Thursday, May 31, 2012

Other Catholic errors, or Jacob and Esav really are twins

If Esav is Rome, and Rome are the Catholics, boy is it ever true that we are twins.

Pope Pius X signs the Slifkin ban
One example, currently on my mind, is Pascendi Dominici Gregis an encyclical published by Pius X in 1907 that formally and officially denounced "modernism" by which the Pope meant all theological positions which characterized a break from the Torah True Catholic mesorah, including:
  • Rationalism
  • Secularism, specifically the idea that church and state could be separated (Thomas Aquinas et al said this was impossible, so therefore it is impossible) 
  • Any attempt to synthesize modern philosophers such as Kant (beloved by Rabbi J.B Solivetchik) with the teachings of the Church (though - IRONY - it was perfectly cool when Thomas Aquinas synthesized Church teachings with Aristotle, just as it was perfectly cool when Rambam did it first with Judaism.) 
  • The claim that dogma evolves over time 
Sound familiar? Did any of our Sages cosign?

The pope also introduced an anti-modernist oath, and ordered all clerics to take it. The oath included the following:

  • ...sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport...
  • ...reject that method of judging and interpreting Sacred Scripture which, departing from the tradition of the Church, the analogy of faith, and the norms of the Apostolic See...
  • ...firmly hold, then, and shall hold to my dying breath the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles. The purpose of this is, then, not that dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way...
We aren't there quite yet, both because we have no pope and because its tacitly understood that all OJs already believe that the doctrines of our faith have never changed their meaning, and that no new understanding of the Torah is valid, and that dogma can't be tailored to particular time and place.

Search for more information about Catholic errors

A Karaite reading of the Adultery Test

Post title aside, I don't know if what follows is actually how Karaites read the Torah  passages which describe the Trial by Ordeal to which woman were subjected on the suspicious say-so of their husbands.

(Aside: isn't that horrific? A guy gets a little jealous, and he can force his wife to suffer a humiliating public ordeal. Show of hands: Who wants to see that restored after Messiah arrives?)

I'm using the words "Karaite reading" because I wish to point out what the text actually says (and what it seems to mean) beneath the familiar interpretations. If the word Karaite offends you, pretend I used another title.

Oh, and while I'm on the subject I also wish to point out that many of these interpretations have become so familiar, we often don't remember where the text ends and the interpretation starts. For instance, you may not realize it, but the text says the test applies to a women who has actually had sex, and not a women who merely had some alone time with a known paramour.

Read it all after the jump

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Peek a Jew: Obama headquarters

This picture was published as part of a New York Magazine article about how Barak Obama is going to beat Mittens the Kitten Romney like a drum. (Readit here) The photo depicts the inside of Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago. See the menorah on the desk? And its not even Chanuka. It looks to me like someone is has displayed an announcement of his allegiance to Judaism beneath the other tribal identifiers hanging from the ceiling.

Search for more information about Obama and his abiding love of Jews

On modesty


I have had it with tznius. I’m tired of hearing about it. Yeah okay I do it but do I have to hear about it 24/7? I mean really. Maybe it’s the community I am living in but it seems like everything that goes wrong, whether it’s sickness, poor finances, missile attacks, or the Temple being destroyed, it always comes down to women’s not being tznius enough.

Okay the Temple being destroyed was not the fault of us ladies but the rest of it…

Is it me or has this been going on since day six, I mean this blaming the woman thing? What did Adam do after the whole “forbidden fruit” episode? He pointed the finger at Chava. And men have been doing it ever since. Enough! Ad Matai?!

Not all ladies are sick of hearing about tzius though; some can’t seem to get enough of it. I think the reason why is that it is very empowering in a way. It’s like this: covering up your elbows might thwart a missile attack. Tucking those extra hairs under your tichel will help you have healthy babies and possibly avert WWIII. Very empowering. And putting on the Jewish burka there’s no telling the awesome effect that might have in the cosmos. Keep up the good work ladies, you can never be too tznius apparently.

Is it me or is the tznius thing getting a little extreme? Is tznius really IT?

Known to have been caused
by short skirts
I’m new to orthodoxy so I guess I have my priorities all askew what with only recently emerging from the tumah and all. I still think about silly things like rapes and genocide in Darfur and the Congo, human trafficking, honor killings, female infanticide, things like that. I guess I would like to hear what we as Jews can do about the world situation. And apparently what we can do is be sure to wear stockings that are not too sheer. This is worse than going naked legged, because you have to make an extra effort to put on the untznius stockings. So ladies make sure no skin shows through, it makes you a fitting kli and there’s no telling how many lives you may save.

I’ve been told that I have a weird perspective on things. Like one time my husband came home and said that if we donate money to his yeshivah and pray for sons we will have them. Immediately my mind flashed to all the baby girls that are killed in China and India and other places. Female infanticide has been going on for centuries. Now they’re getting high tech and killing female babies before they even get out of the womb. In China they are starting to see a real discrepancy in the numbers of males and females. This may have larger repercussions on all of us since a society with a plethora of males and a dearth of females is likely to be warlike and may go marauding. In other words it might not be good for the Jews. To me, my husband asking me to pray for sons is like him asking me to participate in female infanticide. He thinks this is crazy. But I have been taught that the words we Jewish people say can affect reality, can affect the ENTIRE WORLD. Likewise the words we fail to say.

Like I know we have plenty of rabbis who have what to say about tzniut, but would it be so horrible to maybe say a little prayer for the other people in this world? For the people killed in Darfur, the people sold in sex slavery, for the women brutally raped in the Congo, for the millions of baby girls killed for being female? As Jews we wonder how the world could have stood by while we were killed in the Holocaust. We need only look to ourselves to see just how easy this is to do.

But what do I know? Maybe being tzniut will actually help make things better. After all things are not what they seem, so maybe my wearing a tichel does make a profound difference. But I am not praying for sons, happy healthy holy babies are fine with me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Let the angels do the singing.

"My creatures are drowning in the sea, and you want to sing?"

I think this is the rejoinder every neighborhood Tehillim group deserves. Most of these groups are made up of stay-at-home Moms, who steal a few moments from manicures and shopping to mumble some Psalms in the hopes and expectation that their mumbling will make God cure a sick baby or find someone a job. Elsewhere, I've argued that these groups are a fad and a farce that corrupt the traditional idea of prayer. But a far greater problem is that they are a waste of energy, energy that might be better spent solving real problems.

I'm reminded of the story of a Hasidic rebbe of some stature who decided that it was his role in life to complete the book of Psalms every day. Ensconced in his study, he recited each word slowly and carefull, ignoring all other concerns. Until one day a Maggid visited him with words of rebuke: The angels can sing. You have work to do.  Leave singing to the angels. We need you to do what the angels cannot. We need you to care for people.

Can't we say the same to the Psalm-singing ladies? Aren't there soup kitchens in need of volunteers? Sick and elderly in need of visitors? Isn't their charity work calling out for hands in every kehilla? So why does every frum neighborhood I know rally its non-working women to recite Pslams when so many of God's creatures are drowning in the sea? Let the angels do the singing.

Search for more information about Psalms

About the Joys of Nidda

A guest post by Sarah

I am a choseret teshuvah trying to get used to being orthodox. It isn’t easy. I hate niddah! It’s like, just when my husband and I are starting to get close, Boom! It’s niddah time! No touching, no hugging, nothing! It’s awful.

When you are niddah your husband cannot even eat from your plate! One evening I forgot this and cut off a piece of cheesecake and ate it straight from the container. Marital discord ensued. My husband was like, “How could you? Now I cannot eat the cheesecake!” In my head I was like, “Good! Now the cheesecake is all mine. Bwahaha!” But he asked his rabbi and was told he could eat the part of the cheesecake I didn’t touch. Bummer! Maybe this was permitted because it was Shabbat and my husband had an extreme need for cheesecake and it was upsetting our Shalom Bayit. Consult your own rabbi on this. But I think that if you are niddah and want the cheesecake to be all yours, you can touch it and kiss it all over then it is forbidden to your husband.

The rabbi told my husband the reason men can’t eat food a niddah has touched is because they might get aroused. Mkay. Is it just Jewish men who get aroused by the strangest things? Like knees for example; orthodox Jewish woman must cover our knees. Our dresses or skirts should be long enough that our knees are covered even when we sit down, even if we are wearing leggings underneath! Now I’m sorry but …REALLY?! I mean if some guy is getting aroused by women’s knees he needs to go to therapy. He is a sick pup! And elbows?! Elbows are too sexy for Judaism?!

So far I don’t like going to the mikvah either. I’m just too neurotic. Maybe it would be nice if I didn’t have to get naked in front of a total stranger. I have a hard time appreciating the spirituality of this mitzvah because mostly I’m like, “Oh no the mikvah lady saw my butt!” I am just glad when it is over and I don’t have to worry about accidentally brushing against my husband or handing him some niddah cheesecake.

Oh and bedika!!! That one almost sent me packing when I first heard about it! I was in shock. Bedika truly is one of the gory details of Judaism. I know this because I looked up the word “gory” in the dictionary and it is the correct word. I am not going to get into a vivid description that would not be modest and ladylike. Let’s just suffice it to say, who knew orthodox Judaism was so coochie intensive! Bedika has helped me to be grateful that I am close to menopause.

Also an orthodox woman cannot initiate “relations” with her husband! Apparently only strumpets are so brazen. Asking your husband, “Hey are you up for some nookie tonight dear?” is reason for him to stop living with you! Orthodox ladies have to use our womanly wiles. We can only give subtle hints in a coy and ladylike fashion, such as twirling our hair and batting our eyelashes or fondling a banana demurely. Dressing provocatively and employing body language is good, but don’t go overboard. G-strings and bootie dancing are out unless your husband asks for it, in which case consult your rabbi.

I hear that niddah supposedly helps some marriages. It gives the husband and wife about two weeks to yearn for each other and then reunite with renewed love and desire.

Yep, whatever. I hate niddah! Maybe with time it will get better, I don’t know. Meanwhile I am probably just being grouchy and negative right now because it’s “that time of the month” again!

Sigh. Well, at least there is still cheesecake.

Search for more information about Nidda

Friday, May 25, 2012

All the Shavuos knowledge you need

Those of you who refuse to abolish the all-night shavuot learning marathon on the grounds that it causes us to sleep through the first day of yom tov, obviating the chatzi lochem, v'chatzi loshem element of Yom Tov are encouraged to print these out for all night reading
Search for more information about Shavuot at

Look what Chaim G. Found

Ancient Document Confirms Existence Of Biblical Figure

Long story short: Some dude was looking through the British Museum's collection of 130,000 Assyrian cuneiform tablets when he came across the following: [Regarding] 1.5 minas (0.75 kg) of gold, the property of Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, the chief eunuch, which he sent via Arad-Banitu the eunuch to [the temple] Esangila: Arad-Banitu has delivered [it] to Esangila. In the presence of Bel-usat, son of Alpaya, the royal bodyguard, [and of] Nadin, son of Marduk-zer-ibni. Month XI, day 18, year 10 [of] Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.

Mean anything to you? Ha. And you call yourself Torah True.

As anyone who's studied Sefer Yirmiyahu (Show of hands please. Ed?) would know, Nabu-sharrussu-ukin was reported present at the destruction of the First Temple. From the list of names recorded in Jer 39:3

וַיָּבֹאוּ, כֹּל שָׂרֵי מֶלֶךְ-בָּבֶל, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ, בְּשַׁעַר הַתָּוֶךְ--נֵרְגַל שַׂרְאֶצֶר סַמְגַּר-נְבוּ שַׂר-סְכִים רַב-סָרִיס, נֵרְגַל שַׂרְאֶצֶר רַב-מָג, וְכָל-שְׁאֵרִית, שָׂרֵי מֶלֶךְ בָּבֶל.

This is a big find, the article insists, because it confirms the truth of one of the bible's "throwaway details." Nevusarsichin actually existed. Yeah, well, I suppose that's cool.

But if you're already one of those kofer-types who say the Bible was made up, why couldn't you also say that the author used real names and places in order to make the tales seem more authentic. The existance of a place called Sinai doesn't "prove" that the Exodus occured, so why should the existence of this Nebu-guy be any more valuable?

Oh yeah. Hat tip Chaim G.

Gentler, Kinder, Leaner, even MORE cowardly Cross-Currents

It's often remarked that only one side ever cuts off debate and inhibits free discussion: The losing side.

Unintended hilarity (pointed out by a commenter)
CC says: We believe in a way of life that can survive scrutiny and critique.
But adds: Opinions that take aim at what are regarded as among the essential principles of Torah faith will not be published.
Opinions that take aim at people generally acknowledged to be Gedolei Torah will not be published.

(This is all such self-righteous garbage anyway. CC has, maybe, 700 regular readers.)

I've quoted Milton before, but lets quote him again.

He said: "Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter."

He also said: “Truth is as impossible to be soiled by any outward touch as the sunbeam.”

Take refuge in that, truth seekers.

Would it feel like Shavuot if I didn't remind you how to say sunrise in hebrew?

Our word of the day (in honor of Shavuos, of course) is hanetz hachama the hebrew for "sunrise" and the time many Jews will pray tomorrow morning. Most Orthodox Jews think the word for "sunrise" is netz, and presume the letter hay at the begining of the word, is a hay ha-y'dia, meaning "the;" thus "the netz."

They are wrong. >> Read More

A Primary Source

Search for more information about chestnuts

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Here are some of the things Chaya didn't mention in her infamous xoJane article

Chaya, hard at work, on her xoJane article. 
You've heard, I'm sure, that a woman called Chaya has published an article on xoJane in which she claims that life for Hasidic women is nothing short of grand and glorious. Chaya's own life sounds quite good, I agree, but there's far too much her little whitewash leaves out. For openers:
Sadly, Chaya omitted the most crucial details about her identity, namely that she is a member of the most liberal Hasidic sect (Lubavitch) and that she is a Ba'al Teshuva, which translates as someone who returned to the faith. So a woman who resided on the most liberal end of the spectrum in the most tolerant of all Hasidic sects, who had chosen this way of life after she had already had access to a secular education, wrote an essay on behalf of all Hasidic women across the global spectrum, telling women's media that all is glorious and wonderful in their world
But that's not all she left out. After the jump, I try to fill in the blanks, line by line. As usual, I'm in green.

Catholics... Muslims... Haredim?

Identical daughters of the same parents

From the comment pile:

Your parallels between the Catholics and the Charedim (those that quake - or quakers?) brings to my mind Huxley - “A fanatic is a man who consciously over compensates a secret doubt.” Seems to me that the increase in fanaticism - among American conservatives, fundamental islamists, and our own charedi velt - is built on their recognition that they are wrong, and their primal fear of having to change is driving ever more angry, separationist, and violent behavior.

For American conservatives, the bush tax cuts, the iraq war, the emasculation of regulation nearly destroyed our economy, and yet the grown up who is trying to fix it is evil, unamerican, socialist, so no compromise, self-destructive fundamentalism of the tea party.

For fundamental Islam - centuries of charedi-like attitudes towards the secular has driven the world's leading culture of year 1000 into one of the most backward. Confronted with happier, better off Europeans, Mohammed Atta (yemach shemo) retreated into fundamentalism to lead the largest mass murder on US soil ever. So too with nearly all fundamental islam, perhaps the greatest global threat today.

Not le''havdil, our Charedi world has retreated over the past several decades into the walls of the beis medrash. The self-indulgent fantasy that everyone (i.e., men) can be a talmid chacham. But this leaves the women to make life happen with day to day things like jobs, earnings, etc. But these more worldly women then pose a threat to their menfolk who haven't a clue about the outside world, so they cage their women and ban the outside world. Then the Internet happens - penetrating their homes, removing the filter of Daas Torah that covers up sex abuse scandals and letting too many of the masses see that life is really in full color outside of Pleasantville (or as R Wozner put it "blue shirts"). We may be less violent (lack of exercise?) than our islamic/tea party cohorts, but the lack of any exhortations from the Citifield Dais to look at ourselves (Beit Shemesh riots and concentration camp uniform demonstrations from Israel, and sex abuse scandals in the US) are certainly as damning. -- Solomon

Search for more information about things that are the same

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Preposterous Pentecostal Parlor Games

If you're the parent of small, haredi-educated children you're likely to be told about one or both of these silly numerical coincidences over the upcoming holiday weekend. As a service to you, my dear freeloading reader, I've provide appropriate rejoinders

Remarkable Ruth

"The gematria of Ruth is 606. Add that to the seven mitzvot she kept before her conversion (righteous gentiles keep the seven Noahide laws)  and the sum is 613, the number of mitzvot she kept after conversion."

Problems to point out

#1: Gematrias are notoriously slippery. If Ruth calculated to something else, don't you think the perpetrator of this silly parlor game would have found a way to make it work anyway? By adding the number of times the word mitzvah appears in Ruth, let's say, or the number of days it took the Jews to get to Sinai after the Exodus?

#2: Ruth didn't keep 613 mitzvos after conversion. Many of them are only applicable to men, or to kohanim, or to land-owners. Ruth was none of those things.

#3: Why are we certain Ruth kept the Noahide laws. Perhaps she had a taste for shell food? (Prohibition of eating flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive) And isn't it likely she worshipped idols?

Miraculous Milk

"We eat dairy on Shavuot because Moshe was on the mountain for 40 days, and 40 is the gematria of milk."

Problems to point out

#1: So what? Why should the length of his sojourn on Sinai have any bearing on the contents of our holiday menu?

#2 Does it follow from this that the Sages sat around the wisdom table, planning out new customs when someone said, "Okay, we need something spiffy for Shavuot. Who has ideas? "

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Great Moments in Opposing Technology

If men learn writing, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks; what you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. - Plato, complaining about pens

Abundance of books makes men less studious; it destroys memory and enfeebles the mind by relieving it of too much work. -Hieronimo Squarciafico, complaining about the printing press

The webbed mind has to struggle to understand Torah. There are those who sit at home and click and click into oblivion. - R. Ephraim Wachsman, complaining about the Internet

Fisking "Thou shalt not text"

Eytan Kobre, who first made his blogging name with an over-the-top complaint about the prevalence of underwear ads in the New York Times, is back on our radar thanks to his, presumably, self-appointed role as spokesman for the CitiField Internet rally. Here is what he published last Sunday in the New York Post, a paper that unlike the Times, is known for modest, straitlaced writing. My poor comments in green.

Thou shalt not text
Jews mass at Citi for exodus from cyber-slavery
Last Updated: 10:59 AM, May 20, 2012
Posted: 12:38 AM, May 20, 2012

The known dangers of the Internet include the pervasive accessibility of pornography online, which has reached epidemic proportions. But we don’t view this in strictly Jewish or religious terms. It is an assault on human dignity, eating away the fabric of society. It debases and objectifies women, at times leading to violence against women, and the break-up of marriages.

We can agree that pornography is bad but it was available before the Internet. Where was the asifa against corner drug stores? Did we rally in the Polo Grounds to denounce the newfangled cars our forefathers used to visit prostitutes? About porn's effect on rates of violence against women, however, we must disagree. Over the last 20 years, as it has become easier than ever to acquire porn, rape in America has declined by more than 70 percent while other sexual assaults have fallen by over 60 percent. If Kobre was correct about porn "leading to violence against women" we'd see an increase, wouldn't we? Instead, we've seen the dramatic opposite. As one wag put it "As raunch waxes rape wanes."

We can also talk about aggression, or the verbal violence the Internet has released. Look at the comments section of any newspaper or blog and you see how the anonymity and the lack of accountability allows people to savage each other with words. This pollutes the societal atmosphere, and ratchets up the aggression tearing at the social fabric of the country.

Who's surprised that a card-carrying Agudah-ist and contributor to Cross Currents thinks anonymous blog comments are the second worst thing about the Internet, after pornography? The Federalist papers were published anonymously, many great writers use pseudonyms, and many great actors use stage names. Did society fall apart? Just how fragile is Eytan Kobre that he finds an anonymous comment so threatening to his sense of self? Just how fragile does he think society is if it can't withstand a flame war. The Rishonim were obnoxious to each other, too, at times. No one thinks any of this brought society to its knees. To the contrary, by allowing people to speak freely, without fear of reprisal, anonymous blog comments can actually lead to better arguments, and facilitate important conversations about problems within the community, problems that non-anonymous people are often too frightened to discuss honestly. In this way, anonymous blog comments strengthen society. 

Of course the real reason that Kobre and other agents of the status quo object to anonymous comments is it forces them to actually consider the argument, while comments attached to real names can be dismissed with an ad hominem or defeated with a call to the writer's rabbi. Moreover, such dainty caterwauling about the polluting of the social atmosphere is undermined by some of Eytan's own writing, as well as some of the articles published on his blog, Cross Currents. All of it is attached to a real name, but much of it is no less obnoxious and no less savage than an anonymous blog comment. 

There’s a trail of casualties inside and outside the Jewish community — marriages that have crashed and burned, spouses who have walked away from their families because of people they met in chat rooms or social networking, through something as seemingly innocuous as texting. It’s the anonymity and lack of accountability, the 24/7 accessibility, that breaks down our natural human barrier of shame and fear of consequences.

A marriage that collapses because of a chat room is a marriage that was already on the rocks. The Internet isn't what makes spouses unhappy; it only allows people to act on their unhappiness. Protesting the Internet is like protesting the bus the unhappy husband takes to visit his mistress or like protesting the ax an angry wife uses to slaughter her husband. Did we have an asifa against Lorena Bobbit's knife? Anyway, has Eytan lost track of his argument? A moment ago he said "It’s the anonymity...   that breaks down our natural human barrier of shame and fear of consequences." but those who are using the Internet to meet each other are, by definition, not doing it anonymously. 

Studies show what the Internet is doing to other areas of human life, to privacy,

The Internet is damaging privacy? That's great news for Google and Facebook. Apparently, its the inanimate, no agency, Internet causing the privacy problems, and not corporations, manged by people who create and impose bad policies and intrusive practices. I look forward to Zuks using "The Internet made me do it" the next time his critics come after him with pitchforks. 

and the damage these sites have done to our ability to have real relationships with people. We replace relationships with superficial connection, and we’ve replaced conversation with tweeting and twittering our way through cyberspace.

Dude. Nothing stays the same. A wiser person reconciles himself to this. No doubt an earlier version of Eytan Kobre fretted about steamships or printing presses or telephones. Certainly, there were many who bemoaned the loss of letters and the rise of informal phone chats. And you know what? All of those earlier Eytans were correct. New types of technology do change us. They do change the way we think and behave. Our Eytan is also right: Twitter and FaceBook (not to mention Google) are changing the way our brains work. There's no doubt about it, but so what:  Dude. Nothing stays the same. There's no correct, first cause, condition for our neural circuitry. There's only what obtains at the moment. Every generations changes in its own way. The "webbed" brain denounced at the asifa by R. Wachman is not a corrupted version of the true brain. Its simply the latest variation of the human brain, the latest in a series of variations that go back to the beginning of time

We have the evidence, we hear what professors are telling us,

LOL. Sorry. I can't help but laughing out loud whenever an Aguda spokesman asks us to consider what science and the "professors" are telling us. Let's make a deal Eytan. You listen to Biology professor Jerry Coyne, and I'll listen to the professor who says the Internet is changing our brains. Oh wait. I already am listening (see previous paragraph) I just think the change wrought by technology is  (a) self evident (b) inevitable (c) impossible to stop and (d) not necessarily a change for the worse

what the Internet is doing to the brains of students. There’s no research anymore — just Google it — no retention of information. Now academia is a mile wide and an inch deep.

Agreed. This has happened. And before the invention of the printing press human beings were capable of astounding feats of memory. No longer. And before the supermarket we were capable of growing and hunting our own food. No longer.  Just how far should we try to roll back time?

No one lives in the moment anymore. No longer are people able to be alone with themselves and comfortable without being connected to other people.

Is he talking about the telephone? He might be. Anyway, we had extroverts before we had Twitter, and arguably tools like Twitter make it easier for introverts to interact with other people. 

Gadgets are supposed to free us, but ironically, they have enslaved us and left us with much less time for ourselves, our families and the things that are important in life.

We've been saying this since the 50s at least. Everyone knows that inventions like the vaccume cleaner and the washing machine made life harder for housewives, not easier. 

It’s a subtle but very nefarious assault on us as a people. On the one hand, we want to be connected, but it’s creating alienation. People don’t want to get involved on a one-to-one basis anymore.

And after the ball-point pen was invented it became easier to skip the town meeting and send a letter, instead. 

All community members will be urged to adopt as a minimal base line of protection the installation of a filter on every computer at home and the workplace. It is fully recognized that this is far, far from the conclusive answer to the problems the Internet poses — it is merely a first step evidencing our seriousness and resolve to find the best solutions and implement them.

Liar, liar pants on fire. What actually happened a few hours after this article was published was quite different. When Rav Shmuel Wosner addressed the crowd, he did not say "Use Filters" He said "Any kid from an Internet home is hereby banned from our schools" Perhaps Eytan, having spent too much time on Facebook, has lost the ability to recognize the difference between these two statements. And just as a brief aside, it does not speak very well for our community that we're just discovering filters in 2012. We're at least four years behind the rest of the human race. 

This is just a first step — the beginning of a journey toward protecting ourselves. It will be followed by technology expos around the country, reaching out to other faiths — and society as a whole.

Reaching out to other faiths? REACHING OUT TO OTHER FAITHS? We're going to bring the gospel of the filter to the Mormons? We're going to lock arms with the Christians against Google? So happy 2000 years of petty disagreeing about the nature of Jesus can be put aside now that we've identified FaceBook as a common enemy. And they say the modern Jews are relativists. 

Search for more information about Eytan's obsession with the A sections ads

Monday, May 21, 2012

Echoes of Catholic catastrophes at the CitiField asifa (Part 2)

Earlier, I posted that the disaster at CitiField last night reminds me of the disaster of pastor aeternus, the encyclical that defined the Pope as infallible and in some ways ruined the Catholic Church by placing too much unquestioned, unchecked power in the hands of one, out-of-touch, monarch.

In this post, I add to my criticism of the asifa by explaining how the gathering in general and Rav Wosner's pronouncement in particular, closely parallel a second Catholic catastrophe: Humanae Vitae, the reafirmation of the Church's ban on birth control published in 1968 by Paul VI. Here is the story:

Though the Church had historically been opposed to contraception, the formal rationale was not spelled out until 1930 when Pius XI published Casti connubii. 

By the 1960s enough had changed in the world, that Catholics were ready for the ban to revoked.  In particular, oral contraceptives had been introduced and it was generally believed that the rational presented in Casti connubii could not apply to them. A commission appointed by Pope John XX111 agreed, proposing that such forms of birth control were not intrinsically evil and that Catholic couples should be allowed to decide for themselves how to use them.

John died before the commission finished its work, and rather than accept the commission findings, his successor, Paul VI, used Humanae Vitae to explicitly reject their recommendations. Instead of liberalizing the Church's teaching on contraception as the laity had expected and as the commission had advised, the old ban was reiterated and widened to include oral contraceptives.

In his dissent from the commission's report, John Ford argued why the Pope had to disregard the findings of his own commission:
If it should be declared that contraception is not evil in itself, then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit had been on the side of the Protestant churches in 1930 (when the encyclical Casti Connubii was promulgated), in 1951 (Pius XII's address to the midwives), and in 1958 (the address delivered before the Society of Hematologists in the year the pope died). It should likewise have to be admitted that for a half century the Spirit failed to protect Pius XI, Pius XII, and a large part of the Catholic hierarchy from a very serious error. This would mean that the leaders of the Church, acting with extreme imprudence, had condemned thousands of innocent human acts, forbidding, under pain of eternal damnation, a practice which would now be sanctioned. The fact can neither be denied nor ignored that these same acts would now be declared licit on the grounds of principles cited by the Protestants, which popes and bishops have either condemned or at least not approved.[38]
Or, in other words: If we go back now, we'll make our predecessors look foolish, we'll concede that Popes are fallible, and we'll give our enemies in the Protestant churches a victory. Nothing else matters.

And so it was. Rather, than do all of these things Paul chose to reaffirm the ban --and in the process severely damaged his Church. American and European Catholics rejected  Humanae Vitae in large numbers. Some left the Church. Others ignored the encyclical, and presumably soon realized that ignoring Church teachings produces no ill effect, thus making it easier to ignore other teachings. To this day, the Vatican has not recovered from the blow to its credibility caused by Humanae Vitae.

Are the parallels between this and the asifa not obvious? For weeks we were told that no one at the asifa would not articulate a ban on the Internet. The event's first marketing materials made this promise explicit stating "We can't live without it." We were led to believe that the earlier ban on the Internet, had been reconsidered.

But something changed. At some point, the Sages arrived independently at John Ford's argument and realized that they could not permit what they themselves had prohibited while simultaneously claiming to be inerrant. Instead of confirming that "we can't live without it," Rav Wosner reiterated the disastrous ban of six years ago and ordered us to do just that. If his words are heeded, thousands of our children will be banned from schools or thousands of parents will be forced to lie to schools about their Internet usage.  And if his words are ignored, and the schools continue to accept children from Internet homes, the emperor's nudity will have been made obvious to all.

In a year or two, we''ll know who won this game of chicken. But the tragedy is all of this could have been avoided with a little common sense. But, rather then confess their error in banning the Internet six years ago, the Sages did as Paul VI did and chose instead to provoke a crises by doubling down on their own infallibility.


Humanae Vitae, which told Catholics how to conduct their marriages, was articulated by a never-been married seventy-year old virgin. The ban on the Internet was announced by someone who was old before color televisions were introduced. Paul VI, at least, ignored a professional commission of experts who studied the matter for five years. Rav Wosner, on the other hand, likely has at his disposal nothing but a carefully curated collection of anecdotes about the Internet and its victims.

Search for more information about this

What does Ultra Orthodoxy have against Mexican women?

This company sponsors the New York Mets and a picture of their bottle is prominently displayed on the CitiField scoreboard.

Last night, the non-misogynistic Ultra Orthodox made sure no one at the asifa could see the  pretty Mexican face that adorns the bottle:

Search for more information about close calls

Echoes of Catholic catastrophes at the CitiField asifa

I'm alone on this, I'm sure, but when I look at the just-concluded CitiField asifa I hear only echoes of Catholic catastrophes.

The first parallel is with the doctrine of papal infallibility declared as dogma in 1870 at the First Vatican Council in pastor aeternus. This doctrine granted the Pope the sole and exclusive power to determine the Church's formal beliefs and practices and was approved by the Council at the moment when the Pope's power was at its lowest ebb. Once a temporal king, by 1870 the Pope had lost control of the Papal States and was facing renewed challenges from secularists across Europe and on his own doorstep in Rome. Declaring the Pope infallible was a way to grant the Pope spiritual powers to compensate for the influence he'd lost in the real world. Having lost power in this world, the council gave the Pope an invisible one.

The Charedi Sages are in a similar position. Though they never ruled as kings, there exists a nostalgic fantasy that they once possessed similar powers. Also, there once was a time when Rabbis actually did function as leaders of Jewish communities and their guidance actually was sought in most matters. In those pre-modern days Rabbis led entire communities, rather than sects, and because so little was known about the natural world science and religion were not yet seen as non-overlapping magisteria. In such a world, at such a time, it made sense to consult spiritual leaders on matters of politics and medicine. To a large extent the Rabbis were the community's political leaders and religion was still understood as inseparable from science.

Over the last several decades, much has changed. Charedi Sages no longer attempt to lead anyone but Charedim, and the phrase Klal Yisroel has been redefined to reflect this. No one recognizes them as political leaders and our commitment to the idea that science and religion are one has all but disappeared.

In our lifetime, it has become clearer than ever that authority of the Sages is limited to questions of halacha, and only questions of halacha. The emphasis on Daat Torah, which reached its absurd height at last night's asifa, must then be understood as a backlash against all of this. Having suffered dramatic reductions of their power in this world, they are claiming for themselves an invisible one.

Next post: The second parallel

Search for more information about daas torah

Friday, May 18, 2012

Who needs Rush Limbough when we have Cross Currents?

If you're puking all over your shoes this morning it might be because you've read Phillip Lefkowitz's complaint about Affirmative Action on Cross Currents, a complaint that will be familiar to any fan of All In the Family.

In brief, Archie Lefkowitz says he once upon a time knew a Jewish kid named Jerry who was turned down by Brooklyn College the same year a black kid with a lower GPA was admitted. Then Jerry committed suicide. So, case closed, Affirmative Action is evil. Alert the Supreme Court.

There are so many things wrong with Lefkowitz's approach, its difficult to keep track. For instance, we're not sure why Jerry committed suicide. It helps Lefkowitz's argument to claim that Jerry threw himself off a roof because he was upset about having his College application rejected, but come on: Does a healthy person respond to adversity this way? Isn't it more likely that Jerry suffered from some mental disease, and that he might have eventually committed suicide even if Brooklyn College had accepted him? Or maybe the mob was after him. The point is we don't know.

Another problem is that Lefkowitz's opposition to Affirmative Action rests on the belief that Jerry suffered an injustice, but that's not clear either. Maybe more went into the admission decision than GPA? The black kid might have written a better essay or dazzled an admissions officer at his interview. Or perhaps the college simply wanted a diverse student body. You're not owed admission to a college simply because you've met a set of objective criteria. Harvard doesn't admit every H.S valedictorian who applies. A college is entitled to take other factors into account for the sake of creating a certain student population or student experience.

In private correspondence with one of the ranking Gedolei Torah, I added the following observations:

Greater injustices that this are committed by the admissions department of any yeshiva. Where are the angry protests from Cross Currents? Why is it that a yeshiva can pick and choose from among applicants based on criteria as nebulous and undefinable as "our type" and no one says boo, but let a college choose based on some desire to meet some objective or subjective criteria of its own and suddenly its a Spanish inquisition?

Search for more information about our old LaSalle and how great it ran

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Romney vs Wright

It looks like playing dirty is still the GOP's favored strategy. According to a report in the Times today a billionaire Obama-hater plans to bankroll a series of advertisements that will attack the president for his relationship with Jeremiah Wright.

This should be fun.

I hope the president fights back by linking Mormon Mitt Romney to some of the evil things his own church has said and done .

No, not polygamy. I'm referring to institutionalized racism. Until 1978 it was osur for a black man to serve as a Mormon priest. Not only is there no record of Mitt ever repudiating this, he also worked as Mormon missionary in the 60s. This means that during the Civil Rights era, Mitt Romney worked to convert people into a faith that practiced overt racism. He might as well have been a hiring manager for the Birmingham Alabama sheriff's office.

Though Romney, ad hayom hazeh, refuses to badmouth any Mormon doctrine past or present, it still doesn't follow that he is a racist. Nor, does it follow from his association with Rev. Wright that Obama hates America. But if we're going to discredit Obama for attending a church with a preacher who denounced the United States, shouldn't we discredit Romney for his membership in a racist church? Obama at least has attempted to distance himself from the terrible things Wright said; Romney, on the other hand,  has never publicly disagreed with Mormon teachings.

If you're going to argue that Obama should have known better then to stay in Wright's church, we can also argue that Romney should have known better then to remain a Mormon.

Search for more information about sauce for the goose

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

If you love Torah Judaism stay home on May 20

You're required to attend Met games.
 Otherwise we'll look bad in in front of the Yankee fans.

If a Met fan tried this argument, he'd be laughed right out of the room. And with good reason. We understand that the Mets have to earn our support. Unquestioned loyalty invites laziness, and even corruption, from the objects of such loyalty. Why should the Mets pursue free agents or invest in their farm team, if they can count of the fans to show up anyway? For the matter, why should General Manager Sandy Alderson put in an honest day's work if the stadium is going to fill up irrespective of his efforts?  If Met fans don't punish bad teams with poor attendance, players and management are encouraged to coast.

This is why any loyal fan of charedi Judaism should be deeply offended by the message currently being used to promote the CitiField Asifa on May 20. Instead of telling us why the Asifa is important, we are being urged to save the organizers from embarrassment. Rather than put a good team on the field, the event organizers are asking us to prop up a bunch of farm hands and, through our attendance at the Asifa, shield them from the consequences of their own failures.

I agree that the gedolim will look bad, if the stadium is not filled on May 20, but I think we owe it to ourselves and to the community we cherish to make them look bad. If you stay home on May 20, the message will be clear: We do not agree with your leadership on issues such as the Internet. We think your positions to date on this subject have been flawed. By "making them look bad", we make plain our disagreement with their approach. And though some of the sheep in the audience my be reluctant to deliver such a strong message to the Sages of Israel, consider the alternatives. If you don't let the leaders know when they're not performing up to expectations, they have no incentive to change their ways.

Autocracy is founded upon the Gedolim's self-understanding of themselves as the depository and bearer of absolute truth and it is the duty of people to conform to the truth. Democracy is based upon the understanding that truth is available to human beings only in partial ways and therefore all people can contribute to the search for truth in "creative mutuality [Adapted from here Leaders, even autocratic leaders, derive their power from the people. They lead us because we let them lead us. As a wag said about the Pope, "He has primacy over the council because the council gives him primacy over the council" So to with us. The gedolim have primacy over us, because we grant them primacy. If we're not happy with their leadership, we have the right, indeed the obligation, to refuse to be led. Staying home on May 20 is a start.

Search for more information about the holiness of democracy

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

More anti-science nonsense from Avi Safran

How does Avi Safran find the nerve to churn out nonsense like this on a regular basis?
Once again: the climate may in fact be in crisis  What discomforts me, though, is the stance of those who insist that they know with absolute surety—which they can’t—that it is. And that by lambasting any who dare dissent from their pronouncement, they show unwillingness to even consider the possibility that the world G-d created for us humans may not need our help to stay inhabitable—that, in His wisdom, He may have imbued not only our skin with the ability to heal its wounds, but the earth’s to do the same. 
If the climate "may in fact" be in crises, why is he criticizing scientists for lack of faith? His opening sentence concedes they may be right to worry. And though comparing the earth to the human body is a flawed analogy, why doesn't Avi see how his own analogy trips him up? Yes, the human body has the power to heal itself, but human beings also have the power to kill each other! Is it really such a serious lack of faith to suggest we also have the power to "kill" the earth?

Search for more information about the danger of being extremely anti-science

Posters supporting Weberman are up in Williamsburg

Posters such as the ones pictured above are being used to invite Willamsburg pedestrians to a fundraiser on behalf of accused sex offender Nechamia Weberman. Victim groups think this awful. I disagree.

Weberman hasn't been convicted yet. He merely stands accused of committing a heinous crime, but the jury - quite literally - is still out.  If his friends and neighbors believe he is innocent and wish to help him, what's wrong with that?

Though much has been said about victim harassment, this belongs to a different category. Abusing your authority to silence or intimidate a victim is evil. Supporting your friend is something else. The former is harassment; the latter  is avdocacy.

Search for more information about Wiliamsburg

Monday, May 14, 2012

Secret origins: Challah dipped in honey

Does this sound familiar?
After all the preparations have been completed, the father offers each member of the family a piece of bread dipped in honey, which had been previously blessed in church.
From this account of the traditional Christmas eve feast in the Ukraine 

Search for more information about SECRET ORIGINS

Secret origin of kreplach

The people of the Slavic lands are big into pierogi, a dumpling made of dough, shaped into a semi-circle and filled with meat, potato or cheese. Listen to Wikipedia:
Some cookbooks from the 17th century describe how even during that era the Pierogi were considered a staple of the Polish diet, and each holiday had its own special kind of Pierogi created. There were different shapes and fillings for holidays such as Christmas and Easter, and important events like weddings, had their own special type of Pierogies "kirniki" – filled with chicken meat. There were also Pierogies made especially for mourning/wakes, and even some for caroling season in January.
The very name of the dish is derived from "pir" the Proto-Slavic word for festivity, and the dish is associated with Saint Hyacinth a 13th century Polish friar. To this day, pierogi are a signature item of  Polish cusine. They are also well-loved in the Ukraine, where they are called varenyky and considered an indispensable part of the Christmas eve feast.

Though its roots are in Germany, Ashkenazi Judaism continued its development in the Slavic lands. Somewhere along the way, our own style of pierogi developed and we called it kreplach.

The origin of kreplach really is as simple as that. We ate therm because everyone in that time place ate them. It has no more mystical significance then the Ukranian varenyky or the Russian pelmeni or any of the other Slavic dumplings that developed in around the same place at around the same time. However, nothing is more human then inventing significance for ordinary things - and then forgetting what you've done.

We've already seen how a pagan hair-cutting ceremony was transformed into an essential Jewish rite of passage after someone clever associated it with Deut. 20:19 ("Man is like the tree of a field...") and with orlah, the restriction on taking fruit from a tree before its third year.

The same sort thing happened with kreplach.  At some point someone clever came up with reasons for associating kreplach with Yom Kipppur, but those reasons were invented after we were already eating kreplach on erev Yom Kppur. At the beginning, the reasons were probably accompanied with a knowing wink. Or, perhaps the reasons were invented after the milieu changed and Jews were no longer surrounded by people who all celebrated their solemn days with dumplings.

What seems perfectly obvious, though, is that we eat kreplach because once upon a time some of our ancestors lived in a place where eating dumplings and celebrating a most solemn holiday was culturally inseparable, and not because a wise man proposed a new food to symbolically represent judgement wrapped in mercy.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mocking the Matzav

A note from EFREX

DB: Thought you might get a kick out of this one.

For some reason, I periodically trawl the bastion of intellectual cowardice and moral hypocrisy known as Yesterday, they posted the following article on Obama’s gay marriage stance (as usual, ripped from another site with all external links stripped and a snide comment thrown into the headline):

The comments are the usual sprawl of incoherent rantings, but I thought commenter #24’s line wins the prize for unintentional hilarity:

“Another sign that it’s time to head over to Eretz Yisroel. The frum community has focused on this issue in recent months (e.g., the Weprin-Turner election). This time we ought to vote with our feet and stand up for Torah values.”

I’m all for anything that inspires religious aliyah (even in the charedi community), but I’m pretty sure this commentator is pretty clueless about Israel’s policies on gay rights, which are so far to the left of anything in this country that Obama’s comments would qualify him as a political conservative in the Knesset (see, for instance,

One of these days, some Republican family-rights wingnut is going to go to Israel, spend a Friday night in Tel Aviv, and have his head explode. I can only hope that Jon Stewart is around to chronicle it…

Take care!

What are some of the things every Jew should know?

The time has come to update the famous list created here exactly six years ago (and curses on JS/Kit and Echo for devouring Haloscan and your great comments.)

The folks on Twitter want an open thread, so here you go and have fun.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

An incredibly stupid thing, a smart person said

Rabbi Marc D. Angel:
‎"The real issue here is not “marriage equality”—but how the moral foundations of society are established. If decisions are entirely in the domain of human beings, then a civil society can make whatever rules it wants, without reference to any Divine authority. The problem with this approach is that it essentially undermines a Divine foundation for morality, and leads to a subjective human-made morality that ultimately has no clear boundaries. Once God is removed from the equation, everything is—or can be, or should be—permissible." 
News flash: A subjective and human-made morality is the only kind of morality there is because all morality is based on how we human beings choose to accept and understand and interpret the sources of morality we have, in turn, chosen to accept.

Furthermore, "Once God is removed from the equation, everything is—or can be, or should be—permissible." is the sort of fallacious statement you expect to hear debunked in a first year philosophy class. Over 2000 years ago, Plato demonstrated that God and morality are not connected. The terminal flaw in Angel's argument becomes apparent with one question:

Is gay marriage wrong because God said so, or did God say it was wrong because it is?

If God said gay marriage is wrong because it is, it follows that morality is independent of God. He saw it was wrong, and ruled it forbidden. Presumably so can we because the standard exists apart from God.  On the other hand, if gay marriage is wrong only because God said so, it follows that morality is arbitrary.

Note: This is just an example. To the best of my knowledge God has never expressed an opinion on gay marriage.

Time magazine puts a breastfeeding four year old on its cover

Time opts for scandalous with its current cover shot, managing to offend mothers by suggesting they're pathetic wimps if they stop nursing after their kids grow teeth* while also wrecking the life of a little boy. Well done, Time magazine!

*Significant because a kid with a full-set of teeth can acquire nutrients from regular food, and thus has no further "natural" need for breast milk. A woman who continues nursing past that point isn't a super mom. She's someone who puts her own needs, and likely her own insecurities,  ahead of the kid.**

And hey, not to open up another round of debate, but do any of you really want to see something like this, coming soon, to a shul near you?

** For good measure, chew or suck or whatever on this:
The Case Against Breast Feeding by Hanna Rosin 
In certain overachieving circles, breast-feeding is no longer a choice—it’s a no-exceptions requirement, the ultimate badge of responsible parenting. Yet the actual health benefits of breast-feeding are surprisingly thin, far thinner than most popular literature indicates. Is breast-feeding right for every family? Or is it this generation’s vacuum cleaner—an instrument of misery that mostly just keeps women down?

Search for more information about stuff I don't want to see in shul

Down with the Internet!

Here's another one of those terrible things your unsuspecting, innocent children might find online: a New York Times article describing the lengths Hasidim take to prevent abuse and molestation cases from going to trial. 

The story is long and the reporting is thorough. It describes intimidation, threats, and attempts to pay-off victims and witnesses to keep them from testifying.  Agudath Israel, and their dangerous, irresponsible policy on child abuse, also gets a mention:
"You can destroy a person's life with a false report," said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, a powerful ultra-Orthodox organization, which last year said that observant Jews should not report allegations to the police unless permitted to do so by a rabbi.

Rabbinic authorities "recommend you speak it over with a rabbi before coming to any definitive conclusion in your own mind," Rabbi Zweibel said.
Zweibel's policy is reprehensible, and part of the problem not the solution. He should be criticized from every pulpit and every blog by people who recognize his policy for what it is, namely, an attempt to protect rabbinic privileges and prerogatives at the expense of children. The Times' reporting makes it clear that Zweibel's approach is bankrupt by describing several cases in which the consulting Rabbi protected the perpetrator and by association his community's reputation at the victim's expense.

Though, I understand the traditional Jewish concerns about reputations and established Torah law, I'm nearing a breaking point. Every week, it seems, I hear a story about savage abuse in a cheder, some of it recent, some of it perpetrated years ago by people who are still teaching.

At what point do we concede that our deferential approach is not working? At what point do we say that our worrying about loshon hara is failing to keep children safe? When do we point at the rebbes and the mashgiachs and their gabbaim and say, you have failed to keep children safe? We need a Zola and a J'Accuse describing the widespread abuse in Hasidic schools and the indifference and hostility that victims suffer when they try to report it.  We need to drop the deference and the shuffling and the irrational fear of hereditary leaders and their imaginary magical powers and say the words that need to be said. We need to finally stand up, as a community, and say that we will no long allow children to be beaten in Hasidic schools

I'd write the call-to-arms myself, but my name carries no weight. I would be ignored like so many other wannabees have been ignored. This has to be written by someone who has the respect of the establishment, someone like Gil Student or Yaakov Horrowitz. And, as I've asked them both many times: What are you waiting for?

HT @marksofla and @krum

Search for more information about the scandal of child abuse in the UOJ community

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Did Matisyahu Solomon put a child abuser in charge of the anti-Internet rally

The story of the day is that one Nechamiah Gotleib is the mastermind behind the Internet Asifa. The other story  of the day is that Gotleib is a viscous child abuser who routinely beat kids when he ran a school in Lakewood.

You can see the discussion and comments here and draw your own conclusions.  In short, many people are testifying that Gotleib has a long, ugly record as a child abuser but was nonetheless accepted by Matisyahu Solomon as the leader and main organizer of the anti-Internet rally. They are also alleging that Gotleib owns a filtering company and that he will benefit personally from the asifa.

If this is true, I say that Matisyahu Solomon, the Skullner Rebbe and anyone else who leaves his name on the promotional materials or otherwise associates himself with the Asifa should be given the Jimmy the Greek treatment--- and I hope Orthodox Jewry has the guts to do it (though I won't hold my breath.)

Search for more information about enough is enough

Obama to address gay marriage stance

Here's a sociology sidebar from a post on Character Grades about MadMen
You know what's hilarious? Peggy's Mom is religious and old fashioned and believes that her daughter moving in with a man without marrying him is immoral and unnatural. We the audience know that eventually Peggy's Mom and Her Kind will die and the idea of a young couple moving in together before getting married will become normal. We can also safely assume that this same phenomenon will occur in our generation as well. The people today who oppose gay marriage are going to die. They will be replaced by more open minded little Peggys and Abes and today's thorny issue will become tomorrow's norm. I think this is called progress.  
I bring this up, because Obama has given ABC an interview about gay marriage and speculation is rife that he is FINALLY going to stop being Peggy's Mom and offer support for same-sex marriage.

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday ended nearly two years of “evolving” on the issue of same-sex marriage by publicly endorsing it in a television interview, taking a definitive stand on one of the most contentious and politically charged social issues of the day. “At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Mr. Obama told ABC News in an interview that came after the president faced mounting pressure to clarify his position.

Search for more information about Obama

Lag B'omer Music

Ok, with the annual fast on music already over in the Middle East, its time for a a few words about the three, and pretty much only three, songs connected to the holiday

Bar Yochai

Format: Extremely long and  repetitive piyut, oddly beloved by people who tend to hate piyutim
Traditional tune: Beyond boring [Lets give credit to Moshe Skier for trying to improve it]
Overall DovBear ranking: Wow, does this song suck. I don't think even the best performer can make it bearable. Proof: SoulFarm are truly fantastic performers and their version isn't much good, though they can't be blamed for failing to make bearable something that is inherently unbearable.

L'kovod Hatana Ha'elokai

Format: Extremely long and repetitive piyut, oddly beloved by people who tend to hate piyutim
Traditional tune: Not bad
Overall DovBear ranking: A good song, that can be great in the hands of a talented artists. Unfortunately, I can't find such a performance on the Interwebs. You'll have to make do with this scratchy, difficult to enjoy  version, though it offers the added fun of dancing Hasidim

Omar R. Akiva

Source: Based on what is probably Rabbi Akiva's best, most famous and most important homily. See my discussion here.
Traditional tune: Awesome
Overall DovBear ranking: A great song, so great that even a terrible musician can't get it wrong. And boy are you in luck, because I have found a fantastic rendition of the song performed by some Hasidic musician in which he absolutely blows the doors off it. You're welcome. (Its just a shame that after about 3 minutes  it cuts short, and turns into UGH Bar Yochai)

Hey, are you hearing these songs for the first time? If so, I'm really curious to hear what you think of them. Please share your reactions in the thread.

Search for more information about ###

Yes, yes Republicans are peaceful, sane, sensible

Here are some recent signs of the crazy from ranking Republicans....

First up, Scott Boston, a St. Louis Tea Party activist, who stood up at a rally and recommended murdering Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). “She walks around like she’s some sort of Rainbow Brite Care Bear or something but really she’s an evil monster,” he said. “We have to kill the Claire Bear,” he added. McCaskill's opponent Sarah Steelman (R) was in the audience when these words were spoken. As of yet, she has said nothing.

And, thanks to this anti-tax, anti-government genius, the police are providing McCaskill with additional police protection -- at tax payer expense.

Next we have Ponch McPhee, who edits a newsletter for the Republican Party of Greene County in Virginia. Here is what he published this month, beneath a charming recipe for "Conservative Potato and Egg Delight":
We have before us a challenge to remove an ideologue unlike anything world history has ever witnessed or recognized. . . . The ultimate task for the people is to remain vigilant and aware ~ that the government, their government is out of control, and this moment, this opportunity, must not be forsaken, must not escape us, for we shall not have any coarse[sic] but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November. This Republic cannot survive for 4 more years underneath this political socialist ideologue
Armed revolution? Has the Republican Party picked up the mantle of the Black Panthers?

See the screen grab after the jump

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A guest post on the Baltimore Werdershiem verdict

by BJ

The judge was finally reached a verdict on the case of the two vigilante Shomrim who were accused of beating the shi.., er, "stuffing" out of a 15 year old black kid walking through northwest Baltimor'es "frumland." Actually, to be fair, only one of the accused was actually a member of the Shomrim at the time, and he is not longer a member of the organization. I have some interest in this matter, as I have lived in this neighborhood since 1979, and serve as a volunteer in the other citizen's watch patrol, which is keeping a very low profile, for good reason, I suppose.

Here's a link to the verdict from the local fish-wrapper:,0,2736517.story

This was a bench trial, lawyers for the defendant didn't believe they could get a fair trial from a city jury, er, bamboozle a city jury to to find for their client, I mean. (Of course, part of tht problem is the frum Jews in Baltimore City do their damndest to get out of jury duty, and if they do have to come downtown, they'll do anything to keep from being assigned to a trial. I've seen this firsthand, so no arguments!)

In Favor of Lag B'Omer Trips

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Over on the Matzav, a letter that was posted before Lag B'Omer last year has been reposted without any mention that it is a rerun. Basic honesty and decency aside, they must have thought no one would realize. You can't fool me. I read and commented on this letter last year. I know this because I read the Matzav like Jon Stewart watches Fox News.

When they posted it last year I left some comments under my Matzav / VIN anono-name and I thought the letter writer had been eviscerated enough that Matzav would not dare publish the same letter again. I was wrong. So this time I am going all out. Here is a more snarky and detailed reply to the moron of the week. My commentary is in parenthesis.

Joe Biden Makes Sign of the Cross in Front of Rabbis

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

He was joking, and being himself, so we can forgive him, but still not the swiftest move from Joe-joe.

Search for more information about Biden

Marry them off young or they'll be on the Internet all day

Clinton throws Israel under the bus!!

Here's the Secretary of State addressing journalists in India:

“The United States believes that whatever differences one might have with the situation in the Middle East, Israel has been defending itself for 60 years and has made numerous overtures to bring about a peaceful resolution of the situation." 
And let's applaud Hills for delivering this burn. When asked why the US continues to play nice with Israel despite it not having signed the NPT, Clinton said, “Well, I don't think we have been able to convince Delhi to sign the NPT [either].”

This can't be good for kollel youngerleit/zionist diehards

The Times is reporting that Saul Mofaz, boss of Kadima, and Bibi Netanyahu, boss of Likud, have signed a coalition contract that makes Mofaz Deputy PM, or consigliere.

Mofaz at the Kotel praying for settlements to be disbanded
and for kolelniks to join the IDF
The deal has four other conditions. If you''re a shul-goer, you'll likely be hearing lots about one of them. But exactly which one depends on the type of shul you attend.

MO shuls Rabbis are likely to be screaming about this:
[Mofaz] said that he would start with an interim Palestinian state on 60 percent of the West Bank and negotiate the rest... and thousands of settlers in far-flung locations would agree to move or be forced to.
... whereas their right-wing counterparts are already planning kinus and tzedakka drives to deal with this:
[One condition was] that the Parliament would pass legislation to require national or military service of all Israeli citizens, including ultra-Orthodox Jews
Don't hold your breath on any of this actually happening, but until things are sorted the House of Israel is in for a fun, fracturus, ride.

Search for more information about Saul Mofaz

Monday, May 07, 2012

Boycott Delta!

William Anthony Donohue during a
guest appearance on South Park
Delta won't advertise on the Daily Show anymore, so I say we stop flying on their shaky, little planes. Their reasons for backing out, however, are a bit unclear.

According to fat, blowhard William Anthony Mary Margaret Yechezka'el Donohue (who is best known for saying Jews like anal sex and for comparing pro-choice groups to neo-Nazis) Delta bowed low and kissed the ring of righteous Catholic pressure.

The Catholic League president had previously complained about a little photo Daily Show host Jon Stewart ran featuring a woman giving birth to a manger. In a press release Donohue has asked Delta to cease advertising on the program and called on his mom, Mel Gibson,  and the Catholic League's three other supporters to complain.

For their part, Delta claims dropping the Daily Show was simply a business move that had nothing to do with Catholic complaints. They have outright denied their decision had anything to do with complaints or pressure.

So is Bill oafishly taking credit for something he did not do? That's my bet.

Search for more information about fat Bill Donohue