Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Oy, gevalt… the holy yud and hey

A guest post by Jennifer in MamaLand

Am I the only one feeling a little “gevalt-ish” about this??? I’m all for not taking Hashem’s name in vain (OMG, who wouldn’t be? – ha ha ha), but is this a bit – much?

This worksheet for Parshas Vayeishev, downloadable at chinuch.org, asks (both questions are the same), “Who else was in jail?” (ie with Yosef).

But the word “was” (in Hebrew, היה) happens to contain letters that are also present in Hashem’s name, ie the letter Yud and the letter Hey.

So it’s been hyphenated. הי-ה… lest anybody think that we are actually using Hashem’s name.

This makes about as much sense as hyphenating the word “pagoda.” (I can just hear someone saying, “Well, it does have ‘God’ in the middle…”)

>> Read the rest of J's rant after the jump

Vayeshev Parsha Notes

I should have posted this last week. Apologies.

The story of Tamar's rape in the Book of Samuel is the Joseph story told backwards. It begins with Amonon clearing the room using the same exact words Joseph used before he revealed himself to his brother. When Amnom attacks Tamar, he says "Lie with me" which recalls the language Potiphar's wife employed. Following the crime Tamar tears her ketonet pasim; likewise Joseph - the only other character in the bible to have a ketonet pasim - has his coat torn.

The first Tamar story (Judah's daughter in law) overflows with allusions to the rest of Genesis

 >> Read the rest of my parsha notes 

Krum speaks! A defense of "Yeshiva guy says over a vort" by its creator

Guest post by “Krum As A Bagel”

 This post was taken from Hirhurim, where it was posted as an invited response to a really bad post which attempted to criticize the video but missed the boat by about ten miles as I discuss here. 

Gil has generously offered me the opportunity to post a response to his post (link). Much of what I say below reiterates comments I made to Gil’s post and echoes what others have written, but, as the producer of the “yeshiva guy” video, I thought it worthwhile to post a response in a public forum. I find the need to do this somewhat irritating, as I believe the video speaks for itself and I really don’t have the time or energy to engage in a lengthy debate about it (which is why I abandoned my blog years ago), but given the attention it has received and the accusations made about it and its producer, I feel obliged to respond.

>> Read the rest after the jump

More misbehaving in Bnai Brak Ir HaKodesh

Ethiopian Teen Attacked at Mikveh
Racism in Bnei Brak: Worker curses boy at entrance to ritual bath, calling him 'stinking black person,' then follows him home and physically attacks his family. 'I slapped him but good,' he tells police >>More

Said the great Yitz Jordan on Facebook:
Not only should this worker be fired immediately AND arrested, but is there going to be ANYONE who stands up for Ethiopians and other Jews of color in situations like this? If I heard "stinking kushi" being said while I was in the mikvah!? This can NOT be allowed to go on. When a woman wears a t-shirt, B'nei B'rak riots, will there be riots for this?!

My reply: 
Of course there won't be riots. The rioters riot because they hate women, not because they love Torah. They're not likely to riot in this case because they hate black people, too.

Search for more information about Bnai Brak bastards at 4torah.com.

New York Post: A Rabbi wrote on shabbos!

Rabbi Emert is mad that a
cop asked him to do
something he
ultimately decided he
was permitted to do 
Last weekend, Rabbi Sholom Emert crossed against the light, and got stuck between the traffic lanes. A cop saw, and ticketed him for jaywalking. Because it was Shabbos, Emert had no ID on him, so the cop told him he had to write his name on the ticket. Emert complied, and is now screaming to the newspapers that the cop demonstrated no respect for his beliefs.

And of course, the Post is all to pleased to publish his complaint.
"I had no choice. When someone [threatens to] put you in cuffs, you can be [detained for] 24 hours. I have a wife and four kids at home" and "He was very inconsiderate of my beliefs and very nasty with me"
Stuff I'd like to know and things I would have asked after the jump.
Plus a video!

>> Read more after the jump.

Monday, November 29, 2010

This is the life we're living

Hysterical, in parts, but it was not necessary to make the pink bear a bal teshuvah or to make him quite that bitter; plus in the last two minutes it goes from satire to horror show.

[Note: Don't fall into the trap of assuming the creator is a bitter bal teshuvah. Not all art is autobiographical.]

Search for more information about con jobs at 4torah.com.

Is there a censorship double-standard at YU?

Who exactly is unwelcome here?
The Jewish Star is reporting that an 4-person "Censorship Committee" at YU has prevented Rabbi Ethan Tucker from appearing on campus at the invitation of a student group called TEIQU. Rabbi Tucker is the head of Machoin Hador, a yeshiva described as "egalitarian".

According to A Pashut Old City Yid, a blog run by a YU graduate, and not as the blog name implies, a Yerushalmy Hasid, the Committee explained its decision in an email:
“YU, as a matter of generally accepted policy and tradition, will not have a speaker come to campus who is outside the mainstream of Centrist Orthodox Judaism to discuss any matter relating to halacha or hashkafah."
I don't know if a University should ever be banning speakers from its campus, but let's stipulate for a moment that YU is entitled to enforce this policy. The question then becomes, "Is the policy evenly enforced?" If YU bans speakers like Rabbi Tucker, will it also ban R. Ovadya Yosef? Only a few months ago, the head of Shas said "Non-Jews were born to serve Jews" As this view is certainly "outside the mainstream of centrist Orthodoxy" does it follow that Ovadya Yosef is no longer welcome on the YU campus? What about Yair Hoffman? Last week, he wrote an article arguing that Rishonim he didn't study as a child should not be taught to Yeshiva Bochrim -- and he took a nasty swipe at YU in passing. Surely, this is "outside the mainstream of centrist Orthodoxy", but somehow I don't think the Censorship Committee is likely to restrict him from appearing at the school.


UPDATE: I'm making a list of speakers the Censorship Committee should ban if they wish to appear consistent. Your contributions welcome.

Search for more information about speakers YU should ban at 4torah.com.

Great Moments in Marketing

Tweeters, bloggers and others are mocking Whiskey Tango, a bar in Miami, for offering to pay the house's tab whenever the Heat lost. A sample:
@yglesias:  Bwahaha. Miami bar that promised free drinks for every Heat loss down $30,000. http://bit.ly/fZCDAw
It would appear the joke is on the bar, with the Heat having lost 8 games already. According to the owners,they are down about $30,000 in revenue, but only about $10,000 net. (Bars mark up drinks as much as 30 percent) 

And what has the bar gotten for $10,000? Over 60 radio interviews, mentions on ESPN, CNN, DovBear, and other networks, and plenty of play from tweeters, bloggers and others who think Whiskey Tango made a mistake.

Not bad for $10,000.

Search for more information about money well spent at 4torah.com.

Christian Republicans using anti-Semitic appeals to target a Jewish Republican

In Texas, race-baiting Republican Christians are using anti-Semitic appeals in their campaign to defeat a fellow Republican, Joe Straus.

Apparently, even Republicans aren't safe from the racism and nastiness of the right wing. As C>A notes in the first comment, poor Eric Cantor!

What follows after the jump are some of the offensive materials, all of which were collected by Think Progress.

>> Read the rest

Sunday, November 28, 2010

PUPPETRY: Beck vs Soros

by Hendrik Hertzberg
NOVEMBER 29, 2010

It’s hardly news when Fox News airs something nasty. This time, though, it’s personal—or, at least, institutional. Recently, the nation’s highest-rated cable-news network’s biggest star devoted three hour-long episodes of his program to an attack on a single prominent citizen. The in-house advance publicity for these broadcasts was lavish. A promotional spot, distilling to thirty seconds the moral essence of the programs it advertised, is worth describing in full.

>>Read more

Avos and Mitzvos: Fisking the Hirhurim post*

There's a very long post up at Hirhurim which manages to misrepresent the Krum video and the response to it. It's really quite a bad job.

 * I don't name the author because I don't want this post to come up when people Google his name

Friday, November 26, 2010

A great comment on Rabbi Yair's Awful Response

Written by 'Jon". Found on R. Harry's Emes v'Emunah

a) The majority of noteworthy Rishonim hold against Rashi - on the minimalist side you have Rambam, Ramban, Ritva, Meiri, Tosafot, Hizkuni, Ibn Ezra, Rashbam, Radak, Seforno, Beit Yosef, Ramah. On the maximalist side you have Rashi, Maharsha (the exception that proves the rule of course) and Aharonim. It's not just that the minimalist position is more rational and compelling - it's also that among the Rishonim, the maximalist view was da'as yachid!

b) R. Hoffman simply makes things up. The video NEVER mocks the Avot, the Mitzvot, or R. Elyashiv, or even the maximalist view itself! It merely quotes R. Elyashiv, and mocks the way the yeshiva guy invokes him to end the discussion. It merely discusses something to do with the Avot and the mitzvot, and the maximalist view, and mocks a certain caricature of the *people* who maintain that view. Does that mean that it, implicitly, mocks Rashi? No - Rashi was never a yeshiva guy saying over a vort! In other words, I'm sure the assumption on the part of the maker of the video - even if he isn't frum - is that Rashi was a serious scholar who would have given serious answers to the questions, and even if they didn't make the view any more digestable, I'm sure the maker of the video, and the video itself, is maintaining a distinction between Rashi and "yeshiva guys."

c) What the hell does "if you're doing kiruv talk about the minimalist position" even mean??? What, tell the BT about the minimalist position so he thinks Talmidei Hakhamim are smart, then once we sucker him in, pull out the rug from under him with the information that his hashkafos are treif??? I know this isn't just from R. Hoffman but from a lot of kiruv people, but it's quite silly - and dangerous. The yeshivish community needs to start applying their tremendous abilities of critical and analytic thought to things besides mahlokos Rishonim in Bava Metzia immediately, or they're going to have a second Haskala on their - and our - hands.

4) the reason the view became so prevalent is easily explainable: Rashi is the only perush on Humash studied! The yeshivish yeshivot REALLY need to start reading perushim besides Rashi immediately, and stop imagining that anything he says has any more significance than the words of the Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Radak, Rashbam, Seforno, etc. If your only intake of Tanakh is Shnayim Mikra and the only perush you look at is Rashi, then you will have a severely limited view of the truth of Humash, any knowledge of Nakh, and vital hashkafic information - of course, if the only "hashkafic" works allowed into yeshivot are actually intellectual mussar works like Mesilat Yesharim, Derekh Hashem, Hovot Levavot, Mikhtav Me'Eliyahu and such - or has anyone met a yeshiva guy learning the Moreh Nevukhim or Abarbanel? - then you aren't going to get much information to begin with. Shas and Tosafot are important - indeed I think they're the most important - but even without spending more time on Humash and hashkafa, the yeshivish yeshivot need to expand their horizons.

Search for more information about [topic] at 4torah.com.

Additional issues with the famous Gemarah about Patriarchs and their  Eruv Tavshilin

The aggada cited on Yoma 28B says Avraham kept all mitzvos and evem made an Eruv Tavshilin, however it does not agree with the midrash recorded in Bereishis Rabah 64:6. Yoma says Avraham kept eruv tavshilin; the midrash says eruv chatzaros.

Meanwhile the Vilna Gaon (Kol Eliyahu #26) says our gemrah is wrong, and that actually it was Eruv Techumin. Additionally, the Malbim says "Eruv Tavshilim" means the patriarchs kept their milk and meat separate, and not that they performed the rabbinic ritual that allowed them to prepare for shabbos on Yom Tov.

So, are we starting to see why its an act of violence against both Rashi and the tradition to teach simply that "Rashi says Yaakov kept all 613 mitzvos including Eruv Tavshilim"

Yet this bowdlerized travesty of Rashi's position is precisely what's taught, and in some circles you're a kofer for disagreeing, and even for saying that as a non-kohen keeping "all mitzos" was impossible for Yaakov ("Impossible? How can you say anything was impossible for Yaakov?")

It is this reprehensible state of affairs, this sad way of thinking, that Rabbi Yair Hoffman seems to want continued in the name of "tradition".

Search for more information about [topic] at 4torah.com.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A video response to the response to the video

This isn't funny, and the ending sucks, but it says some things that need to be said.

Search for more information about nasty videos like this one at 4torah.com.

Was Rashi dumber than a YouTube video? Or why do his defenders insist he was an idiot?

For me the most disturbing part of the Krum/YouTube controversy is the people who think they are doing God and Judaism a favor by advocating for a simplistic and unsophisticated understandings of Rashi. Who but a fool thinks Rashi believed Yaakov was aware of piskei halacha thousands of years before they were made?  Who but a fool thinks Yaakov actually kept all 613 miztvos when a good number of them are exclusively reserved for kings and kohanim?  As a non-king and a non-Kohen how could Yaakov have done them?

Rashi was certainly no fool, and he was certainly aware of these difficulties; therefore it is impossible to say  that he took this position. Unless you're prepared to make Rashi into an idiot, you are forced to say he meant something else.

And, luckily, his super commentaries do say he meant something else. I know for a fact that Maharal and Malbim did not ascribe this ludicrous view to Rashi and because I (apparently unlike R. Hoffman) have genuine respect for the achronim I refuse to accept that any of them could have possibly embraced such an absurd interpretation of Rashi.

I don't understand how R. Hoffman can think leaving people with an interpretation of Rashi that makes Rash susceptible to all the challenges raised by a YouTube video is respectful to Rashi or to the tradition.

Search for more information about mysteries at 4torah.com.

Evil Jew hating New York Times strikes again!

How dare the New York Times glorify the cuisine of the shtetl with a prominent article in their food section. This is clearly part of a left wing liberal secular humanist plot to undermine cholent!

Recently, American Jews have been pouring their energy into old Ashkenazic dishes that had traveled so far they had lost much of their flavor...

Hat Tip Chometz Ben Yayin

An important holiday tradition


Zman Biur thinks the local school for blackhat boys (see Thanksgiving Thinking I) let a posek set the school's schedule for Thanksgiving weekend.

Wow, is he naive.

And anyway, this isn't a question for a posek. It's a question for the parent body, and I'm all but certain the parents were not consulted. Instead, the school's adminstration probably had a meeting like this....

Dramatis Personae:

Rabbi CYA, the principle
Smedly, his lacky
Smedly, his other lacky

CYA: Ok, Smedlies. Time for me to decide. Are we closing for Thanksgiving this year?

Smedlies: We can't close!

CYA: Why not?

Smedlies: Because people will talk!

CYA: Oh my... Talking? No, no, no, we certainly can't let people talk. They may say things. About the school. Or me. Or something. So that settles it. We'll stay open on Thanksgiving.

Smedlies: We can't stay open!

CYA: Why not?

Smedlies: Because the English teachers will want extra money if we make them work on a holiday.

CYA: Well, that's nerve. (aside) It's not like we pay them fairly, or on time anyway. Thanksgiving should be different? (cackles derisivly) No extra money for teachers. They'll only spend it. Ok, my mind is made up: we're closing.

Smedlies: NO!!

CYA: Right, almost forgot: If we close, people will talk. Um...tell me: what will they say?

Smedly 1: That we're not heimish!

Smedly 2: That we're modern!

Smedly 1: That we don't take religion seriously!

Semdly 2: That we approve of College!

Smedly 1: That we approve of intermarrige!

Smedly 2: That we serve pork in the cafeteria!

CYA: Are you serious?

Smedlies: YES!!

CYA: Well, that's rediculous. We hire the best rabonim, I mean rabayim. (See: We're so heimish we don't even say rabonim!) We require the boys to wear black and white, even at night, on weekends, during the summer, in the privacy of their own homes. We don't let girls into the building. We serve cholent and kugel for breakfast, and we haven't sent a boy to college in 20 years!! Why would anyone doubt us or besmirch our reputation if we did the sensible, convinient thing and closed on Thursday?

Smeldies: Because people are stupid!!

CYA: Good point. Ok, so we compromise. Half day on Thursday. If you need me, I'll be at the parade.

Search for more information about [topic] at 4torah.com.

A Note From a Victim of Abuse

A Guest Post By E. Fink

This post is copied entirely from my home blog at finkorswim.com.

A couple days ago, I wrote a review of a book called Hush. (See Book Review | Hush)

I received this anonymous "stream of consciousness" email asking me to post her thoughts on the book and on the abuse situation in general. I have done just a tiny bit of editing but the emailer really wished that the note be presented in this raw form. I apologize for its length, but I encourage you to read it carefully and think about its message.

Just to give you a bit of background on who I am. I did not grow up in the Chasidic world but in the orthodox yeshiva world. I went to the community yeshiva for elementary school and then to Bais Yaakov high school and seminary in Israel (and a good one that’s hard to get into.) My brother was and is part of the Yeshiva world as well as the rest of my siblings. My family is a core part of the community and is well respected and liked by everyone. We were not a family with “issues” my family is wonderful and “normal” – or so it seems.

I’m not sure we to begin. I just finished reading the book Hush. I can’t stop crying the tears will not stop coming. Of course the book was moving and well written but most importantly, I think I am crying because I was Devory. I was the little girl who was molested by her brother.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Avos and the Mitzvos: A response to R. Yair Hoffman

I see one of the Five Towns clergy has attempted a response to Krum's outstanding video about the patriarchs and their mitzvah observance. Sadly, the response, written by Yair Hoffman for the 5 Towns Jewish Times, completely misses the point.

Here's his thesis [all errors of grammar, style and usage are SIC]:
An analysis of the video reveals that the agenda of the Youtube video producer was to push some of the left-of-center Hashkafa and to undermine the lessons taught in more Yeshivesh circles. It also mocks one of the Gedolei HaDor- Rav Elyashiv Shlita – and does so in a very unbecoming manner.
The problem here is that what Rabbi Hoffman dismisses as a "left-of-center" hashkofa was originally propagated by the Rishonim. If you open your mikraot gedolot to Gen 26:5 you will find that with the exception of Rashi every Rishon on the page - including Ramban, Rashbam, Ibn Ezra, Chizkuni, and Radak - disagrees with the premise that the Patriarchs kept all of the commandments.

So according to Rabbi Hoffman, are Ramban, Rashbam, Ibn Ezra, Chizkuni, and Radak to be considered iffy left-wingers?

This isn't a small question. In his rush to defend his own cherished way of thinking, Rabbi Hoffman has tossed five Rishonim, and all who accept them, under the proverbial bus. Like the brown bear who asked if the Rishonim expounding the view he didn't know "went to YU", Rabbi Hoffman seems convinced that anyone who hold like a Rishon, and not with his own friends is to be suspected. In keeping with this skewed sense of loyalty to his own kind at the expense of the classical commentators, Rabbi Hoffman angrily defends Rav Elyashiv, even as he is helping to marginalize 5 Rishonim.

But the larger issue is that in his mad rush to condemn anyone who thinks like the Rishonim, and not like the members of his own 21st century "yeshivish circle" Rabbi Hoffman has managed to completely misunderstand the video. Despite what Rabbi Hoffman says, its target isn't Rashi, who seems to think that the Patriarchs kept mitzvos, nor did it poke fun of Chazal. In fact, the video's wit is squarely aimed at the poorly educated fools who think they are doing God and Judaism a favor by strenuously defending the most fantastical interpretations while simultaneously ignoring and/or disparaging the Rishonim who disagreed with them. This is approximately what the peach-colored bear actually says at the end of the video. Had Rabbi Hoffman not been blinded by his own agenda, he might have noticed this.

Notwithstanding his inability to correctly perceive the object of the video's mockery,  Rabbi Hoffman might be  right about a related point. He writes that the video seeks to undermine "the lessons taught in more Yeshivesh circles" and this is true;  however, I would add that those lessons deserve to be undermined if they are disrespectful to Ramban, Rashbam, Ibn Ezra, Chizkuni, and Radak. Like Krum, I know dozens of yeshivish Jews who will answer with utter rudeness, anger, and indignation when you "say over" an interpretation that disagrees with Rashi, or with the popular midrashim. This is the attitude Krum mocks. Krum and his video have no beef with Chazal; their opponents are the yeshivish simpletons who are unable to comprehend that much of what they take for granted was not accepted by Rishonim.

Even the comment about Rav Elyahiv had absolutely nothing to do with the sage himself, but with fools who who cling too tenaciously to a literal understanding of Rashi and midrashim. In the video, Rabbi Elyashiv isn't being attacked for ruling against wearing Crocs on Yom Kippur; rather, the brown bear (and those who think like he does) was being mocked for imagining that Yaakov's observances took into consideration halachic rulings made 4000 years later.

At the close of the article Rabbi Hoffman's contempt for the Rishonim is on full display when he concedes that while the views of the Rishonim must not be taught in a yeshiva, they are appropriate "[w]hen one is involved in Kiruv or deals with people that have been raised in secular environments." What is happening in our yeshivas that has made the opinion of Rishonim so controversial that they must be suppressed and hidden? And what do you suppose would happen to a blogger who suggested that perhaps Rav Elyashiv or the newly faddish Shem MiShmuel ought to be reserved for the kiruv crowd, but kept away from serious Torah students? Can Rabbi Hoffman even comprehend how offensive his suggestion is? Does he want us to attack the Mikraot Gedolat with black magic markers and redact the lefty ides, lest an unsuspecting student come across the Rishonim and their currently unsanctioned opinions? And is this Torah?

I should close by saying that I don't count Rabbi Hoffman among the fools I discuss in this post. Although he  gives us a criminal mis-characterization of Krum's intentions, the essay contains a learned discussion of the Avos and Mitzvos question. Unlike the brown bear, Rabbi Hoffman knows the sources, and he knows how to think. Alas, he's too frightened to be honest about what he knows. Instead of defending the peach bear for using Rishonim, logic, and common sense to widen the Torah perspective of his naive companion, Rabbi Hoffman adds his own well-educated voice to the timid chorus of ignorant fools who respond with fear and anger to any Torah perspective that comes from outside their pre-existing comfort zone. The peach bear may have employed an improper tone, but all he was doing was teaching the Torah of the Rishonim to someone who was not aware of it, and that is to be commended, not silenced.

A final irony: Like the bear who assumes that the Rishonim who disagree with Rashi were from YU, Rabbi Hoffman puts forward the notion that the video was produced by someone seeking to "push some of the left-of-center aspects of the Yeshiva University Hashkafa." Moreover, just as the brown bear argues that the Rishonim are "not from our mesorah", Rabbi Hoffman agrees that they aren't to be taught in Yeshiva, but set aside for kiruv purposes. It's a classic example of life imitating art, and one wonders why Rabbi Hoffman was too dumb to see it.

Search for more information about things that make my blood boil at 4torah.com.

A Torah perspective on the Jeter negotiations: Do we pay for past performance?

A guest post by the Fanatic Rabbi

The Derek Jeter negotiations are in full swing, and it appears that they are becoming “messy”, as Hal Steinbrenner predicted a couple months ago. For those who are unaware, the Yankees are formally offering the 36 year old Jeter a 3 year $45 million dollar contract. Casey Close, Jeter’s agent, thinks that the offer is ‘baffling.”

I can understand why Close believes that the Yankees initial offer is baffling.  Jeter made $22.6 million dollars last year and is being offered a new salary with a 25% pay cut.  At the same time, however, at $15 million dollars per year, Jeter will remain the highest paid shortstop by a wide margin. Hanley Ramirez, a younger, and arguably better shortstop, is due $11.6 million this upcoming season.

It’s hard to argue that what the Yankees are offering Jeter is unfair. But we must acknowledge and consider the fact that Jeter has been a loyal Yankee, and that during his tenure as “the face of the franchise,” the organization’s value has skyrocketed. Therefore, it may be incumbent upon the organization to offer Jeter an even more honorable salary.

Will Jeter wear pinstripes next season?  Almost certainly.  Will the two sides come to terms that everyone is happy with? Most probably.

Nevertheless, for the time being, it is important to discuss, from a religious perspective, whether the Yankees are required to offer Jeter a contract based on what he has achieved as a Yankee. In other words, does Jeter deserve a higher salary with additional years on the contract based on what he has done for the team in the past? Or should the Yankees compensate him solely based on his current value?

Well, Judaism believes in severance pay. This means that if a Jewish educator is let go after years of hard work and commitment to a school or synagogue, the custom is to compensate the individual with a parting gift to express gratitude and appreciation for his or her service and dedication.

So, yes, there is a concept of paying for loyalty in Judaism. However, the whole institution of severance is only when an individual is being let go from his position. Jeter is negotiating a new contract for 3 years.  The concept of a parting gift or a severance package does not apply when a person is not leaving the organization.

Judaism also believes that a person who cannot contribute on the same level as he once did, is still required to be treated with the same amount of respect and honor that he received when he was able to contribute at his highest level.  The example that tradition uses to support this sentiment is that of the “Shivrei Luchot,” the first set of tablets that Moses destroyed.  Those broken tablets were stored in the ark and the Jewish people were required to treat the broken tablets with the same amount of respect and honor as the 2nd and ‘whole’ set of tablets.  By analogy, the Yankees, then, must treat Jeter with the same amount of respect now as when he was in the prime of his career.

In my opinion, the Yankees are being extremely respectful towards him.  A $45 million dollar deal over 3 years is more than ample- respect. Some may even call the deal excessive. They are treating him as if he is the best shortstop in baseball, and are willing to compensate him with more than his market value.

Jeter has already received over $200 million dollars from the Yankees and he has also made significant money in advertisements. Maybe Jeter is being a bit too greedy?

In fact, if I were Jeter, I would be worried about my image. Yankee fans are known to be the brightest and most passionate baseball fans.  They understand the situation as well as anyone. My feeling is that Yankee fans believe that a $45 million dollars contract is more than fair.  If Jeter and his agent continue to play hardball, he may lose some respect from his adoring fan-base.

From a religious standpoint, Jeter has no legs to stand on.  While Judaism believes in the concepts of paying for loyalty and treating great people with tremendous amounts of respect, even during their decline, the Yankees are not required to offer him any more than their initial offer.

As Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said the other day, let Jeter test the free agent market if he’s not happy with the offer and find another team willing to pay top dollar for his services.

I just hope that this negotiation does not get too messy.

Search for more information about Jeter greed at 4torah.com.

Ebay Item of the Day

From Amshi:

eBay: Find Passover pesach matzo from the skvere rebbe in the Collectibles , Religion Spirituality , Judaism , Other category on eBay.

Why is this treasure being offered for sale? Perhaps because the main Square synagogue failed to pay a $78,000 electric bill and has had their power shut off.

Search for more information about [topic] at 4torah.com.

Down with Derek Jeter

I don't know what sweet nonsense agents and others may have been whispering in Derek Jeter's ears, but the idea that he has been "devalued"  by the latest Yankee offer is absurd.  

Derek Jeter is 37 years old, and on the decline. Within two years we're likely to discover that he doesn't have the range or the speed to play shortstop anymore, and he already can't hit with enough power to play third or DH. Yet, the Yankees still offered him $15 million for the next three years. That's Chase Utley money, and the Phillie second baseman is a younger, better player. The best shortstops - Hanly Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins - are also younger and more talented than Jeter, and they make about $12 million per year.

So where does Jeter get the nerve to act insulted? Even though he's old, and well on his way to being useless, his team offered him $3 million beyond what more accomplished shortstops are paid, and they made that offer with the full understanding that Jeter will likely not be a full-time player in a year or two. 

That's more than generous. 

Search for more information about [topic] at 4torah.com.

Search for more information about [topic] at 4torah.com.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Who are the nursing mother and the Sar Apis?

Avoda Zara 43a1:

The gemerah discusses two commonly worshiped images, the nursing mother and Sar Apis.

The gemarah identified the former with Eve, who "suckled the whole world" and thus became a deity. The latter is said to represent Joseph who was a sar prince who calmed the world by handing out grain.

I hate to be a party pooper, but even a non-specialist like me thinks Seraphis and Isis, who is often depicted nursing a child, are better fits for this description. Though the gemarah's guesses are charming, I'm not sure what to make of them. Seraphis was an Egyptian deity originally, who developed into a Greek and then a Roman god. If it possible he was first based on Joseph? Even the grain measure Sar Apis is said to carry fits the description of Seraphis, but then Joseph did make his name in Egypt by handing out grain. Mysterious. 

UPDATE: Art Scroll pays lip service to the possibility that Sar Apis is Seraphis; nothing about Isis though. Rashi is silent, too. Haven't checked others.

Related daf posts from Avoda Zara.

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Wow but do you people have weird taste

I installed Analytics so late, I'm almost embarrassed to tell you when (2009) but these are the 10 posts that have received the most direct traffic in the 15 or so months that I've been keeping track.
Unfortunately, the site trackers I used before Analytics did not track traffic to individual posts, so though I can see what days were busiest in the pre-Analytics days, I can't tell you what posts in particular attracted the attention.

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An ingrate's Thanksgiving

A guest post by Chaim "The Bray"of Fundie (pictured at left)

DB: This is Bray's annual  anti-Thanksgiving sermon. Like most of what he write it misses the point from the outset. On Thanksgiving we don't thank America; we thank God for giving us the blessings of freedom and prosperity.

One often 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 been a Golden Age Diaspora unparalleled in Jewish History. And while it's undeniable that there is much to be grateful for, everything from penicillin to kosher sushi, there are many unprecedented ways in which the United States of America has been "bad for the Jews". 

Below I submit a heartfelt, but by no means comprehensive, list: 

See it after the jump >>

Judge Kimba Wood gives a great response to a lawyer who asks to be excused for his grandchild's bris

After Judge Kimba Wood, of NYC, receives a request to be excused from court for a Bris, the Judge gives an awesome response (which was verified).

See it after the jump

Really a great move by the Judge.

[All of this, including some of the introductory words came from here via Tzip]

Indonesian Menorah demonstrates Obama haters are a bunch of liars (Plus: meet my new Jewish hero)

Just after the president's recent visit to Indonesia, (the one that cost nowhere near $200 million per day despite what irresponsible phonies like Hannity claimed) my inbox was inundated with an especially ubiquitous viral email claiming that he had "praised" Indonesia "as tolerant." This glad-handing munificence toward his hosts something practiced by all politicians, in every situation, was characterized by the scummy liars who create ubiquitous viral emails as a great stain on the president's character. How dare that-Muslim, socialist, commie, fascist, Rev. Jeremiah Wright adoring Obama praise a bunch of Jew-hating Indonesians for "tolerance" they railed.

Their comeuppance came this morning in the form of a New York Times article (actually their comeuppance came first in the comments of this post, but I suppose more people saw the Times article) The article describes efforts made by a local Indonesian government to make their remaining Jews feel comfortable. These efforts include the installation of a 62-foot menorah on a hill overlooking the town of Monado, which was paid for by the government.  Also:
Flags of Israel can be spotted on motorcycle taxi stands, one near a six-year-old synagogue that has received a face-lift, including a ceiling with a large Star of David, paid for by local officials.
The article also describes my new hero, Toar Pennington, a 27-year old Indonesian man who dons a hat and jacket every Friday night and sits down to a Shabbos dinner.

“We’re just trying to be good Jews,” he says.

Unfortunately, by "we" he means the 10-20 Jews left in Indonesia - a sad fact, that makes his behavior all the more astounding.

Search for more information about the am keshai oref at 4torah.com.

How many of these books have you read?

Here we go with another absurd blog meme.

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. Instructions: Bold those books you've read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or those from which you've read an excerpt.

See my results after the jump

Monday, November 22, 2010

Beware of Thanksgiving grinches

The grinch says:
As Jews we are forbidden to celebrate Thanksgiving just as we are forbidden to celebrate easter or xmas...This is what happens to those who laugh at our great sages when they issue an eddict [sic] to avoid imitating the secular world on the celebrating of the pagan [sic] holiday of Thanksgiving.

Rav Moshe Feinstein Says
On the issue of joining with those who think that Thanksgiving is like a holiday to eat a meal: since it is clear that according to their religious law books this day is not mentioned as a religious holiday and that one is not obligated in a meal [according to Gentile religious law] and since this is a day of remembrance to citizens of this country, when they came to reside here either now or earlier, halacha sees no prohibition in celebrating with a meal or with the eating of turkey. One sees similar to this in Kiddushin 66 that Yanai the king made a party after the conquest of kochlet in the desert and they ate vegetables as a remembrance.

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Housekeeping: Comments

Ok, here's the plan true believers. We're attempting to move all the comments to Disqus. Wheels are turning, as we speak, and the patient, ie, my blog, should be out of surgery by tomorrow morning.

If this works, we'll have a great new commenting system to play with. 

I'll also need a spot of help and, as usual, I'll be turning  turning to you the readers for assistance.

Stay tuned....

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"Oh how I love (hareidi) double standards..."

A guest post by MEKUBAL

What I am being accused of: mevaze talmid chochom and thus being an Apikorus.
Where am I being accused of this: Over here on the "Daas Torah" blog in the comment thread.
Why am I being accused of this: Because I posted an email that shows that Rav Shternbuch reversed his views on the Dybuk issue. Why is this a double standard?

Well three words, Rabbi Leib Tropper. When insinuations, and accusations were being made about him, there was one lonely commenter on the "Daas Torah" blog that even said give the guy a chance to offer up an explanation. He was ridiculed. Nobody was accused of being mevaze talmid chochom, even before the fateful recordings started to appear, and there was nothing but unsubstantiated rumor about things like misappropriation of funds, and proselytizing.

 So what is the difference? Well, that is fairly simple, trashing Tropper didn't infringe on anyone's mis-perceptions about "Daas Torah." There were no Rabbanim who through their super-power Ruah HaKodesh were supposed to be able to know all things, see all things, and most importantly be infallible. Never mind that this idea is found nowhere in our mesorah. In fact several famous Ahronim went so far as to state that when one of the Gedolei Yisrael admits a mistake, it only increases his Gadlut. Rav Shalom Hedayya, in his peirush on Pirkei Avot, Seh L'Beit Avot, claims sourcing of this in Pirkei Avot, and expounds upon it at length.

However, somewhere along the line it seems that certain Yidden have gotten it into their minds that the Catholics have a good thing going with the whole Papal infallibility deal, and that we should copy it over. Where they miss the plot is that the Catholics only have one person they hold as a Gadol(l'havdil). Whereas every community of Judaism has at least one, and what is more, they don't all agree... Quite the quandary really. Let's stick with the Jerusalem Hareidi world, where all of this began, and look at an not so hypothetical instance... the Shabbat Elevator. You have the Admur M'Gur and the Eida headed(at least when it fits) by Rav Shternbuch saying that they are permitted to use. You have the Admur M'Belz who says it depends on the type. Then you have Rav Eliashiv who says they are assur. So being that these are all Gedolei Yisrael, and all of their individual followers believe their particular one to be the Gadol HaDor, I have a simple question. With this new found infallibility... who is right?

Ok... let's back up here a second. Let's assume that these problems with the import of Papal... I mean Gadol infallibility don't exist. Let's just say for sake of argument that elu v'elu some how covers the ability for two contradicting opinions are both the absolute only right way. Let's then also assume that to thus call any Gadol or Talmid Chochom on their mistakes is really mevaze talmid chochom. So why is it still Ok to slander(in the same thread) Rav Batzri, with some fairly negative slurs, but to say that the person who reported Rav Shternbuch's supposed comments knowingly withheld information is mevaze talmid chochom. Right it is that same double standard coming back again.

 No wonder klal Yisrael is in such trouble.

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The Rachel's Tomb that is now a mosque, is probably not the real Rachel's Tomb

I see from the newspapers that UNESCO has designated Rache's Tomb as a mosque:
A religious site outside Bethlehem revered by both Jews and Muslims has emerged as the latest diplomatic battlefield between Israel and the United Nations. Known as Rachel's Tomb to Jews and the Bilal bin Rabah mosque to Muslims, the site was included in a resolution by Unesco last week, which described it as a mosque and noted that it formed "an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories".
The proper and correct Jewish reaction to this is: WHO CARES. Let me explain. The Bible tells us (Gen 35:19) that Rachel was buried not in Bethlehem, but "on the way" to that town. Later Samuel the prophet tell us exactly where the tomb is located Speaking to Saul in Samuel 1 10:2 he says
"When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel's tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, 'The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, "What shall I do about my son?"
This conversation took place in Zuph, which as you can see is in Ephraim; thus the "border of Benjamin" is the northern border, a spot well to the north of the current location of the tomb in Judah, just south of Benjamin's southern border. In any case, it certainly is not specifying a location within the territory of Judah, which is where the current tomb is located

Search for more information about fake tombs at 4torah.com.

Comments are back


Friday, November 19, 2010

What Esav soneh l'Yaakov really means

Ahab had the whale. Hillary had health care reform. Cliff Claven wanted a good pair of shoes. For me, the insurmountable task, the ongoing crusade has been the rehabilitation of Esav's reputation. As I see it, the verses give us an Esav who may have under-appreciated the rights of the firstborn, to which he was entitled, but still do nothing to justify the appellations that have been assigned to him. In Genesis, he is not a rasha [=evil person] or a murderer. He's simply a gruff older brother, and perhaps something of a boor. It is the later interpretations [=midrashim] and not the verses that make Esav into one of the Bible's most wicked characters.

Long time readers are aware that I've been posting about this for years. In honor of the weekly reading, here's a selection. By way of summary, the posts (about 25 in all) discuss the various Esav midrashim and offer explanations as to how they may have developed. They also deal with the verse from this week's sedra and the most famous thing Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai ever said.  (If you were here in 2005, you may recall that the infamous YaakovMenken misunderstood the statement, criticized me for explaining it correctly, and then suppressed my comments at his miserable blog to prevent others from learning that I'd corrected him. Later his own co-blogger confirmed my interpretation.)

Here is the Rashby as Rashi quotes him:

R. Shimon b. Yochai said: "It is a known fact (halacha b'yaduah) that Esav hates Yaakov, but, his mercy was aroused at that moment and he kissed him with all of his heart."

In this comment, Rashi is attempting to explain the dots which appear over the word "and he kissed him." (ie: vayishakayhu)

One opinion says the kiss was not a real kiss, but a bite; therefore the word is dotted. Shimon Bar Yochai goes the other way, and says the kiss was real, but the dots are needed because everything we've seen in the narrative so far indicates that Esav hates his brother, and would sooner knee him in the crotch than kiss him.

Were it not for the dots, everything we know about Esav would cause us to doubt the sincerity of the kiss. 

The words Esav sonei le’Yaakov, therefore, should be understood as a straightforward, statement of fact about the nature of Yakov's relationship with his brother; unfortunately they are not. Instead, the words have been used for centuries to explain, and even justify anti-Semitism. It has even made it impossible for some Jews to negotiate with gentiles in good faith. Why should we bother, these Jews reason, after all Esav sonei le’Yakov.

The proof that I am right about how to understand Rashby's words can be found in the midrash, which reads as follows:

דבר אחר לך לקראת משה המדברה, זש"ה מי יתנך כאח לי (שה"ש ח, ישראל אומרין לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא מי יתנך כאח לי, את מוצא כל האחים שונאים זה לזה קין שונא להבל שנ' (בראשית ד ויקם קין אל הבל אחיו וגו', ישמעאל שונא ליצחק שנאמר ותרא שרה את בן הגר המצרית וגו' (שם כא ואין מצחק אלא שבקש להרגו שנאמר יקומו נא הנערים ויצחקו (שמואל ב ב), עשו שונא ליעקב שנאמר ויאמר עשו בלבו וגו' (בראשית כו, השבטים שנאו ליוסף שנאמר וישנאו אותו (שם לז

 From here its clear, obvious and irrefutable that the speaker's subject is individuals, not nations.

Search for more information about Jewish misunderstandings at 4torah.com.

NCYI tosses a stone from their glass house

Report: The National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) has condemned a U.S. State Department report that criticizes Israel for alleged religious discrimination against non-Jews and non-Orthodox Jews.

Let's be real. The nearly bankrupt National Council of Young Israel does not have the resources to compete with the U.S State Department. NCYI employs a handful of people. The state department employs thousands. Their report is based on copious research, conducted by experts who reviewed documents, and interviewed people. The NCYI response, on the other hand, is likely based on hearsay, wishful thinking, and amateur observations made by the NCYI president from a Jerusalem hotel window. 

It also seems to me the NCYI should get its own house in order before it condemns the state department. Given how they are alleged to bully, bleed and mistreat their branches -- especially those with female leadership -- I would suggest that they have some work to do before posing as champions of non-discrimination.


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Vayishlach Material

The latest edition of Vayishlach Parsha Notes (I plan to continue updating it through the day)

While my comments are down, you can make your witty remarks and clever observations on the FaceBook version of this post, which can be found here.

Bushie boy's book: Huge swaths of it appear to have been plagiarized

The word on the street is that our exalted former president is a word thief. According to some enterprising journalist at Huffington Post many of the anecdotes Bush represents as personal experiences appear to have been lifted straight from the published works of other journalists. Here's a long, illustrative, quote from Ryan Grim's column
Many of Bush’s literary misdemeanors exemplify pedestrian sloth, but others are higher crimes against the craft of memoir. In one prime instance, Bush relates a poignant meeting between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a Tajik warlord on Karzai’s Inauguration Day. It’s the kind of scene that offers a glimpse of a hopeful future for the beleaguered nation. Witnessing such an exchange could color a president’s outlook, could explain perhaps Bush’s more optimistic outlook and give insight into his future decisions. Except Bush didn’t witness it. Because, as he himself writes later in the book, he wasn’t at Karzai’s inauguration.

His absence doesn’t stop Bush from relating this anecdote: “When Karzai arrived in Kabul for his inauguration on December 22 - 102 days after 9/11 - several Northern Alliance leaders and their bodyguards greeted him at an airport. As Karzai walked across the tarmac alone, a stunned Tajik warlord asked where all his men were. Karzai, responded, ‘Why, General, you are my men. All of you who are Afghans are my men.’”

That meeting would sound familiar to Ahmed Rashid, author of “The Mess in Afghanistan”, who wrote in the New York Review of Books: “At the airport to receive [Karzai] was the warlord General Mohammad Fahim, a Tajik from the Panjshir Valley …. As the two men shook hands on the tarmac, Fahim looked confused. ‘Where are your men?’ he asked. Karzai turned to him in his disarmingly gentle manner of speaking. ‘Why General,” he replied, “you are my men–all of you are Afghans and are my men.’” 

Bush’s lifting of the anecdote, while disappointing on a literary level, does raise the intriguing possibility that Bush actually read Rashid’s article. Doubtful. It was excerpted in the Googleable free intro to his NYRB story. (Still, thinking of Bush browsing the NYRB’s website almost makes it worthwhile.)

In a separate case of scene fabrication, though, Bush writes of a comment made by his rival John McCain as if it was said to him directly. “The surge gave [McCain] a chance to create distance between us, but he didn’t take it. He had been a longtime advocate of more troops in Iraq, and he supported the new strategy wholeheartedly. “I cannot guarantee success,” he said, “But I can guarantee failure if we don’t adopt this new strategy.” A dramatic and untold coming-together of longtime rivals? Well, not so much. It comes straight from a Washington Post story. McCain was talking to reporters, not to Bush.
In addition, Grim accuses our former president of stealing passages from American Soldier, by General Tommy Franks, work by Ahmed Rashid New York Review of Books, as well as from Bob Woodward and from Robert Draper’s Dead Certain.  If any of you still believed the ludicrous claims the boy-king used to make about his character and morality, I hope these revelations finally explode those misapprehensions.

PS: Will any of this be published on the RW blogs? Doubtful. Draw your own conclusions as to why they're once again reluctant to demonstrate any concern or disappointment about the latest instance of Bush misbehavior.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Another conversation I've had too many times

This time our hero responds to a crazy bit of nonsense certain types of Jews pass of as profound wisdom.

See the first conversation I've had too many times. 

Both by krumbagel 


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Something's wrong, I don't know what

The comments aren't working. (You may have noticed) We're not sure why. The DovBear Tech Department is working on the problem, and I hope he will have it solved before too much longer.

Meanwhile, via the wayback machine, have a look at what the blog was like in 2005 before it got larded up with ads, Chaim Bray, and other gizmos.

A solution to the Jewish charity scams


Fellow Yidden!

In these troubling times, we are beset with unscrupulous tzedaka appeals. 

Protect yourself from these people! 

For a gift of $100 to kupat haganavim, we will send the gedolim shlita to the kosel hamaaravi shlita where they will sit for 24 hours a day davening that you should be spared from these charlatans.

For $200, they will also daven that you should be spared from any shnorrers ringing your doorbell holding illegible haskamos in plastic and mumbling yiddish at you! 

For $300 they will storm the shaarey hashamayim with their tears for hashem to grant you a cure for the terrible case of gullibility that has stricken you, rachmana litzlan! 

Results are guaranteed! (unless you a have a relative, like maybe a cousin who doesn't cover her hair, in which case what did you expect already?)

Search for more information about scams at 4torah.com.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The typical Torah vs. Science conversation, or what its like to talk to @yeshivaguy on Twitter

I've had this exact same conversation several dozen times - with @yeshivaguy on Twitter, and many others. You bring up rishonim, they don't care. You mention science, they go ad hom. Its absurd, and I hope that if I continue to  post material such as this, they'll start to realize it.

by @krumbagel

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How the kupat ha'ir style scammers lie to steal your money

Oh brother. If you have some extra cash lying around, and you're still not convinced that organizations that promise miracles in exchange for money are cheats and liars you've invited to send your dough to Israel where 2000 small children are willing and waiting to pray for your safety on the roads.

But only if you pay up. See it's like this: The small children only pray for members. If you haven't sent in some cash, you're out of luck. It's roadkill city.

And that's one of the things about programs such as this that announce them as scams. If the small children actually have the ability to create force-fields of protection from road accidents isn't it an act of abject cruelty to restrict the benefits to paid-up members? I mean, if the organizers actually believe that small children have this awesome power, by what right do they restrict the magic to donors alone?  Only a villain in a fairy tale refuses to use his supernatural abilities to benefit as many people as possible. 

After a glance at the website, I've found some other reasons to vomit. In what follows, I explain. Their text is in blue. My complaints are in black.

 A child rides the school bus...A mother pushes her baby stroller across the street...
A family travels to Israel for Yom Tov.

Our Torah leaders have recognized the increase in worldwide travel accidents. 
Wow. You mean that as more and more people are using cars the roads have become more crowded and their have been more accidents. Such rare insight! And note, I'm not mocking the Torah leaders here. I'm mocking the irresponsible authors of this text, who think telling us that Torah leaders can perceive the obvious is a respectful way to write about them. Imagine if I said, our Torah leaders have recognized that 2+2=4. You'd hate that right? So this pious website is doing the same thing .

That's why they are so enthusiastic about this powerful, protective measure:Shemirah Bidrachim - Protection on the Road.
Actually, this is an exaggeration.The folks behind this program were nice enough (or perhaps foolish enough) to provide the actual text of the actual rabbinic endorsements. You can find them here. Seven great rabbis are included, and I dont detect "enthusiasm" from any of them. 

For instance, here is Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach's enthusiastic endorsement. It reads in full: Ask the Posek Hador. Harav Weiss agreed, so I agree.

Three others aren't much better.

Harav Ovadya Yosef's enthusiastic endorsement doesn't seem very certain about the efficacy of the program. In fact its not much more than a blessing. He writes: "... may it be the will of Hashem that their prayers are answered."

Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv similarly demonstrates no enthusiasm. He merely says "According to Halacha this is allowed to be done... it should be with hatzlacha" This is an enthusiastic endorsement? . Then why does he sound like if he has no faith in the enterprise, but iswilling to begrudgingly admit the con was permitted?
Harav Pincha Alter, the Ger Rebbe, seems to share Rav Elyashiv's discretion. He writes: "If the poskim say this is permitted you can do it." That's enthusiasm? So how does the Ger Rebbe sound when he really hates an idea, but it to polite to say so?
Even the most legitimately enthusiastic endorsement of the seven, the one supplied by Harav Shmuel Wosner, is lukewarm. He calls it a "good thing" and says that everyone who trusts in Hashem gets the SAME ASSURANCE with no payment required. See it here.

In this revolutionary initiative, thousands of people just like you are protecting themselves with an effective method that has proven itself throughout our history: the merit of pure Jewish children whose prayers and Torah study keep the world in existence.

Proven? Like with blind tests, and hard data? Because so far as I know, that's the only way to prove something. You need to track results and make an analysis. I'm certain this hasn't been done here, because if such proof was available, all of us - including the gedolim who are being so unscrupulously used by this disreputable organization - would be overflowing with genuine enthusiasm.

Search for more information about the lies people tell about the gedolim at 4torah.com.