Thursday, June 30, 2005

Onlinespiel: Biershooting im Biergarten von Oberbayern.


I scored a 765

Oh, that Pinky Schmeckelstein

I didn't write this.. It is Pinky's latest
In the late 1950s, the Bobover Rebbe was sitting in first class on an airplane next to the famous playwright Arthur Miller.

The playwright observed the care and reverence with which the Bobover Chassidim escorted their Rebbe through the airport, got him settled on the plane, and checked on his well-being periodically. Miller turned to the Rebbe and asked, "Rabbi, how come it is that when I lecture at a university, a pillar of secular knowledge, I am treated casually by the students, even with disrespect, while you, teaching an archaic tradition, are treated with respect, almost as a beloved surrogate parent, by your followers?"

The Rebbe smiled, and replied, "It is very simple -- you, a secular person, tell your students that they are descended from monkeys, so when they look at you, they see a person one generation closer to their primitive ape past. We tell our students that they are descended from the generation at Sinai, so when they see me, they see a person one generation closer to the face to face encounterwith the Aimisheh."

Arthur Miller stroked his chin and thought for a moment. And then he responded, "That may be true, but I am sleeping with Marilyn Monroe, so who cares?" The Bobover Rebbe, recognizing that he had lost the argument, never traveled by airplane again.

She says, He says

She writes
"I saw that someone wrote about how it makes no sense that I actually married that same guy who left me broken-hearted a year before we got married (it was actually two years), and how the story's end is simply 'too happy' and that he doesn't buy it, or something of that sort. And to you I say, who cares.
Hey. Lady. That wasn't "someone." That was me. Nice to meet you. The name is DovBear.

Baseball, Republicans and Anti-Semitism,

Earlier I read, and blogged about Rep. Tom Davis and his slimy anti-capitalist efforts to prevent George Soros from becoming a minority investor in the Washington Nationals.

Somehow, I missed the best part of the story. But I am in good company. As the great Timothy Noah points out, the New York Times missed it, too.

Let me break it down:

1 - Davis is trying to keep the Soros group (that's a misnomer, actually: Soros is a minority partner) from buying the Nationals, obstentiously because Soros gives lots of money to Democrats.

2 - In trying to block Soros, Davis is openly trying to tilt the field to a group led by Fred Malek, the president's friend, fundraiser and former business partner in the Texas Rangers. But Malek is more than a close personal FOB (Friend of Bush) As you may recall, he is also the man President Richard Nixon sent to weed out a "Jewish cabal" from the Department of Labor. It's why we call him "The JewCounter"

For reasons I can’t fathom, the Times didn’t mention the anti-Semitism angle, even though this is an issue that forced Malek "to give up an appointment as deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1988." They Times had time to talk about Soros having been convicted for insider trading in France, but not one word about Malek's official anti-Semitic acts.

Even worse, no one in the media seems to be playing by the Clinton-rules. Back in 1995, the allegedly mainstream media would have gone to town with a story like this. It would have been like 6 shark attacks, and 5 runaway brides, and we would have been subjected to an endless succession of Republicans on TV bemoaning the corruption of baseball, Mom and apple pie at the hands of Bill and his corrupt friends.

But today? Sharks, baby. It's all about the sharks.

Toward Tradition? Who's tradition?

Held my nose this morning, and went to Toward Tradition expecting to find Daniel Lapin's denouncment of last week's Big Ten decision. Not there.

Instead, right beneath the link to WoPo's valentine, I found this:
JULY: Please join Rabbi Lapin and the good people of San Jose, California at the following opportunities to celebrate our great nation!

July 2 - 6:00 pm Saturday evening church service at Cathedral of Faith Horton Youth Center (2315 Canoas Garden Avenue) Call for more details: 408.267.4691
July 3 - 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30 am Sunday morning church services Main Sanctuary Cathedral of Faith
July 3 - 4:00 pm God and Country Rally Bethel Church (1201 South Winchester Blvd., San Jose, California)
For more information call South Valley Christian Church 408.972.4377
Never mind all the Church appearences - we know Daniel loves Jesus - but doesn't he love Shabbos, too?

See the first event? It's at 6 pm on a Saturday night in July! Even if Pastor Lapin plans to walk to church, is this really the "traditional" way for a Jew to spend his Shabbos afternoon?

Delusions of a dimwit

"The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September 11." - Geroge "AWOL" Bush, 6/28/05.

Oh really? You know what else might permit our enemies to succeed? Ignoring a report from your National Security advisor dated August 6, 2001 with a two-page section entitled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US"

How about that, Bunnypants? Is that one of your lessons?

Who was there?

Rabbi Slifkin's book tour made a stop last night in Brooklyn, sponsored by Yashar Books (You ban it, we sell it (TM)).

Bloggers in attendance, included Wolf, Gil, Enigma4U, Prax JPT, and Sarah.

Anyone else?

Why does baseball hate America?

"Some Republican lawmakers don't think George Soros should be permitted to purchase a Major League Baseball team because he's too liberal and he has some wacky notions. I must have been napping, and that's why I missed the part where we became a country in which Democrats are no longer allowed to buy things."
As Moby put it, ain't the free market great?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Demolishing Dumb Arguments

AAC quotes a really bad argument:
[Some say] Nazism was the result of dictatorship. Therefore after the holocaust Jews ought to be the champions and promoters of democracy among nations

Again this is an incorrect lesson. Hitler did not come to power through a violent revolution, but, rather, through an election. He became the German chancellor through a democratic vote in the German Reichstag.
Though this stupid argument has become the darling of the undemocratic right, it is 100 percent wrong. And ludicrous, besides.

Hitler did not become Chancellor through an election. He got that job through a series of back-room deals. The best he ever did in an honest election was 37 percent, and that wasn't enough to win. Once Chancellor (again, via backroom deals not an election) he became absolute dictator by capitilizing on the Reichtag fire, a fire he set and used as an excuse to begin a brutal crackdown, directed primarily at Communists, Social Democrats and other liberals.

The real lesson, in fact, from Hitler's rise to power, is not that Democracy is dangerous, but that Catholics are dangerous. The bit of legisltation that finally made Hitler supreme ruler was called the "Enabling Act." It transfered power from the Reichtag to the Chancellor and his cabinet, including the power of legislation, budget, approval of treaties and initiation of constitutional amendments.

In attempting to secure votes in the Reichtag for the Enabling Act, the Nazis made heavy use of terror, blackmail and empty promises. The Social Democrats, the liberal party, adamantly refused to vote for the Enabling Act, but Hitler was able to win crucial support from the Catholic Center party.

On March 23, 1933, the Enabling Act came up for a vote. Nazi storm troopers encircled the Reichstag, and legislators had to pass through a ring of tough-looking, black-shirted Nazi thugs to enter the building. While legislators considered the vote, they could hear the storm troopers outside chanting:

"Full powers -- or else! We want the bill -- or fire and murder!"

Only one party went down fighting. When the Reichstag voted on the Enabling Act, it passed 441 to 84. All 84 dissenting votes were Social Democrats. Not one member of the Catholic Center party voted against it


Mazal Tov!

Shifra's moved from advice to shadchunus Her first proposal? Lisa and Heshy!

Other matches we'd love to make:

SurahMalka and Amshi
TobyKatz and Reason
CrossCurrents and Judaism
Rachack and a truant officer

Round up

Oprah "suffers the most humiliating moment of her life." Oh my. What could it have been? Beloved?

Nope, nope. Something better. Oprah's embarrassed because she showed up at a store after they had closed and they didn't open the door --not because they were, you know, closed, but because she's black. Ye freakin’ Gods.

Maybe, just maybe, the salesclerks simply preferred not to spend their dinner hour kowtowing to the Queen of Daytime. And can you really blame them?

And speaking of embaressing moments, did y'all catch the Bush speach last night? Did you notice what was missing? That's right. Applause. In fact, both ABC and FOX (ouch!) reported that the president's advance team started the one round of applause Bush received midway through the address.

Meanwhile, for all his fraudulent blather about respecting troops, Bush still hasn't been to a single military funeral. Guess he's too busy, you know, workin' hard.

If I ran the world...

I've often said that if I, God-forbid, were king of the Jews, I'd eventually get around to banning homosexual activity. (In the meantime, I'm 100 percent in favor of domestic partner contracts.) Update: 4/09 I wouldn't ban it.

You'll be happy to know that I've worked up a list of some other things I'd like to abolish, a list I plan to share with you, little-by-little, in the weeks ahead.

Today's entry: Salt on the table

If you're not Orthodox, you may not realize that most of us have a sloppy habbit. When the time comes to break bread, we eat it with salt, as a rememberence of the alter, where all offerings were salted. But for reasons I've never understood, many OJs refuse to sprinkle the salt directly on to their bread. Instead they sprinkle their salt on to the table, and dip the bread. Not on a plate. Not on a napkin. On the table.

Why? Were huge lumps of animal dunked into vats of salt, back in the Temple days? Or did someone sprinkle? Think about it. Which aproach seems more likely?

I've been told that we (by which I don't mean me) dunk our bread because the Mishna Brurah, in describing the ritual, uses the word "dip." Think, please. Is the MB describing the ritual as it was done in his time and his place where salt shakers may not have been prevelant? Or is he proscribing dipping and ruling against sprinkling? And anyway, does he say anything at all about being a slob, and putting the salt on to the table, when plates or napkins are at hand??

It's gotten so stupid that I, a devout sprinkler, occasionaly receive from dunkers that great, but hateful look that says "Are you sure you are Jewish?" Sad, but no kidding.

And yes, Lit majors, this all recalls the Lilliputians and their battles over the correct way to crack an egg. Welcome to Judaism c. 2005.

Today's Bible verse

1 Kings 9:11

mayvin yavin

On black and orange

There is a group of men in my shul who, between the six of them, probably couldn't work out the words to the Hatikva. They don't subscribe to a newspaper, and never wear anything red, green, or yellow. Their English is not something the queen would recognize.

Last month, the Six left behind their wives and children and went off to Israel for a 5-day Lag Be'omer trip, featuring the Meron mosh-pit, and visits to famous Rabbis and gravesites.

That kind of trip. Those kind of people.

On their return, there was evidence of an awakening: All wore orange bracelets, and soon orange flags were fluttering from the roofs of their cars. What happened? Nothing special. They hadn't taken an interest in Israeli affairs, or discovered an affinity for the people and the land. Going orange simply fed into their other preoccupations. For them, and others I suppose, an orange bracelet isn't a statement of support for Gush Ktif, but a chance to advertise anti-Zionism, and anti-Secularism.

Bein gavrah l'gavrah last week I spoke to one of the Six about his bracelet, and he was pleased to parrot all the familiar right-wing demonizations of Sharon and his government. Sharon is a traitor. Sharon is pro-Arab. Etc.

I left him with a question, a question he couldn't answer to my satisfaction. Here it is: Even if the right must disagree with Sharon's treatment plan, why can't both sides agree that he has the best interests of the patient at heart?

Didn't the destruction of Rabin teach us anything? Or, did the right-wing perhaps learn the lesson all too well?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I see bad people.

"AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals, it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals." -Rev. Jerry Falwell, 1993

At JewSchool, Moby has posted a photo of two people making a mockery of themselves, and our religion.

Though the sign they hold is not incorrect about the substance of Leviticus 20:13, the moral of the story is not so clear as they claim. AIDS is a punishment for homosexual behavior? So why do so many straights suffer?

Moreover, the idea that epidemics are divine punishments is a slippery slope. The Black Plauge killed millions. What for? Homosexulaity? Robbery? Late library books? And what about the influenza pandemic of 1917? Why'd God send that?

Write your checks to "Daniel Lapin," and he'll be pleased to prostitute on your behalf

Daniel Lapin writes:
I am proud to announce that Toward Tradition, my moral and ethical foundation, has introduced a new moral and ethical fundrasing program. Don't delay. Let us fabricate your credentials today.

Via AirTime Daily OBM

We get mail

Eliyahu writes
DB, what's with the ribbon?
Click on it, dear Liza.

Why do most Americans hate America?

New numbers [Source]

40% say they “strongly disapprove” of Bush’s job performance

52% say Bush "intentionally misled the American public" into Iraq war.

57% now say that the Bush administration intentionally exaggerated its evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

51% now say the war was a mistake.

Ok, Rummy you know what to do: Fire up an orange alert!

Who said it?

"What distinguishes the rule of law from the dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority is the absolutely indispensable requirement that judicial opinions be grounded in consistently applied principle."

Yup, that's Tony "Fat sell-out" Salia speaking, in yesterday's Big Ten case.

Or as his GOP pals call him "The man who led the undemocratic power-grab called Bush v. Gore."

Around the blogosphere

Orthomom gets her close - up...

BROTB has some good advice for Dean, or, if you prefer, a sharp-stick for the eye of anyone who thinks only wingnuts can be religious...

Condi volunteers to help bring the Olympics to New York. Will she make Rikers Island into an athlete's village for vistors from the Mid East? If she could...

When Jacks attack...

Stephen I Wiess launches with a new template that nods to his inner Rebbetzin...

Ah. Don't you love that new blog smell?

Blogging the Yek wedding

Last night, I saw something new: a Yek wedding.

First, background: 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.

Jokes about the Yekkies revolve around their supposed sensitivity to time. Some examples:

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

Everyday Henirich came home from morning services at exactly 7:30. One day in mid-winter he was one minute 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.

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. At last night’s wedding, 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?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Pennsylvanians, you know what you have to do.

Old article, but noteworthy all the same...

Rick Santorum on the Catholic church's sex scandal:

"When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm. "

Or as Toby Katz would say, "It's no coincidence the sex scandal started in Boston."

Thank God

Split rulings on Ten Commandments displays... Supreme Court: Courthouse exhibits crossed line, but outdoor tablet OK

Bottom line: There is no single agreed-upon version of the Ten Commandments, which means that any government-sponsored Commandments display amounts to government preference of some faiths over others.

TNR continues: "The first three Commandments are: (I.) I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before me. (II.) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. (III.) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. How do these words fit the establishment clause? Almost half of the world's population, including some Americans (yes, an admittedly small minority), do not believe in "God" or celebrate Sabbath. They are Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians, Taoists, Shintoists, agnostics, atheists, and adherents of a variety of animistic faiths.

Here's a thought experiment. Pretend that instead of the Ten Commandments, we were talking about the public display of Buddhism's Four Noble Truths (all is suffering, suffering is caused by desire, suffering can cease with elimination of desire, ending desire requires following the Eightfold Path) or Islam's Five Pillars of Faith (beginning with "There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet")? "

Still in favor of putting religious words on courthouse walls?

Imitation, yadda yadda, flattery

Meet the Google Mis-nagid

"A fine Christian man"

A letter to the editor:

In reference to Mack Calhoun's statement, where he used the word "Jew'' in discussing the purchase price of an item, I have waited for people in his district to come out in his defense. I have known Calhoun for many years. I know he is a fine Christian man. He would never do or say anything to offend anyone.

The word "jew'' in negotiation prices has been used in our family since I can remember. It is hard for me not to say it in normal conversation. The full definition of "jew'' from the dictionary is as follows: 1. To persuade to take a low price by haggling: with down. 2. To get a better of a bargain.

We need more public servants like Calhoun to stand up for what is right.

J.O. Antley
West Monroe
[Related: Police Juror's Comment Called Racist

Blogging Shira Chadash II

(cont from below)

According to my friend, Shira Chadash also permits woman to daven for the amud. Not Shachris - because Shachris is an obligation for men, and a woman can't complete an obligation on behalf of a man unless she shares the obligation - but for Musaf and Kabbalat Shabbos, two prayers that, technically, are optional.

How does Shirah Chadasha escape the prohibition of kol isha? I don't know. (My friend says, that in a shul kol isha doesn't apply, but I have no source to support this claim.)

Though I suppose I could tolerate a shul that called women for aliyot if it was done with dignity and modesty (and I am not sure it CAN ever be done with dignity and modesty) when it comes to allowing a woman to serve as the shatz, the kol isha issue seems to me to be an insurmountable problem.

Sidenote Kabbalat Shabbat is the youngest of our prayers, having been invented less than 500 years ago, essentially to fill the time between Mincha and Maariv on Friday evenings.

Blogging Shira Chadasha I

Lunch this weekend was eaten in the company of a young Israeli, a Gush graduate, who is a regular participant in Shira Chadasha's Orthodox egalitarian minyan. Some of what I liked and didn't like.

*Women are called for aliyot. Men and women sit apart during services, separated, he says, by a seven foot mechitza. The bima is placed directly beside the mechitza; when a woman is called for an aliya she walks through a gate in the mechitza, and is immediately at the bima. Zman Biur makes the case for this practice:
The main source of interest is the baraita in Megilla 23a:

Everyone can be counted towards the seven [aliyot on Shabbat], even a child and even a woman, but the sages said a woman should not read the Torah because of the dignity of the congregation (kevod ha-tzibbur).

Kevod ha-tzibbur is conventionally understood as the damage to a community's reputation by the implication that, if a woman is reading the Torah, presumably the men are all illiterate. But when the baraita was formulated, there was no ba'al kri'ah; each oleh read his own aliyah from the Torah. Today, when the oleh only says the blessings, calling up a woman cannot possibly reflect negatively on the literacy of the men.

Furthermore, in modern times, with widespread literacy among both men and women, the very implication that the men are illiterate is unreasonable. Thus, in theory at least, it should be legitimate today to give women at least some of the aliyot, and even to allow them to read.
Moreover, as my young Israeli friend said, today Orthodox women are seated in Parliament, so, in our day, how can it be considered beneath the dignity of the congregation to honor a woman, or to be addressed by a woman?

My one quibble with the Shira Chaadash practice, as it was described by my friend, is that single and married women alike are called for aliyot and even women who are dressed immodestly are welcome to receive aliyot. Married woman, imho, especially married women with children, should not be called; at services, a husband/father represents his entire family. And even if the act of giving a single woman an aliya is not immodest (as the Gemarah seems to say) if she is improperly dressed this, imho, is an affront to the congregation and to the dignity of the synagogue.

(cont above)

A favor for a friend

Chana writes:
Due to the fact that I've just been accused VERY unfairly in the comments when I was not even present of a) being brainwashed b) being rude and condescending and c) having taken Toby's comments out of context, I've posted my entire email correspondence with her, and that is now over at

It would be helpful if you could perhaps aid in helping me rebut all these nasty comments- maybe you could link to the entry?

The comments were all on your 'setting the record straight' entry. Toby has been incredibly rude and has accused me absolutely falsely. Then again, I have a record of Bais Yaakov teachers doing that to me. I suggest you read the email correspondence- you're mentioned as well. And not in the best light. ;)

Ad kaan TobyPalooza?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

On Messiah and Heresy

R. Hillel, says (Sanhedrin 99A) that there will be no Messiah for Israel, "since they have already enjoyed him during the reign of Hezekia."

Rabbi Yosef replied, "May Rabbi Hillel's Master forgive him," suggesting that Rabbi Hillel had made a terrible mistake.


1 - That "terrible mistake" is enshrined on the pages of the Talmud. If it was so terrible, why did Rabina and Rav Ashi include it? Did every mistake get recorded for posterity?

2 - Rabbi Hilel was an amorah (some say he was tanna) Theologically, do we believe it's possible for an amorah or tannah to make a "terrible mistake?" Wasn't Nosson Slifkin recently raked over the coals for this?

3 - How could Rabbi Yosef be certain Rabbi Hillel was wrong. This isn't a question of theology, or law, but a question of fact: Was Hezekia the moshiach, or not? This is an empirical question; it can't be solved by a Sanhedrin.

DovBear on the Parsha: Shelach

This is one of my all-time favorite of the Rashi/Ramban smackdowns.

[Numbers 15:39]

The total numerical value of the word tzitzith is six hundred, and together with the eight threads and five knots you have six hundred and thirteen [correspondiong to taryag, the six hundred and thirteen commandments.]

I do not understand this, for the word tzizith in the Torah is written without a [second] yud so the total numerical value is only five hundred and ninety! Moreover, the total number of threads in the opinion of Bes Hilel, is only three and the knots per Torah law are only two.

The Ramban's objection is facinating. Implications and questions:

1 - Did Rashi have a text of the Torah with a different spelling for the word tzizith? Or is he just playing a little loose with the rules of gematriah?

2 - Of course, Rashi knew that tzizis weren't required by Torah law to have eight threads and five knots; he knew that this arrangment was created by the Rabbis. (After all, he studied Menochoth.) Yet, on this verse Rashi suggests that tzizis serve to remind us of the commandments, because they have eight threads and five knots! Well, what if the Rabbi's had created another arrangment? The math would have turned out differently! And if the math had turned out differently, how, per Rashi, would tzitzis remind us of taryag?

Is Rashi suggesting that the rulings of our Rabbis were inevitable, and not contingent? Doesn't this view obviate free will?

Defending Dean


"Republicans say Howard Dean is intemperate for calling them 'pretty much a white, Christian party.' (Republican Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri accused Dean of 'throw[ing] some of the most below-the-belt political punches in recent memory.') If that's so, then we must assume it is purely coincidental that 18 of 21 senators--and, most notably, every Southern senator--who declined to co-sponsor a resolution 'apologizing to the victims of lynching and the descendants of those victims for the failure of the Senate to enact anti-lynching legislation' turned out to be ... Republicans (including noted civil rights activist Trent 'I'm-proud-my-state-voted-for-segregationist- Strom-Thurmond-for-president' Lott).

But what exactly did the Republicans find objectionable about this purely symbolic resolution? We might be tempted to conclude that they look back fondly on the days of lynching. But then we would be accused of hate-mongering."

Defending Durbin

DB would rather pounce on a stupidity like Lapin giving Abramoff a retroactive award so he looks good at a party, rather than a liberal comparing Gitmo to death camps, so don't expect balance from him or those who comment on his blog! ---Michael

Except comparing Gitmo to death camps isn't what Durbin did: He was quoting an FBI agent's account of Gitmo abuses and said that that description by itself could be confused with other historic instances of inhumane treatment of captives by outlaw regimes. As usual, the GOP attack-squad distorted what Durbin actually said.

Durbin's accusers ignored what he said and claimed that he denounced the American military and defamed all our soldiers. That, of course, is nonsense, but when it comes to changing the subject -- to making the speaker the problem, not what is spoken about -- no one does it better than the Bush administration.

Look at the usual suspects who led the charge against Durbin: You have the reliable pill-popping radio ranter Rush Limbaugh, half the staff of Fox News, White House spokespeople and Republican politicians such as junket-addict House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the physician who chose to play Dr. Quack, dispensing erroneous medical opinions after viewing old and edited videotape of Terri Schiavo. Frist wanted an apology from Durbin -- which was laughable -- but John McCain played the POW card and demanded an apology, too, in order to keep his own presidential prospects open. Unfortunately, Durbin tearfully complied. Once again, the Republicans showed their mastery at effective and organized attack.

Durbin should have pressed his own attack; he should have said, ''Don't distort what I said. I never maligned our troops. The conduct described by the FBI is reprehensible and is the responsibility of this administration. It is that policy and not the service of our soldiers that I question.''

[Taken from Who's wrong, Durbin or accusers?]

PS: The problem with Lapin is that he poses on tv as the country's chief defender of ethics and morality. The plaque-scheme with Abramhoff would be small beer, if you or I had perpetrated it. But someone like Lapin needs to live up to the standard he sets for other people. Otherwise, he's a walking joke.

Setting the record straight

"Liberals hate their kids? The reform caused the holocaust? No respectable (let alone respectful) person believes such nonsesne."--DovBear

That is correct. No respectable or reasonable person would believe those two nonsensical statements. I don't believe them and I certainly never uttered them
. --Toby Katz

Oh really? Let's check the record.

Toby Katz on what caused the Holocaust.
"And, while we cannot know exactly why suffering strikes this or that individual, we can say for certain that it is no coincidence the Holocaust started in Berlin"

Toby Katz on liberal Jews and their children
"It is a FACT that liberal Jews do not have nearly as many children as Orthodox Jews do.Come up with all the excuses, rationalizations, and faux explanations you want to. You guys have careers, lesbian marriages, divorces, lots of money and whatever else you want and value. We have what we value: more kids, more Jews for the future."

Toby Katz on how liberal Jews feel about their children
"If you are honest with yourself you will admit that R and C Jews do not value children as much as O Jews do, because they see children as interfering with other, more important things an educated and intelligent woman could be doing."

Toby Katz on herself
"I respectfully ask you all to read my own writing and completely disregard everything DB says I said. I've noticed that many of the comments to and about me assume that he has accurately quoted me, but he has not."

We concur. By all means: please read Toby's own writing. Review all she has written --both in the accuratly cited quotes above, and on the comment threads from which they came. And draw your own conclusions.

Other opinions on Toby Katz: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

Did we all misquote her?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Shul issues

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 undress.

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?

Laughing at Lapin

Yippers. Time for a new game.

The Toward Tradition homepage invites us to e-mail questions "you'd like to hear answered on Rabbi Lapin's radio or TV program." Some ideas:

1: How much for a 1992 degree in Talmudic Ethics, 9 by 12, and suitable for framing?

2: Why did you communicate with Abramhoff via email? Don't you know the phone is safer?

3: I see you've written an essay entitled "Ethical Capitalism." A joke, right?

Your turn.

Asked and answered

Why hasn't George Bush, a man who says he believes homeowning is key to the American dream, spoken out against the New London decision?

"...Bush would have never gotten the stadium deal off the ground if the city of Arlington had not agreed to use its power of eminent domain to seize the property that belonged to the Mathes family. And evidence presented in the Mathes lawsuit suggests that the Rangers' owners -- remember that Bush was the managing general partner -- were conspiring to use the city's condemnation powers to obtain the thirteen-acre tract a full six months before the ASFDA was even created." [Source]


The Defense Department began working yesterday with a private marketing firm to create a database of high school students ages 16 to 18 and all college students to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches.
Anyone know why these fine young ladies aren't willing to help their country, their miltary and their father by enlisting?

Reward offered for missing Torah

FYI case you notice something new in your local ark this week-end.


Ahem. Please sing along.

If you're mad at Toby Katz clap your hands. If you're mad at Toby Katz clap your hands. If you're mad at Toby Katz - and you really want to show it- if you're mad at Toby Katz clap your hands.

Clap your hands!

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Quote of the day (by which I mean Tuesday)

President Bush: "I think about Iraq every day, every single day."

...and I think about that goat I read about. I wonder how he's doing. Geez, I'd like to have a pet goat. It would be lot of fun. I wonder if they have pet goats in Iraq - Well, lookie! I just thought about Iraq today!!"

House rescinds proposed PBS cut

La la la la, la la la la, Elmo's World, Elmo's World
La la la la, la la la la, Elmo's World, Elmo's World
Elmo lost his funding, his crayon too
Axe Elmo's World

House votes to restore a proposed $100 million-budget cut for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

We're glad to see the House did the right thing, but PSB still isn't safe. The mighty moral Republicans won't drop this important battle for the soul of America - not while Bert and Ernie still lead their decadent pigeon/rubber duckie focused lifestyle.

Hey GOP: Take your thumb out of your mouth


"Yesterday at a GOP fund-raiser in Manhattan, Karl Rove explained that Dick Durbin's remarks about detainee treatment at Guantanamo Bay are "putting our troops in greater danger" because Al Jazeera "now broadcasts [his] words to the Mideast."

Today, the Republican National Committee released an ad called "Wild Thing." And guess what? It features Dick Durbin's remarks about detainee treatment at Guantanamo Bay. The same words that are putting our troops in greater danger, and yet the RNC is emailing the ad to "15 million grassroots supporters" and posting it at, where terrorists, Al Jazeera producers, and the liberal saboteurs who want to undermine this great country of ours and put our troops at risk have access to it! Is it time to put Ken Mehlman on the Noodles Jefferson diet?"

Fasting for Fallen Folios

If the torah fell in my shul I would not even bother fasting. It's an accident for God sake, why get carried away with this nonesense.My father told me, when I was a kid that if I ever
dropped my tefillen I have to fast on that day. I am sure there were a few times when my tefillen slipped out of my hand. I never fasted. Lets see, whats the next fast day we can dispense with.
Avi 06.23.05 - 4:32 pm #

Avi, Fasting after seeing a Torah made to kiss the dirt instead of our lips is a beautiful Jewish idea. Fasting may seem petty to you, but it's the emotions behind the symbolic enactment that speak volumes about fallen volumes. A Jewish man's "confirmation" is his bar mitzvah: it's consummated by a public display of literacy followed by a display of comprehension; layning followed by a drasha. That Jews are literate and deeply respectful of the texts of our heritage is not one of the stupid excesses that frumkeit perpetuates. Rather, it's an attribute of our culture to cherish and be proud of. How many cultures are so deeply wounded by the desecration of the written word? I'm proud that some of this Jewish ideal has bled (sometimes literally) into the surrounding cultures, for the betterment of mankind.
Mis-nagid 06.23.05 - 4:44 pm #

(The title of this post, as you've already deduced, was written by Mis-Nagid)

Covered with glory: Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Mee'dvar sheker tirchak / Don't tell a lie
If you do / then you will fry

"Yesterday's Senate hearing into superlobbyist Jack Abramoff's alleged defrauding of Indian tribes had something for everyone. There... and there was Exhibit 31, an e-mail from Abramoff to a rabbi friend.

'I hate to ask you for your help with something so silly but I've been nominated for membership in the Cosmos Club, which is a very distinguished club in Washington, DC, comprised of Nobel Prize winners, etc.,' Abramoff wrote. 'Problem for me is that most prospective members have received awards and I have received none. I was wondering if you thought it possible that I could put that I have received an award from Toward Tradition with a sufficiently academic title, perhaps something like Scholar of Talmudic Studies?'

There were titters in the audience as Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) read aloud the e-mail, then outright laughter as he continued reading: 'Indeed, it would be even better if it were possible that I received these in years past, if you know what I mean.'"
Wanna guess the name of Jack's "Rabbi friend?"

That's right, true believers, it was Mr. Morality himself: Rabbi Daniel Lapin!

And how do you think the good Rabbi responded to his friend's request?

Do you think the Rabbi said, "Sorry Jack, but that's dishonest, and our tradition frowns on such deceit, and besides my organization, Toward Tradition, is all about advancing society toward the core religious values that made us great, so shame on you for asking me to participate in a fraud?"

If that's actually what you think Lapin said, well, you lose, you naive twit, you.

For what the Rabbi who heads Toward Tradition, in fact, replied was this: "I just need to know what needs to be produced. Letters? Plaques?"

I feel bad for the woman...

...but expect the court will side with the radio station

(And the war president, who played the very same sort of deceptive trick regarding WMDs, probably wet his pants when Karl read him the story out of the newspaper.)

KaBlogAlah: Supreme Court backs seizure of private property

The Supreme Court today expanded the right of local governments to seize private property under eminent domain, ruling that people's homes and businesses -- even those not considered blighted -- can be taken against their will for private development if the seizure serves a broadly defined "public use."

My view? That sucks. The court made the wrong call on this one, and the fact that my view puts me on the same side of the aisle as Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas makes me more than a little bit ill.


A Guest Post from Amshinover


"Has anyone ever seen a torah actually fall?"

no but i've seen the philosophical equivalent on Cross-Currents.
amshinover | Homepage | 06.23.05 - 12:33 pm | #

Agree or disagree, that's funny.

"Karl Rove is the most despicable man on the American political scene today."

Seeking to exploit 9/11 (again!) for political gain, Karl Rove came to New York, where he dared to lecture us on the meaning of 9/11.
Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.
[Note to GOP-Jews currently giggling over Rove's obscenties: It's not attractive when the chochlate milk comes spurting out your nose]

JMM nails it: Don't forget that these statements are meant to outrage you. You're a targeted audience. They're meant to perpetuate a state of maximal polarization in this country -- the state of affairs most suited for vampires like Mr. Rove to suck the nation dry.

Mazal Tov


(Also, when I put out my letterhead, I am so going to use the aphorism Naomi Chana coined for me: DovBear: He loves a good controversy.)

Never let it said that I am intellectually dishonest...

Once every third or fourth blue moon, something intelligent appears on Cross Currents usually written by either Rav Emanual Feldman, or a commenter.

Recently, we've seen less of Rav Feldman (perhaps because he realized that he and his Torah were only being used to give some legitimacy to the site's blatantly secular agenda, an agenda that can be summed up in two words: Vote GOP.) and so the heavy lifting has been left to the commenters.

Yesterday one calling herself "Ballabus" did not disapoint:
DovBear errs in thinking that the standards of chiyuv misa are universally applied to criminals. The Rambam and Ran (in his derashos) make clear that the chiyuv misa for which bais din has stringent requirements of evidence (two witnesses, a warning, etc.) applies to punishments meted out according to Torah Law. But the King, and, absent a King, beis din, can and did apply capital punishment with no such restrictions in order to establish order. In other words there is a clear basis in Chazal for the argument of deterrence (the Ran makes this especially clear), and Dov Ber cannot call it foreign to the Torah. DovBear states that non-Torah ” [CP is] a punishment that is never administered according to the Torah’s very high standards of evidence” – and that is patently false.

2) He and others err in thinking that the Torah ONLY recognizes two witnesses as evidence and therefore does not recognize DNA evidence. The Torah recognizes an “uhmdena” i.e., incontrovertible evidence (see Rav YE Henkin’s writings for a lengthy discusssion). If such DNA evidence is in fact an uhmdenah (as I have heard in the name of some current Poskim) then it would be admissible. The status of DNA is not pashut.
Ok, first things first, I hereby admit that some Rishonim thought that the fear of death and the fear of courts would deter people from committing crimes.

[Note: To Toby Katz: See how easy it is to come clean when Torah scholars disagree with you? You ought to try it. In fact I'll even write the words for you: "I, Toby Katz, hereby admit that some achronim take a position on abortion that is far more leniant than my own." Feel free to drop that sentance into your next Jewish Action article.]

So maskim the rishonim thought capital punishment was a deterent. But were they correct?

Countries such as Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, and Belgium, for example, have not carried out executions since the early part of the century, yet these countries have not experienced a rise in crime rates. In fact, many modern supporters of capital punishment no longer view the death penalty as a deterrent, but as a just punishment for the crime. This idea of court-sanctioned revenge is not blessed by the sages.

Anyway, from where I sit, the interesting question is this: If social scientists ever manage to prove that the death penalty is not deterrence, would that obviate the view of those Rishonim who thought otherwise? If so, whither daas torah?

DovBear: Texas is Terrible II

Remember Rick Perry, the pious preacher/governor of Texas who went to church to sign all that Family-Friendly(TM) legislation?

Well it fills us with glee to report that Gov. Perry has a potty mouth. Unless... "adios mofo" is some sort of Christian benediction?

Guessing game

Yesterday, Amshinover, our excellent writer of comments, claimed to have also written books on "nee'da, ah'vayaloos, baser ve'cholov, bishul beshabbus and taroovos."

Now, some of our other excellent writers of comments believe they have spotted a few of the books in Amshi's oeuvre:

Godol Hador



Meanwhile, it appears our other friend has given up writing and gone into modeling.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005



(Though I've always been partial to Faux News: We seig, you heil)

And like the creators of those billboards, I suppose I've just punched my ticket to Gitmo, haven't I?

What does God taste like?

Kierkegaard, Hegel, Kant, Pascal and all the others who struggled to develop arguments for God's existance can rest easy. Distinguished comment-writer "Lisa" has an airtight proof that God exisits:
Absolutely wrong! G-d can easily be proven. Have you experienced shabas/yom tov? Tasted Cholent/kugel on shabas? Does it ever taste that way on any other day? Your senses must be totally dead not to perceive spirituality
What foolishness. The existence of God can not be proven by reason, and spirituality can't be perceived by physcial receptors like our senses.

Lisa, like many hysterics, is confusing emotion with knowledge.

In which Amshinover stands up for himself


The JewZoo: I. God

Jew Zoo writes:

"As humans, with our limited ability, we can't prove God's existence. God is something we can't see, hear or touch. God is infinite and we can't understand that either. What created God? Where did He come from? These are questions that are beyond the limits of human understanding. Proving God's existence cannot be done. What can be done, is to use our human ability to deduce a divine presence."

Join the fun!

If poking holes in a soggy wet paperbag of an argument sounds amusing, then click here.

(By my count, the score is 7-0.)

"I won't be back"


"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suddenly ranks among the most unpopular governors in modern California history, as residents grow increasingly unhappy about the action hero-turned-politician's budget plans and his call for a special election, according to a new Field Poll."

New York Times:The Last of the Jewish Farmgirls

The New York Times, you know that horrible paper Satan uses to defame Israel and the Jewish people, has a wonderful piece this morning on Lillian Greenblatt Braun, the last surviving resident of Alliance, which was one of about 100 Jewish agricultural settlements that speckled the country at the turn of the last century.
Alliance was carved out of the scrub oak and pine forest outside Vineland in 1882 and named for its French financial backer, the Jewish charity organization Alliance Israélite Universelle. With a peak population of 500, enough to support four synagogues, it became one of the biggest.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I kept my promise...

The remains of Terri Schiavo were put to rest on Monday beneath a tombstone reading "I kept my promise."

All along, I've interepted Michael's quest as an act of love. He insisted that Terri, like many other Americans, expressed a strong wish not to be kept alive by extraordinary measures. And rather than gutlessly betraying her wishes when the going got rough, he went to court and spent his own money in an effort to honor his wife’s wishes. He didn’t insult her memory and their marriage by permiting others to salve their own heartbreak by maintaining Terry as a hollow shadow of her self.

Though Jewish law might call what Michael did "murder" Michael isn't a Jew, and he's not bound by our law. I've always been able to see Michael side of the story. I've always been able to imagine how this all looked through Michael's eyes, and I've never had an ounce of patiance for people, callous people, cruel people, who refused to do him the simple courtesy of trying to walk, even for a moment, in his mocassins.

Michael kept his promise. Godspeed.

It's a worldwide WTG conspiracy

Gil said:

"You are being naive. It [WTGs] is a major move in the chess game of Jewish politics."

Rahel answered:

Wow. Reading some of the comments here has been quite an eye-opener for me. I've found out that WTGs, in which I've been a devoted participant for years, are actually a major move on the political chess board, part of some dark and sinister plot against -- what, exactly? No matter. The painful fact is that no one has ever taught me the secret codes or invited me to the clandestine inter-WTG meetings that surely must be held in some dimly lit (formerly smoke-filled) back room to discuss our nefarious agenda.

Like I say about the worldwide Zionist conspiracy: if there is one, then I want my villa, limousine and Swiss bank account. Or could it be that I'm just an unaware peon in the service of a higher, secret cause?

Well, I don't think so. Not at all.

I suppose this is a neat and painless way for some to deal -- or, more accurately, not deal -- with the issue. Just keep saying that WTGs are a political act, a conspiracy, that those who
participate in them do so not out of personal devotion but are actually out to destroy Judaism, that rabbis who support them are not sufficiently learned, etc. This way you never have to confront any issues of women in Judaism. After all, there are no problems anywhere in Orthodox Judaism, we all -- especially women -- should be happy with things exactly as they are, and there has never been any change in halakha since Sinai.

Right? Of course, right.

Toby the Slack-Jawed Yokel?

"You [liberal Jews] have careers, lesbian marriages, divorces, lots of money and whatever else you want and value. We have what we value: more kids...

Like this guy?

Amen brother

The great Gil Hodges, I mean Gil Student, agrees that Jews should stop worrying about being frumer than the Christians, and instead focus on being Jews. Money quote:
In other words, in order to oppose the secularists, we need to take a religious stance. So let's take the Catholic position. Huh? Let's take the Jewish position, wherever that leads us! Being "Judeo-Christian" is not an end in itself.

In the same post, Gil touches on the nonsense phrase, "Judeo-Christian." As discussed in an article by Mathew Paris, quoted at length on this blog, Jews and Christians have less in common than say Jews and Muslims, or Christians and Muslims.

Speaking of Judaism and Christianity, Paris asks "Properly understood, the two religions and their values are so very different. Yet the two peoples - if peoples we be - are no longer very different."

Why? Two answers:

1 - Many modern Jews and modern Christians no longer care about their religion; and

2 - Other modern Jews (Hi Toby!) think that Judaism should be as much like Christianity as possible. These modern Jews don't worship Jesus or celebrate Christimas, but otherwise? Hashkofically, they're wingnuts.

How about now?

Expressing an opinion famously shared by kapos, traitors, GOP Jews, and spinless wimps, Toby Katz recently informed us that: "Trying to thwart the popular will is more likely to provoke than to prevent anti-Semitism. We should show a face of friendship and commonality rather than one of rejection and enmity to the newly reemerging Christian majority..."

Ok, Toby. Now that only 19 percent of American believe that Congress shares their priorities, is it ok for us to express our disagreement without worrying it will bring about Kristelnacht 2005?

Who said it?

"Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is, we're losing in Iraq."

a) Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel

b) Democractic Sen. Ted Kennedy

c) Some liberal blogger.

d) Your mom

(In an unrelated story, George W. Bush asked, "Why does Chuck Hagel hate freedom , apple pie and America?")

Look! He can be taught!

Of all the people to turn on George Bush's war in Iraq, Representative Walter Jones (North Caroline, Republican) was among the least likely.

Old Walter Jones:
Leads the charge to convert French fries into "freedom fries" in Capitol Hill cafeterias after France refused to support the war

New Walter Jones:
Co-sponsorors legislation calling on Bush to declare victory and start bringing the troops home by October 2006.

Well done, Walter!


Someone give this man a(nother) Pulitzer

Tom Toles

God may not play dice, but is he a slippery customer all the same?

When God leads the Jewish people out of Egypt, in the beginning of Beshalach, He takes them the ‘long way,’ purposely bypassing the shorter route since it would lead through the land of the Philistines. God sees that these people, slaves yesterday, cannot magically become warriors today and be willing to encounter a hostile nation -- they might just turn back in fear and return to Egypt. Human nature cannot change overnight, and rather than magically altering human personality, He concedes to the reality.

Using this section as his proof text, the Rambam argues [Guide for the Perplexed 3:32] that God used our order of sacrifices as a "ruse", (ie: “the long way”) to wean people from the idolatrous and pagan sacrifices they were accustomed to. The Rambam appears to be suggesting that our order of sacrifice, in and of itself has no religious meaning, and that the Temple, the status of priests, the laws of ritual purity and impurity, were all a concession to the need to wean people from idolatry

(The RambaN (surprise!) (VaYikra 1:9) reports the Rambam’s position, vehemently rejects it, and articulates his own view.)

Another, similar concession, according to the Rambam, is the anthropomorphic language that appears in the Torah. God has no body, no hand, no voice, and no ability to change or get angry, so why is he often portrayed this way in the Torah? Like sacrifices, this is a ruse. It's purpose it to lead men away from the idea of multiple Gods, by giving their imagination a single entity upon which to focus.

The striking thing about this theory is that, per the Rambam, someone who imagines that God has a body is a heretic with no share in the world to come. Yet, again per the Rambam, the Torah is willing to deliberatly mislead people for the sake of the larger good.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The gift that keeps on giving

I am sorry. Every time I resolve to never again mention Toby Katz on this blog, she goes and says something, not just stupid, but mind-bogglingly stupid. Here's the latest:

You [liberal Jews] have careers, lesbian marriages, divorces, lots of money and whatever else you want and value. We have what we value: more kids, more Jews for the future.

Wow. Doesn't Tobyville USA sound grand? No divorces, no careers, no lesbians and no money. A utopia!

Unfortunately, in my neighborhood, a place I like to call "the real world," Orthodox Jews get divorced (often because the marriage they rushed into at age 20 l'shem shamayim didn't take) I also know plenty of Orthodox Jewish woman who work, both because they want to and because they have high tuitions to pay.

Anyway, the Orthodox Jews in the real world seem to love money as much as any liberal Jew. They drive SUVs, take fancy vacations, and build McMansions at an alarming rate.

But I admit it to longing for a world with no McMansions. So I suppose that if it weren't for the part about no lesbians, (and the part about being stuck forever with an unsuitable partner in a world with no divorce) I'd consider moving to Tobyville.

If only I could find it on a map...

Oversight! Oversight! Oversight! Doesn't Toby have a career? She teaches high school, and she writes for second-rate publications like Jewish Action and Cross Currents (Jewish). That sounds like a career to me. Best to not let the mayor of Tobeyville find out.

I'd hate for her to get expelled.

The Torah never chages...

Ever. Tradition and law trumps everything. Always. And forever. Which is why Rav Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook believes that in the third temple we'll be bringing vegetarian sacrifices. (Seriously!)

Building on the idea that the aim of the torah (among its other objectives) was to slowly wean us from objectional practices, practices like slavery, Rav Kook teaches that permission to eat meat was a temporary concession, a concession that will one day be revoked. (and I say this as someone who plans to grill steak tonight)

If Rav Kook is right, and mankind does one day give up meat (the way mankind gave up slaves) our decendants might look back at us and our meat eating habits and say: "What was Grandpa DovBear thinking?! I could never do that now!"

Which is exactly what we say today when we look back at our slave-holding anscestors. Doesn't this all suggest that progress, dare I say it liberal progress, is a Torah idea?

[Source I]

Throwing the right wing a bone

I'm beginning to agree with what the wingnuts say about our culture. Morally speaking, this country is going down the tubes.

Did you know, for example, that we live in a country that makes a man who cheats on his fiancée the Senate Majority Leader?

Talk about tolerating bad behavior...

Bill Frist was his high school's class president. He was a quarterback on the football team and a member of the honor society, and lived amid the upper crust of Nashville society. He dated the head cheerleader, and while he was in med school they were engaged to be married.

But while interning in Boston, he met another woman, spent a dinner and a night with her, and fell in love. Two days before his wedding, he flew back to Nashville and broke off his engagement.

Tradition! Tradition!

"There were no better days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What they were saying: Young man, consider who you choose (to be your wife)." (Taanit 4:8)
Apropos the discussion of WPGs and the so-called "traditional role of women," I thought perhaps we could start a movement to bring back this very old, very dignified practice.

Any takers?

Beating a dead Katz

A self-rightous fisking by DovBear

*First Things*
A Continuing Survey of Religion and Public Life
by Richard John Neuhaus

"In the Case of Pat Robertson" in the August issue of Commentary is a brilliant inquiry by Norman Podhoretz into charges of anti-Semitism brought against Robertson and, more generally, against the Christian Right.

Is Pat Robertson an anti-Semite? Well, according to his book, The New World Order, Jewish financiers like the Rothschilds, Paul Warburg, and Jacob Schiff were leaders in a two-century old Freemason-Communist-Banker conspiracy to exploit American tax-payers and the members of the armed forces in America by stirring up deficit-financed wars. Does that sound anti-Semitic to you? GOP-Jews say no, no of course not. But I rather doubt the GOP Jews would be so forgiving had the same sentiment been expressed by Louis Farakhan.

After weighing the evidence with care, and censuring Robertson's delinquencies on several scores, Mr. Podhoretz concludes that Jews should recognize in Robertson and the movement he represents a friend and ally.

A question: Do Jews really need a "friend and ally" who thinks feminism "is socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians?" He's not someone I'd want to stand beside at a party.

A similar conclusion is reached by Toby Bulman Katz, writing in the Summer 1995 issue of Jewish Action, a publication of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

Naturally. As regular readers known Toby Rodham Katz is a big friend to Christians.

Criticizing the attacks on Christian activists by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and others, Katz writes: "If the United States becomes a noticeably more religious country over the next few years, Jews, especially secular Jews, may feel a certain level of psychological discomfort.

As regular readers also know, she is no friend to secular Jews. In fact, if she had to choose between saving the life of Christian or the life of a reform Jew, I'd bet on the Christian. In Toby's edition of Pirkei Avot, only the Jews she likes have a chelek in olam habah, you see.

However, the specific goals of the Christian Right are goals which Torah-true Jews generally share.

She's also no friend to common sense or logic. The Christian Jews and Torah True Jews have common goals? Name one. I mean aside from hating gays and fornicators. We're not of the same mind as Christians on abortion. SRH and other luminaries tell us not to worry about evolution. And it's the moshiach we eagerly await each day, not the rapture.

Furthermore, trying to thwart the popular will is more likely to provoke than to prevent anti-Semitism. We should show a face of friendship and commonality rather than one of rejection and enmity to the newly reemerging Christian majority, while maintaining a certain inevitable wariness.

That's the logic of a kapo. Really, only someone with very low self-esteem makes a political choice out of fear. Anyway: Join the enemy because otherwise we invite anti-Semtism? Vote Gop or they'll kill us? Wow. And I'm the one she alleges has a low opinion of gentiles? At least, I don't expect them to launch a pogrom if we're insufficiently Republican.

It is particularly saddening to see Jews, the people who gave the world the Bible, treating religious believers as the enemy, merely because they love our Book too well.

Only they don't love "our" book. They've jettisoned all the parts which give it Jewish meaning. Love our book? They've nutered our book, shanghaid it, and forced it into service of their Christian ideals. That isn't love. That's appropriation.

How was the kiddush?

Reading Miriaim's latest on WPGs and getting hagbah, I found myself wondering only if the hostess put out a good cholent afterwards. And if there was kishke.

Then it occured to me that a really outstanding WPG probably isn't followed with traditional guy food like kugel cum grease. The ladies (I can call them ladies, right?) probably perfer something with more estorgen in it, something like quiche, am I right?

My official view on WPGs, since you asked, is complicated. I know it isn't "traditional" but if you look at our history you'll see that Jews have always dropped and added customs. Ritually, "traditional" doesn't mean much, not when such prized traditions as shtreimal-wearing are themselves younger that the US Constitution.

The fact that many of the woman who participate in WPGs are alleaged to be libbers (Horrors! In George Bush's America?!) doesn't distrub me either. Motivations don't matter in Judaism, not so long as "Mitoch shelo lishma ba lishma" is still operative. Anyway, who inquires into the motivation of a man who decides to accept new obligations upon himself? Case in point: The man who sits down the row from me showed up last week in a shtreimal for the first time. We were all much too polite to point out the real reason. Rather than insult him with remarks like, "You think that rat hat is going to get your daughter married?" we all congratulated him with the traditional, "Hey man, nice beaver!"

I don't think it's unreasonable to extend the same courtesy to women who wish to daven together. They're hurting no one, so why isn't the benfit of the doubt in order?

Arthur James Balfour vs George Henry Ruth

This month the contract that sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees went on sale at Sotheby's. Six days later a trove of Balfour's documents were auctioned, among them a draft of the Balfour Declaration, which helped to make a reality the modern state of Israel.

Guess which item attracted the larger sum?

Final score: Ruth $996,000; Balfour $884,000.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Shhh... don't tell the kanoim


Caption contest

My entry: "Gee. My approval ratings used to be this high."

My cover shot


Judeo-Christian tradition

What is the "Judeo-Christian tradition"?

Some kind of a case can be made for a Judeo-Islamic tradition. Judaism and Islam still feel closer to the desert than Christianity. Both, unlike trinitarian Christianity, are unitarian. Both are "ways of living" in a sense in which Christianity is not, dictating the secular details of life. Both 'Islam and Judaism believe, ideally, in a theocracy. Both (unlike much Christian thought) discourage iconism and the worship of "sacred" objects.

A case can also be made for a Christiano-Islamic tradition. This pays far more attention to an afterlife than does Judaism. Islam and Christianity, being belief systems for all mankind rather than guides for a chosen people, proselytise. They are not infused, as is Judaism, with a racial self-consciousness or blood-inheritance.

Judaism has no clear idea of Satan, and its concept of sin is more akin to disorder than to "evil". But Islam and Christianity are dualistic religions. Christianity (in Protestant form) and Islam (in most expressions) stress the unmediatedl link between the individual and God. A Jew may experience God's will but there is less possibility of intimacy: God is entirely Other. For a Muslim or Christian it may be quite intimate, almost as between father and son.

Finally, though Judaism has its mystics it is by instinct suspicious of persons claiming divine inspiration. But Christianity and Islam were born in "witness" (by Christ and Mohammed.) Both are (in the polite sense) hysterical religions, where Judaism can sound like an immensely wise highway code. Both (unlike Judaism) have been attended by alleged miracles. Both (especially, in Islam, the Shi'ites) have a central place for passion. Though Islam and Christianity have often fought, they are fighting for similar ground. Judaism is in many ways the odd one out.

So the weakest case on paper is for a "Judeo-Christian tradition". Properly understood, the two religions and their values are so very different. Yet the two peoples - if peoples we be - are no longer very different.

Why do you suppose that is?

[Source: Mathew Paris in the Spectator]

Sorry folks

A day full of meetings, and a slow internet connection makes DovBear a bad blogger.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

This is NOT a Christian country

Whenever I hear someone imply (usually this claim is made by a Jeish man who never took civics) that this is a Christian country, I want to reach for a revolver. Fortunately, at DovBear we use words, not bullets, so take that, true believers.


* Our law isn't based on any Christian document, or religious document, including the 10 Commandments. Goverment and laws do nothing nothing to dissuade anyone from coveting anything they like, to name but one example. Most of the rest of the Commandments is either exclusively religious (and therefore not included in our statutes) or are included in one form or another in the legal code of every known human society, including many that preceded Christianity by centuries.

* The founders were not religious men. Though Jefferson and Washington were vestrymen in the Church of England, implying that they were not only believers but Christian activists, this was when there was no separation of church and state. If you wanted to be a community leader or if others expected it of you as a gentleman farmer, the church vestry was an essential part of the role. But Jefferson often praised the morality of atheists and Washington regulalry refused communion.

* The Constitution is godless. It's the first significant governing charter in the history of mankind that does not invoke any deities, even impersonal ones, for support. This can hardly be an accidental omission. Also, it was written at a time when Massachusetts established a specific church (the COngregationalists) and it replaced a document (the Articles of Confederation) which did mention God.

The framers understood that if any government enforces or even encourages any religious belief or lack of belief, everyone's religious liberty is put at risk. That's the basis of liberalism, and it's something a minority group like ours would be wise to remember.

More Jew on Jew hatred from our friends at C-C

Over on Cross-Currents (Jewish) big Yaakov Mencken is pontificating on the Airmont situation. He seems confused, though, suggesting that the Airmont residents who prefer not to have a 100-bed dormitory in the neighborhood are "demonstrating the most nasty bias of anyone."


I thought the company line among the wingnuts is that we Jews should look the other way when the native people demonstrate anti-Semtisim, and, instead, accept their abuse as a sign of our hakoras hatov for all their ancestors did to make America such a wonderful country.

According to this, typically brain-dead, right-wing logic, no Jewish person should be complaining about the Airmont zoning laws. Instead, we should quietly and docily accept their restrictions, as a way of saying thanks for making Airmont such a neat and friendly place. Am I right?

Update: Now I understand. The people of Airmont are irreligious Jews, and they are opposing religious Jews, and if you work for Cross Currents, all other considerations go out the window. "Don't criticize Christians, especially when you could be criticizing a frei Jew instead," is their watchword, you see.

Do I mind?

Maybe. Can't decide.

A reader tells me,

"My town, Wesley Hills, is north of Monsey and Airmont. Currently, the Board of Trustees is trying to pass a law that would limit at six the number of cars you can park in front of a house. That makes things hard on the people who go to shul for weekday shachris. None of the shuls have parking lots. They are all modified houses, and we all park on the streets. If the law passes, some of us will need to walk..."

As usual, I see both sides of the story with unmuddied clarity. The Jews feel put upon, and perhaps they are right: Does Wesley Hills object to weekly barbeques? Will the law affect anyone but shuls? If the answer is no, Wesley Hills has a problem.

On the other hand, though, will it really kill you to walk? You're already doing that on Shabbos, right? So walk on Monday morning, too. Big deal.

A dispatch from crazy-town

Crazy-town being somewhere in Florida

Report in today's paper:

"...more than two months after demonstrators decamped from Schiavo's hospice, their convictions were undimmed. "To say that she was not interacting is ludicrous," said Randall Terry, the anti-abortion activist who has served as a family spokesman. "It would mean that every family member and every friend that came out of that room lied to us."

Or, Randall, maybe it means that you're a gullible twit who couldn't be bothered to think skeptically, y'know, even just a little.



When did this blog become a first draft for Cross Currents (Jewish). Not that me and the monkeys who type this blog don't appreciate Toby stopping by in between naps, but if we're going to be her muse, an occasional hat-tip would be courteous.

Also, so long as we're discussing that blog and imponderables why did Yackov Menken name it after a Christian magazine?

And, while we're at it, why do you park in a driveway, and drive on a parkway?

The cult of victim envy

Here, with a true tale of oppression and brutal prejudice, is a rich little white girl from Little Rock, as reported in today's Times:

Ms. Seidenschnur, 21, a senior at Washington and Lee, found herself in a political minority as early as high school as she worked in three Republican clubs.

"I was sick of being ridiculed by my teachers for being a Republican: 'Oh, here comes the Republican."

Oooh snap! I mean, the humanity!

(The really funny thing is that Seidenschnur attends Washington and Lee, a right-leaning school if ever there was one.)

Ms. Seidenschnur, along with 63 other junior idealouges, is a summer intern at the Heritage Foundation. One of her counterparts, Scott Hurff, already a parody of his grown-up self, is also quoted in the paper on the shortcomings of his traditional upbringing:

Being raised a Christian, with family values, I want to make sure I have a solid philosophical footing.

It's a wise lad, who understands what he lacks.

Afterthought: 64 fervid Republican youth, all in one place and no one has alerted the local Army recruiting office? Shouldn't these kids be gung-ho to fight the war, W gave them?

From the e-mail bag

I'm in correspondance with a lightweight who regulalry condems Reform Jews because they don't accept the "absolute" truths of Judaism; yet, in almost the same breath she'll say we must respect those Christians who express hatred of Jews via statments like, "Jews don't get into heaven," because, well, that's their religion.

That, friends, is moral relativism. How odd to see it from someone (my lightweight correspondent) who is normally such an absolutist.

P.S I am not a relatiavist. I'm a pluralist. Here's Isaiah Berlin, explaining the difference:
"I came to the conclusion that there is a plurality of ideals, as there is a plurality of cultures and of temperaments I am not a relativist; I do not say "I like my coffee with milk and you like it without; I am in favor of kindness and you prefer concentration camps" -- each of us with his own values, which cannot be overcome or integrated. This I believe to be false. But I do believe that there is a plurality of values which men can and do seek, and that these values differ. There is not an infinity of them: the number of human values, of values that I can pursue while maintaining my human semblance, my human character, is finite -- let us say 74, or perhaps 122, or 26, but finite, whatever it may be. And the difference it makes is that if a man pursues one of these values, I, who do not, am able to understand why he pursues it or what it would be like, in his circumstances, for me to be induced to pursue it. Hence the possibility of human understanding." [More]

More Republican Family Values


"U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood (R: Pa) repeatedly punched and choked a Maryland woman during a "five-year intimate relationship" with her, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday."

The woman Mr. Sherwood, 61, is alleged to have smacked around is 29, and not his wife, making the nice GOP man an alleged adulterer as well as an alleged assualter. Per the report, the young woman is a member of Young Republican which may explain - without justifying! - Mr. Sherwood's abuse.

In a related story... According to the newly revised and updated GOP handbook was, actually living a devout and virtuous life is unimportant. Ultimately the only thing that really matters is being recognized as an aggressive advocate for traditional values and moral purity. Around the world, GOP-hypocrites (there's one in every neighborhood) are said to be breathing easier.

In praise of Rashi

Yesterday I took some heat from the mouth-breathers for pointing out that Rashi, for all his talents, was not a marine biologist. (Can you read those words without hearing the voice of the George Costanza in your head? "The sea was angry that day my friends, like an old man trying to return soup at a deli." I can't.)

Having presented Rashi at his worst, I thought it would be appropriate today, to present Rashi at his best. Look at Exodus 2:23 "And it came to pass in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died..." On this verse, Rashi says that despite what the verse itself tells us, the king didn't die, but became leprous. High school teachers across the land will tell you that Rashi's insight is based on the principle that "a leper is considered as dead” (Avodah Zarah 5a), but like most things high school teachers tell you, this view is nonsense.

Rashi's genius was spotting and resolving textual anomalies, and there are three anomalies surrounding Exodus 2:23 that must be addressed:

1 – It says the king died over a great many days, suggesting a prolonged condition. (Malbim)

2 – It says that after the king died, the children of Israel groaned. Odd, right? Why a groan and not a celebration? (Sifsei Chachamim)

3 - In Tanach, we’re never told that “a king died.” It’s always “Solomon died” or “David died.” Never the king. The fact that this verse refers to Pharoh as “the king od Egypt” suggest that he didn’t really die.

Rashi’s answer (it was leprosy, not death) is brilliant*. It addresses each of these irregularities, with the idea that a “lepor is considered as dead” justifying his solution to the textual maculations.

*Yes, Rashi's answer is based on a midrash, but Rashi's commentary sn't an anthology of midrashim. He cites some, ignores other, and sometimes even changes the midrash. The goal os his commentary on chumash is to solve textual problems; not to amuse us with midrashim.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Schiavo autopsy

Terri Schiavo's autopsy was released today. Naturally, it makes Frist look like an idiot.

As you recall, he said: "I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office. She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli.”

Bad news, doc. She was blind.

Or as Frist himself might say, at the please-let-it-happen-soon hearing to suspend his medical liscense: "Don't you see the true miracle? She was able to respond to visual stimuli despite being blind!!"

Great Minds Think Alike or So that's what they're reading at the RV camp.

People who bought Silent Witness: The Untold Story of Terri Schiavo's Death by Mark Fuhrman also bought:

The Truth About Hillary : What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She'll Go to Become President by Edward Klein

Men In Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America by Mark R. Levin

Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry by John E. O'Neill

Blood Brother: 33 Reasons My Brother Scott Peterson Is Guilty by Anne Bird

A Deadly Game: The Untold Story of the Scott Peterson Investigation by Catherine Crier

100 People Who Are Screwing Up America: (and Al Franken Is #37) by Bernard Goldberg

Airmont vs the Jews?

In a replay of a 1990s civil rights court fight, federal prosecutors have again accused Airmont officials of discriminating against Orthodox Jews. The civil rights lawsuit filed against the village accuses Airmont of establishing zoning laws that prohibit all religious boarding houses within its borders... The current lawsuit centers on Congregation Mischknois Lavier Yakov's plans for a religious school and boarding facilities for upward of 200 students, teachers and administrators on Hillside Avenue.

The moral of the story

According to my 5 year old, "we learn from the book of Ruth that when you squat in the field to pick up barley you should make sure your knees don't show."

Ah. Tuition well spent.

Trent Lott to Leo Frank: Screw you

Nearly 5,000 Americans - mostly black males - are documented as having been lynched between 1880 and 1960. Far fewer Jews were lynched (one source estimates between 5 and 10) but, perhaps the most famous lynching case of all time involved a Jew, Leo Frank

On Monday, the United States Senate passed a resolution apologizing to Leo Frank, together with all of the many other victims, for the Senate's failure to stop lynching (three bills made it past the House between 1920 and 1940 only to die in the Senate.)

The apology resolution had wide support, and was co-sponsored by almost all of the Senators, but there were a few holdout Senators who couldn't quite bring themselves to say that lynching is wrong. They were (surprise!) all Republicans, and included Thad Cochran and Trent Lott who both are from the state responsible for the highest number of lynchings (MS with 581.)

Ariel's Gemarah

This is a mermaid, or as the Gemarah calls it (Bechoros 8A) a dolfinin. What's that you say? Dolfinin, sounds a lot like Dolphin? Hey. GMTA. I though so, too. And my first impression was bolstered by the breisa's description of the dolfinin, a description which sounds an awful lot like Flipper: "They reproduce like people." Even better, per the dictionary, our English word "dolphin" comes from the Greek delphis (gen. delphinos) "related to delphys "womb," probably via notion of the animal bearing live young."

So why am I translating "dolfinin" as "mermaid?" Simple. DovBear has emunat chachamim (lit: faith in the Sages) and Rashi said they were mermaids. Though you are welcome to argue with Rashi over on the menuvel blogs, here we have blind, yet complete, faith in Rashi and in his credentials as a marine biologist.

This is how Rashi treats the word dolfinin. First, he emmends the text so that it reads "reproduce *from* humans" instead of *like* humans, which, as you recall, is the sort of non-Orthodox move that nearly got Ruven Malter expelled from yeshiva in The Promise.

Then, Rashi writes: "there are fish in the sea whose form is half-human and half-fish, [they are called] sereine in Old French." Those of you who read the Odyssey, like Rashi no doubt, will realize that here Rashi is referring to the siren, a mystical creature with the tail of a fish in place of legs.

So, as they say in the shteeble: Case closed.

(Ha! Only kidding. The case is not closed, not by a long shot. See the comments.)

Down with Peggy!

Not counting the exposition on the Maaseh Merkavah written by a 15 year old in his school's Torah newsletter, this was the funniest thing I read over the holiday. It's in the current TNR.

One of the more unexpected condemnations of Felt in this hero-or-villain controversy came from Peggy Noonan, who, writing in The Wall Street Journal, managed to blame Felt for the genocide in Cambodia. Here is Noonan's reasoning:
What Mr. Felt helped produce was a weakened president who was a serious president at a serious time. Nixon's ruin led to a cascade of catastrophic events--the crude and humiliating abandonment of Vietnam and the Vietnamese, the rise of a monster named Pol Pot, and millions--millions--killed in his genocide.... Is it terrible when an American president lies and surrounds himself by dirty tricksters? Yes, it is. How about the butchering of children in the South China Sea. Is that worse? Yes. Infinitely, unforgettably and forever.
Some might point out that one could take another step back and say that breaking into the headquarters of a seriously trailing political rival might also have been rash, since it led to a criminal investigation, which in turn led to the truth coming out, which, as Noonan demonstrates, allowed Mark Felt to lay waste to much of Southeast Asia.

But was Felt as bad as Peggy Noonan? After all, Noonan's speechwriting helped Reagan to remain powerful as president. This got him elected to a second term, during which time he provided aid to the minority Tutsi government in Burundi, which stoked ethnic tensions in the region, which eventually culminated in the Rwandan genocide. Is it terrible when a president like Jimmy Carter causes stagflation? Yes, it is. But is Rwanda worse? Yes, infinitely, unforgettably, and forever.

Of course, some critics might accuse us of idiotic reasoning. But not Peggy Noonan--we know she'd understand.

Down with Daniel!

For me, this is Chanukah in June

Writing in TNR, Frankiln Foer tells us why "rabbi" Daniel Lapin is greasier than a plate of day-old potato kugel. What follows are some of the best bits from Franklin's article, for those of you too lazy (or anti-intellectual) to subscribe to TNR:

(1) "...he begins presentations with remarks that you might expect from a devoted watcher of Al Jazeera: "I don't need to tell you that, historically, Jews have been pretty good with money." He then proceeds to tell his audience how they can earn money just like a Jew. "You don't have to be Jewish to have access to the lessons of wealth that have been part of traditional Jewish culture for centuries," he wrote in his 2002 book, Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money."

(2) "Some on the right have an unfortunate tendency to blurt out the occasional anti-Semitic remark, creating firestorms that require defusing. So Lapin made it his business to defuse. When Pat Robertson came under attack in 1995 for his ravings about Jewish financiers, Lapin leapt to the minister's defense. "[Robertson]'s foolishness-per-volume rate is, for example, far, far lower than that of Vice President Al Gore," he told the Forward. After Pat Buchanan questioned the magnitude of the Holocaust, Lapin retorted in the Jewish Week, "Is it really worthwhile getting all of Jewish America in a dither over the question of whether 5.9 million or six million Jews died?" More recently, Lapin waxed lyrical about the virtues of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ."

(3) "Earlier this year, Lapin achieved an even greater distinction--providing a blessing at the wedding of (the unmistakably gentile) libertarian impresario Grover Norquist, who was marrying a Muslim. Judaism, though, was beside the point. Lapin was there in his role as rabbi to the right."

(4) "...over the years, Daniel has alienated a broad swath of the Jewish community with his flip dismissals of anti-Semitism and his frequent proclamations that make it sound as if American Jews, with their "anti-Christian" bigotry and "secular fundamentalism," are almost asking for a pogrom. ("You'd have to be a recent immigrant from Outer Mongolia not to know of the role that people with Jewish names play in the coarsening of our culture," he recently wrote on "The sad fact is that through Jewish actors, playwrights, and producers, the Berlin stage of Weimar Germany linked Jews and deviant sexuality in all its sordid manifestations just as surely as Broadway does today.")"