Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What's Up With The Hard Core Jewish People? (Guest Post)

A new book making the rounds, claims to be "the first book about Observant Jews that is written from the perspective of a non-Observant person" (I know: Doubtful.) Still, the premise has merit. It's written by Margery Issis Schwartz, a Jewish mother attempting to make sense of her son's decision to embrace Ultra-Orthodox Judaism.

At my invitation, she sent the following guest post:

I’m the mother of a Hard Core Jewish Kid and also a professional market researcher. Four years ago, our son did a 180-degree lifestyle change and became an Orthodox Jew. My mother was raised as an Orthodox Jew, but she totally discarded that when she got married and I was raised in a Reform Jewish household. It wasn’t until Carter went Hard Core that I realized I was functionally illiterate with regard to what it means to be Jewish. No wonder there’s so much inter-marriage out there. If people don’t have a clue why it matters for them to marry someone Jewish, why should they bother. Moreover, I realized that due to my ignorance, I was sometimes intolerant toward Orthodox Jewish rituals. I didn’t at all care for feeling like a bigot, and I saw that many of my friends were in the same boat as me. It seemed apparent that this was an opportunity to help bring assimilated Jews a little closer to Judaism. I also saw that there was prejudice by some Orthodox Jews toward Jews who are less observant. If Jews can’t get along, how can we expect anyone else to accept us? I’m hoping this book helps Jews at all levels of religiosity realize that what God really wants from all of us, more than piousness, is human kindness and acceptance.

I don’t care if this book incites riots, as long as people read it and figure out why it matters to be Jewish. One of my favorite discussions that was stimulated by this book is regarding synagogues. Are synagogues a spiritual experience and besides belonging to a synagogue, how can Jews define a Jewish identity and Jewish meaning? By finally learning about Judaism, I feel like I’ve become a better person. Even though I’m still not observant, I perform mitzvot regularly and that’s my way of of keeping Jewish spirituality in my life.

Who Are These Ba'al Teshuva (BT) People?

By their nature, BTs (newly Observant Jews) are idealists. They didn't become Orthodox because they were afraid or because they needed a militaristic set of commands for living their lives. They chose Orthodoxy because it satisfied their need for intellectual stimulation and emotional security. Everything one needs to know about how to live properly is in the Torah. The very definition of the word "Torah" is God's Instructions for Living. By doing what God wants them to do, BTs feel a sense of freedom from anxiety and worry because they rely and trust in God to look out for their best interests. Waking up in the morning and knowing exactly what God expects of them gives BTs peace of mind. They find the regimentation and predictability of Orthodox Judaism to be a very appealing way of life. As the BT increases his/her knowledge and the feeling of closeness to God, the pleasure received from this accomplishment is very reinforcing and he/she gets into it more and more. For someone who is frum from birth (pronounced froom and also referred to as FFB or born and raised as an Orthodox Jew), they are very comfortable with the life they live and do not question the strict and rigid rules because this is the status quo. They didn't choose this life – they inherited it. But for someone who has been on the dark side, becoming observant is a huge deal because they do know what they’re missing and yet still choose to fight temptation and live a Jewish life. For them, the pleasure they get by following Torah law is worth the sacrifices they have to make.

The ba’al teshuva movement – the return to traditional Judaism by a number of young Jews who had heretofore been estranged from it – has brought a renewed passion and energy to traditional Jewish life and community, even to those Jews who were born and raised as Orthodox Jews. From Abraham onward, there has been an unbroken chain of Jewish tradition passed along from father to son, teacher to student. This chain has enabled the Jewish Nation to defy famine, conquest, dispersion, expulsion, and oppression that would have resigned them to the dusty historical tomes of other nations. Carter’s pursuit of his heritage gave him the courage to defy the mores and culture of our society and even the family that reared him in order to not let our family’s Jewish chain break with his generation.

Yeshiva-Slug Mentality

Truth be told, not all newly Observant Jews who park themselves in a yeshiva all day to study Torah have the potential to be rabbis or great religious leaders and authorities. Learning Torah requires a high level of scholarship and intellect, and not everyone has those qualities. Yet large segments of Orthodox society place a premium on learning Torah full-time, to the extent that working to earn a living, familiarizing and involving oneself with worldly concerns, and even taking time to maintain a physically healthy lifestyle are not encouraged. There are some BTs who are yeshiva slugs that are learning Torah for the sake of learning or for the purpose of self-aggrandizement. Further, some of the BTs have no or minimal secular college education and aren’t qualified to do anything else in the labor market. Warehousing themselves in a yeshiva keeps them from having to think about what they want to do in life, and eliminates fear of failure feelings. They don’t mind being poverty-stricken or living off of charity. They’re performing a mitzvah that God commanded them to do so they feel self-righteous. This is not considered acceptable in Judaism. Torah study is not supposed to be an end unto itself. Learning for the sake of learning implies that learning Torah is an aimless, self-contained pursuit. In fact, Judaism emphasizes that learning Torah is of supreme importance precisely because it leads to or should lead to positive action. This is the highest expression of Torah itself, whether that action takes the form of a professional occupation or of extending oneself to benefit the community.

New J-news aggregator

Hetz has Avis. Hershey has Nestle. And now it looks like Yeshiva World has News For Jews.

Good. Yeshiva World was always too narrow for my tastes, promising to collect only those stories interesting to the "Yeshiva" world (and failing at that, incidently: Like Cross Currents, Yeshiva World is treating the Kolko story as if it were radioactive.)

News for Jews, on the other hand, appears commited to posting all sorts of Jewish stories.

This just in


Goodness. What other fabulous secrets will the Pope soon reveal? One waits with bated breath.

[Hat tip: N4J]

A DovBear Discussion: What does Israel owe Darfur?

Does Israel have a moral obligation to the victims of Darfur?

I can't answer this. Can you?

Tempers churn over Tnuva mislabeling

Jerusalem Post: Tempers churn over Tnuva mislabeling

Today's religious scandal involves Tenuva, the largest dairy in Israel, and the fact that the Chief Rabbinate has allowed Tenuva to conceal the fact that, occasionally, cholev stam* derivatives find their way into Tenuva products. Members of the Movement for Fair Government have petitioned the government to require all products containing such milk to be specifically marked as such.

Maybe it's the American in me, but I think this is idiotic.

I agree a company should be prevented from printing lies on it's labels -for example, I would not want Tenuva to claim their products were Cholev Yisroel if they are not- but why should Tenuva be forced to announce the presence of cholov stam? No issue of public health is a stake. If Tenuva wishes to alienate customers with misleading labels that's Tenuva's perogative. And if Tenuva's customers wish to take their business to a competitor who is willing to promise that their product is 100 percent cholov yisroel, well, god bless them both.

*The article refers to chalav nachri, not chalav stam, but I think this must be a mistake. All agree that a Jew may not drink chalav nochri.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Hasidic Proteksia?

Whoever comes to my gravesite and recites the Ten Psalms of the Tikkun K'lali ('General Remedy'), and gives even as little as a penny to charity for my sake, then, no matter how serious his sins may be, I will do everything in my power -- spanning the length and breadth of Creation -- to cleanse and protect him. By his very payos ('sidecurls') I will pull him out of Gehenna (purgatory)!
(Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom #141).

I believe with perfect faith tha G-d rewards those who keep His commandments, and punishes those who transgress Him.
(The Rambam's 13 principles of Jewish Faith #11)

Can both #141 and #11 be true? Surely not. Either God punishes and rewards, each according to his deeds, or Rav Nachman provides a bit of Proteksia for people with payos who make the long trip to his grave in Brestlav.

Maybe I have an acute sense of justice, but Rav Nachman's promise offends me. The guy who gives a penny in Brestlav isn't entitled to special treatment; he should be judged according to the same set of rules that govern the rest of us. If favored treatment is available for Rav Nachman's believers, the whole system breaks down. In fact, if there is anything to Rav Nachman's promise, why keep any mitzvos at all? Let's spend our lives mudering, fornicating and desecrating Shabbos. So long as we make it to Rav Nachman's grave before the STDs or the next-of-kin catch up with us, all will be well.

Anyway, we believe that God's system of justice is self-sustaining: Reward comes as a direct result of our actions. When good things happen to us, it isn't a sign of God's favor, but a natural consequence of the things we do. Just like STDs, in fact. The technical term for how we always reap what we sow is mida k'neged mida, and it is very hard to see how Rav Nachman's promise honors that principle.

Wingnut Websites

Man, I love reading wingnut websites. Where else can you find a scary-faced someone illiterately making the case that mastery of English is essential to American citizenship? Where else can you find history so awful a comic book wouldn't print it?

Check this out:
According to some of the suggestions being proposed by our illustrious government - all illegal immigrants if they want to become legal citizens they are going to have to learn English, and forget about singing the National Anthem in Spanish. In other words, learn English or else! . . .or else what? I guess everyone not learning to speak English in a certain length of time will be sent to the back of the class. Then what? Heaven knows - deportation is out of the question!
And what about columnists who misuse ellipses and tie their sentences into grammatical knots? Can they be deported, too?
From the same article:
Okay it’s official — I hope! It has taken 200 plus years for English to become America’s official language. Maybe we missed something here. Did another boat come in behind the Mayflower with people speaking in unknown tongues?
Nope, no other boats came in behind the Mayflower carrying people speaking unknown tounges. Not one. My own sainted great-grandfather swam across the Atlantic, having been denied admission to the boat that brought across my holy great-grandmother after he flunked the mandatory English test. (Great-grandma studied nights.)

Scorecards! Get your scorecards! Can't keep track of the schizophrenia without scorecards

Wow. Look how liberal Cross Currents has become:
Two days ago, the NY Times had an article about a man freed by DNA testing, after being convicted and serving ten years in jail for murder.

This, despite the fact that prosecutors insisted they had a valid confession from him.

The relevance to a current situation in Israel is rather obvious, is it not?
The same people who cheer the death penalty in all its, um, executions, now fret that the accused don’t get a fair shake. So much for principle. It really is a matter of who's ox is being gored.

DovBear Action Alert

If your local Rabbi stood on his hind legs, last year, and screamed about wigs or water, do DovBear a favor and ask him when he plans to address the sex abuse scandal.

As Simcha noted yesterday in a rare, but welcome display of cynicism, our Rabbis are happy to holler when a Jewish restaurateur is caught anywhere near non-kosher meat, but they are suddenly circumspect when children at risk. Musn't jeapordize the rabbi's income, they mumble. Musn't damage the yeshiva's reputation.

And meanwhile the abidication of responsibility over at Cross Currents continues. The same blog that gleefully spreads lies about irreligious Jews, can't muster the courage to say even one word about Kolko. If they aim to be the "place you go to find a well-articulated Torah perspective on the issues of the day" why are they silent now?

Monday, May 29, 2006

More Honesty and Integrity from the Bush Administration

Talon News, Jeff Gannon, Armstrong Williams, Judith Miller, and now this.

Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Hat-tip TTC

Exactly backwards

A long piece at OpinionJournal trots out the tired claim that the Gaza withdrawal "failed utterly" and "produced the worst set of results imaginable."

As if.

The "worst set of results imaginable" would be any of the following:

(a) A Jewish minority in Israel
(b) A permanent occupation, or de facto apartheid

(de fac·to adv actual without being legally or officially established;
a·part·heid n A policy or practice of separating or segregating groups.)

(c) Israel renouncing the democratic form of government
(d) A permanent state of civil war with the Palestinians.

By leaving the territories the Jews will, by the grace of God, avoid all of that.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Pope in Poland

Pope at Auschwitz death camp:

"In a place like this, words fail. In the end, there can only be a dread silence - a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this? Where was God in those days? Why was he silent? How could he permit this endless slaughter, this triumph of evil?"' he said in a speech delivered in Italian."

Hey Pope! how about you turn that question on yourself and on your office. "Pius 12, why did YOU remain silent. How could YOU tolerate this. Where was THE CHURCH in those days? Why was IT silent? How could IT permit this endless slaughter, this triumph of evil?""

Hat-tip: Enigma4U

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Why the rich should pay more taxes

The rich should pay more taxes, because the rich get more from the government.

Consider defense, for example, which makes up 20% of the budget. Defending the country benefits everyone; but it benefits the rich more, because they have more to defend. It's the same principle as insurance: if you have a bigger house or a fancier car, you pay more to insure it.

Social security payments, which make up another 20% of the budget, are dependent on income-- if you've put more into the system, you get higher payments when you retire.

Investments in the nation's infrastructure-- transportation, education, research & development, energy, police subsidies, the courts, etc.-- again are more useful the more you have. The interstates and airports benefit interstate commerce and people who can travel, not ghetto dwellers. Energy is used disproportionately by the rich and by industry.

As for public education, the better public schools are the ones attended by the moderately well off. The very well off ship their offspring off to private schools; but it is their companies that benefit from a well-educated public. (If you don't think that's a benefit, go start up an engineering firm, or even a factory, in El Salvador. )

The FDIC and the S&L bailout obviously most benefit investors and large depositors. A neat example: a smooth operator bought a failing S&L for $350 million, then received $2 billion from the government to help resurrect it.

Beyond all this, the federal budget is top-heavy with corporate welfare. Counting tax breaks and expenditures, corporations and the rich snuffle up over $400 billion a year-- compare that to the $116 billion spent on programs for the poor.

Where's all that money go? There's direct subsidies to agribusiness ($18 billion a year), to export companies, to maritime shippers, and to various industries-- airlines, nuclear power companies, timber companies, mining companies, automakers, drug companies. There's billions of dollars in military waste and fraud. And there's untold billions in tax credits, deductions, and loopholes. Accelerated depreciation alone, for instance, is estimated to cost the Treasury $37 billion a year-- billions more than the mortgage interest deduction. (Which itself benefits the people with the biggest mortgages.)

How about social spending? Well, putting aside the merely religious consideration that the richest nation on the planet can well afford to lob a few farthings at the hungry, I'd argue that it's social spending-- the New Deal-- that's kept this country capitalistic. Tempting as it is for the rich to take all the wealth of a country, it's really not wise to leave the poor with no stake in the system, and every reason to agitate for imposing a new system of their own. Think of social spending as insurance against violent revolution or social upheaval-- and again, like any insurance, it's of most benefit to those with the biggest boodle.

[Source: Mark Rosenfelder @ The MetaVerse]

Friday, May 26, 2006

Casual Anti-Semitism

"When you think of Jewish people, you think of successful businessmen. You think of people that are very wise in finance and who are prosperous. And when you think of poor countries around the world, you'd never would consider the nation of Israel. But in parts of the Jewish nation, poverty is growing at an alarming rate. Watch this.
It shocks people to hear that there's poverty in Israel. We assume Jewish people are very thrifty, extraordinarily good business people. There shouldn't be poverty there. What's the story?

Who's speaking? Pat Robertson, Official Friend and Ally of the Jewish people.


Man this stinks

Have I got it straight? Are the same people who think it's ok for the Federal government to listen to phone calls and to compile our personal information into enormous databases, now insisting that their offices are protected from properly authorized search warrants?

And how outrageous is it that that the president - the same president who authorized the limitation of our own civil liberties - is now trying to placate the hypocritical whiners in Congress by announcing that records seized in the search of Rep. Jefferson's office will be off-limits to investigators for 45 days?

From where I sit, it looks like Bush and the boys who control Congress are trying to cash-in on a two for one. They get to humiliate a dishonest Democrat and deflect attention from their own misdeeds, while simultaneously securing a policy that disallows searches of their own offices going forward.

Lazer vs the Man

Lazer Brody: For the many of you who are writing and asking, I am strongly opposed to the Israeli Government Rabbinate's position of not recognizing the conversions of all certified Orthodox rabbis in the diaspora. This decision negates the spirit of smicha, and is a blow to the dignity of rabbis all across the globe. As a matter of solidarity, I want my colleagues around the world to know that I hereby protest the affront. The Israeli Rabbinate has no right to rewrite the Shukchan Oruch in their own quest for oligarchy.

Sing it, my holy brother. I agree with you 100 percent, but find myself wondering exactly how far you're willing to take the premise. For example, can we expect a follow-up post, saying:

...I am strongly opposed to the Hasidic position of not recognizing the (1) kashrus, (2) eruv and (3) mikva supervision of other certified Orthodox rabbis. This decision negates the spirit of smicha, and is a blow to the dignity of rabbis all across the globe. As a matter of solidarity, I want my colleagues around the world to know that I hereby protest the affront. The Hasidim have no right to rewrite the Shukchan Oruch in their own quest for hegemony.
I don't mean to pick on Lazer, but I always chuckle when I catch someone from the Hasidic side of the tracks insisting on the inviolability of the Shulchan Orach. If it's impossible to rewrite the Shulchan Orach, why do Hasidim, for example, ignore z'manim? If the shulchan orach says that it is ok for an observant Jew to eat in the home of any Shabbos observer [hat-tip Charlie Hall] why do the hasidim say no?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Blast from the past

This is a picture of an East Side Market on the day before Rosh Hashana 1899. Don't faint, but it appears that in the old days Jewish men and women mingled side-by-side.

No bicycles, though.

President Pelosi?

Officials: Hastert "In the Mix" of Congressional Bribery Investigation: Federal officials say the Congressional bribery investigation now includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, [DB: Wait! I though this was a bipartsian scandal?!] based on information from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

The other tribes were represented by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who reportedly has provided details of his dealings with Hastert as part of his plea agreement with the government.

Wow, so that means if we take back the House, it will be President Pelosi once the scandals swallow Bush and Cheney. President Pelosi! (Yes, that gives pause, even to me, but it's hard to see how a nice liberal from San Francsico wouldn't be a huge improvment over the Boy Blunder.)

Meanwhile, Satmar tackles the big issues

Friday, May 19, 2006 -- The Jewish Press
My Machberes Column by Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum,
Congregation Bnai Israel, Director of Igud Horabnim


As spring brings milder weather, the Hisachdus Horabbonim, the Chassidishe Rabbinical organization headquartered in Williamsburg, re-issued a kol koreh (proclamation) dated June 1987, prohibiting the use of bicycles by girls and strongly discouraging bicycle riding for boys. The Satmar Yeshiva, likewise, issued a kol koreh restating the spiritual danger of bike riding. The kol koreh recalls the decision of Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, zt"l (1888-1979), Satmar Rebbe, while in the midst of designing the insular Chassidishe community of Kiryas Yoel in Monroe, NY, in the early 1970's, to prohibit children commuting to yeshivas by bicycles, incurring instead large expenses in providing school bus services.

The Satmar Yeshiva kol koreh warns that having mobility by bicycle allows children to intermingle with children from other backgrounds and also making the children physically vulnerable to injury. The call is intended to prohibit bicycle use specifically for small children. As a child grows, he will mature without a need for a bicycle. Der Yid, the popular Williamsburg Satmar Yiddish weekly, reprinted its editorial of June 4th, 1997, titled "No to Bicycles." The editorial notes that calls by Hatzolah for bicycle riders to wear safety helmets for protection against head injury will not protect the rest of the body, nor do safety helmets protect pedestrians from being hit and injured by bicycles. Our fathers and grandfathers used bicycles in Europe because they did not have cars and because the danger of injury by cars was minimal. They could not afford to travel by train, nor did the trains stop in every shtetl. Why, asks the editorial, should we now allow our children to be vulnerable to physical harm?

In June 2005, the Tzeitung News Report, the Satmar Yiddish weekly based in Boro Park, carried an article titled "Bicycles for Girls" by Rabbi Y. M. Sofer. The article focused on the impropriety of girls using two-wheeled bicycles. Rabbi Sofer writes a column every week focusing on current issues confronting Chassidishe communities in America.

Rabbi Sofer noted that the bicycle was used in observant circles bywomen or girls. In his responsa (Beer Moshe), Rabbi. Moshe Stern, zt"Z (d. 1997), the Debreciner Rav, advises that girls older than seven years should refrain from using a two-wheeled bicycle. He feltthat modesty considerations precluded girls, and of course women, from riding in public places.

Der Yid, the noting that several yeshivas already forbade students to use bicycles, called on all Torah institutions to ban the use of bicycles by their students.

[Via Mis-nagid]

Department of Corrections

Orthomom: DB, you really should issue a correction. This event is by no means organized by the "modern world", as many of your commenters here have already pointed out. To say the "Yeshiva World" is "twiddling their thumbs" is silly in light of the fact that these organizations largely help kids from the "Yeshiva world".

You are right. This event is being organized by people who would not think of themselves as "modern." Thank you Orthomom (and others) for bringing this to my attention.

Though my example fails, the overall point of my post adheres: Lakewood and Monsey are inveighing against the Internet, while child molesters lurk in their camps and schools. Also, the modern world, by which I mean the day schools, have a much better record of attacking real issues like abuse, eating disorders, drugs and so on.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pope Shlomo I

Yum. Tastes like humas.

Extreme makeover for the Pope? Did Benedict grow a beard, and change his robes when no one was looking? Well, no. The man having his ring kissed is Shlomo Amar, Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, who is in the news this week for announcing that he will recognize the divorce decrees and conversions to Judaism of just 50 Orthodox rabbis.

"The impression is that Amar is trying to become a sort of Jewish pope," an official of the RCA told Haaretz this week.

Who are the fabulous 50? Unclear, but a spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate confirmed that "Your Local Orthodox Rabbi isn't included." It is not clear is how the 50 were chosen, nor is it known what it might cost a rabbi to have his name added to the list.

Also denied was a report that Amar's ruling came about because he was mad that "not one Ashkenazic Rabbi in the world is willing to eat in his house on Pesach."

Update: Krum had it first

600,000 Page Views

Go me.

And because I am in a horn-blowing sort of mood, here are some other stats:


Total 323,009
Average Per Day 1,224
Average Visit Length 5:04
This Week 8,570


Total 600,913
Average Per Day 2,158
Average Per Visit 1.8
This Week 15,106

A special thank you to LkwdYid and the many people arguing with him concurrently on at least three different threads for providing at least 10 percent of that total

Received by email

While the yeshiva world is fiddling away at Asifas about ball playing Rabbis, the modern world acts.

Received by email:

Subject: FTS Email: Important Conference for Parents in Response to the events of last weekend

There will be an important conference for parents and members of the community this Thursday evening at the White Shul at 8pm.

Conference is titled:

Preparing to answer the questions your children don't ask
Featured Speakers are:
Rabbi Dovid Weinberger - Rav Congregation Shaaray Tefila

Norman Blumenthal, PhD - Psychological Consultant, TOVA

The conference is sponsored by: FEGS, MADREIGOS, MASK, OHEL and TOVA

Sur Mai Rah v'Asei Tov

MOChassid: "In the chareidi educational circles there is way too much emphasis on Sur Mai Rah and not nearly enough on Asei Tov. There is an overwhelming fear of the outside world but not enough confidence in the beauty of Torah and Yiddishkeit. Consequently, we hear about restriction after restriction rather than discussions about inspiring our children. This is tragic."

True, but not limited to educational circles.

How many of us know people who are happy to bring a second or third shul to their immediate neighborhoods (with all the attendant duplications of cost) simply for the sake of avoiding women who don't cover their hair, or to keep their kids from mixing with kids who watch TV or go to movies?

How many of us know people who'll refuse to open a well-written book containing important arguments simply because they don't recognize the author's name? Or because they once heard he is "a little modern?"

How many of us know shul Rabbis who inveigh against women who come to shul with their ankles uncovered without seeming to worry about the fall-out?

In each of these cases an Asei Tov (do good) opportunity is being sacrificed for the sake of Sur Mai Rah (turn away from evil.) Those fleeing a shul where the woman dress immodestly might have stayed and provided a better influence. The man who is afraid of names he doesn't know deprives himself of knoweldge. And the angry Rabbi likely keeps women from joining the minyan, if he doesn't drive them and their husbands away from the shul altogether.

Examples of this sort abound, and MoC's right: It is tragic.


Readers of blogs would be forgiven for thinking that the Internet is the single greatest threat facing the Orthodox Jewish community, with ball-playing Rabbis a close second.

So for a bit of perspective, I thought I'd share the following email (my comments are in red)

"... lakewood and especially kiryat sefer are teeming with at-risk kids. There are gangs -- gangs literally -- in beitar and elsewhere of nice kids who aren't cut out for full-day learning. [DB: ... where drugs and violence are not unknown]

I can get you babies to adopt from chassidishe single girls in Monroe and Williamsburg. [DB: And I could tell you about the Hasidic swinger groups on Yahoo and MySpace, or about the delivery rooms in Orange County, Rockland County, and NYC where Hasidic infants born with birth defects are left behind, abandoned by their families.]

and the biggest culprits are ........................... internet and ballplaying.

May God have mercy. [DB: And may our Jewish leaders finally step up to the plate]
[Name redacted]

Estate Tax Part 3 (Wrap-up)

I'd like to thank "Michael" for leading a civil, yet instructive, discussion on the estate tax yesterday, a discussion marred only by my insufferable gloating, and MoC's careless remark about Pravda.

For those of you who don't bother reading very long threads, here's the money quote:
"Ezzie, stop talking for a minute and think. There are very good reasons for rich people to pay more taxes than poor people. The justification is almost infinite. The only limit on raising taxes on rich people is the effect that those taxes will have on economic growth. Once you raise taxes too much, you begin killing the goose that laid the golden egg. But, the estate tax does not do that, so lets have at it!"
Other takeaway points:

What are the good reasons for the rich to pay more taxes than poor people? Simple. They receive more from government. They guy making $18,000 receives almost no benefit from our national expenditures for defense, diplomacy, and business development. He receives less from public education, and public safety, and he make less use of the public infrastructure

What are the effects of the estate tax on the economy? Almost negligible. The estate tax is assesed after death and death is not a disincentive to work. Also, a credible study was put forward which show that the repealing the estate tax would cost charities $20 billion per year.

Any questions?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

More on the TU convention

I've finally received a firsthand report from a participant at the TU convention.

He confirmed that:

(1) Rabbi Mayisyahu Salomon of Lakewood endorsed the "no ballplaying with talmidim idea" during his presentation at Seudas Shlishis.

(2) During a public Q&A session with rebbeim on motzoei shabbos, Rabbi Ruvain Feinstein provided some contest suggesting Rav Shteinman comes from a place (Bnei Brak) where working for a living ballplaying is frowned on (In fact, I'm told Rabbi F. quiped that in Israel, he once saw a hagadah, in which the worst of the 4 sons was kicking a soccer ball!) Rabbi F. also said (per my source) that teachers of Torah has his blessing to play ball with their students

(3) Rabbi Avrohom Levin also publicly agreed with Rabbi Feinstein.

Sounds to me like the masses weren't so mindless after all. Perhaps my "Emperor" remark was aimed at an undeserving target.

And now for a word about the estate tax (Part 2)

Part 1: Gratitude
Part 2: Hard Work

Conservatives are fond of telling us that handouts erode our desire to work hard, and they are right: Look at Paris Hilton. Trust fund babies, like her, are an affront to the dignity of work, and proof that inherited wealth, like welfare, has an awful tendency to corrupt morals. [Refer to Europe, a History of] In short, the argument for an estate tax is an argument against an American aristocracy.

It's also a hedge against socialism. As Peter Beinart has recently pointed out, "Twenty-first-century America is not the model of social mobility we would like to believe. More than in past decades--and more than in parts of Europe--today's Americans stay rich or stay poor, prisoners of their birth rather than agents of their own destiny." When opportunities for advancement are reduced, the masses give up, and turn to government succor. The early progressives understood this, and used the estate tax to democratize opportunity, in effect, protecting the capitalist system itself.

In this country, we reward hard work and merit. We give no special status to those with inherited wealth. And we provide everyone with the chance to compete fairly in the capitalist enterprise. Repealing the estate tax, threatens to undermine those very noble national principles.

And now for a word about the estate tax (Part 1)

It won't surprise you to learn that I favor the estate tax, but you may not be able to guess the reasons. Unlike the sterotypical democrat (someone who does not, in point of fact, exist) I don't support progressive taxation because of some mad wish to soak the rich, but because I believe in gratitude and hard work.

First gratitude: As the original progressives knew, "The man of great wealth owes a particular obligation to the state, because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government." Those words belong to Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican and one of the original estate tax proponents. No one aquires great wealth on their own. The government helps the entrepenuer along by providing tax credits,infrustructure, public safety and public education, and more. This all costs money.

Next: Hard work.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Another way of spinning it

It has been brought to my attention that when Rav Shteinman told the assembled teacher of torah at the recent Torah Umesorah Convention to avoid class trips and to avoid playing sports with their students, he was, perhaps, making a veiled reference to the Kolko case. It's been suggested that, in his own way, he was telling teachers to mantain a strict professional distance from their charges.

There is some merit to this interpretation I suppose, and without having heard the whole of Rav Shteinman's speech, it's impossible for me to say. However, I will still insist that given the stench of scandal still swirling over our Camps and Yeshivahs much more than veiled references are needed; also, telling teachers to avoid all informal contact with their students is an over-reaction.

What's needed aren't bans on ball playing. [For heaven's sake: No more bans!] What's needed are intelligent guidelines, the very sort of guidelines that already exist in most secular, and modern Jewish day schools. And I firmly believe that if you are a parent you have a sacred obligation to make sure that such guidelines are in place before you sign the deposit check for camp or school - not because I think there is a monster in every camp, but because proper protocols are what keeps a monster at bay.

Why give the monster room to operate? Isn't a proper parent required to make sure the door isn't left unlocked? Ask your camp and yeshiva to publish their guidelines, and if they won't make fast tracks to the competition.

PS - Along with the ban on bans, can those of you who are so concerned with the honor of the Gedolim please take five? Really, your endless cries of "Respect" have gotten tedioius. I swear to you, none of us mean the gedolim any harm, and we hold them all in the highest regard, even if we don't always take the time for niceties like honorifics and other formalities. If you think we've misunderstood something they said, give us your spin. That's what the comment threads are for; also, setting up a blog for counter-opinions is free and easy. Screaming "Respect" and the like over and over again, isn't helpful, and tells us only that you haven't got an idea in your head. Instead of taking the lazy way out, why don't you show us where we've gone wrong, or offer a new interpretation (as in this post.)

Note to my critics (1 of X)

This morning's post about the Torah U'mesorah convention did not "bash" Rav Steinman, or any other godol.

Those of you who thought otherwise (and all the usual malcontents came complaining) perhaps misunderstood my concluding reference.

The expression, "The Emperor has no clothes" is not an indictment of the emperor, per say, but of mindless hordes, and men who refuse to think for themselves. The remark, therefore, was directed at the convention participants, not the speaker.


Before you let your child attend a sleep-away camp this summer, call the head counselor, and find out what protocols are in place to keep staff from taking kids out of their bunks and off the grounds at night.

Do not accept "It doesn't happen here."

Because among the horrible, unforgivable, crimes detailed on lies this unspoken fact: Other members of staff -counslers, division heads, head counselors, etc -must have known that the monster was taking kids out at night. But they looked the other way - for reasons not yet clear.

They must be made to answer for their oversight.

She took the words right out of my mouth....

Renegade Rebbetzin: You say tomato....:
"I'm still sick, seething, and miserable. Not just about Kolko, but about the whole stack of - of - stuff. I can't stand it anymore. I can't stand stupidity and idiocy, I can't stand evil and depravity, and above all, I absolutely cannot, cannot tolerate people who think a person's immense Torah knowledge makes them an expert on everything else.

If you think a person who has studied and taught Torah their entire life, and has does so on a level that elevates their neshamah and the neshamot of those around them to a point that is palpable in its sheer kedusha; if you think such a person MUST THEREFORE BE an expert in education, psychology, and interpersonal relations, well, then, you're an idiot and a blind fool, and Hashem have mercy on the people you infect with this warped delusion. I have seen people's lives destroyed because of this fantasy, and plenty of people who have ended up abandoning Judaism because of it as well.

A person who is a gadol b'Torah MIGHT also be talented in other spheres, and he or she ALSO MIGHT NOT BE. I don't understand why this notion is met with such outraged hostility on the parts of so many otherwise intelligent and educated individuals.
Sing it sister. I agree with you 110 percent, Even if you would (correctly) defer to the gadol b'Torah's knowledge and experience on questions of Halacha and hashkofa, why would you also defer to him on question of, say math, or history, or education? Excellence at everything, doesn't nec. follow from excellence at Torah.

PS: Incidently, the silliest statement about science I ever heard in my whole life came from the great teacher of Talmud I mentioned this morning. We were discussing evolution, and as he attempted to discredit the theory, it became clear that he thought the long discredited ideas of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck still had currency. "It doesn't make sense," he said, "that a giraffe's offspring would inherit his long neck, just because the very first giraffe stretched his neck a little bit. I have big forearms [they were like Popeyes] from weight-lifting, but none of my kids do."

Also, he flirted with the idea that the Earth was the center of the universe, and cruelly mocked the "atheist scientists" at NASA who said different. Still, we all thought he was a great teacher of Talmud, and so long as he stayed silent on the subject of science, there was nothing even slightly upseting about him.

Lo Aleinu

PT: Hamakom yinachem eschem b'soch sha'ar availay Tzion v'Yerushalayim

Eyes Wide Shut

At the Annual Torah Umesorah Convention educators (mechancim) from around the country gathered to discuss the state of our yeshivas, to share professional tips, and to hear words of instruction and inspiration from the masters of the trade.

The rundown:

Number of times Kolko was mentioned: 0
Number of sessions or speechs about identifying and preventing child abuse: 0

Brilliant suggestion from Rav Shteinman (who we last saw ensconced in the first class section of an El Al jet: Teachers of Torah should not play ball with their students

[FWIW my all-time favorite teacher of Talmud would regularly play basketball with us at recess, and my second favorite teacher of Talmud would make a few appearences each spring on the softball diamond. Boy, could he send it.]

Another brilliant suggestion from Rav Shteinman: Class trips are a waste of time.

May I be the first to say it? (The first to say it today, I mean)

These emperors have no clothes.

Go to StillWonderin' for the whole story

Friday, May 19, 2006

Received by email

What follows was sent to me by email. I do no know Aryeh Ginzberg, and I do not know what FTS/FTJC is.

At the request of Rabbi Aryeh Ginzberg, we, the moderators of FTS/FTJC,have approved the distribution of the below letter (which is also attached in pdf format). Rabbi Ginzberg has informed us that he has been approached by numerous community members to clarify -- and issue a ruling on -- the matter addressed in the letter. Given the urgency of this message, and the unavailablity of other effective means in which to distribute this information on a Friday afternoon, we believe it is important to use this list to support the request of a community Rov.

Finally, we assure you that this was in fact authorized by Rabbi
Ginzberg and have met with him personally to confirm.


Dear Community Members

Over the last few days, a number of people have brought to my
attention an article from a secular publication asserting that a
world-renowned Rosh Hayeshiva issued a halachic ruling regarding child molestation. This alleged ruling – through this publication – has resulted in widespread Chilul Hashem and gross misrepresentation of clear and indisputable Halacha.

The purpose of this letter is not to address the context of the quote, the alleged ruling in question or the specifics of the primary accusations made in the article. This letter is about clarifying the position of halacha with regard to child abuse, to the extent that position has been clouded by these recent events. Moreover, this letter is about urgently disseminating essential halachic facts which -- hopefully -- will serve to mitigate the potential damage and destruction caused by this mischaracterization.

It is incumbent upon all Rabbonim worldwide to unite and unequivocally declare that Orthodox Judaism absolutely forbids child abuse of any kind – sexual and non-sexual. And, as with any other allegation of halachic wrongdoing, the appropriate testimony must be given, and the appropriate proceedings must be convened, in order to establish the truth of any accusations.

Allow me to be among the first to make this declaration, and I speak not only for myself but also for the Rosh Hayeshiva named in this publication, with whom I have consulted:

Sexually abusing a child in any form is a flagrant violation of our Torah. Halacha absolutely prohibits any and all such conduct. No "benchmark" exists to qualify a sexually motivated act as child molestation, and there are no "technical defenses" to justify child abuse. To be crystal clear: the touching of a child in a sexual manner is utterly forbidden by our Torah and by our mesorah.

It is my hope and prayer that this letter will serve to clarify any confusion about the Torah view on these very serious issues.Obviously, this is not a scholarly letter or article -- now is not the time for Talmudic sources, lengthy discussions or intellectual debates. It is simply the time to set the record straight – solely for the purpose of abruptly ending the Chilul Shaim Shomayim facilitated by the dissemination of the supposed Torah viewpoint reported in the article.

Child abuse is forbidden. An issue this easy does not need further clarification. It is my sincere hope that, in consultation with other Rabbonim in our community, we can collectively and effectively formulate appropriate strategies to ensure that the issue of child abuse is dealt with appropriately, proactively and swiftly in our community and beyond.

Good Shabbos.
Rabbi Aryeh Ginzberg

More child abuse allegations

Having just finished AngrySoul I want you to know that I am so furious, I can't see straight.

Find your kids now, and ask them direct and pointed questions. Right now.

(I am posting the link to AngrySoul as a public service, but out of deference to the blogger, please do not name names. Anything of that nature will be deleted.)

Rupert Murdoch, another good friend

The New York Post (owned by the ultra-conservative Aussie who gave us Fox News) matches it's coverage of the latest Orthodox Jewish sex-scandal with a picture of the mayor of New Square.

Is the mayor of New Square, a chosid, shown in Hasidic clothing, implicated in the scandal? No. Is he mentioned in the article? No. So why did the Post drag him into it?

Meanwhile the New York Times didn't even mention Ryan's religion, a detail the Post was only too happy to reveal.

What gives? And how will Ezzie spin this?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Things every Jew should know (continued)

XVI posts on hats

Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here: "So I've been getting bugged for a while to follow up on my offer to blog about the hat. THE hat. That's right... THAT one. Whats it all about? Why wear one? Does it symbolize anything? Am I a bad jew for not wearing one?" [Read on]

Krum deals with Daniel

One Reason Why DovBear (or his list) Is Dead Wrong: Moshiach does appear before Sefer Daniel!! In response to DovBear's request for papers, I chose number 14: "Moshiach appears no where until Sefer Daniel," and will demonstrate why it's dead wrong. [Read on]


According to News Hounds Tony Snow has confirmed that Fox is the official White House network.

Thanks, but those of us with functioning brains already knew about this.

[Yes, Ezzie, I know it was just a gaffe. He meant to say "competant" and it came out "competing."]

Prevent the entrance of impurity

Arutz Sheva - Israel National News:
The Jewish community in Montreal lost its chance to host the two leading hareidi-religious figures in Israel [Rabbi Yehuda Leib Steinman of Bnei Brak and Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, the Gerrer Rebbe] after a spate of protests and planned demonstrations prompted the rabbis to cancel their visit there.
Ye Gods. Who would dare to picket two revered, and elderly Rabbis? Those modernishkes, self-haters, with their srugy cookie-monster kipahs, I bet.
The Satmar hassidim and the local Eida Haredit/Neturei Karta faction had applied for and received a permit from the Montreal police to stage a protest in front of the place where Rav Steinman was to have stayed during his visit.Rabbi Moshe Menachem Timaur, the head of the Satmar community in Montreal, also called for demonstrations against Rav Steinman “to prevent the entrance of impurity,” according to local reports.
"Impurity" defined, of course, as "disagreeing with us."
Rav Steinman has been criticized by a number of hareidi-religious leaders for his support of the law known as the Tal Law, which was upheld this month by the Supreme Court. The law regulates the exemption of yeshiva students from army service, but stipulates that they must serve in the army under certain conditions. Rabbi Steinman's representative, former Bnei Brak mayor Mordechai Karelitz, participated in the panel that drafted the law.

What Every Jew Should Know

Here are the first batch of blogs who've written posts about the Things Every Orthodox Jew Should Know.

If you have one, please let me know by email or in the comments. Do not assume I've seen it. If you have already written to me, please do it again.

Treppenwitz:There's a lesson in there somewhere
While not a meme per se... today's post is meant as a response to [am I really doing this???] Dov Bear's request in this post. Specifically, it is meant to relate to #25 (and in an ironic way to #19). [Read on]

Viola Cesario: On DovBear and the Orthodox community
Can I just say how much DovBear rocks my socks? It's the wonderfully clear-headed way he has of criticizing his own community from within, and not feeling compelled to abandon that community because of the problems he sees in it. You've got to respect a guy who can put together such a clearheaded "list of things every Orthodox Jew should know." It's satirical, but not out of malice or resentment. It's religious, but not led by blindness or hate. Here is a man who, as Judah Who Always Said NO puts it, knows how to think. [read on]

Dag:Dov Bear in the crosshairs
I am going to take on two of Dov Bear's challenge points, agreeing with one, disagreeing with another: 2 - It is kosher to take midrashim figuratively and 25 - The biggest reason non-frum people don't want to be frum is: the poor behavior of frum people.[read on] Kashrut Of Not Believing In Magic “You shall not allow a sorceress to live. And a man or woman who has (the sorcery of) Ov or Yid’oni (consults mediums) shall surely be put to death; they shall pelt them with stones; their blood is upon themselves. [read on]

News you can use

Another great article from Yaakov Horowitz

Comment mining

I know lots of you don't read long comment threads, so here's something you may have missed....

On a comment thread belonging to my friend the RenReb, Gil Student said: REQUEST: As someone who learns all night and then sleeps most of the day on Shavuos, I'd like to see a woman's perspective on the experience. Not a feminist view but what a traditional woman goes through and thinks about on Shavuos.

To which, yours truely replied:

We want the FEMINIST view-point, because I know what the TRADITIONAL woman thinks. The traditional woman says: "I am my husband's footstool. How wonderful that he sits and drinks coffee with his friends all through the night, leaving me alone to struggle with the kids the next day. What a blessing. What a privelage."

And it never once occurs to her that (a) her husband isn't really learning; (b) if he is learning its not worth much at 3 in the morning; (c) some authorities frown deeply on the whole practice; (d) she's a human being, too.

Anyway, if you want the Traditional view, why are you asking Renny? Among the Orthodox Jews there is no bigger feminist online

My blogging standards

Thomas in Paine writes:
Is there any level of blogging behavior that you feel would NOT be justified by an outcome like Kolko's being "nailed"? Is there any point at which you'd say - well, the means here DO NOT justify the ends?

If yes, I'd love to know what limits YOU set, and whether UOJ's repeated unsubstantiated accusations and attacks against community and religious leaders in other "scandals" violate those limits. If no, why is the blogworld PHILOSOPHICALLY different from the world at large of republicans and neo-con tyrants in its complete freedom to try and convict?
[A longer version of his complaint appears here]
The blog world is categorically different from the "world at large" because the blogs don't have the power to deprive people of life and liberty. We can't send Margo to jail. We can't take YTT away from him. But once the government sends you down the Gitmo hidey-hole, for example, you have no recourse: If a mistake was made, you have no way to correct it.

Margo, on the other hand, can fight fire with fire. He's welcome to start his own blog, or to send his own letter explaining why his accuser is wrong, or without credibility. He can also hire a lawyer and fight his accuser in court.

But remember an important distinction: UOJ, and the other blogs aren't the accusers. We're just megaphones. The accuser is a man named David Framowitz. He is not anonymous, and you'll notice that I didn't touch this story until he came forward.

The government has the power to deprive people of life and liberty, and with that power comes great responsibility, including the obligation to ensure the accused's guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Bloggers have no powers, save the power to force those with power to take notice. This power, too, must be used responsibly, and I don't disagree that UOJ was behaving irresponsibly when he started. The facts, however, have born him out.

What are our obligations? How do we blog responsibly? I think that before we go to war with a public figure like Margo, a blogger needs at least one witness willing to put his name on the record, or a published report, or something in the public record. If you do not have at least one of these things, you must stop short of direct accusations.

However, all is forgiven if the facts later justify your crusade.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Call for Papers!

If you plan to write a post about any of the Things Every Orthodox Jew Should Know please let me know by email ( or by leaving a comment here.

If you've already written a post, and you would like to be linked please alert me using either of those two methods.

Thank you.

Crooked Thinking

A - Comment about teachers who beat children: "a lot of this is cultural when i was young, it was more acceptable, today we live in a more modern world..."

What a pathetic excuse. Beating children was wrong then, even if it was common, in the same way that slavery was wrong even when it was widespread.

Moreover, you don't mean we live in a more modern world. You mean we leave in a better world, a more moral world, where outrages like slavery and child abuse are no longer tolerated.

Anyone who was himself beaten in school should explore legal remedies.

Mystery solved

I thought PT called his blog PsychoToddler because it was originally dedicated to documenting his daughter's life. (and I expected the name of the blog to change, in the fullness of time, to things like: Adoring6YearOld, RebelluousPreTeen and MyDaughterTheBaraccuda)

Turns out there's a back story.

Note: I named my blog DovBear to honor DovBer of Mezeritch. Also, I really like bears.

Where's my pitchfork?

From a press release announcing the latest law-suit against Yeshiva Torah Temimah and Rabbi Lipa Margulies:

Every parent with a child in Yeshivas Torah Temimah is obligated to call Rabbi Lipa Margulies and ask him if this story is true. They are further obligated to ask him if he still slaps children who displease him.

And if this story is proven true, beyond any reasonable doubt, the Jewish people are obligated to spit out Lipa Margulies, to tell him that he is not part of the community of Israel, but a foreign implant, an errant weed, a shame on the Torah and an embarrassment to Judaism.

Clinton Is A Good Man

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms Lewinsky." -Bill Clinton
"According to Framowitz’s lawsuit, Pinchus Scheinberg, the powerful rabbi who was close to Margulies, contacted several of Kolko’s alleged victims, listened to their complaints, and told them that what happened to them was not abuse—that there needed to be penetration and that because there was none, their claims were not actionable."
According to Jewish Law, Bill Clinton is a decent person who did not commit adultry and the attempt at impeachment was not warranted.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Why the J-Blogosphere Matters

This whole Kolko case has me sick, and not just because of the small children who were abused.

I'm sick because of the larger story, sick about what's happened to Judaism. Sick about how superficial stupidities have become the community's dominant concern. Sick about how the great ethics of our outstanding faith have been hijacked and subverted by fraudulently pious jackasses for their own selfish purposes. Sick about milquetoast Jews who are more devoted to order than to justice. Sick about the well-intentioned but useful idiots who teach small children or run small synagouges and happily prop up the whole rotted system because they are too timid, too lazy, and too stupid to do any different.

Elsewhere, for example, some bloggers and commenters are cluck-clucking about the way the case against Kolko was made and about the agenda of his enemies. They don't care about the substance of the accusations. Rather than investigate the claims of someone like UOJ, (the blogger who nailed Kolko to the wall) those bloggers and commenters prefer to speculate about UOJ's motivations, to disaprove of his tone, or worse, to investigate him.

This, not incidently, was the attitude displayed by the Jewish Press, a dreadful, laughingstock of a newspaper. In an editorial published on February 22, 2006 the paper went to war with the accuser. Did they bother to investigate the claims? Did they take any steps to guarantee the safety of the children who study at Yeshiva Torah Temimah? No, and no again. Order was more important than justice. UOJ and his allegations were rocking the boat, and causing people to lift up their heads, so let the children be damned.

Forty years ago the great Martin Luthor King wrote a letter from Birmingham jail in which he argued that non-violent tension is necessary for growth. In my lifetime, Orthodox Jews have always resisted tension, and by resisiting tension we also resist growth. Like the robotic suburbanites so many of us are, we go blissfully from our jobs to our homes to our shuls without ever examining or questioning the world around us and the myths that prop it up. We learn at an early age to smooth over difficulties, to ignore maculations, to couch our challenges in langauge that is acceptable to the establishment, to never say, "That's stupid;" but instead to say "That seems stupid to me." Lesson: the world around us is perfect; if it appears otherwise that's because there's something wrong with you, not with the world. Order. Not justice.

Elsewhere, our so-called leaders are inveighing against the Jewish blogosphere. At Internet asifa after Internet asifa, the leadership rises to complain, not about Internet predators, but about bloggers. It's not the child who may be assualted that animates Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman. Oh no. Instead he yells and screams about the foolish Flatbush shul Rabbi who was mortified to discover his own asinine remark published on Godol Hador's blog. Rabbi Wachsman screams and sputters about this because he knows the next stupid remarks reproduced on a blog for the amusment of the masses might be one of his own. That's what worries him. Not child molesters. Again, order, not justice.

I suppose it doesn't need to be said, that if Wachsman and his cronies had their way we'd have no Jewish blogosphere, no blogs like UOJ, and Kolko would still be riding high.

That, finally, is why the Jewish blogosphere matters, why we who count ourselves among this community must redouble our efforts. Not just for the sake of the children Kolko destroyed, but for the sake of all the Jewish men and women who die small deaths everyday because of acts of cruelty, stupidity, selfishness and injustice perpetrated by Jews. Let me close with a quote from Martin Luthor King which explains the value of blogging. He was speaking about non-violent protest, but I've brought his thought up-to-date, and I think this must be the answer to every well-meaning fool like LakewoodYid, and also to the less well-intentioned creeps who complain about bloggers and tear their shirts over loshan hara and issues of disrespect:
Actually, we who [blog] are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

Kolko comments

Those of you wondering where blind faith in the Rabbis can lead, are welcome to read the comment section here.

Also, don't miss the comment of the day (about 220 in) where an honored guest takes issue with the misguided defense of theose yeshiva administrators who abdicated their responsibility to the young children in their charge by protecting alleged child molester Yehuda Kolko for 25 years.

A gadol is not an idiot.

A person who tells children who have been fondled by an adult, kal v'chomer by an adult they trusted, kal v'chomer by a person who himself purports to be a teacher of Torah; a person who tells such children that they have not been abused because l'halahcha penetration is required before it can be called "abuse," and then takes no action to stop the fondler or investigate the children's claims, is not a gadol.

The immense Torah knowledge such a person may have acquired apparently did not penetrate his neshama with the Godly attributes of rachamim and chessed, nor has he acquired a sense from his Torah learning of when and how to take action on matters that are not explicated verbatim in the sources he's studied.

If it is indeed true that R. Scheinberg behaved in the manner reported by New York magazine, then he is not a "gadol." He is a talmid chacham, yes, but not a gadol.

If it is true that the Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Temimah* behaved in the manner described in New York magazine, then he is not a gadol either, but a criminal, and he belongs in jail.

People who have learned a tremendous amount of Torah, more than my husband or any of his teachers could ever learn in their lifetimes - if such people turn a blind eye to the behavior of reshaim, and fail to protect children from reshaim, then they are not gedolim. Their behavior is much more reminscent of the behavior of an "idiot" than of a gadol.

If R. Scheinberg did what the magazine says he did - and I hope we find out the full story sooner rather than later - then he is not a gadol, is far from a gadol, and I would not only say so here, but to his face as well. Though I might feel compelled to speak in third person when I did so, because one should speak in third person to a talmid chacham, to show respect not to him, but to the Torah he has learned, and for which he continues to be a vessel.

Ladies and gentlemen, that's my friend the RenReb. [continued in the next post]

*In the original comment, RenReb named the wrong Yeshiva. Her remarks have been corrected.


Dovbear tagged me to name the first song I listened to today.

I listen to Opie and Anthony on 92.3 FreeFM in New York on the way to work; I heard their theme song: Street Fighting Man by Rage Against The Machine. If that doesn't count, then on the way home whatever is playing on 102.3 WBAB (LI's #1 rock station). If I turn on talk radio on the way home, whatever is cued up in my iPod when I go out for a run later.

Im going to tag Daniel Q Blog, S., and Ezzie

LBO Mini Meme

The Rachmestrifka Rebbe's Gabbe (ie Krum) wants me to name the first song I listened to today (note to the uninitiated: Orthodox Jews have been avoiding music for the last 33 days as part of our sefira mourning)

The first song I heard this morning was that insipid tune from the Curious George movie. It was playing on the radio when I got into the car. It's been way more than 33 days since I cued a song on my CD or tape-player; for music I prefer the randomness of Jack FM or QXR.

I tag CousinOliver, RenReb, CWY, and HNC

Thank you Mr. President!

Let's get it up for George W. Bush, spreading freedom and democracy, everywhere but here:
The Blotter: "The FBI acknowledged late Monday that it is increasingly seeking reporters' phone records in leak investigations. 'It used to be very hard and complicated to do this, but it no longer is in the Bush administration,' said a senior federal official"
You won't be surprised to learn that all of this facilitated snooping has been made possible by the Patriot Act. Indeed, history is repeating itself, but is this the McArthy era or the Nixon era?

DovBear: Who wrote the Zohar? Not me!

A reprint, in honor of Rashbi's deathday.

DovBear: Who wrote the Zohar? Not me! I would love to attribute this blog to Moshe Rabbanu. If I could convince you that Moshe was the man behind my insights and comments, I'm sure I'd get a boost in page views. I bet I could even add some adverts, or a pay pal button. Soon, as the blog became more and more popular, I'd be able to focus full time on retailing and turn the actual writing of the blog over to OrthoMom and other low paid interns (MBAs call this "Garfielding" it.)

But I'd never get away with it. And not even even the typically well-thought out, carefully researched, right-wing style explanation ("But he's Moshe! Moshe can do anything!") would save me from a fierce dressing-down in the Jewish Press.

The teeming masses may not be bright. (They read the Jewish Press, after all.) But even someone like Heshy would eventually realize that this blog is composed in English, a language that did not exist in Moshe's time. (But he was Moshe! Moshe! Moshe can do anything! --- Ok, folks, did that work? Let me know. I'm in a rush to start retailing.)

Anyway, there's a book we call the Zohar that is also attributed to someone who lived long ago.

For those unfamiliar with the Zohar, it is a work of Jewish mysticism alleged to have been written in the second century by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and passed, teacher to student, until the 13th century when Moses de Leon published it.

[Important Interjection: I will not attack the validity of the Zohar. That would be stupid, and also bad for retailing. People smarter than me, and Amshinover, plus Hasidic Rebbes of every stripe, have praised the Zohar, and I have no reason to think that the publisher paid them off. As far as I am concerned Bernard McGinn, Professor Emeritus, The Divinity School, University of Chicago was underselling the Zohar when he called it "the crown jewel of Jewish mysticism...[and a] masterpiece of mystical literature." Ok? So please have your credit cards ready.]

But who gets credit for that achievment? Did de Leon merely publish it? Or did he write it? From the very beginning, questions have been raised about the authorship of the Zohar. Yitzchak of Acco, a kabbalist and student of the Ramban, met de Leon's widow, reviewed the manuscript, and determined that the Zohar was, in fact, written by de Leon. (See Sefer HaYuchasin by Rabbi Avraham Zacuto 1425- c. 1515 CE in which Mrs. de Leon admits the fraud.)

Rabbi Yitzchak's conclusion was supported by later scholars, including Elijah Delmedigo, Yakov Emdem, and Gershom Scholem, the 20th century Hebraist. They observed that the Zohar:

1 - contains names of rabbis who were born after Bar Yochai had already died;
2 - misquotes passages of Scripture and misunderstands the Talmud;
3 - contains ritual observances which were ordained by rabbinical authorities who were born after Bar Yochai had already died;
4 - mentions the crusades against the Muslims (who, inconveniently, did not exist in the second century);
5 - uses the expression "esnoga", which is a Portuguese corruption of "synagogue;"
6 - gives a mystical explanation of the Hebrew vowel-points, which were not introduced until long after the Talmudic period.
7 - contains suspicious marks of Spanish and Spanish sentence patterns
8 - is riddled with Aramaic errors; at times, Scholem found, the Aramaic is actually Hebrew with a few extra alephs scattered here and there. [Source:]

I admit to not having read the Zohar (that and my wonderful singing voice might cause people to confuse me with Madonna) but I have read Scholem and Emdem and I find their arguments compelling.However, when I repeat these compelling arguments the reaction of the teeming masses is not friendly. Why is this? Why can't the Zohar be, simply, an awfully good book of great importance? Why is the back story about Bar Yochai necessary? What does it add? Why do people who can hardly even spell the word Zohar cling to this story? Does anyone seriously believe that the value of the Zohar would be reduced if we put aside the myth that it was written by Shimon Bar Yochai?

Still in a vicious mood

Shanna spots Lipa Margolis (or someone with a similarly high opinion of himself) tooling around town in his Beemer.

Monday, May 15, 2006

What an evil SOB

Effective immidiately anyone who sends me an article from World Net Daily for the purpose of "proving" the venality of liberalism will receive a swift kick in the groin. Because look what their columnist Vox Day said this morning about the Mexican vermin:

If it took the Germans less than four years to rid themselves of 6 million Jews, many of whom spoke German and were fully integrated into German society, it couldn't possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don't speak English and are not integrated into American society.
Ah yes. The Germans "rid themselves" of Jews just as we, by the grace of God, will soon be zoche to rid ourselves of those dirty illegals.

And in case you think Mr. Day hasn't got murder on the mind, have a glance at this bigoted bastard's last 'graph:

... there are other means of efficiently resolving the [illegal immigartion]... Instant deportation policies, employer fines and bounty programs combined with the denial of all social services to non-citizens...
Hear that "non-citizens?" If you're sick, please feel free to drop dead in the street. You won't be getting any medicine from us, even, I suppose, if you have a contagious disease which may threaten the rest of us. Also, public saftey be damned: Vox thinks it's preferable for your kids to be wild and hungry in the streets, rather than be in school; and if you dare go to the police about the guy who raped your wife or murdered your mother, you can expect to deported post haste. Our new motto: Better a thousand criminals go free, than one illegal immigrant be allowed to rest securely in a house he rents with his own money.

Must I continue?

Like his role model the Nazis who allowed their murder frenzy to divert resources away from winining the war, Vox Day doesn't care how many Americans are harmed, so long as a few brown people go with us.

[Pardon me. I've been reading the backstory on Lippy and Yudi and I am in a viscious mood.]

Delayed gratification

The blogs have been buzzing for two days about Korl Rove's imminent indictment. To this I say: LET'S GO ALREADY! And, with his favorite advisor about to be, um, inconvenienced, is it any coincidence that the chimp is adressing the nation tonight to talk about the marvelous little fake war he's declared on Mexico.

Surely even the yokels (ie: the remaining 29 percent who haven't caught on yet) will see through this?

Dream scenario: Bush starts a war with Mexico. With our regular military tied up in Iraq, Mexico wins and take back the Southwest, including Texas, meaning Chimpy is no longer a U.S. citizen and hence ineligible to be president.

I'm sure the Minutemen will be happy to escort him to the border.

Elah Yaamdu al Habrocha

I see quite a few of you have recently written posts related to the Long List of Things Every Orthodox Jew Should Know.

I plan to list links to your posts here, but I don't want to miss anyone, so please email me or comment below if you wish to be included.

The Muqata: Lag BaOmer: One Big Mistake?

Jameel has translated an article which suggests our lag bomer celebrations came into existance because of a scribal error. Interesting -and plausible- theory.

However, Jameel sullies the effort by restating this defeated notion: I think that the medurot idea could have come from the method of notifying the Jewish people in Galut of the arrival of the new Jewish Month

Though it is true, that Jews of ancient Jerusalem lit bonfires to alert neighboring towns that a new month had been declared, there is no connection between this ritual and the bonfires of Lag B'omer. The new moon bonfire was discontinued more than 2000 years ago, and almost 1500 years passed before the Lag B'omer bonfires made their first appearence, in Safed (they weren't known in Jewish Europe for another hundred years at least.) Correction: The bonfires first appeared in Jewish Europe in the 17th century. They were long used in Christian Europe to celebrate saints, and for other religious purposes. Our Lag B'omer bonifres are derived from that.

New York Magazine: Do the Orthodox Jews have a Catholic-priest problem?

Read it... and weep.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The truth? You can't handle the truth!

(not the) Godol Hador: We believe ‘emmes’ is the ONLY fundamental, and emmes must be pursued at all times.

The only fundamental? What about justice? What about peace? What about honor? What about compassion?

At times these values (and others) clash with truth. Moreover, the Torah at times sacrifices truth -and bids us to sacrifice truth- for the sake of these values, and others like it. Va'asita et hatov v'hayashar is what we're told to do - even if the truth might suggest another path. Vahavta l'reacha komocha is the Torah's law- no matter what the truth might be. In fact, when the Torah discusses truth it has this to say: m'dvar sheker tirchak: distance yourself from falsehood. We're not told to distance ourselves from chillul shabos or to distance ourselves from murder; in those cases the instructions are clear: Don't do it. So why doesn't the Torah say "Do not lie?" Because it recognizes that lies -half-lies anyway- are, at times, essential is other values are to be perserved.

Look, ntGH, I know what you mean. You're trying to say that you'll follow the evidence wherever it takes you. That's fine -no, brilliant- but still, it's different then saying that "emes is the only fundemental."

Someone who thinks emes is the only fundemental thinks its requiredto tell his wife the truth when she asks if she's gained weight, but the Torah isn't a suicide pact.

Someone who follows the evidence wherever it leads doesn't lie to himself when the proof is overwhelming, yet still understands that certain truths aren't for everyone (hamaskil yidom) and that other truths should be de-empahsized when other values are at stake.


Monsey Asifa: Protecting our Gedolim from Hamodia

The self-proclaimed weekly newspaper of Torah Jewry, ie: Hamodia, has an article this week about the big Asifa. [No, it's not online. Give Hamodia credit for consistancy.]

First, I'm pleased to see that someone at Hamodia reads DovBear, on the sly. Because rather than perpetrate the grammar error which appeared on all of the Asifa's promotional materials, including the banner that adorned the dais, Hamodia refers to the Asifa as "historic," not "historical."

But its downhill from there

Unlike some of my blogging colleagues, I have a guarded respect for the gedolim. I don't think they are clairvoyant miracle workers, but I do think they own first rate minds, and I take it for granted that their knowledge of Rabininc literature is second to none. Unfortunately, Hamodia's report on the Asifa doesn't show us Gedlolim who are masters of reason and argument. We see no great minds. Instead, Hamodia makes Rabbi Shlomo Greenbaum, Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman and Rabbi Matisyahu Solomon seem like blithering idiots. Choice examples:

Rabbi Shlomo Greenbaum... exhorted the olam to heed the call of the Gedolim whose Torah-inspired vision allows them to see in advance what we can see only in hindsight.

I don't know Rabbi Shlomo Greenbaum, but if he was invited to speak at the asifa, I imagine he's a smart cookie, and a smart cookie doesn't rely solely on appeals to authority to make his argument. I am sure Rabbi Greenbaum said more, but if he made a stronger case, it's not evident from Hamodia's reporting. Instead, all we see is a child telling us to listen to the grown ups. Also, "torah-inspired vision?" Who is still swayed by such nonsense? I concede that the Torah gedolim -like the gedolim in any discipline - can see things the ordinary person misses, but that's not "torah-inspired vision." That's logic, knowledge and experience. By adducing the "torah-inspired vision" of the Gedolim, Hamodia slights their brains.

Based on sources [Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman] compared the Internet to the koach hatumah of Miztrayim before the geulah.

The phrases "based on sources" when used in this context, suggests authorities from more than 10 years ago. Did Rabbi Wachsman really suggest that there are "sources" from the distant or recent Jewish past who identified the Internet with the "koach hatumah of Miztrayim?" Isn't it more likely that this is a conclusion reached by Rabbi Wachsman himself, or one of his colleagues? So why can't Hamodia say so? Why do they instead make him seem like a fool? Why is he portrayed as someone who sees references to the Internet in the old source material?

[Rabbi Wachsman] reminded the assembled that as shomrei Torah u'mitzvos we forego conveniences: we're all familiar with car trunks full of sandwiches and coolers of food [sic] because eating kosher food wherever we go is a given [sic] with no room for compromise. Needing the Internet for business purposed does not warrent bringing it to our home just to "make things easier."

If Rabbi Wachsman truly made this awful apples-to-oranges argument I tremble for my religon. We take kosher food with us when we vacation in places where kosher food isn't available because we have no other options: We can't eat treif. That's a lav. But checking the ball scores isn't a lav and there are countless other things to do on the Internet which are completely mutar. We can't stop at Howard Johnson's for a BLT, so the cooler full of food is a necessity, but that isn't an argument against using the Internet for permissible activities! The BLT is inherently osur. Baseball is not.

Responding to the argument that perhaps we should teach our children how to "live with the Internet," he said that we teach our children about cars, but we don't allow them to drive until they can handle the responsibility.

Yes. We teach our children about cars by permitting them see cars and to ride in cars. We also prepare them to drive cars safely, by permitting them to ride bikes, and by teaching them the rules of road safety. How does Rabbi Wachsman propose that we teach our children about the Internet if he also wants the Internet to be hidden from sight? If Rabbi Wachsman has his way, kids won't know anything about the Internet -indeed, they might not even know it exists- until they're old enough to use it without supervision. So when exactly are they supposed to learn the rules of Internet safety? When are they supposed to learn how to surf responsibly? I can't accept that someone with Rabbi Wachsman's reputation for brilliance, attempted such a sloppy argument.

Therefore, [said Rabbi Wachsman] adults should guard their tounges, think before they speak, and refrain from making cynical remarks.

Yes, apparently this is the same Rav Wachsman, who, per the account published at The Main Line, laced into bloggers for daring to publish a "cynical remark" made by a particular Flatbush Rabbi. [According to (not the)Godol Hador, the Flatbush Rabbi in question called Modern Orthodox Rabbis "misyavnim," and stated that they were trying to undermine the mitzvah of mila. If the Rabbi actualy said this, he deserves to have his name and his asinine remark plastered all over creation; if he didn't why hasn't someone from his shul contacted the bloggers with a true account? We'd gladly publish an exonerating account - if it existed. Bloggers, you see, generally aren't interested in slandering good men; we only wish to expose the bad men to the disinfectant properties of sunlight.]

The Mashgiach [Rabbi Matisyahu Solomon said] "everyone is willing to hear advice, recommendations, or suggestions, but they bristle at the mere mention of a takanah. Yet, a baal sechel should welcome a takonos if it means saving his children. "

Agreed. But shouldn't a baal sechel also be able to tell when his children are truly threatened? Doesn't he know the difference between alarmist nonsense and a real threat? As Hamodia tells it, Rabbi Solomon presented an either/or scenario: "Either you accept our decree and banish the Internet from your home, or your children will be lost forever." But this is a false choice. Those aren't the only two outcomes. It's completely possible to keep both the Internet and your children, and though a man of Rabbi Solomon's experience and intelligance surely understands this, you wouldn't know it from Hamodia's account.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Michael's Mistake

Michael has objected to some of the items which appear on our list of Things Every Orthodox Jew Should Know on the following grounds:
15 -Sefer Daniel was written long after the Jews returned from Bavel.
23 - Amalek is a state of mind and not a race.
14 - Moshiach appears no where until Sefer Daniel.
In addition to techiyas hameisim that has already been mentioned, the above three points are not within the normative Judaism. [sic]There is no Jewish authority that has respect for halacha that claims that there are no references for Moshiach before Sefer Daniel. Sefer Daniel, according to the Gemoro, was entered into the Canon by Ezra, and those who claim that it was written later claim that it was written well after the Greek Conquest, which was after the death of Ezra. So, normative Jewish thought rejects this idea. Halacha assumes that Amalek is a tribe, and that Jewish kings have a Mitzvah to lead the people in a war of annihalation against them.
Michael, let's leave aside your point about Amalek because here you are correct: How to define Amalek is entirely a halachic question, and one properly left to Rabbis. (who, incidently, are divided: They say the term "Amalek" may be used to refer BOTH to an ancient, and as such currently unidentifiable, desert tribe, AND a certain viewpoint or state of mind that may exist among people in the modern world. This is something Orthodox Jews should know.)

Your point about Daniel, though, is a category error. "Judaism" must stay silent about when Daniel was written, because this question relates not to halacha, but to history. If the consensus among scholars is that Daniel was written during the mid-second century BCE Judaism must yeild to their judgement, in the same way that it yields to the judgment of doctors and scientists. Our Rabbis don't have the tools -by which I mean training and experience- to disagree. A claim that has been disproven must be set aside, and and the case has been made to my satisfaction (not to mention the satisfaction of legitimate scholars) that at least parts of Daniel were written after the Hellenistic conquest. This is also something Orthodox Jews should know.

As for whether or not references to Moshiach appear before Daniel, this objection splits the difference. It's not a halachic question, but Rabbis are certainly qualified to judge where ideas make their first appearances in the canon. However, unlike the two previous issues, scholars and Rabbis stand on equal ground when it comes to evaluationg questions of this nature.

How to answer an abduction...

Over in Lakewood, NJ, the Village Elders are planning a community response to Sunday's abduction of a young woman. LkwdGuy expects another display of magical thinking:
I think that it's a fait accompli that there will be an asifa for women. I think it's also pretty obvious who the speakers will be. I'm also quite sure that the main topic that will be addressed is Tzniyus.

And that, in my humble opinion, is very sad.
Typically, modern Jewish communities respond to disaster in one of two ways: they call for the woman to adjust their sleeves and hemlines, and they call for the man to talk less in shul. I suppose all of that is fine, (though calling a Town Meeting to discuss modesty, in this case, comes perilously close to blaming the victim.)

However, as LkwdGuy notes this isn't enough. Instead, he's calling for Lakewood to address issues of dishonesty in the community. For starters, he wants shop owners and business men to improve their practices. He wants applicants to the local Jewish schools to be judged on the content of their characters and not on the color of their hats. In short, following Amos, he is demanding that Lakewood go beyond ritual and instead let "justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream" LkwdGuy wants to replace -or at least supplement - magic with morals. And for that he has this blog's respect.

Who could it be?

Which religious group does this blurb describe?

Today, every [building owned or controlled by this religion has an] office reserved for [the religion's recently deceased leader]. Usually found on the church's ground floor, it is carefully maintained with books, desk, chair, pens, notepads, desk ornaments and other accouterments, as if the [religion's recently deceased leader] might walk in at any moment.

The wrong answer.

The right answer.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Dropped Torah

Report: "A special fast was observed by members of Cockfosters and N Southgate Synagogue last Sunday after a Sefer Torah was dropped at the shul."

Have you ever heard of a Torah being dropped? I have not. And when we were kids we were told that a 40-day fast was in order if a Torah touched the floor. Of course, we were also told that Midrashim were literal and that Rashi had ruach hakodesh so who knows?

Note: Very sorry indeed if the name of the shul caused your Internet filters to explode (though RenReb that cockeyhead will probably cluck her tounge in the manner of an ancient schoolmarm and insist that "Cockfosters blah blah is its own word, blah blah an original word, not dependent on any previously-existing meanings of the first syllable. blah blah" Really. That's exactly what she said about cockeyhead.)

Maybe the facination with um, exotic names is a British thing. Their favorite dessert, for example, is called Spotted Dick. (Brainstorm: Is Renny a LIMEY?)

Another note: I hope someone groked the little joke I made linking to Andrew Sullivan's site.

Yet another note: Gosh darn it. I just realized I missed a golden oppotunity to say something realy funny this morning. Mary Cheney's book about her dad? Shouldn't it be called "The Only Dick I'll Ever Love?"

And finally: Never mind dropped Sefer Torah. How many days do you think I should fast to atone for this post?