Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Kshmo ken hu

Via the BBC thank to Enigma4U

ROFLM various body parts O

(Jivester News, Lmtd.) In a breathtaking announcement today, Rabbi Soyvitch Goldberginsky told a slightly confused gathering of End Timers at a How to Dress for the Rapture: Boxers, Briefs or Dangler’s Puffery seminar in Las Vegas, Nevada that the basis for their religion, the founding gospels of the New Testament were in fact part of an elaborate gag perpetrated by “…a few wisenheimers back in the day. The guys were sitting around, tossing shrimp at pigs for who-knows-why, when one of them says “Hey, what if we say that God shtupped a zaftig and Jr. will give everyone a Get Out of Hell card? And they will have to sing ass-kissing songs and feel bad a lot of the time, just like us.”

The audience, who stopped breathing as they scratched their heads, were a bit confused by the announcement. Added Goldberginsky, “What, you didn’t know that? You didn’t maybe suspect a little something was up with all the David Blaine stuff? Millions of people in the “I’m With Stupid” line and still you don’t know? It was a giggle. A zoo. We made it up. If I slap your face does wind come out?

Ed Handlebarb of Grunting, West Virginia, who was attending the conference as part of God’s Plan to place him “…near tall, naked white women” did not understand what Goldberginsky was saying. “Did he say Jesus was a Jew? Everybody knows he was a Christian—I mean, yeah, He was a Jew, but His dad was a Christian. Well, His dad was a Jew—no, He did business with the Jews and made a baby with a Jew, but then he became a Christian. He was baptized and everything…they made that up? Holy mother of daddy, what the hell am I supposed to pray to now?”

Well, I’ve had my say. The crowd of Orthodox Jews gathered around and started yelling and making those loud grunting sounds they are famous for. One man with a beard called out, “Shut your trap, Soyvitch. What, you want the gentiles to get wise? Are you a crazy person? Everything was fine. They were sending cash to the Likud with great regularity, and now you want they should feel stupid? We should stone you where you stand. Wait, move a little to the left…not my left, your left. Good: that is where we should stone you.”

Spokesmen for various Christian groups responded to this story, each adding a unique perspective. Pope German Guy With a Weird Rat Like Face seemed resigned to the whole brouhaha. Pausing while loading gold bars into his VW van, the Pope told this interviewer, “I knew this day would come. I had it in the pool. Das tut mir leid.” After loading the van up the Pope jumped in the back as his driver started the engine. It lunged a little, made a grinding sound, stopped short, and then was blown apart by normally cautious bazooka-wielding Bishops who were concerned that the gold bars might not be used for God’s Greater Glory or whatever.

“We felt the Holy Spirit,” said one Bishop who asked that we don’t ask any questions about the Holy Spirit’s age. I’d say the lad was eight or nine, ten tops. And I’m sorry, but those were tears in that little boy’s eyes. Big Catholic tears.

American Christian Fundamentalists remained non-plussed by the announcement. “Look-the Jews control Hollywood, know what I mean?” said Reverend G. Happy “Doc” Doolittle of the Very First Baptist Church in Little Vapors, Mississippi. “Hollywood is Entertainment, you understand? Show folks a good time, maybe make them think a little—maybe not. And if they invented Christianity the way Soyvitch contendeth, they must have had a good reason for what they have done. Surely, they will die and reside in everlasting fire, but where will that fire come from? I ain’t gonna pay for it. You gonna pay for it? They made up Satan, too—think he’s gonna pay for it? I don’t think he’s gonna pay for it. Hallelujah. Lost at last, lost at last, thank them Jew Boys, we are lost at last!”

CNN, unsure of just about everything except how many pharmaceutical companies are coming to their summer picnic, has decided to not cover this story.

Found in full here


Astounded. That's the word to describe my reaction to some of the comments defending Pastor Hagee and his statements about Jews being the agents of their own suffering. Astounded. Only someone who understands neither tanach nor Christianity could say something like this. "We Jews also believe we suffer persecutions in exile for our sins. That's what it says in the torah neviim and in our prayers. Nothing wrong with Xians believing in what it says in tanach."

Oh really? Does the Tanach say we'll be forever abused because we refused to recognize the saving powers of Jesus? Because that's Hagee's reading, a difference from our own that is essential, not incidental. When a man like Hagee says that Jews brought suffering on themselves he isn't speaking as the Deuteronomist (ie Moshe), in the spirit of וַהֲלַכְתֶּם עִמִּי קֶרִי. וְהָלַכְתִּי אַף-אֲנִי עִמָּכֶם בְּקֶרִי. He isn't attempting to tell us why we're in exile, or why God's face sometimes seems hidden. He is attempting to justify those who caused the exile, and those monsters who went to work when God and his face seemed to disappear.

A Jew who attributes the pains of exile to his own disobedience is engaging in theodicy, or a "a vindication of God's goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil." A Christian, like Hagee, who attributes our suffering to our ongoing unwillingness to accept Jesus is not vindicating God. He is vindicating himself. Perhaps our theodicy white-washes God, but the Christian who makes use of our explanations is not white-washing God, but the sins of his father.

And you thought you had a tough boss...

Workers killed after seeking raises

Monday, July 30, 2007

More from EdgwareK

Dear Dov Bear:

I was amused to see our EdgwareK group highlighted by your blog. Here is another great one which reflects the sincere, but essentially clueless Ba’al Teshuva phenomena!
With gratitude to H-shem we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy erev Tisha B'Av in Yerushalyim. Warmest wishes,
That's just great.

Two views of a mitzvah tantz

When it goes right (though who can feel anything but pity for the poor bride forced to stand there like a statue while thousands of men clap, stare and sway.)

When it goes wrong (OOPS!)

Side point: Check out the stripes on the Rebbe's coat. Do they look familiar?

Tom Tomorrow is Terrific

The Unauthorized Christians United for Israel Tour

Remember Pastor Hagee? He's the excessively corpulent Christian minister who is rooting with all his might for Jesus to come back tomorrow, so that all of us die.

His organization, Christians United for (the Destruction of) Israel had some sort of conferences in DC last week, at which lots of middle-Americans came together to rave about how much they love Israel. This, of course, is much like raving over a pig you're fattening for slaughter, but the irony was lost on the True Believers.

Max Blumenthal was there with his video camera and the footage he created is creepy, shocking and offensive.

Some of the things you wont want to miss:
1 - The presence and participation of Joe Leiberman who called the bible-thumper in chief an "ish elokim."
2 - The way Blumenthal was expelled from the conference after he asked Hagge why he once wrote that the Jews brought suffering on themselves
3 - The bizarre dance some strange looking woman performed to Yerusalyim shel Zehav
4 - The smug satisfaction and certainty on the faces of Christians who proclaimed without embarrassment that Jews will go to hell for failing to embrace Jesus.

A taste of England

From an overseas friend:

Here in London the heimishe oilam is very fortunate to have "edgewarek" - this is an internet message posting board restricted to those who have been pre-screened for membership. Occasionally the messages are gems,l ike this one. Feel free to post...
I foresee that this posting may get a very mixed response, but wanted to ask the members of EdgwareK their advice on a potentially controversial matter.

I have read all the Harry Potter books so far, and am very tempted to read the last one. However, in the last book (no 6) there was definitely the beginnings of adolescent behaviour, which made me wonder if it was appropriate reading material.

If anyone has read the last book, I would be very interested to know whether there is any inappropriate activities which take place in it, and whether they think that it is in fact appropriate for a Jewish young lady to read.Thank you so much to anyone who can help.
FWIW there's more kissing and such in book six, perhaps because Harry and co. are too busy saving the world this time around. Still, this is an original worry. Those Heimish Jews on our side of the pond who know what to do with an English book are more concerned with the magic, I think.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Stray thought

I've noticed that ArtScroll feels its necessary to insert editorial material in between parshiot. Blather mostly, but all the same.

In 5000 years, when all context is lost and forgotten due to war and exile and bad memories, and the only book that remains to be studied and reviewed is the ArtScroll chumash (they look pretty indestructible to me) do you think some Jews will decide those added ArtScroll paragraphs were part of the original testament?

v'hamayvin yaavin

Science vs Torah

Collected on the Internet:

...the scientific method will never discover or prove anything that contradicts the Torah, because the Torah is true and the scientific method is a way of finding out facts. FACTS cannot contradict truth, by definition.

Well duh. Facts can't contradict Truth. Obviously. The trouble, though, is that humans can't know Truth, at least not absolutely. At best, we acquire some approximation of Truth, that is refracted and fractured, formed and reformed over and over again as it's imperfectly passed from one fallible mind to another.

So, for the sake of argument, let's agree that the Torah is "True." Does it follow that every last word anyone has ever said about the Torah is also true? Does it follow that every bit of exegesis and every bit of commentary and every interpretation is true? No, and no again.

So, yes, "facts" can't contradict the "True" torah, but they can contradict human, fallible perceptions of the torah, and that, rather than the Torah itself, is what (often) needs to be reworked in light of newly discovered facts. That's the key error in yesterday's post about Charedi Science. It is not the Torah that is contradicted when science says that Mount Everest is the highest place on earth, or when we discover that the Pacific Ocean is, in fact, the largest body of water. Those new facts don't undermine the Truth. They undermine a human's interpretation of it.

Answering (Rabbi) Alderstan [*]

What follows are my notes, comments and insights to RYA's critique of Noah Feldman's piece from last Sunday's NYT Magazine. (Long time readers may notice I've adopted a tone of measured politeness. I can't explain it either)

First, RYA attempts to explain some of the anti-Jesus remarks found in the Talmud. After confessing that the passages may not, in fact, be about Jesus (1), he says:

RYA: "... the disparaging [Talmudic] remarks – if in fact directed against Yeshu – must be understood in the context of struggle between mainstream Judaism and early Jewish-Christians"

This is an important insight, which applies equally to the anti-Jewish passages in the New Testament. Those were written by first century Jews, about other first century Jews, also in the context of a struggle between two competing Jewish sects, against the backdrop of a brutal war with Rome. The Talmud's anti-Christian remarks are different though, perhaps in degree, perhaps in kind (that's an old argument) because the so called "parting of the ways" had already occurred. When the NT was written it was ethnic Jew vs ethnic Jew. When the Talmud was written, the differences between Jew and Christian were more obvious and pronounced.

RYA: "My point is that for most Americans, actions are far more important than theology. They really don't care what other people believe, as long as they act appropriately. If they are good, caring citizens, their beliefs – and claims of specialness in the eyes of the Lord, are just not so important. Jews should listen up. Be a good neighbor, and you can sing a three part harmonic ode to R. Yehuda Halevi's special Jewish soul, and most non-Jews will not hold it against you. Parts of certain Chassidic communities are hardly the leaders of the pack in pushing for intergroup connection and acceptance. But tens of thousands of New Yorkers will remember them as the group that set up tables on 9/11 to provide drinks for the dazed and thirsty who fled across the bridge to Brooklyn."

Sorry, but this is humanistic, kumbaya, we're all God's children clap-trap. And yes, I am very much in favor of humanistic clap-trap and often mouth it myself. The difference is I recognize it. I know when I do it and do it deliberately. Does RYA see what he just did, or is he obfuscating?

RYA: "There is one final argument. Part of what goes through our heads every time we encounter a Gemara that emphasizes some Jewish-Gentile difference is that non-Jews will sense a slippery slope, at the base of which wait crusading Jews ready to behead all of them and impale their remains on sharpened Mogen Davids. We must confidently know ourselves – and then convey to others – an overarching reality about traditional Jews. We are a legal community. Hostile attitudes can go only so far without hitting a firm halachic roadblock. No matter what animus some Jews might have for outsiders, they don't murder, rape or maim. They cannot steal, lie or deceive without running afoul of clear-cut halacha."

Bad, bad argument. (1) Jews run affoul of halacha ALL the time - hasn't RYA heard of Yom Kippur? Why does he think it was instituted? Hasn't he been to a minimum security prison? Why does he think many serve kosher food?; and (2) "Slippery slope" means the changes happen slowly, not overnight, and that often the change is not just in behavior, but also in how we understand our rules and laws. Going from the posuk about milk and goat mothers to our modern kosher kitchens took the route of the slippery slope and there are countless other examples. Saying it wont happen to us -because we "confidently know ourselves" - is to deny or to confess ignorance of what a slippery slope actually is.

[*] No disrespect intended. I just like alliteration
(1) I say the name. Sorry if this makes your skin crawl. (I also say Voldermort, and not "he who must not be named")

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Some new Ani Maamins for these trying and spiritualy deficient times

[From here] [Also posted here]
(I didn't get it from GH, though)

Attention Jews who piously repeat 13 Ani Maamins each day. You are koferim. Heretics. Deficient in belief. Spiritual Pygmies.

Perhaps 13 fundamentals were enough for our ancestors, but we live in more challenging times. Therefore, following the excellent advice acquired here, I firmly suggest that you add the following proclamations to your daily devotions:

- I firmly believe the world in exactly 5767 years old. [*] [1]

- I firmly believe that the sun, moon and planets revolve around the earth. [1]

- I firmly believe that the Mediterranean Sea is the largest body of water (hence it's name "yam hagadol").

- I firmly believe that Eretz Yisroel is higher than all other lands, including Mount Everest [1]

- I firmly believe that there are six planets

- I firmly believe that there are 4 elements [1]

- I firmly believe that lice do not come from eggs [1]

- I firmly believe that the moon generates its own light, and does not merely reflect the sun.

- I firmly believe that there was a flood that covered the entire earth.

- I firmly believe that no animal species will ever go extinct.

Laughing? Stop. These are genuine Haredi beliefs.

[*] Any Rishon who suggested otherwise was a kofer.
[1] I know actual people who believe this.

Got nothing

Got nothing.

I blame the terrorists.

Remember the terrorists? And have you heard the latest? According to President Mission Accomplished's latest National Intelligence Estimate Al Queda and Co. have grown stronger since the inception of Bush's war.

That's right, Republican fools. STRONGER.

Your glorious president admits that His Most Favorite War has backfired. Defeatist democrats didn't embolden the terrorists. YOUR WAR DID. And it all it cost us was several trillion dollars and a few thousand Americans.

So, well done. Well freaking done.

Anyway, chat amongst yourselves. I'll be in with some new and delicious DovBear as soon as I can.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Me K'amcha Yisroel?

The story: The camp OM's kids attend took a trip on July 11 to the local 7/11. Why? Because that's the day 7/11 distributes free slurpees. Money quote
...the entire camp piled into buses to head over to the local 7-11 store, at which point every single camper in the camp lined up to receive their free Slurpee.
Zounds, right? Or ye freaking Gods, if you prefer.

PS: I don't think the 7/11 corporation cares. They want to give away free Slurpees - that's the point of the promotion, and they shouldn't mind if 200 kids come at once, or one at a time. The trouble is how it looks to employees and other customers. Those who don't appreciate the strategy behind the give-away, just see a crowd of cheap, grabby Jews.

And the experience, I'm afraid, teaches the kids to view themselves (or at least the camp administrators) as cheap, grabby Jews, too. They know the camp is getting away with a low-cost outing, and the kids probably aren't sophisticated enough to understand that the trip for free Slurpees is exactly what 7/11 wants. In their little heads, they think they are getting away with something -- and with the grown-ups' blessing, besides.

What's wrong with this picture?

See the post: Wolfish Musings: Hilarious Ad for the B'nei Brak/Petach Tikvah Pool

What's wrong with this picture? Come on isn't it obvious? The kid diving into the pool is wearing shorts, and that striped shirt seems pretty prus to me. And where are his socks? Scratch him off the list of eligible bachelors. His parents probably use plastic on shabbos. Furthermore, one of the guys at the umbrella table isn't wearing a hat, and are those blue jeans?!? Also, the second guy doesn't have a jacket on, and he doesn't seem to be learning Torah. And the worst part? The landscaping. Torah true Jews don't garden. And, now that I think about it, that water is a suspiciously clean shade of blue.

I don't know about you, but I'd certainly ever swim -or God forbid let my holy impressionable children swim - in such an undesirable enviroment.

Monday, July 23, 2007

More blogger legal action

My Right Word: Wonkette Threatens Me With Legal Action

How much history is too much history?

Vote at www.rabbihorowitz.com

"The Pope's Got A Point?" This guy has a point on the top of his head

In the current Jewish Press, Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz regurgitates some of the familiar arguments about the Pope and the Latin Mass. In short, he's proud of the pope and his little heart is all aflutter at the sight of a religious leader standing up for faith. Money quote:
I have one thing to say to the pope: “Here, here!” [snip] What the pope is saying – and I agree 100 percent – is that there are irreconcilable differences, and we can’t pretend those differences don’t exist. [Snip] If you believe in something, if you really believe in something, you need to have the courage of your convictions and stand up for what you believe. I can respect the pope for making an unambiguous statement of what he believes
To which I say: Of course.

Of course, a Pope ought to imagine his own religion is the best and most true.

Of course.

But why doesn't the fool understand that Jews in particular and humanity in general are better off when a spirit of tolerance clouds the Pope's thinking? I agree the Vatican was confounded these last forty-odd years. I agree that they didn't act in their own best interest or with any consistency when they made ecumenical noises, and deleted offensive words from their prayers and offensive thoughts from their theology. But SFW? Where in the sky is it written that we must pray for a clear-thinking, perfectly consistent, ultra-orthodox pope?

How does a Pope like that advance our interests?

Jews aren't best served when a Pope speaks with the fervor and strength and certainty that this Rabbi Yerachmiel seems to cherish. Jews are best served when the Pope, indeed when any non-Jewish leader, commits himself to diluting his dogmas, especially those dogmas that have hurt us in the past.

My Sanhedrin

Been working on a continuation of this post, but its not coming together as quickly as I hoped.

Your thoughts welcome.

Jews in the News

Sunday's NYT magazine has something good about modern Orthodoxy, written by a graduate of one of the better MO day schools. As part of the larger discussion, he tells how his school handled the study of evolution (a rabbi gave a creationist introduction) and recounts some of the lectures he and his classmates were given about sex.

I expect those of you think MO is nothing but shortcuts and prikas ol will be unpleasantly surprised.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Finished the book

Done with Harry and the Hallows, and though I'm still absorbing what I've read, I'm not best pleased with this book. I won't ruin it for those of you who read more slowly than I, but I will say this: Book 6 seems more like a place-holding can-kicker than ever, and the decline of JK's power continues.

Friday, July 20, 2007

My Moshiach

I take it for granted our long awaited savior will be an ordinary human being, who will live and die like the rest of us. For this reason, I can't quite wrap my head around the idea. Human beings are greedy and selfish, capricious and vain. And, even if the long-awaited savior is the rare human being who is none of those things what about his son? Or his grandson? Once absolute power has been taken or given, how can we be absolutely positive it will always be properly used?

Happily, in the comments of a previous post, some Jewish monarchists have assured me that our King Messiah won't have quite so much power: rather, he'll rule according to the Torah, as determined by the Sanhedrin. In other words, they believe the form of government during the messianic era will be a "constitutional monarchy."

Such a thing works, of course, and it can take many forms. In modern day Great Britain, for example, the monarch is largely ceremonial, though as originally conceived, Britain's constitutional monarch was at least as powerful as a modern American president. In fact, there's some reason to think that at least a few of the framers of the US Constitution thought the president was like an elected constitutional monarch. [Ha! So I wasn't too far off yesterday when I said I wanted a president Moshiach.]

The success of this model, though, will depend on the character of Sanhedrin. How will they be chosen? How powerful will they be? Will they allow themselves to act as a check on the King? Will they be more like the Supreme Court or more like Congress?

Suggestions and thoughts in my next post.

Tradition! Tradition!

There were no better days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What they were saying: Young man, consider who you choose (to be your wife)." (Taanit 4:8)

I thought perhaps we could start a movement to bring back this very old, very dignified practice. Certainly, it is at least as authentic and Torah true as shaved heads, long curly peyos, cholent, and tefillah b'tzibur.

So... any takers?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yesterday was OM day....

.. today is RR day

There's so much good stuff on the blogs from ages and ages ago...

I wish there was a way to index the high quality stuff.

Something to chew on

Judaism ebbs and flows, like everything else. Though elements of it are inevitable (ie: God-made), most of it is contingent (ie: Man-made). Therefore, it misses the point to talk about what 'Judaism' says, when the 'Jews' themselves are doing their own thing. We live in the world of men (ie: Jews) not the world of ideas (ie: Judaism.).

Yeah, meat rhymes with cheat.

Siyum Schedule For The Nine Days - Around The 5 Towns

Here comes Harry

With the next Harry Potter book already available on the streets of Manhatten (Today's Times has a non-review which reveals some information, but no spoilers) the time has come for me to make a series of random and unrelated pronouncements about the series. Brace yourselves.

1 - I don't think I'll ever read the first two books again. They sucked, mebayit u'meechutz. I'm quite sure that if the first Harry Potter book I picked up was either of those I'd have never continued with the series. (However, there's a lesson here for other slow-starters.)

2 - I'm still mad at JK for the first chapter of Book 6. In it, the Minister of Magic meets with the human prime minister, and reveals that Voldermort and his followers are wrecking havoc, while dementers roam the earth breeding and spreading gloom and depression. Sounds spooky, no? Sounds like foreshadowing, right? Except that nothing comes of it. The big, boring book ends without showing us a single dementers, and not one further word is said about anything Voldy and his friends might be doing in the Muggle world. JK just dropped the thread.

3 - I hate the word "Muggle." The books pontificates about tolerance and equality within the Magical world and between magical people yet the magical people view humankind with a mix of pity and disdain.

4 - Why is Arthur Weasly such an idiot? He's the director of a ministry office that specializes in "Muggle Artifacts" yet can't seem to grasp the concept of electricity, or to correctly pronouce words like "telephone." This is rather like the head of the State Department's Israel desk being ignorant of Yom Kippur or kashrus.

5 - The third book in the series was best, and the scene at the lake when Harry draws on the memory of his father to conjure a Patronos stands out as JK's finest creation. Some people sit through one horrible performance at the opera after another (or one uninspiring davening after another) waiting for a flash of inspiration similar to what they may have once experienced. I keep going back to the Potter series hoping that JK has another Patronus moment up her sleeve.


Nice Post by RWAC

It (click here) echoes arguments I've made about Moshiach. In particular: why should we think that malchus Dovid is going to be any better the second time around? Anyone who studies Nach (ie, not you Ed) can't help but notice that Jewish kings were, for the most part, like kings everywhere: corrupt, shallow, selfish and greedy. As Samuel promised:
"This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day."
Why should we expect that the King Moshiach will be any different from his Davidic ancestors? With the exception of Josiah and Hezekiah, and maybe one or two others, all of the Jewish kings after Shlomo "did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord." All of them abused their power, and mistreated their subjects. Not one of them brought us any closer to God or any kind of fulfilment. They were weak. Unstable. Corrupt.

The solution, I think, is not a King Moshiach, but a president Moshiach, someone who, like the Rambam said, will be an ordinary human, but one without unchecked power. Unchecked power, see, always leads to ruin, and it's a poor student of history, indeed, who'd ever wish to bestow it again on a human being.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Al mee ne'emar

At the same time I find the way [--] present it...the bluntness, the 'shall we keep or throw it out' quality disturbing and sort of vulgar. One doesn't talk this way normally and rightly so. If I can offer an exaggerated analogy...the way you deconstruct Torah is to theology and Jewish philosophy as pornography is to sex. The lighting is harsh, you see more than you want, and eventually it becomes boring except for those addicted to the fetish. If you can bathe it in a softer light it would be more appealing.

Three guesses. First two don't count.

Jewish loopholes

Researching the siyum post (below) I came across an old OrthoMom entry (find it here) in which the famously frum mother discusses the siyum loophole. She makes some good point. In the comments, though, Enigma4u broadens the discussion:

While you were enjoying your carnivorous meal during the Nine Days, you should have gone all out and allowed yourself a glass of whiskey, preferably one that is chametz which was sold to a non-Jew over Pesach. I hope you also had some Israeli pickles with your hamburger, probably ones that grew during a Sh’mitta year in a Jewish-owned farm which was temporarily sub-leased to an Arabin order not to transgress the laws of Sh’mitta. I’m assuming you haven’t been negligent about your personal hygiene this week; Halakha clearly states that one should not bathe this week, but loopholes such as the one you’re using to avoid feeling and smelling like a homeless person were invented to make this decree more bearable. While you’re benefiting from halakhic loopholes, enjoy the rising interest rates your CD is earning at your Jewish-owned bank.

Halakha is replete with loopholes because reforms are an integral part of any social system which seeks to stay viable. The issue that I have is that Orthodoxy refuses to acknowledge loopholes as necessary reforms, thereby making it an obsolete system for today’s life..... [and she continues in a subsequent comment] All of the loopholes I listed (and many which I didn't - Pruzbul is one -) were established centuries ago and adopted by mainstream Orthodoxy; Contemporary Orthodoxy has stubbornly impaled itself deep in the dark ages, refusing to adapt to the needs of evolving society. It has effectively disabled its only means of maintaining viability by closing the books on any changes necessary in am ever-changing world. Orthodoxy is unable to help itself out of this miserable position because it dictates that no changes be made since its adherents have decided that Chazal are the only ones allowed to tamper with its set of laws. Since Chazal are no longer with us, Orthodoxy has closed the books on any necessary alterations.

In practical terms this means that although women in general society have been making great strides in reaching equality, Orthodoxy continues to serve as an insurmountable obstacle to this goal. It also means that Orthodoxy has remained with stone-written Halakhot which are racist, sexist, xenophobic, cruel and unusual, with no means to excise them other than offering the rehashed apologetics to reconcile them with modern thinking.
As I said at the time:

The loopholes to which Enigma objects certainly exist, and Orthodox Judaism would be stronger is we would just admit it already and get over ourselves. Orthodoxy benefits from changes in law and practice, without admitting that these changes in the law and practice have occur ed. That's fundamentally dishonest. (and yes, of course Orthodoxy doesn't change law and practice as promiscuously as Reform and (to a lesser extent) conservatives do, but it happens, and we gain nothing by pretending otherwise.

Pious frauds

I'm not an especially pious person, but I respect the trait in others. What makes me cross-eyed, however, is when some fraud puts on a pious show. Take davening for example.

Now, I understand that some people are bored by prayer. I am, too. (sometimes) That's fine. However, when a non-pious-fraud becomes bored in shul, he goes for a walk, or whispers to his neighbor, or indulges in a day-dream. In other words, he doesn't try to conceal his boredom. What does his friend the fraud do? He takes out a sefer and starts to learn. Message: Look at me. Message: I'm better than you. Message: Davening is for saps. If you fools had any sense you'd take out a gemarah and skip it, like me. (For the record: I don't recall ever seeing a Rav do this. During davening, a Rav davens.)

Something similar, invariably, happens during the Nine Days. The widespread, entrenched, and historically significant Jewish tradition is go without meat and wine between Rosh Chodesh and Tisha B'av. For spoiled children and fish-haters this is a little difficult, perhaps, but most of us muscle through. Pious frauds, on the other hand, have an out: The Rama rules the meat and wine are allowed when you are making a siyam (celebrating the completion of a Talmudic tractate) As a result, such celebrations have been made every day this week, in every Jewish neighborhood.

The problem is that the Mishna Brurah puts strict limits on the practice, ruling that (1) you can't time a siyum special for the nine days; it has to work out that way with nothing artifical about it. (2) you can't make a larger celebration than you might have otherwise, and (3) you can't invite people that you wouldn't have invited otherwise, and (4) you can't attend if you wouldn't have attended otherwise.

Though I'm sure that some siyums legitimately meet the MB's restrictions, most don't. Most (like learning during davening) are just a way for the pious fraud to escape something unpleasant without bruising his self-image.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Too funny

Stupid Bill O'Reilly has his panties all in a jealous wad because JetBlue is spending sponsorship dollars with DailyKos, rather than on the O'Lieilly[*] show, so he sent his producer off to harass the airline's CEO.

The best question:

WATTERS: What about the pope is a primate? Do you agree with that kind of thinking?

Um, hate to be the one to break this bit of bad news to you Bill, but every one agrees that the pope is, in fact, a primate

A bishop of highest rank in a province or country.


[*] Not a typo

Sins of Omission


That pretty much suns up my reaction to Hamodia's account of the slap, provided by The Beadle, DovBear's Senior Slap Correspondent. Here's the money quote:
Rabbi Cohen told De Hartuch: “You’re destroying the Torah world’. De Hartuch responded by saying, “you are a beast, shut your mouth.”

As the argument heated up, De Hartuch said to him, “If you don’t shut up, I’ll slap you.” Rabbi Cohen replied, “I’m waiting.”

Rabbi Cohen later said that he only though that De Hartuch was threatening him with a slap, and he didn’t think that De Hartuch intentions were real.

At this point De Hartuch viciously smashed his fist into Rabbi Cohen’s face throwing him a meter and a half.
Interesting. Notice anything missing? IIRC, "Rabbi" Cohen further provoked Mr. De Hartuch by comparing him unfavorably to the nation that carried out an unprecedented mass murder of European Jews. Also, somehow the slap has morphed into not just a punch, but a punch that sent "Rabbi" Cohen, (no lightweight he) practically into orbit.

Related (I see The Beadle has been moonlighting at Failed Messiah. Do I fire him or offer him more money to work for me exclusively?)

Truth shmooth

Judaism in general, and Orthodoxy in particular, is in flux. Today's version doesn't look like the Orthodoxy of our fathers and grandfathers. And with any luck our kids will cling to an Orthodoxy that doesn't exactly resemble our own. Therefore, the idea that any particular idea or dogma is "not Orthodox" is a little like saying that a particular style of clothing is "not fashionable." Believing that the universe is old is like wearing bell-bottoms. Nowadays, its gauche for Torah True Jews, but it was not always thus, and the pendulum has a way of swinging back. Some day in the future, perhaps the TY's take on evolution will be "the new black."

So what about "The Truth?" Ah, yes, the truth. Gather round children, for DovBear has an important bit of grownup wisdom to share: Truth is a multifarious thing. Also, it is by definition subjective. Also, it's not the only value that matters.

Truth is a multifarious thing

Also, it is by definition subjective
Whenver we sit across from our study-partners and attempt to puzzle out what God wants from us, we're engaging in an act of interepatation. As you've heard me say before, any act of interpretation is biased because people are biased. We're not capable of apprehending the whole truth. Only parts of it. This is what the Sages meant when they said the Torah has 70 faces. Every perception occurs from a particular point of view, and every perception is different. We're each a perceiving center, and every perception is different.

Also, it's not the only value that matters.
As Isaiah Berlin put it: "Liberty can conflict with equality or with public order; mercy with justice; love with impartiality and fairness; social and moral commitment with the disinterested pursuit of truth or beauty... Conflicts of values are an intrinsic, irremovable part of human life; the idea of total human fulfillment is a chimera.

I turn to Orthodox Judaism for many things, all of them important and all of them irreplacable - but not for "Truth."

And neither should you.

Related: 1 2

Monday, July 16, 2007

Two quotes from two different articles

This isn't going to be a very well-constructed post, I'm afraid, just two quotes from two different, but related, articles. The first is from David Margolick reviews Tom Segev's new book about the 6 Day War in (last) Sunday's Times.
Ancient history? 1967? If you don’t think so, picture a time before suicide bombings and settlements; when American support for Israel was not a given; when a majority of the Knesset spoke — and thought — in Yiddish; when Israelis still had no television programs, and Jerusalemites assumed explosions must be earthquakes; when terms like intifada, Hamas and even Palestinian were either unfamiliar or not yet coined; when Israelis argued — with straight faces — that Jews everywhere were safer thanks to them. That’s beyond ancient; it’s prehistoric.
Neat, huh? It's a nice, quick snapshot of haw far we've travelled in forty years. The second is from an article in Azure by Yossi Klein Halevi sent to me by [on request.]
What I love about your photograph at the Wall,” I told [the photographer], “is that it was the image of our highest self, the moment before we fell into gloating in the summer of 1967–the jokes we told about Arab cowardice and the mocking songs we sang about Egyptian leader Gamal Abd al-Nasser and the bullets we wore around our necks.”
There's a link here, between'67 and Tisha Bav and hubris, and distance and loss and though I've struggled with it for the better part of the day, I haven't found it yet.

This is not in keeping with the spirit of the week

Chaim G: Are alternative histories possible? Could the destruction of the two Temples (or for that matter the sin of the spies) have occured at any time other than 9 Av?

DovBear: [In his head] HAHAHAHAHAH

Charlie Hall: Yes. The 7th or 10th!

Chaim G: What the heck is that suppposed to mean?

DovBear [In his head] HAHAHAHAHAH

Explanation here

Jeremy Rosen on fasting


I don't like the Nine Days

I am not a superstitious man. I don't agree that the 9-Days are a Bermuda-Triangle-like period of time, a time when bad things are more likely to happen. I think it's silly to avoid plane travel, for example, or to avoid going out alone at night. There are no statistics which suggest that bad things occur during the 9-days any more often than they do during the rest of the year. If there were, the non-Jews would have cought on by now.

But still, something strange and altogether emotional happens to me when we enter the 9-days. I feel something, not unlike what I feel around the Yomin Noraim. I am more mellow, more serious, and touchier about small slights.

There are those of you who will insist that these unhappy feelings are caused by something real in the air, the koach zmaniyot, for example. But I don't buy it. Other say the melancholy comes from being deprived of protein, but I am a big fan of fish, and I expect to enjoy a large slice of it every evening this week. And, I don't mind hot weather, either. Usually, I revel in it.

In my humble opinion, this strange gloom that overtakes me year after year is simply one of the unhappy by-products of my all-too-successful Jewish education.

I was taught to be sad during the nine days, and so I am.

Some more on Billam and Pinchas

A people the dwells apart / כי מראש צרים אראנו ומגבעות אשורנו הן עם לבדד ישכן ובגוים לא יתחשב׃

This is Billam's grand declaration about the Jewish people, and indeed in the Billam story we are presented as God's own people, separated from all other nations, and divinely protected from curses, enchantments and foreign influences. The very next story, however, tells a different tale. Now, we are intertwined with the neighboring tribes, and sharing both women and rituals. What's the link? Why did the editor/author (ie: God) put these two stories side by side? Why are given a thesis (Israel dwells alone) followed by a contradictory antithesis (Israel intermingles with other nations)? Unless the point is the punishment?

Baal Peor / בעל פעור
Per the Talmud, the name Peor puns on a Hebrew verb that means "to gape open." A connection between the name and the mode of worship is suggested by the sexual acts described in this story, but the Talmud additionally links the worship of Peor to defecation. One wonders: Was Peor indeed worshipped with both sex and filth, or was the latter added by Rabbis seeking to further denigrate the idolatry. Anyone know?

And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly / ויבא אחר איש ישראל אל הקבה וידקר את שניהם--את איש ישראל ואת האשה אל קבתה

The translation I've given here follows the KJV, which is tricky because no one really knows what is meant by the word קבה. It appears here alone, and is translated variously as tent, pavillion or Tabernacle. Jewish tradition understands is as "Tabernacle" which is strained (maybe) because nowhere else is the Mishkan called a qubah. Robert Alter links it to the Arabic qubbe, a red tent used for conjugal and cultic purposes and adds that our word "alcove" (ie: a recessed space) is derived from al-qubbe. The second use of word (everyone knows) is a euphamism for the female sexual part, but it puns on the hebrew for "belly" and works as a euphamism only because קבה and קבתה might be the same word, both referring to a space of some kind used for sexual purposes. [Source: Robert Alter]

Friday, July 13, 2007

A torah true approach to the woolly mammoth

Readers of the blog know by now about the well-preserved specimen of a baby woolly mammoth discovered in North Russia. They also know, unfortunately, about the two Torah True (TM) ways of relating to it:

First approach: DENY
(Example: That's not a woolly mammoth! That's just an ordinary elephant with a few abnormalities!)

Second approach: LIE
(Example: Sure, it's a woolly mammoth, but it walked the earth less than 6000 years ago!)


I'm sick of this. Sick of the lying and denying because Jews should be above such shenanigans, and also because if you look back less than 200 years you can find a far more satisfying solution.

Yisroel Lipschitz of Danzig (1782-1860) was the author of Tiferes Yisroel, the popular commentary on the Mishnayos which can be found in almost every Shul. In the back of Sanhedrin, you'll find a long essay of his called "Derush Ohr HaChayim” (Homily on the Light of Life) Struggle though several difficult pages on the origin of the soul and you'll arrive at a facinating discussion of paleontology. Money quote:
In the year 1807... they found in Siberia... a great elephant... whose skelteon now stands in the Zoological Museum in Petersburg... We already know of a giant creature found in... the city of Baltimore... bones of this creature have been found in Europe, too. This creature had been named mammoth... they have found... iguanodon... whose height was 15 feet, and whose length was as much as 90 feet...there is yet another creature called megalosaurus... from all this it is clear... [citing kabbbalists, Gemarahs, Rabaynu B'chaya, the Ramban, and Ibn Ezra] that the world has been destroyed and renewed over and over again as many as four times...
One of the kabbalists he cites has a formula, using this idea of cycles, that suggests the universe is several billion years old. His own writing suggest he thought each of those 4 cycles was at least 7000 years, and perhaps as many as 49,000 years. Another calculates the age of the universe at as much as 1.5 billion years

Lesson: Did the Tiferes Yisroel lie or deny? Did he act like Ed, who himself claims to act in the name of so-called gedolim? No, he did not. Instead he faced the facts, with open eyes.

Yoinoson Schreiber: DovBear, Tiferes Yisroel and the Woolly Mammoth
DovBear: 5000 years old? Not according to Chazal

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Slap: A Historical Perspective

Stuff like that happens here, too

[About the picture]

Trickster God Strikes Again

A well preserved baby mammoth has been found frozen in north Russia. As a Torah true Jew, who believes that there were never cavemen, cave drawings, or woolly elephants I have to ask: Exactly what is God playing at?

More on the slap

Shmarya slugs one of MK Cohen's defenders in the media for her lapses of logic and knowledge.


About the Slap

You've heard, I am sure, that Amnon Dehartuc, an Israeli civil servant, slapped a Haredi MK the other day. If you live in pious preceints, you've also heard, I am sure, that the attack was just the latest iteration of secular hatred for all things holy. (or as dear old Ed said yesterday when he sent me a link to the article "see for yoursekf the hatred that the secular has for us [sic].")

But is that really the case? Of course not.

For the last ten years, its been Amnon Dehartuc's job to be something of a jerk. As the man in charge of verifying the legality of all budget allocations, he has been responsible for making sure that every organization that receives government money confirms to certain requirements and criteria. This means he spends a lot of time saying, "no."

In the past, Jpost says:
"...he has blocked allocations to the HaBimah national theater, a symbol of secular culture, claiming that a "criterion" had illegally been tailored for its benefit. Over the last few months he has blocked funding for the Joint Conversion Institute, an organization that is anathema to the haredi community since it includes in its faculty Reform and Conservative teachers. Last year he threatened to cancel allocations to one of the most cherished institutes of the national religious community, to which he himself belongs, the pre-army academies, for the lack of proper budgetary requirements. "
And, on similar legal grounds, he has interfered with the funding of Haredi yeshivot, too.

For this, Jpost continues, Dehartuc has suffered constant vilification. Haredi newspapers call him Pharaoh, Haman and Antiokhus. Though, he's a graduate of the Hesder system, among Haredim its taken as an article of faith that Dehartuc hates Jews and Judaism. He's often cursed and insulted to his face. Finally, earlier this week, MK Yaakov Cohen delivered the ultimate slur, and said, that for doing his thankless job diligently, sincerely and honestly, Dehartuc was "worse then the Germans."

And you know what? If it had been me, I might have slapped him, too.

[PS: Any of you who are certain that this episode "proves" that Israelis are racist, haters of Haredim are welcome to explain why Dehartuc was arrested and banned from ever again entering the Knesset.]

The disgrace of yet another pious and god-drunk Republican

Here's a new DovBear rule of thumb: The more a Republican talks about values and God, the more likely he is to be a scam artist.

Previous examples of professional GOP moralizers who turned out to be hypocrites include: Bill Bennett, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggert, Jim Bakker, Tom Delay, Duke Cunningham, Bob Livingston, Bob Ney, Mark Foley, and Don Sherwood.

And that's just off the top of my head.

To this august list we now add David Bruce Vitter, republican Senator from Lousiana.

Ah, the party of morals. The party of values. Indeed.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

And the tooth fairy will help them pack.

On January 11, 2007, we were given this bit of wisdom:

HARRY SMITH (host): The first of the new troops are already standing by, waiting to go to Iraq. CBS News national security correspondent David Martin has details.

MARTIN: The surge of more than 20,000 troops means some units already in Iraq will have their tours of duty extended, while some back in the States will have to ship out earlier than planned. The president has ordered similar build-ups before to protect Iraqis going to the polls. But this time, he says, their mission will be different. [...]

MARTIN: The president did not predict how long the surge
will last, but Pentagon officials say if this new strategy works they should be able to begin withdrawing troops from the streets of Baghdad in about six months.
[ie: TODAY]

From the January 11 edition of CBS' The Early Show

In six months maybe we will have another plan that will not work for the next six months, as Bush keeps on kicking the can.

Reactionary: a man walking backwards with his face to the future.

I see from the newspaper, that Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, Successor of Peter, Supreme Pontiff, Primate of Italy, and Servant of the Servants of God, is rolling back the clock.

Following Vatican II, it became indelicate among the faithful to talk trash about Jews and other Christian denominations. Now in the space of one week, the Pope seems to have twice shrugged his shoulders and signaled that perhaps some of the old ways are worth restoring. [1, 2]

Ed Hearts the Modern Orthodox

I'm fresh from an acutely unpleasant conversation with Ed, every one's least favorite Haredi, in which he delivers a backhanded compliment to the Modern Orthodox, by arguing that it is wrong for Jewish men to attend baseball games. How did this delightful exchange begin? When Ed chatted me to complain that I don't devote enough blog time to the shortcomings of the MO community. Always on the lookout, especially during the three weeks, for ways to improve relations between Jews, Ed helpfully suggested that I shower MO Jews with sinah :

ed: ...stop whining about every move the haredim/chasiidim make...
me: I'll stop doing that exactly 7 seconds after I start doing that, ok?
ed: mind your own business deal with your own problems... you mo's are flooded with problems but you conveniently ignore them and just focus on the charedi ones
me: I'm charedi And MO "problems" aren't as perfidous as the problems found among the charedi
Never one to disappoint, Ed eagerly provided me with some examples of MO perfidy:
ed: baseball games? mixed seating? dressed like a goy? movie rentals?
I have to say, MO people, that if the very worst thing Ed can say about you is that you rent movies and go to ball games, you're doing pretty okay.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The more Torah True you are...

Some (more) things I've noticed about the Torah True crowd:

1 - They are far more likely to eat in the sanctuary. Less Torah True shuls have kiddush rooms. Torah True people eat where they pray.

2 - They're also more likely to start setting up kiddush while the Shat'z is still working his way through aleinu or the last kaddish

3 - Torah true shuls generally frown on things like youth groups; their kids stay inside with their parents or (more likely) run around unsupervised.

So what's pshat? Is shul decorum rejected because it seems too church-like? Or are the Torah True crowd descendants of peasants?

RELATED (hee hee hee)

Religious magic

Good thing that aren't any unscrupulous Jews in the world, right? Or you could be sure that one of them would get his hands on this and use it to fake kabalistic magic powers for the purpose of ripping-off his friends and neighbors. So what a lucky thing that all Jews are waaaaaaay too honest to ever try a trick like that. I mean, phew.

Close Call

Another book another banning -- almost.

The Jewish Press reports that a new work of Jewish History narrowly escaped a ban, after the author convinced the Karlsburger Rav that the Shabtai Zevi episode (a) actually occurred and (b) is something Jews should know about. Money quote:
The author stressed that those unwelcome events that occurred within Jewish communities, such as Shabbatai Zvi, the false and blasphemous messiah of the 1600s, are sadly included in our historical studies and we must learn from their
Also, of note: The near scandal almost erupted after someone the Jewish Press calls a "whistle blower:"
...reported to the Karlsburger Rav that the sefer contained a timeline that included events in Jewish history that were not deemed worthy by the stringently observant community. The whistle-blower further reported that the sefer was being sold sealed in a cellophane wrapper so that potential purchasers were not able to open it and see the objectionable entries, while the haskamos were printed on the outside cover to invite purchase of the sefer. Plainly, the whistle-blower hinted, the objectionable references were added to the sefer after the haskamos were given.
Whistle-blower? Far too kind. Why not "trouble-making moron?"

Monday, July 09, 2007

Boycott Rubashkin NOW


Missing the point

Naftuli says: I don't have the time to look this up but I would guess the commutation power is implicit in the Pardon Clause since if Presidents can completely erase convictions, they certainly can negate elements of them. I'd imagine there has been little caselaw because of the political question doctrine.

Never mind if its allowed or not. We can leave that for the lawyers. What ordinary Americans should be discussing is this: What does it mean when a president lies his way into war and implicitly or directly interferes with every attempt to investigate this by making it clear that silence (ie obstruction) or more lies (ie perjury) will never be punished?


To the list of things I find confounding about our religion let me add this: Every shabbos morning after the musaf kedusha there is, in our shul, a mass exodus of men going to the alcove to fetch their hats and shtireimals. These men have, for the most part, used a talis to cover their heads until this point, but, for reasons not shared, following kedusha this mode of covering is no longer acceptable. Suddenly, hats and shtreimals are needed. Can anyone explain why?

(I asked someone about this last week. He said (with a shrug), "This is what you do," and added that one shul auctions the privilege of bringing the Rav's shtriemal to him. Last year, it brought in $15,000.)

Friday, July 06, 2007

ArtScroll's New Book

Bush Must Go

Keith Olbermann, a great American, says what every patriot is thinking:

"...and George W. Bush took our assent, and re-configured it, and honed it, and sharpened it to a razor-sharp point, and stabbed this nation in the back with it.

Were there any remaining lingering doubt otherwise, or any remaining lingering hope, it ended yesterday when Mr. Bush commuted the prison sentence of one of his own staffers.

Did so even before the appeals process was complete…

Did so without as much as a courtesy consultation with the Department of Justice…

Did so despite what James Madison –at the Constitutional Convention — said about impeaching any president who pardoned or sheltered those who had committed crimes “advised by” that president…

Did so without the slightest concern that even the most detached of citizens must look at the chain of events and wonder:

To what degree was Mr. Libby told: break the law however you wish — the President will keep you out of prison?

In that moment, Mr. Bush, you broke that fundamental compact between yourself and the majority of this nation’s citizens — the ones who did not cast votes for you.

In that moment, Mr. Bush, you ceased to be the President of the United States.

In that moment, Mr. Bush, you became merely the President… of a rabid and irresponsible corner of the Republican Party.

And this is too important a time, sir, to have a Commander-in-Chief who puts party over nation.


I accuse you, Mr. Bush, of lying this country into war.

I accuse you of fabricating in the minds of your own people, a false implied link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

I accuse you of firing the generals who told you that the plans for Iraq were disastrously insufficient.

I accuse you of causing in Iraq the needless deaths of 3,586 of our brothers and sons, and sisters and daughters, and friends and neighbors.

I accuse you of subverting the Constitution, not in some misguided but sincerely-motivated struggle to combat terrorists, but instead to stifle dissent.

I accuse you of fomenting fear among your own people, of creating the very terror you claim to have fought.

I accuse you of exploiting that unreasoning fear, the natural fear of your own people who just want to live their lives in peace, as a political tool to slander your critics and libel your opponents.

I accuse you of handing part of this republic over to a Vice President who is without conscience, and letting him run roughshod over it.

And I accuse you now, Mr. Bush, of giving, through that Vice President, carte blanche to Mr. Libby, to help defame Ambassador Joseph Wilson by any means necessary, to lie to Grand Juries and Special Counsel and before a court, in order to protect the mechanisms and particulars of that defamation, with your guarantee that Libby would never see prison, and, in so doing, as Ambassador Wilson himself phrased it here last night, of you becoming an accessory to the obstruction of justice.

When President Nixon ordered the firing of the Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” on October 20th, 1973, Mr. Cox initially responded tersely, and ominously:

“Whether ours shall be a government of laws and not of men, is now for Congress, and ultimately, the American people.”

President Nixon did not understand how he had crystallized the issue of Watergate for the American people.

It had been about the obscure meaning behind an attempt to break in to a rival party’s headquarters; and the labyrinthine effort to cover-up that break-in and the related crimes.

But in one night, Nixon transformed it.

Watergate — instantaneously — became a simpler issue: a President overruling the inexorable march of the law. Of insisting — in a way that resonated viscerally with millions who had not previously understood — that he was the law.

Not the Constitution.

Not the Congress.

Not the Courts.

Just him.

Just - Mr. Bush - as you did, yesterday.

The twists and turns of Plame-Gate, your precise and intricate lies that sent us into this bottomless pit of Iraq; your lies upon the lies to discredit Joe Wilson; your lies upon the lies upon the lies to throw the sand at the “referee” of Prosecutor Fitzgerald’s analogy… these are complex and often painful to follow, and too much, perhaps, for the average citizen.

But when other citizens render a verdict against your man, Mr. Bush — and then you spit in the faces of those jurors and that judge and the judges who were yet to hear the appeal — the average citizen understands that, sir.

It’s the fixed ballgame and the rigged casino and the pre-arranged lottery all rolled into one — and it stinks. And they know it.

Nixon’s mistake, the last and most fatal of them, the firing of Archibald Cox, was enough to cost him the presidency.

Even Richard Nixon knew it was time to resign

Would that you could say that, Mr. Bush.

And that you could say it for Mr. Cheney.

You both crossed the Rubicon yesterday.

Which one of you chose the route, no longer matters.

Which is the ventriloquist, and which the dummy, is irrelevant.


Display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed, on August 9th, 1974.

Resign. "

Even a broken clock is right twice per day

Chaim G. seconds one of my posts from yesterday:

For a change I agree with DB on this one.

The Steiplers zy"a seforim were all printed with the caveat that
nidfas ahl niyar she-ein bo kh'shash khilul Shabbos khas v'shalom = "Printed on paper without the taint of suspected Shabbat desecration G-d forbid"

Why shouldn't we be able to study Torah in the Artscroll oeuvre with our hearts and minds at ease that these s'forim were "Printed on paper without the taint of suspected, gezel, oshek, ribis and general Khilul HaShem= name-of-G-d desecration... G-d forbid”???

IIRC the Ramban provides the following ta'am for the negative mitzvah of esnan zonah= the prohibition of offering a sacrifice from kosher animals and or flour that was bartered for a prostitutes services: We didn't want to provide the prostitute with a rationalization for her sins and a salve for her conscience. We didn't want her to be able to say "Well I understand that it's not the kosher-ist way to earn a living but at least I'm doing it for a good cause".

There are Mafiosi who use their ill-gotten gains to build Basilicas and put their priest brother through seminary. Shouldn't Jewish philanthropists hew to a higher moral-ethical level?

Honoring these guys at dinners and through naming of buildings and Seforim editions after them sends the completely wrong message to our already under-secular-educated youth. To wit: "You can make it big time as a hustler and wheeler -dealer, even a totally dishonest one. Just as long as you give big money to good causes." What a deal! I can grow up to be a gonif-a BIG one- keep 80-90% of my ill-gotten gains to myself and live large. Just as long as I give 10-20% to the right causes.

Sick and perverse..really.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Holy Words of Chazal? Or Hogwash?

AidelMaidel: The Holy Words of Chazal? Or Jewish Urban Legend?
I'm looking for a source on something and am wondering if it's written somewhere in "Chazal" or if it's just frum urban legend.

I'm trying to find a source in regards to the "inyan" that eating at specific simchas/seudas mitzvahs erases or negates specific accidental aveiros - for example I've "heard" that eating at a chasunah negates the sin of basar v'cholov. Not l'chatchila, just bedieved.

Another such example of this is that for years I've been told that it's well "known" that eating chickpeas at a sholom zachor is supposed to negate the aveira of "emmissions"; nocturnal or accidental. When I posed this question to a chosson teacher he said he'd never heard of it - but I've heard this said for years.

So do any of you know of a source for this inyan? If yes, what are other examples? Have you heard something to this effect in your neck of the woods?

Um. I'm voting "hogwash."

Cholent Controversy

The blogosphere has been buzzing about this for three days, at least, and, truthfully, I haven't said a word about it yet -- strictly because its too horrifying.

According to the article one of the great Rabbis of our generation suggested that a man might not be Jewish after he expressed a distaste for cholent. Worse, on the strength of this "evidence" the great rabbi of our generation allegedly instructed the man to undergo a ritual conversion - just to be on the safe side. I, as always, gave the great Rabbi of our generation, the benefit of the doubt, and assumed that some cub reporter at the paper got the facts wrong, or needlessly sensationalized the details.

But who knows?

[Our fine friends at Failed Messiah have been on top of this from the very begining, along with the always interesting Mister Bluke.]

Oh, Artscroll.

Without meaning to, our friends at ArtScoll have provided an object lesson on exactly what is wrong with Judaism in 2007.

Their new book Laws of Daily Living - Volume One - Taub Edition is full of information about things like hand washing, and getting dressed and using the toilet and so on. Here's the publisher's blurb:
This first volume explores the correct application of Jewish law to common morning routines: rising; washing one's hands; getting dressed; use of the lavatory; Bircas HaTorah (the blessings before Torah study); activities prohibited before Shacharis; proper attire for prayer; environments unsuitable for prayer or Torah study; the proper way to recite a berachah and for saying Hashem's Name, donning tzitzis, tallis, and tefillin; bircas HaShachar (the morning blessings); reciting 100 berachos each day; saying Amen; and Pesukei deZimrah.
Facinating stuff, huh?

Still, wouldn't you have expected the "Laws of Daily Living" to have had a word or two about interpersonal relationships? I know I did. But, perhaps it was wise of Artscroll to leave all of that boring non-ritual stuff for another volume. After all, the book's benefactor, one Mister Sherman Taub, (ie: The "Taub" in "Taub Edition") is something less than a role model when it comes to the non-ritual side of daily living.

Oh well. As ArtScroll must have said, "His money is green so who cares?"

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Bush's flip

The Libby commutation is a wonderful teaching opportunity. I've been using it to show my kids how vile and corrupt the president is. And I encourage you strongly to do same. :)

For those of you waiting for my Official Position, here it is: I don't think Libby should serve jail time for perjury and obstruction of justice. He's a first-time offender, with years of public service under his belt, who was caught in the middle of a brouhaha not of his own making. Had the judge slapped him with a fine and sent him home, you'd have heard no objection from me. However, the Bush administration has traditionally taken a different view.

In fact, as Joe Biden helpfully points out, in a nearly identical case decided last year, the president filed an amicus brief arguing that a 33-month sentence for perjury and obstruction was "reasonable." So why is the same president now calling Libby's 30-month sentence "excessive"?


Another fact about the fourth

July 4, 1776 coincided with 17 Tamuz.

Those of you who belong to the "no coincidence" school of thought are welcome to explain why the great Declaration was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on one of the sadder days on the Jewish calendar.

A fun fact for the fabulous Fourth

The "macaroni" mentioned in the well-known song about Yaakov (Yankee) Doodle and his famous trip to town has nothing at all to do with dried pasta.

In the 18th century, the word macaroni meant something else. Per Wikipedia, it "pejoratively referred to a person who exceeded the ordinary bounds of fashion in terms of clothes, fastidious eating and gambling." A fop, or a show-off, in other words.

The revolutionary war-era song, then, serves to mock the bumpkim-pretentions of the Americans in that he could "stick a feather in his hat" and imagine himself a "macaroni."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Quality post

Psycho Toddler: Shomer Shabbos Nursing

Emunat chachomim mussar

I notice from a few of the previous threads that some of my readers are deficient in their emunat chachomim. Permit me to bring them up sharply.

Their basic mistake it this: They've learned Talmud but little else, so when a Rishon is found to have said something that disagrees with the Talmud their wee little heads explode. I see this happen all the time. The comedy continues when that attempt to shlug the rishon by referring back to the original Talmudic statement, with questions such as this: "How can the [Rishon] say that when its clear from the Gemarah that..."

It almost never occurs to these brave defenders of talmudic Judaism that maybe -just maybe! - their understanding of the Gemarah is inferior to the Rishon's understanding.


Break the law, obstruct justice, get a pass. That's the Republican way.

A fun fact to know and tell: Marc Rich's lawyer was (wait for it) Scooter Libby. See, it is The Clenis'™ fault!

Anyway, I agree with Bush for once. Jail is for scary black men, trampy blond heiresses, and cooking show doyons . Its no place for a macho, GOP man. Most macho, GOP men have claustrophobia so its cruel to put them in jail cells. Practically unconstitutional.

Well, at least Bush is being consistent in his disdain for the rule of law.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Some final thoughts on Billam

So, of course you realize that the story of Billam as written stands as a rebuke of both polytheists, and by extension, those of you who believe in miracle workers. As satire, it's really quite delicious. Some of the more obvious comedic touches:

-- Billam, the guy who's supposed to be able to destroy the whole, huge nation of Israel merely with his mouth, is made to say to his donkey "If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now." Hello? Zap him with your mouth, Mister Big Shot Prophet!

-- Billam, the guy who's supposedly a prophet able to recognize the moods of God is made to admit that he was unaware when the Lord's messenger was standing directly in front of his face. Oopsie!

-- The third time the angel blocks the donkey it crouches; later when Billam is allowed to see the angel, he performs the same act in imitation of his beast. Loser!

-- Three times Billam's donkey behaves in an unexpected way, causing Billam great frustration; later, when the Lord changes his curse to a blessing, Billam himself behaves in an unexpected way, causing Balak great frustration. In this sense, Billam has been turned into the donkey.

Credit: All of this came (I think) from Alter and/or Rashi. Not sure what belongs to who, though.

Finally, those of you in love (and really its sick how excited this makes grown men) with the idea that Billam and his donkey were romantically linked are defeated by the plain sense of the text. It reads: ותאמר האתון אל בלעם הלוא אנכי אתנך אשר רכבת עלי מעודך עד היום הזה ההסכן הסכנתי לעשות לך כה ויאמר לא׃
This translates as: And the ass said to Balaam, Am I not your ass upon which you have gone all your life till this day? and have I ever done this to you before? And he said, No.

The beastiality idea comes from the fact that a word very much like ההסכן הסכנתי is used elsewhere to describe an intimate relationship. But (a) this isn't how its used here; and (b) Billam contradicts it outright. He says NO.

So what gives? Simple. The author of the aggadah (I forget his name, but the Talmud quotes him) was attempting to make evil Billam look as evil as possible. This is a common approach of the midrash, and its doubtful that the author of this particular aggadah though that Billam and his beast were involved. He's just using the coincidence of a word to make a point about the man's character.


Did you know "we" eat onions on shabbos for "a reason." I do. This new and valuable information was imparted to me, ben gavra l'gavra, by a polite but insistent gentleman who wished for me to know that this onion business is a "big inyan," one that can be traced all the way back to the very old days when all Jews lived comfortably and happily under one central authority. (no snorting, please.)

In brief, the story goes like this: In the desert, we were treated to the marvelous mon, a fabulous substance that, per the verse, tasted like, honey cakes. In Jewish imagination, however, the mon could taste like anything the eater imagined - anything! - aside for 6 things: fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlick. Therefore, onions were mandated by the wise and holy central authority as a rememberance of the mon and/or its limitations. (now you can snort.)

Anyway, I chatted politely with this fellow for a few minutes, and endured being called a "cynic" (me?) when I asked if the minhag was announced and implemented via pashkevil or phone tree. But the whole thing bothered me. Why is it that people (and non-people like Ed) have no difficulty believing that all these customs were prescribed by a great man at a discreet moment in time. Why do they act with such anger when some non-cynic like me suggests politely that the customs swelled from the ground up? Why is it so important for them to cling to the unlikely idea that they were ordained from above?

A friend supplied the answer: Dovie, it's because people are generally not that bright, deep, or complex, and tend to find security, stability, and comfort in thinking and behaving like sheep. Particularly when it has been implied or stated outright by their shepherd(s) that doing so carries some inherent significance and merit, which will not only fundamentally enrich their lives, but which makes them better than other people AND brings about bliss in the World To Come.

I think that's about right.