Saturday, September 30, 2006

G'mar Chatima Tova

Asking mechila from all I may have offended, I am


Friday, September 29, 2006

Art Scroll Irritates

It took some doing, but I've determined which of the many annoying bits of the Art Scroll Commentary on the Machzor is most annoying of all.

It appear near the begining of the Yom Kippur Maariv: "[The piyutim are] infinitly more than inspired poetry."

Anyone know how to solve this equation?

Inspired poetry^infinity=?

Didn't think so.

When ArtScroll announces the piyutim are "infinitly more than inspired poetry are they suggesting the authors were prophets? Are they claiming that the verses we read, with their rhymes, rhythms and meters, aren't really poetry, but something else? Or does it mean that the editors of Art Scroll, like too many Torah True Jews in 2006, are poetry phillistines? (Hint: '"Yes" is the right answer to that question.)

The Wise Men of ArtScroll call it "infinitly more than poetry" is because they inhabit a milieu where poetry is suspect, and possibly treif. "Infinitly more than poetry" is NewSpeak, a way of hiding a frightening fact (ie: that it really is poetry, and that our community, for all it's jive about being "authentic" is, in fact, failing our fathers, and making a mistake by not teaching our young people to write and appreciate poetry.)

If Elazar HaKalir, Meshullem Kolynomous, and our other leading literary lights lived today, they'd be living miserably as Jews, with their gifts supressed and denied, or they'd be flourishing outside the Jewish community. There's no longer a place in Torah True Judaism for a genious of letters.

What Went a-Fowl in Monsey?

A guest post from Chaim G.

Caveat, if you feel that the Monsey Chicken Scandal was not a communal tragedy and was only the fault of the proprietor of Shevach Meats and the mashgichim stop reading now. If not please read on.

This is the season for introspection and, as a redux of the kapparah of the khet Ha-Egel, atonement for the Sin of the Golden Calf, more about communal than personal T’shuva. No doubt many theories were forwarded both by Rabbanim and by rank and file Jews about why the calamity of ingesting traifa chickens by thousands of G-d fearing, Torah Observant Jews befell the Monsey community. In this post would like to submit my own theory.

What first got me thinking in was a comment I read from Rabbi Dovid Schwartz in a thread on the blog. I quote
“In Torah thought, names are indicative of the name-bearers essence. The Chidushei HoRi”m asks: Why is a bird with a name as lovely as Chasidah an Oif Tamey (non-kosher species of bird)? His answer is based on Chazal’s deconstruction of the name. They interpret it to mean that “She does Chesed (loving-kindness) with her peers in terms of sharing food”. He points out that the Chasidah is kind and giving to her “peers” i.e. birds-of-a feather exclusively. The kind of chesed that is limited to ones own kind, concludes the Ri”m, is still essentially “unkosher/tamey”. Chesed that is of the holy variety is extended to " the other”.
This got me thinking. We are always supposed to analyze what‘s happening to us through the prism of quid pro quo (AKA middah k’neged middah). Now I know that Perdue Chickens are not the Biblical Chasidah bird. Still, Chazal teach us that non-kosher species and kosher species that were improperly i.e. un-kosher-ly processed have something in common. “U’lhavdil bain HatOmay V’hatohor” and to discern and separate between the e impure and the pure” (Vayikra 10:10)

What is the meaning of this verse?

Do I require discernment to distinguish between a Cow and a Donkey???

Instead the verse means to distinguish between that which is pure and impure TO YOU, between an animal who’s trachea was only severed halfway and an animal whose trachea was severed more than halfway, a hairsbreadth of difference! [Safra ibid]

The frum communities are incomparable for their Chesed organizations. More than one current godol has remarked that in this department (G’milus Khasodim in contradistinction to Torah and Avodah) it is akhshir dorei/a superlative generation. Still we need to ask ourselves; how much of this is chesed and how much of it is merely Chasidah? When these same communities are afflicted with a pandemic of bitul/nullification, when our Jewish brothers and sisters who differ from us in the slightest way are demonized, nullified, kept (if not geographically then at least socially) at a distance and, worst of all, utterly ignored and placed completely outside the realm of our experiential framework are we not, as a community, behaving like a Chasidah?

Oh, ya, we’ll give you a ride on route 17 or answer a hatzalah call at your home or business but these occasional kindnesses never seem to build bridges, to make the recipient less of a stranger. Even the Kiruv organizations, which arguably bestow the greatest of chasodim on their students, seem obsessed with churning out birds-of-a-feather. Students who don’t “get with the program” in terms of their thinking, and even their style of dress, within a year or two are often “given up on” and considered “failures." Avrohom oveenu, the pillar and paradigm of chesed extended it to polytheistic idolaters not merely to his like-minded wives and children.

In the Maws of Fasting the Rambam writes that anyone who says that Tsuris are happenstance and coincidence is being an akhzar/cruel. Jewish thinkers and etymologists have pointed out that the root of the word (and hence the essence of the meaning) of akhzar is deconstructed as the two words akh/only zar/strange /distant. Creating “the other” is the essence of all cruelty (Check out the Nazis MO before the Holocaust) and assimilating (as in making similar not as in intermarriage) and finding commonality the father of all true kindness.

I did not fast for the Monsey tragedy but I did reflect. By allowing so many of us to stumble on nivlas HaOif maybe, just maybe, Hashem was sending us this message: You eat what you are, stop behaving like a Chasidah and begin feeling true tenderness for one another. Extend Chesed davka to those Jews least similar to you.

As a slightly mis-fitted member of the frum community I really don’t want to engage in turncoat community bashing. I really mean this as a self-criticism. If it speaks to you fine if not I’m not saying Kabla da’ati. (This is after all an anti-Chasidah blog isn’t it?)

Are you shlugging?

I won't be spinning a poor frightened chicken over my head this year. Nor have I ever done it in the past. I find the practice primitive and not in the spirit of Judaism; both the Ramban and the Shulchan Orech agreed, calling it a violation of darchei ha'Emori, the prohibition of following the ways of idol worshippers (Vayikra 18:3).

The unreflective masses, though, are undetered, and my sense is that more and more people embrace the custom every year. Like avoiding matzoh balls on Pesach, or performing the upshurin ritual, shlugging kapores with a live chicken has become a sign of piety. If you confess to skipping the custom (or to cutting your son's hair before his third birthday) the unlettered question your frum bonafides.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Jews in Iran

Iran is home to the largest number of Jews in the Middle East, outside Israel.

BBC Newsnight's Frances Harrison spoke to Iranian Jews about living in a unique Islamic republic.

TJ the Terrorist

Oh why did Thomas Jefferson hate America?

Why suspend the habeas corpus in insurrections and rebellions?

The parties who may be arrested may be charged instantly with a well defined crime; of course, the judge will remand them. If the public safety requires that the government should have a man imprisoned on less probable testimony in those than in other emergencies, let him be taken and tried, retaken and retried, while the necessity continues, only giving him redress against the government for damages.

Examine the history of England. See how few of the cases of the suspension of the habeas corpus law have been worthy of that suspension. They have been either real treasons, wherein the parties might as well have been charged at once, or sham plots, where it was shameful they should ever have been suspected. Yet for the few cases wherein the suspension of the habeas corpus has done real good, that operation is now become habitual and the minds of the nation almost prepared to live under its constant suspension.

--Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1788.

Of course TJ suffered from a pre 9/11 mentality.


Is Steven Colbert's new bit [*] good for the Jews?

* The phone plays hava nagila when it rings
* It has a big blue star of david on it
* He says Shalom with a faux yiddish accent when he answers
* The original number was 1800 klei tzadik (in hebrew); when he didn't get any calls, he announced that Jews weren't calling "because Jews have phones like everyone else" ie: no hebrew letters. So he changed it to 1(888) OOPS-JEW. (Call it for a laugh.)
* He keeps mispronouncing Rosh Hashana, in the way that gentiles almost always do.
* The Jews who call to apologize (all celebrities who are in on the joke) tend to grovel too much for my liking.

The whole thing is done in-character, and "Steven Colbert" is supposed to be a GOP buffoon.

[*] The bit: From before Rosh Hashanah Steven Colbert has been encouraging Jews to call and apologize for imagined slights and insults. Each show starts with Colbert explaining that during the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Jews are required to beg forgiveness from other people. The telephone number is flashed, and then Colbert either insults a Jew who hasn't apologized yet (ie: Joe Leiberman "for not appearing on my show") or the phone rings and an apologizing Jew (ie: Frank Rich or Mort Zuckerman) is on the other end.

The end of America?

Rushing Off a Cliff:

Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush’s shadow penal system that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

There is not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Slaughter Speaks

Here's Congressperson Louis Slaughter, a Democrat, a patriot, and a New Yorker, on the torture/wiretapping bill:
We are at a crossroads today, and I fear that we will not by judged kindly by future Americans for what my Republican friends want us to do today.

This bill sends a clear message to both our friends and our enemies about what kind of people we are.

It shows them whether or not we are really willing to practice what we preach about freedom, democracy, and human dignity.

It is moments like this one when we reveal our true colors, and our real values.

Sadly, M. Speaker, those watching today will conclude that when the going gets tough, America's leaders are willing abandon our values...

...abandon them in favor of thuggish tactics they hope might make them safer for a little while...

From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value."

Those were inspirational words. But here is the reality:

For years, this Administration has circumvented our Constitution in the name of security.

Its officials have dismissed even the most important of our legal documents - such as the Geneva Convention - as being nothing more than "quaint."

This Administration and this Republican Congress have allowed detainees to sit in prison for years without charging them with any crime.

They are willing to deprive people of even the most basic due process rights our country has always afforded those held by the government.

They are willing to convict people of crimes without giving them any opportunity to review the evidence the government is using against them.

They are willing to try and convict people based on unreliable evidence acquired through cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that the rest of the world recognizes as torture.

They are willing to allow government officials to degrade and torment other human beings in ways that the civilized nations agreed to outlaw sixty years ago.

They are even willing to make any new legislation we pass today retroactive, so that past abuses may be forgotten instead of being sincerely addressed.

What this Congress is showing the world today is that we are willing to trade our national birthright for a false and temporary sense of security.

Let me emphasize that: because it is indeed a false sense of security.

Somthing bad is about to happen

Freemarket news sounds the alarm:

As we speak the Senate is debating:

* A bill permitting spying on Americans without a warrant.
* Another bill creating special tribunals and permitting torture.
* A proposal to combine these bills

Do you want this President to have this power? Do you want future presidents to have it? Do you want to risk that these powers won't be applied to citizens as well, as soon as the politicians have the slightest excuse for doing so? If history is any guide, it's only a matter of time before this power is used for reasons other than "national security.

I encourage you to call your Senator and say that these articles do violence to the constitution. Say that you are unwilling to trade our national birthright for a false and temporary sense of security.

[Updated December 24, 2006]


The beadle writes:

Near the end of Shacharit this morning, as does happen on occasion, as schnorer turned up and started asking congregants for Tzedakah, some of whom gave and some didn’t – I did not for reasons that will soon become clear. Our Rav asked him who he was collecting for, to which he replied “poor people”. The Rav asked him where his paperwork was and he said that he had none, after which the Rav asked him to leave the shul and to not come back unless he had paperwork.

After davenning the arguments then started as whether or not it was right to tell him to leave. To my mind, it was 100% correct – it is the easiest thing in the world to do to get paperwork if you are genuine. There were others who believed that during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva you shouldn’t be so suspicious of people and that we shouldn’t worry that he might be a ganef – if someone asks you give, Hashem will give you the money back.

I wonder what the views of the blogosphere community are….

Ok, now I am convinced

A: Torture works on "24"
B: It is a popular program, therefore
C: Americans support torture.

Actual argument made by Laura Ingrahm.
[I saw it on the Moment of Zen, last night but I can't find a clip or transcript. She was dead serious]

Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz

No time to do this justice, alas, but the current TNR has a long review of Jan Gross's new book: Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz From this review, I have learned that a monsterous pogrom was conducted against the Jews of Kielce on July 4, 1946(!) Scores of Jews were killed and hundreds injured in a day-long city-wide bloodbath. As Gross concludes, after documenting the atrocities: "Evidently the moral economy of Polish society after the war allowed for the murdering of Jews."

More later, I hope, but for now the question is this: Why? What was it about Polish society and Polish culture that made it so anti-Semitic? Was it something in their water or in their bread, or perhaps something in the songs they sang and the sermons they heard...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Today's reading

Rich Woman/Poor Woman
a dramatic reading for two people

I am a woman.
I am a woman.

I am a woman born of a woman,
whose man owned a factory.

I am a woman born of a woman,
whose man labored in a factory.

I am a woman whose man wore silk suits, who closely watched his weight.
I am a woman whose man wore tattered clothing, whose heart was constantly strangled by hunger.

I am a woman who watched two babies grow into beautiful children.
I am a woman who watched two babies die
because there was no milk.

I am a woman who watched twins grow into popular students with summers abroad.
I am a woman who watched three children grow, but with bellies stretched from no food.

But then there was a man:
But then there was a man:

And he talked about the peasants getting richer by my family getting poorer.
And he told me of days that would be better, and he made the days better.

We had to eat rice!
We had rice!

We had to eat beans!
We had beans!

My children were no longer given summer visas to Europe.
My children no longer cried themselves to sleep.

I felt like a peasant.
I felt like a woman.

A peasant with a dull, hard, unexciting life.
Like a woman with a life that sometimes
allowed a song.

And I saw a man.
And I saw a man.

And together we began to plot with the hope of a return of freedom --
I saw his heart begin to beat with hope of freedom, at last.

Someday, the return of freedom.
Someday freedom.

But then, one day
But then, one day

There were planes overhead, and guns firing close by.
There were planes overhead, and guns firing in the distance.

I gathered my children and went home.
I gathered my children and ran.

And the guns moved farther and farther away.
But the guns moved closer and closer.

And then, they announced that freedom had been restored!
And then, they came, young boys really ...

They came into my home along with my man.
They came and found my man.

Those men whose money was almost gone --
They took all the men whose lives were almost their own.

And we had drinks to celebrate.
And they shot them all.

The most wonderful martinis.
They shot my man.

And then they asked us to dance.
And then they came for us.

For me, the woman.

And my sisters.
For my sisters.

And then they took us --
And then they took us --

They took us to dinner at a small, private club.
They stripped from us the dignity we had gained.

They treated us to beef.
They raped us.

It was one course after another.
One after another they came at us.

We nearly burst, we were so full.
Lunging, plunging ... sisters bleeding, dying.

It was magnificent to be free again.
It was hardly a relief to have survived.

And then we gathered our children together.
And then they took our children --

And gave them some good wine
And they took their scissors -

And then we gave them a party
And then they took the hands of the children ...


The beans have almost disappeared now.
The beans have disappeared.

The rice I've replaced with chicken or steak.
The rice, I cannot find it.

And the parties continue night after night, to make up for all the time wasted.
And my silent tears are joined once more by the midnight cries of my children.

I feel like a woman again.
They say I am a woman.

Nude Chicks In Kollel

by Cousin Oliver

My wife brought an annoyance of hers to my attention knowing that I've had similar annoyances regarding similar issues and would share in her annoyance.

In order to upkeep and maintain our local mikvah, the mikvah requires payment from its patrons. Just like any other service, people should pay for use. The annoyance my wife and I share is that if a family is categorized as a "kollel" family, they are entitled to a reduced price. As far as I can tell, a girl who is a kollel wife has to use the mikvah in the same exact way a non-kollel wife does. The showers are the same, the towel use is the same, and the mikvah ladies do the same thing. Yet, if a girls husband chooses to learn all day instead of go to work all day, they get a discount. What is this discount based on?

I know of many many couples where the wife works and the husband works, both full time, in order to provide for their families. These families have a harder time living then many kollel families that I see. Yet, the kollel family is rewarded and the family that chooses to work suffers more when the working family may need the break more then the kollel family.

Its bull.

Boo Ya!!
Okay Joe, MoC, et al. What's your response?

The DovBear Challange

I am offering 1 million DovBear dollars to the first reporter who asks George Bush this question:

During the first nine months of your administration, why didn't you do more? Connect the dots and put Al Queda out of business?

The Daily Show was great last night. Using clips from CNN, MSNBC, and of course Fox, Jon Stewart, a great American, made it clear that the MSM are conservative tools. His central point: Two Bill Clintons appeared on Chris Wallace's show last Sunday night. A Bill Clinton who carefully and deliberately explained why he was not able to apprehend bin Ladin, and a Bill Clinton who (justifiably) got a little upset. Which Bill Clinton did the media spotlight? Three guesses.

Monday, September 25, 2006

More lies from Fox

Predictably, the MSM is making a very big deal out of Clinton's finger wagging during his great showing on FOX last Sunday night. Some second class republican j-blogs are as well. Just as predictably, none of them are admitting that Clinton's central complaint was true.

Here's how it went down: After Wallace hit the former president with an obnoxious question ("Why didn't you do more? Connect the dots and put [Al Queda] out of business?) Clinton demanded to know why the tools at Fox never ask the Bushies the same question. After all, before 9/11 Bush had eight months to "connect the dots" and "put [Al Queda] out of business." Yet he never did.

In response to Clinton's demand, Wallace smirked and claimed that of course he had asked the Bushies exactly those sort of questions.

Media Matters calls BS

PS: Attention GOP Jews:
Why don't you help president Clinton? He and I both want to know why Bush didn't "connect the dots and put Al Queda out of business" during the nine months before 9/11

Fox doesn't care, of course, which is why they never ask the Bushies questions like that. But red-blooded, non-partisan, patriotic Americans like you, I expect, are greatly distrubed by Bush's inaction. Greatly. Right?

Worst President Ever?

In the current Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch argues that the Bush's presidency will leave us with four huge headaches:

The fiscal mess. Bush’s tax cuts and spending increases turned a $236 billion federal surplus in fiscal 2000 into a deficit of more than $400 billion four years later, an astonishing reversal. The current year’s deficit has been announced at something like $300 billion, but as Alan Sloan has pointed out: That's a lie.

The Iraq mess. The invasion was a gamble; the failure to scrub the prewar intelligence and properly manage the postwar occupation were mistakes. The gamble might still pay off, but the mistakes have astronomically raised the gamble’s cost in lives, money, prestige, and U.S. strategic focus and position (Iran has been the invasion’s signal beneficiary).

International opprobrium. The Iraq adventure fueled a decline in America’s image abroad, and Bush’s pugnacious style during his first term and his tin ear for foreign opinion made a bad situation worse. This is more than just a public-relations problem. National prestige is diplomatic capital; the more unpopular America becomes, the higher the price of foreign support. Mark Malloch Brown, the UN’s deputy secretary-general, recently said that suspicion of the United States has grown to the point where “many otherwise quite moderate countries” are inclined to oppose anything we favor.

An extralegal terrorism war. If the country seriously intends to prevent terrorism, then spying at home, detaining terror suspects, and conducting tough interrogations are practices that the government will need to engage in for many years to come. Instead of making proper legal provisions for those practices, Bush has run the war against jihadism out of his back pocket, as a permanent state of emergency. He engages in legal ad-hockery and trickery, treats Congress as a nuisance rather than a partner, and circumvents outmoded laws and treaties when he should be creating new ones. Of all Bush’s failings, his refusal to build durable underpinnings for what promises to be a long struggle is the most surprising, the most gratuitous, and potentially the most damaging, both to the sustainability of the antiterrorism effort and to the constitutional order.

This weekend, while the Jews were in shul, came news of a fifth headache. A new National Intelligence Estimate* says that the conflict in Iraq has invigorated Islamic radicalism,and , rather than being in retreat, it has metastasized and spread across the globe. Yup, that's right. According to Bush's own spies, his war has made us less safe. The "danger" he drones on about every two years when it's time to plump for votes was, to a large extent, caused by his own policies. Money quote:
...the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse
Well done Bushies!!

(*National Intelligence Estimates are the most authoritative documents that the intelligence community produces on a specific national security issue, and are approved by John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence. Their conclusions are based on analysis of raw intelligence collected by all of the spy agencies, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government.)

Let's talk about auctions and breaks

I wrote:

Well, for starters the shul has no auction, preferring not to turn their place of prayer into a marketplace on one of the holiest days of the year. That's 25 minutes right there. Also, the people who pray at the shul, apparently, are made from tougher, sturdier stock. They are able to power through, to the end of davening, without stopping for a recess. The "break" cost the shteeble another 30 minutes

Troll: Arrrggh. DovBear, once again, you make me feel like wringing your neck (not literaly). Shteeble's are usualy in greater need of funds than Shul's....

DB: On what planet? Maybe this was true in 1950, but it is true no longer. Most of the big shuls I know have older members and are starving. All of the shteebles I know have plenty of rich members who happily pay for everything.

Anyway, so what if they "need" the money? Since when is needing money a justification for anything? Why is money a good reason for being miztaer the tzibbur, adding 20-30 minutes to the davening, and making the shul into a shuk? Besides, if they really need money let them raise money in other ways, like raffles, dinners, and so on. Or they could increase the annual fees. Needing money isn't justification for degrading the shul on one of the holiest days of the year.

Troll: On Rosh Hashona, people are willing to pay more for Aliyot, hence an oppertunity for the Shteeble to raise some extra cash. But of course, DB (as usual) is critical.

DB: Big deal. They could also "raise some extra cash" by letting the local pizza shop put an ad on the rabbi's back. Should they do that too? And what's wrong with your values? The mere fact that people are willing to pay more, gives the shteeble license to soak them?

Troll: And on Yom Kippur, the Shteeble'lites by miracle turn into tougher sturdier stock??

Ha. At the shteeble, I sometimes attend they have two breaks on Yom Kippur giving them a total recess time of more than 2 hours. By contrast the shul gets 45 minutes to an hour, at best.

And if you want to talk about "sturdier stock" why is it that the typical shteeble person (and I say this from vast experience) doesn't have the stamina to stand up when the aron is open, or to hit the floor during aleinu and the avoda? I've been to many shuls and many shteebles and it's always the same: In the shul 80 percent of the people stand up whenever the aron is open and prostrate themselves whenever the liturgy calls for it. In the shteeble, most people remain sitting when the aron is open, and very few of them bother to kneel and bring their face to the floor at the high points of the service. This irreverance might be permitted, but it's still an irreverance.

Nu? What time did you finish?

First day: 2:45 (shteeble)
Second day: 1:30 (shul)

[What accounts for the difference? I assure you it isn't because the shul davens more quickly; rather the shteeble wastes time. How? Well, for starters the shul has no auction, preferring not to turn their place of prayer into a marketplace on one of the holiest days of the year. That's 25 minutes right there. Also, the people who pray at the shul, apparently, are made from tougher, sturdier stock. They are able to power through, to the end of davening, without stopping for a recess. The "break" cost the shteeble another 30 minutes.]

Friday, September 22, 2006

Simanei Milta

It has been said that omens are of significance; therefore, one should make a regular habit of eating, at the beginning of the year, guord, fenugreek, leek, beet and dates [as these grow in profussion and are symbolic of prosperity... (Horayot 12a)

Some other suggestions:

Let it be Your will, O' L0rd our God, the God of our ancestors...

...that we all live in harmony.

Crown Royal
...that we rise to every occasion.

...that our evil inclination be buried.

...that accusations against us be impeached.

...that we enjoy peace.

...that we figure out what you want from us

...that our enemies be squashed

Celeries and raisons
...that we all receive a raise in salary

I called it!!!!!

Yesterday, I suggested that the Naturei Karta, our Torah True Friends from the very far right, would be pleased to learn that the head crazy person of Iran has embraced their thinking about Israel and Zionism. Turns out I was right!

Here's the video evidence

(Humph when Steven Colbert screams I CALLED IT, he gets covered with confetti and balloons. I really need to hire a new prop guy. Old prop guy: You're on notice!)

Ahmadinejad and Dean Marching in Lockstep Together!!

Yesterday Joe and Daganiv, the two smartest commentators in the history of DovBear, if not the world, trenchantly argued that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "agrees with Democratic talking points." Turns out, they were 100 percent right.

Steven Colbert has the story:

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The words the NK have been waiting to hear

"So how can the followers of Moses possibly destroy the homes of people over their heads in their homeland to take, and to kill, actually, an infant that is feeding in the arms of a mother?

These Zionists, I want to tell you, are not Jews."

Thus spoke Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the lunatic currently leading Iran. (How crazy is he? I'd say crazier than at least three barrels of monkeys. Even Agudah-centric institutions took time off from the study of Torah to stand outside the UN alongside Young Israel Jews and other lower caste Hebrews for yesterday's ritual denouncing.)

"Zionists are not Jews." That has long been the rallying cry of the Naturei Karta, and other assorted Satmar sub-groups. They carry it on their placards when they march in protest of Israeli politicians, and I suppose they must also whisper it lovingly into the ears of terrorist leaders like Yasser Arafat.

Here's a question for the Satmar Hasidim in the audience: How does it feel to be quoted by the President of Iran? Are you proud? Did you shriek "Shkoach!" when you saw his remarks on the Daily Show last night?

Just curious.

George Allen the Jew

CA writes:
It seems that dear, sweet Senator George Allen, son of the famous Washington Redskins football coach is actually a halachic Jew who grew up thinking he was a goy. And when someone reminded him of his heritage at a televised statewide debate, he went ballistic. I presume because being halachically Jewish would cause him problems with his KKK buddies.

The backstory is that his mom is a Tunisian Francophone Jew whose father (Sen. Allen's Zeideh) was imprisoned by the Nazis in WW2. So when Ma Allen came to America and married George Sr., she decided to hide her Jewish heritage so her son wouldn't have to worry about the American Gestapo rounding up young George Jr. and sending him to the camps. At least that's the story being put forth as of now by the Allen camp. Josh Marshall suspects that the more likely story is that Ma Allen decided to bury her Jewish heritage so as not to flip out George Sr.'s family when she decided to marry the shaygetz.

Now the Allen camp is accusing Mr. Webb, his opponent, of being "anti-semitic" because of the brouhaha, even though Webb isn't saying much of anything about it. Given the obvious pyschological projection being displayed here, I wonder how long it will be before he starts calling Mr. Webb (who I'm sure is a 100% erlicher frum goy) a "self-hating Jew." The best bit:
Speaking with The Times-Dispatch, Allen said the disclosure is "just an interesting nuance to my background." He added, "I still had a ham sandwich for lunch. And my mother made great pork chops."
Quite a statement for a halachic Jew to make. I think Senator Allen may not get written for a good year this Rosh Hashanna. I propose that we send him extra High Holiday tickets we might have, so he can be sure to go to shul and to proper teshuva. After all, his Jewish neshama is far more important than whether he gets re-elected to the Senate.
And what a puzzlement for Christ-loving Jews on the GOP right. Officially, the GOPJew loves Christians (the more fundermentalist the better) and hates irreligious Jews. When Allen was a Christian in good standing, all was well. Cross Current Jews were free to praise him, and to rhapsodize poeticaly about his wonderful morals, and excellent Jesus-centric values. But now what? Overnight, Allen has morphed from Fundementalist Christian to Pork Eating Jew.

Will the GOPJews toss him overboard? And, if they do, what conclusions should we draw about a group of people who are willing to accept a Christian who insults minorities and commits acts of idol worship in public, but not a full-fledged Jew who happens to be a tinok shenishba? [a child who was raised among gentiles and therefore cannot be held responsible for his or her lack of observance]

A simple answer for simple people

Via Sadly, No

Q: DovBear, why do you oppose the president's mad wish to aquire even more power, as evidenced by recent revelations of secret prisons, extraordinary rendition, warrantless wiretapping, and so on?

DB: Everything George Bush touches turns to ash. He has the SIDAM touch. Do you really want to give him more power?

Better Know A Blogger I

In a new interview series, DOVBEAR talks to leading bloggers about... well, really anything that comes up. This week David Bogner, the award-winning creator of Treppenwitz, is on the seat of heat. Please ask your own questions in the comments, and David (or someone pretending to be David) will be pleased to answer them.

Notes: If you'd like to participate in a future edition of Better Know a Blogger write to me at To be considered, you must blog at least three times per week, and have been writing for at least 6 months. Any similarity to Steven Colbert's Better Know a District is purely coincidental. Plus, he steals from me all the time.

Next week: Mobius of JewSchool

David: Sorry I'm late.
Me: NP. Is now a good time?

David: We just delivered three patrol boats to the Israel navy and I was at the commissioning ceremony. Just got back.

Me: Ooh.
Me. Ok, here we go, and don't worry, this won't hurt a bit.
Me: First question: Jewlicious or Jewschool?
David: Is that like 'Ginger or Maryanne?'?

Me: More like "boxers or briefs" ;)
David: With no disrespect to either... let me just say 'Depends'.

Me: Does anyone call you Trep in real life?
David: So far only you. :-)

Me: How do you feel about that?
David: anyone who knows me in real life calls me by my real name. I find it interesting that many of the people I know only on the net call me Trep. But it doesn't bother me at all.

Me: You're not anonymous, and you don't shy away from controversy. How do you keep the blog world from colliding with the real world? What happens when your kid's teacher, for example, wants to yell at you about your latest post?
David: I do a lot of self editing which helps avoid most of the pitfalls. I try not to publish anything less than 6 hours after writing it. That way I have a chance to look at it with fresh eyes before I hit the publish button. You'd be surprised how many things don't see the light of day because of that 'cooling off period'… although I have frequently had to apologize and retract things I've written. But that could (and does) happen in real life as well.

Me: Has your blog ever gotten you dirty looks in shul?
David: Dirty looks? No. I've had a few friends tell me that they didn't share my views though.

Me: Are you worried your blog one day might embarrass your kids, or interfere with their social life? Say Yonah decides he wants to be a Haredi, for example, and his prospective in laws - a fine Meah Sharim family – come across the blog...
David: We've raised our kids in a very open, non-judgmental household. We are mainstream observant Jews... but they have grandparents who don't keep much beyond tradition... an aunt who is a uncle who is an atheist and married to a non-Jew...etc. I don't think my blog is going to be the thing keeping my kids from finding the right shidduch, do you? :-)

Me: Well it depends on the shidduch, but I suppose other blogs, and other bloggers have more to worry about :) Moving on.

Me: You've been at this for two years, right? Why aren't you bored with blogging. How do you fight of the urge to mail it in occasionally?
David: Going on three, actually. I go through periods where certain aspects of journaling start to seem repetitive. I force myself to change my focus for a few weeks. Since I'm pretty happy with my life... and in my own skin... I don't get tired of rehashing it on Treppenwitz.

Me: Why don't you cut corners, though? I've looked at your blog very carefully, and you never seem to take short cuts. How do you maintain that level of professionalism?
David: That's nice of you to say, but the truth is I NEVER edit myself.

Me: I don't edit myself, either. Maybee yu cn till?
David: That would be the death of the thing for me. I have a few readers who email me with typos and grammar problems... it's actually gotten to be a bit of a game with them to see who can find the first mistake. The real trick as I mentioned earlier is simply not publishing the crappy posts. And there are plenty of them.

Me: I take the opposite approach at DovBear. The crappy posts get published, too. And often they get the most comments. In fact, I've often said, why bother churning out well-written posts, if the crap gets a better response?
David: We have a very different focus. I see you as tossing out ideas and challenging people. I spend most of my time challenging myself.

Me: How?
David: Mostly when I write about topical issues... politics... religion... social justice. I am very conflicted being a transplanted American liberal who happens to be a religious settler. If you look at even my angriest posts you will notice that near the end I usually prop the door open a bit. Y'know, just in case I need to back-track a little in the comments section. At first I felt guilty not taking a firm stand. But I found I learned more from commenters when they perceived flexibility. In my ideas, that is.

Me: Are you trying to learn, when you blog, or to teach?
David: Look, it would sound pretty pompous to say I am trying to teach people with treppenwitz. But I know that there are a lot of people out there who have had to adjust their ideas about Jews, settlers, dati people, etc. because of me. It's not that I am an example of anything, but rather that by reading me they find it is dangerous to generalize. It is mostly a creative outlet for me. I used to play gigs (on trombone) 4 times a week. Now I write about as often.

Me: I think anyone who blogs has something he wants to get across, especially if he stays with it after his audience expands. That's not pompous. We all have values and lessons we'd like to share. That's what makes us bloggers.

Me: Can you tell me who the Ren Reb is?
David: Nope. And I'm not even a little curious. I like my superheroes with their capes and masks on, thankyouverymuch.

Me: Lots of readers seem to operate on the theory that their lives will change if they unmask a popular blogger. They pursue hidden identities with a real ferociousness. As a non-anonymous blogger, I suppose you don't have to put up with that, but has an off-balance reader ever crossed the line?
David: True, being public about my identity has sort of done away with the need for anyone to 'out' me. But that doesn't mean keeping treppenwitz has been all beer and skittles. In addition to dealing with trolls, I have my own personal 'church lady' who sends me long, scripture-laden lectures about everything from my potty mouth (huh?) to the fact that I'm not holding up my end of the whole 'representing all religious Jews' thing. Good times.

Me: What's one thing you want the blogosphere to know about you?
David: Anything I want people to know I pretty much write. Anything I want to hide... well, that's another story. :-)

Me: Ok, I think that's it. This was painless, right? Maybe too painless, right?. Thanks for being a good sport.

Update: David sent this postscript:
Full Disclosure: When Dov Bear emailed me the final draft of the interview to review I was initially a little put off that he had cut it down by almost half. But in retrospect, I'm a bit relieved that he saw fit to edit out the discussion of my years in rehab... the stint in jail... and the profanity, particularly the part where I shared my own riff on the well known joke, 'The Aristocrats'. Thanks for preserving my squeaky-clean image DB. You my be a cockyhead to renreb... but you'll always be a prince to me.

De Ja Vu All Over Again

At Holiday Time, other media replay Rudolf the Drunk Raindeer, or Linus Quoting Scripture.
Here, we have our own tradition of beloved seasonal repeats. Presenting:

YitzhakEyzik's letter to God.

YitzhakEyzik finds a printer's error.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The word of the day is


I admit it. The Times hates us.

The New York Times steps up its attack on traditional religious values today, by publishing a photo of a purple matzoh ball (Thank God it's not on-line.) The anti-Israel communists who write for the food section, think that this obcenity is an appropriate dumpling for Rosh Hashana. Something about the holiday and fruit, they say (Do you notice how those liberal food-lovers manage to shoehorn the queers into everything?)

With their eyes gleaming with comtempt for our faith and history, they also repeat this shocking tale of (rachmana l'tzlon) changing tastes and traditions:

Matzo balls seem like a universal Jewish icon, but that wasn't true until the B. Manischewitz Company produced the first commercial matzo at the turn of the last century and then began promoting its matzo and, later, its matzo meal and matzo ball mix, said Jonathan D. Sarna, author of American Judaism: A History(Yale University Press, 2004).

Until then, matzo balls were strictly a Passover dish, and dumplings - called knoedel, also known as kneidlach in Yiddish or kleis in German - made with breadcrumbs, bread or flour, filled their role at others times of the year.

Manischewitz was in the business of finding ways of making people use their machine-made matzo products all year round, Dr. Sarna said.

This reminds me of the old wives tale about how our European ancestors never tasted potato kugel, because the main ingredient (Potatoes. Duh.) is a New World vegetable. As any propely educated Haredi will tell you that's nonsense. I mean, how could the sainted and holy Hasidic Rabbis of the 14th and 13th centuries have possibley helped couples conceive, and bestowed upon them blessings of health and prosperity if he had no potato kugel to offer them?

Republicans "We were for the meeting before we were against it"

Gopher state Republicans are ganging up on Keith Ellison, the Dem candidate who's on track to become the first Muslim member of Congress. In particular, they are pointing to his relationship with Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), as evidence of moral turpitude and anti-American sentiment. Now, I love the guilt by association game as much as anyone, but the problem with this exercise in character assasination is that it implicates Our Infalliable Leader, George II. As TPM tells it:

On Sept. 17, 2001, Bush stood with Awad, and presented him and others as people of Islam who oppose terrorism. Standing with Awad, Bush said:
Like the good folks standing with me, the American people were appalled and outraged at last Tuesday's attacks. And so were Muslims all across the world. Both Americans and Muslim friends and citizens, tax-paying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens...
The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war.

Hat tip: CA

The new kashrus scandal

Any guesses?

[Note, as yet this is not corroborated. Apply the salt, liberaly.]

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence."

David Plotz - Slate Magazine:

"Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence."

A lot of ink, and probably some blood, has been spilled about the meaning of this verse. I can't count the number of times I've heard religious conservatives cite it in their condemnation of homosexuality. On the flip side, I once listened to my rabbi hold forth about the word abhorrence (sometimes translated as 'abomination')—he argued that it actually had a much milder meaning than, well, 'abhorrence.' Despite his impassioned argument, I don't think gay-rights supporters are going to get very far in trying to minimize or deny the Bible's opposition to homosexuality. There is no Brokeback Mount Sinai. This verse, plus a similar verse in Chapter 20 mandating death for gay sex between men, —the Bible is crystal clear about male homosexuality. (Lesbian sex isn't mentioned in the Torah.) So, how should Bible-loving gay-rights supporters rebut Leviticus 18:22? A stronger argument, perhaps, is to point out all the other things the Bible is equally clear about: The death penalty for gay sex, yes—but also the death penalty for cursing your parents, the death penalty for violating Sabbath, exile for sex with a menstruating woman, etc. …

Turn the Bible-quoting back on the social conservatives: Why do they fixate on the abhorrent gay sex and not the abhorrent menstrual sex, or parent cursing, or Sabbath-violating?


Are you going to Uman, this Rosh Hashana, to pray at the grave of the sainted Rav Nachman? Rumors (started by the Uman Tourist Board) promise absolute forgiveness to anyone with payis who prays at the grave. Though the trip might cost as much as $4000, this is actually a very good deal. Along with the absolute forgivenss, you get meals, rooms, and the inspiring company of 15,000 men (no towels, though, or mints on your pillow) And, sure, begging forgivness from the people you have wronged, and commiting to changing your ways is also a path to absolute forgivness, but why go to all that bother when you can get the same result in Uman, while also escaping your wife and kids for the holidays?

Update: Apparently some women are actively encouraging their husbands to abidicate their familial responsibilites for the sake of the pilgramage. The reason for this is simple: nashim da'atot kalim.

Trailer for Paul Mazurksy's documentary on Rosh Hashanah in the Ukraine
Another video clip from Uman
One more for fun and good luck <-Absolute forgivness promised to all who click this link.

Bush's Boneheaded Torture Policy

Not only is torture wrong, it doesn't work. You cannot get reliable information from someone who will say anything to save his own life.

Case in point: "Arar, now 36, was detained by U.S. authorities as he changed planes in New York on Sept. 26, 2002. He was held for questioning for 12 days, then flown by jet to Jordan and driven to Syria. He was beaten, forced to confess to having trained in Afghanistan -- where he never has been -- and then kept in a coffin-size dungeon for 10 months before he was released, the Canadian inquiry commission found."

And furthermore, I wonder if the Syrain goons Bush paid to torture this innocent Canadian ever crossed paths with Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

Smell the Freedom

Irony alert: Bush is defending freedom by torturing innocent people in secret.

Canadian intelligence officials passed false warnings and bad information to American agents about a Muslim Canadian citizen, after which U.S. authorities secretly whisked him to Syria, where he was tortured, a judicial report found Monday.... Arar, now 36, was detained by U.S. authorities as he changed planes in New York on Sept. 26, 2002. He was held for questioning for 12 days, then flown by jet to Jordan and driven to Syria. He was beaten, forced to confess to having trained in Afghanistan -- where he never has been -- and then kept in a coffin-size dungeon for 10 months before he was released, the Canadian inquiry commission found.... [head of the inquiry commission, Ontario Justice Dennis ] O'Connor concluded that "categorically there is no evidence" that Arar did anything wrong or was a security threat.

Haha, sorry Canada! Our bad! Can we offer you a coupon book as a sign of our goodwill?

Expected Bush explanations:
(1) Well, if he was truly innocent, he would had the good sense to be born American.
(2) Canada gave us the wrong guy. On the advice of John Kerry. Look at them. Them. THEM.
(3) Didn't Klinton authorize rendition, too? Look at him! HIM! HIMMMMMMMM!
(4) What do you mean "not guilty?" He was both swarthy and brown.
(5) You boneheads just don't get it. WE don't torture. It was those Syrians, who hate us for our freedom (Note: We love them for their torture.)
(6) Our intelligance was faulty. Again.

Here's something from the spiritual realm..........

Dead Meah Shearim resident reincarnated as dog. Dog (or deceased who's come back as canine) refuses to leave until Kadish is said. Photos included.,7340,L-3305192,00.html

[Hat-tip She who must not be named]

Should we encourage kiddish clubs?

William Saletan:
Alcohol drinkers earn 10 percent to 14 percent more than nondrinkers, according to a study. Authors' theories: 1) Drinking helps you "socialize more with clients and co-workers, giving drinkers an advantage in important relationships." 2) Drinking "may also provide individuals with opportunities to learn people, business, and social skills." Authors' conclusions: 1) "By preventing people from drinking in public, anti-alcohol policies eliminate one of the most important aspects of drinking: increased social capital." 2) "Not only do anti-alcohol policies reduce drinkers' fun, but they may also decrease earnings." 3) Maybe we should stop trying to reduce drinking at colleges. Rebuttals: 1) You don't have to drink to socialize. 2) It's more likely that sociability causes both drinking and social capital than that drinking causes
social capital. 3) This "study" is right-wing-funded spin masquerading as impartial research. (For Human Nature's previous updates on the benefits of alcohol, click here, here, and here.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Comment of the Day


I would love to have a unified theory of how to understand timtum.
Simply stated: you are what you eat. Eat non-kosher and the body God gave you in order to live a holy life becomes a depository of impurity. Fast, and you are doing the equivlent of sacrificing some of your body in atonement.

Bottom line: silly nonsense being fed to ignorant simpletons who live their magical lives ignoring the obvious. Namely, that their rabbis are profit motivated, power hungry incompetents who couldn't do the simple job of night watchman without screwing up.

People, it's time to take back your self determination and expel the do nothing rabbis. Even the least capable of us would not have allowed Perdue into the freezer or Kolko into the classrooms.

What! The media is not liberal?!? I am shocked and dismayed.

Time magazine has added a new blogger to their "diverse chorus of political voices." He's not a liberal, which is perfectly fine, of course, except none of their other bloggers are liberal, either.

Even Cross Currents occasionally lets Shira Shmidt say something .

OnlySimchas Blogging

A gay marriage is nothing new and, like most Americans, I'm content to let these young men do as they please in private. If standing under a chupa in front of family and friends makes them happy, it's no business of mine. Their ceremony, indeed their relationship, harms me not in the slightest, and God, should He object, can settle his own accounts.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Monsey Fast: Special Edition

I'm trying to get a sense of how the people of Monsey responded to the call for a community-wide fast today. Please send this post to anyone you know who might live in Monsey and ask them to register their reaction in the comments. Those who don't live in Monsey are, of course, welcome to join the conversation.

Today I called four friends who live in Monsey. Not one of them are fasting. Their reasons:

1 - "I didn't eat anything from that store, and because I am not a Hasid I don't consider myself a part of that community. This is their fast, not mine."

2 - "This disaster was the mashgiach's fault, and we know that it was the mashgiach's fault because as soon as someone walked into the store the whole fraud was discovered. If anyone should fast, he should fast. All I did was rely on him. I didn't do anything contrary to the halacha so I am not fasting."

3 - "I already shelled out over $100 on new kitchenware, and I disposed of over $100 worth of meat. Plus I spent hours kashering. I've suffered enough. That's my kaparah."

4 - "This is all political. The top Rabbis are calling for a fast to distract attention from their own failing, and useful idiots like my shul Rabbi are going along with it because they are too timid to challenge the power structure. By telling us to fast, they are putting the blame on us, instead of on themselves where it belongs."

Are these attitudes typical? If you're a Monsey person please share your point of view in the comments. Your anonymity is guaranteed.

The Pope needs to lie down in the snow

On January 25, 1076, Europe's most powerful king stood barefoot in the snow and knelt before a bishop. The king was Henry IV, the Holy Roman Emperor. He had been excommunicated by Pope Gregory VII for rising against the Church "with unheard of arrogance" during a controversy over who had the right to appoint bishops, and therefore control their land and treasure. All Christians were forbidden by the Pope to recognize Henry's authority, and his German nobles threatened to dispose Henry unless he won the Pope's forgiveness. The King crossed the Alps and appealed to Gregory directly, standing before him barefoot, and in sackcloth. The Pope demanded the ultimate guesture of pentinence, a prostration. The Emperor had to lie face down on the frozen ground. Only then did the Pope absolve the emperor, and lift the order of excommunication.

I think a similar guesture would be appropriate, this week, from the Pope formerly known as Ratzinger.

Insulting Muslims by quoting a 14th-century description of Islam as “evil and inhuman,” was a spectacularly stupid thing for the Pope to do. And though I condemn absolutely the Muslim reaction, a deep and persuasive apology from the Pope might be the only way to quell the flames.

Mister Pot? I have a kettle for you on Line 2.

The Pope’s Words - New York Times: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Glass houses.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Davening Dilemma

DovBear: Davening Dilemma
Originally posted Monday, September 19, 2005
(That's why the first sentance is out of date)

I've been laboring over a long, long post about how now that George Bush has made his big speech promising to eliminate racism and poverty while simultaneously enriching Haliburton, the biggest problem in my life is choosing a place to daven for the High Holidays. You may have even seen the first part of the post. It was up for about 6 seconds, before I realized how shallow it sounded.

You see, all I really want for the High Holidays is a superbly-talented chazzan, in a magnificent room, leading a congregation of hundreds in prayer and song. And I want to be done by 1:30 pm on Rosh Hashana. And I want a long break on Yom Kippur (I'm willing to start as early as 7:30 am on all three days.)

Shallow, right? Fine, but no flour no Torah. And for me, the flour are the atmosphere and the aesthetics. Without the flour, my own prayers fall flat, and I leave shul dejected and bitter.

So where do I find these the beautiful room and the brilliant chazan and the fast service, together with a large congregation, a congregation that numbers in the hundreds and loves to sing? Not in my neighborhood, unfortunately.

Each of the three shuls, I frequent over the course of the year offers part of the package. The Hasidic shteeble, for example, sings everything, but the congregation is tiny, the room is ugly and their chazan doesn't know the nusach. His Neilla Kaddish sounds just like his Musaf Kaddish, for example, and his Kol Nidrei puts me in mind of a suffering cat. And the other set pieces, including Avos and Unesana Tokef, are like nothing I've ever heard. I'm not a traditionalists in all things, but I like latkes at Chanuka and I like to hear the universal melodies on the High Holidays. Oh, and the fact that they daven sfard is much more annoying on the Yomim Noaraim than it is during the rest of the year. I don't like having my Amidah inturrupted by the shofar.

At the MO shul, the sanctuary isn't that much prettier, but the service is tighter, and guided by a chazaan who knows what he's doing. Unfortunately, the congregation is more like an audience. They listen, when they should be singing.

The third option is the yeshivish minyan, which is essentially an Ashkenaz shteeble. True, they do start early, finish before 2 pm, and provide a nice long break on Yom Kippur, but the congregation isn't large enough, or loud enough, to carry me. Unlike the Hasidim, the yeshivish aren't much for singing.

So where does that leave me? No place, I guess.

Classic Confrontation: Cookie v. Kermit

Needless to say Cookie wins. Man, can that monster manipulate.

The OU's Jewish Action on The Evolution Debate (and so long)

This month's Jewish Action, an official publication of the OU, features a series of articles on the evolution vs. ID debate, including articles by Gerald Schroeder and Nathan Aviezer. A couple of thoughts:

1. Why now? This was news in December, when the Dover school board decision was handed down. Perhaps its was in response to the Slifkin book? Neither his book nor his name is mentioned in any of the articles. These articles have nothing to do with Slifkin. Maybe it is a response to the Jewish Observer articles discussed here? Again, neither those articles, nor the attack on the OU's sister institution, the RCA, contained in those articles, are addressed.

2. While I would have liked to see the OU stand up for itself against the JO -- after all, the JO articles visciously attacked the RCA and Slifkin, whose book was the subject of a glowing introduction by the OU's leading figure, R' Weinreb -- the contrast with the JO pieces is stark. Not one mean-spirited word, personal attack, or misleading, out of context quote.

3. Why is Slifkin completely ignored? His views on evolution are certainly the most newsworthy. His recent book is probably the most comprehensive statement of all of the different views of the matter, including those of Avioezer's and Schroeder, both of whom he rejects. It would have been nice to see Aviezer or Schroeder respond to Slifkin's critique, or at least address Slifkin's approach. Slifkin is like the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. It would also have been nice to see some dialogue between Aviezer or Schroeder, each of whom take opposite approaches to ID. Yet each of their articles are written in a complete vacuum as if the other didn't exist.

Well, that's it for me for now, DB. Here are the keys. Thanks. It was fun while it lasted. And the dent on the fender wasn't my fault.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Thought experiment

Rabbi Moshe Tendler is the tragic figure par excellance. By rights, he should have the respect of his community. After all, he is supremely learned, a Rosh Yeshiva, the author of several well-regarded texts, and the son-in-law of Moshe Feinstein, the Sage of the Previous Generation. In places like Teanek and West Hempstead and Highland Park Rabbi Tendler is accorded great respect, and the YU community revers him as one of our generation's ranking authorities on medical ethics.

Unfortunately for Rabbi Tendler, though, he chose to make Monsey his hometown, and in Monsey this great man is denied the respect he deserves. Last year, for instance, when a lie about Rabbi Tendler was gleefuly spread by irresponsible gossips and newspapers like the Yated, the madmen of Monsey launched a systematic campaign of desctruction against him. They distorted his words, spread stories about him, published polemics, harrased him with threatening phone calls, vandalized his shul, and conducted nightime vigils. If the men and women of Monsey must fast this Sunday, let them fast for how they allowed this man to be treated.

Now for the thought experiment promised in the title: Suppose Rabbi Tendler had been the mashgiach responsible for certifying Shevach Meats. Suppose all of Monsey ate treif meat for eight years on Rabbi Tendler's achrayis. Given the way Rabbi Tendler has been treated in the past by the very people most affected by the Shevach Scandal, I ask: If Rabbi Tendler had been responsible for Monsey's humiliation, would the town be calling for a public fast? Or would the Tendler family be sitting shiva?

Related 1 2 3 4

What's with YSV?


: Is Liberalism A More Pragmatic Approach?

Yes. [Naftuli's two cents]

Why science isn't superstituous

Gregg Easterbrook in Slate Magazine
Today if a professor at Princeton claims there are 11 unobservable dimensions about which he can speak with great confidence despite an utter lack of supporting evidence, that professor is praised for incredible sophistication. If another person in the same place asserted there exists one unobservable dimension, the plane of the spirit, he would be hooted down as a superstitious crank.
Well duh. One of these two can do the math and show his work.

Blaming the victim

The Wise Men of Monsey are circulating flyers and pamphlets urging the faithful to fast this Sunday for the sin of trusting a Jew injesting treif chicken. This strikes us as absurb. The men and women of Monsey relied on a mashgiach who told them the meat was kosher. They followed the halachic process; therefore there is no sin to repent. An ones (someone who sins through no fault of his own) is always blameless.

The butcher who lied, cheated and defrauded his customers for 10 years should fast. The mashgiach who permitted himself to be deceived by the butcher's external show of piety should fast. But the victims who followed the rules and did as they were told? Ridiculous.

Perhaps the Wise Men of Monsey will next call on murder and rape victims to fast.

Fox News is biased?

Apparently you can say anything if you stick a question mark on the end.


Ann Richards, though, honestly, she's only worth remembering for her great line about George Bush.

The fruit of wingnuttery

Posted by Live Frei or Die!

Well, for all you folks relying on our wingnut-controlled Congress to get to the bottom of this Iran "nukyuhler" business, the UN weapons inspectors, who were, afeter all, correct about Saddam Hussein) have some bad news:

IAEA complains of 'outrageous' inaccuracies in Iran report to House Intelligence Committee The Associated Press [Published: September 14, 2006]

VIENNA, Austria A recent U.S. House of Representatives committee report on Iran's nuclear capability is "outrageous and dishonest" in trying to make a case that Tehran's program is geared toward making weapons, a senior official of the International Atomic Energy Agency has said.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday outside a 35-nation IAEA board meeting, says the report is false in saying Iran is making weapons-grade uranium at an experimental enrichment site, when it has in fact produced material only in small quantities that is far below the level that can be used in nuclear arms.

Alas, the fruit of wingnuttery. You wouldn't see any moonbats so silly as to mislead their country into a second war on false pretenses --a war that will further destory our military power and put the final nail in the coffin of our international stature.

And, by the way, even the Israelis think that the wingnuts are meshuuggeners.


There's more. Not only do they endanger our national security, the fruits of wingnut policy and ideology endanger our very lives!!

Rember Vioxx??

Well, this just out in the medical journals:

It's not just Vioxx, and not just at high doses, and not just if you take it for a long time.

AND... the sucessor drug that's being marketed as safe .... is, in reality, just as bad, if not worse.

How could this happen?

How about the wingnut regulatory philosophy that everybody is better served with corporate-friendly regulation:

Here is Dr. David Graham, MD, who works at the FDA, but is forced to write only as a private citizen (at least they're letting him do that):

Another key issue is to account for the long delay in defining the risks and benefits of COX-2 inhibitors. [In other words, the FDA fiddled while Rome burned, or at least patients were dropping like flies -CA] Part of the problem lies with FDA policies, practices, and procedures that lead it to ignore potential safety problems. Despite a priori concerns2-3 and disconcerting evidence in the preapproval application,4-5 the FDA approved rofecoxib, stating it lacked "complete certainty" that the drug increased cardiovascular risk.4 Such a standard does not protect consumers, is prejudicially favorable to industry and its financial interests, rewards drug companies for not aggressively pursuing safety questions, and guarantees that some drugs with major safety problems will be approved and, once approved, will remain on the market, even in the face of extensive patient harm. The failure to immediately withdraw high-dose rofecoxib [Vioxx] from the market following publication of the results of the VIGOR trial, and to study quickly and intensively its cardiovascular risks at lower doses, increased the number of patients harmed by the drug as well as the profits made from its continued marketing. Only Congress can help prevent this from happening again [but they won't becuase they're in thrall to wingnut regulatory ideology, not to mention the commerical interests that finance their election campaigns.] by enacting legislation to create a separate and independent Center for Post-Marketing Safety within the FDA, empowered with the authority to identify and effectively deal with unsafe medicines and the companies that market them.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Death Of A President


...Or as I call it "Porn for Liberals." For a few decades now, people have turned to film to view what they themselves are incapable or unable to do. Usually their fantasies are sexually related. But with this movie, liberals, who for six years haven't been unable to get rid of Bush via the ballot, will get to fantasize and watch him getting disposed of via the bullet.

Well, it could be worse. At least the the NEA isn't sponsoring this snuff film.

Was it the Chicken?

Recent examples of Monsey insanity:

*Slifkin (according to GH, the idea to ban Slifkin originated in Monsey and was honchoed by Monsey zealots)

* Metzizha b'Peh (It was a Monsey mohel who [allegedly] infected the infants with Hepititis herpes [corrected 9/14], and it was Monsey zealots who portrayed the reasonable efforts of reasonable people to regulate the practice as an attempt by evil self-hating Jews to destroy the institution of mila.)

* TendlerThe disgraced Rabbi is a resident.

* Karben The disgraced Assemblyman is a resident.

* Naturai Karta(The home base of the American branch is in Monsey. The disgraceful fellow who made a visit to Yasser Arafat's hospital room is a resident.)

* The Talking Fish (Techincally, this particular chillul hashem belongs to New Square, but New Sqaure is adjacent to Monsey, and the true believers of Monsey lapped the story up with a spoon)

Maybe there really is something to the idea that traif food is "m'tum'tum halev."

Chicken fall-out?

The Yeshiva of Spring Valley is one of Monsey's venable institutions. It' s been around forever. From what I am told, there are two campuses - one for girls and one for boys - each with their own administration. According to the rumor mill, both were also customers of Shevach Butchers, and both regularly served non-kosher meat to their students.

Now, of course, this doesn't disturb me. Why should it? Like everyone else in Monsey, the yeshiva followed the halachic process, and bought from a butcher who possessed a reputable hasgacha (kosher certification) They did nothing wrong, and have no reason to apologize. Yet, according to one of my email correspondents, a well-known shul rabbi in Monsey, YSV's "breast-beating has been loud and public."

The same correspondent tells me that, this year, the school's girl's division has introduced a new rule Though fathers were once welcome to come learn about the curriculum and to meet the teachers at the annual Open House, they've now been asked to stay home. The reason? After 50 odd years of allowing fathers to participate in their daughter's education by attending the Open House, the school has decided that is immodest for men and women to mix together at this event.

Is this part of YSV's repentance for serving treif chicken for, perhaps, the last 10 years? No idea, but it's idiotic all the same.

So Long Air America!


Looks like Air America is going to be getting a lot smaller, if not completely off the air.

I know this has been discussed before, but why can't liberals survive on the radio?

I'll take a moonbat any day over a wingnut


Moonbats are not a threat to our nation, whereas wingnuts are.

As a centrist Democrat, proud inheritor of the New Deal, which made America the greatest country in the world, I've had the opportunity over at least 4 decades to closely observe both moonbats and wingnuts in American politics. Here are my observations:

Moonbats: First of all, and most important, they are generally in touch with reality, and are capable of modifying their views when events dictate, though without abandoning their values. Seco nd, their values, favoring individual liberty and dignity, equal opportunity, anti-racism, and more reflect the best of the American tradition.

Their main problem is that they can have a distorted sense of priorities, furiously advocating causes have little popularity, much opposition, and which are not necessarily the highest expression of liberal values. Thus, they get in a lather about things like gay marriage, racial preferences for minorities, animal rights, and other non-mainstream opinions that alienate them from the mass of the public and hurt their efforts to prevent the US from becoming a polluted police state under eternal war.

Wingnuts: Wingnuts appear to have problems over what constitutes reality. What's more their values reflect the worst of the American tradition (nativism, racism, the Confederate states, imperialism, Christian fundamentalism) and are otherwise wildly inconsistent (an incomplete "libertarianism" that obesses about threats to liberty from government but ignores the threat to liberty from overly rich and powerful private interests). They advocate war and naked imperialism, but are, for the most part, unwilling to serve in the military. They not only ignore the consensus findings of science if it conficts with their interests, but they go to great lengths to insist that the science is wrong.

Wingnuts appear to serve as "useful idiots" to advance the cause of the rich and powerful, who would just as soon ignore most of the wingnut rantings that don't advocate more wealth for the already rich and more power for the already powerful. Of course, they 0ccasionally have to throw the wingnuts some bones to keep them happy, much to the chagrin of (for example) the Jewish cadets at the Air Force Academy.

One interesting difference between moonbats and wingnuts is that there are absolutely no moonbats in high elected or appointed positions in the United States, whereas many, many wingnuts now walk the Halls of Congress and are in the highest executive offices. The moonbat link to reality kicks in when they do reach high office, so they, of course, can temper their views to reflect more accurately the public they serve. I think this is what enrages the wingnuts, who, for some reason, seem to be incapable of changing their policies, even when it's obvious they aren't working.

So, like I said, give me a moonbat any day!

Yated Part 2

By kylopod

I see that Krum has posted about Yated Ne'eman's biases. I don't know if I've ever heard a bigger understatement. Yated Ne'eman doesn't just slant. It lies.

This became abundantly clear to me a few years ago when the paper did an article on Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. Rabbi Eckstein is controversial because of his attempts to build bridges between Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians. The Atlanta Jewish Times did a good profile of him in this article.

One day, Yated attacked Rabbi Eckstein. That in itself did not surprise me. It was the manner of the attack that caught my attention. According to Yated, Rabbi Eckstein had recently converted to Messianic Judaism:

"In ads and books, [Eckstein's organization] has made numerous alarming remarks over the years, including Eckstein's declaration in one of his books that he had become a Jew for J. Eckstein has denied that he is a Jew for J."

Now, that's a pretty serious charge. But what was particularly confusing is that the two above sentences border on contradicting each other. One sentence says that R. Eckstein announced in a book that he'd become a Jew for Jesus, the next sentence claims that he has denied the charges. The conflation of the two sentences makes the paragraph come off rather like a Wikipedia article.

But this is one of the strange things I've noticed about Yated. It's not just that the paper lies. The paper lies, but unconvincingly. Even if I'd known nothing about R. Eckstein, I still would have been scratching my head after reading this article.

So, what is the truth of the matter? In 2001, R. Eckstein released a novel called The Journey Home. In that novel, a fictional version of R. Eckstein travels with a fictional version of a real-life Christian friend of his in the Holy Land. At one point, the rabbi says, "While I still don't believe in Jesus as the Christ as Jamie does, and view him instead as a Jew who brought salvation to the gentiles, in some respects, that is exactly what I have become--a Jew for Jesus."

Now, I can understand why some Orthodox Jews were alarmed by this statement. But that doesn't give anyone the right to lie about R. Eckstein. If Yated had clarified that this was a fictional story, and that even the fictional version of Eckstein was not embracing Messianic Judaism, the attack on Eckstein would have been more credible.

Of course, the article does quote someone defending R. Eckstein by pointing out that the claim against him was based on "words taken out of context from a story that was totally fictitious." But the article never explains what this remark means. It leaves readers with the impression that the rabbi really did become a Messianic Jew. Who cares if he claims that his comment was taken out of context? That's what they all say!

A couple of months ago, Rabbi Harry Maryles wrote on his blog about an article in Yated written by Dr. David Berger against Lubavitch. I objected to Harry's source, both because Dr. Berger is a known anti-Chabad zealot and because Yated is not a reliable source. Harry agreed with me, admitting that Yated was biased and even dishonest. But he insisted that they lie not overtly but "by omission." I remembered that Harry had on another occasion mentioned being friends with Rabbi Eckstein. Knowing this, I showed him the Yated article on Eckstein. This was Harry's response:

OK. I admit this stretches the outer reaches of truth, but although they are obviously wrong, I do not think they think they were deliberately lying. They were presenting the views of their misinformed Gedolim as fact. This is not the same as a deliberate lie.
I find the above statement disturbing to the max. So it's supposed to be better if Gedolim came up with the false information rather than the paper itself? And where did the Gedolim get the false information? At some point, somebody had to be lying--either that, or they were so careless they literally didn't care whether what they were writing was true or not. The article didn't just print a false rumor. It printed the rumor, but also printed the fact that R. Eckstein disputed the charges, and it vaguely hinted as to why the charges were disputed. But it still stated the false claim as fact.

Harry asked Dr. Berger, who is Modern Orthodox, why he had chosen to print his article in Yated. Dr. Berger contributed a lengthy explanation. He said that he was actually impressed by Yated's standards, because the editor censored a few sentences from his article. In Dr. Berger's words,

I argued that this additional information is critically important, but the editor felt that it was not important enough to overcome the larger editorial policy. I did not draw a line in the sand and allowed the deletion. While I think the editor's decision was mistaken, I admire the commitment to avoiding what he sees as unseemly content, a commitment that overrode any desire to add additional unfavorable information about Lubavitch. I ask myself if I can think of any other forum that would be so fastidious, and I come up empty.
Sarcastically, I replied, "Yeah, they think it's unseemly to mention Jesus by name, but they don't have a problem with falsely accusing someone of worshipping him."

Anyone familiar with Yated knows that distortions of this magnitude are hardly uncommon. The article on R. Eckstein appeared at least a year before the Slifkin controversy erupted, with all the lies and false rumors that went along with that account. Yated is essentially a mouthpiece for the forces responsible for the Slifkin fiasco.

Not too long ago, an article in the Baltimore Jewish News (the Orthodox spinoff of the Baltimore Jewish Times) talked about how Orthodox families in Baltimore handled exposure to secular media. A couple of the families interviewed were uncomfortable getting newspapers like The Baltimore Sun and The New York Times because of their perceived liberal and/or anti-Israel slant. One family preferred The Wall Street Journal, while another preferred, er, Yated Ne'eman.

There's nothing wrong with getting your news from the WSJ, because that publication, like The New York Times, is a legitimate newspaper, ideological slant or no. Sure, they may have occasional lapses from their fairly high standards, but at least they have standards. To prefer Yated, on the other hand, is laughable. Yated isn't a real newspaper; it's a frum tabloid rag. It's amazing to me that the same people who accuse others of being brainwashed are the most eager to brainwash themselves.

Kol Hakovod

Ronald P. Stanton gives $100 Million Gift to YU

Hat-tip Channa.