Friday, June 29, 2012

Another Valentine from the Times to the Hasidim of NYC

Its hard to track exactly how many things Joseph Berger gets wrong in the little love note to Hasidim he published in today's New York Times. His subject is clothing, specifically the black, heavy clothing worn year round by Hasidim, and his purpose is to explain to readers that wearing fur on a ninety degree day isn't quite so painful as you may have thought.

The problem isn't that pieces such as this one roundly demolish the perspective of people like Yaakov Menken and various Jewish Press columnists who hold, without qualification or reflection,  that the mean old New York Times is forever plotting new ways to embarrass Jews. (Actually I'm rather pleased to see Menken's silly notion disabused. Again.)

Nor do I object to the Hasidim receiving some friendly PR.

What I don't like is how Berger has unquestioningly bought into the Hasidic view of history. Instead of operating as a skeptical, responsible  journalist, Berger endorses their errors and ratifies their fantasy that Jews, even Hasidic Jews, have always dressed like Brooklyn Jews c2012. Instead of pointing out, for example, that the sainted ancestors often replaced their fur hats with caps when the temperature rose, Berger allows the people-on-the-street he interviews to repeat their myths unchallenged.

A better journalist would have mentioned that Hasidim, like Orthodox Jews every stripe, are sliding to the right and accumulating pieties with the passage of time. A generation ago, for example, some wore blue hats. Denim had not yet been banned. And a frum Brooklyn women was able to go outside in a color other than black without being made to feel like a whore. Instead of discussing this sociological trend --something he could have done without editorializing -- Berger entirely buys into the lie that nothing in Judaism ever changes.

Another quibble:

"Using a Hebrew name for God, [Channie Friedman] added, “That’s [ie hard-core Hasidic outfits] what Ha-Shem wants from us.”

An even-handed journalist might have asked a non-Hasid to comment on the possibility of Hashem wanting anything. The idea of God having desires is heretical in some Othodox circles, but even those who allow for the possibility that God might be lacking something we humans can replace might object to the idea that His divine itch can only be scratched via dressing like a Hasid. One phone call to YU would have provided Berger with a competing perspective that would have improved his article.


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PSA (Guys got to eat)

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wow, real sackcloth

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish boys protest against Tal Law replacement, June 25, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel. The Tal Law, which exempts ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students from mandatory military service, was declared unconstitutional by the High Court in February, and is due to expire in August. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

I do not think I've ever seen someone wearing actual sackcloth. Of course, the silly little Haredi boy has missed the whole point. In the ancient world you wore a cilice to induce discomfort or even pain as a sign of repentance. The thing was ultra-scratchy and you wore it up against your skin. It wasn't a costume.

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Daily Show on the Hebrew National Skandal

Elisha, Gehazi and Lessons for the Leaders of Men

Elisha, Gehazi and Lessons for the Leaders of Men
by Bnei Levi <>
June 26, 2012

[This article was written in response to the article by Rabbi Avi Shafran, chief spokesman of Agudath Israel of America, titled “”, originally published by Ami Magazine and Cross Currents]

Dear Rabbi Shafran,

When I read your article, something visceral tugged at my heartstrings. Taking Korach, one of the more memorable boogeymen of the Chumash and comparing his congregation to that of the modern day Jewish blogosphere brought back my early elementary school memories of the Parsha, when Moshe Rabbeinu with Hashem’s help won once again while the evil Korach got swallowed up. However, I do strongly feel that you both have misinterpreted the intent of the Jewish bloggers as well as failed to properly analyze the larger blogging and social media movement, while using Korach as a parable to appeal to our childhood memories. Keeping with the motif of boogiemen, I would like to bring out another, perhaps less famous one out of the shadows - Gehazi, the not-so-faithful servant of Elisha haNavi.

Gander Sauce: What Obama should do about taxes

Alan Sorkin, in New York Magazine, gives some great advice to President Obama on taxes:
There have been times when I have wished that I could make a rhetorical suggestion. For instance, you need the wealthiest people to pay higher taxes. Why not frame it as a patriotic sacrifice? Why not say that for generations now, it has been mostly the sons and daughters of working-class families who have fought our wars for us, with many of them paying the ultimate sacrifice? This is a national emergency now, because of what happened in 2008, and we’re going to call on a different group of Americans to make a patriotic sacrifice. We need you, for a certain amount of time, to pay an additional 4 percentage points, to simply go back to the Clinton tax rates. It’s not going to hurt, and we’re all going to appreciate it. Why not sell it that way?
Also, he has some kind of new TV show out that I won't be watching due to the fact that its on HBO.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Daas Torah (is) for Dummies

I'm trying to assemble an authoritative list of all the important questions that were answered incorrectly by great men of Israel. Here is what I have so far:

Sarah Schenirer:
The original Bes Yaakov girl
1. The Rambam. Nowadays its fashionable to believe that all of the big questions have been answered by the Rambam and that to oppose him is to commit heresy. But those of us who have read The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraisedknow better. Each of the Rambam's precious ikkarim was opposed by one or more boldfaced Jewish name. Other boldfaced Jewish names burnt his books. Where was the daas torah? And more importantly who were the heretics? 

2. Mussar. Rabbi Israel  Salanter is someone else who was  opposed and condemed by the leading Torah lights of his generation. In the end, he won. But who had the daas torah? Him or his enemies?

3. Bes Yaakov And lets not forget Sarah Schenirerwho had the audacious idea that girls needed an education. Ultimately, she won the support of the Chofetz Chaim and others, but at first some great names thought she was wrong.

4. Chasidut: The world's leading opponent of Hasidut was none other than the Gaon Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kremer. Are you prepared to say he had no daas torah?

5. The Holocaust Daas Torah of the 30s taught that Europe was safer than America. What a blessing the cult of daas torah hadn't yet taken root and so many of our ancestors ignored the leaders and left.

This can't be the end of the list. I'm interested to hear what you might wish to add to it.


Any discussion of daas torah requires we quote R. Aaron Lichtenstein in Leaves of Faith: The World of Jewish Learning taking apart R. Elazar Menachem Man Shach:
Moreover, I freely acknowledge that one's faith in the concept [of Da'as Torah] is periodically put to a severe test. As but one instance, the doyen of current rashei yeshiva, R. Schach, proves the value of Torah as the self-sufficient repository of all knowledge by asking, rhetorically: "Whence did Hazal know that the earth was forty-two times larger than the moon, and that the sun was approximately one-hundred-and-seventy times larger than the earth (as explained in the Rambam, Hilkhot Yesodei Hatorah 3:8), if not from the power of the Torah?" In raising this question, he is wholly oblivious not only of the rudiments of astronomy* but also of the fact that the selfsame Rambam explicitly states, with respect to these very issues, that they are beyond the pale of Hazal's authority:.
Do not ask of me to show that everything they have said concerning astronomical matters conforms to the way things really are. For at that time mathermatics were imperfect. They did not speak about this as transmitters of dicta of the prophets, but rather because in those times they were men of knowledge in these fields or because they had heard these dicta from the men of knowledge who lived in those times
*The Moon has approximately 1/4 Earth's diameter, 1/50 Earth's volume, and 1/80 Earth's mass, while the Sun is 109 times greater in width; 1,300,00 times greater in volume; and 330,000 times greater in mass. Yet, this is Rav Shach's idea of a slam dunk proof that daas torah is real?
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Monday, June 25, 2012

UPDATED: Really? Blogistan?

UPDATED at 12:15 p.m

Rabbi Nathan Slifkin reports that polemicist extraordinaire Avi Shafran has used his Ami column to denounce the blogging community (by which I mean blogs that don't walk with him in lockstep or promote his personal ideology) as "Blogistan."

I have not yet been able to get my hands on the new column, but this isn't the first time Rabbi Avi has sunk to describing his opponents with this nickname: (UPDATED: the article has been sent to me. See it after the jump.)

I was further taken aback to see Rabbi Shafran derisively describe the world of blogs as "blogistan." The suffix "-stan" is usually used to describe an entity that has taken on attributes of restrictive, dictatorial theocracies that are common in the Moslem world. Is it not ironic that Rabbi Shafran, who insists on the unqualified, unimpeachable authority of Daas Torah and the suppression of any public criticism, uses the term "-stan" to describe those who seek precisely the opposite?
Yes, of course its ironic. Its also deliberate. Avi is very good at what he does, and its no accident that he is trying to linguistically connect his enemies with each other, even if the underlying logic is absent.

UPDATED: See the full article, with my notes, after the jump

Friday, June 22, 2012

achdus shmachdus

To commemorate the passing of Rodney King, Jewish Action has a piece this week, titled "Can we all get along" It brings together hacks, functionaries, leaders, and scholars from various Jewish sects and asks them to address the question of achdus, or unity.

1. The state or quality of being one; singleness.
2. The state or quality of being in accord; harmony.

Before I get to what the participants said, let me point out that the whole article rest on a false premise: Who says achdus is important? Why pursue it?  As it happens, I believe that  achdus  is neither a valuable goal nor a realistic goal. The world we live in is unavoidably pluralist. We all value different things. We all pursue different goals. He cares about justice; she values mercy. She wants truth; he wants harmony. Many, if not most, of our different goals and values are, in principle, irreconcilable, but many, if not most of those values and goals are also legitimate. This incompatible legitimacy is the True Nature of Things. So how is achdus possible?

It's not. So the answer, then, is not to try to squeeze everyone and everything into the same box, but to recognize and accept the fact that no one box can contain all of us. To do this is not to be a "liberal" but to recognize and accept reality. See, this pluralism I am recommending is not a concession to the failings and shortcomings of those who haven't yet found my truth, but a conclusion that follows naturally from the fact, (yes fact!) that there is no "single formula whereby all the diverse ends of men can be harmoniously realized" (Isaiah Berlin again) To imagine that achdus is possible in a world of incompatible legitimacy is an error. To chase it is to chase a ghost.

SOME OF THE PEOPLE who contributed to the Jewish Action article understand this. Chief Rabbi Saks (who I am mad at) deftly suggests that the unity some of the other contributors prize is not necessary. Instead he counsels love, tolerance and understanding, closing with the wise suggestion that if God can love and forgive so should we. Shlomo Riskin points out the Talmud has room for Rabbis who thought it was OK to eat chicken and milk, and suggests that, in keeping with the old tolerance, perhaps we should lighten up and accept that its authentically Jewish to recognize the authenticity of disagreements. Rabbi Yosie Levine, a third pluralist among the rabbis, calls for conversation (at places like this blog) between members of different groups. The point, he hints, isn't for the conversations to be gentle, lovey-dovey affirming affairs, but vigorous exchanges of ideas.  Even when such conversations fail to produce conformity, when conducted in good faith they almost always result in understanding. (And who wants conformity? Conformity weakens communities, rather than strengthening them, whereas understanding has the opposite outcome.)

AND THEN WE GET TO THE AGUDAH CONTINGENT. Really, is there a leader in Jewish life more reprehensible than Chaim Dovid Zweibel? Asked by the OU to comment on Jewish unity, CDZ submits to the OU an article that congratulates the OU on becoming more like the Agudah. For him, achdus is not a misnomer for any of the tolerance, love, forgiveness or conversation advocated by the moderates. No, he wants the real thing: Unity. Conformity. Obeisance. But only to his own way of thinking (which, naturally, he presumes is also God's way of thinking. Happy coincidence!) Zwiebel concludes by saying that "unity" is impossible with anyone who disagrees with him about gays, feminism, or with any leftie scholars who prefer the actual words of Chazal and the Rishonim to myth-making interpretations that have developed more recently. In short, he's a demagogue. And though there is room for demagogues at the table of pluralism, he shouldn't be shy on calling them on their logical and historical errors, or in pointing out their bullying behavior when it occurs.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Be very afraid: Romney wants to be the opposite of Obama on Israel

At the Yek Wedding

The other day, I was a guest at something that was once common, but now occurs rarely: A Yek wedding.*

* A "Yekkie" is a Jew of German heritage. According to The Big Book of Jewish Rumor and Innuendo, the word "Yek" is connected to the word for jacket. As the story goes, the Yekkies were the first Jews to wear short coats. When, with typical sensitivity, their long-coated Eastern European cousins defined the Germans by their clothing, a slang-name was born. I should note that this might be an urban legend.

- Interpolation -

There are some great Yekkie Jokes revolve around their supposed sensitivity to time. Two examples:

What happens when you cross a Lubavitcher with a Yekkie? A Messiah that comes on time.

Every day Henirich came home from morning services at exactly 7:30. One day in mid-winter he was late. His new wife Lottie was frantic: "What happened?! I was so nervous," she hollered as Henirich came into the house.

The man shrugged: V'sen tal u'mutar.

- End Interpolation -

Anyway, once upon a time, before the Yekkies bowed down to the false idol of Torah True-homogenization, they had a unique culture and unique community, with its own customs. That’s on the decline, and nearly gone.

At the wedding I attended, though, a few of the old customs were on display.

(1) The bride and groom snuggled together under a talis during the ceremony.

(2) An old guy limped down the aisle before anyone else yelping a Psalm.
(3) At the end, before the lightbulb was shattered, a trio of old guys croaked out another Pslam.
(4) After the tannaim were read, the mothers threw the plate on the floor (instead of shattering it on the back of a chair, or attacking it with a mallet)

It made me wonder: How did other vanished Jewish communities celebrate weddings? What forgotten customs were observed in Rome? In Budapest? In Worms? In Paris? In Fez? In Bagdahd?

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What do Israel's wealthiest rabbis have in common?

Last week Forbes published a list of Israel's wealthiest Rabbis. Among the top tier, not one is a scholar or an educator but they all do have something in common. Here's the list. Can you guess the common denominator? 

Rabbi Pinchas Abuhatzeira, great-grandson of the Babi Sali, son of Babi Elazer
Estimated fortune: NIS 1.3 billion

Rabbi David Hai Abuhatzeira, brother of Babi Elazer, grandson of the Babi Sali
Estimated fortune: NIS 1.3 billion

Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Altar, leader of Gur
Estimated fortune: NIS 350 million

Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, leader of Belz
Estimated fortune: NIS 180 million

Rabbi Nir Ben-Artzi, Kabalist Psychist
Estimated fortune: NIS 100 million

Rabbi Yaakov Ifargen Kabalist, faith healer "The X-Ray Rabbi"
Estimated fortune: NIS 90 million

Rabbi Yeshayahu Pinto, kabalist, real estate mogul, grandson of the Babi Salai
Estimated fortune: NIS 75 million

Rabbi Baruch Abuhatzeira, son of the Baba Sali
Estimated fortune: NIS 13 million

Ready to guess?

Here's the answer: They are all con men.  All eight Rabbis on the list accumulated huge fortunes by selling charms, prayers and blessings. They all make bogus predictions and claim to have supernatural powers. Not one of them acquired their fortunes through industry or hard work, but by cashing in on the hopes, fears and stupidity of their followers.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Terrible Problems You Shouldn't Know From

What do you think is the greatest problem in the world? Well, according to the bozos who actually go to shul meetings, the two issues threating my shul, my community and quitre possibly my olam haba are this:

* Men who talk during davening

* Woman who appear at shul in various stages of undres

Officially, we aren't supposed to talk after boruch she-amar, or during chazereth hashatz, but we do. (Of course we do. We're men in a shteeble. It's a clubhouse.) Officially, woman are supposed to cover their hair, elbows, knees and ankles, but many of them don't. (of course they don't. It's 90 freakin' degrees outside)

All of this bad behavior greatly disturbs the Rabbi, and the aformentioned meeting-attending bozos.

Questions for the blogosphere:
1 - Have any of you ever been inside a shul where there was good decorum? How was this accomplished?

2 - Is it possible for men to make women dress differently? Or are they just setting themselves up for a world of pain, plus long nights on lumpy couches?

3 - Am I the only one who thought it absurd that a bunch of men (no woman were included at the meeting) sat around discussing how women dress?

4 - Can anyone suggest something, you know, significant, that the Rabbi and the bozos could be concerned about instead? Because it seems to me that there have to be bigger problems in the world. Or even in the average shul. Suggestions?

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Chabad 2012 = Christianity 112?

Someone put this up on Facebook, and you can see the whole letter here. Facebook also tells me that more than 15 percent of Chabad agree that the Rebbe is still alive, and perhaps hiding in a cave somewhere. (@Motel what say you?)

For me, the interesting thing is not that some people believe this nonsense (hey, don't all of us believe something nonsensical?) but that this particular nonsense seems to be such a close copy to something we've already seen.

According to one historical perspective, at least, Jesus, like the rebbe, was a highly charismatic preacher who collected followers by the score, followers who were emotionally attached to him and took him for a miracle worker. When Jesus died, there were some from his flock who were willing to let him go, but others felt the loss too deeply . They created circles of mourning, where they reviewed his teachings, told over the story of his life, and tried to make sense of his passing. Over time, these circles produced the authorized  propaganda versions of Jesus's Life and Times viz. the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Where is Chabad in this process? Hard to say, but if there are messages going around between the faithful like this one calling on believers to spread the Good News about the rebbe still being alive, I'd say we're close to an official Parting of the Ways.

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You don't go broke betting on human stupidity, however....

Fake News Reporter Gets People to Believe Fake News by Looking Like a Real News Reporter

This is not really fair. Sure, the people look like dopes for accepting the authority of the fake newsman, but on the other hand, its not perfectly clear that they have accepted his authority. Fake newsman has shoved a camera and microphone in their faces, and asked a direct question. Even if you think the underlying premise of such a question is bogus, most people are too polite to say so, and will play along even if their BS-o-meter is going bonkers.

Via @yaakman Via Gawker.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Is the story of the spies, as recorded in the Book of Numbers, really two separate stories that have been woven together? I am not sure, but I agree that the verses can be untangled to present two different accounts:

To help you see what I mean, I've prepared an illustration. You can see it after the jump.

The great MoChassid returns

Its been two years since the last report from MoChassid. Today he is back with an important conscious-raising and support-providing post about Hasidic child abuse. Read it here.

Once again, I ask and encourage every blogger of good will to do the same.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Some simple logic about Hasidic child molesting

Simple logic suggests child abuse is more common in insular communities where they have less awareness, and where its much riskier and less accepted to go to the police. 

Let's say for the sake of argument that 1 out of 100 men is a child molester. In the secular world, children are taught to report impropoer touching and there is no taboo against going to the police. As a result, the secular 1/100 guy has far fewer opportunities to act on his proclivity. 

In a hasidic community, on the other hand, the 1/100 guy faces far fewer obstacles. Kids aren't taught to protect themselves or to report abuse and their parents are often afraid or prevented from reporting crimes.  Without such safeguards, why wouldn't there be more abuse in closed communities?
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Yaakov Horowitz: Perhaps 1/3 of Hasidic Children are Abused or Molested

The two posts that follow appeared last week on Haemtza, a blog written by Harry Maryles. I am re-posting them here because Harry's message deserves a wider audience. There is a fire burning in Judaism and it won't go out on its own. Too many people in positions of authority are ignoring the problem or protecting the perpetrators, while, meanwhile, far, far too many bloggers are less brave than Harry. They are unwilling to risk their reputations by speaking out.

There is strength and bravery in numbers. So, I am calling on every blogger of good will to take a small risk and put these posts on his or her blog as a show of support and solidarity and as a way of raising awareness. Let the fact that Hasidic children are being abused while the perpetrators are protected become impossible for anyone to escape. And yes, the small-minded and stupid will complain that you're "Haredi-bashing" but there are children at risk. Follow Harry's example. Put their interests first.

If you're so inclined, you might also send these posts to Chaim Dovid Zweibel of Agudath Israel with my greetings.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Calling all crazies

Yesterday, I posted on Facebook a picture of President Obama presenting the Medal of Freedom to Shimon Peres. This is a big deal, for all sorts of reasons, but above all its a nice photograph of an America president honoring a Jew who is also a legendary Israeli.

Here it is. See?

Unfortunately, this simple collection of pixels brought out the worst in some of my Facebook friends. Highlights of the thread follow, with names eliminated to protect the mentally unhinged:

Pull it Tighter. Lots tighter. PLEASE.

Dov Bear:Yes, yes. Let's wish death on a octogenarian legend who has done more for Israel and the Jews than any 100 of us combined # stay classy

An Octogenerian Villain.

Dov Bear: Yes, yes. Hitler without the mustache. How shrewd of you to notice.

Done "for" Israel? Done * to * Israel is more like it.

Dov Bear: Yup, and everyone in the world agrees with you, which is why he was voted the 11th-Greatest Israeli of all time in a Ynet poll

11th greatest? Who are the other ten biggest blunders? I would have had him in the top 2 at least. He is a villain.If you arent up on that all, you have lots to learn.

Dov Bear: Yes, Most definitely * I * am the one Who Has Lots to Learn. Me and everyone else who judged him 11th greatest Israeli, whereas you are unimpeachably correct. Got it.

Are you going to tell us all Yigal Amir killed Rabin? Holy crap, what a popular media spoon fed idiot you must be. Have you no intrigue? Do you not question what they feed you for breakfast lunch and supper? Read the frikin ingredients!!!!

Dov Bear: Oh yes, of course Peres Killed Rabin, no doubt about it!! Plus he murdered Paul. When you play Hatikvah backwards its all there.

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A few words on the genitals of donkeys and the emissions of horses

In Ezekiel 20:23, the prophet famously declares:
There [in Egypt] she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.
In context, this comparison is clearly meant metaphorically. The passage describes the depraved activities of two sex-starved sisters. (As David Plotz put it memorably: "Let's just say that they put the "ho" back in Oholah and Oholibah.") Both are married, but previous to the wedding both were whores in Egypt. After the wedding they opened their legs for Assyria. The famous verse, cited above, describes Oholibah's pre-marriage whoring when she threw herself at Egyptian men with bestial sexual capacities.

23:4 tell us clearly what Ezekiel has in mind. "Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem" Thus, the whole passage is an allegory for God's relationship with the Israelites, and their incurable fondness for strange Gods, and foreign cultures. (Compare with Ezekiel 16) Though the Egyptians are being mocked as sex-starved and worthless, in no sense is the passage an attempt to tell us anything about the status of gentiles. The point is that the Jews are God's unreliable wife.

By the time, we get to the Talmud, the understanding of the passage has changed. "Their  genitals were like those of donkeys" is no longer understood figuratively. Instead it is treated as a concrete tangible reality with practical  halachic ramifications, practical  halachic ramifications that apply to all non-Jews rather than to Egyptians alone. For instance:  Non Jews have no halachic fatherhood, because their semen is as worthless as horse semen; consequently there is no halachic incest between non-Jewish paternal siblings.

Did Ezekiel have any of this in mind, when he wrote out the story of the two sisters? Was his remark about gentile genitalia an attempt to say anything definite about gentile identity? Of course not. Ezekiel, like Hosea and Jeremiah, is using the metaphor of sexual jealousy as part of a grand argument against Israelite depravity. He's not attempting to tell us anything about the status of non-Jews. He's attempting to encourage Jews to better behavior.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

This week in homosexuality

This week, the IDF posted a shot of homosexual soldiers on its Facebook page and, in the manner of a suburban mom, begged people to like it:

Score! The picture garnered 8000 likes and 5000 shares, and no small number of whining and complaining comments from people who think male IDF soldiers ought to like women. Then SCANDAL ALERT it turns out the photo was staged. Only one of the fellows is gay, and both work for the IDF's propaganda office.

UM so what? Here's a little known fact, Cinderella. Your typical agitprop is designed to make a point. The IDF wasn't attempting to showcase a particular gay couple. They were attempting to boast about how accommodating they are of gay people. And just like they hired someone to write some words in the service of that point, they asked two people to strike a pose in the service of the same point.

The IDF, as we know, does this sort of thing all the time. Just off the top of my head, here is another famous IDF photograph that did not "just happen"

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Blood purity apparently still something to brag about in Hungary

Our prestigious blog award for rant of the week, if not the month, goes to Lindy from Jezebel for her outstanding take-down of some middling Hungarian bureaucrat who found it imperative to announce that he has been certified by science to be 100% free of all Jewish and Roma heritage. Phew. I mean close call, right? Think of what might have happened to Hungary had one of its top mid-level anonymous bureaucrats discovered even a drop of Jew blood running through his veins. It would have been a disaster, I tell you.

Anyway, read Lindy's far superior blog mockery, reproduced in all its glory, after the jump.

** Fun Fact to know and tell: Guess who we have to thank for this sick idea of blood purity. No, not Hitler. Hardly any of his disgusting ideas were his own. The source of this stupidity (Surprise!)  is the Catholic Church.

In ye old days of Spain, Jews converted to Catholicism by the boat load. Many of these Jews were, alas, sincere converts, but some only went half way. They went to Mass, but kept shabbos. They snacked on Sacramental bread, aka the body of Christ, but also avoided pork. Some were pretending to be Catholic, while remaining secretly Jewish; others were sincerely trying to both have their cake and eat it. The result was a huge Spanish community of New Catholics who, despite having been baptized, just could not seem to fully get with the Catholic program. This was a theological dilemma for the Church which had always taught that baptism was a magical cure for Jewishness. Why wasn't it working? Why were we Jews like "dogs returning to their vomit," to quote one particularly charming grand inquisitor. Over time, the Church developed a theological solution: Jewish blood is tainted, that is there is something about us, something in our blood, which blocks the saving magic of baptism.

For a time, the Vatican attempted to block this new understanding of the Jews, over the objection of Spanish Catholics who had begun banning the Catholic descendants of Jews from holding community positions. But in time, the Pope came around, and the idea caught on. The Jesuits, for example, expressly barred candidates of Jewish descent until 1946, and in the 19th century expecially, the Church actively promoted racial antisemitism in their newspapers.

Ok, enough yawn-inducing history. On to Lindy....

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Drivers! Cover your eyes!

I refuse to beleive this is real, but with the Jews you never know. Its alleged to be a billboard on the BQE warning devout Jews to shut their eyes, as they enter some "dangerous place", presumably the fleshpots* of Manhattan.

Let's hope this suggestion is not followed by anyone who is behind the wheel of a car.

*I know biblical flesh pots were actual pots (kikar basar) used for cooking, but today the word means "Places providing luxurious or hedonistic living" which is what moron readers of the KJV imagine the Bible said about Egypt.

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Bnei Torah Editions...

Why do B'nei Torah need their own edition of a stop-smoking system? Not because the non-BneiTorah edition features scantily clad women, but for branding purposes. What subgroup dislikes being pandered to? Why should I waste my time with some generalist system designed for the masses, when I can instead purchase something that alleges itself to have been prepared especially for me and my kind?

By the way... what exactly is the "Lebovits system?" Does there exist a non-B'enei Torah edition? The cover art suggests this Lebovits is some famous anti-smoking guru, and that the book contains some version of his well known method. My elementary Googling, alas, returns only the Bnei Torah edition.

Coming soon! The Bnei Torah edition of the Atkins diet! How to cut down to eight pieces of kugel per weekend, easily and painlessly! And don't miss the The Bnei Torah edition of Alcoholics Anonymous! You'll be down to eight shots per Shabbos Shachris before you know it!

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012


A guest rant by G.A

I received the following in an e-mail today. It is from a “Halacha of the Day” subscription service.

When the shaliah sibur reaches "Modim," everyone is required to bow at the beginning and stand throughout the duration of reciting the "modim derabanan." It is said about someone who does not bow when hearing "Modim" that after his death his spine will turn into a snake.

These are the things that make me nuts.

As I see it, if you want to talk about how Judaism views the body as an instrument of the soul and as a vehicle for carrying out God’s will, be my guest. If you want to develop that point further and say that true immortality can only be achieved by living as God wishes, no problem. If you want to drive home these messages (which otherwise do have an abstract, dry ring to them) by adding specificity (i.e. each body part only achieves its immortality by carrying out its unique role) and heightening the drama (i.e. spines and serpents), I’m cool with that too, as long as its properly situated in the right context.

By context, I mean a discussion of how Judaism crafts and presents messages, how this has changed over time, how to decode these messages, and so on. This gives us insight into how we have developed as a species and as a people, and many of the messages are useful and applicable—even the ones couched in jarring language. Thinking about what we leave behind when we’re gone and the impact that our deeds have can be a very good thing.

But, in my opinion, when someone just puts this out there as some kind of apropos-of-nothing fun fact about prayer and herpetology somehow vouchsafed to the writer, not only are they not offering anything useful, but they are bringing the Rabbis into disrepute and potentially committing child abuse of the worst order.

Fortunately for them, it is Assur to report them to the authorities.

Comment of the Day: What it REALLY means to "support Israel"

Lost in Translation comments:

[DovBear]I'm hard pressed to remember a single instance of Obama siding with the Arabs. What are you talking about?

In RW speak, a politician saying that some of the grievances expressed by the Palestinians might have merit and should be addressed equals complete "siding with the Arabs" and throwing Israel under the bus so that it can be utterly destroyed and the Jewish people expelled from the region.

The above is doubly true if the politician is a Democrat.

Please note, however, that it doesn't work the other way. If a politician is in favor of more aid, weapons, and intelligence, it doesn't automatically translate into meaning that politician is siding with Israel. It is party dependent.

If the politician is Republican, then said politician is one of Israel's greatest friends, someone who has demonstrated a deep and abiding love for Israel and has shown that the bond between the two countries is unbreakable and will be defended at all costs. (The above description is also valid for any Republican politician who is seen wearing an Israeli flag lapel pin, has an Israeli flag in their office, has ever said that they like or support Israel, has ever mentioned the word Israel, or who has ever spoken to a meeting of a Jewish organization - regardless of if the organization or meeting has anything to do with Israel and Isael's national defense, aid, or security concerns.)

If the politician is a Democrat, then it is brushed aside because, "it's the easiest thing in the world to just cast a vote," and "Congress is overwhelmingly pro-Israel, so voting for aid to Israel is a completely risk-free vote, almost everyone does it, so it doesn't mean anything and it doesn't necessarily show support for Israel." (Likewise, "anyone can wear an Israeli flag, have a flag on their desk, speak to a Jewish organization, etc. it doesn't mean a thing.")

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Monday, June 11, 2012

The more things change, the more they stay reprehensible

After the jump, you can see a Kol Koreh from 5738 (1978) in which educators are warned not to make the unpardonable sin of introducing tape recorders into their classroom. This directive appears directly above a demand that we continue to beat students, Other highlights of this despicable item include the claim that anyone with a College or University education is disqualified from teaching Torah. Remember, this was in 1978!

Note: We brought tape recorders into the class room and no one died. Remember this if you're ever tempted to listen to the "daas torah" of these men or their successors.

HT: On request (he's a  very private person)

To be shared with every GOP Jew you know

Obama: Israel’s security more important than evenhandedness on Palestinian: Though this is fully in keeping with everything Barak Obama has said and done during his presidency, expect ungrateful GOP Jews to declare it a campaign promise.

Search for the truth about Barak and Israel ;

Why doesn't Obama get any credit for keeping Israel safe?

“No president since Harry Truman has done more for Israel's physical security than Barack Obama.”

Fine, those particular words were spoken by Joe Biden, Obama's V.P, but others in Israel's military establishment have said the same. Here's the top-dog, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak:

“I should tell you honestly that the Obama administration is backing the security of Israel — for which I’m responsible in our government — in a way that could hardly be compared to any previous administration.

So why do know-nothing-GOP-Jews laugh out loud on their silly, unreadable blogs whenever Obama attempts to make the case that he's a friend of Israel?  Why do they publish op-ed pieces like the mess of lies inflicted on us last week by Abe Katsman in the Jerusalem Post? Instead of crediting Obama for the real achievement of providing Israel with unprecedented military support, these sickening hyenas have dedicated themselves to propagating the false idea that Obama has made things more dangerous for Israel. What a bunch of ingrates. What a bunch of partisan liars.

GOP Jews don't have to like Obama's policies or personality, but don't lie about the man's accomplishments. Find something real to grumble about.

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Friday, June 08, 2012

More than you wanted to know about Moshe's black and/or beautiful wife

Numbers 12:1 reads as follows:

Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife (for he HAD married a Cushite.)

The following are Torah-true interpretations of this verse.  Please choose the one you think best captures the author of the verses's (ie God's) original intention:

"Cushite" in both biblical senses
1)Rashi: Cushite is code for gorgeous. When the verse says "Isha Cushite" it means the very beautiful Tziporah. Though the same author (ie: God) has previously used the word beautiful (or a synonym) to describe, Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Joseph, here he elects to employ a euphemism instead. An explanation for this sudden and unnecessary use of a euphemism is not immediately obvious. [This brilliant little post on Onkelos's translation of the verse, offers a solid defense of Rashi's reading]
[And in this post, I discuss Ibn Caspi's extrmely sharp (but polite) rejection of Rashi's reading]

2) Ibn Ezra: Cushite is slang for ugly. The verse is speaking of Tsiporah, who was black, and therefore ugly (according to the sensibilities of Ibn Ezra, anyway) The Ibn Ezra does not tell us why the author (ie: God) chose to describe Tziporah this way, nor does he tell us why the author (ie: God) used a colloquialism here, instead of speaking plainly and directly.

3) Rashbam: The pshat (Rashbam's word, not mine) is that Moshe took an Ethiopian wife.

My vote: (3)

My reason: I prefer to think of God as a straightforward sort of guy. When He says Cushite, I assume he means Cushite. I don't expect Him to use slang, or to suddenly, this deep in the book, become cautious about using the word "beautiful" to describe a pretty girl.

Furthermore, Rashbam's reading is  supported by the legend retold by Josephus, and Sefer Hayashar. There's also a neat observation regarding Miriam's punishment.  We're told not only that she was stricken with leprosy, but also that she became "like snow." This extra detail makes the punishment a direct antithesis to her crime which was to speak against a black-skinned woman.

Please vote in the comments.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

What does Rav Wosner want from us?

Attempting to determine what Rav Wosner said and meant at the Asifa is already difficuly enough, but now some junior league editing at Hamodia is muddying the water.

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GOP Jew Eric Cantor Votes Against Israel

From the latest NJDC press release:

Eric Cantor Votes with GOP
House Members against U.S.-Israel Energy Funding

WASHINGTON, DC- Yesterday, nearly all House Republicans voted against a measure that would have increased funding for joint U.S.-Israeli energy cooperation. Among the "no" votes was House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris said:

"Yesterday's vote by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his Republican caucus against an initiative to increase funding for joint U.S.-Israel energy cooperation is just the latest instance in which Republicans have let partisan politics stand in the way of advancing the U.S.-Israel relationship. Israel is a shining example of a country seeking energy independence through research in clean technologies and the United States has everything to gain by forging a deeper partnership in this area with our strongest ally in the Middle East. It is very disheartening that so many pro-Israel Republicans who believe in American energy independence voted the way they did yesterday."

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Why all theodicies* fail

Asher is raising some questions about free will and the nature of evil on one of the older threads, so I though it might be edifying to review a famous piece by James Wood in which he discusses the problem with Asher's approach.

In brief, Asher argues:
But [if we had no free will] we’d lose something... because we would be less than human beings at that point. We would be merely robots who were controlled by God if he made us to live a certain way, if we never did anything wrong.

To which Wood replies (paraphrased by me):
Yes, we'd be robots. So?

First, how would we know that we were robots? We humans already lack certain capacities. We can't fly, for instance, or walk through walls. Do we feel like we're missing something? Or are we like the person born with one arm who never really misses something he never had?

Second, even if you can argue that we're better off with free will than we would be without it (just as, I suppose, we'd be happier with X-Ray vision) why does this matter to God? It may make a difference to us, but if God wants us to live righteously, and perform acts of charity and the rest, wouldn't depriving us of free will help to guarantee that outcome? Why did he hamstring His own enterprise? Because he loves us, you might say, and because He wanted us to have the Gift of Free Will. Great. Only, as already stated, there are loads of other gifts he didn't grant us, plus without Free Will we wouldn't have known the difference, never having had it.

See all of Wood after the jump.

*Stupid blogger's stupid spell check stupidly doesn't think " theodicies" is a word. Well, it is.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Now the Orthodox Jews have taken over America's Got Talent

Well, not exactly but we do have a finalist. He's Edon Pinchot.Singing a song the Macabeats stole.

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Wait, what the h is this?

I saw this  last night on Twitter, and gave it no second thought. A joke, I figured. Right? Uh no, sunshine: This is real:


Lord, I didn't even know he was running. Our Dr. Ruth.  Like a hole in the head, we need a sex-therapist, Micheal Jackson-loving Chabadnik in Congress.

In case you're wondering, Shmuls would be the first Rabbi in Congress, though we have already had several pastors and ministers in Congress and one full-fledged Roman Catholic priest  (JPII made him quit in 1980.) Also, in case you're wondering, I'm fine with clerics serving in Congress.

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A Rage Inducing Piece of Tznius Propaganda

A Guest Post By E. Fink

This is inexcusable. This is madness. This makes my blood boil. This needs to stop.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Down with (all) the Queen(s) (and Kings)!

This is hysterical even by the extremely high standard we set for Jon Stewart and his team of writers. Of special note are the justified and spot-on attacks on CNN for lacking all sense of proportion or journalistic integrity and on the monarchy for being a horrible institution whose moment, thank God, has passed. Elizabeth and her decrepit retinue of cross-eyed layabouts deserved the gloomy day the weather gods gave her. Let her offspring abdicate and find real work.

And by the way, I have the same advice for our own leech-like Jewish royalty: the rebbes. Its no coincidence that starry-eyed John Oliver bounces up and down like a Hasid at a tish in the second video. All blinded, brain dead followers alike, and this is the role Oliver is playing. All of them believe the superstitions that prop up their master's might, and all of them imagine that merely being in the great man or woman's presence is a blessing.

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Are our ideas killing us?

Many credible historians of our intellectual development say Plato caused the Dark Ages, I'm being glib, perhaps, but the claim isn't altogether inaccurate.

In brief, Plato gave us the idea of two different realms, one a world of ideal perfection, the other the world we live in with all its flaws. As time passed, the idea of the soul - an entity that is completely divided from the body - developed, and with it came the idea that salvation, a condition of the soul, could be achieved only in the realm of the ideal. The body, a product of this flawed world, was something distrusted, something imagined to be holding back the soul, to be preventing it from reaching its full potential.

As James Carroll says, "a collapse of intellectual pursuit and scientific inquiry was an ultimate consequence of the Christian adoption of a dualistic world view since there was no reason to take the experience of the senses seriously."  Because Christian Europe saw study as the work of the distrusted, despised body, the intellectual life of Christian Europe soon shriveled.

It was only after Aristotle, and his way of seeing and thinking, was introduced to Europe via Averroes (an Arab Muslim!) and Maimonides (a Jew) thanks to Aquinas that Europe began to awake from its slumber. These are the men who taught Europe that salvation and soul improvement might be seen as functions of our intellectual development. But for the period known as the Dark Ages, Plato's POV held sway in Christian Europe and this delivered miserable results.

I'm working on the idea that certain Jewish ideas are producing miserable results in our day. I feel authorized to say this because the ideas I mean aren't ideas that were handed down by Moses but ideas, like Plato's soul, that developed over time, as relative intellectual constructs. Though today we may see these ideas as what Carroll calls, "absolutely asserted dicta" their originators did not.

In the next post or three I'll discuss some of these damaging, but popular, ideas.  But first, what comes to your mind? Which ideas do you think are killing us? Please make suggestions on the thread.

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Monday, June 04, 2012

Spelling still doesn't count

We're not a blog that cares very much about spelling, but we're also not running for president. Which is why I think its ok, and not at all hypocritical, to give Mittens the ol' HAHA! about this:
The Romney campaign released a new app called “With Mitt,” which features several slogans -- “We’re With Mitt,” “American Greatness” -- with transparent backgrounds. Romney supporters can take pictures, with the slogans as overlays, and send them to friends as sorts of customized digital campaign posters.

One of the slogans reads, “A Better Amercia.”

Which was followed up today with a new blunder

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Zweibel (paraphrased): Better a thousand molesters go free then one minute of Torah be wasted

Today's abomination (Via RNS)
I do believe that among them there are people who are deeply pained about certain issues and feel that [blogging about it] is the way they can express their pain. I will even go a step further and say that through the pressure they’ve created, communal issues that needed to be confronted were moved to the front burner and taken seriously. A case in point is abuse and molestation issues. The question is, if the fact that they've created some degree of change is worth the cost. At the very least, it’s rechilus, lashon hara, and bittul zman. That’s a high price to pay. - Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice-President of Agudath Israel of America.
In the interest of not throwing up all over my shoes, I'll keep this short and sweet: 

Accusation #1: Chaim Dovid Zweibel does not understand child abuse. No one with any real understanding of this issue would suggest that letting a molester run free might be preferable to bittul zman,  missing a moment of Torah learning. A basic Jewish rule is that every other consideration goes out the window when a life is at risk. With this quote, Zweibel reveals that he does not think child molestation puts lives at risk.  

Accusation #2: Chaim Dovid Zweibel values the reputation of Rabbis more than he values the well-being of children.  A falsely accused Rabbi can bounce back faster and more easily than an abused child. This is why we must err on the side of protecting children, and not on the side of protecting Rabbis. Zweibel wants it the other way around. Elsewhere in the Mishpacha article CDZ reveals an unhealthy infatuation with kovod (He says outright that he joined Agudah, in part, for the glory) and throughout the article he makes it clear that he is a slave to the (false) idea that Judaism will cease to exist unless we offer the Rabbis (of his choosing) complete fealty. Both are attitudes we'd expect from a man who is willing to risk children for the sake of rabbinic reputations.

Accusation #3: Chaim Dovid Zweibel is unacquainted with Avi Shafran's oeuvre. Short of accusing Zweibel of blatant hypocrisy, there is no other way to reconcile Zweibel's fretting about rechilus and lashan hara with the work of his chief spokesman. Safran's greatest hits include: The Conservative Lie, a two fisted attack on Conservative Judaism; countless articles which disparage Eric Yoffie, the head of Reform Judaism; several letters in the New York Times which publicly denounce the mission and motives of  Magen Tzedek (originally known as Hechsher Tzedek); as well as; dozens of pieces that attack scientists, homosexuals, modern Orthodox Jews and, indeed, anyone else who fails to toe the very narrow Agudah line. Though not penned by Avi Shafran, Agudah is also famous for publishing a hatchet job on Rabbi Joseph B. Solivetchik disguised as an obituary.  "At the very least," aren't those attacks in writing examples of  "rechilus, lashon hara, and bittul zman?" Did Zweibel conduct a cost benefit analysis before authorizing those articles? Obviously not. So if its okay for Agudah why isn't it okay for bloggers? (The answer, of course, is that when conducted in the service of Agudah objectives rechiluslashon hara, and bittul zman is not really rechilus, lashon hara, and bittul zman whereas anything that opposes Agudah  objectives are by definition rechilus, lashon hara, and bittul zman. But I wonder if CDZ is honest or self-aware enough to see that.)

Ouch, that's gotta sting

Friday, June 01, 2012

Slate's weird series on OTD Jews continues

Israel Iresnstein is some kind of professional dating coach who teaches former Hasidim how to navigate the secular world. Apparently, Slate owes him many favors.

Last April, Slate gave his business a free boost with an article about his coaching relationship with Sam, an ex-Hasid who doesn't know how to pick up women.

Today, Slate continues the free publicity, with an advertorial about Israel's work with Sara, a 22 year old who ran away from Hasidut after three(!) years of marriage and now can't quite figure out how to act in a bar.

And because such things always come in threes, I suppose next month Slate will tell us how Israel taught a gay ex-Hassid how to carry himself at the local fetish club.

Bizarrely enough, theses articles are illustrated not with pictures of his clients, but of Coach Israel frolicking with unidentified women.

I find it strange that this Coach drags his charges to bars. Why can't they be taught how to mix with secular people in other environments? Why, for that matter, can't they be introduced to Jews -- conservative or reform or nonjudgmental Orthodox -- , and in the sort of places where they are more likely to feel comfortable. A book club, for example, or a food pantry. Why take these fragile OTDers to the crazy opposite extreme of everything they know? Do we have to toss them into the deepest end of the pool?

At work, here, I think is the absurd idea that being skilled at the art of the bar pick-up is indispensable. That is, you're not really free of your hasidic chains, until you've eaten pork and slept with someone on the first date. Pork is easy. Finding a first date hook up requires skills. Enter Israel Irenstein.

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