Friday, July 29, 2011

Good Shabbos: Great kid!

Chesed Shel Emet or butting in?

A guest post by Philo

I’ve recently gotten several emails and Facebook notices about signing a petition to prevent the cremation of Aaron Tabachnik, a young Jewish man who committed suicide. Apparently, the mother, with whom he lived in Florida, plans to cremate him, and the father, who lives in Israel, is trying to stop the cremation and have his son buried in the traditional Jewish manner instead.

While it's sad that this young man will be cremated in opposition to halacha, I don't think it's the business of the Jewish public to get involved. Leave the grieving mother alone. The father can contest her decision, but it should remain a family matter.

When I said as much in a comment thread on Facebook, several people stressed the supremacy of halacha and how that justified getting involved. They mentioned rumors about the mother having issues and that the father is the good guy here.

I did a quick internet search which brought up accusations from the father against the mother and vice versa. Who knows what the facts are? IMO, halacha doesn't justify getting involved in a grieving family's dispute. It’s not the public’s business.

What do you think?

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

An Awesome Compliment for the Jewish People

The claim is being made that Gypsy man and women are masquerading as Jews and soliciting charity in Queens neighborhoods. I can't substantiate the claim, but I can't rule it out either. The author of the website Gypsies Posing As Jews has interviewed some of the accused, and says they don't have even baseline Jewish knowledge and deliver canned responses.  His full evidence, which I have received by email,  is as follows:
  1.  They have clearly been trained by some handler who gives them all small index cards that has their sob story written on it which is usually the same.
  2. They are invariably from Moldova. I have asked to see the IDs of some and they have (naively) showed me them. They also say they are from Moldova. Moldova has an almost non-existent Jewish population (see and
  3.  Most of them look distinctly non-Jewish.
  4.  Most of them look distinctly like many Roma / Gypsies look. (Do a Google Images search)
  5. They all have certain identical canned lines like " Hashem should bless you"
  6. When you ask them their names they invariably respond with something generic such s "Sara daughter of Rachel"
  7. different ones have told me they live on Kingston Ave in Bed Stuy so unless they hang out with the Messianists they would be the only Jews in that area.
  8.  Upon being quizzed it is clear they have no Jewish knowledge whatsoever.
The only thing on the list that is a real slam dunk is #2.

If its true that these beggers are Gypsies in disguise, what an awesome compliment for the Jewish people! Clearly, we have a reputation, among the Gypsies at least,  for being merciful children of merciful parents, and the words of the speaker on B T Yevamos 79 remain true:

שלשה סימנים יש באומה זו: הרחמנים, והביישנין, וגומלי חסדים
There are three signs of this nation – they are merciful, bashful and generous (do kindness for others.)

Or to translate it colloquially, what a bunch of commie, socialist left-wing  liberals those Jews are :)

Video maker responds to a DovBear post

Dear Dov Bear Readers

 Sorry I wan to able to address this earlier.

As the person who directed and filmed this video I have much to say on it. I am very much in agreement that to profit on Leiby's expense would be a terrible abomination. However the case here is not one which is about profiting on his expense. The boy Yisrael Amar, his father who for the record is a shlich in florida, and one of his donors was the real force behind this project, asked that they create a song. Something to bring some sort of comfort to this terrible tragedy.

Does Yisrael have publicity from this video? Of course! But so what. It was not the reason that this project was started. It was a boy and his father using talents that Hashem gave them in the best possible way. To begin to describe how hurt I am by Leiby's story, that I wont even begin to do. We all feel the pain.

This boy with his fathers help made a song which helped bring out a powerful message. Did he get publicity? Yes. Does that make them evil? I guess we will leave that to you to decide.

But as the person involved with creating the video and working with the Amar's I can say that they are here to help the keletzky family. If you want to take that the wrong way thats your choice. But I believe after an event like this we need to keep our achdus. If one person will find comfort one way and one person another, respect that. Kol Tov.

Yosef Shidler

DB responds: I agree that no one here is evil, or wrong, or bad or deserving of approbation and scorn. My point simply is that its impossible to say that the people behind this video received no benefit from their association with Leiby. As I wrote in one forum (my own comments):

Who has the more popular name? Leiby.
Who has the less popular name? The song writer.
So who needs who in this relationship?

The Leiby Fund (we hope and expect) is gaining 99 cents, but what is this formally unknown singer, and this video maker we never heard of getting? Ah. Now we know who they are. Now they have something impressive for their portfolio. Now they can start a meeting, or phone call by saying. you don't know me BUT I MADE THE LEIBY VIDEO

Now again, this doesn't make anyone evil, or detract from the good deed of raising money for the fund. As I wrote in another forum (Twitter) even sincere, kind people, can sometimes be crass, exploitative and opportunistic. But don't you expect some career, and perhaps finacial benefits? And didn't there considerations play some part in the decision to go ahead with the project? That's all that was meant via the headline that suggested you, and the others, were "cashing in."

I do want to thank Mr. Shidler for writing, and I do want to apologize in public for any pain I may have caused by reprinting his own email verbatim under the headline "Cashing in on Leiby." I am sorry, and I hope you succeed in raising money for the fund. Tizku l'Mitzvos.

Dennis Prager cuts off his nose to spite his face

Did you know that Dennis Prager thinks it might be a GOOD thing if San Francisco were to outlaw circumcision. Well almost...
Although I am strongly opposed to the proposition, if it passes, some good may come of it... If the most left-wing major city in America starts arresting Jews who have their children circumcised there, some American Jews might awaken to the threat to Jews posed by the Left.
Brilliant, right? Only two small things.

(1)  In the rest of the article, Dennis goes on for paragraphs about how valuable he thinks the Brit Milah ritual is, before turning on a dime and announcing he's willing to sacrifice it all on the alter of I Was Right And You Were Wrong.  It takes a special kind of sick moron to root audibly for the elimination of civil rights, the loss of liberty,  the imprisonment of Jews, and the end of a rite he finds valuable and meaningful simply for the sake of scoring some ideological points.  

(2) Dennis conveniently omits to mention that the big bad left-wing establishment opposes the circumcision ban.
But, as usual,  Dennis isn't about to let the facts enter his own  personal Imagination Land or admit to anything that might interfere with his righteous crusade against a left-wing bogeyman of his own creation.

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  • Wednesday, July 27, 2011

    How the Torah World Changes

    A guest post by @berelshain

    For the past two months and especially over the past week, the Agudah has been taking a well deserved beating for its dangerous and backward-thinking policy on the reporting of abuse. Lay, rabbinic and expert commentators alike have pointed out the obvious risks posed to the community by those would follow the procedures for reporting sexual abuse advocated by Shlomo Gottesman at the recent halacha conference and reaffirmed by Agudah's press release moments before candle-lighting this past week. I see no need to elaborate on those points.

    However, a bit of history calls Agudah's sincerity and professed adherence to Daas Torah into question. At the Agudah convention in 2006, Rav Matisyahu Salomon gave an impassioned speech in which he excoriated the bloggers and participants in the frum cyber community for their disrespect of rabbonim and of the concept of daas torah. RMS spoke in the strongest of terms of the need to eradicate the evil web fiends from our midst and concluded his drasha with leading a reluctant crowd in the chanting of "Atta hareisa ladaas ..."

    During the course of the drasha (which can be heard in its entirety here: Rav Matisyahu spoke of the way that the torah community (a euphemism relating exclusively to the chareidi world) has approached sexual abuse allegations. The Mashgiach said that the allegations are dealt with al pi torah and in a quiet way to preserve the dignity of the accused. In an infamous line (taken out of context by his critics) Rav Matisyahu explained that the actions taken by rabbinic leaders to deal with molesters are swept under the carpet; that is, they are not publicized.

    Nonetheless, they are conducted in accordance with the holy torah. There was no mention whatsoever - not even the slightest hint - that the police should ever be involved under any circumstances. The Mashgiach's position was clear and unequivocal: this is and should be handled by the rabbis in accordance with halacha. Period. This statement by a respected gadol at the pulpit of the Agudah convention was not repudiated or otherwise qualified by the Agudah. Until now.

    Agudah now states that not only is informing the police permissible, it is halchically mandated where raglayim ledava exists (a vague term that requires the rabbis to play the role of gatekeeper). Interestingly, the teshuvos of the poskim quoted by Shlomo Gottesman at the halacha conference and again by Chaim Dovid Zwiebel on the Zev Brenner show this past week as the foundation of the Agudah policy were all issued before Rav Matisyahu's speech! The letters can be found here, beginning at page 15 of the pdf and the dates confirm that they were all issued prior to 2006. So if, as Agudah suggests in its most recent clarification, there is a chiyuv to go to the secular authorities where raglayim ledavar exists, why did Rav Matisyahu not mention that most crucial halacha? Why did the Agudah not issue these guidelines until May of 2011 - 7 years after the first teshuva of Rav Elyashiv was issued?

    The answer I believe lies in the fact that we are fortunate to have ignored the calls of the Mashgiach. The changes we are seeing (however painfully slowly) towards the attitude of sexual abuse by organizations such as Agudah were not inspired by the poskim; they were demanded by the community through the powerful medium of the unstoppable internet. Had we heeded the Mashgiach's call and shut down the blogosphere, Agudah's attitude toward sexual abuse would be the same today as it was ten, twenty and thirty years ago. Indeed the poskim themselves have reacted to the outcry of the community. Teshuvos on the permissibility and requirement to report sexual abuse were not written until recently - because the issue was not forced into the public arena until recently.

    The revolution that continues to take place in the frum community concerning the proper approach to allegations of sexual abuse was started not by Agudah, not by a concerned posek, but by the rantings of an admittedly angry and at times out of control bloggosphere, which in turn inspired multiple victims to file federal lawsuit that accomplished the removal of an accused pedophile from a position that he held for decades. The gorilla tactics of anonymous bloggers changed our world forever - and for the better. At times, the tactics may have been unorthodox and the approach of some perhaps seemed over the top at times, but it was the blogosphere that affected a change that countless rabbonim declined to do themselves.

    Agudah's policy requiring a posek to sign off before reporting sexual abuse to the authorities is dangerous. However, in the waters in which Agudah swims, the mere mention of reporting abuse to the police is, sadly, considerable progress. This progress is to the credit of the bloggers and the tireless advocates on the web who refused to bow at the alter of Daas Torah and instead demanded change. The poskim are slowly catching up and organizations such as the Agudah are even more slowly getting in line. But the credit belongs not to those in positions of leadership, not to those with long titles and seats at the dais, but to those in cyberspace who forced the leaders to act.

    Nearly five years after Rav Matisyahu's blistering attack on the advocates for change in cyberspace, the bloggers and the commenters have only grown stronger. Baruch Hashem the hamon am turned a deaf ear to the Mashgiach's pleas. And today, every yeshiva boy owes them all a debt of gratitude. 

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    The guilt by association game cuts both ways

    Me oh my, how the worm has turned on the right wing blogosphere, and I will make no effort to disguise my sense of schadenfreude. Just a few short months ago  comments on this blog, and others, and posts throughout the RW blogosphere, but especially on Zioni blogs, were making the claim that the Iman in charge of the proposed Ground Zero mosque could not be trusted because of his unsavory friends and connections. (Less sophisticated writers denounced him simply because of his religion.) Smart people on both sides of the aisle denounced this guilt by association game.  Judge a man by what he says and does, we insisted. Do not hold him responsible for the behavior of certain lunatics who may share his faith or skin color.

    Because God has an awesome sense of humor some of the guilty parties from last summer now find themselves under a similar microscope. The mass murderer from Norway, it seems, was a big fan of certain RW Arab hating blogs. In particular Atlas Shurgged, source of many of the memes, bad arguments and insults that our less creative bloggers cheerfully regurgitate, has been singled out as  one of the killer's favorite blogs.

    Is Pam Geller of Atlas Shrugged responsible? Charles Johnson, of LGF thinks so. He writgs: the Norway atrocities, the responsibility is far more evident and direct. People like... Pamela Geller and the right wing blogosphere who spew apocalyptic rhetoric and refuse to denounce the extremists among them now have the very real blood of children on their hands.
    I wouldn't go quite that far, but the irony is inescapable. No blood is on the hands of the bloggers, but the joke is certainly on them.  For eons, RWers like Pan (and to a lesser extent Seraphic Secret and other copycats) played the guilt-by-association game, condemning innocent Muslims for violence they didn't endorse and making hay out of connections and relationships between ordinary Muslims and terrorist groups that only speciously existed. Now these extra-condemnatory bloggers know how it feels. Suddenly, they are under the microscope. Suddenly, they are being blamed for connections they didn't know about, interpretations they didn't accept, and outcomes they never desired or foresaw. Suddenly, they are demanding charitable interpretations of their posts, charitable interpretations to which they are entitled, but were ever extended to Muslims.

    Cashing in on Leiby #4

    Via today's email


    The following is a song made by Jewish Star Winner Yisrael Amar dealing with the Leiby Keletzky story
    Donate 99 cents to "The Leiby Keletzky Fund" by downloading the song on
    Attached are
    1. Link to Video:
    2. Lyrics (attached)
    3. Article By Yisrael Amar's Father (Rabbi of Chabad of Golden Beach Florida) (ATTACHED)

    Yisroel Amar
    Video: CJ Studios
    Lyrics Esty Shemtov, Dina Amar
    Concept & Ideas Rabbi Chay Amar
    Studio engineering Ron BenHaim
    Consultant Mendel Amar
    Original melody of Vehoo Keili "Rabbi Baruch Levine"

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    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    Peek a Jew: On both sides of gay marriage

    ANTI! Via Gothamist. HT GBerliner

    More Anti-Jews after the jump

    PRO! Via TDS Starts @2:16 [Not the cleanest language, plus eep! lots of gay people on screen]

    More Anti-Jews after the jump

    Look who is using an Artscroll

    Starts @0:51

    No disrespect intended. I use the Artscroll, too, and IMHO the Hebrew version is loads better than the English.;) I prefer the Hebrew notes and the Hebrew translation to the syrupy editorializing you often get in the English editions.

    Being serious for a second, I don't see anything wrong with a world class genius and expert at Talmud using an ArtScroll Gemarah. Even geniuses sometimes like to rummage around in someone else's conciseness.  Perhaps the Rav was curious about how a particular editors particular perspective produced a particular explanation of a particular passage. Perhaps he was checking a reference. Even super geniuses are sometimes unable to place a quote, or to remember a cite.

    Another thought: Were the learned gentlemen perhaps discussing something that relates to one of the explanatory notes? Or better yet is some new ban being prepared? Did ArtScroll's elucidation cross some a new line? We can only hope. A Rav Elyashiv directed ban on ArtScroll would be AWESOME.

    HT Amshinover

    A Better Policy

    A Guest Post By E. Fink
    Today, the RCA released its policy on sex abuse.

    I think most of us will find it refreshing.

    (Disclaimer: I am not a member of the RCA)

    Read it below:

    Cashing in on Leiby #3

    Leiby's dead. The beis hmikdash was destroyed.  Time to party!

    An email from NYTW (submitted by a reader who will be named on request):


    Are you looking for a great place to go with beautiful accommodations and an awesome atmosphere? Join us as we host the most amazing Shabbat Nachamu ever in the newly renovated (26 Million Dollars) Hanover Marriott in NJ! With the passing of Leibby Kletzky A'H which threw the NY region into turmoil, as well as the upcoming anniversary of the calamity of Tisha B'Av where the Bais  Hamikdash was destroyed because Jews couldn't get along with each other, NYTW has created the Ultimate Shabbos Nachamu Weekend!

    This Shabbos Nachamu (the first Shabbos after the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash) Jews from all over, be it Machmir or Modern, will unite. The NYTW team will create an atmosphere where we can all get along yet not have to compromise on our individuality.

    We will have a separate program for those who prefer, facilitators, shadchanim, and speed dating etc.! While others, will be able to enjoy the free-style approach to mingling. We have use of all the ballroom space which can be broken up into several rooms!

    All ages are welcome, though there will be age-appropriate singles programs for each group.

    Young marrieds will be able to spend a Shabbos amongst their peers. And for those singles who want to bring their kids, we will have seating for them too. ***

    Our master programers will have you occupied all weekend long for those who choose to attend planned activities.

    Everyone will enjoy a very laid back, relaxed atmosphere with like-minded people, participating (or not) in only those activities you choose to attend.

    Enjoy early check-in 10:00 am and late check-out - 2:00 pm with a farewell BBQ lunch!

    For more information & registration go to

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    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Phone booth? What's a phone booth?

    Check out these amazingly accurate predictions from AT&T circa 1993. The only thing they didn't see in their crystal balls was their own demise.

    Church music for the synagogue

    Nowadays, Lipa et al perform in the style of non-Jewish singers, and the tunes they've commandeered and adapted are accepted in the synagogue.  A hundred years ago or more Hasidic Rebbes did something similar with melodies to which gentile loves songs and military marchs were set.  In the clip that follows, we have a selection from Salamone Rossi (1570-1630) who composed in the baroque style. His work, which to our untrained ears sounds like church music, was performed in shul, on weekdays and  Shabbos throughout Italy in the 16th century.

    Program notes after the jump

    A calm critique of Agudah's statement on child abuse

    By now, I suppose you've all read the new statement from Agudah regarding their position on reporting child abuse. ( If you have not, you can see it after the jump.) Though it does clarify Agudah's stance on the subject, I'm afraid some important questions have still not been addressed.

    After making a distinction between raglayim la'davar (roughly, reason to believe, or a set of circumstances that would require ---not permit, but require -- us to make a report to the authorities) and eizeh dimyon (some mere conjecture, or a set of circumstances under which reporting is still prohibited) Agudah suggests that no one but a cleric is competent to tell the difference:
    There may be times when an individual may feel that a report or evidence he has seen rises to the level of raglayim la’davar; and times when he may feel otherwise. Because the question of reporting has serious implications for all parties, and raises sensitive halachic issues, the individual should not rely exclusively on his own judgment to determine the presence or absence of raglayim la'davar. Rather, he should present the facts of the case to a rabbi who is expert in halacha and who also has experience in the area of abuse and molestation – someone who is fully sensitive both to the gravity of the halachic considerations and the urgent need to protect children
    Certainly Agudah is correct to claim that a laymen is not always able to see the difference between raglayim la'davar and eizeh dimyon. In such cases, I don't dispute that an expert should be consulted before a report is made. The mistake, I think, is in presuming that every case of suspected child abuse falls into this grey area, which is rather like claiming that every single question of kashrus requires a unique psak halacha.

    Few of us are experts in kashrus, but all of us know at least the basic contours of kosher law, and in most cases, this is sufficient. If we rely on rabbis when it comes to our food, it is only because most of what we eat is prepared in a factory, where we can't observe the process ourselves. If all that we ate  was cooked in front of our own eyes using ingredients that were also prepared in front of us, even a layman armed with a checklist or flowchart could correctly determine the status of the food in a high percentage of cases. Though not all questions of kashrus are this mechanical, some are. When the answers are easily reached no one would dream of bringing the question to a posek.

    I believe that in *simple cases* such a checklist or flowchart could be used to permit laymen to distinguish between raglayim la'davar and eizeh dimyon.  Now,  I don't know if 1 percent or 99 percent of cases are simple enough to address this way, but surely some warning signs automatically establish raglayim la'davar, just as some signs automatically establish that food is treif. What are they? Why haven't they been published? If we trust a laymen to judge such automatic signs for himself when it comes to his food, why isn't he extended the same trust when it comes to our children?  If Agudah wishes to protect children, and not to augment the authority of rabbis by robbing us of the ability to decide things for ourselves, why haven't we been told what those automatic signs are?

    Moreover, some professionals such as physicians and psychologists are trained to recognize signs of child abuse. If the goal is to protect children, and not to preserve the rabbinic monopoly on community affairs, why haven't physicians and psychologists expressly been given permission to establish raglayim la'davar on their own? Why are they being told to supersede their professional training and to endanger their patients for however long it takes to identify and consult with "a rabbi who is expert in halacha and who also has experience in the area of abuse and molestation."? If we trust a doctor to obey his training and correctly identify an infection, why are we preventing him from using that same training to identify a case of child abuse? (And if Agudah wants us all to take our evidence to these expert Rabbis before we go to the police, why haven't we been provided with their names and phone numbers? Every mikva is listed somewhere. An expert on spotting is always easy to locate. Why aren't the names of  rabbinic child abuse experts similarly publicized?)

    I expect Agudah has answers to these questions. If I am, by the grace of God, made aware of them I will share them here.

    Peek-a-Jew : Central Park Beat-box Video

    Its unclear to me exactly who this street performers is , and what - if anything - is his claim to fame. What I find interesting, though, is the participation he acquired from two bouncing Chabad boys @1:09.

    HT Hedyot

    Friday, July 22, 2011

    Good Shabbos: Powerful rendition of Kedusha

    I like many things about this, not least the proof it presents that its possible for someone to praise God, and celebrate his majesty in a legitimately Jewish manner, even with an uncovered head.

    Also his facial grimaces and arm gesticulations are the equal of any performed by a hard core hasid; therefore I sense nothing but holiness and spirituality from his performance.  (This is an attempt at parody:  I don't believe its possible to sense such things, but if you're going to pretend that you can, why not pretend that you feel it from this fellow, too? Because of how he's dressed? Because of the style of his music. Oh.)

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    MSNBC Idiot Gets Owned

    Yipes. Contessa appears to have her degree, highest honors, in asking dumb questions.

    Its better in Britain

    See Jon Stewart's Revolutionary War buyer's remorse, and watch him take Obama to task for being unlike David Cameron.

    Click here to learn about how you can sell your products on Amazon and receive $75 in free clicks

    This from the company that made its name dumming down the news

    This perfectly tasteless editorial cartoon appears in the Rupert-owned Times of London. It's message, as I understand it, is as follows:

    "Please stop talking about our embarrassing scandal even as it threatens to bring down the British government and to destroy a huge, multi-national corporation. Because that's not news. Somalia, on the other hand, is news, and that's where you dogooder journalists ought to be directing your attention."

    Only IRONY! the Times of London did not, in fact, have a story about Somalia or famines in the edition in which this self-serving cartoon appeared.

    Next time, we get full-press Fox led coverage of Anthony Weiner's junk, or an edited Acorn Video, or any of the other fake FOX controversies, I hope someone nails this cartoon to Uncle Rupey's forehead.


    So much for Sarah's home movie

    Hey is she STILL running for president?

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Evil gay-hating Rabbi soils himself

    This is idiot supreme, the bigoted moron  and clinically insane Yehuda Levin saying Leiby Kletzky was killed because we Jews did too little to stop the same gender marriage bill. Oh, and also abortions, plus Anthony Weiner, David Greendfield and Liberals.

    Summary, all SIC, from his YouTube page:
    Is This a Possible Reason For The Tragic Murder of Leiby Keletsky ?-part 1
    From: TheFearKashes | Jul 19, 2011 | 308 views
    the series of events culminating in the horrific murder of the holy innocent torah student leiby keletsky o.b.m., closely facimiles the confrontation the biblical jews had with G-D"S timeless enemy amalek.see shemos\exodus 17:14-16 & deuteronomy 25:17-19. the jew is seduced to exit the cloud of protection,molested ,murdered & mutilated. similarly the ultra orthodox city councilman david greenfield recently voted to increase abortions in new york city.this is in direct contradiction to the pro life torah values of his G_D &the torah observant community.abortion, the ultimate dismemberment of innocent preborn children ; which the talmud in tractate sanhedrin equates with murder [ see genesis 9:6] . nobody in the entireortodox community took note nor challenged or chastised greenfield. similarly the community as a whole didnt come out in the thousands to protest same gender marriage. prehaps,measure for measure they then had to come out ,by the thousands ,ultimately unsuccessfully ,to search for the victim of the amalek \ sodom agend
    Now I know why there are signs in front of the shiva house in Boro Park begging visitors not to discuss the case with Leiby's bereaved parents. Its not because someone is worried his parents will discover the horror of how the murder was committed, but because they'll learn of the horror perpetrated by people like Levin who seek to use Leiby's tragic death to stir up hatred and bigotry against innocent people.

    TDS vs News Corp

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Scam of the day

    A $95 dollar value! Act now! Because prayers said at the wall by someone claiming to be a Torah scholar always come true!

    And if you look at the Bible you'll see that when the going got tough, and salvation seemed impossible, all of our heroes hired someone to pray  at the Kotel on their behalf. Nothing could be more authentically Jewish then asking an intermediary to approach God on your behalf.

    When Chana wanted a child what did she do?

    When Moshe wanted his sister to recover what did he do?

    When Tanaim and Amoraim needed help, or inspiration, or salvation what did they do?

    When our grandparents were threatened by anti-Semites, disease and poverty what did they do?

    You guessed it. They all wrote out a check, and let the magic do its thing.

    This is why our great leaders have always counseled against prayer, and why almost all of them tried to ban the prayer book.

    As a great leader of the previous generation is said to have said by someone who heard someone say that he heard that it was said "Who the hell are you to pray? You think God wants to hear from a low-life menuval like you?  Better you should pay someone, preferably my son-in-law the Torah scholar, to say the prayers for you. Can't hurt!"

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Is it a Fox or a parrot?

    Check out the chyrons. This morning during the Murdoch family recital of talking points in front of Parliament, did Fox do anything but reiterate them?

    Surprised, actually, that Rupert and Son went with "clueless" as their defense.  

    Our leaders have spoken. Now they must act.

    A guest post by Berel Shain

    This past week, our community experienced one of the most brutal, heinous and unspeakable crimes in recent memory. The abduction, murder and dismemberment of Leiby Kletzky has all of us searching for still elusive answers to a host of questions that span the philosophical, theological, emotional and practical spectra. Some have been presumptuous enough to offer their suggestions as what was to blame and “why” this unimaginable tragedy occurred. I don’t care to join them. However, I do feel the need to comment on the one bright spot that emerged during this most trying week, the incredible achdus and unity that was palpable and that has been discussed at the levaya and in its aftermath.

    On a conference call on erev shabbos this past week, Rav Binyomin Eisenberger spoke passionately of the need to harness the achdus experienced during the previous days and ensure that it continue to develop and grow even during tranquil times. That noble thought resonated with me for a brief moment. Until, that is, I realized that sadly, the realities of our community today all but ensure that the fervent hopes expressed by Rav Eisenberger and by various observers in recent days are all but impossible. Machlokes and infighting have become staples of our community at the highest levels.

    One of the attendees of the levaya was Rav Aharon Teitelbaum, one of two Satmar rebbes who has been openly feuding with his brother Rav Zalman Leib for years. There are now two Satmar Rebbes, their dispute has winded its way through the judicial system all the way to the highest court of the state, and the two brothers do not speak to each other to this day. The following evening, the publication Dee Voch posted a photo on its twitter account of a chasuna in Satmar. The dais showed Rav Ahron Teitelbaum (but not his brother) and Rav Yisroel Hager of Vizhnitz (but not his brother R’ Mendel with whom he is feuding). The Bobover Rebbes – uncle and nephew - were also in attendance at little Leiby’s levaya, though their followers made sure that neither would cross the other’s path. Neither participates in the other’s smachos.

    Turf wars and public disputes are not exclusive to the Chassidic world. Telshe has been mired in a machlokes for decades and readers will remember when a dispute over leadership in the Ponevizh yeshiva turned violent just a few years ago. Nearly thirty years have passed without a resolution to the dispute between a former mashgiach of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin and its hanhala and the son of Rav Chaim Kreiswirth remains mired in Bais Din proceedings with the founder of Yeshiva Mercaz HaTorah in Yerushalayin for control of that institution, of which Rav Kreiswirth zt”l served as its symbolic rosh yeshiva. Recent halachic disputes such as those relating to the kashrus of fish and water and the Brooklyn eruvin have degenerated into nasty personal attacks instead of reasoned halachic discourse.

    I share the sentiments of those who urge us to seize the moment and increase the achdus that we all felt last week. But the leaders must take the lead. When the Bobover Rebbe of 48th street and the Bobover Rebbe of 45th street dance a hakafa together on simchas torah; when one Satmar Rebbe asks his brother, the other Satmar Rebbe to join in the mitzvah tantz at his child’s wedding (or for that matter simply invites him to the event); when Rav Hershel Schachter is invited by Rav Binyomin Eisenberger to give a shiur on hilchos chanuka in his shul; when the baalei machlokes in high positions of all stripes and colors engage their disputants b’derech kavod then, and only then, can we have meaningful discussions about achdus. Until then, I fear that the sentiments still fresh in our hearts and minds will once again dissipate waiting for the next challenge before it emerges again.

    Our leaders have spoken. Now they must act.

    Avi Shafran on evolution and being a believing Jew

    The comment I'd leave if commenting was allowed on posts written by Rabbi Avi Shafran:
    After reading a few issues, though, the magazine’s bias became laughably apparent. Its reports on developments in the scientific world almost always came with a blended-in “editorial” comment that referenced random evolution or the backwardness of religious beliefs. It dawned on me. My anonymous benefactor, presumably having read something I had written about the rightful place of skepticism in evaluating scientific claims, wanted to enlighten me.
    Alas (at least for him), it didn’t work. Nothing in the periodical was novel; on the contrary, the tiredness of its presentation of assumptions as facts only confirmed my convictions as a believing Jew.
    Why do you suggest in these two paragraphs that accepting the evidence and argument for evolution are incompatible with being a believing Jew? Surely you are aware of what Israel Lipschitz, Sholom Mordechai Schwadron, Zvi Hirsch Chajes, Samson Rephael Hirsch, and Abraham Isaac Kook wrote on the subject. As you know, they did not think evolution and Torah Judaism are incompatible, so why do you do what they did not and dismiss evolution-accepters from the community of believers?

    Also, I suspect you do this on purpose, but when you reference "random evolution" people who know how evolution is said to occur blow a gasket. Natural selection is non random.

    Cross Currents: Another Breach in the Wall

    Some posts worth reading on 17 Tamuz

    A DovBear Debunking: What happened on 17 Tammuz?
    Jul 8, 2010 – Are any of the claims made on the OU's website true?

    Left Wing Pharisee: No Coincidences: July 4 and 17 Tamuz
    Jul 7, 2010 –July 4th, 1776 coincided with 17 Tammuz. What do we think that means?

    Bray of Fundie: The Sin that Dare Not Speak its Name
    Jul 30, 2008 – On 17 Tamuz we mourn the wages of the sin) rather than the sin itself. Why?

    Search for more information about 17 Tamuz at  

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Cashing in on Leiby Kletzky #2 smells a payday.

    See it after the jump.

    Cashing in on Leiby Kletzky #1

    Lipa Smeltzer smells a pay day:

    This is especially pathetic because he's promoting a song he hasn't even brought himself to finish writing yet. I also like how this story is something that "happened" to him and the idea that the world is waiting to buy some dull song about it.

    Fox Dances for its Master

    Ok. Fully expected Fox and Friends to defend their master and owner Rupert Murdoch, or "Mister Murdoch" as obedient drone Steve Docy obsequiously refers to him on this not-very-hard-hitting segment. Of course Rupert did "all the right things" He signs the checks. Also, fully expected Fox to tell us it was "time to move on" because there are so many more important things happening in the world. Yes, yes, please look away from the disaster that is consuming our parent corporation. The network that subjected us to endless birth certificate reporting now wishes for us to believe that a story about their own company spying on prime ministers, dead children and 9/11 victims is not worth your attention. So far, so predictable.

    But what I did not expect was to see Fox attempt to blur the line between victim and criminal. Catch this:

    Dilenschneider: Citigroup, great bank. Bank of America, great bank. Are they getting the same kind of attention for hacking that took place less than a year ago that News Corp is getting today?

    As Wonkette screamed: Yes, why ARE victims and criminals subjected to a different level of media scrutiny sometimes? That is very unfair!

    Jews on Weeds -- Now with pictures

    A guest post by @azigra

    The show's protagonist, Nancy Botwin, recently out of Jail and now living in a halfway house in Washington Heights, interviews for a job with a Hassidic Jew in the lamp business. 

    Hassidim don't dress in clothing that are in style and they certainly don't want to see others dressed in stylish clothing. Therefore, Nancy decides to go with a 80s-era number with both shoulder pads and huge gold buttons. This jacket is something you'd see while watching movies from the 80's or while walking the Streets of Boro Park.

    The Hassid, your classic white shirt, large skullcap, and sidelocks, is a bit confused. He's clearly not a Lubavitcher, his beard seems to be trimmed, yet he has six pictures of the Rebbe hanging prominently in his office. The show films in New York so perhaps someone ran to Kingston Avenue in Crown Heights to pick this up. 

    He wouldn't be a good Hassid without displaying a seasonal Jewish artifact all year long. See the obligatory Menorah on top of the fridge. 

    He's overweight, messy, clumsy, and speaks in a bad impersonation Woody Allen/Larry David voice. He's a smart Jew and is good at math or something so he carried multiple pens in his shirt pocket. His black velvet Yarlmuka has a rim, an authentic show prop, something they would have had to pick up in a real Judaica store. His sidelocks are semi-curled, with that fresh just-out-of-the-mikva look you want in your Hassid. 

    In this character's 60 second of screen time he used the following words and expressions:

    "a tax break is a tax break is a tax break"
    "my nephew got caught smuggling ecstasy into Canada"
    "you're too nervous, you make me nervous"

    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    Jerusalem in 1932

    Great find by Daas Hedyot. Amazing how many of the streets and vistas are recognizable today.,

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Comment Congratulating Rabbi Alderstein denied publication at Cross Currents

    Hedyot writes:
    I tried posting this at Cross Currents 4 hours ago, but it hasn’t appeared yet. I’m guessing it never will. It was in response to Adlerstein’s article.
    > It is time to bury the myth that there is a serious halachic barrier to going to authorities to deal with credible reports of such behavior.
    Rabbi Adlerstein, them’s fighting words. The Agudah’s official policy, stated at a recent conference, is that one should “consult a rabbi before going to law enforcement authorities with suspicions of sexual abuse committed by community members.” See this article in the Forward for details: 
    Quote: “Rabbi David Zwiebel, Agudah’s executive vice president, told the conference that even mandated reporters… should consult a rabbi before going to the police.”
    I commend you for your brave position and for your demand for a shift in communal attitude. 
    One hopes that your words also be unambiguously directed at those most responsible for cultivating this attitude
    I asked Agudah to comment on this before I posted it. In particular, I wanted their response to the claim that mandated reporters have been instructed to speak to Rabbis before they go to the police. I hoped the organization would provide some clarification or rebuttal to this shocking, hard to believe, report.

    Unfortunately, Agudah refused to comment, citing a policy of not providing comments for blogs under any circumstances.

    Remember: If Cross Currents won't post your comment, I probably will. Send it to yourfavoriteblooger at gmail dot com .

    Hedyot posted about this himself here.

    Aaron in court

    What Can We Learn From This Nightmare?

    A Guest Post By E. Fink

    The Mishna teaches us, חיב אדם לברך על הרעה כשם שהוא מברך על הטובה. "One is obligated to bless the negative the same way one is obligated to bless the positive".

    The Rambam understands this to mean that since we do not know what the end of the story will be, it is not rational to be angry or upset when things go wrong. The isolated moment may seem too difficult to bear, but that is because our vision is limited to the moment.

    This can be understood one of two ways. One is that we may never know why bad things happen, but we can know that we cannot understand them because our vision is limited. Therefore we should bless the bad with the good and trust that it will be good eventually. I believe this is a difficult position. What good can come from a vile murder and what good can come when the murderer is from our own community?

    There is a second approach.


    See a message from Yaakov Horowitz, Director of Project YES, after the jump.

    Who caught Levi Aron?

    Police and the papers say Yaakov German is the man who went through the footage on neighborhood surveillance cameras, and helped provide the information police used to arrest Levi Aron. It seems at least some of the credit many of us have been giving to the NYPD belongs to this man, too. As they used to say, "Give him maftir this shabos!"

    Full story after the jump.

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Michelle Bachman has a Reverend Wright Problem

    Barak Obama's campaign for president was nearly derailed when it was revealed he attended a Church where anti-American teachings were sometimes shared. Now, the Atlantic Monthly is reporting that Michelle Bachman has a similar problem. She recently made the politically expedient decision to quit the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), an ultra conservative Lutheran subsect founded in 1850 that asserts in its founding doctrinal statements that the Roman Pontiff is the antichrist.  Here's what the Synod's website says:
    Since Scripture teaches that the Antichrist would be revealed and gives the marks by which the Antichrist is to be recognized, and since this prophecy has been clearly fulfilled in the history and development of the Roman Papacy, it is Scripture which reveals that the Papacy is the Antichrist.
    How do you think Catholic voters are going to feel about that?

    And of course, the Synod's view of Jews is not much kinder: Here's what the website says about us:
    ...unbelieving Jews (or unbelievers from any other ethnic group) or followers of Judaism who have rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Savior of mankind.... did not and do not go to heaven. Acts 4:12 affirms that Christ alone is the Savior of mankind. The grief of all believers regarding the loss of unbelieving Jews (Israel) is well expressed by Paul in Romans 9:30-33 and Romans 10:1-13.
    Now what I said about Wright applies to Bachman and her Synod, too.  See it here

    Not what I expected..

    View more videos at:

    The wife of Levi Aron is nothing like what I expected. In a million and one years I'd have never guessed she looked and sounded like this.

    WARNING: Annoying ad precedes this. NBC #FAIL

    How Memphis TV News reported Leiby Kletzky's murder

    Levi Aron's perp walk

    View more videos at:

    People screaming at him, and blocking the cop car do not appear to be Hasidim. I like that.

    Choot spa

    Not her fault she mispronounced the word, being from the middle of nowhere and all. Just funny. Though I do note, it sounds like she's read the word "chutzpa" but never heard it -- or bothered to find out what it means.

    The Confession

    The Accused Killer in His Own Words
    From NBC New York

    This transcript has been edited to remove parts of an extremely graphic nature. It has not been edited for clarity. These are the suspect's words as written on a legal pad during questioning, according to law enforcement sources.

    My name is Levi Aron... On Monday evening around 5:30 I went to my dentist, Dr. Sorcher, to make a payment for visit for exam routine.

    A boy approached me on where the Judaica book store was. He was still there when went out from the dentist’s office. He asked me for a ride to the Judaica book store. While on the way he changed his mind and wasn’t sure where he wanted to go.

    So I asked if he wanted to go for the ride -- wedding in Monsey -- since I didn’t think I was going to stay for the whole thing since my back was hurting. He said ok.

    Due to traffic, I got back around 11:30 p.m. … so I brought him to my house thinking I’d bring him to his house the next day. He watched TV then fell asleep in the front room. I went to the middle room to sleep. That next morning, he was still sleeping when I was ready to leave.

    So I woke him and told him I’ll bring him to his house… when I saw the flyers I panicked and was afraid. When I got home he was still there so I made him a tuna sandwich....

    I was still in a panic...and afraid to bring him home. That is when approximately I went for a towel to smother him in the side room. He fought back a little bit until eventually he stopped breathing.

    Afterwards -- I panicked because I didn’t know what to do with the body.… carried parts to the back room placing parts between the freezer and the refrigerator …

    … went to clean up a little then took a second shower. I panicked and .. Then putting the parts in a suitcase. Then carrying suitcase to the car …placing in backseat on floor behind passenger side.

    … drove around approximately around 20 minutes before placing it in the dumpster on 20th street just before 4th Avenue. Then went home to clean and organize.

    I understand this may be wrong and I’m sorry for the hurt that I have caused.
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    Awful thought

    If Levi Aaron reforms himself in prison, and rededicates himself to God and Judaism under the guidance of a sympathetic chabad chaplain, will Agudah attempt to mobilize us to pray and lobby for the correctional system to treat him leniently?

    Happened with that cop killer from Florida...

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Dishonest Comment games by Yaakov Menken

    On Menken's now infamous evolution post, a "James Ross" objected to a few things Menken said:
    “Evolution occurred by random chance” 
    No who knows anything about evolution says it occurred by random chance. The claim is that it occurred by natural selection which is the very opposite of chance. 
    It is noteworthy that neither of your two friends are biologists. They should read a little biology before they make claims based on gut hunches. And so should you. You’ll find that the math has been tested and proved correct time after time after time. 
    A physicist is not likely to have any specialized knowledge of biology and your two friends obviously dont’t. 
    Also, in your original post you either goofed or lied about Crick. He accepts evolution. In fact, he even says that the aliens who may have seeded earth developed by evolution themselves The alien theory relates to abiogenesis which is not the same thing. Crick, by the way, also believes abiogenesis could have occurred on earth. He simply used the alien theory to point out that determining how abeogenesis occurred on earth is supremely difficult, so difficult that there’s no way to rule out the alien theory. You misrepresent his views, however, when you pretend his difficulties with abiogenesis have anything to do with evolution, just as you misrepresent evolution when you suggest it has to do with chance.
    Menken dealt with this with his usual dishonesty. First he published three comments from his own supporters that ignorantly criticized Ross's point. Usually, Cross Currents tries to streamline debate by refusing to publish identical points. I guess the rules are different when the identical points have all been made in support of the blog owner.  Also, the three anti-Ross comments are shorter then the typical Cross Currents comment, offer nothing new to the debate, and provide nothing in the way of evidence. They appear to have been published for one reason only, namely that they support Menken.

    After stacking the deck this way, Menken made his own comment:
    James Ross has already been corrected by numerous others. Without chance mutation, there are no options from which natural selection can choose. He’s also wrong about Crick’s Directed Panspermia. “Crick found it impossible that the complexity of DNA could have evolved naturally.” This affects not merely abiogenesis, life from inorganic matter, but the evolution of DNA. For those who find it impossible to imagine that there could be “Codes” in the Torah, they should do a study of DNA and its incredible complexity.

    Taking his middle point out of order, he calls it “noteworthy” that neither of the friends I asked are biologists. To state that only biologists can examine probabilities and combinatorics related to DNA and evolution is similar to saying that only oncologists can analyze probabilities related to cancer, or even that only long-haul truckers can analyze probabilities related to traffic accidents. There is only one serious rationale for limiting the field of experts to evolutionary biologists only: that only those with a significant bias towards accepting the likelihood of evolution by chance choose a career in evolutionary biology, resulting in a self-selecting group who will all tell you with full confidence that of course the math all works — the substantial numbers of mathematicians, engineers, physicists and chemists who feel otherwise, notwithstanding.
    There are several mistakes in Menken's answer. All of these mistakes were pointed out in a subsequent comment, but of course Menken refused to publish it. To the reader it appears that there was no rebuttal, which is another example of Menken's mendacity.

    See my rebuttal to Menken's nonsense after the jump. (Disclosure: This is not the comment submitted to Cross Currents. The comment was rewritten for publication here]