Monday, October 31, 2011

The Other Kind of Gay Marriage

A Guest post By E. Fink

Cross-posted from my home blog:

Last week an orthodox Jewish woman posted the following on
I am a lesbian marrying a gay man. We are out to each other and our closest friends. We both grew up in religious, traditional communities so we decided this was best for us. We both travel a lot so we are able to "explore" outside of the marriage. Ask away... 
Edit: we are doing this to stay connected to our community and our traditional (Orthodox Jewish) families.
Edit: to be clear, we are both seeing other people outside our relationship. We are out to close friends. I came out to my parents a while ago so technically they know but think that I have "changed".
There are currently over 1100 comments on this post. They are worth seeing.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Just what do those dirty #OWS hippies want anyway?

As reported in the Independant
The directors of Britain's largest companies were last night condemned as "elite greedy pigs" for pocketing a 49 per cent pay rise in the past year, while average workers failed even to keep up with inflation.

Unions exploded with fury after the publication of figures that showed how boardroom pay soared in the last financial year, thanks to rising salaries, bonuses and in particular the swelling value of directors' long-term share plans. The statistics, compiled by Incomes Data Services, provide an annual snapshot of executive remuneration, as reported in companies' most recent reports to shareholders, and show that the chief executives of the FTSE 100 largest companies earned an average of £3,855,172 last year. That is an average 43 per cent rise and, adding in other directors, total earnings rose by an average 49 per cent
If they have any foresight, those richies are investing their obscene profits in guillotines.....

Required reading right here:

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Thursday, October 27, 2011


Did you see the Onion piece on the Amish? @azigra parodies it after the jump

Yair Nehorai gets a bum rap from Failed Messiah

"We will know we have become a normal country when Jewish thieves and Jewish prostitutes conduct their business in Hebrew." -- David Ben Gurion

Haredi types love to indict Zionism by pointing to the Hebrew speaking prostitutes of Tel Aviv, but what about the Hebrew speaking gangsters in their own neighborhoods? I speak specifically of the class of criminal defended by Yair Nahorai, of Meah Shearim, the subject of a feature article in today's Haaretz
Of late Nehorai has had his hands full of work in wake of the Jerusalem Police efforts to restrain the Sikarikim, who use threats and violent tactics to "cleanse" Jerusalem. The police have carried out several arrests and are carrying out intensive investigations into violence, tax evasion and extortion or protection money. Many in Mea She'arim have anointed Nehorai with the title "redeemer of prisoners," a status that fills him with pride. In recent years, he says, he has represented at least 300 ultra-Orthodox clients who were arrested in demonstrations against desecration of Shabbat at the Carta parking lot and the Intel plant in Jerusalem, at demonstrations of support of the mother accused of starving her child and in other cases.
My good friend Shamrya, in his post today, strongly criticizes Nahari's general approach to wining many of those acquittals
But to argue that and entire class of criminal should be treated leniently because they are religious zealots, not 'real' criminals, is not only offensive but it is contrary to the legal systems these criminals supposedly live under...civil society should have jailed [the alleged gangster/button man Avraham] Hirschman years ago, but it didn't do so, in part because of Nehorai...People hate lawyers for many good reasons. The disgraceful Yair Nehorai is one of them.
I understand why Shmarya is upset, but he's attacking the wrong person. A lawyer works for his client, not for society. The job of  a criminal attorney like Nahorai is to get his client an acquittal. 

In pursuit of that goal, he has an absolute right to advance any argument he chooses. He can't lie, but he's not allowed to do a half-ass job because he knows his client is guilty. Scumbags are also entitled to vigorous defenses.

Short-sighted people may object that this puts criminals back on the street, but without strong defense lawyers, what protects innocent people from over-zealous prosecutors?  In an adversarial system, the prosecutor, and to a lesser extent the judge, are supposed to be the safeguards against fallacious arguments advanced by the defense. Its not Nehorai's fault his bogus arguments are swaying hearts and minds. He's merely doing his job, and putting his client's interests first, and (dare I say it?)  he's also improving society by forcing prosecutors to do their own jobs honestly and fairly.

The problem isn't Nahorai. The problem is the Israeli prosecutors and judges who are accepting his malarkey, instead of pushing back with crisp, vigorous, counterarguments of their own.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How did Chazal know that Noah was raped (or sodomized)

Michelangelo's version; I assume Canaan is the one outside

How did the Sages know what they "knew"? Often via close examination of the text. Here's BT Sanhedrim 70a on the crime committed against Noah:
And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father, and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. [Until here is a quote from Gen 9 20-24' [With respect to what was done] Rab and Samuel [differ,] one maintaining that he castrated him, whilst the other says that he sexually abused him. He who maintains that he castrated him, [reasons thus;] Since he cursed him by his fourth son, he must have injured him with respect to a fourth son But he who says that he sexually abused him, draws an analogy between 'and he saw' written twice. Here it is written, And Ham the father of Canaan saw the nakedness of his father; whilst elsewhere it is written, And when Shechem the son of Hamor saw her [he took her and lay with her and defiled her].Now, on the view that he emasculated him, it is right that he cursed him by his fourth son; but on the view that he abused him, why did he curse his fourth son; he should have cursed him himself? — Both indignities were perpetrated. [Soncino translation]
To summarize:

Everyone agrees something bad happened, because we're told Noah "knew" what was done to him. This makes it clear that the crime was something other than being gazed upon.

Rav is directed to castration [blue above] because of the Mida Kneged Mida, suggesting that Noah was prevented from having a fourth child so he avenged himself on the perpetrator's fourth child.

Shmuel [red above] thinks rape is more likely because we're told that Ham SAW his father and there are many more places where the victim of a rape or sexual abuse is "seen" prior to the attack. Along with the example given of Shechem seeing Dina, the Sons of God in Genesis 6 see the Daughters of Man; Sara is seen by Pharoh; and Potiphar's wife sees Josef.

Additionally there are at least 5 other clues that the crime was something sexual:

1) It says Vayedah Noach, and Noah knew. All over the bible vayedah is used as a euphamism for sex
2) Quite unecessarily, we are told the brothers carried the blanket on their shoulders, וַיָּשִׂימוּ עַל-שְׁכֶם שְׁנֵיהֶם. The seemingly gratuitous mention of Shchem reminds us of the crime committed their against Dina.
3) Canan is everywhere in Scripture used as a representative for wantan immorality. The fact that he is singled out here suggests that the crime he committed was from that category of offenses.
4)  There are many, many parallels between the story of Lot and the story of Noah.  To make the paralel complete, we must assume that Noah's episode of excessive drinking was followed by an act of immorality, just as Lot's episode of excessive drinking led to an illicit act.
5) Noah was given an express command to procreate. He was also told to leave the ark with his wife (Gen 8:16) but instead leaves with his sons (Gen 8:18) in defiance of the order. Rather than make babies, he made wine, and lounged around in his birthday suit showing open contempt for his obligation. Casteration is the appropriate mida kneged mida,

Word Play, Parallels and Irony in Noach

Regarding Noah, the Bible quotes his father Lemach as saying:
 זֶה יְנַחֲמֵנוּ מִמַּעֲשֵׂנוּ וּמֵעִצְּבוֹן יָדֵינוּ מִן הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר אֵרְרָהּ יְ־הֹוָ־ה: = This one will give us comfort from our work, and from the toil of our hands from the ground that God has cursed.
From this, the Sages guessed that Noah invented the plow, through which the curse of Adam was partially undone. No longer would men have to toil with their hands to grow food. With the plow, the work was made easier. (How his father knew this at the time of his son's naming is not explained.) 

There's some word play later, when speaking of mankind God says:
כִּי נִחַמְתִּי כִּי עֲשִׂיתִם: I regret that I made them
The suggestion seems to be that Noach was meant to be an antidote to God's regret. God regrets  (nahem) that he made man, but the comfort (nehama) is standing by in the person of Noach.

This is born out by an additional example. The verse says
וְנֹחַ מָצָא חֵן בְּעֵינֵי יְ־הֹוָ־ה Noah found favor in Gods eyes.
The word Noah and Chen are a palindrome. The suggestion seems to be that Noah himself is the potential source of favor.

Perhaps Noach is meant to undo the curse of Adam and to become the vehicle through which the shortcomings in the first creation are corrected.

As noted, the Sages say he started this process through his invention of the plow. Additionally some  parallels exist between Noah and Adam.

Both are given a command to populate the world. Both have three sons, one of whom was a black sheep who committed a serious crime. And as per BT Sanhedrin 70a both were undone by wine. Those Sages who imagine the forbidden fruit was a grape criticize Noah for failing to learn  from Adam's mistake.

Ironically, wine is also a source of comfort, and also something that eases a worker's toil. Perhaps what the verses mean is that Noah had the potential to bring great comfort, to correct the world, and cancel Adam's curse. Instead he imitated Adam's error, and  introduced to the world a paler, more destructive form of comfort. When he named his son, Noach's father envisioned great things; what his son delivered was an accurate fulfillment of the father's wish, but not what was specifically intended.

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A Suggested Blessing for Shem (A neat emendation)

The great ParshaBlog suggests a very interesting emendation that no one religious should see or know about. His kfiradika post is here. My summary follows:

After Noach realizes what his sons did to him, he makes a pronouncement that some have interpreted as a blessing (Notably SRH reads it not as a blessing, but a a statement of fact about the individuals themselves)  The passage reads as follows:

וַיֹּאמֶר, אָרוּר כְּנָעַן עֶבֶד עֲבָדִים, יִהְיֶה לְאֶחָיו. :25 And he said: Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
כו וַיֹּאמֶר, בָּרוּךְ ה אֱלֹהֵי שֵׁם; וִיהִי כְנַעַן, עֶבֶד לָמוֹ.26 And he said: Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be their servant.
כז יַפְתְּ אֱלֹהִים לְיֶפֶת, וְיִשְׁכֹּן בְּאָהֳלֵי-שֵׁם; וִיהִי כְנַעַן, עֶבֶד לָמוֹ.27 God enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be their servant.
As you can see, no curse or blessing for Shem (verse 26) is pronounced, and no statement of fact is made about him. At Shem's turn, Noach blesses God instead, and oddly enough refers to YKVK as a Shem's personal deity. It's almost as if no one else in the family recognized Him. Strange, when you consider the flood, and the miracles the family had just experienced.

ParshaBlogs suggestion is that the word אֱלֹהֵי [=God of]  in verse 26 should be אָהֳלֵי [=tent of]. Along with solving all of the problems indicated in the preceding paragraph, this suggestion introduces a very sensible parallel: In verse 26 Noach asks God to bless Shem's tent; in verse 27 the tent of Shem, which has just been blessed,  is mentioned again as a place where Japeth might dwell.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What was the forbidden fruit?

It grew on a tree in the primordial garden. After the snake tricked Eve into tasting it,  she shared it with the Man. From then its been all downhill. But what was the fruit? There are lots of contenders...

Early Jewish ideas:

Reason: (a) It puns on to-anah which means "grief" By eating from the teinah [=fig] the first couple introduced suffering, death and the rest into the world  (b) Juxtaposition of verses: After they fruit has been eaten, the pair perceive that they are naked [of mitzvoth] and sew garments for themselves from fig leaves. [Bereishis Rabah 19:6] Also, figs have a phallic shape. On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapal Adam is shown tasting a fig.

Reason: What creates more suffering than the grape? Do you doubt it? Well look what happened to poor Noah. [Bereishis Rabah 15:7; Rabbi Meir on BT Berachos 40a]

Reason: Puns on khet, which means sin. By eating from the khitah [=wheat] the first couple introduced sin into the world [Rabbi Yehuda on BT Berachos 40a]

Reason: Puns on ragag which means desire. Also, esrogim are shaped like the uterus/cervix.

Reason: Puns on churban which means destruction.  By eating from the charuv [=carob] the first couple introduced sin into the world

I'll leave it to you guys to work out how much stock we should put in puns as an exegetical method. 

Later Jewish idea:

Reason: Song of Songs speaks of apples in an erotic fasion. They're a symbol for female breast, and used in the Song to connote sweetness and desire

Early Christian idea

Reason: (a) The Vulgate describes the tree of Good and Evil as de ligno autem scientiae boni et mali: "but of the tree (lit. wood) of knowledge of good and evil. Mali is a form of malum which means apple" (b) The evil goddess Eris uses apples to create discord in the famous Greek myths.

Generally, the western Church went with apples, while the Eastern Church used figs. (Muslims tend to identify the fruit as figs or olives)

Casual Antisemitism from Family Guy

Monday, October 24, 2011

Peek A Jew: Jumpman Commercial

A Guest Post By E. Fink

See if you can spot the frum Jews in this ad...

Birnbaum piles on

A Rabbi Avrohom Birnbaum is the latest member of the Orthodox clergy to publish a screed against Open Orthodoxy in general, and Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky in particular. The article offers nothing new, and is mostly polemics and ignorance wrapped in self-righteousness.

Instead of providing a rational halachic argument against the YCT sponsored innovations, we get the usual Torah True mix of insults and name calling. I don't know why calm discussion is so difficult for those types. Really, what is so hard about saying you can't do [whatever] for [these reasons]? Is it because no such reasons exist? Well, even so, why can't Birnboaum and his ilk offer an argument based on meta-halachic considerations? Instead of scare tactics, threats, and hyperbole, can't they just say "We think its important for Orthodox Judaism to retain a certain form, or tzura, and we don't think that form can be changed cavalierly." That's a perfectly reasonable point of view. Why don't the enemies of Open Orthodoxy present this point of view calmly and develop it intelligently?

Though his article is loud, nasty and boring, Birnbaum does give us one interesting line:
I have absolutely no doubt that if they were alive today, the roshei yeshiva would treat Open Orthodoxy and all of its mutations with the same stringency.
Here, the author is using a method he disdains. Presumably Rabbi Kanefsky also has "absolutely no doubt" what the sages would say about certain blessings if they lived today and saw what we see. Such "knowledge", however, is never admissible in a halachic argument... Or so I thought.

Anyway, if we're going to play that game, I have "Absolutely no doubt" that our Rishonim would strongly oppose Hasidut, segulahs, black hats and the rest of what is correctly called modern nonsense.

Is Rabbi Birnboum willing to accept the consequences of this line of thought?

Search for more information about whiny, loud-mouthed, pointless, sinas chinan breeding objections to YCT at

Another overt message from God regarding Gilad Shalit!

Sad news for women: A gematriah proves you are cursed

Zachar (male) in gematria is bracha (blessed); nekeiva (female) in gematria is klala (cursed)

Related Reading 
HT: A reader who did not provide me with express permission to reveal his name

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hosanna lmaancha elokeinu hosanna

I like hashana raba. Call me crazy, but I do. I like the semi sacredness of the day. I like the piyutim. I like the going in circles. I like the banging of the hoshana bundles. I even like how some yokel always bangs at the wrong time every year, and gets screamed at by a bunch of other yokels who've just that second finished begging God for mercy and salvation. Treat other people as you would have God treat you. Remember?

I like hoshana raba so much that I refuse to do any research into its origins. If we copied any of it's elements from monks or monkeys or Muslims, I don't want to know about. This is a weird, strange, primitive day full of fabulous prayers and wild rituals and I have no interest in finding out how it got that way.

Let it remain a mystery.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shalit in Thillim?

There are a few systems for the regular recitation of Tehillim. Some divide the whole book by 30 and finish it every month; others divide it by 7 and complete it once a week. Those on the weekly system read chapters 51-72 today, and in chapter 60 the word "Gilead" appears in the sentence following the word Sukkos.  [Gilad Shalit was freed today, Tuesday, during the Sukkos holiday]


This is a classic example of the sharpshooter's fallacy. PLEASE DO NOT BE IMPRESSED BY IT. 

Here's Wikipedia explaining why this "discovery" is insignificant: The Texas sharpshooter fallacy is a logical fallacy in which information that has no relationship is interpreted or manipulated until it appears to have meaning. The name comes from a joke about a Texan who fires some shots at the side of a barn, then paints a target centered on the biggest cluster of hits and claims to be a sharpshooter...The fallacy is related to the clustering illusion, which refers to the tendency in human cognition to interpret patterns in randomness where none actually exist.

On Tuesday 22 chapters of Tehillim are read. These 22 chapters contain hundreds, if not thousands of words.

Even without using  the name "Gilad" it would still be possible to "find" a prediction among the different word and letter combinations (I say letter combinations because the truly creative find such predictions using Roshei Tevot) that fit today's news. For example:
  • The word "save" appears 19 times in the Tuesday Pslams. All of these mentions can plausibly be linked to something Shalit related. For instance: Psalm 59 "Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God: defend me from them that rise up against me./ Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody me
  • Psalm 69, read on Tuesday, mentions the word prisoner and is a heartfelt plea for rescue "from the mire" and defeat of enemies and adversaries.
  • Psalm 70 contains this appropriate line:  MAKE HASTE, O GOD, TO DELIVER ME; MAKE HASTE TO HELP ME, O LORD.
Its really pretty easy to pull this trick -- especially if you want words that relate to someone being saved or rescued as this is one of the primary themes of the book. And just as such examples abound among the Tuesday Psalms, they can be found every day, in every group of Psalms. If you're motivated and imaginative you can always find a way to make it work, and "discover" the prediction you're seeking, no matter what the situation might be.

For example, if someone named Ephraim or Menashe is ever harmed by a resident of Shchem on a Tuesday (or on the 11th day of the month)  you could claim, thanks to this system that the attack was foretold. Both Ephraim or Menashe appear in this Psalm in close juxtaposition to the word Shchem. Of course this coincidence of juxtaposition might also mean that Ephraim or Menashe are supposed to marry a girl from Shchem... or find a job in Shchem... or.... I think you see the problem.

Moreover, if you thought the trade for Shalit was a terrible idea, you can find "proof" of your opinion using the same system.

On Sukkos we read Koheles. In chapter 8 of that book we find Gilad's name אֵין אָדָם שַׁלִּיט בָּרוּחַ closely juxtaposed to a warning against letting people out of jail to soon: (!)
When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong / אֲשֶׁר אֵין-נַעֲשָׂה פִתְגָם, מַעֲשֵׂה הָרָעָה מְהֵרָה
See? Fun, fun. Fake, fake.

Review of the iPad / iPhone Tikun by Rusty Brick

I recently tested the iPad / iPhone Tikun Korim - תקון קוראים - by  RustyBrick, Inc.. (For those not in the know a Tikun is a study guide used when preparing to chant the Torah reading)

Tikun Korim - תקון קוראים - Practice Your Bar Mitzvah Parsha - RustyBrick, Inc.

Here's my brief review:

Peek a Jew (Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump)

Original article from the Daily Mail: The daughter of businessman Donald Trump stepped out in New York today [October 12] in a white knitted sweater over a black shirt, a grey skirt and a jaunty black hat.Black high heels finished the look as she strolled alongside her husband Jared Kushner and their baby Arabella Rose. Jared, wearing a casual black jacket, pushed little Arabella Rose's pram along the streets on their way to lunch. He also held some flowers in one hand - perhaps a gift for his wife.

Sorry guys: That's a lulav! (Jared Kushner is a born Jew; Ivanka has converted)

The Very Best Shalit Reporting

Those nasty Jew-haters in England who work for the Telegraph have produced an excellent bit of 21st century reporting on the Shalit release. It combines pictures, video, Tweets, and on the scene accounts from Gaza, Egypt and Israel,  and reads like a very high quality blog. You can see it here.

The convoy that took Shalit home

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Monday, October 17, 2011

On the Samaritan Sukkah, Nehemiah's Sukkah and the "taking" of the arbah minim

Its kind of neat. As you can see in the images that follorw, the Samaritan practice is to create an indoor sukkah, with a roof made from fruit. They have no walls.

You can't see it when looking from below, but above the hanging fruits are bundles of lulavim, aravot and hadassim. Samaritan apply these items to their sukkot because of the command in Leviticus 23

וּלְקַחְתֶּ֨ם לָכֶ֜ם בַּיֹּ֣ום הָרִאשֹׁ֗ון פְּרִ֨י עֵ֤ץ הָדָר֙ כַּפֹּ֣ת תְּמָרִ֔ים וַעֲנַ֥ף עֵץ־ עָבֹ֖ת וְעַרְבֵי־ נָ֑חַל וּשְׂמַחְתֶּ֗ם לִפְנֵ֛י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֖ם שִׁבְעַ֥ת יָמִֽים׃

40 And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees [DB: Or the foliage of a majestic tree], branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
which Samaritans say means that the arba minim are to be used for the purpose of building the sukkah and indeed on BT Sukka 36b we have Rabbi Yehuda saying that a Sukka should be built exclusively from the arba minim. 

The Sages disagreed with Rabbi Yehuda, and on Lev 23:40 Ibn Ezra denounces a Karaite practice which seems to have been similar to the Samaritan approach. The fly in the ointment, however, remains Neh 8-13-18 where the people, having been reminded of the holiday by Ezra, went out and built Sukkot from the arba minim. in short, they saw a verse ordering us to "take" the arbah minim, so take them they did, but for the purpose of building a sukkah, and not for th epurpose of waving them around.

It would seem from this reading of the account in Nehemiah (which by the way is not my reading; Lurker shared it here first) that Jews at one time understood the verse in Leviticus in the same way that Karaites and Samaritans understood it, which, of course, raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions about the origins of Rabininc interpretations, however binding those interpretations might be.

Those who reject this reading of Neh 8-13-18 are, I think, guilty of reading through a pre-existing set of spectacles. Where does Nehemiah mention an esrog they complain?  However, once the spectacles are removed, the answer is plain. Here is the passage from Nehemiah:
On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law. 14 They found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month 15 and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters”—as it is written. So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim.
Its all very simple , isn't it? After hearing a verse read, the people go out for the express purpose of fulfilling that verse, collect specific items, and use those items to build their succot. Three of the items correspond directly to the items from the list in Leviticus 23:40  The missing item - the etrog - is not named  in Leviticus. Instead, what we're told to do it take the foliage of a goodly (or majestic, or gorgeous) tree.  In Nehemia these are the olives boughs.

This isn't how we practice, nor is it how our Rabbis read Nehemiah or Leviticus, but does this reading seem unreasonable to you?

The Matzav disrespects its readers (and our intelligence)

The Matzav scored two for the price of one today, when it published a complaint from a reader who objected to seeing a photo of Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky, obm. The complaint is pure drivel, and though I think the Matzav insults us all by publishing such things I must give them credit for this: The letter of complaint was accompanied by --yup!!-- a picture of the rebbetzin!

I have no desire to mock a silly 21-year old, but really: who fills their minds with such nonsense? A picture of a woman's face is immodest?

(I also have no desire at all to disrespect a rebbetzin, especially one who has recently died, but I do have some questions about some of her famous practices. For instance, I'm told she made a point of giving girls to drink from her husbands cup (why?) and encouraged them to sit in the Steipler's Chair (why?))

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What I misremembered about the Maharam

Tricks of the mind....

A discussion over the weekend about Gilad Shalit reminded me of a great eulogy written by Leon Weiseltier in honor of his mentor Issiah Berlin. How? Why?

I remembered (correctly) that Meir (the Maharam) of Rotenberg refused to be ransomed in deference to a law presented in Gitten 4:6
"Captives may not be ransomed in excess of their actual worth, on account of the protection of the society (Mipnei Tikkun Olam).
I remembered (also correctly) that Weisletier, in his essay, mentioned the Maharam and the kidnapping.

The trick of the mind was imagining (incorrectly) that Weiseltier's eulogy also contained some mention of the Maharam's refusal to be redeemed, and the halachik reasoning behind it. Here is the entire passage:
A dispute is recorded between the last great rabbis of Germany in the Middle Ages, Meir ben Baruch of Rothenberg and his student Asher ben Jehiel. Meir leniently ruled that you mourn for a sage "if you know the ideas that he introduced, but if you know none of the ideas that he introduced, and he was not your master, then you are not required to rend when you hear the news after the funeral, since you do not [as Abbaye said] consider his views in the house of study every day." Asher stringently demurred, likewise in the name of Abbaye: "Does it say 'when your master dies'? No, it says 'when a sage dies'!" And so there is no reprieve from mourning. In 1286, when the Hapsburg emperor acted on the official view of the Jews as "serfs of Our Chamber," and promulgated capricious and punitive policies of taxation, Meir and his family attempted to leave Germany, but he was informed upon and imprisoned, and he died in the dungeon seven years later. In 1303, to avoid the fate of his teacher, Asher left Germany for Spain. About the mourning for a sage, they disagreed; but they agreed, certainly, that unreason was impending and wisdom was escaping.
Interesting yes, but of no relevance at all to the Shalit case.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Shalit Schizophrenia

Not everyone is glad that a deal to free Gilad Shalit has been negotiated:

Terror victims’ kin protests Shalit deal by defacing Rabin memorial
October 16, 2011
JERUSALEM (JTA) -- A man whose family was killed in a terror attack defaced the memorial in Tel Aviv to assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in protest of the Shalit prisoner swap.

Shvuel Schijveschuurder, 27, whose parents and three siblings were killed in the 2001 terror attack at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, attacked the memorial Oct. 13 to protest the Israeli government's decision to free more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in a swap for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Two of the prisoners listed among those to be released were involved in the Sbarro attack.

Schijveschuurder was was ordered to stay out of Tel Aviv for 15 days after being questioned by Tel Aviv police and released Friday.

He had spray-painted the words "price tag" and "release Yigal Amir," Rabin's assassin, on the memorial.

Some 450 of the Palestinian prisoners to be swapped for Shalit are scheduled to be released Tuesday, the same day that Shalit is to be released. 

My view is more complicated than that of the graffiti artist. Tribal/nationalist DovBear is thrilled the young soldier is coming home, and would enthusiastically raise his middle finger in the direction of any one who disagrees. Halacha-keeping Dovbear wonders if the sages of old would have endorsed Netanyahu's deal, while progressive Dovbear asks if it matters. Pragmatic DovBear worries that kidnapper/terrorists have only been encouraged to try again. Should it turn out that Halacha does frown on the paying of exorbitant ransoms, Dovbear the amateur anthropologist waits to see how the traditionalists will react: Will they condemn the Israel government for breaking Jewish law, or will they look the other way, and accept the fruit of the forbidden tree?


Happy as I am that Shalit is coming home, I do wonder what the rabbinic responsa says about paying exorbitant ransoms. I seem to recall that someone of stature frowned on it. His not unsound logic, iirc, was that paying huge ransoms to secure the release of kidnapped Jews would serve only to encourage kidnappers to try again, thereby endangering other Jews. I had planned to search for the source over yom tov, but instead I ate, drank and slept too much. Anyway, searching for sources is such a burden without Google. I'll see what I can find this afternoon.

A question: If we can establish that the sages of old forbade the making of deals such as the one arranged by the Israeli government on behalf of Gilad Shalit, what then? Do we care? Why or why not?

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chag Someach

The main characters seem more to me like hyper-emotional children than ever... still a good movie, and a great song.

Sukkos in the New York Times

The evil anti-Semites who run the new York Times went too far last year. If you recall, a few Jews got together to sponsor a Sukkah design competition. The entries had to follow halacha, but otherwise the sky was the limit. (One finalist constructed a sukka from signs he stole or bought from homeless people) For two days, the finalists were on display in Bryant Park; rather than ignoring it, the Jew-hating Times wrote a whole article about it, and published a slide show.  Samples below.

Read the article here.
See the slide show here. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Netanyahu and Hamas Strike a Deal

God's Sukkos Message to Orthodox Jewry

A guest post by G.A


To: The Orthodox
From: God
Date: Erev Sukkot 5772

Re: Three things you need to know about Halacha

I love you guys, but before things get too far off the rails (Kosher toilet bowl cleaner? Seriously?), there are a few things that you need to know.

I. There is no such thing as a Chumra

At least not the way you understand it.

What you don’t seem to realize is that every Halachic stringency comes paired with a counterbalancing leniency, and acknowledging only the stringent side misses half the picture. In many instances, a Machmir approach vis-à-vis Hilchos Niddah is simultaneously a Meikil approach with respect to the commandment to be fruitful and multiply, as well as the general injunction of Shalom Bayis, to name but two. Every Kashrus Chumra is a Ba’al Tashchis Kula (not to mention a potential Shalom Bayis Kula once again). Moreover, to the extent that the costs of observing and enforcing Kashrus would otherwise be directed elsewhere, there is an Allocation-of-Resources Kula here with respect to any number of other Mitzvos.

On a more macro level, nearly every Chumra, especially when implemented insensitively, has the potential to be a Kula with respect to a Jewish sense of community, a Kula with respect to general anxiety, and frankly a Kula with respect to whether a young Jewish person sticks with the faith or abandons it. Every new microbug that you discover needs to be weighed against not only the prohibition against bug-eating, but also that against intermarriage. Simply put, you need to think of every Chumra as turning a dial on a machine from left to right, but with a mirror image dial painted on the other side.

When you speak of Chumras, all you are really doing is focusing on one isolated aspect of Halacha, and privileging it over all others, whether they be aspects that you would characterize as explicitly Halachic, or those that you would refer to as “extra-Halachic” such as Kavod HaBriyos and the like (before you knock extra-Halachic considerations, try to find the prohibition against cannibalism … I’ll wait). To me, they’re all part of a Halachic life, and the discussion needs to be one that revolves around appropriate balancing, and not simply an ever-tighter ratcheting of Chumras and ever-larger expansion of Shiurim.

II. Change is good

Or at least inevitable.

Let me explain. You get very fussed about trying to maintain the constancy of Halacha and Minhag, which I can understand. Everyone wants to imagine that Moses himself could amble into their Shteeble or sit down and their Shabbos table, and blend in without missing a beat. There’s something romantic about that, I guess.

But what you fail to appreciate is just how much the Halachic ground shifts irrespective of your efforts to preserve it. The bottom line is that the experience of observing Shabbos 3,000 years ago is dramatically different than that of observing Shabbos 300 years ago, or even 30. This is not due to changes in any Halacha per se, but rather due to revolutions in technology, society, and culture. Someone adhering to a particular set of rules a long, long time ago is simply not doing the same thing as someone adhering to the same set of rules today. Trying to latch onto a particular ancient interpretation of a particular rule is like holding your coffee mug in place on your desk during a major earthquake (which are not the gays’ fault, by the way), and trying to pretend that your office looks just like it used to.

For example, while I leave it to you to sort this particular issue out, I hope you understand that forbidding a woman from serving on a Shul board in 2011 is not the same thing as doing so in the year 1011. Sure, the prohibition is technically the same, but so much has changed with respect to women (and Shul boards) that every relevant noun in the prohibition no longer means what it used to, and the sense that you are clinging to the past is illusory. The same goes for something like Kapparos. Trying to be “traditional” by taking a chicken from the farm and swinging it around your head before slaughtering it is in fact NOT being traditional when the meaning of the words “taking,” “farm,” and “slaughtering” is so far removed from that of the past that you seek to preserve.

The sooner you realize this, the sooner you will come to understand that what is important is not superficial adherence to tradition, but rather distilling those timeless elements of tradition, and applying them to current circumstances. I’m not saying that that you should throw out all of the old books, but you do no need to take the time to occasionally distinguish the spirit of the law from its letter, and continue to come up with approaches that combine the two in balanced, meaningful ways.

[P.S. While we’re on the subject of old books, some people seem to have noticed that great Rabbis occasionally got it wrong when it came to the world around them. This is not a big deal, people. One can be a good Jew without believing that Hillel and Shammai stayed up at night debating whether the world was ready for them to unveil the microwave or not, and that they decided not to only because it would be millennia before a decent Chalav Yisrael microwave popcorn would be invented (tick tock, Manischewitz). Scientific knowledge unfolds gradually, and even Rabbis so holy that you know them only as acronyms were not privy to anything more than their secular contemporaries. So what. There are, or course, legitimate questions on what to do with Halacha once its reasoning has been discredited in whole or in part (once again, I take the “Lo BaShamayim Hi” fifth and leave this one to you), but there is really no need to humiliate people by forcing them to publicly pledge allegiance to all sorts of bizarre apologetics. All this does is burden some of your best and brightest with the guilt of apostasy, and shut them out of participating in the community. As we speak, you could be losing your next Rambam because he (or she) can’t believe in good faith that dinosaur bones are forgeries or faith-testing gags. For the record, dinosaurs did indeed walk the earth. And they were AWESOME.]

III. Easy Self-Assessment Tool

Determining whether you are on the right Halachic track is not complicated, and does not require a single Rav, Roov, Rebbe, or Rebbi. Not even a Reb (the sole qualification for which seems to be testicles and a pulse these days).

Firstly, your Jewish experience should, generally, be bringing you comfort and meaning. I’m not saying that that it’s all beer and Skittles (I know, I know—the one candy that hasn’t gone Kosher yet … no promises, but stay tuned in 5752), but if your day is filled with anxiety about doing this wrong, then you’re doing it wrong.

Even more importantly, you need ask yourself whether the people you associate with day-today—and the world at large—look at Orthodox Jews and say, “these are good people that we should learn from in many respects.” It’s that simple. When someone sees a guy in a Kippah giving up his seat on a bus, picking up garbage, or speaking politely, their first thought should be “what else would you expect.” When they do business with you, their guard should come down, not up. And when they see a black hat, the word association should be more than just “Michael Jackson” and “White Collar Crime.”

Spoiler alert for those who have never read past Yehoshua and Shoftim, but the reason that I put you here, and the reason that I haven’t let anyone get rid of you, is so that my 6 billion other human creations (or, as you occasionally refer to them, Shkotzim) can look up at you admiringly. That doesn’t mean that you have to mimic the gentiles for fear of offending them (for My sake, if I hear one more Jewish techno song there WILL be an earthquake), and there is nothing wrong with sticking to your guns in the face of moral adversity, but I need you to keep an eye on the big picture here, and it ain’t bug filtering, or Matza-supervising, or finding America’s Next Top Esrog.

Reader Animadversions

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Hey DovBear you dumb moron....
    Don't you know the plural of lulav is lulavim?

Yes. I got it wrong.  Sometimes our brains betrays us. I haven't fixed it because that post is now the #1 Google search result for "lulavot." Every other result on the page are Judeo-Christian.

Hey DovBear you dumb moron....
    Don't you know that tukki is Hebrew for parrot? A peacock is a tavas

Nope. This time I was right. In modern Hebrew a parrot is a tukki, but I think that must be a relatively recent semantic shift. In biblical Hebrew, the word for peacock is tukki.

1 Kings 10:22
כִּי֩ אֳנִ֨י תַרְשִׁ֤ישׁ לַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ בַּיָּ֔ם עִ֖ם אֳנִ֣י חִירָ֑ם אַחַת֩ לְשָׁלֹ֨שׁ שָׁנִ֜ים תָּבֹ֣וא אֳנִ֣י תַרְשִׁ֗ישׁ נֹֽשְׂאֵת֙ זָהָ֣ב וָכֶ֔סֶף שֶׁנְהַבִּ֥ים וְקֹפִ֖ים וְתֻכִּיִּֽים׃

Monday, October 10, 2011

Garnel parodies RYA...

New York Times on the Search for Lulavot

L'shana Tova

Last week, were any of you wished a "L'shana Tova?" I was. The typical form was something like:
Best wishes to you and your family for a L'shana Tova;  or
L’Shana Tova to you and your family
It's easy to explain the origins of this usage.

Our traditional greeting at Rosh Hashana is "L'shana Tova" a shortening of L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem. The L in L'shana means "for", and the full greeting is "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year" (Hebrew word order is not the same as English word order. A literal translation produces the Yoda-esque "For a good year, you shall be inscribed and sealed")

To Hebrew speakers, however, the L'shana Tova usage recorded above sounds like an error. You wish someone a Shana Tova, ie a "Good Year",  not a L'Shana Tova.  The prescriptive in me cringes at this usage, while my inner descriptivist knows that's not fair. Over time, languages, and their rules are going to change, and for a variety of reasons, some good, most bad.

In English,  similar corruptions have happened countless times. Some of the examples given in Dhirendra Verma's Word Origins include:
  • Hoax is a corruption of hocus, itself a shortening of hocus pocus, which is itself a corruption of Hoc est enim corpus meum the Latin phrase recited by Roman Catholic priests at the moment the wafer is transformed into the body of Jesus.
  • So Long is a corruption of salaam, the Arabic farewell. British soldiers picked it up while serving in Arab speaking lands. (and salaam itself is a corruption of ma'sallama, meaning "goodby")
  • Turkey might be a corruption of the Hebrew tukki, meaning peacock.   
The small takeaway point is that cringing over unfamiliar usages is a mistake. Anything living and vibrant is going to change, and the reason behind the change won't always be something noble. People are imperfect. We make mistakes, and those mistakes have a way of becoming institutionalized.

This knowledge is part of what makes it so impossible for me to fall into line behind Rabbi Alderstan when he calls for Rabbi Kanefsky's expulsion from Judaism. True, its nowadays normative to say she lo asani isha, but once upon a time some women said she lo asani ish and in another time and place no one said anything at all. Plauusibly, the whole practice was established in imitation of the Greek philosophers. So,  how important can it really be?

A much more important takeaway point can be found here

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Friday, October 07, 2011

Rabbi Frand on Kol Nidre

A Guest Post By E. Fink
Cross-posted from my home blog:

Tonight is Yom Kippur. Across the world, millions of Jews will usher in the solemn day of Yom Kippur with the ancient prayer of Kol Nidre.

Nothing could be more strange.

Yom Kippur is the day of repentance. Kol Nidre is a prayer that annuls our vows. That is a very unlikely way to begin Yom Kippur. Yet, not only do we begin Yom Kippur with Kol Nidre we tremble when the familiar tune is chanted. Then, we end the prayer with ונסלח לכל עדת בני ישראל כי לכל העם בשגגה. "And all the congregation of the children of Israel shall be forgiven".

Why do we begin Yom Kippur with Kol Nidre and what relationship is there between the Kol Nidre prayer annulling our vows and the statement of ask for forgiveness for the congregation of Israel?

The DovBear Kol Nidrei Project

I think I started collecting Kol Nidrei experiences in 2007. Over the years many of you have added your own. My original two posts are first, and the next batch are from last years comments.  Others are older. Please feel free to add your own.

The Big Shul Where I Grew Up and the Yeshivish Minyan I Attend Now (DovBear)

Attendance: 90 percent of the shul is in their seats by the time the pregame starts. 20-50 percent are wearing white kippot (in the childhood shul the number was higher.) Most of the women are wearing something white, too.

Pre-game: Every Torah is taken out of the Aron, and the pillars of the community are honored with the privilege of carrying them. (This is one honor that isn't auctioned to the highest bidder.) The rabbi leads the procession to the shulchan, reciting Ohr Zeruah l'tzadik every few steps. We answer him. When the men reach the shulchan they crowd around the chazan who has been waiting there, pushing in as tightly as possible. All of this began within 30 seconds of the announced start time.

The show: Takes about 10 minutes. The chazan always uses the same tune, the traditional tune that can be heard on any number of cantorial tapes. His voices gets louder each of the three times he recites it. We hum along, and answer thunderously when the time comes to scream: solachti kidvorecha. After the chazan intones the shehechayanu the Torahs are silently returned to their place.

Post game: The children exit, and the Rabbi delivers words of encouragement or rebuke, and in some years, an appeal is also conducted for some worthy charity. (not the bedek habayis fund). Marriv begins afterwards, led by the chazan, who also selects the tunes for the slichos which are sung responsively.

The Hasidic Sfard Shteeble I Used to Attend... (DovBear)

Attendance: About 15 percent of the shul is present at the announced start time which is for Tfillas Zaka, not Kol Nidrei. Aside from their kittels, very few of the men are wearing white, and many have substituted a standard black gartel for the kittel's white belt. A number of the women wear white and many have identical white kerchiefs over their wigs; some wear what look like white aprons.

Pre-game: The congregation gradually enters, and slowly the men take their seats and hunch over Tfillas Zakka, a long semi-silent prayer said in an audible whisper. In a few minutes the drone of conversation is replaced with the hum of prayer. At some point (usually within 5 minutes of the announced start time for Kol Nidrei) a gabbai slaps his hand on a table and the rebbe groans or whines or wails out a kabbalistic prayer called Kum Rebbe [name I forget. Eliezer?]. Those who know it whisper the words together with the rebbe.

The show: The Torahs are taken from the aron, and the men carrying them, also community pillars, gather around the shulchan. After they arrive, the rebbe goes to the amud (about 15 feet from the Torahs) and bleats out Kol Nidrei using a tune that is strange yet powerful in its own right, but only vagualy similar to the traditional tune. The crowd bellows the response lines, and at the end the rebbe's shehechyanu is extended into a wail that soulds like the shofar.

Post-game: When the Torahs are back in their place, Maariv begins immediately, led by the rebbe

Parallel experience of a mother who hasn't made it to Kol Nidre in many many years... (Tesyaa)

6:40 - Light candles with teenage daughters, then watch as husband in kittel and daughters in white shirts covered with sweatshirts make a quick exit. (Shul is apparently over-airconditioned).

6:45 - Scan kitchen and dining room. Thankfully spouse and older children have done an admirable job of clearing table and washing dishes before candlelighting.

7:45 - Breathe sigh of relief that developmentally delayed youngest child loves his bed and is a good sleeper. Put him to bed. (Hopefully no unwelcome surprises here).

8:00-9:00 - Entertain two rambunctious young boys. Remind them that they are not hungry. Remind them that they are fasting at least until breakfast (or later depending on age). Remind them about 40 times not to brush their teeth.

9:00 - Attempt to put boys to bed. Cajole them to be good because "Mommy's fasting". (Hey, whatever works).

9:15 - Dressed in a robe (not a white one), pick up machzor. Read text of kol nidre silently. Daven maariv. Read piyutim of interest silently. Scan text of 13 middos and wish I was davening in shul. Say some tehilim.

9:30 or so - click of front door as spouse & daughters return home. Brief exchange about how the davening went.

That's it. It's been the same for several years. Predictibility is good (I guess).

The Big Shul in Williamsburg... (Yeedle)

I daven in a big shul in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. Since most people are married and wear kittels (white, of course) and thick wool talisim, the cooling system is turned up so the reg. temp. is a cold 55 degree. Coming with a sweater (or a [white] shawl, for the ladies) is advised.
Another tid-bit: Most women, in honor of the special occasion, don't wear any wig or all. Just a white turban or tichel. And even the few who dare come with their wigs on, make sure it's well covered, with the maximum of two inches showing in the front. (last year, two self-appointed ladies made sure that no one is "showing" too much of her wig.)

The program starts with everyone running to get a dip in the mikvah one more time, and almost everyone reminds themselves to do so a mere 5 minutes before the shkiah. Then, the shul starts getting fuller and fuller, everyone settles down with their machzorim and the rabbi gives a mussar sermon. Most people utilize the time to say tefilas zakai. Some even manage to say "kum rabun shimon" as well.

When the rabbi finishes the 30 minute sermon, which nobody listened to, the rabbi takes out ONE sefer torah (the rest remain in the ark) and circles the shul (making one hakafa). During the hakafa everyone, but I mean EVERY SINGLE ONE, pushes himself to kiss this sefer torah the rabbi is holding. Every single year kids get "injured", machzorim get lost/pages ripped etc. While making the hakafah, which takes like 10 - 15 minutes, the rabbi stops at random intervals and cries "Ohr zarua latzadik, ulyishrei lev simch".

Then the rabbi returns the sefer torah to the aron, and says a short tefillah. Another 5 minutes pass, and the rabbi, who serves as baal tefillah, starts chanting (the traditional nussach I think) Kol Nidrei and everyone quietly chants along with him. Kol nidrei is repeated 3 times, each time the volume goes up.

From there, the davenen continues as it says in machzor :)

The Israeli experience...(Micheal)

Pre game - walk to shul in Kittel and Talit, but try not to get bowled over by kids (and adults) who are getting an early start on their bikes (depending on where you live, the streets will be full of bikes and noise for the entire 25 hours of Yom Kippur - even 3 am you can hear bicycle bells and shreiks from kids enjoying the car-free environment)

I don't remember ever seeing "Tfilla Zaka" on the menu, but many people try to arrive early for shul to say it before kickoff. Every year I try to get there on time for Tfillat Zaka, every your I fail (maybe I'll be more successful tonight)

Shul itself is more likely to be school hallway or kindergarten. Very few Cathedral-like shuls in Israel that can accommodate big crowds (biggest shul here in Modi'in seats about 300, but most shuls are much smaller than that - my shul can squeeze in about 250 plastic chairs)

Don't remeber ever seeing more than 2 Sifrei Torah taken out for Kol Nidrei, but many minyanim (particularly those in a Gan or school) will only have one or 2 sfarim, so by default all sfarim are removed for Kol Nidrei.

In the shul I daven, most men are wearing a white Kipa Sruga, but that is the case on a regular Shabbat as well

No Yom Kippur Appeal, but if we're lucky we'll get a drasha of some sort.

Reform Shul....  (Susan)

Eat a big dinner because I know it's my last meal for over 24 hours. Debate with myself about how much water to drink. I don't want to be too thirsty tomorrow, but I don't want to have to get up to use the restroom during serives either.

Arrive about an hour before services start. Put some canned food in the barrels outside for the annual food drive. Chat with the spouses of the choir members, who also arrive early.

Stand on the front steps and greet people as they arrive. The senior rabbi (a woman) and Cantor (a man), as well as the choir, are wearing white robes. The two other rabbis, who are married to each other, are both wearing a kittel. Some of those who regularly come to shul, such as myself, are wearing white and no leather. The number of people wearing white is increasing slowly over the years. Most others are in regular business suits and dresses, with leather shoes and belts. Almost nobody has a head covering of any kind, however many men pick up a white kippah provided inside.

Services start within 10 minutes of the scheduled start time (which is late for us, since services usually start within a few minutes of the scheduled time). Cello plays Kol Nidre, then Cantor sings it. Is it done a third time? I can't remember.

People continue to drift in as the service continues. Eventually, the entire 2,000-seat auditorium is full. The senior rabbi delivers a sermon to a rapt crowd. She's an excellent and passionate speaker. After the sermon, upward of 100 people get up and leave as the services continue.

Services are over less than two hours after they started.

Stand at the door saying goodnight to people as they leave.

Spanish And Portuguese Version (Fear From Love)

* Majority of Shul is full ten minutes before advertised start time, everyone wears a tallit, white stripes, black stripes, blue stripes..... two guys wore kittels, one of them wasnt sefardi

* Shema Koli ten minutes after fast starts. No Tefillat Zakah, No Kum Rabbi Shimon, no Kol Nidrei, yet....

* Kol Nidrei starts ten minutes later after another Piyyut. The Sifrei Torah are held by The Rav, The President and the Two Chattanim. A different person says Kol Nidrei each time, sefardic tune.

*No appeal but a sermon before Arvit

* Arvit begins, and every word is sung until the end of tefillah, either the whole congregation joins in and says the whole paragraph together with the shaliach tzibbur or there is a system of the shaliach tzibbur saying the beginning of a sentence and the congragation saying the last two words.

*finish 3 hours after we start, beautiful.

The Reconstructionist Shul... (Tziporah)

Attendance: Yes, most everyone is seated by the time we start; the people still walking around chatting are either service big-wigs, showing off that they're part of running this thing, or people who come only once/year and have a lot of people to say "hi" to that they haven't seen in a while. Moms are trying to round up the kids and get them settled into the childcare before it gets quiet, stopped repeatedly by the old people who want to talk about "how big" everyone is getting.

Pre-game: I think one of the rabbis or somebody usally says something or does a reading or whatever to make everyone shut up. Then both Torahs are taken out, and the rabbis carry them around the shul in different directions, singing "Ohr Zeruah" along with the congregation, trailed by Board members, etc. It takes FOR-fricking-EVER. Everyone wants to touch the Torahs and the rows are too long for everyone to reach it, so some scuffling ensues. (Very genteel scuffling, of course).

The show: For the last several years, the first rendition of Kol Nidrei has been done with a cello and some other instrument. Several of us are horrified by this; some refuse to attend b/c of it; others find it nice and "contemplative." Phhbt. With a Bad Cohen on the ritual committee, they're lucky it's not worse. Anyway, then it's usually the rabbi and one of our lay leaders with a great voice, and the third time is a chorus that always includes the old ladies with the horribly wobbly voices that make you wince. Thank G-d it's over.

Post-game: Torahs get put away, then there's a neverending procession of readings, speeches, prayers, whatever, all the way through to the Amidah/kaddish, and finally the feature event of the evening: the rabbi's sermon. This is what most of us are looking forward to, since it's the junior rabbi who actually has a formaleducation and can link HH Days themes to something relevant and make it interesing.

After the sermon, there's a vast rustle and buzz as people try to exit before the President/Vice President get up and beg for money and more volunteers. It's not pretty.

The Yeckish Shul... (Mar Gavriel)

"Talles" is scheduled for some time around sunset, or slightly afterward. People start to shuffle in at least 10-15 minutes earlier, but there are always people running in at the last moment. All married men (after Shono Rishôno) wear kittels (as they do on RH, as well). We use the terms "kittel" and "sargenes" interchangeably. Virtually all the women wear white.

"Talles" is when the one rabbi, the other rabbi, and finally the chazzen for KN/ma'ariv sing the berocho over the talles, with great pomp and circumstance, before donning it. After the chazzen is done, each man (married or not) dons his talles. All who are wearing kittels wear all-white talleisim, whereas bachelors and men in Shono Rishôno wear their ordinary black-striped talleisim

At this point, the chazzen puts his talles over his head and entire body, and hunches over the shtender, to silently whisper a personal prayer -- I assume הנני העני ממעש, or one of the other ones printed in the book. When he is done, he removes the talles from his head, and the rabbi, who is standing next to him, proclaims: "בישיבה של מעלה ובישיבה של מטה, על דעת המקום ועל דעת הקהל, אנו מתירין להתפלל עם העבריינים."

Then, the chazzen, in a quiet voice, begins "Kol Nidrei", in the old tune. The congregation hums along for some parts. This is then repeated in a louder voice, and finally in an even louder voice.

When this is done, we say the line
ונסלח לעל עדת בני ישראל ולגר הגר בתוכם כי לכל העם בשגגה
a single time, and then Shehecheyonu. The congregation responds a rousing "Omein!" to the chazzen's Shehecheyonu, and then the chazzen sits down.

The rabbi then gives his YK sermon, the only time that he speaks over the whole 25 hours. Usually, this lasts until nightfall, at which point we begin Borachu. In years when there has been persecution of Jews somewhere in the world, or violence in Israel, the sermon has been curtailed, in order to have time to recite some Psalms before Borachu.

The whole procedure is beautiful in its simplicity.

No Torah-scrolls, no Tefillo Zakko, no Kom Rebbi Shim'ôn, no appeal for money.

UK Orthodox Experience.(SM)

Everyone to be sat in seat before Yomtov. 50% are. The rest arrive - in their cars - after.

Tefillas Zaka, what's that? Oh you mean the thing that meshugana SM says when he won't respond to everyone's greetings. Kum Rebbe Shimon - ?

Kittel - I wear one. So does the Rabbi, the Chazzan and perhaps 5 other people.

Bigwigs take Sefer Torah out of ark and parade them to Bimah. Chazan makes meal of Kol Nidre - must still be hungry. It is the standard tune but by the time he's done it and the choir has helped it doesn't feel like it.

Appeal for UJIA (Israel). Sermon.

Ma'ariv. The songs are well known so people stop talking when they are being sung - more or less. Otherwise there is a steady hum throughout. This is better than on RH when you cannot hear the Chazzan or yourself.

3 hours later - home.

(Which is why, although I have no affinity for their beliefs, I go to Chabad for Neilah, daven for the Old Age home shacharit and mincha and teach the rest of the time, fitting in my davenning wherever I am and in the quietest place I can find.)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Today's scam: Paging Yitzchak Alderstein

I get these stupid robo calls all the time. This one, fortuitously, was recorded by one of the friends of the blog. It makes the usual unfalsifiable claims and bogus promises in the name of God and Torah

When is Rabbi Yitzchak Alderstein going to write an Ami article about this widespread and prevelant example of Haredi counterfeiting of the Mesorah?

Search for more information about lies Jews tell each other at

This email is going around like a rhinovirus in a preschool

Get a Samsung B2230HD 22" Widescreen LCD HDTV w/ 70000:1 (DC), 5ms, 1920x1080 & HDMI - Refurbished for $174 at, a $213 Savings! Valid through 10/10/2011

From: Tznius Revolution 
To: Nashim Tzidkanios 
Sent: Wed, Oct 5, 2011 4:25 pm
Subject: Tznius Revolution

Dear friend,

Here’s a little quiz- please take it honestly and sincerely. Warning- the results may cause you to rethink some of your habits. Please let them! It’s time for change.

1. True or false: The full knee is part of the upper leg.
2. True or false: The full upper leg is considered ervah and does not depend on minhag hamakom.
3. True or false: Since it is a body part that is considered ervah, I must cover my upper leg at all times.
4. True or false: I must also make sure that my knee is covered at all times, since my knee is part of my
upper leg.

 5. My skirt must cover my knees:
a. When I’m standing
b. When I’m bending
c. When I’m climbing stairs
d. Even when I’m sitting
e. All of the above
6. The skirt that I’m wearing now covers my knees:
a. When I’m standing
b. When I’m bending
c. When I’m climbing stairs
d. Even when I’m sitting
e. Some of the above
f. All of the above
g. None of the above

7. Some excuses my yetzer hora uses to get me to wear that skirt that doesn’t quite cover all the way:
a. But it looks sooo good on me.
b. My father/husband never said it was too short, and they would tell me.
c. My mother wears her skirt the same length- why shouldn’t I?
d. The Rebbetzin of my shul is not makpid.
e. It really does cover- pull a little here and a little there and don’t move.
f. My mother/neighbors/friends will think I’m too frum, and for some reason, that’s the last thing I want to be.
g. Straight skirts are so in style. How will I get a shidduch if I don’t wear a straight skirt?
h. Everyone else also shows their knee when they sit, so it can’t be that bad.
i. Tznius is not really my thing.
j. Men don’t notice anyhow.
k. Some of the above
l. All of the above

Quiz answers:
1. True
2. True
3. True
4. True
5. E
6. I sure hope it’s F!
7. K and L are both correct. Please recognize your yetzer hora’s arguments, so you can resist his oh so powerful pull. It’s mighty hard, but incredibly worth it. If you think that any of the arguments are valid, please contact us ASAP so we can refute it for you.

If you have any questions or comments, please email

The Tznius Revolution has begun! Don’t be left behind!

Please forward this quiz to as many people as you can. The s’char you will receive if you influence someone to be careful about her tznius is unimaginable!

I want to be blunt. These people are sick in the head. Anyone who wastes this much energy encouraging women to cover the bottom of their knees has an illness.

 Now, I don't suggest that its OK for women to walk around immodestly dressed, and I concede that the knee is erva, but can we get some perspective? Incorrectly covered knees don't even make the top 2000 list of issues threatening Judaism. Until these sex obsessed goons tackle something important they have no credibility with me. And to show how helpful I can be, here's my list of important problems that justify the attention and energy these morons commit to fighting exposed lower legs:
  • Child beating
  • Wife beating
  • Tax fraud
  • Welfare fraud 
These four problems are endemic in Williamburg, Boro Park, New Square, and especially Kiryas Joel, all places where you're unlikely to spot a bare calf.