Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In which I defend Charedim --- sort of

What follows is a paraphrased recreation of an actual conversation, joined in progress. As you can see we touch on many things essential to our understanding of Judaism, the world, and Judaism's place in it. The conversation, joined in progress, began as a discussion about the differences between Haredi and MO/DL psak

Him: I can only tell you what the religion says. I can't claim to speak for its followers' behavior.
Me: A religion doesn't say anything. It's always the adherents who do the talking.

Him: We've had this debate before. I'm sure we'll have it again.
Me: This is just a point of logic. A religion cant say anything. It's always interpreted by people. The issue is that not every one recognizes the authority of everyone else's interpreter

Him: That's fine. Mine is still right.
Me: There is no right. Just the arguments we do and do not find significant. You think x is right because x for some reason has significance to you or provides some kind of payoff. All comes down to significance/ payoff

Him: You are arguing that there is no right and wrong. I disagree.
Me: Right and wrong / true and false aren't categories that apply to this discussion.

Him: 13th Century Europeans thought the world was flat. That doesn't validate their interpretation. 
Me: Interpreting a text is categorically different from empirical observations. You can say they were wrong about the world being flat. Can't say an interp. of text is wrong in the same way.

Him:  Halakha and medrash are not the same. There are rules for psak. Hareidim break them.
Me: Of course they are the same. It's all interpretation. And the rules of psak get interpreted, too... So cards on the table: do you think the Haredim are wrong? And do they know they are wrong?

Him: Yes. And I believe the rabbanim/Askanim know they are wrong, the followers are too blind to care
Me: I'm certain they think they are right; they just interpret differently than you do.   

Him: There have been individual misguided people throughout history. Mainstream haredism is an intentional distortion.
Me: Don't be silly. It's a good faith interpretation of the tradition that we find unappealing, or lacking in significance... but ok... you claim the Haredim KNOW they are wrong. So what's their purpose?

Him: Control
Me: So is the claim that your sect is pure as the driven snow, but no one else's is? Haredim are after control, or pursuing their own understanding of significance, or chasing some other payoff -- all while knowing that they are wrong -- but your sect alone has pure motives?

Him: You are making the atheist argument that 100% of religion is subjective not divine.
Me: Of course it's subjective! Everything humans touch is subjective. It's all filtered through our imperfect human minds. We interpret what God said. We  interpret what He wants. Different people see things differently. That's what it means to be human! You're making the nonsense claim that the haredim are human beings, but your sect are angles.

Him: Actually we are parallelograms.
Me: hahaha. So my argument is accepted?

Him: No. But we're going in circles.
Me: No. We weren't

And so it ended. Your views?

  • Search for more information about TOIRAH at 4torah.com

  • Monday, January 30, 2012

    Life Coaching in Boro Park, via the New York Times

    The Times today had a piece on Life Coaching that seems to me to have been written with a bit of a sneer. The problem isn't with Coaching per se,  but with the tender age of the current crop of Coaches. The title question asks "Should a Life Coach Have a Life First?" and indeed the author - 34 year old Spencer Morgan - seems astounded that anyone might take a young person's advice.

    Oddly enough, the article also devotes three paragraphs to a Jewish coach from Boro Park:
    Last February, Chanie Messinger, 20, a psychology major at Brooklyn College, decided to augment her workload by enrolling in an online Torah-based professional life coach degree program she discovered while flipping through The Jewish Press on the bus ride home to Borough Park, where she lives with her mother. She has since built a base of 10 clients, including a 48-year-old woman who, until recently, was living in denial of the fact that she has diabetes.

    “It was a very difficult breakthrough for her, she was crying,” Ms. Messinger, who charges from $25 to $75 an hour, recalled of a recent session with the client. “I just made her aware of more options, like maybe you can try Splenda.”

    Ms. Messinger said she had recently completed the 80 hours of live coaching required by the Refuah Institute, which is based in Israel, with an office in Brooklyn. She has also invested in a profile on Noomii.com (meant to conjure “new me”), a centralized online coach directory where coaches pay as little as $19 to advertise their services, in the hope that potential clients find their bios, fees and picture most suitable to their own needs

  • Search for more information about Life Coaching at 4torah.com
  • Thursday, January 26, 2012

    Shocking: Newt lied when he reprimanded that hapless moderator

    What follows was taken from Slate and written by Josh Voorhees

    This story is false. Every personal friend I had in that period says the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren’t interested because they would like to attack any Republican. They’re attacking the governor, they’re attacking me, I’m sure they’ll get around to Sen. Santorum, and Congressman Paul. I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans."

    That was Newt Gingrich's memorable response last week to moderator John King after he opened the CNN debate with a question about Gingrich's ex-wife's claims that the GOP hopeful sought an open marriage. The rant was a crowd pleaser and not only allowed Gingrich to shake off the rather explosive allegations, but even to gain a little more of the all-important political momentum.

    There's only one problem: Gingrich's camp now admits that the candidate was less than truthful during the debate -- and in a follow-up interview with CNN -- about who, exactly, he offered to ABC to refute the story. CNN reports that after "persistent" questions on the topic, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond now says that the only people the campaign offered to ABC were the former House speaker's two daughters, Jackie Cushman and Kathy Gingrich Lubbers, who regularly appear on the campaign trail and who wrote a letter to ABC News defending their father that was widely circulated in the media.

    That admission backs up ABC's on-the-record denial of Gingrich's original claim, something that Gingrich deemed "just plain baloney" on Tuesday. "If they're saying that, then they're not being honest," Gingrich said then. "We had several people prepared to be very clear and very aggressive in their dispute about that, and (ABC News) wasn't interested."

    So there you have it. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple put it best: "What CNN pried out of Gingrich &Co. was something akin to a correction. And like most corrections, it hits the public realm with a much smaller splash than the original erroneous accusation."

    The super-star of sanctimony

    The super-star of sanctimony is his excellence Newt Gingrich, as Jon Stewart aptly points out. (picks up at around 3.00)

    Curious: Is there anyone in the real, non-South Carolina world who thinks this guy is to be taken seriously?

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    No one could move during darkness?

    We famously interpret the plague of darkness as something that prevented the Egyptians from moving. "During the last three days, one who sat could not stand up, one who stood could not sit down, and one who was lying down could not rise upright."(Exodus Raba 14:3) and " It was the most complete, the most comprehensive literal suffering. It meant each man being held, chained and fasting, to the spot in which he happened to be." (Samson Raphael Hirsch) 

    My hunch is that this all based on a misunderstanding. 

    A purpose of the plagues as per God's own words was to embarrass the Egyptian deities, and to demonstrate that God is the true god.
    • Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: (Exodus 6:6)
    • And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt (Exodus 7:5) 
    • For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.(Exodus 12:12)
    I propose (actually, I think I saw it in Sarna's Exploring Exodus: The Origins of Biblical Israel) that darkness was an "attack" on the sun god

    Sun worship was exceptionally prevalent in ancient Egyptian religion. The earliest deities associated with the sun are all goddesses: Wadjet, Sekhmet, Hathor, Nut, Bast,Bat, and Menhit. First Hathor, and then Isis, give birth to and nurse Horus and Ra. Hathor the horned-cow is one of the 12 daughters of Ra, gifted with joy and is a wet-nurse to Horus.The Sun's movement across the sky represents a struggle between the Pharaoh's soul and an avatar of Osiris. Ra travels across the sky in his solar-boat; at dawn he drives away the demon Apep of darkness. The "solarisation" of several local gods (Hnum-Re, Min-Re, Amon-Re) reaches its peak in the period of the fifth dynasty. (Wikipedia)

    A millennium or more later, Jewish readers had no idea such a sun god existed. To them, the plauge of darkness seemed weird and especially unremarkable as the penultimate punishment.  They asked, "What was so terrible about darkness? In what sense is that a plague?"

    So,  they read the psukim closely to find an answer.... "Can't move" was one solution. But it seems to have been based on a lack or information.

    Search for more information about midrashic reality at 4torah.com

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    Demolishing Dumb Arguments: Bray's Appeal to Authority

    I don't mean to pick on Bray, but his post yesterday does provide us with the opportunity to say a few things about logical reasoning.

    He wrote:
    ...the fact that the [Hasidic] movement captured the hearts and minds of such intellectual and spiritual giants as the Alteh Rebbe, the Hafloah, the Kotzker, the Rim, the Divrei Chaim, the Sfas Emes, the Bnei Yissoskhor, the Lubliner Kohen, the Khelkas Yoav, the Kozhiklover, Rav Meir Shapiro and Rav Menachem Ziemba to name but a few, belies the conventional wisdom that Besh"tian Khasidus was a grass roots movement meant to serve the unlettered and unwashed masses.
    The errors here are multiple. First, it's an appeal to authority. We're asked to accept that Hasidut is valid because the "hearts and minds" of various " intellectual and spiritual giants" were captured by it. Using Bray's logic you can also argue for the validity of Christianity on the basis of Newton, Amselem, Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, and the other intellectual giants who embraced it.

    Second, the passage suggests that the Alteh Rebbe, et al, were all fully grown adults, living solid anti-Hasidic lives, when in an instant they were "captured" by the Baal Shem Tov and his irrefutable arguments. However, not one of the people on Bray's list ever met the Baal Shem Tov, and one, the Hafloah, was in no sense a Chasid.

    Several of the listed Rabbis were born long after the founder of Hasidut died, and long after his movement had transitioned, as all movements do, into something else entirely.  Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (the Sfas Emes), Rabbi Yoav Yehoshua Weingarten, (the Chelkas Yoav), Rav Meir Shapiro, and Rav Menchamem Ziemba were active in the 20th century. Like their predecessors Rav Zvi Elimelech Spira (The Bnai Yissacher) and Rav Chaim Halberstam (the Divrei Chaim), they were born to Hasidic parents in a Hasidic universe. In no sense can any of these men be described as being "captured" by the Baal Shem Tov, or his teachings. In fact, with the exception of the Alter Rebbe, and the possible exception of the Kotzker and Lubliner Kohen, who were born Misnagdim in a time and place where a new form of Hasidut was ascending, not one of the people on his list can properly be considered converts to the Baal Shem Tov's movement.

    Though Bray might believe (as he wrote) "If they were as smart as you they would have walked away." such a statement reveals two fundamental misunderstandings (1) You generally DONT walk away from things you're born into (See Newton, Abelard, and other geniuses who didn't "walk away" from Christianity) --moreover, in that time and place, such rebellions were exceedingly rare; and (2) by the time almost all the Rabbis on Bray's list emerged, Hasidut had transitioned into something unlike the Baal Shem Tov's original movement. 

    Adds "S"  
    The Kotzker was a chossid of R. Bunim of Pshishcha who is otherwise known for intellectualizing Chassidus. R. Tzadok was a talmid of another talmid of R. Bunim. R. Menachem Ziemba, etc. was a Gur chossid, and Gur also came to the world through R. Bunim.
    So . . . these are not examples which prove that at the beginning Chassidus was not a mass movement for Jewish peasants who loved their schnapps. Maybe you can prove it, but not from the intellectual revolution which occurred 75 years after the Baal Shem died.

    Monday, January 23, 2012

    Rise of the Mega-Yeshivos-

    By the BRAY of FUNDIE

    I have never been really comfortable with the academic historical narrative about the origins of the Khasidic movement. Received wisdom always talks about the voids being addressed by the movement. The Rabbis grew remote and out-of-touch from the people. Common folk felt disenfranchised and hopeless etc. etc. Yet the fact that the movement captured the hearts and minds of such intellectual and spiritual giants as the Alteh Rebbe, the Hafloah, the Kotzker, the Rim, the Divrei Chaim, the Sfas Emes, the Bnei Yissoskhor, the Lubliner Kohen, the Khelkas Yoav, the Kozhiklover, Rav Meir Shapiro and Rav Menachem Ziemba to name but a few, belies the conventional wisdom that Besh"tian Khasidus was a grass roots movement meant to serve the unlettered and unwashed masses.

    The amazing chiasmus at the beginning of parsha Va'aira

    "The manifestation of aesthetic phenomena in Scripture cannot be brushed aside as an unnecessary luxury. The aesthetic exposure is broad and extensive, involving vast swaths of narratives and poetry. God used a complex of aesthetic patterns as He revealed Himself in Scripture." -- Jo Ann Davidson, Toward a Theology of Beauty: A Biblical Perspective

    As Nehama Leibowitzand others have pointed out, the opening speech in parshas Va'aira take the form of a chiasmus.  "In rhetoric, chiasmus (from the Greek: χιάζω, chiázō, "to shape like the letter Χ") is the figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point; that is, the clauses display inverted parallelism."(Wikipedia)

    In a typical chiasmus, the first and last thought are parallel, as are the second and second to last thought, and so on.  Here's the example from Va'aira, with each clause lettered to illustrate the parallels:

    And G-d said to Moses:
    I am the Lord.
    [A] I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as the Lord Almighty, but by my name G-d I was not known to them.
    [B] I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens.
    [C] Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and have remembered my covenant.  Therefore say to the Israelites,
    I am the Lord
    [C1]and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgments. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your G-d. Then you will know that I am the Lord your G-d who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.
    [B1]And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hands to give
    [A1] to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession.
    I am the Lord.

    In Covenant Conversation: The Book of RedemptionChief Rabbi Sacks fleshes out the parallels as follows:

    A and A1 are about the Avot
    B and B1 are about the land
    C and C1 are about slavery

    A-C are in the past tense and speak of Israel as them
    A1-C1 are in the future tense and speak of Israel as you.

    A-C are exactly fifty words in the original Hebrew.
    A1-C1 are also fifty words.

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    And they say bloggers are mean? (Williamsburg tries to ban Ami)

    Thanks to our crack Williamsburg correspondent for providing this nasty bit of business he found in Dvar Yom Be'yomo a daily paper of classified ads distributed in Williamsburg shuls and groceries. Its basically an old-style blog. Apparently,  Dvar Yom Be'yomo supports the goons of Bet Shemesh and wishes to punish the Ami magazine for disagreeing. 

    Translation provided by the correspondent:

    Residents of Williamsburg brothers in opinion:

    Being that recently some began to sell in our town the "Ami" magazine which spreads rotten views (hashkafot) of Haskalah and Zionism, and particularly, recently they went a step forward to defame the erlikhe (pious) Jews in Israel who endure bitter persecution and arrests from the Zionists hitters and police, and instead of writing about the inhuman persecution of religion in our Holy Land they chose to legitimize all the cruelty by over blowing alleged "extreme acts" committed by the oppressed ehrlikhe (-pious) Jews - which only came as a result of a long chain of persecuting religion - as if these acts are retroactively the cause of the vast hate of religion by the Zionists,

    In the same time that outspoken Zionist leaders and parties are written up there with the nicest colors as if they, with extremism have no connection...

    People (Rabosai)! We can't remain quiet when this hazardous magazine is playing with the blood of ehrlikhe (pious) Jews who fight the fight of God in Israel. Demand from your grocer to take out this magazine and make it clear to him that you wouldn't want to buy in a store that is hurting you feelings and helps defame your ehrlikhe (pious) hashkafot (views) with loathly incitement.

    Such magazines were never sold among us and we're asking not to break the boundaries that our forefathers erected.

    Remember! "A costumer has the strongest power!"

    Here is the place to thank the over 20 groceries! Taking into account their costumers feelings they don't take in anymore this magazine/pashkevill in their stores!

    I'm proud of Republican voters

    Have to say, I was pretty sure you GOP voters were going to embrace Rick Perry. He seemed to have what  all the qualities the Rush Limbaugh-influenced electorate value most: 
    • A presidential demeanor
    • A firm contempt for science
    • Raw, unreflective Christian values
    • A gift for making dumb remarks
    • An inability to hold his own with smart people 
    • A habit of saying pointless, yet powerful-sounding things about our relationship with Israel
    Like Bush, who also personified those qualities,  Perry was "the sort of guy you'd like to have a beer with". I'm glad Right Wing voters finally seem to realize there is more to leadership.

    So check this out

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    Olemainu Again

    Here's another delightful polemic courtesy of the children's magazine Olemainu, and OTML where it was posted in 2008

  • Search for more information about kid magazines at 4torah.com

  • Support the pathetic annual telethon by making a donation toward the upkeep of this blog

  • Buy one of the books that changed the way I think

  • Foment or ferment?

    Yesterday, I was accused by commenters of using the wrong word in a post title.

    The word is "foment", not ferment:  
    Instigate or stir up (an undesirable or violent sentiment or course of action): "they accused him of fomenting political unrest". 

    You mean "foments" not "ferments"
    For the love of Mike, please change the title.

    Sorry, children, but my usage was perfectly correct. See more after the jump

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Olamainu ferments sinas chinam

    OTML posted this first, thought we received it at the same time from the same person. Ah, well. Snooze you lose.

    An editorial cartoon, apparently designed to create sinas chinam,  appeared this month in the children's magazine Olameinu.

    For those unfamiliar with the yeshivish dialect I supply the following translation:

    Boy: That's a very nice collage of Gedolim [=great Rabbis] you made!
    Girl: Thank you. But it won't hang straight. It keeps tilting to the right!
    Boy: Well of course. The right-wing Gedolim are bigger [=smarter and more important.] 

  • Search for more information about insiduos cartoons at 4torah.com

  • Support the pathetic annual telethon by making a donation toward the upkeep of this blog

  • Buy one of the books that changed the way I think

  • Monday, January 16, 2012

    Frum women in the pool

    We tell ourselves non-Jews hold us in high regard when we act oddly in public in the name of our religion... eh... not so much, as this vid reveals.

    We are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

    Why Martin Matters: As a member of a  minority yourself, I would not safe and secure living in a country with laws that demonstrated utter contempt for another minority. MLK helped to change that, and through his efforts and the efforts of people like him, the US began to live up to its own ideals of justice, making this country a better, safer place for everyone, Jews included.

    Martin Luther King, Jr: Selected Readings 

    I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. --Martin Luther King, Jr., Address at the Freedom March on Washington D.C, 28 August 1963

    For nonviolence not only calls upon its adherents to avoid external physical violence, but it calls upon them to avoid internal violence of spirit. It calls on them to engage in that something called love. And I know it is difficult sometimes. When I say love at this point, I'm not talking about an affectionate emotion. It's nonsense to urge people, oppressed people, to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense. I'm talking about something much deeper. I'm talking about a sort of understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. --Martin Luther King, Jr., Address at the Freedom Rally in Cobo Hall, 23 June 1963 

    "...when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, livingconstantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. --Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

    Selected Speeches and Essays: 
    'I've Been to the Mountaintop' 
    'I Have a Dream' 
    Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech 
    Letter from Birmingham Jail 

  • Search for more information about MLK at 4torah.com
  • Support the pathetic annual telethon by making a donation toward the upkeep of this blog
  • Buy one of the books that changed the way I think
  • Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Tropper Makes a Cameo in Sotah

    A Guest Post by E. Fink

    Remember Tropper? The rabbi who was trading conversions for "that which shall not be named"? In what might be the most ironic thing ever, he also wrote a book on the Laws of Yichud. Haha. Chortle. Chortle. We laughed about this way back when...

    Anyway, I was reading Naomi Ragen's book, Sotah and I chanced upon this gem. A charedi man is attempting to seduce a charedi woman. They are both from Meah Shearim. He is "helping her" with the books in her mother's wool store. She is suspicious and mindful of the yichud issue so she asks him if they should leave the door open. He replies with some fancy pants piskei halacha that hold merely leaving the door unlocked in sufficient. The last source he quotes is Tropper.

    Needless to say, things escalate and eventually more than the laws of yichud are violated

    I actually laughed out loud when I read that. Sotah was written 18 years prior to Tropper's scandal. How appropriate was it for Mrs. Ragen to use his book as a fake "heter" for a charedi man to seduce a charedi woman?! Uncanny!

    In another era, we would have called Mrs. Ragen a prophetess. Or maybe she just has ruach hakodesh...

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    The second begining

    [This is a post from last year recycled to answer a question Shira askes here]

    "The woman conceived and bore a son. She saw that he was good and she kept him hidden for three months. " (Exodus 2:2 )

    On this verse Rashi tells us (citing Sotah 12A) that when Moshe was born the whole house filled with light. Why? (Not "why light and not, marshmallows?;" but "why doesn't Rashi take the verse at face value?")

    Well, if you read closely, like Rashi did, you'll see that the verse seems to say that Moshe was saved because he was good. Strange, no? Doesn't every Jewish mother think her children are good? And yet, not every Jewish child was saved. This suggests (to Rashi, at least, who had a gift for catching subtle suggestions) that there was something odd about this particular child. A house full of unexplained light, you will agree, is seriously odd.

    A second midrash says that Moshe was born circumcised and though we can easilly imagine Moshe's mother recognizing that as a sign that her son was worth saving, Rashi rejects it in favor of the house of light. According to someone who's name I forget, Rashi prefers the first midrash because the words themselves support it: On the day of his birth Yocheved looks at her son, and she saw he was good (vatera oto ki tov hu) ; on the first day of creation, God looks at the light, and he sees that it was good. (vayare elokim et ha'or ki tov.)

    It's as if we're meant to understand that the birth of Moshe represents the begining of a second creation.

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Truthiness at the Times

    Shark-jumping moment over at the paper of record:
    I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.
    That's the Times public editor wondering aloud in his weekly column if maybe the reporters who work for his paper should determine the truth or falsehood of a statement before printing it.

    The subject came up after readers complained that the Times was blindly printing lies told by Republican candidates and flacks without pointing out that the quoted statements were, in fact, false.

    This is a complaint Jews have been making for years, and its a problem on the oped page as well, where guest columnists often seem free to make any crazy assertion they like with no push-back from the editors.

    The problem is this: Journalists, for the most part, believe they are supposed to be objective and report what's happened without commenting on it. If Mitt Romney, for example, announces that aliens have arrived from Mars, most reporters think their obligation is to report what Romney said, without offering an opinion on the candidate's sanity. Some other public figure is expected to counter the lie, at which point the journalist will report on that, as well, leaving it to the readers to determine who is right and who is wrong.

    Or that's the theory anyway.

    It fails for two reasons.

    (1) People have their own biases. When you see someone in handcuffs you presume he's committed a crime, and when you see something printed in the New York Times you imagine its true. We're simply not trained, as newspaper readers, to second-guess examples of recorded speech that professional editors have elected to publish. We presume the editor checked to see if the statement was true. It never occurs to us, that maybe the statement is false, and the paper merely wants us to know that these words were said by this person, irrespective of their validity.

    (2) Objectivity is a chimera. No human can achieve it. Even the best intentioned reporter is going to slant one way or the other. And, let's face it, most reporters aren't well-intentioned. I prefer to get my information from someone like Jon Stewart or Sean Hannity, who wear their bias as badges of honor, than from a reporter aspiring to objectivity. The reporter is going to fail, leaving us to wonder where he got it wrong. With guys like Hannity and Stewart we know going in which way the scale is tipped.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Chivalry is dead

    When Women Can't Even Say Thank You
    Stifling Modesty Code Prevents Everyday Acts of Civility
    by William Kolbrenner in the Jewish Daily Forward

    Not long ago, on my way down three flights of stairs from the improvised nursery school where I used to take my youngest son every morning, I saw a woman struggling with several shopping bags filled with groceries. I asked her if she needed help, and when she nodded — though somewhat reluctantly — I carried the bags back up the three flights to her apartment. I tell this story not because I am vying for my neighborhood ‘Tzadik of the Month’ award, but because as I was going back down the steps the second time, I realized that something was missing: She did not say thank you.

    Don't women have what to daven for?

    Attended a bris last week.  Rather then use his shul, the baal simcha rented a catering hall. We men prayed in the front of the room. A mechitzah was set up behind us, with the women and the breakfast tables behind it. By the time we reached shmoneh esray, at the end of services, I estimate at least 75 women were present.

    If you've ever been to a bris in a catering hall, I'm sure you can guess what happened. During the silent recitation of the Amida the women chatted. Loudly. They were shusshed several times, to no avail. 

    Here are some of the thoughts that went through my head:

    1) Don't women have what to daven for? Though I'm sure a few women were participating in the service, most were not. Why? You send your sons to yeshivot where they are taught that prayer is valuable. Don't you believe it? Or is there something unfeminine about praying during the week? (I'm not being factious here: I really do think some women feel its beneath their womanly dignity to pray in public during the week. Sort of like how some men won't wear pink or take out the trash)

    2) Many of you are the sort of women who gather at each other's houses, with cake and fruit set our before you, to say tehillim. Has charedi Judaism decided that Psalm parties are appropriate for women but morning prayers are not?

    3) Even if you're not interested in praying, don't you realize that the men are praying and that your chatter is creating a disturbance? (Basic bein adam l'chavero, no?)

    4) And if you're too cool to pray, don't you believe in segulot? Well, davening with a minyan and answering amen and yehai shmai raba have for more than millennium been considered segulot of the first order. If you believe these things work, why don't you participate? 

    5) And even if you don't think prayer matters, and feel segulot are rubbish, and think its okj to disrtupt, don't you nashim tzidoknios reallize that your gabbiness during services is only confirming the male charedi in his notion that women, in the main, are flibbertigibbets?  Show some self-respect charedi women. If you want your men to regard you as something other than lightweights, don't act like ill-mannered children. I guarantee you every second or third man in that room was thinking something along the lines of "Well, what do you expect from women. That's why God respects me more than He respects her." 


    Women are required by all authorities to say Shachris. I promise you every Rabbi in that room would have responded ferociously had a woman appeared with cleavage showing. In fact many of those present have signed on to the latest local campaign against a woman's right to choose her own clothing. Yet, there is no rabbinic campaign to encourage women to meet their minimum prayer obligations. Why not?

    And finally, the sole coherent halachic argument against WPGs (Women Prayer Groups) goes like this: "Women are not obligated to pray with a minyan but if they are willing to put in the effort to do so but instead choose to pray without a minyan, they are essentially slapping the greater mitzvah in the face and saying "We don't want you." It is a quintessential [example of] ma'avirin al ha-mitzvos which is a non-halakhic (maybe even anti-halakhic) attitude." (Hirhurim, March 31, 2004

    Can't the same be said of women who arrive at a bris and ignore the minyan?

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Wow Obama Sure Does Hate Jews

    Why else would he keep naming them Chief of Staff?

    For those not keeping track, Jack Lew is Obama's third chief, and the second Jew he has named to this job.

  • Search for more information about Jack Lew at 4torah.com
  • Support the pathetic annual telethon by making a donation toward the upkeep of this blog
  • Buy one of the books that changed the way I think
  • Great Moments in Pandering

    I see MBD wants a few new Hasidic customers:
    ...true Chasidim don’t copy music and those who are not so Chasidic are the ones who are doing the copying. I have my finger on the pulse of American buyers. In the Chasidic areas, like Monsey, Monroe, Borough Park and Williamsburg, it is flying off the shelves. Apparently true Chasidim learn Shulchan Aruch and they don’t steal.
    Um,yeah, NTS.

    Also, can someone please ask MBD about the orgin of his hit song Yidden?

    PS: Are Breslav Chasidim "True Chasidim?" If so, they should give back their stolen anthem, shouldn't they?

  • Search for more information about MBD at 4torah.co

  • Support the pathetic annual telethon by making a donation toward the upkeep of this blog

  • Buy one of the books that changed the way I think
  • This is just wrong (Tebow Edition)

    Courtesy of tebowing.com and Ksil Loyavin, the blog]s Chief Tebow Correspondent

  • Search for more information about TEBOWINGat 4torah.com
  • Support the pathetic annual telethon by making a donation toward the upkeep of this blog
  • Buy one of the books that changed the way I think
  • There are no coincidences!! (Tebow edition)

    God's favorite quarterback, Tim Tebow,  had a big day on Sunday throwing for 316 yards. This, of course, is a heavenly sign that must not be ignored as the yardage perfectly corresponds with John 3:16, the favorite bible verse of all sports nuts.

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    If you're still not convinced that God loves Tebow consider this, courtesy of Yahoo Sports, and Ksil lo Yavin, our Chief Tebow Correspondent:

    - Tebow averaged 31.6 yards per pass. 

    Zowee! What are the odds?!

    In all seriousness, the hoopla surrounding Tim's stats is precisely why I object so strongly to the fraudulently pious claim that "There are no coincidences!!"

    If you subscribe to this nonsense idea, what do you do about Tim Tebow? Modify the claim to "There are no coincidences!! (other than those coincidences which fail to support my previously held cherished beliefs)"? Embrace the New Testament?

    Better to escape the trap entirely by joining me in the insistence that coincidences are just coincidences.

    Monday, January 09, 2012

    Why we think we were redeemed in the merit of keeping our names (maybe)

    According to the Bible, the Israelites wre taken out of Egypt in fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham. According to the Prophets, the redemption came in the merit of blood, as Ezekiel writes: וָאֶעֱבֹ֤ר עָלַ֙יִךְ֙ וָֽאֶרְאֵ֔ךְ מִתְבֹּוסֶ֖סֶת בְּדָמָ֑יִךְ וָאֹ֤מַר לָךְ֙ בְּדָמַ֣יִךְ חֲיִ֔י וָאֹ֥מַר לָ֖ךְ בְּדָמַ֥יִךְ חֲיִֽי׃. Generally, the double mention of blood is understood as a reference to the two sacrifices performed by the Israelites on the eve of the Exodus, cicrcmcision and the Korben Pesach.

    Thousands of years later, the authors of the Midrash attribute the redemption to a different set of merits, suggesting that God took us out of Egypt because we kept various signs of Jewish identity, including our names, our clothing and our language; also, according to other sources, it was because we remained sexually pure.

    How do we explain this shift?

    Because I am an irresponsible blogger, I'll speculate. I think the answer has to do with the era in which the midrash was written. This had to have been around the time of the Second Destruction. With the destruction having just occurred, or appearing imminent, Rabbis were rightly concerned about the survival of the Jewish people; also, they may have worried about a new Jewish sect, one that seemed to put an undo emphasis on blood sacrifice in general, and the Passover sacrifice in particular.

    While Ezekiel seems to confirm the Christian claims by insisting that redemption is possible only through blood, the Rabbis of the Midrash tell us something new. Not blood, but behavior:  Keep your names, and your clothing, and your language. Remain sexually pure and do not mix with the gentiles. This, not the blood of the sacrifice, is the secret of Jewish survival. Without a Temple, we Jews will yet endure --- but, only if you cling to the symbols of your identity.

    And, they were proven correct

    Sunday, January 08, 2012

    The rules of candy bag tossing

    Traditionally, whose job was it to toss candy bags at grooms and bar mitzvah boys after the Aliya? In some places, this is exclusively women's work. Elsewhere, men do it, too.

    In days of old, I know nuts, not candies, were thrown, but who threw them? Men, women or both?

    Nowadays, the shteeble custom is for men to aggressively hurl hard candies, aiming for the head. Was the nut throwing custom like this, or was it a gentler affair?

    And what about the singing? When I was young, no song accompanied the pelting. The bags rained down in silence, Now, there are at least two traditional tunes, and if no song is sung, you can expect the old men to hum.

    When I was a kid, we used white bags for grooms, and brown bags for bar mitzvah boys. Now, you hardly ever see paper bags anymore. Instead, they are usually made from some kind of mesh or satin, and mothers who love their sons are careful to pack them with soft treats, only.

    So far no official rules governing this tradition have been published, but how long can that last? I expect when a new code of Jewish law is written (and don't we get one every few generations?) a chapter on this practice, upgraded to ritual, will be included.

  • Search for more information about XXX at 4torah.com

  • Support the pathetic annual telethon by making a donation toward the upkeep of this blog

  • Buy one of the books that changed the way I think

  • Friday, January 06, 2012

    Pritzus in Monsey

    A Guest Post By E. Fink

    An intrepid reader sent in this horrible violation of tznius rules at Rockland Kosher in Monsey. This is the same place with a sign prohibiting anyone from shopping if they are not wearing socks.

    It seems that either the censor forgot to cover this pornographic display of female anatomy or a lustful man was unable to control himself and ripped off the tznius coverup in testosterone fueled curiosity.

    I hope this situation is corrected as soon as possible.

    HT and Photo Credit: Motti Yaniv

    Thursday, January 05, 2012

    Lost in Translation

    Originally posted 12/19/07


    Today, Tevet 10, Jews the world over fast to mourn sundry tragedies that befell our people. Among these is the Septuagint. In the fast days Selikhos we mention this event: "The King of Greece forced me to write the religion/law (דת) in Greek ." (Historians out there, I'd be delighted to know if it was commissioned or completed on Tevet 10).

    Why do you suppose this would be something to mourn? Hint: It has more to do with this than with this.

    At the risk of leading the witness I blogged about this on Chanukah and this may be enlightening as well. Hope everyone has an easy fast and that our days of fasting become days of feasting speedily and in our days

    [DB: The fact of the matter is that the Septuaginit. was in many ways like the Targum Unkelos, in that it was a translation of the Torah into a vernacular. The Targum Unkelos served Aramaic speaking Jews; the  Septuaginit , or as I prefer to call it, the Targum Shivim, served Greek speakers. A better question for the historians, then, is this: How did the Targum Shivim come to be regarded in the popular OJ imagination as something bad, and how did the Targum Unkelos escape this designation?]

    This is where the original post finished. As they day went by, Bray and I added to it.
    Update [By DB]: There were always those Rabbis who objected to the LXX on the grounds that Torah could not be translated, however the fact remains that the book was the Artscroll of its time. It was the standard text in Alexandria and elsewhere, and scholarship believes that the famous Philo could not read Hebrew, meaning his only Bible was the LXX. Lots and lots of Jews lived in the Greek-speaking world, and the LXX was their book. It can also be argued that the famous legend of the 72 Rabbis who wrote the translation was a way of legitimizing the book. After all, 72 Rabbis had a hand in creating it! So what happened? Well, there was little thing called the Roman War Against the Jews (that culminated at Betar) which made it hard for Jews to continue living happily and comfortably in the Greek-speaking Roman world. Many of them fled into the Aramaic-speaking Persian Empire and the LXX gradually fell into disuse among Jews.

    My hunch, is that the prayer Bray mentions above reflects a Jewish distaste for the LXX that developed after it became primarily a Christian book. I suspect it was written by Jews like Yus (see comments) who forgot, or perhaps never knew, that the LXX was first a Jewish book.

    Additional Update [By DB]: I see from Megillat Taanit that LXX was completed (per the legend) on 8 Tevet.

    Ipso Facto Update by the BRAY OF FUNDIE
    Look what they've done to my song, Ma,

    Look what they've done to my song,

    Well it's the only thing I could do half right And it's turning out all wrong, Ma

    Look what they've done to my song

    What have they done to my song, Ma?

    Look what they've done to my song,

    Well they tied it up in a plastic bag And turned it upside down,

    Look what they've done to my song!

    Bear has mangled my post and is funneling the three days of darkness that descended to the world with the advent of the LXX. The slippery slope of sameness that allows academics and wannabe-academics (you know who you are) to put Torah under an anthropological lens, to deride divrei Khaza"l as "legend" עפרא לפומיה began with the Targum shel Shivim. It was then that the Qedusha wall separating Torah

    AND THE WAY IN WHICH IT IS TO BE STUDIED from other disciplines began it's slow erosion culminating in idiot savants like the Ba'al HaBlog. By giving Goyisher Kep (Greeks) and Goyified kep (hebrew illiterate Misyavnim)equal access to the Torah we surrendered to sameness and sacrificed havdalah.

    In the dark everything "looks" the same.

    Hey Brad R. still think that I've gone squishy?

    Hey... I tried to be succinct but Bear compelled me to intervene and reclaim what was mine.

    DB HITS BACK: All Bray has done with his most recent update is ignore the facts and muddy the waters. He needs to do two things. First, he needs to explain why the Greek Targum is inferior to the Aramaic Targum. So far, all he's managed to show is that at some later date the author of the slichot judged the LXX inferior, but as I argue above this judgement was made after the LXX was adapted by Christians, and the slichot author might not have known that the LXX was first a Jewish book. Second, like his coeval Yus, Bray seems unwilling to accept and recognize that a Hellenistic Jew is not the same as a Hellenized Jew. Perhaps because his only knowledge of the period comes from the Chanuka story, both Bray and Yus are laboring under the mistake that there were only two groups (a) Jews who were Charedim with swords (to borrow Misnagid's imperishable phrase); and (b) Greeks of Jewish origin. They seem intellectually unable to accept that there was a third group, the Hellenistic Jews, who went to shul, kept commandments and needed a bible in the vernacular. The LXX was written for them, just as the Targum Unkelos was written for Aramaic speakers, and the Living Torah was written for us.

    Counterpunching Update

    I leave the concrete or Jello-like quality of my reasoning (as well as that of the Ba'al HaBlog's) for the readers to decide. As for historical evidence; is there some rule etched in concrete err stone that says that Philo and Josephus are credible sources wheras Talmud and Midrash are not?

    First, paradoxically Greek may actually be a superior medium for Torah than Aramaic, certainly more than other languages (see below). Why? Becuase wheras both LXX and Onkelos are referred to as Targumim = translations, as per Khazal Greek Torah may potentailly be more than a translation but rather a co-equal version /edition of the Torah.

    To paraphrase Khaza"l the LXX was comissioned by Talmai HaMelekh and produced by the 70-72 zekainim. Those who participated did so as a fullfillment of the ye-ood of יַפְתְּ אֱלֹהִים לְיֶפֶת, וְיִשְׁכֹּן בְּאָהֳלֵי-שֵׁם as follows יפיפותו של יפת באהלי שם = "The beauty of Yefes in the tents of Shem" It is an expression of the Greek aesthetic IN the very tents/Temples of Shem. i.e. the heter to "translate" Torah into Greek is expressed שאין התורה נכתב אלא יונית . = "That the Torah cannot be written in other languages save Greek". "Written " as opposed to merely translated. (IMO it was this potential for Torah enlightement abused by Talmai that was transformed into the 3 days of darkness commencing on 8 Teveth and culminating on Asara B'Teveth. )

    Second, again as per Khaza"l, the Targum Onkelos was transmitted along with the Torah at Sinai (see Orakh Kahyim 285:2 Mishna Berurah and Biur halakha ibid s'if katan 6), lost in the mists of time and rediscovered/ through Divine inspiration by Onkelos HaGer. Obviously, as a translation that was part and parcel of the gracious gift of TMS it is qualitatively superior to all subsequent translations.

    Finally (WARNING, if they haven;'t already the eyes of the Qedusha/Havdalah challenged will now begin to bleed) as per a great 20th century Jewish Thinker, Aramiac is the linguistic equivalent of Ever Hayarden and/or being מוסיף משבת לחול. IOW, while one cannot infuse Mongolia with Qedushas Ha'Aretz nor Wednesday with Qedushas HaShabbos, Ever HaYarden was an expansion of the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael and one can elongate Shabbos by bringing it in earlier on Friday and procrastinating it's end on Saturday night. So too, unique among the worlds languages Aramaic has the potential to be infused with Qedusha. Shakespeare's Sonnets do not. [Applied to Qedushas Ha'Adam this is the basic concept of Gerus.It's no coincidence that the conduit for the rediscovery of this holiness infused Targum was a Ger Tzedek. ]

    As great as admirer as I am of The Living Torah and the Hirsch Khumash DovBear is being ahistorical and, I suspect, disingenuous to equate these, or their contemporary Russian, French or Farsi counterparts with the LXX. All of these were written to reclaim a forgotten Torah and allow Lashon Qodesh illiterate Jews an opportunity to reclaim their heritage. OTOH the LXX, through the prism of Khazal, was the vehicle for allowing that heritage to be lost by blurring the ( הבדלה בין חכמת ישראל (תורה) לחכמת העמים (חיצוניות thus further eroding the הבדלה בין ישראל לעמים.

    Wednesday, January 04, 2012

    Women Cannot Be Rabbis But They Can Be Kabbalists

    A Guest Post By E. Fink

    Shmarya is reporting that a certain Rebbetzin Aidel Miller has an approbation from great rabbis and is removing Ayin Hara from anyone who pays the requisite fee. It seems that Rebbetzin Miller is well versed is some fancy-pants segulos and is able to help with shiduchim and child bearing. She also is an expert in helping you find happiness, specifically through laughter. To this end she uses Omega-3 supplements. She is treating women with something she calls "Laughter Therapy".

    The whole thing reeks of snake oil. But that is not my beef. I have come to terms with the naiveté of orthodox Jews.

    The fascinating thing to me, is that I thought that only men could be mekubalim. If it is true that women can be mekubalim, why can't they be talmidos chachamos too? Rebbetzin Miller is a feminist!

    So I am conflicted. Should I be championing Rebbetzin Miller as a trailblazer of female religious leadership? Or disappointed that the best we can do for women is get them to be kabbalist saleswomen.

    One last note. One theory regarding the proliferation of women possessed by demons or dybbuks is that women were unable to sermonize and rebuke their co-religionists. However, under the spell of a spirit they were not the one speaking, they were merely a conduit for the spirit. This gave them an outlet for inspiring the public. Women would encourage the belief that they were possessed simply to have a voice.

    Could we be seeing the same phenomenon today? Perhaps.

    The ads are on FM: Here

  • Search for more information about holy women at 4torah.com
  • Support the pathetic annual telethon by making a donation toward the upkeep of this blog
  • Buy one of the books that changed the way I think
  • Why won't Yad Vashem honor an Arab with the designation "Righteous Among the Nations”?

    In an op-ed piece published by the New York Times on December 27, 2011, a woman called Eva Wiesel recounts how she and her family were saved from the Nazis during World War II by Khaled Abdul Wahab, an Arab Muslim.

    Though Yad Vashem has recognized 23,000 people who saved Jewish lives as "Righteous Among the Nations", Wahab is not one of them. Wiesel and her sisters have provided Yad Vashem with evidence of Wahab's heroism, but for reasons not fully explained, their application has been rejected. 

    Admittedly, the op-ed gives only Wisel's side of the story. But if the museum, as she writes, has agreed that Wahab was a "noble man" and if, as she insists, some of the "Righteous Among the Nations" performed less heroically than Wahab did, I can't understand Yad Vashem's behavior.  It seems unnecessarily punctilious. Why use a technicality to deny a good man an honor? How does the museum gain anything by excluding him?

    Stuff you can do next:

    Tuesday, January 03, 2012

    Not Even Close Buddy

     by @azigra

    It gives me immense pleasure to report that Prime Grill, Manhattan's premier kosher restaurant for frum douchebags (fruchebags) did not make it onto New York Magazine's ranking of NYC's 101 best restaurants. No longer can these people of indiscriminate taste boast that their dietary restrictions do not prevent them from eating some of Manhattan's best cuts of dry-aged steak. No longer can they believe they are treating their gentile business associate to a lunch on par with anything else he or she could order at Gramercy Tavern or Momofuku. 

    This shocking-to-few news comes mere weeks after a conversation I had with an associate at a major Manhattan law firm at a closing we both attended. This attorney, a man with no heavenly imposed restrictions on what he may consume, lamented the state of kosher restaurants in New York City, many of which he has eaten in whilst meeting with his religious clientele. His main gripe was with Prime Grill in particular because of the reputation it holds among his kosher friends. In his words, "when all you have to compare it to is other bad restaurants, of course you'll think its something special."

    To my delight he said his favorite kosher restaurant was the one that happens to be my favorite as well, Mike's Bistro. Here's one for the underdog! 

    A defense of Panetta and the Ambassador to Belgium

    Pilloried with Hillary 
    by Rabbi Avi Shafran

    One of the many downsides of a world that moves as quickly as ours is that many of us feel we must react to events in “real time” rather than after some research and thought. Leon Wieseltier once wisely remarked that the concept of such immediate reaction (he was speaking of blogs) is predicated on the ridiculous idea that our first thoughts are our best thoughts. Reactions, in other words, are one animal; thoughtful judgments, an entirely different genus.

    Enough time has passed—I hope—for a measured, non-knee-jerk, objective look at events of several weeks ago that were very quickly reacted to by many in the Jewish world. The events comprised a trifecta of sorts of alleged anti-Israel sentiment: a speech by the U.S. Secretary of State; remarks by an American ambassador; and the U.S. Secretary of Defense’s response to a question.

    Monday, January 02, 2012

    Thoughts on the yellow star

    Thoughts on the Yellow Star
    An anonymous guest post

    How are we – the hopefully reasonable and rational Jewish community, including the observant Jews in that category  - to react to the pictures from Meah Shearim featuring the Neturei Karta led demonstration with children dressed in Concentration Camp ‘clothing’, and many demonstrators wearing yellow stars on their shiny bekeshes?

    I think that those photos will prove to be a defining moment for many of us.

    First, the obvious.  The pictures, and the people who are shown, are totally repugnant.  My, aren’t they enjoying themselves playing “Concentration Camps”?  The broad grins on their faces show how much they are relishing hijacking the most potent symbols of Jewish and European history to themselves, totally oblivious to their horrendous insult to the dead, to the survivors, to civilization, and to the propaganda gift they are making to every ‘Sonei Yisrael’ on the planet. No civilized person will ever want to have anything to do with them again.

    Second, I am waiting for the reactions and condemnations.  They won’t do much good, but they need to be there for the record.  All the rabbis and Roshei Yeshivah who are so free with their pronouncements on all sorts of people and events – well, stand up and be counted now, please. (And not a mealy-mouthed American Agudah statement, either.)  Just tell us that anyone at the demonstration, or anyone who expresses sympathy with it, cannot get an aliyyah in your shul; won’t be counted for a minyan; is not to be a guest at your table; and will not be a recipient of your tzedakah dollars.   A declaration of respect for the law, for non-violence, for other Jews and human beings would also be good, but based on past record I don’t expect it. Anyone who doesn’t make that declaration, publicly and on the record, big or small – it’s a free world, and don’t bother ever again to ask me for money.  And I don’t want to listen to your Torah, or buy your books, either, because it is tainted to my eyes, ears and neshamah.

    Third, some questions.   My biggest question, based on many years of interest and interaction with the Haredi community (following some academic research), is whether these photogenics really know what they are talking about.  The knowledge of any history, including Jewish history, including the Shoah, in the Haredi community ranges from nil to non-existent on a good day.  It is difficult for many people, especially English-speaking Jews, to comprehend or appreciate the results of a complete lack of secular education, and the pure, unadulterated ignorance it breeds.  This is especially so in the Ivrit/Yiddish totally enclosed world in which these uneducated people grew up.  ‘Min Hameitzar’  is what passes for a history book.  It is a source; but it is not a history book.

    Fourth, consequences and suggestions.  Shouting at these factions is useless.  As some writers on other blogs have pointed out, because of their total ignorance of the world outside their own circles, there is also no real dialogue with them, in the sense that the word is commonly understood.  Every individual will draw their own conclusions about how to conduct personal contacts and relationships with these groups and individuals. (For mine, see my “Second” para above.) Their latest actions mean that they have now forfeited any remaining sympathy from the rest of the Jewish / Israeli world.  There is now no credible argument about the ‘Saving Remnant’, or the ‘Purity of Torah Study’, or anything similar or analogous.  Finito.  Done.  Gone.  What they have shown is that their world breeds darkness. What we should do, however, is to seriously target them with education, and educational opportunities.   Produce pamphlets and newsheets.  Offer courses in literacy, education and training, targeted at that community.  Flood them with exactly that which they fear most – reason, knowledge and enlightenment.  Let them see the outside world, in its complexity, with its faults but with its richness as well.  “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men stand by and do nothing” – (attributed to) Edmund Burke.

    Fifth, a Jewish religious community note.   Within our community, as Dov Bear and others constantly note, there is a huge tendency to tolerate, justify and explain away tendencies towards ‘haredi-ism’.   We don’t always stand up enough for what is right, what is decent, what is fair.  We also put up with endless apologia for the ‘frum’ world (and, especially, for their leaders).   Enough.  From now on, the voice of decency, civilized behavior (“We can agree to disagree”) and challenges to plain stupidity must be heard – voiced by all of us, on every occasion, to our rabbis, leaders, and anyone else who will listen.   We have to make it clear that the ONLY paradigmatic spiritual gathering of all Jewish souls was at Mt Sinai at the time of Matan Torah -- that Torah “whose ways are ways of pleasantness and all of whose paths are paths of peace”  -- and not Kikar Shabbat last Motzei Shabbat.

    As I said – Motzei Shabbat was a turning point.

    The writer is a frequent commentator on Jewish affairs, usually under his own name, who for a variety of non-personal, professional reasons does not think it fair to others to sign this particular piece.