Thursday, June 30, 2016

Privilege in charitable cases

Who is more deserving of our charity? The wife of a community leader who is left penniless with seven small children to feed, or the wife of a bus driver who finds herself in the same situation?
I ask because I'm thinking about privilege, and its occurred to me that the wife of the community leader has a few of them here. She can use her husband's name and reputation to collect money. She has access to her husband's students are likely to help her, both with contributions andcollection efforts. She, and the students, can boost those collection efforts by employing phrases such as "Now you can pay him back for all the good my husband did for you." And of course, she's likely to have a much larger network of sympathetic friends and supporters into which she can tap.

None of this is available to the bus driver's wife.

But does it follow from this that the wife of the community leader has done something wrong in making use of her advantages? No, definitely not.

Privilege is an unavoidable part of life. Having privilege doesn't make you a bad person, and it doesn't mean you haven’t had struggles of your own. And if you happen to have a particular privilege, its not, by definition, unethical to employ it.

The tricky part of how all of this affects us. We shouldn't penalize the wife of the community leader for her privilege, nor should we do anything to nullify it. But we should try to seek out the underprivileged, people like the bus driver's wife, who are no less needy, and no less deserving of our charity. It is not enough to respond only when a case comes to our attention. Its our duty to seek out people who don't have the tools and resources to find help on their own. And that's not easy.

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Miriam, the Ish Kushite and US History

Does history repeat itself? Of course not. But for fun let's consider this historical coincidence:

Miriam takes offense to Moshe's wife and seeks to disparage her (Numbers 12). As mentioned previously, the Ri suggests Miriam was upset that Moshe elected to stay married to a Cushite* after becoming a top-tier-prophet. After rising to high office, he should have selected a woman of more prestigious origins and stature. By staying married to the Cushite* Moshe undermined the honor of all prophets, Aaron and Miriam included.

Floride Calhoun, wife of the Vice President in 1830, compels other prominent Washington women to socially ostracize Peggy O'Neill Eaton, wife of the War Secretary, due to what was considered her failure to meet the moral standards of a cabinet wife. (She had worked in a bar, and may had conducted a premarital affair with Eaton while still married to another man) By marrying Peggy, Secretary Eaton undermined the honor of all cabinet official and their wives.

Read more about the Eaton story here:
The Petticoat affair (also known as the Eaton affair) was an 1830–1831 U.S. scandal involving members of President Andrew Jackson's Cabinet and their wives. Led by Floride Calhoun, wife of Vice President John C. Calhoun, the women socially ostracized John Eaton, the Secretary of War, and his wife Pe...
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Who was the Isha Kushite?

The best explanation I've seen for the notoriously difficult-to-understand Isha Kushite story goes something like this:

Who is the Isha Kushite?
Tzipora, wife of Moshe (or alternatively she is a second wife, an actual Kushite)

Why is she called an Isha Kushite?

Its a term of disparagement. (or alternatively she is a second wife, an actual Kushite)

Why is Miriam upset?
Because Moshe elected to STAY married to her after becoming a top-tier-prophet. This fits the plain meaning of the verse. ("Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Kushitewife, for he had married a Kushite") Miriam thinks it unbecoming for a big guy like Moshe to remain married to lowly Tzipora. After he rose in stature, he should have upgraded his wife.

Clue #1: Miriam says "Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” The point here is that she believes Moshe is degrading the institution of prophecy. He's not the only prophet in the world. The Lord has also spoken through us, and all of us prophets look bad because Moshe persists in staying married to Tzipora. The honor of the institution must be protected.

Clue #2: This story comes after the Eldad and Medad story, which is also about someone (Joshua) seeking to defend the honor of the prophets. He says, "“Moses, my lord, stop them!” In Joshua's view, Eldad and Medad have no right to prophecize because they have not been properly elected; their unsanctioned prophecy undermines the entire institution. This same concern for the honor of prophets is what animates Miriam in the adjoining story.

Consider this possible historical analog

Source: Bar Ilan Parsha Pages.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Yay us.

Matzav considers it NEWS that a FRUM PERSON does something nice. Fabulous

Was Leibowitz right?

In 1968 Yeshayah Leibowitz offered this dire prediction about the future of Israel and Zionism if the occupation was not lifted. Has it come to pass?

The Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police—mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Forces, which has been until now a people's army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.
In the film The Gatekeepers (Israel Confidential), this exact quote was read to Yuval Diskin, a former head of the Shin Bet. His exact response was, כל מילה חקוק בסלע.

Is this blaming Israel? Not at all. No one is putting all the blame on Israel. No one is weighing blame at all. We're talking about our shortcomings, the things we've done wrong, the things we do that weaken and endanger us. What the other side has done, or will do is not relevant

And while I do think the problem that needs to fixed in the West Bank developed out of many factors, let's set that aside, and stipulate that it all developed in response to Palestinian actions and attitudes. So what? There was nothing inevitable about those responses. We might have responded in a thousand different ways. Now that we see that this particular response is weakening Israel, harming it, degrading it, let's pick another one.

Preemptive Response to those who will call me "biased" If we're aware of the same facts, yet have interpreted them differently, on what grounds do you suggest that my interpretation is any more or less biased then your own?

My assumption is that all of us are biased, just as every human being who has ever lived is biased. Only in this case, I would suggest that perhaps I am biased by my acute sense of justice, while those who disagree with me are biased by an acute sense of jingoism.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Me and Alex

I came to it honestly. After avoiding "Hamilton" on the grounds that it's musical theater I toe-dipped last Thursday and have become totally hooked. Call Hamilton a work of staggering genius and you're not exaggerating, and I say that as someone who has absolutely no affection for rap or hip hop. Lin-Manuel Miranda's masterpiece gives us great music, mind-blowing lyrics, a classic story, and an acceptable degree of fidelity to the actual historical source material. Had Hamilton delivered even one of those things we'd say dayenu. To have it all in one smart package is an embarrassment of riches.

Below is the clip that got me started on what is now a six day Hamilton bender...

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Carter and Apartheid

You psychologists in the audience can attempt to tease out the underlying cause, but I like to correct people when they are unmistakably wrong. And while the conventional wisdom might be that "DovBear always picks on Haredim," the truth is I'll go to toe to toe with anyone who is wrong. Case in point: On Twitter, the very famous journalist, Yvonne Ridley, is attacking Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. It's apartheid, she says.

I rose in Israel's defense, and was told by the famous journalist: "US President Carter called it as he personally saw & experienced it: an Apartheid State."

Only not so fast. As Carter has made abundantly clear HE DOES NOT THINK ISRAEL IS AN APARTHEID STATE. Here is his actual quote, which I've also attached as an image you should feel free to share with other idiots who misuse Carter's words. (and I mean Leftwingers like Yvonne, but also Rightwingers who wrongly criticize Carter for condemning Israel when he did nothing of the sort.
"It's not Israel. The book has nothing to do with what's going on inside Israel which is a wonderful democracy, you know, where everyone has guaranteed equal rights and where, under the law, Arabs and Jews who are Israelis have the same privileges about Israel. That's been most of the controversy because people assume it's about Israel. It's not. 
"I've never alleged that the framework of apartheid existed within Israel at all, and that what does exist in the West Bank is based on trying to take Palestinian land and not on racism. So it was a very clear distinction."

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Bye bye GOP

PERFECTLY OK: Keeping it easy for terrorists to buy guns 

THE MOST AWFUL THING EVER: Redacting a transcript.

[This is why the GOP is OVER!]

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Shame on B&H

I'm disturbed but not surprised to learn that B&H's labor practices are illegal. This looks like  a straight case of someone forgetting that the religion which commands you to close your store for the full eight days of Sukkot also tells you to treat workers properly.

Union rights are Jewish rights, Ari Paul argues. Have the Hasidic managers of the famed photography store not read the Bible?

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Lessons from our Gedolim

...because hollering at a child and scaring him half to death is preferable to watching TV for however minuscule amount of time  takes to gently ask for the set to be turned off.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Right wingers don't wish to be like Israel

If gun laws are so stupid and pointless why does Israel have such strict gun regulations. For that matter why are American right wingers so eager to copy every Israeli anti terror initiative EXCEPT their strict gun laws?

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Why Orlando isn't 9/11

People keep asking me why it's different this time. Why did the terrorist attacks of 2001 bring us together while last weekend's attack seems to be driving us further apart. What changed?  Three things...

1) Gays were not the 9/11 victims and too many of you stop thinking like rational, compassionate human beings when gays are involved.

2) We're in a rankoreous, partisan season.

3) Back in 2001 Democrats, including me, were willing to trust the president. The miserable failure bit us all on the ass with his lies, shoot from the hip decisions, and poorly executed wars but that all came later. In September 2001 we were willing to stand with Bush and let him lead. For all their talk about decorum and patriotism Republicans have never extended this simple courtesy to Obama.

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