of times that I was not impressed and did not consider him such. I said nothing happens here without the demand/request of the American government and if Sharon made an about face and dismantled and disengaged to Gaza, I was pretty sure that George Bush was somehow behind it. Even if it was never stated as so in the news.
People thought I was crazy. It was all Sharon's idea and if he thought of it what do you want from the Americans but to agree, they said.
Turns out in the same article by Elliot Abrams he says that in 2003 the Bush administration demanded from Sharon dismantlement of a number of settlements including Gaza Strip.
In June 2003, Mr. Sharon stood alongside Mr. Bush, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at Aqaba, Jordan, and endorsed Palestinian statehood publicly: "It is in Israel's interest not to govern the Palestinians but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state. A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state." At the end of that year he announced his intention to pull out of the Gaza Strip.
The U.S. government supported all this, but asked Mr. Sharon for two more things. First, that he remove some West Bank settlements; we wanted Israel to show that removing them was not impossible. Second, we wanted him to pull out of Gaza totally -- including every single settlement and the "Philadelphi Strip" separating Gaza from Egypt, even though holding on to this strip would have prevented the smuggling of weapons to Hamas that was feared and has now come to pass. Mr. Sharon agreed on both counts.
On the major settlement blocs, Mr. Bush said, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." Several previous administrations had declared all Israeli settlements beyond the "1967 borders" to be illegal. Here Mr. Bush dropped such language, referring to the 1967 borders -- correctly -- as merely the lines where the fighting stopped in 1949, and saying that in any realistic peace agreement Israel would be able to negotiate keeping those major settlements.
On settlements we also agreed on principles that would permit some continuing growth. Mr. Sharon stated these clearly in a major policy speech in December 2003: "Israel will meet all its obligations with regard to construction in the settlements. There will be no construction beyond the existing construction line, no expropriation of land for construction, no special economic incentives and no construction of new settlements."
Ariel Sharon did not invent those four principles. They emerged from discussions with American officials and were discussed by Messrs. Sharon and Bush at their Aqaba meeting in June 2003.
They were not secret, either. Four days after the president's letter, Mr. Sharon's Chief of Staff Dov Weissglas wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that "I wish to reconfirm the following understanding, which had been reached between us: 1. Restrictions on settlement growth: within the agreed principles of settlement activities, an effort will be made in the next few days to have a better definition of the construction line of settlements in Judea & Samaria."
Stories in the press also made it clear that there were indeed "agreed principles." On Aug. 21, 2004 the New York Times reported that "the Bush administration . . . now supports construction of new apartments in areas already built up in some settlements, as long as the expansion does not extend outward."
So take that, deniers.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The first question (about @5:00) deals with settlements. Lieberman's answer is direct. Hillary's is less so, which is telling. After saying, in Obama's name, that the US wants settlements to "stop" she gives a long, windy answer about all the qualifications, and complexities and difficulties that apply. At the end of her answer, she says it has been confirmed that the claims made by Israel about "oral" agreements between Israel and the Bushies are false and/or not binding.
Search for more information about Israel at 4torah.com.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
My wife and I don't have children yet (we've quickly learned that in the Jewish community, it's essential to say "yet" whenever referring to not having children). However, a frequent topic of conversation is yeshivas and whether or not they are worth it. The conversation has taken on more immediacy as we start to consider what community we'd like to make our home and therefore what options we would have in terms of where to send our future children.
Cost is obviously a major driver in any discussion about yeshiva. The MO yeshivas in our area currently cost around $12k-$15k for K-8 and around $22k-$25k for 9-12. And of course even if the stork delivered a kid tomorrow, by the time they were in Kindergarten the cost would likely be $15k-$18k and 9th grade would likely be $35k-$40k. That alone is staggering and should give one pause. But, I'd like to focus more on what exactly does one get out of yeshiva education.
I went to an MO yeshiva K-12 and never went to yeshiva in Israel. As I understand it, the year in Israel is critical as that's where you REALLY learn (What exactly were K-12 for then? practice?). Now, more than 10 years out of high school I couldn't tell you a single rashi, midrash, vort, inyan, sugya, etc. that I learned in all my years of yeshiva education. Anything I now know is from my own personal learning that I did after yeshiva. I also don't really believe my "love of learning" (and granted, it's not all that big) came from yeshiva either. I enjoyed Judaic studies and was in the advanced tracks, but that's more because I'm a curious person, I enjoy learning almost any subject, and Judaic studies was in the home. It also helps that I enjoy debating and logical and critical thinking. But in actual yeshiva? Except for a few teachers, I was pretty bored. I didn't find many of my rabbeim that interesting, that intelligent, or that inspiring. Many were recent YU grads who merely went over shiurs they learned 1-2 years prior. I found that most of my questions couldn't be answered and were met with a "good kashya!"
Another thing is that I never learned how to learn in yeshiva. I was never given the proper tools. This is certainly true in the Hebrew/Aramaic department. It's only because of hearing Hebrew at home that I can even pick up a siddur or chumash and understand what I'm reading. And despite this I am reliant on English translations to get through difficult sections. My wife went K-12 at a MO yeshiva and she can't even do that. Her Hebrew is so poor she is totally reliant on Artscroll. Most grads of MO yeshivas fall into this category. The kids who get up to do Anim Zemirot or Ein K'Elokeinu who are the proud recipients of a yeshiva education can hardly pronounce a single word correctly, have no idea what they're saying, and zip through ketoret, etc faster than I can say more than 5-6 lines.
Then you have DB's post below about the shallowness of a yeshiva education. I think through about 5th grade and maybe a bit longer, my Jewish education consisted nearly entirely of arts and crafts projects, cute midrash stories like how Rivka was 3, and a rashi here and there. And of course, we never returned to re-learn Breishit or any of the other "story" parts of Torah. We never even learned all of Chumash - VaYikra was nearly entirely passed over as was most of D'varim. And we maybe made it through half of Neviim and hardly any of Ketuvim. As for gemara, we made it through 20-25 daf each year in a random masechet. We never learned any practical halacha either. And we only had a short half-year, once a week class in Jewish philosophy, which was a complete joke and treated all major philosophical issues in Judaism as "obvious" and that these aren't major concerns, but if they are simplistic answers should suffice. I hate to return to the cost issue and I know it's not all about quantity, but seriously, shouldn't you get a bit more for your money here?
Finally, there is so much hashkafically that I was taught in yeshiva that I simply don't agree with. This ranges from secular hashkafa relating to politics and how to interact with the outside world to Jewish hashkafa. When I was a teen and completely obnoxious and thought I was right about everything, the yeshiva took advantage of this to force hashkafic arguments at home. Every Shabbos without fail the meal would denigrate into a heated debate about how my parents were wrong about everything and weren't properly adhering to Jewish values, halachas, and ideals. The yeshivas pitted me against my parents as what they taught wasn't what we did at home. Another major problem is the outright racism and xenophobia explicitly taught in yeshivas both subtly and not so subtly. We were taught we're superior to everyone else, other religions are lies and their practitioners are just stupid and will see the light when mashiach comes, other races do drugs and commit crimes. We were taught to fear the outside world and to stay as close to other Jews as possible - to go to Jewish colleges or at least to stay on Jewish floors. We were told not to trust ourselves since the outside world is full of temptations and we would surely succumb without a constant Torah environment. Yet of course, at the same time, the yeshivas ignored the fact that drugs and alcohol were serious problems. And they of course ignored how the students had little to no derech eretz, would run around the shul/school like vilda chayas causing property damage, and cause chillul Hashems on class trips. I recently asked a girl who attends a MO yeshiva which has a new building how the new facilities are and she responded, "It was nice when we first moved in, but they already need to fix it up since everyone wrote on all the desks and some kids kicked holes in the walls, etc."
So, this is the background with which we consider the yeshiva question. I'd like to know what people think of the above - do you agree or disagree? Do you buy into the argument that if a child didn't go to yeshiva there's simply no way they will ever remain frum? Do you think there's absolutely no way to provide a Jewish education outside of a yeshiva? Does the family count for nothing? If a family provides a frum, Jewish home which demonstrates a love for Yiddishkeit and if the parents learn with their children or hire a rabbi to learn with them this is still not nearly as good as a yeshiva? Most importantly (for me): Is there any hope for a LW MO couple like my wife and me?
Search for more information about the pros/cons of yeshiva at 4torah.com.
Monday, June 22, 2009
An analogy from science: In elementary school, we teach children that electrons travel around an atom's nucleus in nice circular orbits at discreet energy levels. Later on, we say that the electrons don't exactly travel in circles and that they hang out in dumbbell shaped probability spaces. Next, the high end physics guys talk about quarks and leptons. At each stage of education, more detail is provided.
The problem with Jewish education is that, when it comes to certain subjects, the extra details are never provided. There are legions of Jewish men running around, for example, who can't discuss Chumash with any intelligence. In their mind, midrashim are literal, and Rashi's purpose is to tell us exactly what happened. The problem is so endemic that the views of other Rishonim and Achronim as well as those Midrashim that aren't cited by Rashi are cavalierly and sometimes angrilly dismissed. (For an example, see this comment thread where "lakewood yid," clueless as ever, can't seem to wrap his head around the possibility that a gloss his first grade Rebbe gave him was incomplete. To save himself the chore of re-examining and adding nuance to an old idea, he's accused me of fabricating a Maharal, a Maharal that is cited in the Schottenstein Talmud on Sotah 11A. )
The irony is that many of these ignoramuses are well-informed when the subject is Jewish law; somehow they've managed to accept that multiple levels of understanding exist when the issue is a legal one. The same people who can effortlessly recount the opinion of 15 achronim when the question is kashrus, refuse to leave Rashi's bes medrash when we're discussing chumash. It's really quite bizarre.
Search for more information about Jewish education at 4torah.com.
Recently on Hirhurim, Gil had a post on a Jew taking an oath in a secular court. Jewish law has developed a strong resistance to taking oaths, and so Orthodox Jews customarily opt to 'affirm' rather than swear when in court. Gil's post got into the details of how and why this is halachically effective.
Reading his post, I just felt a sense of loss and futility, because it just feels so fake. The courts require an oath, but Judaism isn't into oaths. Rather than just take our lumps, we invent this notion that you an make some kind of promise that is somehow sufficient for the State to believe you, but isn't actually a Shevuah in a halachic sense. Practically speaking, you're swearing to tell the truth in a formal, legal, and social-contract-binding way, but that oath doesn't have halachic value. It's just an end-run around our own traditons and values.
It got me thinking that so much of Jewish practice today happens not in the real world, but in some strange, disconnected, halachic bubble. For example, Judaism has long benefited from a tradition of fastidiousness, and we've got lots of washing rituals that served to keep us healthier than the people around us. Today, however, we moderns have better means for keeping clean, like anti-bacterial soap. When it's time for dinner, I wash my hands with soap, and then I perform a 'faux' hand-washing, a netilat yadayim, so I can say a bracha. Its value is purely symbolic, and has no meaning, outside of metaphysical or kabbalistic reasons. The notion that cleaning up before I touch food is a Godly one gets completely swallowed up. But no Orthodox Jew would suggest that I could make a bracha on washing my hands with soap!
Faux Judaism is the divorcing of Jewish practice from reality. It's living in an imaginary sphere of halacha that is only tangentially connected to the real world. It's liviing in a world where so many of your actions or deviod of Jewish significance. Collecting your spare change every day and giving it to tzedaka is just tzedaka. It's not Peah. Maybe you got the idea from Peah, but it's not Peah. We're not allowed to make that leap. Once upon a time our leaders were able to say that Tefillah is Korbanot, for example, but we don't have that right, or maybe we jsut don't have the courage to make those kinds of changes.
Our Judaism has turned from a very practical religion whose rituals carried both pragmatic and symbolic meanings into a religion where nearly everything is only symbolic, and thus kind of fake. In the meantime, values like democracy, equal rights, or environmentalism find no real home in our Jewish life, or at best, get strung onto a handful of pesukim, with no real halachic expression or force of mitzvah behind them, even thought they resonate strongly within us as true, and good, and important. Our davening has turned dry and distant from our hearts, our Torah has turned into halachic acrobatics and midrash-style apologetics, and the world does not look to us as an example for how to treat your fellow man.
Maybe it's time we dusted off both our traditions and oursleves, and started living once again in the world of the real.
Friday, June 19, 2009
From the side matter: [This clip] is from the 1936 Yiddish film YIDL MITN FIDL [one of the most successful Yiddish film of all time, starring the very great Molly (Malkele) Picon.]
This was filmed... in Kazimierz, Poland, using local inhabitants as extras. It took over thirty consecutive hours to film, and the food had to be kosher of course as the locals used were all Orthodox Jews. As the filming went on, they ate, and for the successive shots of the table the food had to be replenished. The poverty stricken guests just couldn't understand what was happening, as they thought they had been invited to a real wedding. When one woman asked why so much food they explained that it wasn't a real wedding - only a film. It is possible she had never seen a film, for she said: "Why didn't you tell me that before? With so much food, I could have brought my daughter to get married for real. She has a chassen (bridegroom) but we have no money for a dowry to make a proper wedding." Molly suspected her husband (Jacob Kalich) may have given the woman the money, as later she smiled at Picon and said "Are you lucky to have such a rich husband."
It's a sobering thought to think what... happened to these people only a few short years later.
His conclusion? Radak was right.
Search for more information about Rachav at 4torah.com.
I'm so confused. Acording to the reliable information repeated in shul, from the pulpit and around the Shaloshudis table, Democrats are all Arab loving Jew haters.
Search for more information about the Shoah at 4torah.com.
We live in a colorblind Democracy. Equal treatment under the law. Men are judged by the content of their character yada yada...
Yet there seems to be a double standard at work in NYC municipal politics. You see, two chaplains in the Correction Department signed off on the Tuvia Stern Jailhouse Bar-Mitzvah debacle. One was Jewish the other Muslim.
Initially Mayor Bloomberg said "clearly, this should not have happened". More recently, commenting on the resignations of chaplain Rabbi Leib Glanz and security Chief Peter Curcio, Bloomberg said "A three-star chief and the rabbi have chosen to resign, which was the right thing for them to do".
Yet the same mayor extended a ringing vote of confidence to Imam Umar Abdul-Jalil, saying "This is a guy who is somebody that does a good job and we need to have him and I'm very happy to have him," Click for all the details.
Seems that we still live in a land where men are judged by the color and length of their coats and peyos and NOT by the content of their character.
[DB: I couldn't disagree more.]
Search for more information about chaplains at 4torah.com.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
US Foreign Minister Hillary Clinton fell and broke her right arm yesterday. The same day she was telling Israel, yet again, how they will accept nothing less than a complete cessation of construction in the settlements.
If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither... אם אשכחך ירושלים תשכח ימיני
Search for more information about [Hillary Clinton pressuring Israel to stop construction in Jerusalem because it is a settlement] at 4torah.com.
In what can only be a sign of incredible boredom by our national news agencies, the BIG STORY is that Barack Obama swatted a fly during an interview with CNBC. See the video here. Obviously, what's going on in Iran, for example, is not as interesting or important.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has called Barack Obama out for his inhumane treatment of the fly. See the article here. The PETA spokesperson said "We support compassion even for the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic animals."
So what do you think? Should PETA be commended for their consistency - after all, wouldn't they be hypocrites if they said swatting a fly was OK? Is one animal life more valuable than another? Should PETA have kept their mouths shut as one is likely to dismiss them as ridiculous and thereby not listen to their broader agenda about cruelty to other animals?
Also, how would tza'ar ba'alei chayim (not inflicting pain/suffering on animals) fit in here? One of the cited purposes for the mitzvah is that being cruel to an animal makes us cruel to other human beings. Does mercilessly killing a fly instead of trapping it and releasing it influence how we treat others? Wouldn't a merciful person treat all of God's creations with mercy?
Search for more information about animal cruelty at 4torah.com.
The basis of the disagreement, apparently, is this: Ramban admires the Nazarite for trying to improve himself spiritually by withdrawing from wine and other vanities, while Rambam sees this desire to separate from the world as a sign of weakness and the rejection of what the Torah permits as evidence of a spiritual shortcoming.
We don't have Nazerites in 2009, but we do have our religious ascetics. They don't grow their hair long, and abstain from wine; instead they crown their heads with hats and refuse to partake from any number of permitted foods and activities.
The culture compliments these modern Nazarites. They and their chumrahs are held up as examples for the rest of us to emulate, while those of us who prefer not to copy their clothing and abstentions are dismissed as "modern" "not really committed" or "lazy."
Certainly the 21st centruy Nazaerites have the support of the Ramban, and the many mashgichim who cite him. The point of this post is not to condemn their approach, but to defend the alternative. Because, isn't it possible to be a full Jew in good halachic standing without taking on the various food and clothing stingencies? And, following the Rambam, isn't this "ordinary orthodoxy" a legitimate l'chatchila approach, and not second best?
This man sins against his soul when he completes his nezirut – for now he is leaving his holiness and Divine service; it would have been more fitting to remain a nazir forever, all his day as a nazir and Holy to his God. Behold he requires atonement when he returns to be besmirched with worldly passions - Ramban Bamidbar 6:14
If man should argue, since envy, passion and pride are evil, .. then I shall divorce and separate myself utterly from them till I eat no meat nor drink wine, nor marry .. after the manner of the gentile priests .. this is also an evil path and it is forbidden to walk on it. One who walks in the path is called a sinner and needs atonement -Rambam: Deiot 3:1
Slacker, of course, is the Internet music applicaton that creates a radio station for you, based on the selection of just a single song or artist. It was covered today, in the New York Times, which is where the concluding 16 words of the preceding sentence first appeared.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
This clip is from an early MadMen episode that featured a campaign for Israeli tourism as a subplot. The song is sung by a Jewish(?) beatnik, at a Village club, but the Babylon the song references can only be understood as the world of the Mad Men themselves.
Historicity: Wiki tells me this song was on Don Don McLean's American Pie album; the MadMen clip, however, is set in 1960.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
And, um, I called it.
What important issue is now the focus of the Israeli Sephardic Orthodox community?
Can you guess?
Is it Iran? The Palestinians? The religious-secular divide? Poverty?
“The reports in the media pillory Rabbi Glanz, in the most cynical and derogatory fashion imaginable, for his role in accommodating Jewish prisoners’ religious requirements and helping them participate, personally or vicariously, in milestone family celebrations,”Yesterday, we pointed out that Agudah is (surprise!) not telling the precise, literal truth about how the media covered the chaplain scandal. Today, we wish to add that Agudah not telling the precise, literal truth about the chaplain's behavior. Though Agudah pretends the poor rabbi was merely helping Jewish prisoners fulfil their "religious requirements" the truth is that the chaplain ran into trouble, not for studying and praying with Jewish prisoners, but for arranging a lavish Bar Mitzvah party, featuring catered food, and high-priced celebrity entertainment, in the form of Schwecky, the second tier crooner. To suggest this extravagancy is a "religious requirement" is obscene, and sadly surprising from an organization that claims to always take detailed and specific direction from the Gedolim.
(with an assist from the superb Rafi G.)
Hedyot adds: "Another thing this story shows is what a bunch of BS it is when Agudah (and others) defends itself on the molestation issue using the argument of, "Well, of course we didn't say anything about Kolko (or the others) all those years! We're not responsible for everything that goes on in the chareidi world!"As is so clearly demonstrated in their action here, when they care about something, they speak up, regardless of if it has any direct involvement of their organization.
Well yes, Hedyot, we've noticed that, too.
As I wrote in 2006: In the past, you, as an individual have published fiery condemnantions of Conservative Judaism, feminism, and religious pluralism. You've had 23 letters published in the New York Times, many of them filled with indignation. And your work on Cross Currents, the worst blog in the world, ranges from attacks on homosexuals to liberals to the media. But now, when a child molester who has enjoyed the protection of Agudah Rabbis is caught in your own back yard, the cat finally catches your famously flapping tounge? Now, the blood pressure medicine begins to work? More
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Sent to me by email (I am guessing the email orginated with a Republican friend):
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all tencomes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, itwould go something like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1The sixth would pay $3
The seventh would pay $7
The eighth would pay $12
The ninth would pay $18
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar everyday and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, theowner threw them a curve. 'Since you are all such good customers', hesaid, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20.' Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to paytheir bill the way we pay our taxes so:
The first four men wereunaffected. They would still drink for free.
But what about the other six men - the paying customers, how could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings).
The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings)!
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
Each of the six was better off than before and the first four continued to drink for free.
Once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.
'I only got a dollar out of the $20', declared the sixth man.
He pointed to the tenth man,' but he got $10!' '
Yeah, that's right', exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a dollar,too. It's unfair he got ten times more than I!
''That's true!' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!'
'Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!'
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine satdown and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money among all of them for even half of the bill! And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how ourtax system works.
The people who pay the highest taxes get the mostbenefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they mightstart drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
In the email this was attributed to David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D. Professor of Economics, University of Georgia, however, according to Snopes, he was not the author.
Search for more information about taxing the rich at 4torah.com.
In addition to my work as the Rabbi at Pacific Jewish Center at the Shul on the Beach I am also a Law Student at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. I am part of the evening program and completed my first year of evening classes in May.
In December I was subjected to mid-terms in each of my courses. Many Law School exams are long fact patterns that require the student to analyze the facts and apply all the law that is relevant to the facts and then argue why the law should or should not apply to those facts. Usually these fact patterns are fiction.
My torts professor gave us a very interesting fact pattern. The basics of the case were as follows: two young boys named Israel and Jacob enter an elevator on their way to school. Along the way the elevator malfunctioned and the boys were suspended between the 10th and 11th floor. The doors malfunctioned as well and opened. The younger boy, Jacob, age 5, tried to jump from the stuck elevator to the 10th floor below, but did not "stick the landing". Unfortunately, he stumbled off the 10th floor and plummeted 10 stories down the elevator shaft to his death.
Israel was eventually rescued.
There were many more legally operative facts in the fact pattern and our professor wanted us to analyze the claims against the building landlord, owner and elevator maintenance company. It was a pretty shocking case for all of us.
When we returned to school after the break our professor told us that the fact pattern was basically a true story with some of the facts changed to make a clearer essay. Immediately I "googled" "Jacob Israel Elevator". I found the original NY Times article with the tragic story.
Yesterday the Times had another article on the ongoing litigation. Apparently, the defense wants young Israel, who is 10 and traumatized to testify. This is horrible as any memories of the tragedy could alter his psychological well being tremendously. The case is being litigated as you read this.
I told this entire saga to two people I know. They are both very caring and sensitive people. They both had the same reaction and that reaction is what prompted this post.
When I told the story over, both people had serious looks on their faces and clearly empathized with the poor child.
Then I told them, by the way, the little boys were Chasidish children from Williamsburg.
They both had the same second reaction. Their jaws dropped and they exclaimed Oy! That's terrible! --a much emphatic reaction from before they knew the boys' ethnicity.
At first I was disturbed. Do we care more about some poor Chasidish kids from Williamsburg than anyone else? Is this tragedy worse to us because they are Jewish?
Is this a good attitude? Could this bother non-Jews and provoke anti-semitism?
Or, perhaps it is normal for us to care more about our Jewish brethren. Maybe, we should feel more compassion for our fellow Jews. After all, it is a rule of Jewish law that we are responsible for one another.
This has been gnawing at me for a little while now. Should we care more about a Jewish tragedy than a non-Jewish tragedy?
Even if we are allowed to care more about a Jewish tragedy should we try and mask our feelings to be more politically correct?
Aren't we outraged when non-Jews do not care about Jewish tragedy as much as non-Jewish tragedy?
A friend of mine is a writer with an interesting idea for a novel. She is interested in finding out more about the concept of "mamzer" and what halachot apply in the cases of "mamzerut." She is thinking about writing about a baalat teshuvah to OJ who is engaged to be married. The protagonist finds out that her grandparent was a mamzer and becomes concerned about her status and how it may affect whether or not she can marry her fiance.
I know nothing about this subject other than what I just looked at on Wiki. Can you educate my friend and me on this subject? Ideas for the plot line are also more than welcome.
Search for more information about Mamzerut at 4torah.com.
Monday, June 15, 2009
This is why RW nitpicks and complaints about the speech miss the point. Obama wasn't speaking to RW Jews, or trying to to win their love and support. If he was, he'd have given a different speech.
The point of the Cairo speech, as Joe observed, was to open minds in the Islamic world, specifically among the close to 1 billion Muslims who may (or may not) hate America and Israel but won't ever get violent about it. The goal of the speech, and the reconciliation work behind it, is to marginalize the violent minority, and to show the majority that organizations like Hamas are dangerous to Muslim aspirations and unworthy of respect and support. One friend of a friend succinctly put it like this: the president's goal is to turn Hamas into Neturei Karta. I think he's right.
Search for more information about Neturei Karta at 4torah.com.
I am trying to make some sense of the latest scandal to hit Kharedi Jewry. While I have no illusions that Rabbi Leib Glanz was not shmeared at some point, perhaps quite handsomely, I speculate that this was not what he first set out to do. As the old saw goes "Many a young man went to Washington to do good but ended up merely doing well."
I surmise that Rabbi Glanz is a lev tov "ah gooter" but an intellectual lightweight. And like many mekhankhim mired in middle school today who set out on their long circuitous journeys through Bais Medrash and Kollel with dreams of becoming superb, influential Roshei Yeshiva, true molders of young men, I'd imagine that the young Leib Glanz first entered the NYC Corrections System with visions of the sainted Rav Aryeh Levin dancing in his head. "What a Tzadik. Helping Yidden when they're down. I think that I can do that too! What could be a greater Mitzvah? It's no kunst to extend khesed to the suffering innocent. But to the suffering guilty and obnoxious? That takes REAL ahavas Yisrael".
Well let me tell you...you're no Rav Aryeh Levine! First you can hardly compare the prisoners being ministered to. Those prisoners Rav Aryeh first dealt with who were incarcerated in the Russian Compound were political prisoners of the British Mandate i.e. freedom fighters for Israel as well as societal criminals. True, after the State was established and the political prisoners were freed, he remained at the prison, serving the murderers, thieves, etc. Yet I hold that Hiskatnu Hadoros applies even to criminals and that the denizens of "The Tombs" weren't put there on charges of habitually missing z'man Krias Shema.
Next Rav Aryeh influenced l'toiv through his radiant and noble personality not through delivering goodies and favors. Loving someone != enabling someone, and from all the reports it seems that Rabbi Glanz traipsed down a hellbent path paved with good intentions that was riddled with many instances of enabling those very middos and behaviors that got the prisoners incarcerated in the first place and that MAY have even been transgressions of lifnei eeveir. Rav Aryeh had a big head governing his big heart. I doubt that the same could be said of this sad chaplain.
The fallout, much unlike that of Rav Aryeh ZY"A is khilul HaShem, increased anti-Semitism and rougher conditions for those Rabbi Glanz sought to help in the first place.
Search for more information about Jewish Prison Chaplains at 4torah.com.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Search for more information about Obama at 4torah.com.
- Netanyahu's speech prompts anger from Palestinians, praise from the White House
- Netanyahu's speech: Yes to road map, no to settlement freeze
- Netanyahu speech 'an important step forward': White House
- Policy shift as Netanyahu backs two-state solution
I don't have much yet to say about the big Bibi speech aside from that its mighty, mighty odd that me, the White House AND the staunchest, craziest RW Zionist I know all think it was a good speech.
Here are (some of) my real time reactions, as posted on Twitter [all sic]
i hope bibi makes it clear that Obama doesnt despise Israel. (not that my omnicient rw blogging friends would bellieve him anyway)
I dont know why Obama needs to be *more* proIsrael than Bush was in order to win love from those who said Bush was Israels BF ever
Can we drink every time #netanyahu says "ribono shel olam"
I note the anti Israel Jew hating liberal humanist secular baby eating media isnt carring the netanyahu speech in the usa
I take it back FOX the only torah true station has it live.
Breaking!!!!! Netanyahu just said he agrees with Obama plan (per translator)
Netanyahi says he and Obama are in agreement! Wow
FOX now discussing the speech... their pundits seem stunned
Is Bibi embracing the two state solution? Boruch hashem Boruch hashem.
what will it take to make RW Zionists see that Obama is not out to get them?
so the biggest and most obnoxious rw zionist I know lso liked the bibi speech. hmm which one of us heard it wrong?
Friday, June 12, 2009
Rashi: Tziporah wasn't really Ethiopian. Miriam and Aaron were just speaking in code. What they meant was that she was like, totally, beautiful.
Rashbam: Moshe took an Ethiopian wife during his long exile from Egypt, prior to the encounter with the burning bush:
Ibn Ezra: Tziporah wasn't Ethiopian, but Miriam and Aaron were not speaking in code. Euphemistically, they were saying that she was ugly, and that Moshe had therefore separated from her.
What my kids said
What mephorshim say
What Josephus said
Search for more information about the Isha Cushis at 4torah.com.
Frankly, the movements would have done the ‘bros’ in the ‘hood’ proud.
Ah yes, the ‘bros’ in the ‘hood'. Does anyone other than elderly white people feinting at relevancy still use that phrase? And why is is ok for Carlebach to speak of his "holy brothers" but still a source of Jewish bemusement that black people once used similar language? I still cringe at the memory of a seventh grade rebbe who thought it was hysterical to substitute a faux black ghetto accent for his natural Jewish ghetto accent and speak of "the brothers."
Anyway, along with making the racist suggestion that black people especially value dancing (done proud) Cross Currents is being stupid. Dance styles deemed kosher, like the tedious and ubiquitous circle dance, also are borrowed. Its not hard to imagine that 100 years ago, someone kvetched about how the young yeshiva boys were using movements that, frankly, would have done the local gypsies in the 'hood' proud.
(E_Fink wants me to mention that the rest of the article was good. He's right.)
Thursday, June 11, 2009
It is true that many people have the perception that Obama is America's and Israel's worst nightmare. And the blame for this lies squarely on the mainstream right wing media outlets (i.e. Fox News, Rush Limbaugh), which are constantly provoking anger, resentment, and hate by repeating and fabricating lies and distortions about Obama and his policies.
For a substantial amount of evidence for this, check Media Matters. Media Matters is a partisan source, but they tend to support their claims with evidence."
avian30 Email 06.11.09 - 4:22 pm #
Search for more information about the Truth at 4torah.com.
I know I'm naive, but the only violent right-wing extremist groups I've ever seen are those played in Hollywood by uninformed, whacked-out leftist actors. I've always wondered where all these Hitler throwbacks live. I've also never seen any of their recruiting signs posted at the local supermarket trolling for right-wing nut jobs prone to "Clockwork Orange" ultra-violence.
Truth is REALLY stranger than fiction. My only question is how many hands had to be shmeared before the jailbird could celebrate a simkha b'meono ?
Search for more information about Jewsih Convicts at 4torah.com.
Yesterday I managed the neat trick of overreaching and understating in the same post. I'd like to correct both of my errors/sins/ crimes against humanity.
In that post I maintained that receiving an Orthodox Jewish Day School education WOULD have prevented a girl like Laura Miller from converting to Islam. DovBear provided ample historical examples of Jews steeped in Torah education and culture who had, nonetheless, converted to other faiths. IMO many of his example were "apples and oranges" comparisons and, to borrow a page from his book, products of the times and places in which those apostates lived. As such they were utterly irrelevant to the discussion of a non-affiliated twenty-something Jewess in 21st century USA. Still, I must admit that I overreached.
Let me restate and revise my position; receiving an Orthodox Jewish Day School education MIGHT have prevented a girl like Laura Miller from converting to Islam. IMO it WOULD have greatly reduced the chances of such a conversion occurring.
I also overreached when I dismissed the capacity of non-Orthodox Jewish education to prevent conversion. If nothing else it would have given Laura some identification with the Holocaust and the State of Israel and some visceral fear and loathing for all things Arabs and Islam. At the very least she would probably have developed her fathers sensibility that such a conversion is "worse" than a conversion to Buddhism or Catholicism (see 1:16-1:20 of the clip). Yet I still maintain that the more intense and "total-immersion" the type of early-childhood-on Jewish education one receives, the greater the chances of it inoculating the student against conversion.
I understated here when I flippantly dismissed the historical example of Elisha ben Avuyah /Akher (the Tanna NOT the very talented Blogger) as a graduate of a Solomon Schechter Academy. In so doing I missed an opportunity to raise Qedusha consciousness that I will now avail myself of. (Parenthetically, other than DB is there anyone else out there so completely oblivious of my sarcasm as to suppose that I did NOT know that Elisha Ben Avuyah was a Tanna???)
Elisha was an iconic heretic, renegade and collaborator. Per Tosafos in Chagiga 15A citing a Yerushalmi, among the causes of his eventual apostasy were Avuyahs ulterior motives in dedicating his son Elisha to a life of Torah study and his in-utero experience of imbibing some scintilla of the idolatrous as his pregnant mother passed by a Pagan temple and smelled a savory aroma (presumably of sacrifices to the pagan deities).
Point being that Torah Scholarship, and in particular the spiritual edification that accrues from Torah study, depends on more than "what" and "how much". It depends on "why" and "how" as well. Torah being sikhliyus elokus= Divine Wisdom sets it apart from ALL other disciplines and intellectual pursuits. And while all humans, even great Torah Scholars, are endowed with free will, including the free will to freely opt out of Judaism for other faiths or no faith at all, the Milkhemes haYetzer = battle with the Evil Inclination that culminates in so dramatic a wrong, bad choice is usually a war of attrition היום אומר לך עשה כך ולמחר אומר לו עשה כך עד שאומר לו לך עבוד עבודה זרה= "Today he (the inclination to evil) tells you 'do this' and tomorrow he tells you 'do that' until (ultimately, bit bu bit) he tells you 'go worship false gods' ". For former Talmidei Khakhamim like Akher, Spinoza or Mendelssohn to fall precipitously from the proverbial "high roof to the deep pit" there may have been nothing defective in the what" and "how much" of their Torah scholarship but , more than likely there was something wrong with the "why" and "how" of their Torah study.
Torah Study worthy of it's name demands awe, trembling, kavod and eventually the pure motivation of it being studied lishmah = for it's own sake.
Search for more information about Elisha ben Avuyah at 4torah.com.
Yesterday: Someone will claim that something about Obama (his manner, his speech, his ears, something) "emboldened" the shooter.
Today: The "Obama effect ... [has] generated a backlash of white supremacy," Northeastern criminologist Jack Levin told CNN Wednesday. "Jews and blacks in the White House – that's threatening to someone who believes that blacks are subhuman and Jews are the children of the devil."
A valid point. If only Obama was whiter, and surrounded by fewer Jews, all the RW crazies would throw away their guns and join library societies.
Anyway... the Obama Effect? I smell a new meme, which comes right on time given how stale and putrid the "he relies too heavily on his teleprompter meme" has become. I think "Obama Effect" is a very slick way to place the blame for everything and anything squarely where it belongs: On the shoulders of Barak Hussein Obama. Lost your job? Obama Effect. Got Dumped? Obama Effect. Hit the 1 million visitor mark? Obama Effect.
Here are some more:
-- Suddenly find yourself doubting long held and deeply cherished ideals like "personal responsibility?" Totally the Obama Effect.
-- Believe your macho prime minister is too much of a spineless wimp to stand up to a little diplomatic gamesmanship? Big time Obama Effect.
-- Driven to the heights of frantic terror over an unsourced Galei Tzahal report of what is obviously an absurd and impossibly stupid "mideast peace plan?" Total Obama Effect.
-- Epileptic about a photograph in which the president appears to be relaxing with his feet on the desk? You got it. Obama Effect.
(Is this a good time to remind everyone about the Bush Effect? You know, when those crazy liberals went around shooting up the Reagan Museum, and murdering anti-abortion ministers? Oh wait. That didn't happen.)
The story of the lady in Israel who wanted to surprise her mother with a nice gift but ended up causing a disaster has been picked up by news media all around the world, even CNN.
She bought her mother a new mattress and threw out the old one, hoping to surprise her mother. When dear mother came home and saw the new mattress, she freaked out, as she had been socking away her life's savings in her mattress - to the tune of $1,000,000!
Needless to say, the mattress by then was gone and they could not find it.
The story stopped there, with a nice quote from the daughter about how one must accept the good and the bad.
The story, however, does not really end there. The papers and radio discussed the situation with her. She has not given up and accepted the bad. She is looking for the mattress and money.
She has gone down to the dumping ground for the area, where the municipalities dump all the trash, and she has been searching for it. Knowing people would come looking for it, the administrator placed security guards there to keep them out. Unable to find it, but still looking, the woman said dejectedly that she probably will never find it - a security guard told her that had he found it he would just have pocketed it, walked away and not said a word to anybody, and she realizes that that is probably what happened.
There are two questions this raises in my mind:
- If I was the security guard (or even if not - if I found the money), would I do the same? Would I just take the money and disappear, or would I return it? $1,000,000 is a lot of money, but it is also a lot of guilt to live with...
- I wonder halachically if the person who finds it would be allowed to keep it. Clearly there is a siman - it is in a mattress stored in a certain way, which we know is a good siman even for money which usually has no siman. Also, she is looking for it, so there is no yi'ush. But on the other hand, despite the fact that she is looking for it, she has expressed yi'ush saying that she will probably never find it.
Search for more information about [topic] at 4torah.com.