Sunday, December 31, 2006

Former Haredi Comfronts His Haredi Molestors – On Camera

Former Haredi Comfronts His Haredi Molestors – On Camera Breaking Silence
(Translated from Hebrew to English by this commenter, I presume)
Ma'ariv Dec, 28 2006 767.html

As a Charedi (ultra-orthodox) child he had been through a series of molestations and attempted rapes. Even after he left the religious life, he suffered from nightmares and sleepless nights. Now Menachem Lang decided to gather his courage, confront his attackers, and force the Charedi world to deal with its demons. Dressed as a Charedi, he infiltrated Bnei-Brak and followed them--until he managed to squeeze a detailed admission and request for forgiveness; all in front of the cameras.

Menachem Lang was born as a Charedi in Bnei-Brak. Already at a young age he was discovered as someone who possessed a unique voice for Chazanut (leading the community in religious song)and became the wonder child of the Charedi world. However, alongside the success, Lang was hiding a relentless dark secret.

"The first time was when I was 7 years old," tells Lang. "The attacker took me to the bathroom and spent five hours with me there. He rubbed against me and touched me, breathed like a drunkard. I just lowered my eyes and waited for it to be over." This week, almost 20 years later, Lang went back to the streets of Bnei-Brak--and this time as a non-religious Jew dressed as a Charedi--in order to confront the people who sexually assaulted him.

Menachem, 25 years old, is an actor in the Ensemble of Herzelia Theater, went on the shuddering trip into his past accompanied by Channel 10 reporter Guy Lerer. "I always wanted to do this," he says, "it hurt me that these people are walking free. It haunted me nights, but I didn't have the courage to do this because I didn't have anyone to do it with. I made the decision when Lerer came to me to prepare a report on the show I participate in. I told him about my dream and he immediately told me 'we're doing this!'. During the shooting we walked into the Satmar borough dressed as Charedis, the same Chassidic group that sent its people to meet with Ahmad Nigahd. It is a hard, violent place."

"I am regretful!"

About two weeks ago, Landg and Lerer, outfitted with a hidden camera, arrived in a neighborhood in Bnei-Brak. He waited under one of the houses, dressed as a Charedi. A few minutes later, a familiar figure approaches up the street. Menachem identifys "A", the man who attacked him violently and molested him when he was 13. He goes to him and calls him to stop. "A" turns and flees, Menachem runs after him. Several tens of meters later, he catches him, and the two begin to fight. When "A" understands that he has no place to run to, he stops, and after he calms down a bit an exchange develops between Menachem and him.

A: "I admit that I used to mess (with children) but three years already I hadn't messed with any one."
Menachem: "How old are you today?"
A: "I'm 37."
Menachem: "Until the time you were 34 you touched children?"
A: "I did to you what I did to you in the Synagogue. Since I did to you I hadn't touched anyone."
Menachem: "Why did you do (this)?"
A: "Folly. Everyone has a Yetzer-Ha'ra (an urge to do bad).
Menachem: "With how many children have you done this?"
A: "I didn't do a lot (of times/of kids), I did with two-three, not more than that. I repented and I don't do it and don't touch anyone."
Menachem: "You know why I don't believe you? Because I can see in your face that you are not sorry."

This is the moment when "A" loses his cool and yells in the middle of the street: "I am regretful! You want to murder my life?" At this point a large crowd gathers in the street. Menachem and the filming crew, afraid of being Lynched, leave the place. Later on, Menachem confronts another attacker, who offers to compensate for the molestation with payment, as is customary in the Charedi world. Menachem, surprisingly enough, accepts the offer.

That very day Menachem receives a threatening phone call from the Bnei-Brak Modesty Patrols. "I head people talking about it and they decided to go to the end," whispers the voice on the other end of the line, "if this stops, it'll stop. If this happens again, there will be a battle against battle here. You want this? Be our guest."

"Entering Satmar was when I felt that we might be crossing a line," tell Lerer, "there were factors in the Charedi world who told us that even they would be afraid to go in there. We were dressed as Charedis, but you can say that the costume wasn't all that credible. If they were to expose us, we wouldn't have left there alive."

"It is common in the Charedi world"
Five years ago Menachem left religious life. Now it is much easier for him to talk of the atrocities that he underwent in Bnei-Brak, this that repeated themselves over years, by the hands of a number of people.

"The second time it happened to me, at age 10, a man I didn't know tempted me and got me into a stairwell," he reconstructs the event, "there he undid my pants, touched me, and tried to enter me with his penis. I will not forget that in the midst of all this he was talking Gemara with me, probably to distract me while he was doing what he was doing. It was terrible. I told about it to an older and qualified man. He caught the attacker and took him to a very known rabbi, who takes care of such matters. Unfortunately, I saw him (the attacker) walking free the very next day. I found out that he was the son of a very known 'Admor' (congregation leader rabbi), which meant that nothing could be done to him."

According to Menachem, sexual assault of children isn't a rare thing in the Charedi world, and many cases are silenced within the community. It was the reason why he didn't tell anyone about other events that took place over the years. "I'm not alone," He says, "assaulting children is a common thing in the Charedi world, almost accepted. Everyone knows, but they try to take care of it internally. To go to the police? It is out of the question."

Since the brave journey back to the world that abused him, Menachem has been exposed to tens of additional phone threats. "Bnei-Brak is on fire," he says, "They feel that this is one of the hardest things that ever hit them. I'd already heard about organized plans to come and exact revenge upon me, but I'd also heard about those who support me. They say that no one ever stopped it from within. It is about time that someone brings an end to this from outside."

Even though he has filmed admissions from his attackers, Menachem decided not to place a complaint with the police. He doesn't deny that one of those reasons is the many threats he receives. "If a complaint is made with the police, I will need to leave the country (Israel) the next day," Menachem explains. "It is not something I want to do. Anyway, I think that the report will do far better service and maybe will result in tens of poor children not having to go through the same hell as I did."

The full story, Friday 12-29-06, on "Shee-Shee" with Raviv Droker and Ofer Shelach on Channel 10.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

ArtScroll's Ideology

Twice in parshas va'yigash we're told that Yaakov did something to Pharoh. Both times the Torah uses the word va'yivorech. Both times ArtScroll translates it as "blessed."

This puzzles.

According to the first sentance, in the first paragraph of the volume's opening essay called "Text, Translation and Elucidation" the ArtScroll's Saperstein edition of the Torah "attempts to render the text as Rashi understood it." In other words, they translate according to Rashi.

Here's Rashi on the first appearence of the word va'yivorech:
"This is a greeting, in the manner of all who appear before a king... saluder in Old French [and, as the notes add, saluer in Modern French.]"
In the translation, however, we're told: "...and Jacob blessed Pharoh."

This error is avoided in the Gutnik edition, (another house's rival translation which also promises to "translate according to Rashi") where the first use of va'yivorech is translated as "greet" and the second, per Rashi, is translated as "blessed." So where did ArtScroll go wrong? Two speculative answers:

1 - They were sloppy. The word va'yivorech means blessed in common Hebrew. In fact, Robert Alter, in his Five Books of Moses, reads it as "blessed" both times and adds " would be entirely in keeping with his own highly developed sence of his patriarchal role that he - a mere Semitic herdsman chief addressing the head of the mighty Egyptian empire-- should pronounce a blessing..." It's not at all unreasonable to translate it this way-- unless you've made a point of announcing that you will follow Rashi.

2 - Ideology got in the way. Readers of the ArtScroll Stone edition of the Torah (a translation with an anthology of popular exegetes) know that whenvever ArtScroll chooses between two interpretations, they almost always go with the one that is most fanciful. In the Stone, Serach lived forever, Rivka was three on her wedding day, and the second Egyptian plague began with one frog --even though there are other classic commentators in each case who saw things less magically. It's perfectly in keeping with this editorial approach for ArtScoll to present Yaakov, the "mere Semitic herdsman chief" in this more exalted way-- even though this isn't how Rashi saw it.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Bad actor of the blogophere alert

Still Wonderin' insults others bloggers, writes rudley about charedim and is mean to his commenters.

Paging the Wonderin'Weasel!

Note to people who may misunderstand: I like SW and was sure he'd embrace the designation. I think his comemntary about Weasel-gate has been sharp and spot on. But, let's face it: If I am a bad actor, so is he (and many others.) I'd like it to be recognized that if I am a bad actor, so are most of the rest of you. Plagiarism is wrong. Being the bad actor isn't.

The picture that should have gone with my Ford post

DovBear on the Parsha

"Now the whole world had one language and a common speech."
Genesis 11:1

"This was Hebrew" said my first grade rebbe (her name, actually, was Morah Rosenberg) "It was with this language that God created the world, and until the Tower of Babel everyone spoke this language. Afterwards, it belonged only to the children of Shem."

Far be it from me to disagree with a professional teacher of small children (their blogosphere lobby is viscious and known for sneaky tricks) but the facts of history, as uncovered by people who know where to look, disagree with her.

For instance, biblical Hebrew is full of Akkadian loan words. Yam (sea god), Mot (death god), Nahhar (river god) and El (chief god) were all names for Ugaritic dieties. Also, as reported last year "archeologists have found a tablet inscribed with two lines of an alphabet dating to the 10th century BCE. The string of aleph-beth-gimels appear to be an early rendering of the emerging Hebrew alphabet but it's unclear if the language is Phoenician, Hebrew or a blend of both. The best guess, scholars say, is that the find represents the Hebrew language still in transition from its Phoenician roots."

The Torah true Jews in the audience have likely already begin writing their angry and insulting comments. You're furiously reminding me that the Sages of the Midrash, no slouchs them, were certain that Hebrew was once spoken by every human being. Muvan. But wait. Put down your poisenous pens. I have a surprise for you. The idea that Hebrew is, in fact, a contingent language that developed over time has an excellent pedigree. It's found in the Ramban, in this week's parasha. Here's the citation: (Gen. 45:12). "For Abraham did not bring it from Ur of the Chaldees [in Mesopotamia] and from Haran, for there they spoke Aramaic... And it was not a private language spoken by a single person but a language of Canaan..."

From the information that we possess today we must think the Ramban correct-- un-Jewish as the view may seem, to our late sensibilities. Archeology and the study linguistics support his contention, but so does common sense: As children, did we really think that Hebrew was the private language of Abraham's family, spoken, for a time, by as few as 7 or 8 people?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Keeping Our Children Safe - Part Two


I'd like to say something about the death of Gerry Ford, but, really, what is there to say about the man? Shall I mention his cameo on the Simpsons, on the SNL hosting stint that ended with him destroying the White House Christmas Tree? That hardly seems fair.

What's also unfair is that our memory of the man has been shaped by men like Chevy Chase. That's the Ford I know.. The bumbler. The clown. But het isn't the real man.

Instead, let's remember the accidental president for something he actually did. Like pardoning Richard Nixon. For those younger readers of DovBear who may not remember, Nixon was a very bad man. After hand-selecting Ford to serve as vice-President, Nixon's resigned making Ford an unelected president. Ford repaid the favor by giving Nixon a full and unconditional pardon.

This, says I, was an outrage, and also an abuse of presidential power not seen again until our own time. Though to be perfectly fair to Mr. Ford, his own manipulations fall well short of the Machiavellian maneuvers of President Bush. Ford, after all, only let a crook off the hook. He never rewarded a professional foul-up with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, never proclaimed himself infallible, and also had the good sense to keep the US out of hopeless, impossible to win, foreign entanglement. So godspeed for that, Mr. Ford.

A nice word about Jesus

[The Christmas post I had planned]

In my opinion, Jews give Jesus a raw deal. Many of us refuse to speak his name (even I can't bring myself to say Christ) and we remember him as a bastard, a blasphemer and the son of hairdresser who slept with many men.

The Rabbi's of the Talmud are partially to blame for this. Though Gil credibly argues that the Talmd never discussed Jesus, in the popular imagination all of the references to the son of the carpenter who was the bastard son of a whore are about him. Gil proves to my satisfaction that not one of those allusions refer to Jesus, but the haredi on the street, unfortunately, does not read Hirhurim.

(Anyway, the whole method of relying on the Talmud for history is suspect. The fact that someone was a Tanna or an Amorah and an expert in Jewish law besides doesn't make him an omniscient historian. Or, as one friend recently put it, "It's one thing to use rabbinic literature as a source for history, its another thing to assume that it is history. Would you quote a Chassidishe sefer from 19th century Galicia as a source for Jewish history in the 1500s?")

But back to Jesus. In our memory, he was not a Jew. We speak about him as if he came at Judaism from the outside, with the intention of destroying it, but this is faulty thinking. The real Jesus was a Jew who cared about other Jews. He had no intention of abolishing Judaism, or of establishing a church that would one day torment his people.

The Jesus scholars (who are no more or less omniscient than the Rabbis) paint Jesus with a variety of brushes. To some, he was a 60s-style rabble rouser standing against the man. Some think he was an illiterate peasent; others say he was a learned elitest who looked down on the folk religion of the masses; still others paint him as a wise man or prophet, and there are those who say he came to correct the hypocrisy of the Jewish people. From our vantage point its impossible to know. What is indesputable though, is this: his faith was Jewish faith.

I take the view that Jesus was a failed reformer. I don't know what it was about first century Judea that upset him, but I've satisfied myself that he was upset and that there were problems within Judaism he wanted to fix. Perhaps he was a bit of a mad man, too.

In my imagination Jesus came not to destroy Judaism but to fix it, and from within the Jewish context. Whether it was Temple corruption, or Saduccean materialism, or the minutia of the Pharisses that animated him is impossible to know - and indeed, it may have been something else entirely. Perhaps he came not to reform, but to preach hope to a divided and demoralized nation. Perhaps he came to remind Israel the God's love is ever-lasting. My bottom line point, though, it that whatever his reasons for entering public life his message was one of Jewish renewal, and his goal was to help his people begin again.

A generation after his death, Jesus's followers began a polemical war against the Jews who hadn't accepted him, and those polemics eventually were gathered into what became the New Testament. That book lies about Jews, for political gain, and those lies have been the cause of great Jewish suffering. One result of those lies is that hardly anyone -Chrsitians included - remember that Jesus was a son of our people, someone who grew up with our teachings, our customs, our Torah and who was murdered, first, because he was a Jew.

After 2000 years it seems fair and proper and good to give him that, at least.

Regular Posting will Resume Shortly

I dont know where Im going
But, I sure know where Ive been [Ouch]
Hanging on the promises
In songs of yesterday
An Ive made up my mind,
I aint wasting no more time
But, here I go again
Here I go again

Tho I keep searching for an answer,
I never seem to find what Im looking for
Oh lord, I pray
You give me strength to carry on,
cos I know what it means
To walk along the lonely street of dreams

An here I go again on my own
Goin down the only road Ive ever known,
Like a hobo I was born to walk alone
An Ive made up my mind
I aint wasting no more time

I aint wasting no more time

An here I go again on my own
Goin down the only road Ive ever known,
Like a hobo I was born to walk alone
cos I know what it means
To walk along the lonely street of dreams

An here I go again on my own
Goin down the only road Ive ever known,
Like a hobo I was born to walk alone
An Ive made up my mind
I aint wasting no more time...

But, here I go again,
Here I go again,
Here I go again,
Here I go,
Here I go again...

Here I Go Again, by WhiteSnake

Regular posting will resume shortly.

First a word of thanks to those of you who showed me friendship and support to which I was not entitled. Many bloggers and commenters were wonderful, in ways I didn't deserve and truly appreciate. In particular, I'd like to single out one person, who I, unfortunately, can not name. He lives and works and plays in CrossCurrent/Agudah/YU/Charedi circles, but has been a source of friendship to me and to the blog for many months. Following my second apology he sent me this note:
I read your posts and I found your candor refreshing

If only all in the public eye acted the same

I'm proud of u
The blogs have put us all in the public eye. We always knew we were being watched by the One above, but the blogs have driven home the fact that our neighbors are watching, too. A bad speech or a bad post or a bad photograph becomes blog fodder, and all of us -- all of us -- line up to laugh, and mock and pass judgement. I've been the leader of such mobs, and for the last week I've been the subject of such a mob. It sucks. Even when you deserve it.

Going forward, I will continue to blog in the only way I know how. I will continue to be angry, when warranted. I will continue to be self-serving, when necessary. I will be hyper-critical of my enemies, when approrpiate and I will try to shower my friends with generosity (believe me, now, I know who they are). What I will not forget, I hope, is the feeling of being roasted alive on an open spit in front of friends, relatives, readers, and supporters. If that experience changes my blogging, it will only be for the better.

Ok, I've apologized numerous times, (and I swear all of them were my own words) and it all came from the heart. Now I'm ready to get back to business. I'll shortly be back to all my old tricks (save one) and new posts, written by me (except where noted.)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A guest post from DovWeasel

I promised to run a guest post from DovWeasel, if one was submitted, and true to my word here it is.

Some Myths Regarding DovWeasel and DovBear's Plagiarism
by DowWeasel

I plan for this to be my last post. The purpose of this post is to respond to the various claims being made about the plagiarism I revealed about a week ago. These claims are being made largely by DovBear's supporters and in some cases by DovBear himself.

1. DovWeasel Has a Political Vendetta. Some in the blogosphere have assumed that I am some political or religious right winger who aimed to "put a hit" on DovBear based on the substance of his views. One blogger even compared DovWeasel to the people who outed UOJ, a claim which displays the moral reasoning of a 5 year old. I didn't attempt to out DovBear or attempt to trick him in anyway. I didn't publish private email correspondence or do anything underhanded or nefarious. I simply used his own words to demonstrate undeniable instances of plagiarism. By the same token I get the sense that some on the right side of the blogworld are simply cheering about the black-eye inflicted on a political adversary rather than the vindication of values like honesty and professionalism.

In truth, I agree with DovBear as often as I disagree with him. I often find his posts insightful and entertaining, whether or not he wrote them (sorry, couldn't resist). That being said, I am not claiming that my sole motivation was the rooting out of plagiarism. I focused on DovBear because I find that he is too often the bad actor of the jblogosphere. Whether it's mistreatment of commenters or fellow bloggers, failure to properly hattip or just acting like an miscreant, DovBear has consistently failed to follow the rules of the blogworld.

However, given the squishy nature of those kinds of claims, I chose to focus on a misdeed that is more objective.

2. DovBear's Plagiarism Was Minimal, Unintentional or Harmless. Many have tried to minimize DovBear's sins in a number of ways. [DB: I've taken care not to do this, and I have asked my commenters to desist from it as well] Some have argued that DovBear's plagiarism was not the "bad kind" or that it was minimal when compared to his overall output. Others have taken issue with some of my examples. The only way to address these claims is to revisit each of the examples in my original posts. I used a rating scale for each post: 3 is for egregious plagiarism, including extensive cutting and pasting of text and other indications of premeditation. 2 is for run of the mill plagiarism, including cutting and pasting small amounts of text. 1 is for arguable cases of plagiarism, where a reasonable case could be made that the post is question is either not plagiarism or unintentional plagiarism.

"DovBear" on Bush: February 27, 2006

Pure unadulaterated word thievery. This gets extra points for the fact that the lifted portions follow a quote from an attributed quote from TNR, suggesting that the lack of attribution of the balance was

Score: 3

"DovBear" on George Allen: August 30, 2006

Again. This piece was lifted word for word from a TNR piece. And again, extra points for the fact that DovBear added three hyperlinks in the piece to enhance the post, but forgot to add that pesky hyperlink that would show that the words weren't his.

Score: 3

"DovBear" on Republicans: September 04, 2006

Although DovBear clearly lifted text here, the amount of text was rather small.

Score: 2

"DovBear" on a New Senate Bill: September 27, 2006

This post was lifted in its entirety from another source. None of it came from DovBear.

Score: 3

"DovBear" on Mary Cheney: December 18, 2006

Although the amount of lifted text is relatively limited in the context of the entire piece, the manner in which the lifted portions were woven into the post to seek to conceal the plagiarism displays a level of pre-meditation that justifies a 3. Extra points for DovBear's initial response when confronted with the accusation: "Thank you for bringing this to my attention."

Score: 3

"DovBear" on Al Sharpton: March 09, 2005

The amount of lifted text is relatively small.

Score: 2

"DovBear" on Spying: March 20, 2006

While I originally identified a prior source (a TNR letter to the Editor) for only one paragraph of this post, it appears that the second paragraph of the post, beginning with the words: "If fisa is anachronistic…," comes from yet another TNR letter to the editor, this one from William E. Scheuerman. Thus, the entirety of the post comes from other sources, skillfully woven together. None from the mind of DovBear.

Score: 3

"DovBear" on the Sin of Sodom: November 14, 2006

The source of this post consists largely of a compilation of sources on the sin of Sodom. DovBear's post cites those same sources using different words. If all DovBear did was rely on the original essay for a list of sources and failed to attribute the original list as a resource, that may be improper, but might not rise to the level or plagiarism. However, the fact that DovBear copied the opening paragraph word for word pushes this post way up the plagiarism scale.

Score: 3

"DovBear" on Income Redistribution: November 09, 2006

Pure, unadulterated plagiarism. The changes in language seem more designed to frustrate detection than anything else. In addition, the inclusion of hyperlinks and formatting of blockquotes also gives lie to the notion that the failure to attribute has anything to with laziness.

Score: 3

"DovBear" on Suckers: October 18, 2006

The amount of lifted text is relatively small.

Score: 2

"DovBear" on Etymology: October 17, 2006

One email correspondent argued that the source of the post derives from a well known text on etymology. However, I don't see how this makes the word for word copying any less culpable.
Score: 3

And now for the two instances of plagiarism that DovBear and his supports have been insisting are really not plagiarism:

"DovBear" on Scott McClellan: Thursday, May 04, 2006

Although the the lifted text here would seem to be limited to the phrase "Scotty Squealer," which appeared in a Vanity Fair article by Michael Wolff that was making its rounds in the left wing blogosphere at the time, the phrase is the touchstone of the post. However, DovBear tells me that he regularly uses the adjective "Squealer" to describe various figures, and a search of Google shows that to be the case. [DB: Here's the google search: ]

Score: 1

"DovBear" on Moral Values: April 13, 2005

This post is, in a strict sense, pure plagiarism. The post consists of words taken from a TNR piece in its entirety. DovBear and his supporters respond that the post had the word "Source" at the bottom. However, there was no link associated with that word. Accordingly, there was no attribution.

At best, one can argue that this is a case of unintentional plagiarism. That is if we are less willing to attribute a "nefarious rationale" to DovBear than he (or TNR) was to the GOP in the post in question. But even if we give DovBear the benefit of the doubt, the problem remains. The word "Source" at the end of a post does not suggest to any reasonable reader that the "source" provided the entire
text of the post word-for-word. That's what block indents and quotation marks are for.

At most, it suggests that the "source" provided some of the thoughts or facts in the piece. So even he supplied the link, one would have to click the link, obtain a subscription to TNR and compare the post to
determine that the whole piece was lifted.

[DB: Many, many of my posts are attributed this way. It's the house style and therefore, I assume that no deception was intended (I don't remember writing the post so this is speculation, and not fact, and should not be construed as an attempt to deflect responsibility)]

Score: 1

What this demonstrates is that DovBear has committed at least 10 acts of unquestionable plagiarism, at least 6 of which include indicia of premeditation which belie any argument that the acts were the result
of laziness or inadvertence. As for the argument that the number of cases is minimal over the course of two years and 3000 plus posts, I ask you this: would you make the same argument about someone who
shoplifted 10 times? Passed bad checks 10 times? Cheated on his taxes 10 times? You want to argue that those acts are more harmful than plagiarism? Fine. But that's a different argument. 10 misdeeds over a two year period is not a great record, any way you slice it. An interesting side note: Eight of the examples come within the last four months. I don't have an explanation for that, but maybe DovBear does.

A final point. I have no idea if I caught every last case of plagiarisim. It may be hard to believe, but I devoted a sum total of two or so hours reviewing DovBear's posts. I didn't check every single one. There may be more out there that I don't know about.

[DB: Since Thursday, I've made myself familiar with plagiarism software. I have nearly completed a total review of the blog. So far, I have found nothing else.]

3. DovBear Apologized. This is not quite a myth. DovBear has apologized repeatedly on his blog and has corrected his posts. DovBear also is giving me the opportunity to guest post on his blog. Although I initially I took issue with some of the language in his apologies that suggested that his plagiarism was unintentional and that he was guilty of laziness, I think it's clear that he has shown true remorse. Of course, he only apologized once he was caught, at which point his sins were made abundantly clear to all those who could read. One could argue that he had no choice but to act exactly as he did or else lose his readership. We will never know the answer to that question. In fact, I am not sure if DovBear can answer that question either. People are complex.

The weasel will now crawl down his hole. So long.

Take 2

I'm writing this in haste, and with a head full of emotions, so I will probably get the tone wrong, but I need to respond to those of you who are saying here and elsewhere[*] that my apology wasn't good enough.

That hurts (and perhaps I deserve to be hurt). I meant my apology sincerley and absolutely and it disturbs me no end that some people aren't taking it that way.

So let me try again:

Twleve of my posts have passages in them that first appeared elsewhere. I am responsible for this. I make no excuses. I apologize.

And as for the idea, floated by Mr. Averich that there are more examples of plagarism waiting to be found, I say this: Dig away. Please. If there are more posts with problems I want to own up to them and correct them, but if there are not, I want you to stop the veiled accusations. Please.

[*]I very much appreciate that Robert Averich admitted his negative pre-disposition towards me because of my politics and style of blogging. Other's weren't so straightforward.

PS: I am asking Alex and my other supporters to resist the urge to defend me on this thread. If you catch an outright fabrication, or an expecially ungenerous remark, by all means correct it. If you catch someone maximizing what I did, by all means provide the proper context. But, please do not attempt to minimize the crime. Thank you.



The most famous man to say these words to a group of Jews was Joseph in this week's parsha, of course. But he isn't the most recent. In 1962 a group of Jews paid a visit to Pope John 23 and, as the story goes, the Pope came down off his thrown, embraced the men and spoke those words to them.

What was the Pope's intention? As with everything it depends who you ask. The common Catholic interpretation is that the Pope was proclaiming the Jews the long-lost brothers of Catholicism, and asking for a reconciliation. I suppose that's true, but my Jewish ears catch another nuance.

The guilty party in the Joseph story are the brothers. They mistreated Joseph, cast him into a well, stripped him of his clothing and sold him into slavery. When he attempts to reconcile with his brother, the guesture is magnanimous because Joseph was the agreived party.

By posing as Joseph, I think the Pope, on some level, is suggesting that the Jews, like Joseph's brothers, were to blame for the centuries of bad blood between us. The use of Joseph's words sounds like an attempt to echo Joseph's generosity, but the Pope, as leader of the faith that considered us like "sheep brought to slaughter" [*] has no right to do that.

[*]These words are from the Habet prayer, a part of Tachnaun for hundreds of years. I am not referring specifically to the holocaust here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Oldie: Why does DovBear rant?

An old post of mine, I thought you might enjoy:

Writing about Slifkin and the ban [in early 2005] , I wrote: " means that we have lost. It means that a certain old, and very good style of Orthodox Judaism has been murdered; yet another victim of the Eastern European Jewish tsunami."

I wrote these words on Bloghd a moment ago, and it was a sort of revelation. This is why I am so angry. I am furious at the thought that a perfectly legitimate strain of Judaism has been swallowed whole by a younger, and perhaps less-legitimate, strain of Judaism.

This is not the place to attack the authenticity of the style of Judaism practiced by the Eastern-Europeans. Instead, let's say simply that their style of Judaism (and please note I am discussing style, and style only) is very different from the style of Judaism practiced in the West. In fact, I'll even stipulate that both styles are equally authentic, and equally legitimate.

However, I can't pretend that the Western-style is newer, which is one of many lies institutional Orthodoxy asks us to accept.

A raft of examples:

Nusach Ashkenaz isn't modern; it predates Hasidic sefard by at least 500 years. Singing Yigdal on Friday night isn't modern; it was done in Amsterdam as early as the 18th century. [Hey! I knew this in early 2005! I guess I forgot until I saw it again last week!] Blue-shirts and ties aren't modern; until very recently Jews dressed like everyone else. Opposing upshurin or eating g'broks on Passover isn't modern; the customs of upshurin or refusing g'broks didn't even exist until less than 250 years ago. Singing the tefilla isn't modern; as far back as 1623 the Council of the Four Lands inveighed against it. And of course, imagining the universe is very old is not a modern idea. Jewish scholars of stature and rank believed this several hundred years before Darwin.

But the average Haredi man on the street knows none of this, he chooses to remain ignorant of it. His leaders make no effort to educate him, and forbid him to seek education on his own.

This willful ignorance is overtaking us, the lies multiply, and no one gets the joke that what the Haredim call "modern" is, in fact, very old, and some of what the Haredim imagine essential to Judaism is, in fact, very new.

Meanwhile, those of us who know better and refuse to play along with this new Judaism are tarred as "modern" and cast into the street. It's our punishment for insisting on the authenticity and legitimacy of our older traditions.This is what galls most about the Slifkin ban. Our way is the older way, but this counts for nothing among those who tell us that the old way is the best way.

Geopolitics as Metaphor…a Post-Chanukah Rumination

(Part 1A)
A guest rant by Chaim G. [He asked me to state clearly that this is not a post, but a rant.]

When your enemies speak listen carefully.

We've heard Holocaust deniers for decades and for decades we've been gnashing our teeth. But no one has quite elicited the angst and anger that President he-whose-name-cannot-be-pronounced of Iran has. Not only because he made a convention dedicated to spitting on our ancestors graves and ashes and not just because some twisted turncoats joined in the expectorations. No, what we find most frightening about the latter day Haman of Teheran is that he connected the dots. No Holocaust or grossly exaggerated numbers of victims and there is no legitimate reason for Israel. As much as we despise him we all recognize the cogency of his logic. Across the spectrum of Jewish thought from Satmar to Mafdal, from Chardal to Herut the two seminal events of 20th century Jewish History are inextricably linked.

In 1948 the wellsprings of Jew-hatred had been all but spent by the orgiastic excesses of the war. And so in a moment of historical aberration, the nations of the world ratified the creation of a Jewish homeland. But in the ensuing decades new political winds began to blow and history began settling back in to its familiar default settings. Now we have multiple U.N. resolutions equating Zionism with Racism, Amnesty International consistently giving some of its poorest marks to Israel, the Durban Conference and finally the Teheran Conference. Having ceded the nations of the world the authority to grant our national enterprise legitimacy we now live in mortal terror that, swayed by the Iranian President's arguments, they may withdraw it. What a sad spectacle. No one had to legitimize the existence of Nazi Germany, the USSR, Shiite revolutionary Iran or even Cuba. In essence those nations flexed their muscles and said, "We're here…do something about it."

Ay yay yay yay. It's been a long and bitter golus. But as tragic and pitiful this state of affairs is in the very real and terrifying, nuclear empowered world of geopolitics, it is sadder still when understood as a metaphor for Golus HaTorah.

Many have asked the question: Why is Golus Yavan=the Seleucid Greek exile so-called? How can it be an "exile" when the vast majority of Jews still lived in Israel and our Holy Temple still stood? House arrest maybe… but exile? This answer is based on various insights of the Maharal:

Torah is not just something that Jews learn, it is their alter ego,Yisrael v'oraysa chad hu=Israel and the Torah are one. What happens to one happens to the other. Just as one cannot expose Clark Kent to kryptonite without gravely injuring Superman so one cannot repress the Jews without simultaneously subjugating the Torah. This is why since the Golus began "lo timtza halakha brura uMishna Brurah b'mokom echod"=one can't find a clear Halcha or Mishna concentrated in one place. Torah's diffusion and, Vis a Vis other disciplines, disorganization is it's sympathetic vibration to the dispersion and scattering of the Jewish people. Whereas in other exiles the Torah was in exile BECAUSE the Jews were, during Golus Yavan the roles were reversed. Because the Torah was in "exile" mocked, maligned, marginalized and delegitimized by Greek Philosophy and aesthetics, so were the Jews. No geographical dislocation was required. As it went for the Torah so it went for the Jews.

In my recent guest post I elucidated a Rambam that requires a double standard wherein, owing to it's innate k'dusha, Torah be accorded a different, HIGHER, degree of respect than other branches of learning. But during our long golus the Torah has been so oppressed, it is so maligned and despised that one might almost settle for parity. Halevai that the Torah and her chachomim be accorded the kind of esteem and benefit of the doubt that other disciplines and their scholars routinely receive.

But currently the golus of the Torah is even deeper and more tragic than that of the Jews. Yes, sadly, Jews have abdicated pride, self-determination and autonomy waiting like beggars at the doors of the UN for the nations of the world to confer legitimacy upon them like some pimply-faced loser sweet-talking a bouncer at the velvet rope to gain admission into a trendy nightspot. But at least the vast majority of Jews doesn't doubt the fact that they are legitimate and, at the very least, are the valid peers of other nations, if not their superiors. The few Neturei Karta reshoim at Teheran are roundly and universally denounced for the traitors that they are. But the when it comes to oppressing the Torah the vast majority of Jews join in the oppression and delegitimization. In this asylum run by the inmates the Torah-traitors are not some minuscule lunatic fringe but, perversely, the very models of rationalism, progressiveness and sobriety. Only rabid anti-Semites equate Zionism with racism and impugn well-poisoning and ritual murder, literal and cultural to the Jewish People. But many Feine Yidden(sic) attribute witchcraft, cruelty, superstition, forgery, plagiarism and magical thinking to the Torah itself.

I yearn for Moshiach to come so that once and for all we Jews can finally tell all our enemies "We don't need your damned approval to validate our legitimacy or right to exist as Jews or to live in our historical homeland" but I yearn even more deeply for the eschatological liberation of the Torah and her restoration to her legitimate grandeur and ascendancy. I long for the day when the Torah will finally be able to tell all of her detractors and enemies, internal and external once and for all "I don't need your damned approval to validate my legitimacy or right to exist as a serious discipline. Perhaps sisters…you need mine"

Plays of the Year

Yesterday, I caught ESPN's "Plays of the Year" and for the most part it was a complete tease. Remember the Simpson's episode when Homer calls a sports betting service that charges by the minute, and... the.... announcer.... talks... really.... slowly? That's kind of how the ESPN program went. All I wanted to see were the "Plays of the Year," as advertised. I didn't want to see Tiger Woods talking about his father. I didn't want to see a repeat of a segment from last year about a Pop Warner football league for developmently disabled kids. I wanted to see THE PLAYS OF THE YEAR.

Finally, after 45 minutes of fluff, and endless promises that they would be "right back" with the meat and potatos they got to the good stuff.

Media Matters, on the other hand, doesn't waste the adience's time. They've provided a short, quickly and easilly read list of the most outrageous wingnut comments of 2006. The big winner:

William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights: "Well, look, there are people in Hollywood, not all of them, but there are some people who are nothing more than harlots. They will do anything for the buck. They wouldn't care. If you asked them to sodomize their own mother in a movie, they would do so, and they would do it with a smile on their face." [2/9/06]

Bill Donohue, of course, is a repeat winner. The mighty moralist, and member of the religious right (Our Beeeeeest Friends (TM)) won last year for saying:

Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It‘s not a secret, OK? And I‘m not afraid to say it. That‘s why they hate this movie. It‘s about Jesus Christ, and it‘s about truth. It‘s about the messiah.

Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common

As for the rest of the list, it's pretty good. You really should go and review some of the nonsense spewed this year in the name of Republican politics. One surpirse: Everyone's [*] favorite president wasn't included for telling America that a vote for a Deomocrat was a vote for a terrorist. That line should go down in history as one of the most disgusting comments by an American president ever.

[*] All 30 percent of you.

Monday, December 25, 2006

I have visited this DafYomi site

and found it good.


A new reader writes:
Would you take a look at my new blog... you can find it here:

In a nutshell, my wife and I plan to walk the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine next year to raise money for Meir Panim in Israel. You will find out more about this project on my website. Meir Panim will produce a webpage on their site dedicated to our project. It should be available next week.
Best of luck to you.

Rashi's rejection

I noticed yesterday that Rashi (implicitly) rejects the idea that Jacob's twelve sons all married their sisters. Writing about Potiphar's wife (I don't have a chumash, or I'd give you the verse) he says that she acted for the sake of Heaven. She wanted to have Joseph's children because she saw, through astrology, that it was the divine will for Joseph's children to come from her.

This, Rashi, concludes, was fulfilled through her daughter Asneth. In other words, Rashi considered Asneth a bona fide Egyptian, and not Dina's daughter.

Old time religion

About ten years ago, a few of us got together and tried to establish a new Friday night minyan in our new neighborhood. (The closest shul was 15 minutes away) We agreed to daven nusach ashkenaz, and to start services 5 minutes after candles, but the rest of our negotiations were difficult. I particularly remember the fight over Yigdal. Six of us wanted to sing it after Maariv, seven of us did not, and because we had agreed to settle arguments about ritual by vote, the anti-Yigdal people carried the day. After the votes were counted, we all agreed to accept the will of the majority, but one man (not me!) couldn't resist a final taunt. He looked the leading Yigdal-proponent (also not me!) in the eye and said: "This isn't going to be a Young Israel. No modern customs."

Flash-forward four years. I'm in a new neighborhood with a new group of guys and again we're plotting a new Friday night minyan. This time, the nusach is sefard, and decisions are being made not by vote, but by the owner of the house we plan to use as our synagouge. Again, one of our group (still not me!) wants to sing Yigdal, and again he is rebuffed, this time by the home owner, who uses language strikingly similar to the taunt from six years earlier. He says: "Yigdal? That's so modern. Do you think this is some Young Israel?"

Last week, I finally found the reply both men deserved. According to the Hertz siddur, the Great Synagouge in London elected to conclude Friday night services with Yigdal, in the tradition of communities in Poland and Hamburg. The year was 1722. 1722!!

I've since moved to yet another new neighborhood, and though I've lost touch with both men (also, as readers of the blog know, I've developed an acute distaste for private, breakaway minyanim; I now think they should be discouraged and avoided.) I've met several others who share the view that singing Yigdal is a modern, American innovation. Consider that view debunked.

In fact, consider this: The Yigdal tradition, considered by most Jews I know to be new, and therefore inauthentic is, in fact, older than Hasidic Judaism. The Bal Shem Tov was 24 in 1722. The yigdal custom also predates Volozhin, the "mother of yeshivas" established in 1803.

Nitl nonsense

My local Hasidic Rabbi took the night off last night. He didn't speak between mincha and maariv, and he didn't appear at his regular Sunday night shiur. Why? Because it was Nitl Nacht, and on Nitl Nacht it is his custom to act like a mourner and forgo all Torah learning.

A few notes on the practice:

1 - It's hard to fathom. My local Hasidic Rabbi ignores July fourth. Memorial Day is not remembered. He goes to work on Thanksgiving. None of those days exist on his calendar. If he is going to ignore days that celebrate events from which he has benefited, how can he justify his recognition of Orthodox Christmas? Even a negative recognition is recognition. Memorial Day is not within a Hasid's ken; but Christmas is. That's topsy-tursvy.

2 - According to Miriam Shaviv, Hasidim abstain from Torah study because they "don't want to bring about such improvements [to the world through their Torah study] at a time when the Christian majority is devoutly steeped in their prayers, lest outsiders believe the improvement came from the Christian worship." Fabulous, only if that that's your concern, why not fast from Torah study on Easter Sunday, or, for that matter, on Super Bowl Sunday when the betting halls probably contain as much prayer as any church.

A second justification for the custom is that often we dedicate Torah study to the memory of revered Rabbis and beloved ancestors. If we studied on Christmas, the argument goes, someone might mistake Jesus for a revered Rabbi. Worse, he might accrue credit on his heavenly account in the merit of our learning.

To the first concern I reply: Bwahaha. Not even the very worst sort of Cross-loving GOP-Jew is likely to mistake Jesus for a revered Rabbi. (I hope) To the second concern, I say "so what?" The real Jesus was a Jew who cared about other Jews. He had no intention of abolishing Judaism, or of establishing a church that would seek to destroy his people. If the clerk in charge of divine credit is stupid enough to think that my Christmas Eve learning is meant to be deposited on Jesus' account, I have no objection. (though I will suggest that the Almighty hire a clerk who doesn't have his head up his rear end)

3 - The common justification for the Heredi refusal to pause for the siren on Israeli Memorial day is that it is bitul Torah. Can you explain to me why two minutes to honor Israeli war dead is impossible, while a full night (Sorry! Two full nights: Many Hasidim abstain on Orthodox Christmas, too) without learning has become accepted?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Yaakov Horrowitz's new project The Good Guys Fight Back

My mea culpa

Updated Monday December 25.

On Thursday, December 21, several of my friends in the blogging community wrote to let me know that an email had been sent to 53 bloggers (not me, though) directing them to a blog calling itself DovWeasel. This blog accuses me of plagiarism in 14 instances. Within three hours of receiving the email, I circulated the following apology to all 53 bloggers on the email's distribution list:

I made a mistake, and I am sorry.

Bottom line: I blog all day long, and sometimes I get lazy in ways large and small. On occasion, thas included omitting to properly attribute sources. Now, DovWeasel has made my sins abundantly clear.

My plan is to carefully review my blog, and to provide proper attribution in every instance. I hope to do this in the coming days and weeks, but I am making my intentions known now, so I won't be accused of destroying evidence.

Again, I apologize and make no excuses.

On Sunday, December 24, after carefully reviewing the allegations DovWeasel's statments I sent the list of 53 bloggers the following update:

Dear Friends:

I am writing to update you on my efforts to address the allegations made against me by the new DovWeasel blog.

As of today, Sunday, December 24, 2006, I have examined all 14 of the posts DovWeasel says contained instances of passage lifting, or failure to attribute. Attributions have been added to 12 of them.

[The exceptions: (1) (2) The former was not changed, because it doesn't contain anyone else's words or ideas; the latter is almost a word-for-word copy of a TNR article, but the word "Source" appears on the bottom of the original post. It seems I simply neglected to hyperlink that word to the original article. That error has been corrected]

As for the rest, I offer only my apologies and no excuses.


PS: I also wish to thank those of you have shown me support and friendship. I hope, in the fullness of time, to regain your trust.

The substance of DovWeasel's claims is correct. Twelve of my posts contain passages that first appeared elsewhere, and I have failed to attribute them. I regret this, offer no excuses, and apologize fully. These 12 posts have been corrected.

My friends, I have never been one to hide from controvery or from discussion. In fact, this blog was created primarily to provoke conversation, and I'm proud that it has become a place when all sorts of people can talk about anything. The failures brought to my attention by DovWeasel are no exception.

Therefore, I am hereby extending two invitations. First, to DovWeasel: Sir, though you chose to go about this in a roundabout way, I am inviting you to come into the open and to face my readers directly. You are welcome, at any time, to submit a guest post to this blog which presents your point of view. Provided that what you write is true and fair it will be published unedited. I sincerely hope that you accept this invitation.

Second, to the readers of this blog: In the past, we've had a fine time pillorying all sorts of villians -some large, some small - in the comments of this blog. Now, I suppose it's my turn. Fair is fair, after all. You are invited, therefore, to make your thoughts and opinions known here, in the comments of this post. As usual, they will not be edited, or deleted. As usual, I expect fierce debate and cutting commentary as ideas are vigirously exchanged. That, above all, is what this blog is about, after all, and I hope it will be always thus.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Who's response was it?

The Hayom blog writes:

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, a renowned educator and writer, has written an excellent piece on abuse in the frum community. His article has been linked to by many JBloggers, including good old DovBear.

Now, DovBear had been very critical of Agudah in the past for not being at the forefront dealing with the issue. Considering that Rabbi Horowitz is the director of Project Y.E.S. which is a project of Agudath Israel of America and that this article appeared on [what appeared to be] Project Y.E.S.' website, I, along with another commenter, pointed out to DB that he should be crediting Agudah for publishing such a courageous article. My impression of the [Yaakov Horowitz] site being an Agudah site was based on this graphic that appeared at the bottom of the page: (click here)

Well, apparently someone somewhere [ie: at Yakkov Horowitz Headquarters] was not too happy about this insinuation. The bottom of the website has been modified sometime in the last 18 hours. It now reads: (click here)

Things that make you go hmmmm.

Who did Yosef marry?

Per the Torah, Yoseph Hatzadik married Aseneth, the daughter of Putiphare, priest of Heliopolis. And who was she?

Well, the plain meaning tells us: She was the daughter of Putiphare, priest of Heliopolis. Seems simple enough, right? Maybe not. There is a tradition (concoted, perhaps, by people uncomfortable with the thought of the Tzadik being married to a gentile) that Asneth was actually Dina's daughter, the product of Schem's assault on her. According to the story, Yaakov put a note around her neck describing her status, and tossed her out. Later, Putipare found her under a bush, that is a sneh, from whence came her name.

Though this solution, which doesn't sound concocted at all, saves Yosef from the proto-sin of marrying a gentile, it doesn't save Yaakov from the sin of abandoning his granddaughter. The tradition absolves the son, but indicts the father. If the goal of the tradition's author is to rescue the reputation of the forefathers, it is not clear how his maneuver succeeds.

For those of you who, like me, believe that the text should never depart from its plain meaning, there is help. You will be pleased to know that there is rabininc approbation, and of a very fine pedigree, for the idea that Asneth was a gentile. As Rav Nechamia tells it, all 12 brothers married Canaanite women, the very same sort of Canaanite women who gave their grandfather Abraham night terrors and cold sweats.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Where did the miracle of the oil come from?

A guest post by ExtraTorah

Dovbear brought up the old chestnut about the miracle of the oil recently, with a few more interesting sources (especially the Pesikta Rabati). I just arrived back at yeshiva in Israel after 10 or so years, and we just had a day of "lectures" about chanukah. Something they said gave me an idea as to why the miracle of the oil is important ... but only 100-400 years later.

One of the Rabbis mentioned that at the time, the six day war seemed an absolute miracle, but in later years was viewed as a logical military consequence. This was similar to the Channukah story, as some Hasmoneans went on to become very expensive mercenaries (admired for their success on the field of battle, rather than for their reliance on miracles!!).

OK .. to the point .. for many years some charedi groups (especially in Israel) treated Yom Yerushalayim as a special day. Various groups wore streimels, had pilgrimages to the Kottel and their own special customs for the day when Hashem miraculously redelivered the Kottel to us . Slowly, as the gloss of this "miracle" wore off, and the political realities heated up, it was treated as yet another uninteresting event in Israel's political history beaten up by the "secular" religious fanatics in the rest of Israeli society. Three years ago a friend of mine on a supposedly "Open Minded" kiruv Yeshiva program in Jerusalem, was told by one of his Rabbis that going out on Yom Yerushalayim night was Assur and a big Aveirah.

I feel that this same problem was at one stage affecting Hanukkah. Certain groups who (perhaps for good reason) disliked the Hasmoneans, and were downplaying the miracle of Chanukah, not because they did not believe in Hashem, but rather like some modern chareidim, could not relate how Hashem can have anything to do with certain Jewish groups, so any military victories were merely a coincidence. (It is interesting how politics can make atheists and chareidim have the same viewpoints in trying to deny Hashem’s direct influence in certain parts of history - this shows how politics is NOT good for faith).

As a result, an "Obvious" supernatural miracle was needed for Chanukah, not for the sceptics and atheists, for they could not believe that a bunch of Jewish peasants could overrun highly trained armies, so why would they believe a tale about a jar of oil. Rather this was for certain religious purists who could not equate the actions of the Macabees with their personal views on religion. The miracle of the oil is the "undeniable fact" implying that the battles for Chanukah were in fact holy and for hashem.

This leaves one more problem ... surely the Rabbis did not just "make up" the story about the oil just to propagate the festival .... so here is my take on this ...

At the time, the miracles of the battles were obvious. These people who lit the oil in the menorah, or the Chanukiah made out of spears (how ever the story is read) saw the "slow" burning of the oil as yet another miracle, not especially significant compared to some of the amazing weight of numbers they had overcome. As such this aspect of the miracle was only made a more public aspect of the tradition later, to maintain the importance of the holiday, when the initially obvious miracles of the military victory lost their impact over the passing years, and fading memories.

Now all we need to do is review the tape of the six day war looking for "a jar of oil".

A question for my conservative friends

Do you sing the paragraph [*] of Maoz Tzur that is about destroying the red states?

No, I don't sing it with any extra gusto, but please don't deny that deep thinkers on the right would be making something from this on their own lame blogs if "red: equaled "East coast liberal" instead of "toothless, NASCAR-loving hillbilly."

[*]D'chay admon / destroy the red one [...] hokaym lonu roim shivaa / restablish for us the seven shepherds

Ok, let me be serious for second. As discussed before, Edom, or the Red One, is a longtime stand-in for Christianity. The seven shepherds are: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David. The author of the sixth stanza of Maoz Tzur (who is not the author of the other five) reeling from the shock of persecutions and expulsions, is asking God to intervene once more on behalf of his people and to defeat our enemies.

Is that relevant today? Maybe. We're not longer under attack, thank God, and most Christians are liberal minded - or at least moderate minded - when it comes to the issues that matter most to Judaism. However there are exceptions.

In 2006 we have our own Hellenizers, men like Daniel Lapin who rejoice at finding common ground between Judaism and the most backwards and least tolerant of Christians. Unfortunately, this common ground is almost always achieved by diluting Judaism. Our positions on abortion or homosexuality or any of the moral issues that animate appeasers like Lapin are richer and more complex and more ambiguous than the Evangelical's absolute 'No.' As readers of the Rabbis are aware our thinking on evolution and the age of the universe is also more accomodating than Christianity's. Samson Rephael Hirsch, for example, was famously flexible about evolution. And the Tiferes Yisroel thought Adam's children married pre-Adamic 'men.'

All of that great Jewish diversity is in danger of being forgetten if our goal becomes out-fruming Evangelical Edom. As we rush to show that we Jews are moral, too, the danger is we'll forget the nuances and details of our own rich tradition. It's already happened on bad blogs like Cross Currents where all doubt about deep questions has been replaced with the smugness of certainty.

NOTE: Post has been modified to make it's point more narrow, and stronger.


From here.

Discussion: Is this "proof" that Hillary
(a) is owned by Jews
(b) likes Jews; or
(c) uses Jews in the way a certain other compassionate, honest, integrity-filled president uses another minority group.

Keeping Our Children Safe – Part One

Rabbi Horowitz on the oversized elephant in the room: sexual abuse in the Orthodox community.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

More Mainstream RW Racists

Bored? Go read Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always A Muslim in which Fox News contributor, and mainstream RW pundit Debbie Schlussel argues that Barak Obama's middle name is an excellent reason to distrust him.

I agree, but, alas, Debbie stops too soon. Her argument has a logical conclusion, which she refuses to draw, so allow me: Debbie Schlussel: Once a Nazi, Always a Nazi.

Not convinced? Why, the logic, taken entirely from Debbie's recent column, is prefectly infalliable. She has a German-sounding surname! I mean, people, come on! When we're fighting the war of our lives against eeeeevil terrorists who manage to kill fewer people each year than car accidents, should we allow someone with a name like Schlussel to be running around on the loose? Send her to Gitmo, I say!

PS: Somebody go crack Debbie's head open and see if there's anything inside.

My favorite Kolel story

There are two hopping threads about Kolel currently on the blog. One (written by Rabbi Yosef Blau) very serious; the other not so much. In their honor, I share this maasa she haya: [Note: Like all maasa she hayas this story probably is not true.]

A kolel guy shows up on Rav Moshe's doorstep and says, "Hey, I found this great loophole that will save me thousands on my taxes. Can I use it?"

Rav Moshe reviews the ins and outs of the scheme and gives his answer:"No."

The guy objects, saying: "But I'm in kollel. Learning. Ensuring the continued existance of the world. If you letr me use this loophole I can save thousands of dollars and I can stay in kollel, where I am LEARNING. All right?"

Rav Moshe says, "No."

Now the guy is screaming. "Come on, please. I'm in kollel. I really need the money."

Replies Rav Moshe, "The Torah says lo tignov, not lo ta'avod."

[remember the greedy]

My Pathetic (Annual) Telethon

DovBear: My Pathetic Telethon:

As you've no doubt noticed, this blog takes up quite a bit of my time. My wife, the venerable Mrs. DovBear, who feels it more than anyone, has always been a great sport. True, she's never actually read the blog, but she shows her support in other ways.

For instance, unlike some blogger-spouses she's never asked me stop writing. Occasionally, when I'm busy annihilating a wrong-headed writer of comments, she'll bring me a snack so I don't have to break my train of thought. She even tolerates my email friendships with the all the hot, young female bloggers.

Mrs. DovBear is celebrating a birthday this month, and I thought it would be really swell if the blog chipped in to buy her a gift.

Here's what I am proposing. If you click this link you'll be taken to my blogad homepage. Blogads are completely anonymous - unless you put your name in the ad, I won't know who paid for it. You can buy a blogad to promote your own blog or business, or just wish Mrs. DovBear a happy birthday. I don't care. In fact, because it's all for such a good cause, (ie: My wife's birthday present from the blog) I'll even tolerate Republican slogans. So knock yourselves out.

Thanks in advance.

More on the Holocaust Denial Conference

Satmar says: They were not Rabbis. They were not Hasidim

PS: I am not sure I can accept this article. It appears in the "Jew-hating" Haaretz, and we know from what the guys say at Sholosh Seudos that everything they print is tainted.

The Kolel Job

Received by email from an Israeli who wishes to remain anonymous

Many times we hear statements like this I'm sure the average Kollel person spends more time working than most other professions.

I would like to respond to this statement. This is actually not true at all. The typical Kollel schedule in Israel is something like this.

9:15 - 1:15 morning seder
1:15 (1:20 in the summer) - Mincha
1:30 -3:30 - Break
3:30 - 6:45 - afternoon seder
6:45 Maariv in the winter

A little over 7 hours a day learning with a 2 hour break in the middle of the day. This is the official schedule (the fact that many people learn more is nice but irrelevant), I would bet that most of the people reading this who work for a living would love to have a schedule like that and that they work much longer hours, I know that I do. I believe that the schedule in America in places like Lakewood is very similar.

Now let's factor in all the days off.

Erev Yom Kippur - Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 20 days - 15 work days
Chanukka - seder ends early enough (around 4PM) in order to be able to
light candles at the proper time
Purim 2 days off
Fast days - 1/2 a day
Nisan - 30 days - 22 work days
Tisha B'av - Rosh Chodesh Elul - 3 weeks 15 work days

If you add it all up it comes out to approximately 60 days off in a year. The average worker in Israel gets 15 vacation days and 8-10 holidays, a grand total of 25 less then half. In America the average worker starts at 10 days vacation with 10-12 holidays again less then half.

In other words someone who claims that Toraso U'mnaso actually "works" much less then the average person who works for a living.

Of course, people will claim, but they learn night seder, Friday mornings etc. The answer is that is nice but irrelevant. I also learn night seder. The fact is that they are getting paid (and in Israel exempt from the army as toras u'mnaso) for the 7+ hours they learn a day. Night seder is not part of the job. Kollel guys learn night seder just like professionals learn night seder (or they get paid to learn at night as well in addition to what they get paid during the day.), because they want to learn Torah. Their job is 7+ hours a day. In Israel in hi tech the work week is typically 45 hours a week (9 hours a day). I would expect kollel guys to at least match that.

Bush should have listened to Kerry

After John Kerry proposed expanding the Army by 40,000 troops, President "Mission Accomplished" dispatched a spokeman to aver that the country would be "less safe" under Kerry's approach. [Source] Today, though, Bush thinks adding troops is a great idea: "I want to share one thought I had with you, and I'm inclined to believe that we do need to increase our troops, the Army, the Marines"

Oops! Hey! Wait a minute! Don't we call that a FLIP-FLOP?

I know, I know, Kerry hates the troops and thinks they're dumb. Sigh.

PS: We're not winning the war. Feel safe, eveybody?

A guest post by Rabbi Yosef Blau

[Posted with permission]

Dear Dov Bear,

In the most recent Miriam Shear thread the question was asked how the Haredim can justify the kollel world being sustained by wives working while asserting that the Torah mandates that women be private and stay at home raising a family. The response was "eis laasos" . Whether or not explicitly proclaimed by a specific Rav that does appear to be the rationale.

I have many concerns about whether it makes sense or is viable and would like to see it discussed . To work in the current society requires a formal education. There are not enough teaching positions for all the kollel wives to teach and they do not pay well. The assumption that women who have serious education and function actively in the work force are not changed by their experiences is hard to believe. To demand that they be both the wage earner and the one taking care of the home and family is to exploit them.

The very fact that they succeed in both their education and employment contradicts the claim that it is against their basic nature. Balancing the halakhic status of women with their changing role in society is a challenge to all elements in Orthodoxy. However, to adamantly deny that Judaism is open to women playing public roles while depending on their doing so while employed to function particularly problematic.

Yosef Blau

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


There are many things that puzzle me.

I confess to being unable to understand why gay marriage and gay rabbis elicit loud, angry complaints from Agudahs Yisroel, but Rabbis who rape small children do not. One is an abomination, and the other is not?

I confess to being unable to understand why a single Shabbos flight generated calls for a boycott from the very same rabbis who sat silently when the Israeli government refused to pay municipal workers for 5 months. One is an issur deoyraysa and a chillul hashem, and the other is not?

I confess to being unable to understand why the claims of scientists about the origin of the world produce so much fear and loathing in pious preceints. A 5000 year-old universe testifies absolutely to chochmas elokim, but a 5 billion-year old universe does not?

And, likewise, I confess to being unable to understand this paragraph's underlying logic:
The Bush administration has sent signals since last month's elections that the president is prepared to accept some tax increases on upper-income families, worrying congressional Republicans and fiscal conservative watchdogs who say he will compromise
The poor can send their children to die in the war, and congressional Republicans don't mind, but ask the rich to pay for it and suddenly they tune in?

Chanuka =Sukkos? More

Readers of the blog remember that last week I recycled an old post of mine (itself based on a famous Mis-nagid post) which argues that Chanuka was originaly conceived as a late Sukkos. Evidence for this includes its original name (Sukot b'Kislev) and the fact that the Book of Macabees tells us that, um, Chanuka was originaly conceived as a late Sukkos.

Deep in the comments of that post appear other, better, arguments for the same position, which are provided here for your consideration:

1 - Beit Shammai wanted to decrease the number of candles from eight to one over the course of the holiday. In their discussion of the underlying reasons for the respective rulings, the rabbis of the Talmud propose that Beit Shammai were taking their cue from the sacrifices on Sukkot. This makes sense only if we think of Chanuka as being a late Sukkos. (Josh Waxman)

2 - R' Yonason M'luniel, one of the mainstream accepted Ba'alei Tosafot, contemporary, and fellow Provence citizen of the Ra'avad, clearly states that Chanukah is 8 days because they were celebrating Sukkos. (flatbushrenegade)

3 - At the end of al hanisim we say "v'hidliku neiros b'chatzros hadshechah." We all know that the Menorah was in the heichal, not the chatzer, so why did the Macabees go outside? Because the lights lit each year on Succos for the simchas beis hashoevah, were... in the chatzer!(flatbushrenegade)

Isn't it amazing? Mis-nagid's famous and skeptical point, in fact, has a Torah-true pedigree.

El Al boycott update

Quote of the day:
The depressing result [of the major scandal orchasterated by Haredi kannoim over a chance late El Al flight is this]: The Haredi public knows that despite the stories in its newspapers, it is not its finest scholars who are determining its fate but rather its power-hungry, fame-seeking activists. And they know that the latter care only for their own welfare, not those of the community.
In other words, the Haredim hve problems that need -and perhaps deserve- a Martin Luthor King, Jr.; instead they're stuck with Al Sharpton.

Frivilous Law Suit Update

Yeshiva Yagdil Torah vs. Sprint Solutions

Hat-tip (on request)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bush 'happy' for pregnant Mary Cheney

What do y'all make of Mary Cheney's baby? It's a hell of a thing, no? Take for example the recent pronouncment from president Bush. He said, "I think Mary is going to be a loving soul to her child. And I'm happy for her." And you know what? I believe him. His presidency has been a disaster, or "miserable failure" if you prefer, but his private behavior toward homosexuals has always been one of respect. In public, though, he's an idealogue, who (as noted here by Andrew Sullivan) like other Republican idealouges, wishes to ban all civil recognition of gay couples by amending the U.S. Constitution to prevent any state from even granting civil unions to such couples. The Republican Party has sponsored and campaigned on legal and constitutional bans on civil marriage and civil unions for gay couples in dozens of states for the better part of a decade. This has had a real impact on the lives of millions of gay Americans and their children, and George W. Bush has been complicit in this.

Mary Cheney's pregnancy, then, is like a 50,000-year old rock sitting in the middle of the Ponevitch bes medrash. You have to acknoweldge it, and when you acknowledge it with respect, as Bush has, you're forced to recognize that your received wisdom on the subject of homosexuals might be flawed. Assuming Bush isn't a liar (this time) or a victim of cognitive dissonance, the idea that Mary Cheney, a lesbian, is a "loving soul" has taken root in his mind, and perhaps its forcing him to to reconsider his earlier statments on the subject.

Writing about Mary Cheny, Sullivan said "Usually, the architects of ideology can distance themselves from reality deftly enough to avoid embarrassment" and the same is true of all idealouges. Deep in the bowels of their bes medrash, for example, the men who banned Natan Slifkin can hide from the facts. To date, George Bush has also managed to hide from the facts. Though by all accounts he's a gentleman in private, in public he's never come close to acknowledging that homosexuals are anything but sick, evil heterosexuals who have willingly chosen perversion and sin.

Mary Cheney and her fetus, like the 50,000-year old rock, are forcing the president and idealouges like him to recognize reality, to recognize that homosexuality -though it is certainly forbiden by the Torah- is not a choice, and that homosexuals are not sick and they are not evil. They are simply men and women like you and me who find it impossible to follow one particular Jewish law. Clerics, perhaps, are required to punish them, along with those of you who eat shellfish and cheat at business, and so on, but the United States, thank God, is not in the hands of clerics. It's in the hands of a constitution that promises equal protection under the law while demanding official silence on matters of theology. That promise and that demand are the reason why the United States has proven to be so hospitable to minorities like us. Though our religious law proscribes homosexuality, the religious law of the Romans and the Greeks did not, and it isn't for the president of the United States to decide between them, and we ask him to make those decisions at our own jeapardy.

Read this please

The very great MoChassid is trying to find a home for Fosterboy, a child his family has cared for, off and on, for several years. He writes:
If you or anyone you know in the Metropolitan area might consider becoming Judah's pre-adoptive foster family, please contact me at emansouth @ or Shulamit Marcus at OHEL at 718 851 6300. The transition process from the residence will take a number of months. OHEL will assist in each phase of this transition. Sara and I would be happy to discuss this situation in detail with any prospective foster families.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

More on Miriam Shear

Miriam Shear is the women attacked on Jerusalem's #2 bus, as well as in the comments of this blog and others, for daring to sit in the front of a public bus. Her story (ie: the one so many of you insisted couldn't possibly be true) has been published by Haaretz, a fine newspaper even if, like Jonathan Rosenblum of Cross Currents, they omitted to credit this blog as their source for the story.

Meanwhile, those of you who were so eager to label the story a hoax, might want to ask yourselves this: If acts of violence against women are so uncommon in Jerusalem's ultra-religious precients, why did the Bes Din Tzedek think it was necessary to publish this?

Fred, my friend and frequent email correspondant, titled his post about the Bes Din Tzedek's flyer "Credit where credit is due." I think this is outrageous. As mevaseretzion reminded me, the custom in late Temple days was for the Sages to force the Kohen Godol to swear that he would carry out the Yom Kippur Service according to the teachings of Rabbinic, rather than Saduccean, law. At the time of the vow, both the Sages and the Kohen Godol would weep. The KG would weep for having been suspected, and the Sages would weep because the oath was needed. Though the Mishna doesn't mention bloggers, I rather doubt anyone gave the Sages "credit" for administering this unfrortunate oath. The fact that it was needed in the first place tells us only that the Rabbis had failed at their work, and were losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the class of people most likely to produce the High Priest.

Though I'm glad the Wise Men of Mea Shearim are willing to raise their voices when women are beaten in the streets, I hardly think this elementary display of common decency entitles the Bes Din Tzedek to maftir yona, and a hearty yashar koach. Moreover, the appearance of this flyer reveals only unpleasant facts about the people of Meah Shearim, and their teachers. We weep because they were suspected, and also because such a flyer is needed.

The Holocaust Denial Conference in Tehran

As you know, Iran recently hosted a Holocaust denial conference, which brought in some colorful characters, including our old friends the Naturei Karta. About this, Agudah saw fit to complain, thank God, though their angry statement, sent to me by Chaim G., seems not to be online, as yet. Meanwhile, Daily Show correspondent John Oliver, wearing a "I did not attend the Holocaust denial conference and I certainly did not get this lousy t-shirt" shirt, reported live from Tehran. (scroll down, and click play)

Find this video and thousands of others at vSocial!

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Shifting Miracle of Chanukka?

Why do we celebrate Chanukka? Is it because of the oil miracle or the military victory? And why does Pesikta Rabbati say that its all because the Macs found eight spears waiting in the Temple, when they arrived to re-consecrate it? Josh thinks he has the answer here: The Shifting Miracle of Chanukka?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The story of Tamar

UPDATE: I thought this post responded to a claim made by the DH, but I've since been brought up sharply. Oh well, I did open by admitting to a general unfamiliarity with the specifics of the DH. I'm leaving the post up because (in DH terms) it shows how J and E form one narrative whole, and because (in Torah true terms) it explains the relvance of the Tamar story and helps bring into focus why God, the divine author, chose to tell the story in the way in which its presented in the Torah, and not in some other way.

I've never really studied the DH (that's Documentary Hypothesis, not Dear Husband. DovBear is straght.) but I seem to recall reading or being told that the story we all skipped in grade school does not belong to the same literary tradition as the rest of the rest of the Joseph story. And its true that Tamar's tale doesn't seem to belong to the story arc: We've just been told about Joseph's betrayal, and the next several chapters follow his adventure. Why interrupt the narrative to tell us about Yehuda's dalliance with the whore who turned out to be his daughter in law?

Here's one answer: In the fullness of time, both Joseph and Yehuda go on to become family leaders. In the short term, Joseph will become viceroy of Egypt, and the second-most powerful person in the world; later he receives the firstborn's double portion. In the long term, the kings of Israel descend from Yehuda, and he demonstrates maturity and establishes himself as the leader of the brothers by offering to take responsibility for brother Benjamin. In brief, Joseph and Judah are both destined to become the big cheeses of the family.

Having just introduced Joseph to us as a spoiled, somewhat narcisstic teenager, the Torah shows us Yehuda, his counterpart, was also once flawed. Joseph was a punk kid, but Judah ran with prostitutes and badly mistreated his own daughter-in-law. In fact, Yehuda's tryst with the whore -including his ludicrously irresponsible decision to leave with her his ring and stick, the credit card and driver's license of antiquity - should be seen as straight parallel to Joseph's adolescent bragging and tattling. Yehuda and Joseph will both share the rights of the firstborn, and win other distinctions; but first both had degrees of immaturity to overcome. Showing us this side of Judah and connecting it to similar traits in Yosef seems to be the purpose of the Tamar story. To my mind, this defeats the notion that it doesn't belong.

Another argument for the story belonging to the rest of the book is the fact that it contains a network of allusions to other parts of Genesis. Some of them include:

(1) The Tamar story begins with the words "And Judah went down from his brothers"; the very next chapter picks up the Joseph story with the words "And Joseph was brought down to Egypt"

(2) Jacob deceives his father with a kid, and the brother use a kid's blood to stain Joseph's coat; in our story Judah sends Tamar a kid after she uses her own deception to take something that is rightfully hers.

(3) The material element in the deception carried out by Jacob, and later in the deception carried out by his ten sons is a garment; Tamar also uses a garment - the dress and veil - to deceive her father in-law

(4) After the brother have lost Joseph, they send his blood-stained coat to Jacob with the message "Haker nah" recognize this; when Tamar is about to be burnt she sends Judah his signet-ring and staff with the same message. Like his father, Yehuda is compelled to recognize what he has been sent.

(5) Lavan is away shearing his sheep when Jacob escapes; Judah is in Timnah performing the same task when he meets Tamar in disguise

(6) Yitzchak, Yaakov and Moshe meet their wives at a well; Judah and Tamar meet at Enaim, which seems to mean "Two Wells"

(7) Tamar's twin sons recall Yakov and Esua and the whole chain of brothers struggling over the rights of the firstborn. Peretz wrestles himself ahead, like Yaakov, and Zerah, by way of the red bracelet tied to his wrist, is linked with Esau-the Red, another twin who was displaced from his initial position as firstborn.

(8) Peretz and Zerah also recall Menashe and Ephrain, the sons of Joseph, Judah's counterpart. Like Peretz and Jacob, Ephraim, too, pushes ahead of his older brother.

Oy Chanuka

As we head into Shabbos Chanuka, I thought you might like some provocative thoughts to share at your dinner table. [Note: DovBear takes no responsibility for horrified grandmothers or furious father-in-laws. Use these factoids at your own risk.]

(1) Chanuka and Freedom
Politicians, conservative columnists, and reform Rabbis often call Chanuka "The Festival of Religous Freedom." They are 180 degrees from the truth. As soon as the Greeks were gone, the Macabees set up a monarchy, which is hardly conducive to freedom as the word is understood today. The Mighty Macs were fighting not for religious freedom, but for the right to practice their own understanding of their own religion. They had no intention of providing freedoms of any kind to other faiths, or even to co-religionists who might have wanted to practice a different sort of Judaism. Hasidim or Reformers, for example, would have been most unwlecome in MacabeeLand.

(2) The Dreidal
The old story about the Jews who concealed their Torah-learning during the Greek persecutions by playing driedal is 100 percent true. Only our ancestors used an 9-sided top, not a four-sided top, and instead of having one letter each for the phrase "[A] Great Miracle Happened There," the letters on the ancient Judean dreidal were an acronym for : [A] Great Miracle [is] Going [to] Happen Here Pretty Soon, We Think."

No, the truth is dreidal began as a European game. The letters weren't originally associated with the miracle but with German words: (Nichts = nothing, Gans = all, etc.) Much later, the well-known game became part of Chanuka, a holiday that, ironiclly, celebrates the self-sufficiancy of Jewish culture.

(3) The Bes Yosef's Question
If the Macabees had sufficient oil for one day, why is Chanuka 8 days long, and not 7? Well, according to the book of Maccabees, we keep Chanuka for 8 days, because the Hashmoneans were celebrating a late Sukot. During the Greek occuupation, Jews couldn't get to the Temple to perform the sacrifices and rituals. After driving the enemy from Jerusalem, the Maccabees invited everyone to Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday they'd most recently missed: Sukkot. In fact, the book of Maccabees doesn't even call the festival Chanuka. Instead, it refers to the holiday as Sukkot B'kislev -December Sukkot. And Sukkot (as it was celebrated in Temple Times, together with Shmini Atzeres) is an 8-day celebration.

Fun fact: Per the Book of Maccabees, there were lulavim at the first Chanuka:
And they celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the feastof booths, remembering how not long before, during the feast of booths, they hadbeen wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals. 7: Thereforebearing ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, theyoffered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying ofhis own holy place.
Another fun fact: As Josh Waxman reminds me, Beit Shammai wanted to decrease the number of candles from eight to one over the course of the holiday. In their discussion of the underlying reasons for the respective rulings, the rabbis of the Talmud propose that Beit Shammai were taking their cue from the sacrifices on Sukkot. This makes sense only if we think of Chanuka as being a late Sukkos.

(4) The Miracle of the Oil
The only miracle discussed in Macabees is the military victory, the same miracle we talk about in the Al HaNissim. The small jug of oil first appears in the Talmud, codified about 600 years after the events of Chanuka. In the interim, a variety of rabbinic stories were told to answer the questions: (1) Why do we light candles on Hanukah? (2) Why is Hanukah 8 days? As you'll see, these stories show how the relationship between the Rabbis and the Hashmoneans changed over time:

"[At Hanukah] we commemorate the dedication of the Temple by the Hasmoneans who fought and defeated the Hellenists, and we kindle lights -- just as when [we] finished the Tabernacle in the Wilderness . . . ." (Pesikta Rabbati, ch. 6)

"Why do we kindle lights on Hanukah? Because when the sons of the Hasmoneans, the High Priest, defeated the Hellenists, they entered the Temple and found there eight iron spears. They stuck candles on them and lit them." (Pesikta Rabbati ch. 2)

"Why did the rabbis make Hanukah eight days? Because . . . the Hasmoneans entered the Temple and erected the altar and whitewashed it and repaired all of the ritual utensils. They were kept busy for eight days. And why do we light candles? Because . . . when the Hasmoneans entered the Temple there were eight iron spears in their hands. They covered them with wood and lit candles on them. They did this each of the 8 days." (Megilat Ta'anit ch. 9)

"What is Hanukah? When the Hellenists entered the Temple, they desecrated all of the oil. And when the Hasmonean dynasty grew and defeated them, they searched but found only one cruse of oil sealed with the stamp of the High Priest, and there was only enough in it to burn for one day. A miracle happened and it burned for eight days. The next year they made these days a fixed annual commemoration . . ." (TB Shabbat 21b; also Schol. Megilat Taanith 25 Kislev)

Why did the story change from a glorification of the military victory, to an oil miracle?

One easy answer (and beware of easy answers) is that the Rabbis wanted to demphasize the majesty of the Hasmoneans after they (the Hashmoneans) either (1) joined forces with the Sadducees and/or (2) presided over a civil war (ca. 67-61 BC) during which perhaps more than 100,000 Jews were killed. Support for this answer appears on the same page of Talmud where the oil miracle is first mentioned. On Shabbat 21b the Rabbis tell you that "in times of danger" Chanuka candles can be lit on a table: in other words, don't be a martyr like Judah and his brothers. Risking your life for the sake of Chanuka is not needed.

A second easy answer (same caveat) is that the Rabbis were wary of capricious rulers, and thought it wise to stay silent about that time in the past wjhen we rose up and overthrew the ruling powers.

A third answer might seem more familiar to American Jews. The Mishnah has some brief references to the rules for Chanuka , indicating that by the end of the second century C.E. there was already a custom of kindling lights at the darkest period of the year. This was a custom that may have been imported from the northern latitudes during Roman rule -- perhaps in imitation of the Roman Saturnalia observances. Sometime between then and the completion of Gemara, the celebration of lights assumed greater significance and, just as today we elevate the observance of Chanuka in order to offset the influence of Christmas, the rabbis of the Talmud may have built up the idea of a miracle connected with lights, to show Jews that we had our own basis for a solstice observance.

Which is the right answer? No clue. Its one of the mysteries.