Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Better Know A Blogger II

In today's edition of Better Know A Blogger, DOVBEAR discuses pot and politics with the very great Mobius of JewSchool. Included is a special announcment about the future of JewSchool. Please ask your own questions in the comments, and Moby (or one of his JewSchool henchmen) 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 yourfavoriteblogger@gmail.com. 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 time: BOTH

Why a group blog? Do you find it hard to compose posts on a daily basis?
Well, first, keep in mind the fact that I have always had my own personal blog, long before there was ever a Jewschool. I set up my first blog during my senior year of high school in 1998, before there
was such a thing as a blog or blogging software. Jewschool is actually an offshoot of another (now defunct) blog I created for me and my friends called Jakeneck. Jakeneck was a group blog discussing art, culture, politics, and assorted high weirdness. In some ways it was a link dump, for my friends and I to share the most interesting content online, but it was also a venue for intense discussion and debate from
which I learned and grew a lot. Jakeneck was a proof of concept, a test model which I then applied to Judaism.

The purpose of a group blog is simple. The Internet was made for dialogue, not self-aggrandizement. Jewschool's value is that it's an open discourse between many people. It allows multiple and divergent
viewpoints to occupy the same space and exist in tandem, rather than opposition. Yes, it's true, a good weblog has many posts a day and it's a lot of work for one person to do alone. That was definitely a factor
in making a group blog. But the major factor was that I view the Internet as a democratic forum, and if I want to introduce more democracy to Judaism, that means involving a community in that conversation, rather than just pontificating into the wind about values I ought to be exercising.

[Self-serving aside: I frequently allow guest posts on DovBear - from both sides of the aisle - for very much the same reason]

I assume you agree that it is important for every part of the Jewishand the political spectrum to be included in the conversation, both because they certainly have valuable ideas to add, and also because they have ideas that need to be confronted. How do you include the far-right in these discussions?
Well I've thought about this a lot, to be honest, and my perspective has kind of changed. Jewschool has, in many ways, become a resource for the progressive Jewish camp -- and though it is diverse in its perspectives within that camp, we are exclusive in that respect. I think that there are more than enough right-wing blogs in the J-blogosphere representing nationalist and fundamentalist viewpoints. Jewschool is the alternative to the endless chorus of demagoguery. I used to think it was importantto include right-wing voices in the discussion but I've come to realize it's part of their strategy to stick their noses into whatever it is we're doing so that they can prevent us from making progress by keeping us navel gazing and infighting. You wouldn't believe how many new Jewschool contributors posted just once and then ran for the hills after one right-wing psycho attacked them. So, part of the new editorial mission of Jewschool (upon our forthcoming relaunch) will be to very quickly eject the right-wing psychos who contribute little or nothing tothe conversation and otherwise alienate quality contributors and readers who actually do have something worthwhile to say. I would much rather engage in cross-blog conversation with intelligent right-wing webloggers (and reap the traffic benefits) than provide a soundboard to people with abhorrent viewpoints who are only interested in injecting invective in to the conversation.

What's it take to rise in the JewSchool heirarchy?
What Jewschool hierarchy? I gave brief mention of this on Jewschool the other day, but I'll give you the full scoop: I cut about half the staff recently and turned over the site to the remaining (and some new)
contributors, almost all of whom are real-life friends and colleagues working in the Jewish community. I'm trying to take a backseat and give the crew more control over the site. They're dictating editorial
policy, design, technology -- everything. I'm just shepherding the slightest bit.

Jewschool has been democratized and turned into a full-on anarchist collective. It is no longer "the Mobius show."

Is TTC ever going to become a made man in the family?
Actually, TTC has been cut from the Jewschool roster. I appreciate and thank him for his contribution, but his leanings don't jive with the direction the site is headed in.

In other words, TTC sleeps with the fishes?
Now, now... The new site will have a feature highlighting posts from elsewhere in the Jewish blogosphere. I fully intend to give TTC focus when there are posts of relevance to Jewschool's readership.

Are you prepared to admit here, for the first time, that Holy Terror was a hoax?
Holy Terror is my hareidi/Kachnik sister. That is no hoax.

Your most famous post, imho, is about the time you were arrested for smoking on shabbos. You understood this as Gods way of telling you that shabbos is important. Why didn't it occur to you that perhaps God was actually telling you to stop it with the pot?
I actually wasn't smoking. I just had pot on me and got shook down by some flat-out pigs who randomly stopped me as I was walking down the street, minding my own business. They actually violated my rights, and if I had any protektzia I would've reamed them new [rear-ends].

In any event, the Torah says that if you violate Shabbos you should be put to death. Marijuana? Nary a mention -- and certainly no death sentence for smoking.

Give me your knee jerk response to the following:

Gay marriage

As an anarchist, no fan of "marriage" in general, but favor civil unions whereas queers ought to be entitled to the same rights and exemptions as straights.

Borders are imaginary lines.

The Pledge of Allegiance
Nationalism is the only thing that kills as many people as diseases.

Swift Boat Vets for Truth
May the tears of Orwell water the seeds of revolution.

How are you voting in two weeks time?
I'm a bit torn. As an anarchist, to participate in an election is to acknowledge and validate the machinations of the state. However, as a realist, somebody's gotta get these [mamzarim] out of office before they get us all killed and rape our corpses for fun and profit. I don't want to vote Democratic because I don't think they're much different from the Republicans. They're all corporate-teat-swilling free-trader neo-liberal right-of-center phone-tapping civil-rights-suppressing [bad people] And since you couldn't pay me to vote Green (for a number of reasons I won't detail here), if anything, I'll vote Libertarian, because it's the closest to what I actually believe in.

DovBear great blog? Or greatest blogger ever?
I honestly think your blog is one of the most important things happening in the Jewish community today and I commend you for your service.

What are you doing in Germany?
Three of my best friends just moved here to get away from the dismal state of affairs in Israel. I'd never been and figured it was a good time to come check it out.

Two days ago I davened mincha at Buchenwald. Yesterday, I was at an anti-fascist squat located inside the factory where the crematoriums were manufactured, learning about Zionism's tendency to split the German Left. Today, I'm in Cologne, and just returned from a night club.

You've been blogging since the begining of time it seems. Tell me the most important change in the blogosphere that you've observed
The bar for entry is no practically non-existent. You have grandparents who can barely turn on their computers blogging. The free press is free again.

Why do you suppose Frumkeit is so often hostile to progressive politics. Are they inherently opposed to each other?
I happen to think frumkeit and progressive politics are inherently linked. Moshe Rabbeinu's first action in the Torah is to crack a slavemaster over the back of the head and bury him in the sand.

But there are a few things going on here:

I know a lot of wealthy Orthodox Jews who vote Republican because they're in a high-enough tax bracket that a tax cut actually means something to them. There are also a lot of Orthodox Jews who vote Republican because they want to tax credits to send their kids to yeshiva. Then you have queer and women's rights -- two issues the Orthodox community is still backwards on (though slowly, painfully improving). And then, finally, there's Israel, to which I'll say, Zionism will, G-d willing, one day be something we look back on, like the belief that Shabbatai Tzvi was Moshiach, and say, "Holy crap! Can
you believe they bought that [foul smelling bodily waste product]?"

The problem is the belief that if you want any single one of the above that you have to buy the whole package. So, if I want to send my kid to a charter school because the public education system is shite, I have to hate fags and ragheads. Because if I believe in charter schools, I'm suddenly the enemy of the "Leftist" Democrats. And now that I clearly hate poor black children, because I think my children deserve a decent education in their lifetime, I may as will go all out and hate everything the Left loves because G-d forbid there should be nuance and a diverse array of political opinions.

Which is to say, none of this has anything to do with G-d or Torah.

Anyone who truly loves and serves G-d is progressive on some issues, and conservative on others. They support the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the sick, the weak, and love and care for them. They fight injustice. But they also protect their families, their traditions, and their sacred institutions. The uphold the word of G-d, even when you aren't sure you agree with G-d, but are willing to trust Him.

The worst ad of the year?

The worst ad to hit the airwaves this political season belongs to Bob Corker of Tenesse. The ad, called racist by even Chris Mathews, the noted Republican tool, can be seen here. While I'm not sure that I agree that the ad itself is racist, it certainly appeals to racist sentiments. Also, it lies about Ford's record and distracts voters from the real issues.

What follows is my analysis of the script:

WOMAN 1: "Harold Ford looks nice. Isn't that enough?"
[Racist appeal. This woman is black. Message: Black women are superficial, and if solid white people don't rush to the polls, the black women of Tennesse are going to elect this guy for superficial reasons.]

WOMAN 2: "Terrorists need their privacy."
[Mischarecterization: Liberals don't think terrorists "need" privacy. They think that the best way to fight terrorism is by fighting the terrorists; therefore we can't understand why Republicans insist on skipping the step where the government explains why they think the person they have incarcertated is actually a terrorist, and not someone who was arrested by mistake.]

MAN 1: "When I die, Harold Ford will let me pay taxes again."
[Distraction: 99 percent of the people in TN aren't wealthy enough to worry about estate taxes.]

MAN 2: "Ford's right, I do have too many guns."
[Lie: Nothing in Ford's voting record suggests he'd try to force someone to give up a gun that had been legally purchased.

WOMAN 3: "I met Harold at the Playboy party!"
[Racist appeal: (1) This woman is white. Not long ago, black men in TN were lynched for consorting with white women. This segmant of the ad is meant to tap into those anxieties. (2) By mentioning the Playboy party, the women reminds voters in TN that black men are thought to be sexually irresponsible; meanwhile, (3) the segment suggests to black women that Harold Ford prefers white women and imagines himself "too good" for women fo his own race.]

WOMAN 4: "I'd love to pay higher marriage taxes."
[Lie: Harold Ford voted YES on permanently eliminating the marriage penalty. (Apr 2004]

MAN 2: "Canada can take care of North Korea. They're not busy."
[Distraction: The Bush administration has no plan for North Korea; moreover North Korea became a nuclear power while Bush was distracted by Iraq and their non-existant WMDs/Al Queda ties]

MAN 3: "So he took money from porn movie producers. I mean, who hasn't?"
[Distraction: The RNC is a regular recipient of contributions from one of the largest producers and distrubors of gay porn in the world. In other words, this ad was likely puirchased with money collected from porn movie producers. Racist appeal: Again, the voters are reminded that black men are "sex-crazed"]

ANNOUNCER: "The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising."
[Gives Corker deniability. Now he can claim that the ad was awful, but he had nothing to do with it. Which, in fact, is exactly what he did.]

WOMAN 3: "Harold, call me!"
[Racist appeal: (1) This woman is white. Not long ago, black men in TN were lynched for consorting with white women. This segmant of the ad is meant to tap into those anxieties. (2) By mentioning the Playboy party, the women reminds voters in TN that black men are thought to be sexually irresponsible; meanwhile, (3) the segment suggests to black women that Harold Ford prefers white women and imagines himself "too good" for women fo his own race.]

Monday, October 30, 2006

Silly Shafran

"As to the essence of my argument, though, there was no credible counter-argument whatsoever, no claim that right and wrong can somehow have inherent meaning without recourse to Something Higher than ourselves. That, too, was telling – of the truth that atheism, in the end, cannot assign any more meaning to right and wrong than to right and left."
Avi asserts that morality is defined by God. The problem, though, is that if morality is defined by God, morality becomes arbitrary. It means that before God said it was wrong, murder was not immoral.

And if it was immoral even before God said so, then the argument that religion is essential to morality takes a blow. Because if morality has nothing to do with God, shouldn't atheists be able to tap into it, too?

[The rest of the story]

Guest post by ed

Note: I think this guest post is pretty silly. Also long. I am running it because Ed asked nicely, and also because I think the bad ideas need to be vanquished. So please, have at it.

Dearest Dovbear,

Pos'chin b'chvod achsanya, even though me and you stand somewhat apart on the Hashkofa scale, I would like to express my gratitude to you for being a patient, gracious, and accommodating host.

Formalities aside, I'll get right to the point. Dovbear expressed, that heat and pressure of the Mabul would not have affected the dating system that enables scientists to claim that our world is significantly older than 5767 years.

Rashi Breishis 6:14 says on the verse "Atzei Gofer" - That is its name. Why from this specie? Because of its name relating to Gufris - sulfur with which it was decreed that they be destroyed by.

We further find this method of punishment by Sodom and Amorah. Rashi 19:24 on the verse "Ad-noy caused to rain upon Sedom and Amorah--- sulfur and fire--- from Ad-noy, from heaven", Rashi quotes Mechilta - "It began as rain and turned into sulfur and fire".

Sulphur and water creates a chemical reaction. "The hydration reaction of sulfuric acid is highly exothermic. If water is added to concentrated sulfuric acid, it can boil and spit dangerously" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulfuric_acid ). This fits scientifically very well with the commentaries that say that the water of the Mabul was hot. This also explains "Vayig'biru Hamayim", and the water strengthened.

Further, in wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulfuric_acid, it states that "Note that directly dissolving SO3 (a form of sulfur) in water is impractical due to the highly exothermic nature of the reaction. Mists are formed instead of a liquid". This would scientifically correlate to what the Gemara says that the hot steam was what killed the inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel.

Can it be that the sulfuric content of the Mabul was what corrupted the dating system - making the world seem older than it is? It's clearly a powerful chemical, even more so when mixed with water. Hopefully, the scientists that frequent this blog can provide their input.

In regards to DB's question about the dating done on the moon rocks, wikipedia says "Sulfuric acid is produced in the upper atmosphere of Venus by the sun's photochemical action on carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and water vapor". Although wikipedia is discussing Venus, nevertheless, it shows that sulfuric acid exists in space too.

Dovbear asks: "The boat described in the bible isn't big enough to contain "...every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth."

When Dovbear discovered the "Rainbow Ramban", where the Ramban deviates from the literacy of the text to concur with science, DB jumps for joy and shouts "Isn't it grand?" But when the very same Ramban asks DB's question and this time he does not dismiss the literacy of the text, it's all quiet on the western front.

Here is Artscrolls translation of the Ramban 6:19 - "It is well known that there are very many species of animals, and some of them are very large, such as the elephants and re'eimim and other like them. It is also well known that the small crawling creatures that creep on the earth are exceedingly numerous. Likewise, the species of birds in the sky are many..... There are similarly countless species of clean birds. Now, Noach had to bring specimens of all of these so that they could reproduce more of their kind, and when you add up the food that would be eaten by all of these for a full year, this ark could never contain them all - nor even could ten arks like it! HOWEVER, IT WAS A MIRACLE, THAT A SMALL SPACE WAS ABLE TO CONTAIN SUCH A LARGE VOLUME". [Emphasis Ed's]

The Ramban then asks, if it indeed was a miracle, then Noach could have made a much smaller ark? To which he replies, that by making it so big, is what would make the people see it, marvel at it, and tell each other about it, in order that perhaps they would repent. Or, that it was made that big to lessen the magnitude of the miracle, as we find, that man has to do what he can, and the rest he leaves up to god.

The Ramban was obviously faced with Dovbears question, to which his response is, that if God commanded it, then so it was. If it took a miracle to make it happen, then so be it. Surely the Ramban could have entertained the option that it was only a regional flood. The Ibn Ezra 7:23 already mentions such a view (and calls those of that opinion - Cha'siray Daas). Yet, the Ramban held that it would be better to remain with the P'shuto Shel Mikra and assume that there were miracles, then to distort the literal meaning of the Torah.

In regards to how Noach gathered all the animals, says the Ramban 7:9 - The meaning of the words "They (the animals)came to Noach, to the ark" is to inform us that they did not assemble near Noach at all and did not come to him until that very day when the rain began. FOR GOD GAVE THEM THE COMMAND TO ASSEMBLE, AND IT WAS HIS SPIRIT THAT GATHERED THEM TOGETHER NEAR THE ARK IN ONE MOMENT [Again, emphasis Eds]

Remember friends, that these words were written by the very same person who conceded to the scientific explanation of the rainbow.

Another big question which is asked, is where did so much water come from to cover the whole world. In reality, the bigger question is, where did water originate to begin with? Scientists heavily grapple with that question, and the answers aren't clear.

I would like to propose, why Ultra Orthodoxy is opposed to evolution. In this context, "evolution" refers to the generally scientific accepted theory, that the universe, earth, mankind etc all evolved from a single cell over the course of some 14 billion years.

The problem therein, is that if everything in the universe is scientifically explainable, that leaves very little room for God. God is limited to perhaps the creator of the single cell, and perhaps some "guidance".

The basic text in Genesis depicts a very different God. It depicts an almighty superpowerful God, who "said there shall be light", and instantly, "there was light". Even if you take the beginning of Genesis non-literal, and somehow attempt to squeeze evolution into the text, the P'shuto Shel Mikra remains unchanged. Vayomer Elokim Yehi Ohr" and "Vayehi Ohr". God said, and it happened.

Similarly, we find the term "B'yad Chazaka" used when God took us out of Egypt. No one thinks that God has a literal hand. But the Torah attempts to depict to us the concept of an almighty superpowerful deity, in a language understandable to mankind.

This God that is described, is a "there shall be light", and "there was light" God. In the same vein, "there shall be water", and "there was water". Ask any UO Jew - where did water come from? Without batting an eyelash, he'll fire back - whaddaya mean? Of Course! From God!

When one's perception of God is such, then there's no further difficulty in understanding the Mabul. The same God which originated water on this world to begin with, could just as well flood the entire world 15 Amos over the tallest mountaintops. Hashem Nossan, Hashem Lokach. The same God that flooded the world has the means to remove all that excess water. That same God can instantly bring all the animals and birds from the entire world and have them all fit in the ark.

And this I believe, is the intention of the Ramban's words, "FOR GOD GAVE THEM THE COMMAND TO ASSEMBLE, AND IT WAS HIS SPIRIT THAT GATHERED THEM TOGETHER NEAR THE ARK IN ONE MOMENT". [Once again, Ed's shouting not the Ramban.]

The same Ramban, that translated the rainbow pesukim to match the view of science, understood here that the Mabul cannot be reconciled, and it was the Yad Hashem which prevailed.

Belief in evolution makes this viewpoint very difficult to accept. When one is bent on understanding everything in the universe in naturalistic terms, then indeed, the questions are difficult. Naturally, there isn't enough water to flood the world. Naturally, there wasn't enough room in the ark for all the world's animals. To say that God arranged these things via miracle flies in the face of everything evolution purports to accomplish.

I believe the above serves as an example as to why the Ultra Orthodox refuse to accept evolution.

a) It distorts the image of God depicted in the Torah. From an almighty superpowerful one, to a fill-in-the-gap one (if even that much).

b) It creates terrible confusion in understanding the Torah, as evidenced by the multitude of questions asked by the evolution supporters, who would rather attempt to distort the P'shuto Shel Mikra (which implies a worldwide flood, as evidenced by every major Torah scholar up to 150 years ago), than to accept the un-naturalistic premise, that "God says, and so it happens".

The remaining question, is why is there a lack of evidence (or evidence against) of a worldwide flood. In the above UO viewpoint, the question doesn't exist. A god which unnaturally floods the world, which unnaturally in one moment gather 2 pairs of all animals in the world, is a God which constantly acts above and beyond the laws of nature. If such a God chose to hide the evidence (or fabricate contrary evidence) such actions are as irrational as God flooding a world in a non-natural way. Neither conform with the laws of nature. If we accept the latter, then we accept the former. Why? Not because it's OK if God is fooling us. Rather, because if God did so, then it was done with a reasoning which we have not yet merited to comprehend.

Shalom and Kol Tuv.

Your tax dollars at worlk

Our Sr. Washington Correspondent reports that Big Dick Cheney's hired a professional paper shredding service. Does this mean we'll soon be seeing John Conyers chairing the House Judiciary Committee?

And why is Dick shredding evidence when he could instead be cooking up an October surprise?

Honor and dignity

Bush promised to restore honor and dignity to the White House. In this clip, David Letterman shows us how he did:

Final points on Noah

Ok, I hope this is my last post on Noah and his !*#*$ flood for another year...

Here's my argument, boiled down:

a - Nothing the Torah says can be false.

b - The idea that the whole world was once destroyed by a flood is false (we know this from the evidence).

c - Therefore, the Torah can't possibly be saying that the world was destroyed by a flood.

I fail to see why so many of you find this conclusion so threatening. It's aleph bais that the Torah is true; if it's also true that there was no flood, we must go back and find out what the Torah is really saying.

Reinterpreting verses to fit new facts is an old tradition, and one supported by men like Rav Saadya. For generations, Jews pointed to the story of Joshua and used it to argue that the sun revolves around the earth. When insurmountable evidence was produced which showed that it was the other way around, the verse in Joshua was reinterpreted. According to Marc Shapiro, legions of Jews -including Tannaim and Rishonim - once thought God had corpreal qualities. Now that the Rambam's argument for an incorporeal God have won the day, all of the verses about God's arm and his hand have been reinterpreted.

The approach to Noah that I am proposing in this post is no more radical. In fact, if you honestly beleive that the torah is true, you have no other choice: The verses must fit the evidence. To allow them to do otherwise, is to concede that the Torah is false.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Micheal J. Fake.

I don't even think his name is Michael, and he's not a fox. I bet he's really a woman, too and black, probably, the faker. I mean who does he think he is?

For the record

I realize my last few posts on Noah may have confused those of you who wish to be confused, so allow me to set the record straight: I believe in God, and I believe there was a divine revelation at Sinai.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Safe Skeptism

Over shabbos, I locked myself away with Moshe Dovid Cassuto's From Adam to Noah: A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, I-VI. Cassuto, of course, was an Orthodox Rabbi who was able to combine loyalty to the mesorah with a willingness to follow the evidence.

In particular, he argues (quite convincingly) that the story the Torah tells about Noah is an homogeneous whole, and not two competing stories that were knitted together. His evidence for this includes the fidelity of the Torah's story to fragments found in Mesopotamia, and also the fact that many key words appear in the story 7 times (or multiples of 7.) Though Cassuto does theorize that the Torah's story is based on an older epic poem (this explains the use of strange words like Tzohar and Kinim) this theory isn't a challange to the idea of divine revelation. We all agree that God used words and ideas that were previously known to the people. Why couldn't He have also drawn on pre-existing themes or poems?

Best of all, Cassuto points to evidence in the text that suggests Noah's flood was a regional flood, by which we mean one that affected Mesopotamia, and not other parts of the globe.

This opinion is appealing because it preserves Noah, and the mesorah, without insulting our intelligence. If we hold that the flood was regional, the absence of geological evidence of a flood in places like China or Europe is no longer troubling. (The theory is further bolstered by the presence of flood evidence in Mesopotamia.) Nor must we explain, if we follow Cassuto, how all the races of the world descended from the 8 people who were on-board Noah's ark. Per Cassuto, most of the world was unaffected.

Friday, October 27, 2006

YouTube: Noah gathers the animals for the ark

Me and the Mabul

By now, I suppose all of you think that I hold Noah and his flood are a fiction. Not quite. Despite what you might think, I am not ready to pronounce the story entirely false. In my mind, there may have been a man named Noah, and he may have made a boat of some kind for the purpose of escaping some kind of flood. He might even have taken some animals with him.

Here, though, are the pronouncments I am prepared to make:

1 - Judaism and the Torah do not rest on Noah. If we go back in a time machine, and find Noah and his boat, gam zu l'tovah. If not, so what? If Noah is proven not to have existed, it does not follow from this that the torah is false, and the the mitzvos are a hoax. The story may have been included, by God, in the bible for instructional purposes. Or it may have been grafted on to the original revelation by first temple Jews (they were mostly idol worshippers, remember?) Or perhaps, this story, like Shir HaSHirim, is meant to be taken figurativly. We're Jews, and Jews aren't literalists.

2 - People who know how and where to look are agreed: There's no evidence of a global flood.

3 - The boat described in the bible isn't big enough to contain "...every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth."

4 - The story the bible tells appears to be two different stories knitted together (Note: I am not saying that it IS two different stories, only that it looks that way to anyone prepared to engage the text on its own terms.)

5 - Doubt and discussion are always a good thing. The conversatioon we've had this week about Noah hasn't damaged Judaism, because Judaism doesn't depend on Noah.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

My Name Is Mud

By Cousin Oliver

When I was born, my parents were imbued with a tiny bit of prophecy from the heavens. I know because they named me Cousin Oliver. The heavens, through them, foresaw that I would become someone's cousin (my first name is Cousin!) and that I will also have the ability to perform something called an olive on a girl. (Oliver, my second name, is a conjunction of the words Olive and Her).

And thus my name, Cousin Oliver, has captured my essence perfectly.

But hmmmm: One of my grandparents is named Cousin and the other is Oliver. I awlays thought that I was named after them. Hmm. I am confused now. If I was named after some other people, how could my name capture my essence? Wouldn’t it be their essence? And I am sure that my grandparents probably got it from their grandparents. So is it my great-great-great-great grandparents essence that my name has capture?

Wait. I know how to resolve this. I am going to open the holy Torah and search for a pasuk that starts with an C (from C-ousin) and ends with an R (from olive-R). The pasuk will truly show my essence.

For this to work, I guess I need to convert C to a Kof and the R to a Reish. Artscroll siddur makes this search easy for me (look in the back). (Although I am not sure why I need to use THOSE pesukim.) Anyway, artscroll failed to have my full name so I was forced to break it into two. Kuf Nun for CousiN and Alef Reish for OliveR.

Kuf Nun - I poured out my complaint before him; I showed before him my trouble.
Alef Reish - They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.

So my first reaction is- What. The. Hell. Does. This. Mean. At. All. So I try to string it together. The pasuk for Cousin must mean that I complain a lot and the pasuk for Oliver must mean that I am better then everyone else. Yea, that sounds just like me! I complain and am better then everyone else!

But wait. My grandfather never complained and was extremely humble. He had this name. Was it his essence too? This is all so confusing. Is my essence his essence or do I have his essence because we have the same essence and is both of our essences the same and everyone else in the world who shares my name has the same essence that I do… Take dovbear. He isn't the only dovbear. Are all dovbears like him?

Or maybe…


The Sucker
The Reason

Sanctimonious gasps

By now everyone has heard low-life Limbaugh's little commentary about Michael J. Fox's appearance in the ad for Claire McCaskill. [For those not in the know, the famous, and fat, pill-popper accused Fox of exaggerating his Parkinson symptoms for effect.]

Others, like Ezzie, have no issue with Fox, per say. Instead, Ezzie asks if the Democrats exploited the actor by delaying the filming of the ad until Fox's symptoms were especially bad. Ezzie also points out the ad mischarecterizes the opposition's record. He closes by saying that it's very "sad" that the Democrats "have twisted the debate from what it should be about."

Forgive me, but what a load of sanctimonious rot. Look, I'll happily stipulate that Fox was acting. I'll even agree that the Democrats exploited him. And I'll further agree with Ezzie's central complaint: The Democrats most certainly DID "twist the debate from what it should be about." And do you know why? Because it's a political attack ad!

Since at least 1800 politicians and their lackeys have been lying about their opponent's records and "twisting the debate from what it should be about." Remember "Ma, ma, where's my pa? Gone to the White House ha ha ha?" Or "Blaine, Blaine James G. Blaine. Continental liar from the state of Maine?" The Fox ad comes from the same genre which gave us those delightful ditties, as well as the Horton ads and Swift Boating. Didn't those twist the debate, while also lying? In fact if you turn on the radio right now, I'll bet you'll soon hear an ad "twist the debate from what it should be about." This morning alone, I heard Tom Kean Jr. accuse Bob Menendez of being best buddies with a cocaine dealer. Is that what the debate should be about in the NJ senatorial election? Whether or not Menendez pals around with a cocaine dealer?

If anything is sad, it's the suggestion that the Fox ad is somehow unusual, or uniquely Democrat. Ads just like it run in every market, during every election. There's no reason to gasp or to tut-tut it.

Note: Yesterday I pointed to a singularly awful ad produced by Republicans seeking to elect someone in Maryland. There was, however, no gasping. Nor did I tut-tutt. I didn't express mock horror that someone had dared to defile the sanctity of an American election by producing a nasty and dishonest political ad. Rather, I expressed my hope that Democrats never sink that low. And if they do, I assure you I will call foul.

The favorite verse of racists

If I had to choose, my least favorite verses in all of Torah would have to be the ones in this week's sedra about Canaan being cursed - not because of what they actually say, but because of how they are gleefully misrepresented and misapplied.

Noah, first of all, did not curse his son, in the sense of causing misfortune to befall his own offspring. Rather, writes Samson Rephael Hirsh, Noah simply announced that Canaam was doomed. With the words Arur Canaan Noah told us what he saw. He didn't cast a spell, or offer a prayer, or work any sort of charm. His utterance was merely the biblical equivlant of telling your child "Son, you'll never amount to anything."

Next, is the horrible institution this mistake has been used to serve. In the verse, Noah decrees that Canaan will be slave to Shem and Yefes, and this decree has been used for thousands of years by Jews, Christians and Muslims to justify black slavery. Odd, when you realize that Noah and his family are not described in racial terms. Support for the idea that Canaan turned black is found in the midrash (Breishis Rabba on 9:25) and in the Me'am Lo'ez, where insult is added to injury with the teaching that the black man is not just dark-skinned, thick-lipped, and kinky-haired, but also red eyed and unalterably immoral --all because of the curse.

Happily, there's help. Almost 1000 years ago(!) the Ibn Ezra warned against those who imagine that slavey and blackness are biblicaly linked. In his commentary to Genesis 9:24, he writes: "There are those who think that the black people (Cushim) are slaves because of Noah's curse. But they have forgotten that the very first king in the Torah after the Flood was from Cush," ie: black. (This was Nimrod)

The Ibn Ezra's point seems clear: Black slavery (and one might presume black skin, too) has nothing to do with Noah's curse. The very first king after the curse was from Cush; if the curse had any weight this would have been impossible. The Cushites would not have produced an globally-respected king.

The IE could have made the same argument by pointing out that Canaan --the one specifically cursed in the text-- is the only one of Ham's four children who is not the forefather of dark-skinned people, nor is he thought to be the forefather of Africans. Kush is west central Africa, Mizraim is Egypt and Put is Libya. Canaan, however, is not in Africa, but between the Jordan River and the Mediterranian Sea where people are more olive-colored than black. So the idea that Noah's curse made Canaan's skin turn black -and black Africans into slaves - appears to be defeated by the text itself.

Finally, we'd do well to remember that the only Biblical curse that specifically mentions a change in skin color is in 2 Kings 5:20-27 where Elisha punishes Gehazi - by giving him white skin.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Republican Dirty Trick Watch

The race card.

Tell you what: If winning means needing to run disgusting ads like the ones documented here, I hope we lose.

Is nice?

Extra special fun challange: Catch Borat dropping bits of Hebrew into the gibberish he pretends is Kazakh

Staying in Iraq hurts Israel

Yes, friends, another bit of dearly beloved, GOP-Jew conventional wisdom has been turned on its head, this time by Daniel Kurtzer, the former US Ambassador to Egypt and Israel.

As reported by our friends at CampusJ, Kurtzer told an audience at YU that the continued war with Iraq is bad for Israel. Money quote:
Kurtzer explained that while the U.S.’s initial success in Iraq in 2003 had gained Israeli support for the war because it shattered thelong-feared Eastern Front, removing the possibility that Iraq wouldbuild an Arab coalition across the Jordan River into Israel, the currentsituation in Iraq poses new “direct and indirect threats to Israel.” Hecited the unrest and unpredictability of the region as having a heavyimpact on Israel, and reiterated that the U.S. must withdraw from Iraqso that it would be able to address other issues in the international arena.
The ambassador's position was challanged by Aviva Horowitz, a Stern College political science major who appears to have the makings of a good blogger. She found Kurtzer’s call for a quick withdrawal from Iraq to be “idiotic.” Well spoken, Aviva Horowitz! Though you're wrong, your style would fit right in at DovBear.

Also, Dr. Ruth Westheimer was at the lecture.

"I do set my bow in the cloud."

"'I do set my bow in the cloud." Genesis 9: 9-15

After the flood, God demonstrates remose and makes a deal with the creation, promising never to drown it again. He even puts the rainbow in the sky to remind himself of his promise. Now, whenever God gets angry, he looks at the rainbow and says: 'Oh, yeah.... That's right. I promised not to drown my creations again.' (It may seem like that last line was meant as a joke, but the idea that a rainbow is nothing but a giant post-it-note in the sky is pretty much Gen 9:15 verbatim)

The trouble with this verse is that rainbows occur naturally when light is refracted through water. They've existed for as long as light and water have existed. Are we to believe that there were no rainbows until after the flood? Did the flood change the very nature of light and water?

It won't surprise you to learn that traditional Judaism offers two answers, and, naturally, the nuttier one is more popular.

Nutty Torah-True Explanation: (more popular)
Before the deluge, some kind of vapor or cloud canopy surrounded the earth. 'Before the Flood, the clouds in the sky were thick and dense, obscuring the light of the sun. The Flood, which cleansed and purified the earth, also refined the clouds and made it possible for the rainbow to be observed, a phenomenon caused by the sun's rays' [Source] In other words, before the flood Earth's atmosphere with similar to the atmosphere of Venus. How did the people who lived before the flood survive the super high tempertures that are the physical result of such super-greenhouse conditions? The nutters don't say.

Rational Torah-True Explanation (less popular)
Samson Rephael Hirsch says, simply and specifically that the verses in Genesis shouldn't be construed to suggest that Noah's rainbow was the first rainbow in history. He bases himself on the Ramban, who writes: "As for us, we have no choice but to accept the opinion of the Greeks who maintain that the rainbow is an entirely natural phenomenon caused by the sun's rays striking the moist air after a rainfall. Any vessel of water that is placed in the sunlight will also produce a rainbow-like effect....The term "My rainbow" implies that it had existed earlier. Therefore, we explain the verses to mean that the rainbow that I placed in the clouds from the time of creation shall from this day forward constitute the sign of the covenant between Me and you, for whenI shall see it I will recall that a covenant of peace exits between Me and you…(commentary to 9:12-17).]

The Ramban, you'll notice, is not adverse to reinterpreting a verse based on the teachings of science. Unlike too many of my ridiculous commenters, he does not ask us to accept teachings which conflict with empirical evidence.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stop Politicizing Antisemitism!

Click here please


On Noah

In honor of Parshas Noach, let me share something from a presentation I once heard from a very charismatic preacher and teacher of starry-eyed seminary girls whose name must remain Rabbi David Orlofsky.

My memories have faded, but I seem to recall Rabbi Orlofsky being asked 'How can you say the age of the universe is 5000 odd years in the face of evidence such as radiometric dating?'

Rabbi Orlofsky is a skilled clown, who can make you laugh by reciting the Pledge of Alleigance, so his reply was probably funnier, but it sounded something like this: 'Carbon dating only seems to indicate an old Earth because Noah's Flood changed the radioisotope concentrations on the young Earth. As a result, the readings we get are distorted.'

Actually, when you think about it, that is pretty funny. The rabbi makes three mistakes: (1) There is no reason to think that the waters of the Flood would distort the readering. (2) You can't prove that the Torah is true, using information that appears nowhere but in the Torah itself. Before you can suggest that the Flood distorted the readings, you need to prove that there was a Flood; and (3) Did the waters of the Flood cover the entire universe? Not according to the torah, yet moon rocks have been carbon-dated, and their levels suggest that they, too, are very old.

No one says the flood story is a fundamental of faith. You can reject it without being a heretic. In fact, license for rejecting the literal interpretation of the flood story was given to us over 1000 years ago by Saadya Gaon, who said [Emunot v'Deyot 7:2]: There are four conditions under which the Torah is not to be taken according to its literal meaning (1) When the plain meaning is rejected by common experience, or your senses; (2) When it is repudiated by obvious logic; (3) When it is contradicted by scripture; or (4) When it is opposed by tradition.

I'll never understand why acrobatics like those performed by David Orlofsky are preferable to Rav Saadya's old and wise counsel. Their silly games do nothing but discourage Jews like me, and provide the heretics with additional ammunition.


Pinker, in TNR:
And since we are always teetering on the brink of barbarism, social traditions in a functioning society should be respected as time-tested workarounds for the shortcomings of an unchanging human nature, as applicable today as when they developed, even if no one can explain their rationale.
This is a common view; I think it is uncommonly stupid. How can you look at history, and proclaim our social traditions "time-tested workarounds?" [Note: this came up recently in the comments with Naftuli playing the part of Archie Bunker, willing to ask others to labor and to suffer so he could enjoy old-fashioned Values.]

Slavery and the divine right of kings were "time-tested workarounds?" The demonization of homosexuals? The debasemenet and objectification of women? The celebration of ignorance over evidence? All of that -and worse- is how society once functioned, and who but an ignoramus or an evil-doer would insist on it in the name of "tradition?" [In fact, many of our mightiest "traditionalists" are GOP politicians like Tom Delay, or Bill Frist, or Ralph Reed, all of them men who've been shown to care more about money and votes then they do about values. In fact, the case might be made that they only cared about "values" so long as appearing to care about "values" kept the votes, and the money rolling in.]

Many of the most horrible inequalities of the past, happily, have been overthrown, always over the objections of the traditionalists. Still, some inequalities remain. In particular, I am speaking of income inequalities, which, however you explain them, are hideous. This is the element of truth in the neo-Marxism that is about to engulf us, and that would have engulfed us years ago in the form of the antiglobalization movement if September 11 had not changed the subject. If I were a poor man, I would turn off the Republican politicians who seek to distract me by appealing to my fears and my traditions. Instead, I would look to my own and organize.

Monday, October 23, 2006


This morning, I spoke to one of the Hasidic fellows who attends our minyan about evolution and the age of the universe. When it comes to either he is clueless (Quote 1 "Large parts of Darwin's theory have been proven false." [I stare] "According to what I've read, I mean." Quote 2: "Science keeps changing its mind about what it believes. 200 years ago it said one thing. In 200 years it might say something else" Quote 3: "It's just a theory") but not hopeless. Because when I put him on the spot, he passed his flying colors.

I said: "If something is proven absolutely false, aren't we required to say that this isn't part of Judaism, that we are chazal have made a mistake or misunderstood something." Without hesitating at all, he agreed, gave examples of where this has happened previously, and cited a chatam sofer. And this is a hard core, no education, talmud-all-the-time, satmar hasid.

Later, I mentioned that my kids have been asking skeptical questions about cavemen. Again, with no hesitation he says "Sure. They were from the previous "creations" They're types of humans that existed before Adam."

Aren't you pleased with the relative level of normality exhibited by this man? I know I am. Cavemen being from a previous creation is a lot more intellectually honest to me than the suggestion that fossils were put on Earth by God in order to test our faith. It's also a Torah-true idea, expressed as it is, by the Tifferes Yisroel in Derush Or ha-Hayyim

Character Counts!

...did you know that last week was National Character Counts Week? That's right - it was declared so by official White House proclamation.
"Our Nation was built on a foundation of sound moral principles," read the proclamation, signed by George W. Bush. "During this week, we should reflect on the national character we inherited from our forefathers and on the obligation we now have to stand for morality and virtue in the face of evil and terror."
And what better way to celebrate National Character Counts Week than to stump for a Republican candidate who cheated on his wife and was accused of strangling his mistress? Yes, last week George W. Bush went to Pennsylvania's 10th District to campaign for Rep. Don Sherwood, "who last year settled a $5.5 million lawsuit alleging that he beat his mistress during a five-year affair," according to the Washington Post.

Bush said he was "pleased to be here" and that Don Sherwood "has got a record of accomplishment." That's one way to put it, I guess.

Not that Bush really wanted to be there. According to the Post:
Bush was careful to avoid the usual lines about family and conservative values; he also skipped the usual first-name-only reference that would indicate that "Don" is a buddy. Onstage, he gave Sherwood the obligatory handshake and photograph but quickly moved to stand with the female Sherwoods.
You have to wonder how much worse it can get when the only person who wants to be seen in public with the president is an alleged mistress-strangler. But I guess our George will take the work where he can get it.

[Note: This was lifted clean from here]

Welcome to Marcheshvan

Today is the second of the two Rosh Chodesh days for the month of... Cheshvan? Or Marcheshvan?

Most of us grew up with the idea that the complete and correct name for the month following Tishrei is Cheshvan, only some people nicknamed it Mar Cheshvan because it is bitter (Hebrew: mar) due to its lack of holidays.

Turns out this is not true. Here's Rabbi Ari Zivitofsky with the full story:
[The word] Marcheshvan is probably derived from its location in the calendar. In Akkadian (Babylonian/Assyrian), “w” (vav) and “m” (mem) sounds can inter- change. As a result, Marcheshvan which is from the two words “m’rach” and “shvan,” would have been “warh” and “shman,” in Akkadian, corresponding to the Hebrew “yerech shmi- ni,” thus “eighth month.” In the Yemenite tradition, the name of the month is pronounced Marach- sha’wan, not Mar-cheshvan as in theAshkenazic tradition, and this would seem to preserve a greater fidelity to the original.

Older sources attest to the name as being the longer name Marcheshvan/ M’rachshwan (as opposed to just Cheshvan). When the eighth monthis mentioned in the Mishnah and Talmud, it is referred to as Marcheshvan. A few examples include: Taanit 1:3,4; Pesachim94b;and Rosh Hashanah7a; 11b. Throughout all of Rashi’s Biblical andTalmudic commentary, he also refers to the month as Marcheshvan. The Rambam and Ibn Ezra (commentary to Leviticus 25:9) also use the complete name
Facinating, no? Legions of Jews call the month "Cheshvan," when the truth is this is just a silly mistake. Also true, is that names of the months themselves come from the Babylonian language. For example, Tishrei is related to the Akkadian word for "begining;" Iyyar to the word for "blossom" and so on.

[Boruch she kevanti: S. had it first. I found his post after I wrote mine.]

[Related: S. also suggests that our custom of singing wedding songs and throwing up an ad hoc bridal canopy during the Torah reading on Simchas Torah isbased ona similar mistake. He provides credible evidence that the last aliya was originally called "chatam Torah" ie the "sealing of the Torah" and in time this evolved into "chatan Torah" ie: Bridegroom of the torah.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Why doesn't Jimmy Leyland wear a proper uniform? And don't they sing the national anthem in Detroit?

I don't watch a lot of baseball on TV, in general (it's better on the radio) and I certainly don't waste a lot of time with the no-strategy American league, so it came as a bit of a surprise last night to see Jim Leyland wearing some kind of weird sweater- top instead of the traditional Tigers home jersey.

When did American League managers stop wearing their team colors? And why?

Also, the game, last night, began after some fat singer did a rendition of American the Beautiful, a fine song, and arguably a more appropriate anthem then the Star Spangled Banner. Still, AtB isn't the national anthem, and by tradition a baseball game begins with the SSB.

I don't much care if the tradition was changed, but I would have appreciated a note or phone call.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ok, fine, it was a skirt

Jen Taylor Friedman writes: Tefillin Barbie is wearing a skirt!

Hot on the heels of Hayworth...

The NJDC writes:

First it was Republican Congressman J.D. Hayworth (AZ) embracing Henry Ford and refusing to distance himself from Ford's anti-Semitic theory of Americanization. Even more, reports are now swirling around the blogosphere that a Hayworth surrogate speaking at an event in Scottsdale, AZ stated that Hayworth is "a more observant Jew" than those present. After the crowd booed the surrogate and began to walk out, another Hayworth surrogate commented, "No wonder there are anti-Semites."

And how can you forget Republican Congresswoman and Senate Nominee Katherine Harris (FL) when she said that voting for a non-Christian would constitute "legislating sin"?

Now we can add Arkansas' Republican Governor Mike Huckabee to the growing list of Republicans in need of Sensitivity Training 101 for his tasteless comments making light of the travesties of the Holocaust and terrorists taking innocent people hostage.

While appearing on Imus in the Morning today and discussing his recent weight loss, Huckabee told Imus:
"I have just come from six weeks at a concentration camp held by the Democrat party of Arkansas in an undisclosed location, making a hostage tape. That's why I look that way."
Seriously, we can't make this stuff up. Watch it for yourself!

A (great) guest post from Akiva

Though I haven't been commenting much here lately on the intreped DB blog, [DB: Why in the hell not? You were always a stalwart] longtime DB readers may remember me as having been a member of the Republican party, the Republican Jewish Coalition, Blogs for Bush, and GOP Bloggers. I took my GOPness seriously.

Unfortunately, the GOP did not. Out of control spending and big government with no limits was the first clue. National priorities that clearly were exclusively for big business (rather than the citizens, for example the bankrupcy law) were another. Unrestricted illegal Mexican immigration was yet another. And as I've been called and mailed over 20 times by the Republican party, I've told them that every time.

But the GOP has always been involved with business, and pork barrel politics are nothing that unusual. But there was one final clue that the GOP has left everything relating to it's members and the citizens of this country behind. That was the Military Commissions Law signed on Tuesday. What do I find about such a banal piece of legislation so troubling? Well, here's what it actually says (contrary to various reports):

If you are not a US citizen, and you take an action or provide support for an action that the US military or president or those judging such things for the president decide is 'hostile' against the US , and you are not a member of a military of another country that is actively battling the US and take the hostile action or supportive action in uniform, regardless of where in the world the 'hostile' act occurs, then the US can pick you up (whether you are inside or outside US territory), try you, and execute you. And you have no legal recourse to challenge this.

So lets take a crazy example. My cousin gives 50 shekel to Kach in Israel, who deposit it in their international fund. A Kach supporter in LA is accused of trying to blow up a religious site (a mosque) in Anaheim and used access to the Kach international account to buy the computer on which the plans were found. My cousin has thereby provided support for a hostile action against the US, can be picked up by the CIA in Israel, brought the US [DB: Or sent to Syria!!] and executed. [DB: After being tortured!!] And, it's perfectly legal.

Of course, if the US decides to take over your country and you fight against it, or help someone else fight against it, or let someone who's fighting against it sleep in your house, and that someone isn't in uniform (or you're not in uniform), well then, you're eligible for the US treatment.

Sound crazy? Why not let the US pick up those terrorist scum wherever they may be? And frankly, emotionally I agree with that. The problem is, the president personally (or those he selects and authorizes, any number of them gets to decide who a terrorist is and what actions are hostile or support of hostile actions. And neither you, me, the Congress, the courts, or any international body has any say in the matter. It's all nice and legal. (Full law text here - http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c109:4:./temp/~c109i7eNgy:: )

The problems with unlimited laws needed for security is it requires trust of the authorities and those authorities to be exceptionally responsible in use of those laws. Historically, this scenario is good for about a week (ok, maybe a year). We've seen even seemily minor measures such as the IRS right to seize assets for taxes get out of control, and law enforcement rights to seize property involved in drug deals. No limits, no checks and balances means it absolutely positively will be abused.

Small government, limited powers, that's the GOP I know. I don't know this one, and I'm not voting for it. [DB: Amen brother]

Akiva blogs at Mystical Paths He's been commenting at DovBear for almost two years, and appears occasionally as a guest blogger.

He's also living proof that I celebrate diversity, and encourages open debate. I mean, what right-wing blogger frequently allows people from the other side of the aisle to guest post? No one. [Not Soccer Dad, not Seraphic Secret, not that dopy Tzemach Atlas, not any of the fire-breathing "Zionist" blogs, no one] That's who.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Guest Post by Psychotoddler

Psychotoddler bought a black fedora yesterday. And, well, truth be told, this is not Psychotoddler’s first hat. This is actually his third. Scandalous! Yes, I know. But wait, this hat was not actually purchased for Psychotoddler!

A little background if you are unfamiliar with Psychotoddler lore: Psychotoddler is a 40 year old guy who likes to talk about himself in the third person (which is getting old right about….NOW so he’ll switch to first person) who was brought up in Queens, New York in a non-observant household. For some reason, my parents sent me to Dov Revel, which at the time was a very Zionist Modern Orthodox Yeshiva which fed more or less directly into the Yeshiva University system. Which is where I spent my entire lower and higher education. From MTA through Albert Einstein COM.

All during this time, I came in contact almost not at all with people wearing Black Fedoras. The most Orthodox people around me wore Kippot Srugot. The less Orthodox wore the disposable nylon or felt Yarmulkes. Or those who couldn’t find girlfriends who knew how to crochet.

It’s possible I might have seen people wearing fedoras on Main Street or something, but I would never approach them and certainly would have no reason to try to speak to them. I felt pretty good about my frumkeit and pretty secure knowing I would never need to worry about wearing a plastic shopping bag over an expensive hat in the rain.

Fast forward a few years and I have relocated to the Midwest and have found myself to be the only person in my shul wearing a smallish srugie with my name in big blue letters. African-Americans are calling me by name from across the street and yelling “Shalom!” at me. Several people suggest that I might want a different cap.

Reluctantly, as I enter the professional world and seek to be more discreet, I purchase (or more likely steal from a Bar Mitzvah) a black suede yammie that I have worn ever since (well I may have changed it once or twice since then).

But even in this chapeau, I am clearly the only one in the community not wearing either a black fedora or shtreimel. Over the course of a little more than a decade, it begins to wear me down. The frum people wear hats. The apikorsim do not. The frum people have children who suddenly morph into little versions of their parents when they hit 13. The apikorsim have kids who suddenly pierce their noses and date shiksas. The baale tshuva enter the assembly line looking like me, and exit with peyos and shtreimels. Clearly, increasing frumkeit correlates with increasing black hattitude.

Still, I don’t give in. Despite a noticeable lack of role models to substantiate my position, I continue to maintain that it is not necessary to wear a gangsta-style fedora to be frum. And to their credit, none of the rabbis in the shul or kollel insist that I start wearing one (although there is a rule requiring a jacket to daven from the amud, which didn’t really apply to me until this year anyway—I treat that like a “no jacket-no service” rule at a restaurant).

So I persevere in my felt-less existence for several more years. But inwardly I find myself sinking into an abyss of guilt and self-loathing. I lose my grip on my upbringing. I find myself clinging to minhagim and halachot for which I can no longer locate a source or authority. My job suddenly requires me to take call on Shabbos, and I submit without a fight.

My first son nears the age of 13. My son who loves dinosaurs. Whose friends tell him that dinosaurs never existed. Whose friends are now suddenly sporting fedoras and kapotes, gartels and jackets. What to do about my son?

Well it is simple. His fight is not my fight. In fact, my fight isn’t even my fight. I find I just don’t care anymore. I don’t care if I flick the light on in the bathroom in the hospital on Shabbos, because what the heck, I just drove there anyway. I don’t care if my son has to wear a hat, because it’s a rule at his school. It’s not a political or religious statement anymore. It’s a school uniform. I find a local hat store in a Black neighborhood. Amidst rows of emerald green bowlers and furry feathered lavender pimp hats are a few black Stetson fedoras. A steal at $75. I put one on his head and we go.

A year later my second son becomes Bar Mitzvah. By then it is not even a question. He will get a black hat to wear at school and at shul. And his brother has just moved into a Black-Hat Yeshiva. I have officially given myself over to the Dark Side. I still don’t care. I have no intention of wearing such a hat myself, because it’s just not “me.” I still cling to this notion of “Modern Orthodoxy” that’s out there and that says it’s OK to watch TV and go to movies (just not during sfiroh) and listen to Rock Music and still eat Kosher and keep Shabbos. It’s just nowhere near me and I can’t find anyone else in this sea of black who believes it. And I’m a bad person myself because I don’t go to minyan and I work on Shabbos. I cannot be redeemed. I am like Darth Vader. But I still want my sons to be Lukes. Maybe they’ll have a chance at greatness.

And then, something happens. I stumble onto the Blogosphere.

I discover there are others out there who are experiencing the same thing. Some are in small towns, some are in the Midwest, some are in Israel, and some are even in Deepest Darkest Brooklyn. I begin to write about my feelings. I write comments on other blogs. I decompress.

I feel better. I realize that I don’t need to feel threatened by the Wearers of Black. They aren’t better or frummer than me. They are just DIFFERENT. I can maintain my spirituality and my devotion to Judaism without donning their particular uniform. I discover other frum physicians who take call on Shabbos. My perspective changes dramatically.

I start going to shul. I start to get more involved in my chevrusah. I get involved in online discussions regarding the nature of Orthodoxy. I find that people are getting inspiration from me. From ME! I find that some people think I am TOO ORTHODOX. I realize again what a wide spectrum of religious Judaism is out there. I start to feel like a do have a place in the community, and maybe it is more important than I ever gave myself credit for.

And now my third son is going to start laying t’fillin soon. And yesterday, we went to that same “Black” hat store, and picked up another Stetson. And I looked around a little for something that might look good on me. And maybe one day, I will get one. But it won’t be black.

JD Hayworth Continues His Christ-Killer Outreach Program (Wonkette)

Last summer, fat JD Hayworth, a red-faced Republican from Arizona, tried to rehabilitate Henry Ford's xenophobic, anti-Semitic vision of "Americanization." Needless to say, the Jews in JD's district were most displeased, so JD tried to make nice by sending an emnissary to address the local Temple. Our story continues [via Wonkette]

Unable to defend his repeated praise of Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic “Americanization” program, U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth bailed on a scheduled campaign appearance Tuesday evening only to send in his place surrogates who repeatedly lectured the audience at Temple Beth Israel in Scottsdale and proclaimed that Hayworth “is a more observant Jew” than those present. [DB: Note JD is, in fact, a Baptist.]

The comment by Jonathan Tratt, a spokesman for the Hayworth campaign, drew loud and angry boos and caused nearly three-quarters of the crowd of more than 200 to walk out in disgust. After the walkout, another Hayworth surrogate, Irit Tratt, stood on the Temple’s bimah as she told members of the audience who gathered to ask questions, “No wonder there are anti-Semites.”

Ah, Republicans.

Hattip: Conservative Apikorus, who adds:

From what I gather, Hayworth is a total paranoid about having too many brown Mexican Papists swarming into Arizona. I guess he's afariad that if they "change the character" of the state it will get harder for a rightwing Baptist gringo to hold on to his seat.

So he writes this book about the subject in which he praises Henry Ford's "Americanization" platform from the 1920s. My guess is that JD was so lazy that he didn't bother to look up the context of Ford's writing and find out that this was basically the Protocols of the Elders of Zion translated, reprinted and given some American twists by old Henry.

Of course, I guess it's possible that JD heard somewhere that all those Mexicans are descendantys of Spanish conversos and thus cryptojews, and so he really is worried about secret cabal of the Elders of Mexico or something.

Of course, Will Rogers said it best: "Ford used to have it in for the Jewish people until he saw them in Chevrolets, and then he said, 'Boys, I am all wrong.'"

The whole sorry story: http://www.fordlemon.com/thedarksideofhenryford.html

What a high sense of moral purpose the GOP has!


The Republican Party last night refused to cancel commercials that claim Sherrod Brown was a longtime tax scofflaw - even though the state of Ohio says the ad's claim is untrue.

For the slow: (1) the information contained in the ads is not true; (2) the GOP has been informed by government officials that it is not true, however (3) they are going to continue running the ads.

I am sure Jesus is pleased, and I am, likewise certain that the media-folks and GOP Jews who insist that Republicans are all about the values will take no notice of this.

The ghost of Cum Nimis Absurdum*

Last night, former AG John Asshcroft implied to the Daily Show's audience that their host Jon Stewart, a great American, would not go to heaven. Here's how it went down (paraphrased):

Stewart: Let's make a bet. If the Cardinals win tonight, I'll give you a TDS tee-shirt. If the Met's win, I go to heaven.

Asshcroft: Well, my father was a preacher and he used to say he was in sales, not management... I'll tell you what. If the Mets win, you can move to St. Louis and you'll think you've gone to heaven.

So now this ancient grounds for anti-Semtism, and the pogroms and acts of mass murder that followed, is being played for laughs? Asshcroft can concede that he thinks Jews lack the spiritual stuff needed to enter the eternal kingdom of the Lord and no one boos? Suppose Stewart was black and he asked for admission to the White-only restroom. Would the audience have then tittered so appreciativly?

Asshcroft, certainly, is entitled to his errors, as we are to ours. No one questions Asshcroft's right to think that the Jews are spiritually deficient. I don't demand that he stop thinking. I demand that reasonable people stop yawning in the face of stupid, and insulting thoughts. If Jews have learned anything from history it is this: The idea that we are despised by God must not be allowed to gain any traction because when it does the other side always turns violent.

* Cum Nimis Absurdum, a bull published in 1555 by Paul IV, which established the Roman ghetto, forced Jews to wear special caps and forbid them from owning real estate or practicing medicine on Christians. These policies were enacted on the grounds that the Jews are forever despised by God, and destined for endless slavery.

Lets Go Mets!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Simchat Torah 1986

Told you so

‘National yawn as our rights evaporate’

Hat tip: Aquiba, or as you call him, Akiva of Mystical Paths.

Paging Bill Buckner...

...requested at first base tonight for game 6 of the NLCS. Looking for replica of game 6 in 1986.

Tefillin Barbie!

by Jen Taylor Freidman (via Moby)

1 - This is art, and I think it is supposed to piss you off. So if you are offended: good. That's the point.

2 - I don't like the fact that Barbie is wearing pants. If the artist is attempting to make the point I think she is trying to make, it would have been better served if Barbie was tzanuah.

3 - A shteinzaltz? Is that because she's blond? (I notice others made the same point at the original post)

4 - I don't like the idea of Barbie being depicted as one of those self-important Brooklyn man who make a point of studying talmud during prayer. If she's in tefillin, let her be davening and not making a show of her learning, like some insecure slob from Flatbush.

5 - IIRC, women are allowed to wear tefillin, and this falls into the category of optional practices like taking a lulav. In our day, Orthodox women don't do it, and the practice has become a taboo, but it wasn't always thus: Once upon a time Jewish women wore tefillin in some numbers. Our modern attitude is really rather silly. If a girl wants to wear tefillin, let her. It doesn't hurt anyone, and per the actual halacha she's entitled.

6 - But a talis? I can understand the idea behind putting her in tefillin, but TTBOMK a talis was always exclusivly for men.

Why I Want You To Make Nancy Pelosi SOH

1 - The Republican House leadership has presided over a culture of corruption. Abramahoff, Delay, Foley, Cunnigham, etc. It's time to drain the swamp

2 - Her Democrats are committed to fiscal responsibility. No more stupid tax cuts for people who don't need them, while soldiers go without body armor. No more sweet deals for Haliburton. No more cutting programs that working people depend on for the purpose of funding tax cuts for the richest 1 percent.

3 - She will restore civility to the House. Democrats havn't gotten a bill on the floor in 12 years. The leadership stifles their ammendments, and run roghshod over the minority members. That isn't how the govt of this country was traditionally run, and it is a system that's bad for democracy.

4 - In the first 100 hours she will pass bills that will (a) raise the min wage (b) carry out the 9/11 commissions recomendations (c) permit stem cell research. Finally.


Never exactly geniuses, those evangelical Christians who imagined the virtuous and value-drunk president was one of their own are now very intellectually hungover. As they blink into the profane daylight and nurse their horribly throbbing theories, they put me in mind of those right wing Jews who praised Bush's Israel policy, only to see Abu Mazen as a White House guest, and the White House co-sighning a French proposed cease-fire that left Israel emasculated and embaressed.

Why are fundementalist Zionists and fundementalist Christians such chumps? Like dogs returning to their vomit, they go back to Bush, again and again, voting against their own economic and class interests, only to discover, again and again, that the president is playing them. Like the poet Ezzie's guest poster recently cited, they keep falling into the same hole.

As Pastor Chuck Baldwin put it: No president in American history played the "God card" any better than George W. Bush. Early in his 2000 presidential campaign, Bush convinced fundamentalist Christian leaders that he was "their" man. Those Christian leaders went on to promote and support Mr. Bush to the tune of two successful presidential election victories.

Now, [Pastor Baldwin continues] it appears, this (like Bush's politically expedient fondness for Israel) was all a sham: GOP strategists played evangelical believers for suckers. It's all in Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, a new book written by David Kuo, a disillusioned Bushie who previously served as Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Kuo saw it all from the inside, and his message is this: Christians were swindled.

[Updated Decembver 24, 2005]

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My! How does the NYC sanitation department manage to get those decapitated bodies off the streets so quickly?

Rep Peter King (R, NY): "Baghdad is just like Manhattan."

Yeah, all those taxi car bombs detonating in midtown have the traffic backed up clear to New Jersey.

What a retard.

Great Moments in Copyediting

"New Director David Wallach was born in Jerusalem in 1970 into the Haredic community and graduated from the Punjab Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. [sic] Wallach now lives in Tel Aviv. 'Summer Vacation' is his feature debut."


Hat-tip: She who musn't be named.

The Passion of the Gibson

Poor whiny Mel:
Gibson told “Good Morning America” host Diane Sawyer he has been angry for most of his life, but didn’t realise the extent of the anger he still had over accusations that his 2004 film featured anti-Semitic imagery.

He explains, “The other place it may have come from is, as you know, a couple of years ago I released the film ‘Passion.’

“Even before anyone saw a frame of the film, for an entire year, I was subjected to a pretty brutal sort of public beating.

“During the course of that, I think I probably had my rights violated in many different ways as an American. You know, as an artist, as a Christian. Just a human being, you know.”
Poor Mel. Persecuted so harshly that he ended up making enough money to buy his own tropical island. Anyway, see if you can follow the math.

1: Mel makes a movie in which he depicts the Jews as low-down, viper-like Christ killers.
2: Jews get mad
3: Mel gets drunk and insults Jews.
4 : Jews get mad
5: Mel says he only insulted the Jews in the first place because they were mean to him (forgetting that it was his own anti-Semtic movie that got things started)

PS: Where does it say in the US Constitutions that "no Australian should have his nerves gotten on?" So far as I know, he doesn't have a right -as an artist, a Christian, or even as a human being - to avoid critism.

[Source: SFGate: Daily Dish : Gibson: 'I Had My Rights Violated' During 'Passion' Controversy]


As you've no doubt noticed, the meaning of words change with the passage of time.

An example is the word nice. Nice used to be an insult and meant foolish or stupid in the 13th century and it went through many changes right through to the 18th century with meanings like wanton, extravagant, elegant, strange, modest, thin, and shy or coy. Now it means a good, or pleasing or thoughtful, or kind.

Silly meant blessed or happy in the 11th century and went through pious, innocent, harmless, pitiable and feeble minded before ending up as foolish or stupid.

Pretty started as crafty this changed to clever or skillfully made, then to fine and ended up as beautiful. [Etymologies cited above taken from here: Etymology- How Words Change Over Time]

And consider the word "Charedi." Once upon a time this word was used to refer to someone who was "Afraid of Heaven." Now, it means afraid, period.

Afraid of the future, afraid of the past, afraid of technology, afraid to explore, afraid to think, afraid of women's issues , afraid of the neighbors, etc, etc.

Updated: December 24, 2006

Monday, October 16, 2006


... with George and Laura Bush

Another absurd Hasidic practice

Hasidim perform hakafot on Shmini Atzeres [Translation: The decendants of Hungarian and Polish peasants who present themselves today as the epitomy of religious Judaism perform the ritual circling of the bima on both Simchas Torah (ie: the Ninth Day) and Shmini Atzeres(ie: the Eighth Day)]

Why is this absurd?

Refer to the Rama where he writes that the hakafa custom (together with other customs, including the in-shul feasting, the aliyot, kol nearim, the singing, the dancing, the reciting of praises, etc.) was created for the express purpose of celebrating the completion of the Torah. This occurs on the Ninth Day (in the diaspora*) and the Rama, therefore, says nothing about performing the rituals of celebration on the Eighth Day. They belong to the Ninth Day and the Ninth day alone.

So why do Hasidim do hakafot on both days?

My guess is some Rebbela from long ago was unaware that hakafot were created in the diaspora. And because disapora Jews do the Seder twice, he probably thought it would be a good idea to perform the hakafot twice, too.

[*The mechaber, who wrote from the perspective of a Jew living in Israel, says the Torah is completed on the Eighth Day and he makes no mention of the hakafot and other diaspora-created customs. ]

[Update: I see many people have complained about this post, so let me put a fine point on it: There is only one reason to do hakafot: TO CELEBRATE THE COMPLETION OF THE TORAH. That's why the custom was created, by disapora Jews, for the NINTH DAY. Anyone who performs the custom on the EIGHTH DAY in the diaspora is demonstrating ignorance of the custom's origin.]

For defending of newsman Borat against slander of dirty Jew

TNR on Borat:
The freedom to offend... is an artistic freedom that can be abused. But it can also serve to clarify and reveal things about those it offends.

Just consider the case of Borat. While the ADL may kvetch, there is no greater critic of Borat than Kazakhstan's president Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, who evidently finds nothing funny about Borat's portrayal of his country--and, by extension, his regime--as benighted and backward... All of which has only served to illustrate the true character of Nazarbayev.
Read the rest


MoChassid, as usual, is being the curmudgeon, this time about Simchas Torah shtick:
I have no philosophical issue with shtick on ST. There are sources in the seforim for the idea and they go back a long, long time. [DB: You've made a reasoning error. Old and good are not synonyms.] My issue is not with kibud tefilah, etc. It's with lack of humor.Does anyone really find it funny when the chazan davens Maariv in nusach Yomim Noraim? How many times do you have to hear Hallel to rock tunes before it gets tedious? Water splashed in the face of the ba'al musaf when he says mashiv haruach u'morid hageshem...That's funny?
As a public service, here are my thoughts:

Maariv in nusach yomim noraim.
This isn't supposed to be funny. It's meant as mockery. We're puncturing the solemnity of the High Holidays, and showing the awe of the day has passed, by using its tunes for other purposes. It's a way of saying, "Thank god that's over, now lets have some fun."

Hallel to rock tunes
This isn't done to make us laugh, but to show us how clever the chazan is. When performed with wit, this still amuses.

Water splashed in the face of the ba'al musaf when he says mashiv haruach u'morid hageshem
Not funny, and thankfully out of style

Other examples of shtick:

Tying talitot
Not funny (to anyone over age 11) and also out of style

Singing as much of the tefilah as possible, often to Young Israel tunes
Not funny, but a chance for the more modern people to stick it to the holy rollers who refuse, on bogus principle, to use those tunes during the rest of the year. And who doesn't like to sing?

Funny hats
If the rebba can wear a beaver pelt 52 weeks out of the year, why can't the community jester show up on Simchat Torah in a cowboy hat or Bucharin kippa?

Faking birchas kohanim by screaming a shehakol when the chazan reaches that point in mussaf
Funny, the first time. Now lame.

Torturing the baal musaf
Funny, but this can go too far. Take away his siddur, or turn around the bima and stop there.

Simchat Torah

Nu, what time did you finish?

We were eating lunch at 3:00, which was entirely unnecessary given how we stuffed ourselves in shul. Stuffed cabbage. Salami. Nine kinds of kugel. And candy everywhere.

Hey, did anything wild happen in your shul? Other than harrasing the Hasidic old-timers with the singing of the entire Young Israel collection of greatest hits, we were pretty tame. (Side question: Why do Hassidic old timers dislike those tunes so mightily? When you sing "ain kamocha" or "bay ana rochitz" they all behave as if live scorpions were running through the folds of their underwear.)

No one got drunk. The rabbi was a good sport about our singing Israeli folk songs during hallel. (My voice is still scratchy.) And we danced like midevil peasants. So, all in all, it was an excellent chag.

Throw The Jew Down The Well!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Yaakov Horowitz...

...does a nice job, doesn't he?

We're also impressed with Friar Yid.

Who has the letter?

A new letter is circulating in which the infamous butcher of Monsey begs forgivness from the masses. I haven't seen it yet, but would like to. Anyone?

Women! Know Your Limits!

I see some clever and enlightened soul went and created a video representation of my post from earlier today:

Mrs. Mysogynist

I was cruising the Internet for recipes and devrei Torah when I came across this delightful instance of mysogyny:
As for the beginning of that paragraph -- the Gemara itself says that women are not supposed to be taught Torah sheba'al peh.

I think that anyone who says that that Gemara is not Torah miSinai - but is only a response to the surrounding culture of its time - has herself been influenced by the "surrounding non-Jewish influence" of /our/ time.

There have been very learned woman, but in each case -- be it Devorah or Bruriah -- she was very much an exception to the general run of Jewish women. How many female shoftim have there been? One. How many female tannaim? One. (If Bruriah counts.)

So while there does seem to be an allowance made for the exceptional circumstance, it is not the norm for women to be talmidei chachamim. Their exemption from the mitzva of limud Torah (except for the specific halachos they need to know) is, BTW, related to their exemption from other mitzvos that would interfere with their higher duties -- raising the next generation of Jews. --- A WOMAN WHO TEACHES SCHOOL
Oh, how moronic, and on so many many levels. Permit me to elaborate.

1 - There are Rishonim who wrote that the much of what we call the Gemara isn't "from Sinai." Logic suggests this as well. (After all, could every "Rabbi Yehuda amar" have been spoken at Sinai? Imagine what a hoot it would have been for Rabbi Yehuda to learn in school what his older self had been pre-destined to say.)

2 - Why does past performance predict future results? In the old days many forces conspired to produce few learned women. Those forces were not inherent to Judaism, and, happily, they have, for the most part, passed into oblivion. So why should women sell themselves short? Out of sentiment? Out of nostalgia for forces that no longer obtain?

3 - "The halachos they need to know?" That could fill a library, (not to mention much of Nashim.) So where are the schools committed to teaching women these laws, in all their detail?

4 - Anyway, it is not "the Gemara" that says what she's referring to. It's ben Azzai (I think), as quoted in the Gemara, and he only states one opinion amongst three. "The Gemara" does not take sides between the three opinions. But for some reason (hmmm what oh what could it be?) the "tiflus" opinion is the one that's become famous.

5 - Besides, how does this "woman who teaches school" know about Bruriah? Heavens. Did someone teach her Talmud?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What was the third meal?

Now that the days are getting shorter, I'm back to thinking that the third shabbos meal is really quite lame. Think about it. We're home from morning services at around noon and done with lunch at around 2 pm. Are we really supposed to sit down and shove still more food down our throats at 4:30? And this is the meal all the rabininc literature raves about? Makes no sense at all.

Also sensless is how Jews behave when Shabbos and Yom Tov (or erev Pesach) coincide. Because the Rabbis wrote ecstacticly about the third meal, Jews are loath to give it up. So they resort to fictions. For instance, last week, my own father-in-law bentched after the starter, sang a song, and then washed again for the main course. The last time Shabbos was erev Pesach he did the same thing. (On both occasions, I told him he was being ridiculous, and reminded him that he was performing a brocha she lo tzariach, but he doesn't listen to me.)

What's more likely is this: Once upon a time, Jews woke up early -even on shabbos - for services. They were home from shul before 9 AM, so the second shabbos meal was breakfast. Later in the day when everyone gathered for the Sabbath lunch, that was the third meal. And a third meal which isn't rushed, or squeezed between mincha and maariv, or eaten by people who are already bursting is something I can see the Rabbis being likely to celebrate. I can see it, because we have it. Only we call it the second meal.

Slow day

Sorry, true believers, but the blogging will be slow today. I'm otherwise occupied.

Meantime, why not enjoy some of the music of MoChassid? [You can hear samples of the songs by clicking here. ] This is good stuff. And, having listend to it myself, I finally understand Mo's contempt for Mordechai Ben David, et al.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Some comments you might have missed

Several prestigious commenters left important messages at the very bottom of last week's Jesus Camp thread.

(1) UNCLE MOISHY: After CWY swore on a bible that the first ammendment would forever protect the millions of Jews [*] who attend public school from being forced to worship Jesus our funny Uncle argued:

CWY's bit about depending on the 1st amendment to overcome the tyranny of a Christian Evangelical majority is, as someone already said, naive. In fact, it seems the Evangelicals have been using the 1st amendment to bolster their position, essentially by claiming that their 1st amendment right to practice religion would be infringed by banning prayer in school, teaching evolution and other scientific heresies, removing religious symbols from public display during xmas-season, etc.


There is also a... case that the Jewish media has picked up on about Jews in a small town in Delaware who have sued to prevent their kids from having Xtianity shoved down their throats in public school. IIRC, in one incident, a Xtian student leader made a public speech in which she prayed for her Jewish classmate to find the right path. The bottom line for this family is that the lawsuits haven't done them any good and they've had to relocate to Wilmington, the nearest (presumably more tolerant) big city. I have to believe that this is closer to the norm wherever fundamentalist Christians are the majority.

(2) APPLE: Following a few poorly considered remarks from Joe and Akiva about how liberals are corrupting society, Apple said:

"The surrounding culture is a product of the market. People want it, so businesses provide it. No political party is ADVOCATING it."

With this remark, Apple put his finger on an essential conservative mistake. Conservative like to pretend that liberals are in favor of smutty adverts, and violent video games, but in reality they favor nothing but freedom and tolerance. The smutty ads and violent video games offend us, too, but we'd rather live in a world that has them, then a world where conservative Christian overlords have the power to impose their beliefs and practices on us.

If you think it couldn't happen, go visit that town in Delaware. Or listen closely the next time someone like Dobson or Ihofe speaks.

[*] Yes, millions. We have 5 million Jews in America, and only about 300,000 children in Jewish schools. Where are the rest?