Thursday, January 31, 2008

Let's teach our hasidic children how to be honest... ripping off a copyright

tip of the spudik:TTC

The Doorpost Gods

A few short words are in order about one of the most famous of biblical cruxes. The verse is Exodus 21:6 which reads as follows:

והגישו אדניו אל האלהים והגישו אל הדלת או אל המזוזה ורצע אדניו את אזנו במרצע ועבדו לעלם׃
His master must bring him to the Elohim and make him approach the door or the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl and he shall serve him forever.

What are the Elohim? When the word appears as a singular it means the one true God; in the plural it most often means idols or lesser celestial powers or beings. The context here provides for either. The Rabbis, alert to the problem, read Elohim as "judges" and suggest that the ear piercing is to occur on the court-house steps. The bible critics however have pointed out that ANE scholars have discovered that it was once common for household idols to be kept at the doorpost; moreover, often oaths or other declerations relating to the household would take place in front of them.

So what does this verse mean?

Per the Rabbis: His master must bring him to court and make him approach the door or the doorpost, [of the courthouse] and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl and he shall serve him forever [the legal rite having been performed in a legal setting.

Per the Critics: His master must bring him in front of the household gods, that is the door or the doorpost, [The words "that is the door or the doorpost" are understood to be a later gloss] and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl and he shall serve him forever [the rite having been performed at the door of the household to which the slave has committed himself.]

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Legacy whore

Bush just won't give up till he gets that Nobel Prize
President Bush released $32 million for emergency assistance to the Palestinians.

The money Bush released Tuesday evening "for the purpose of meeting unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs" is part of $40 million that the United States pledged in an emergency fund-raising appeal from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the body administering to the needs of Palestinian refugees.
Tip of the viking horned helmet:TTC

Explanation for the slow, the stupid and anyone who may have crawled in from Yeshiva World: I don't think Bush is all about the legacy. I didn't think Clinton was all about the legacy either. Get it?

Defending Trumah and Tezaveh

We're in the boring season. The sea has been split, the Jews have been brought out of Egypt, and after 4 months of fascinating parsha stories, we're about to hit the dessert.

DH aficionados say that the sudden break in the action after the big FX scene at Sinai is proof that the book of Exodus, at least, was cobbled together by many hands. In particular, they say the stories are J and E, but the descriptions of the Tabernacle are P, reasoning that only priestly writers would be quite so interested in their own institution. [Yes, they muster other evidence, too, evidence like linguistics, content, continuity and language choices.] They say that the inclusion of the Tabernacle description was an exercise in vocational vanity, and one having no literary merit.

Robert Alter (who?) has a long essay [here page 304] which argues against this position. In sum, he says that to an ancient audience the pageantry of Trumah and Tezaveh (the two parshiot that seem to interrupt the narrative) was every bit as exciting as a car chase is to us. Though Alter believes that an editor (or school) finalized the Pentateuch, he insists that, for the most part, they brought forth a literary whole that hangs together as a work of art. His analogy, in fact, are the cathedrals of Europe, created over centuries by many hands, but cohesive works of great power all the same.

Pretty poetry

C.K. Williams: (who?)

I'd be pretty satisfied with any of the Democratic candidates. On the other hand, I have to say that, as a spectator, I'm much more fascinated by the Republicans. Watching those shifty, devious, unscrupulous creatures clawing at each other in spasms of demagoguery and pander is like beholding the whole vile, fear-driven history of humanity.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

15 percent

Bah-bye Rudy.

Overnight I posted a photo in the empty space above [you can see it here] that's been unfortunately misunderstood. (My fault: I should have anticipated the misunderstanding. I forget that not everyone sees nasty, power-mad Rudy the same way that I do.) So let me apologize to all who were offended, but, by way of explanation, the point of the photo wasn't that Rudy is an Italian, but that he's a fascist wannabe who has been described by Jimmy Breslin as "a small man in search of a balcony"

I did this because the brain surgeons at YW think it matters (a lot!) that Barack Obama and Al Sharpton once stood near each other

What's more valuable...

...than learning torah?

Is being stupid contagious?

It is my unfortunate duty to report that the YeshivaWorld editor appears to have caught the stupidity bug from his commenters. Attached to a story about Obama the non-Muslim (Seen first here!) the Editor has attached a photo of Barak with his arm around Al Sharpton. The caption: Barak Obama / Al Sharpton '08. Worse, the not-so-bright-editor-man has arranged things to make it seem like the Obama/Sharpton picture came from the JTA!

So a few questions (and answers):

1 - Is YW announcing a scoop? Has Obama picked Al? (You wish)

2 - Is YW endorsing Obama and Al? (Hahahahaha)

3 - If the answers to (1) and (2) are "no" which daas torah told the YeshivaWorld editor it was ok to attach this terrible misrepresentation to a straight news article? (None) (YeshivaWorld pretends to care about Das Torah because its good for business) (I attack YeshivaWorld for the same reason)

4 - Are the mental patiants who religiously read YeshivaWorld going to tell each other at the mikva and their other hangouts that Sharpton is officially running with Obama? (Yes) (Alas)

5 - Do you think YeshivaWorld ripped the news story from me? (No) (I don't care, either way)

6 - Why does daas torah loving YeshivaWorld stamp a ginormous YW on every single one of their photos and documents when they hardly ever provide a link to the news organizations that provide the articles they lift? (Come on. Do you really need me to answer that?) (They do credit their sources, but no links)


Soon we won't have Rudy to kick around any more...

...but until such time: Click
A heiliga reader from the far-right of the Judaism's Conservative sect has been explaining to me that some Conservative clergy go to rabbinical school to learn how to be Jewish. As a result, they have plenty of book knowledge, but not the cultural experience.

I find that very interesting because the cultural stuff, the stuff so many of my neighbors consider essential to Judaism, could have worked out differently. There's no good reason why the Eastern European food, for example, won out. The Moroccan or Persian dishes, for example, could have been what we all consider Jewish food, instead. Same with dress and pronunciations, and, well, everything.

Sometimes I try to imagine an Orhtodox Judaism that's every bit as halachic as ours, yet looks, tastes and feels completely different. Then I remember: Even the halachic parts weren't inevitable.

It all could have been so different.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Havel Havelim 2.0 launchs

Jack from the Shack is now running Havel Havelim. The first edition under his stewardship has been posted.

So far, though, it looks just like HH 1.0 only maybe not quite so unrepentantly right wing.

Obama: I am not a Muslim


I see via TTC that the front runner got on the phone with members of the Jewish media to debunk the "Obama is a Muslim" email all of us have seen.

On the one hand, I like the fact that Barak is taking the time to address the dirty tricks head on. One of the many things Kerry did wrong four years ago was that he never bothered to address the Swift Boat lies. They were on television and unreflectivly echoed in the so-called liberal media for weeks before anyone connected with the campaign took the time to explain why the whole thing was bogus. By then, it was too late and Kerry has been hamstrung. So its nice to see that this Democrat isn't going to sit back and let himself be slimed.

On the other hand, I'm not sure I like the fact that Obama is quite this concerned about an email being passed around by a bunch of Orthodox Jews. There aren't that many of us and this little hoax about Obama being a closet Allah-worshipper hasn't been picked up by the main stream media. Is he just a very through and careful campaigner, or does Barak Obama harbor the anti-Semite's suspicion that our small and insignificant community influences (or, dare I say it, controls) the national conversation?

Just some stray thoughts... not sure I have any opinion.

Typo? Maybe not...

Click, and look at the bottom right corner.

Tip of the watermelon srugy to Amshinover

Sunday, January 27, 2008

DovBear takes no responsibility for your dirty thoughts

This is the store front causing an uproar in Brooklyn. These are the salacious photos that have led the Rosh Yeshiva of Chaim Berlin to call for a boycott of the store until the pictures are removed, on the grounds that these stylish headshots are corrupting the thoughts of the precious talmidim of his exquisite yeshiva. If it does the same to you, I apologize, but I did use the post title to try and warn you.

I have to be honest, though: I was expecting a whole lot more skin.

Parody? Probably.

From Yeshiva World (where the neo-Klannists who comment there are in a panic over Obama's win yesterday)

Mr. Eggy had a very good point when mentioning the fact about[Obama's] middle name. I don't think it should simply be brushed underthe carpet. Middle names speak volumes about people.Take FDR for example. People would have never known he was from Delaware had his name not been Franklin Delaware Roosevelt. So too in this case.Thank you Mr. Eggy for your thought provoking point.

Comment by Gishmak in Lakewood — January 27, 2008 @ 1:28 am

I want to believe this is a parody, but its so hard to tell!

Friday, January 25, 2008

here we go with another DovBear contest

A wig store in Flatbush is under threat of a boycott for displaying salacious photos in its window. Not an underwear store. Not a lingerie store. Not even a pizza store, where, heaven forfend, men and women might sit together. This is a wig store. So what's the story? Is the owner of the store a high-ranking idiot who is attempting to sell wigs to Orthodox Jewish woman while dirty pictures hang in his window, or does the organizer of this boycott need to re-calibrate his or her sensitivity meter?

We won't know until we see photos of the photos. A hundred DovBear dollars to the first person to supply them.

Giuliani To Florida Jews: I'm Your Mensch

Giuliani To Florida Jews: I'm Your Mensch

Heaven help us if there are any Jews who agree that a vindictive, philandering adulterer is a "mensch."

And perhaps someone from the right like Gulianni supporter Moshe Klass of the Jewish Press can explain to me why Clinton's affair with Lewinsky was any worse than the shabby way Rudy treated his ex wife?

The writing on the wall

Click on the photo to see the strange etchings on the wall.
Hattip: Amshinover

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Holy Huckabee makes his appeal for the racist , bigot vote in SC

Here is what Holy Minister Huckabee, a card carrying member of the GOP, said to a group of South Carolina voters
You don't like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag. In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we'd tell 'em what to do with the pole; that's what we'd do.
As Chris Hitchens has expertly explained, this is rank racism for the following reasons:

1) The South Carolina flag is a perfectly nice flag, featuring the palmetto plant, about which no "outsider" has ever offered any free advice.

2) The Confederate battle flag, to which Gov. Huckabee was alluding, was first flown over the South Carolina state Capitol in 1962, as a deliberately belligerent riposte to the civil rights movement, and is not now, and never has been, the flag of that great state.

3) By a vote of both South Carolina houses in the year 2000, the Confederate battle flag ceased to be flown over the state capitol and now only waves (as quite possibly it should) over the memorial to fallen Confederate soldiers.

One might add a couple of other points (continues Mister Hitchens). The political flag of the Confederacy—the so-called "Stars and Bars"—is one thing. The battle flag of the Confederate army, the most militant symbolic form that secession and slavery ever took, is quite another. Under this fiery cross of St. Andrew, the state of Pennsylvania was invaded and free Americans were rounded up and re-enslaved. Under this same cross, it was announced that any Union officer commanding freed-slave soldiers, or any of his men, would be executed if captured. (In other words, war crimes were boasted of in advance.) The 13 stars of the same flag include stars for two states—Kentucky and Missouri—that never did secede, and they thus express a clear ambition to conquer free and independent states. And this is the symbol that Huckabee, seeking to ingratiate himself with the lowest element and lowest common denominator, calls "your flag." You might as well do a cross-burning and have done with it, and we all know how the networks would react if some ignorant kids did that.

Or as Roger Ailes said: It's nice to know that the cross before which the Reverend Huck kneels has the smell of gasoline and burning wood.

(Don't know why I didn't write about this earlier. Inexcusable. Those of you who wish to respond to my tardiness by suing me can join the line. )
A guest post from Chaim:

Did anyone notice the little spat in the comment on the Nebenzahl post at Hirhurim which mentioned Leone da Modena?

Gil called him "controversial." Lipman (uber-yekke) posted that it is stupid to call Modena controversial. He was a perfectly frum rav; why don't they call the Besht controversial?

I responded that Gil called him controversial because he was/ is controversial. I then called attention to his self-confessed gambling addiction and to the allegation that he wrote the heretical Kol Sakhal.

Woke up the next morning (yesterday) to see that my reference to gambling was edited out (but not the Kol Sakhal). I was like, "what the hell?" I asked why I can't say that he gambled, which he wrote about in his own autobiography, but I can say that he is accused of writing a heretical text. Furthermore, if Gil called him controversial, why shouldn't I be able to say why he was controversial? (At this point I assumed it was Enkin who had moderated my comment, because Enkin doesn't know anything about anything, and I figured he didn't know what Kol Sakhal was.)

Gil tells me that actually he had known nothing about the gambling and the Kol Sakhal, until I brought it up. He meant that he was controversial because he wrote against kabbalah. I asked why that isn't lashon ha-ra. Gil didn't understand why it would be. I reminded him that many people think he is an apikores because he opposed kabbalah. Gil professed not to know what I was talking about.

I thought we won the war?

U.S. war costs in Iraq up

War funding, which averaged about $93 billion a year from 2003 through 2005, rose to $120 billion in 2006 and $171 billion in 2007 and President George W. Bush has asked for $193 billion in 2008

Great. Just great.

Here's a little secret: The rich people benefit from this war in ways that you and I do no.

Don't believe me? Think about it.

The end of Dass Torah?

The ADMAR has another noteworthy article posted on his non-blog about child abuse in right-wing communities. Though all of what he says is as wise as ever, be sure to review the 200+ comments. They don't appear to have been written by the sort of dissatisfied rabble-rousers who hang out here, yet still they overwhelmingly disapprove of the way our famous big name rabonim handled the issue.

I won't pile on, both because I respect famous big name rabonim, and because I don't know what the famous big name rabonim knew or when they knew it. However, I do want to grab this opportunity to add my name to the list of bloggers (1, 2 and more) who have previously mocked Avi Shafran for the insulting to the intelligance spin Avi has attempted to put on the abuse cases.

The man is a tool, more worried about the honor of his bosses than he is about the safety of children. I don't know if the Kolko fall-out will giveour community a healthier and more realistic understanding of famous big name rabonim, their roles and their power. But let's hope that it teaches us to ignore professional spinmeisters like Avi Shafran.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

NBC has its way with Kiryat Joel

Law and Order SUV had an episode a few weeks ago that included some scenes in "Khilat Moshe," an upstate Hasidic enclave plainly based on Kiryat Joel.

See the excerpt here

Hat-tip: Like most of the good stuff on this blog, we have Amshi to thank for this.

The right to be ambitious

Quality post

Are women the blacks of Orthodox Judaism?

Yesterday, LADYKAYE posted [link] on raising Orthodox daughters. A few hours later, we received this parody. The point, I think, is clear.

Take this recent conversation with my 8 year-old, for example. I don't remember why, but we were discussing Funtown, and I was explaining what Funtown is and what a person does at an amusment park. A light of recognition went on in her eyes as she suddenly remembered the neighbors young son -- younger than she is now -- had visited Funtown last summer. "Oh, like Benjy did last summer! I saw him wearing a Funtown T-shirt!" So I answered her, "Yes, last summer Benjy went to Funtown"

I don't know why I didn't see it coming. My daughter asked immediately, "Next summer can we go to Funtown?"

I hesitated for a long moment in which various discourses on the precise meaning of "seprate but equal", and my personal opinions regarding the precise meaning of Plessy v. Furgeson exploded through my head.). Also in my head, louder than any of these things, was the following: "I am not going to say one thing to my daughter that will in any way, shape, or form send her the message, subliminally or otherwise, that she is in any way at all inferior to a white boy. Nothing. Not one bit. Regardless of what might happen next."

So I finally babbled out an answer that was probably more lame than any apologetic explanation of Plessy v. Furgeson, and my answer was as follows: "Actually, we probably could go to a black amusment park, but for some reason Funtown in particular is for white kids only."

And for some reason - God's grace, most likely - she was quiet and asked nothing further.

But she will. Of course she will. And I don't know how many more lame answers she'll accept.

More soon

It's the bizarro primary. Last is good!

Chris Mathews:

Some people think [the Republican presidential race] has come down to McCain, Romney, and — just because Giuliani hasn’t been beaten yet — Giuliani.

Uh? What? Even Ron Paul is beating mayor 9/11 like a drum. Hell, I've won as many primaries as Rudy has.

Meanwhile, you may have seen the great article in the Times yesterday about just how petty, vindictive and mean Giuliani was as mayor. Really quite shocking.

Move over Cupid

Meet Rabbi David Batzri the magical matchmaker.

All you need to know about this guy:
The height of the service is when Batzri tosses hard candy at the congregation, with a promise that those who catch it will find a match.
So basicly this is the bridesmaid and the bouquet idea, with a Jewish twist. Say what you want, but would you rather get hit in the eye with a hard candy or with soft flowers?

RBS Haredim strike again

Life in Israel: Haredim appropriate school building in RBS

Pity the poor sink

Here's a bit of restaurant gossip for kosher foodies in the audience. Haikara, an upscale Japanese steak house on Third Avenue has been transformed into Smokin’ Q, a pork-serving barbecue joint. According to the New York Times, the owner of both places, Steven Levy, didn't make many changes to the decor:

His space already had the requisite brick walls and wooden floor. He added brown-and-white checkered tablecloths, installed smokers and special food warmers in the kitchen, and invested in photographs of smoke — like ethereal ink blots — for decoration. Years ago, Mr. Levy had installed a sink near the entrance so patrons could wash their hands before reciting the blessings over their kosher meal; he decided not to remove it and to improvise instead.

“Now they can wash the pork off their hands,” he said.

What I am about to say is silly and rediculous, and a rank anthropomorphization besides, but I do feel a little bad for the sink. Its fate brings to my mind the anguished words of arch-heretic Elisha Ben Avuya who, upon seeing the severed tongue of a Torah scholar on the ground, is recorded in yHag to have said: Shall the mouth that uttered pearls [of widom] lick dust?

NB: The name Haikara always seemed to me to be a sideways attempt at snark. In Hebrew, the word can be construed as "expensive." (I suppose this could have simply been another example of the sort of obtuse error made by the owners of the Super 8 Motel chain.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A message from Tuvia Stern


Tuvia Stern, the Charedi man beaten on Sunday by Bet Shemesh extremists has asked me to post the following message.

I wanted to share a few words with you about my feelings the past few days. Yesterday, I spent much of the day crying – how could a Jew do this to another Jew? I think I was crying so hard because there is no real answer to that question.

As I cried, I reminded myself of this past Erev Rosh Hashanah. I had the privilege of standing by the kever of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in Uman along with tens of thousands of other.

Among the many tefilos that came out of my heart, I asked Hashem to bring peace to the city of Bet Shemesh. That the people who support violence should have their eyes opened and that the various communities should be able to live with their differences and have the problems worked out through peaceful means.

As part of my introspection, I thought about violence and how it destroys our lives, families, and cities. Violence derives from the belief of "kochi veotzem yadi" – that power comes through physical force.

Rabbi Nachman taught otherwise. He wrote in his sefer, Likute Moharan, that the main weapon of the Messiah – and, in fact, each individual Jew – is prayer. We have to engage the physical world. However, our true power comes from Hashem through our tefilos, through our "voice" and not our "hand."

I ask that everyone who cares take time out and say a few words to Hashem. We should pray that violence – in all of its manifestations, on all levels, personal and communal – have no part in our lives.

If we can take Rabbi Nachman's message as a response to what happened, and then apply it to ourselves, then I think that we are on the right path.

R' Stern we salute your courage. Readers are encouraged to leave messages of support on the comment thread.

And here come the clowns...

Those rocket scientists who read and support Yeshiva World are already hard at work explaining that Tuvia Stern wasn't attacked by "real" Charedim
Why does everyone here believe this story absolutely without any reservations?

What kind of Chareidim are floating around beating up people? Aren’t most young people in Yeshivas or Kollelim and not around to beat anyone up?

If they belong to some mosad, what do the leaders of that organization have to say?

The whole thing sounds bogus and is the usual typical anti Orthodox unsubstantiated slander
True, this commenter is being taken to task by other readers, but still...

Kupas Hair Contact Info

Here's what I want.

I think every Jewish leader who signs a Kupas Hair solicitation brochure needs to go on the record about Ramot Beit Shemesh. They should each sign a Kohl Koreh denouncing the violence, the thugs and their leaders. They should also make it clear that anyone attempting to organize a violent attack must be reported at once to the police.

Furthermore, Kupas Hair should announce that they aren't going to funnel any of our charity contributions into the hands of hooligans and thugs.

If you agree, please contact Kupas Hair (24-hour hotline 866-221-9352 or email and tell them.

More liberal than I am

A guest post by LADYKAYE

I had an experience a number of years ago wherein a woman I like very much, who happens to be a leading member of the Orthodox feminist movement, started showing signs of liking me less after we had a conversation about women's tefillah groups. I complained to a friend, and the friend said "Well, she probably thought you were more liberal than you are." I responded, almost without thinking, "Well, I AM more liberal than I am." The friend laughed, because she knew what I meant: that I have many powerful feminist tendencies and opinions, but for any number of reasons, they don't generally translate into practice.

This has become much, much more apparent, as well as more difficult to manage, as my daughters have gotten older and begun to ask pesky questions. I find their questions pesky because I refuse to lie to them or give them anything other than the whole truth, the real truth, and nothing but the truth; but too often, the whole truth conflicts with the reality they know, and I have no reasonable means to make the two coincide.

Take this recent conversation with my 8 year-old, for example. I don't remember why, but we were discussing aliyot, and I was explaining what they are and what the person says when he's called up. A light of recognition went on in her eyes as she suddenly remembered the rabbi's young son -- younger than she is now -- receiving an aliyah last Simchat Torah. "Oh, like Benjy did on Simchas Torah! I heard him making that bracha!" So I answered her, "Yes, on Simchas Torah, little boys do it too."

I don't know why I didn't see it coming. My daughter asked immediately, "Can little girls do it on Simchas Torah?"

I hesitated for a long moment in which various discourses on the precise meaning of "kavod ha-tzibur", and my personal opinions regarding the precise meaning of kavod ha-tzibur, exploded through my head, as did the silly explanation I received once for why children get aliyot on Simchat Torah (I personally find it silly). Also in my head, louder than any of these things, was the following: "I am not going to say one thing to my daughter that will in any way, shape, or form send her the message, subliminally or otherwise, that she is in any way at all inferior to a male. Nothing. Not one bit. Regardless of what might happen next."

So I finally babbled out an answer that was probably more lame than any apologetic explanation of kavod ha-tzibur, and my answer was as follows: "Actually, little girls probably could, but for some reason most shuls don't do that."

And for some reason - God's grace, most likely - she was quiet and asked nothing further.

But she will. Of course she will. And I don't know how many more lame answers she'll accept.

Kol Hakovod Yeshiva World

I am pleased to report that Yeshiva World is siding with the victim of the recent Bet shemesh attack.

Kiryat Arba rabbi: Don't sell mezuzahs to Reform Jews

Kiryat Arba rabbi: Don't sell mezuzahs to Reform Jews

Monday, January 21, 2008

The victim's words


What follows is a statement from the victim of last night's attack on Ramat Bet Shemesh

Around 8 oclock, I was on my way to a yarzeit seuda for a friend's mother . I went down into the parking lot and noticed that the back and read windows of my car were smashed to pieces. An innocent bystander happened to be there and I asked him what happened. He responded that he had no idea.

I looked to the left and saw a gang of at least 20 people. They screamed "chaptzem" and I started running. In the meantime I heard them say "grab his cellphone." They caught up to me and started brutally hitting and kicking me. After what seemed to be an eternity, they ran away.

Afterwards, I asked around to find out who did it. I was told that it was a group known as the "Mermelsteins," which is a sect that broke away from mainstream Breslov and is one of the most vocal supporters of the violence here.

He has asked me not to name him.

The victim's face

See it here:

Harry Maryles and others are reporting that this cowardly attack was organized by one Avraham Yitzchak Mermelstein.

I've verified this independently. You can reach this man at  845-781-8025. Tell him DovBear says hello, and that we're all sick to our stomach.

A call to action

I'm waiting for a statement from the Orthodox Jew who was brutally attacked by zealots yesterday in Ramot Bet Shemesh. I hope to have it soon.

In the meantime, if you are offended as I am about the ongoing Orthodox Jew-on-Orthodox Jew violence in that city please take twenty seconds today to do something about it. My suggestions:

1 - Write the Haredi Members of Knesset and tell them they are standing by while a chilul hashem of monsterous proportions is being carried out by men who dress like them and look them. Tell them the Orthodox Jewish world is watching and waiting for one of them to stand up for justice. You can start with MK Moshe Gafni [] MK Meir Porush [] and MK Yaakov Litzman []

2 - Contact Yitzchak "beyond the pale" Alderstan via the comment section at his blog and ask him if labels like  "beyond the pale" are reserved for Nosson Slifkin, or if maybe he can find the energy/guts to criticize the barbarians of RBS as powerfully as he's criticized woman prayer groups.

3 - Contact Avi Shafron at Aggudah and ask him to please summon some outrage. His ire and indignation are never in short supply when a Reform Jew says something positive about homosexuals. Ask him why his voice has vanished now that Orthodox Jews like you and me are under attack in Ramot Bet Shemesh. While you're at it contact the editor of YeshivaWorld (via the blog) and ask him to stop being such an insufferable coward.

4 - Contact Yanky Horowitz via the comment section on his blog, and tell him you want this issue front and center, starting now. We can back burner the at-risk teens for a few days. In fact, the behavior of these haredi Jews in Ramot Bet Shemesh - specifically their attacks on other Orthodox Jews - are driving people away from the religion of our  ancestors just as surely as badly trained HS teachers are.

5 - Call Kupat Hair and tell them that you're cutting them off - no more donations, period - until they affirm that our contributions are not being used to support the hooligans of RBS.

6 - Call Moshe Friedman 972-57-317-7844 and tell him you've seen his name and words attached to almost every RBS story published in an Israeli paper. Tell him he appears to be a spokesman for the community. Tell him you want an unequivocal denouncement of the attacks, and if it isn't immediately forthcoming tell him he is neither a man nor a Jew. 

7 - Put this post on your own blogs.

Its time to say enough. Its time to push back. The world, or at least the Orthodox Jewish world, is watching.

Some of my Favorite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes

A guest post lkovod yom tov by TIKUN OLAM

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.

A right delayed is a right denied.

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.

Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies - or else? The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.

We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Breaking News

Kanoim beat opponent in RBS. Break his windows. Steal his cell phone.

More to follow.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Translation please

The video shows R' Shmuel Berenbaum ztl "talking in learning" with R' Leib Bakst ztl but what are they arguing about?

Tip of the bent down hat: Amshi

The pro-Israel presidents

I've always thought it borderline retarded to cast Bill Clinton as anti-Israel. The man invested eons of time and peta-liters of personal credibility into a plan that he sincerely and honestly believed would save Jewish lives. You readers on the right may have though him disillusioned and innocent and unable to recognize that his plan had no chance of success. You may even view him as gullible, or consumed with polishing his reputation. Fine. But none of that is synonymous with being anti-Israel. At best (worst?) perhaps Clinton was guilty of being anti-Likud, but at the time the same could have been said about a majority of Israelis. Those of them who cast votes for Rabin and Barak were on the same ideological page with Clinton. If Clinton was anti-Israel, so were two of her prime ministers, and most of her voters.

I bring this up because Alon Pinker makes a similar argument on the pages of the Jerusalem Post. [Hat-tip: TTC] The best bit follows:

What constitutes "Pro-Israel", and who appointed or commissioned anyone to cast a judgment on the issue?

Does it constitute being "Pro-Israel" to support settlements? Is it pro-Israeli to pressure Israel into signing some peace agreement and dismantle settlements?

An American presidential candidate repeatedly pledges his eternal love for and belief that a united Jerusalem should and will remain Israel's capital. He then proceeds, as president to refuse to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Is he then considered pro-Israeli or just a pandering politician? (Answer: when he said it, he was genuinely pro-Israeli and of course he meant it, as he said in Boca Raton to Cohen and Levy during the campaign. When he didn't move the embassy, it was because of the Arab-loving pencil pushers at the State Department and the corrupt Saudis who control Washington).

But the issue deserves a more elaborate answer. So let's take a brief, broad-brush look at several past presidents who are case studies.

Richard Nixon for example. His background, education, early years in Congress, loathing of the northeast liberal establishment, borderline anti-Semitic remarks made while in the White House hardly made him a prime candidate for centerfold in "Pro-Israel Monthly' magazine. 85% of US Jews voted for Humphrey and McGovern. So was Nixon "Anti-Israeli"? No.

History will judge him as the president who rehabilitated the Israeli Defense Forces after the 1973 Yom Kippur war, launched the annual military grant to Israel and pulled Egypt away from Soviet orbit.

Jimmy Carter, now there is a real anti-Israel president. Oh really? His involvement in the Camp David negotiations was critical and indispensable in enabling Israel and Egypt to sign a peace agreement that has ever since been a pillar of stability (not much "peace" though) and part of Israel's national security posture.

Ronald Reagan, now there is a true Zionist, a man who embodies and defines pro-Israelness. No kidding.

Who sold F-15 jets and AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia? Who consolidated the US-Saudi alliance which in turn contributed to the emergence of Islamic fundamentalism and Wahabi extremism? It sure wasn't Barack Obama. Yet Jews voted for Reagan in unprecedented numbers for a Republican (35%). So Carter facilitates a peace deal between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and Jews vote for Reagan. They did so for perfectly legitimate reasons. They did so for "American" reasons because they thought he'd be a better president than Carter was.

Ah, you say, then came George H.W. Bush, AKA "41". He really hated us. Didn't his secretary of State, James Baker say: "F**k the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway." And didn't he complain about the pro-Israel lobby? And didn't he impede the loan guarantees?

But Bush 41 presided over the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the elimination of Iraq as a viable threat against Israel from the east and invaluably assisted Israel (and never asked for credit) in bringing Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

Bill Clinton was the greatest friend Israel ever had. Until he involved himself in the Israeli-Palestinian process which included recognizing the PLO, establishing a Palestinian Authority and would have entailed, had Camp David in July 2000 produced an agreement major territorial concessions. Then he was somewhat less pro-Israeli in the eyes of some.

And then there is the new greatest friend Israel ever had, the big W. himself. Contrary to all presidents before him since Truman, he called for the establishment of a Palestinian state, an end to Israeli occupation (his words, last week in Jerusalem) and further strengthened ties to the Saudis. He also attacked the wrong menace in the region. Iraq instead of Iran. Of course it's Colin Powel's fault, then Condi Rice's infatuation with Palestinian "suffering".

The point is, an American president is "Pro-Israel" when he profoundly appreciates the basic friendship with Israel, when he respects Israel as a democracy, when he truly believes in Israel as an idea and an enterprise. When his core value system and strategic outlook is similar to that of Israelis.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Evil anti-Semites crack down on pious, blameless, law abiding Jews.

Monsey group fined for mess after chicken ritual

A Call to Moshe Freidman

Hi DB,

I called Rabbi Moshe Freidman at the number you posted. We spoke twice, and both conversations were in Hebrew. The first time, I told him that I am concerned, becuase I have heard about horrible things in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

He said, "what have you heard?"

I mentioned that I heard of a woman being beaten on a bus for not moving to her 'appropriate' seat. RMF replied at first that he knew nothing about this. I said, "oh, well I am glad, because from what I have heard, there is a big chillul hashem going on."

He then said, "who am I speaking with?" I answered that I am an Israeli presently in Los Angeles, and I am writing an article about what is going on. RMF then revealed that he knows far more than he first let on, by saying, "I will not speak with you from Los Angeles, but I will speak with you in Israel if you like."

I continued to ask questions about the details, and RMF hung up.

I called back and said that I want to get the opinion from the side of the 'pashkvellers' for my article. He again re-iterated that he knows all about the situation, and will only talk to me in Israel. I said, "I don't want to make anyone look bad, I just want the truth. Why can't you talk to me now over the phone, so I can write about it?"

He said he will only meet face to face, and he had a bad experience once with journalists, so he likes to meet face to face. I wonder why.

He also stated that "we don't care what you write about us." I thought the use of the plural first-person pronoun was quite revealing.

That was the end of the call. Who's next?


NOTE:If you choose to call Rabbi Moshe Friedman to ask about the violent events he is alleged to have orchastrated, please be cordial and polite.

Where are the GOP Jews now?

(from the mailbag)

Hey, DovBear:

I was in Borough Park this past Shabbat. The (politically RW freebie) Jewish Herald had big photo of W and Olmert beaming together with caption "Friends in Deed". The Jewish Press proclaimed something definitive as "Bush Visit Comes At Tense Time In U.S.-Israel Relations..."

Didn't Bush call for a Palestinian state and Israeli sacrifices? Isn't this something you expect from "the Suha Kisser?"

I hear crickets chirping from the RWJ's gallery.


I think its cognitive dissonance. The fools have spent so much mental energy convincing themselves that Bush is God's own angle that they don't' quite know what to do with all the evidence to the contrary. Its sad, actually. Many of them cope by attacking the Clintons with the same tired and discredited accusations they've thrown at that poor, hardworking couple for more than 10 years. See for example Jason Mausz of the Jewish Press.

YW Cheers Bush, Sun Rises in East

I'm really disgusted at the hyperbolic praise Bush has been getting for stating the obvious. During his recent trip to Yad Vashem, our famously incurious president saw an aerial photo of Auschwitz and, according to an eavesdropping museum director, asked his Secretary of State: Why didn't Roosevelt bomb it?

A perfectly obvious question, no? And one most of us ask well before our fiftieth birthday. So why is the Yeshiva World community throwing roses at his feet? I don't blame the YW readers for being unaware that Bill Clinton expressed precisely the same sentiment at the dedication of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington in 1993 --and not in the form of a wistful, infantile question, either. But why haven't they read to the bottom of the article referenced in the post? That's where they would have discovered that Bush isn't the first American president to have acknowledged the glaringly self-evident: The Allied war managers blew it.

It's also a little odd to see the YW crowd celebrating the president for weeping a little as he toured the museum. Bill Clinton also cried when he went to Yad Vashem, though if memory serves, the right dismissed that another Slick Willie trick. They said the same thing when Hillary Clinton cried in NH a few weeks ago. Her tears were a cold and calculating move to make herself appear human, but Bush's were real? How can you tell?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What we can do about Bet Shemesh

Those of you who read the paper, or fine blogs like Cross Currents, know that a group of zealots (ie Kanoim, ie hooligans) have been making life difficult for the good people of Ramat Bet Shemesh. They set fires. Throw rocks. Beat women. And more.

Recently, I've been pleased to learn that the law-abiding people of RBS have finally said Ad Kaan (enough).

And we can help.

First some background:

Over the past number of years, expats from Bet Yisrael and Meah Shearim have purchased apartments in RBS, and like all expats they've had trouble adjusting to their adopted communities. Instead of assimilating, or keeping to themselves, the new residents of RBS are attempting to use violence to rebuild the city in their own image. This has been going on for about 5 years. Their say their goal is to "increase the holiness of RBS," but their tactics, which include vandalism, death threats, harassing phone calls, beatings and arson, suggest something else. To date, the police have been reluctant to get involved.

According to what I've read and heard, the various people involved in the violence can be divided into the following groups:

1. Foot Soldiers: 40-50 people
2. Planners: Around 10
3. Assorted extremists that fan the violence: Hard to estimate, maybe around 10
4. Rabbis who support actively: 3
5. Rabbis who support passively: 5

To my mind, the real criminals are the planners, and the Rabbis who offer them aid and comfort. One of the Rabbis is Shea Rosenberger, a Rabbi (group 4) who was approached by Ilan Shmueli, the owner of a RBS pizza shop, that had been targeted by the thugs. Shmueli wanted Rabbi Rosenberg to help stop the violence. Instead the Rabbi brushed him aside with a warning: "You might end up dead."

Another thug is Chaim Luzer Heimlich (group 2) I'm told Chaim Luzer was the organizer of the pizza shop attacks described by the New York Times on November 2, 2007 Heimlich is also accused of attacking one of the anti-hooligans. As the story goes, Heimlich saw the man, and with a few phone calls arranged for a mob to come and harass the man with name-calling, shoving and spitting.

One of their rising stars is Moshe Friedman (group 2), gabbai of the Tiferes Yerushalayim shul. He is quoted in many newspapers articles about the ongoing violence in RBS, and appears in the video link above. R'Friedman is said to pay for pashkevlim with money he raises in England and Williamsburg. Allegedly, some of this money is also used to provide the hooligans with stipends.

About a month ago, after a woman was viciously beaten on a RBS bus, the other side began to push back with a demonstration for peace which was attended by over 1000 people. The leaders of these law-abiding RBS citizens are now receiving telephones death threats at their homes at all hours of the day and night. They have been told by the thugs to prepare for their own funerals, and they have been threatened with cherem and all forms of violence.

If it terrifies you to think of Judaism being commandeered by thugs. I urge you to stand up and be counted. Here's what you can do:

** E-mail charedi knesset members. Ask them to support the police. Ask them to denounce the thugs. You can start with MK Moshe Gafni [] MK Meir Porush [] and MK Yaakov Litzman []

I am told the local Degel Hatora representatives, Moshe Montag and Shmuel Greenberg, are working to HELP the extremists get free land for their yeshiva. When you contact the Charedi MKs tell them to order Montag and Greenberg to stop supporting extremists hooligans.

** You can also call the the men I've named --though please be cordial and polite. Ask questions if you doubt any of the details reported here, and politely ask them to desist:

Moishe Friedman
Cellphone Number 972-57-317-7844

Chaim Luzer Heimlich
Cellphone Number 972-57-319-9218

PS Get a load of this! The good guys hit back and played a trick on the chief thug. They took out an ad in the local paper advertising Moshe Friedman as a salesman for contact lenses!

Is the famous Shin Bet afraid of a blog??


Introducing the Jewish Press Blog

Moshe Klass, eagle-eyed editor of the Jewish Press, is inadvertently funny in his post yesterday about the primaries:
All the polls predicted an Obama win in Iowa, some by a large margin, yet Hillary walked away with it.
Nice. And it only took 24 hours for the error to be corrected, and even then the correction came only after a reader pointed out that here, on planet Earth, Obama won Iowa.

Also not-shocking was the revelation that Klass favors Rudy Guliani and Fred Thompson: two losers who are all style and no substance, not unlike the sort of Judaism he sells in his newspaper.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The failure of Ben Yehudah's dream: I've got a shotgun/and you don't got one

by Conservative Apikoris

You'd think that after almost 100 years of Eliezer Ben Yehudah's dream of a modern Hebrew language, and 60 years of a Jewish Sate in which Hebrew is supposed to be the native language, they would have actually developed a modern Hebrew language. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

I wanted to find the hebrew word for "shotgun," for which I want to do a gematria. A quick reference to gave me the answer: "Roveh Tziyad." But all that means is "hunting weapon." Up in the hills and hollows of Live Frei or Die Land, the local Yanknecks sure have a lot of hunting weapons, and even a nice Jewish boy like me who gets queasy at the sight of blood knows that you can't take down a moose or deer, let alone an angry bear, with a shotgun. So a "roveh tziyad" could just as easily be a high powered rifle in our neck of the woods, or even (and I'm thinking about this survivalist I know who lives up in the bush) a Gallili assault rifle.

Fortunately provides a link to the Hebrew Wikipedia page for "רובה ציד."

And here's what they say (money quote in a rough translation):

"Roveh Tziyad," or the be more precise, "shotgun," (free translation, "roveh kaduriot" -- "gun of little balls/pellets.") is a gun with an ammunition different from that of regular guns. ["Why is this gun different from all other guns? :) ] There is no term in Hebrew for the foreign term "shotgun." Generally, the term "hunting gun" us used in Hebrew when one wants to refer to a "shotgun" because many hunting guns are, indeed, "shotguns."
Yeah, and many cars are "motor vehicles," but it is useful to have terms that can differentiate between a Volkswagen Rabbit and a class 8 semi-truck, and, indeed, Hebrew does have such terms.

So why has the Hebrew Language Academy been asleep at the switch on this one? Roveh Tziyad is a totally imprecise word for this object, and thus, Real Jews have to use a foreign term, written in a foreign alphabet, at that, if they want to refer to this useful object. What's wrong with the term "roveh kaduriot?"

I say that Ben Yehudah's dream has failed. And I have a problem, as I can't decide whether I should do my gematria on "roveh tziyad," or "roveh kaduriot," or the word "shotgun" transliterated into Hebrew letters.

Did you say Parshas Haman?

Hey true believers, good news!

Apparently, the Tuesday before Shabbas B'shalach (ie: today) is an especially auspicious time to ask God to give you money! (Or "parnasa" if you're one of those extra pious types who refuse to use English for certain words.)

In order to get the money, I mean the parnasa, all you have to do is recite Parshas Ha'mon, (the reading which describes how how God provided mon for the Israelites in the dessert, and no "mon" is not a pun on "money" though that's a funny idea; nor does it have anything to do with Jamaica, also a funny idea; rather manna, the miracle food provided for the Israelites during their journy through the desert.)

Anyway, all you have to do is read Parshas Ha'mon, and you too will receive miracle food! Sustenance will fall from the heavens! Checks will miraculously appear in your mailbox! No need to go to college, or to train for a vocation! No need to do anything at all! It will be like being back in the Garden of Eden before that lousy woman and her pet snake wrecked everything! Haha!

Just read Parshas Ha'mon and presto! instant cold hard cash!!

Or something. Keep your day job, just in case. DovBear makes no guarantees.

A recipe for scorn

In the back matter of the big Sam Harris book a recipe is published that reveals "the presence of an unrivaled spiritual intelligence." Unfortunately, the analysis may remind you of every OJ dvar torah you ever heard. I can't find it online [except here (registration needed)], but this fellow was nice enough to provide an excerpt:

snapper fillet, cubed
3 teaspoons chopped scallions
salt and freshly ground black pepper
[DB: There are 10 other ingredients]

The snapper fillet, of course, is the individual himself – you and I – awash in the sea of existence. Three teaspoons of chopped scallions further partakes of the cubic symmetry, suggesting that that which we need add to each level of our being by way of antidote comes likewise in equal proportion. Salt and freshly ground black pepper: here we have the perennial invocation of opposites – the white and black aspects of our nature.”

And so on. There are ten ingredients in all, and Harris has an interpretation for every one of them...

Neat, huh?
Vhamayvin yaavin.

The puzzle of Psalm 110

In the middle of this short prayer poem, the speaker adresses the king (David?)(maybe):
אתה כהן לעולם על דברתי מלכי צדק

Most (non-Jewish) readers say this means (something like) "You are a priest forever after the order of Malkizedek" (Malkzedek is a King of Salem who gets a very brief mention in Genesis.)

Nachaum Sarna (a Jewish reader) also takes it this way, and explains that this mention of an "order of Malkizedek" suggests that a longer story about the king, and perhaps his order, was once known in Israel and that the psalmist is referencing material (perhaps biblical material?) now lost.

Rashi takes it differently, reading the verse: you are a priest forever because of the speech of Malchizedek but his ensuing comment obscures more than it makes clear:
From you will emerge the priesthood and the kingship that your children will inherit from Shem your progenitor, the priesthood and the kingship, which were given to him. דִבְרָתִי מלכי-צדק. The “yud” is superfluous, like (Lam. 1: 1): “the city that was once so populous (רבתי).” Because of the speech of Malchizedek, because of the command of Malchizedek. You are a priest, Heb. כהן. The word כהן bears the connotation of priesthood and rulership, as (II Sam. 8:18): “and David’s sons were chief officers.
For instance: (1) If the yud is superfluous, why is it there? (2) When did Malkizedek say anything about the future kings of Israel? What command did he give?

Alter (also a Jewish reader) (I think) goes a third way, writing that the reference to Malchizedek is a pun (the word means "righteous king") He takes the verse as "you are a priest forever, by my solemn word, my righteous king." He sees no reference here to any lost literature and, unlike Rashi, no reason to depart from the plain meaning of the words.

Miss me?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ooops, I forgot to mention the Torah

Ooops, I forgot to mention the Torah
A guest post by XXGH

In Breishis, Hashem talks to the Avos about 15 or 16 times regarding the future. Almost every time Hashem says 'I will make you great, I will give you the land, you will have many descendants, nations will be blessed through you'. Fifteen times Hashem repeats the same basic promise. [DB: I don't think its 15 times. That isn't the point though, so don't get bogged down]

Yet not once does Hashem ever say, 'Oh, and by the way, I'm gonna give you the Torah'.

THE TORAH! Only the most important thing in the history of Judaism. In the history of the world even! And Hashem NEVER even mentions it. Not once! *

Strange, no?

Of course there's the easy and obvious answer, but why go there? I'm sure the olam here can come up with all sorts of imaginative non kefiradick vertlach.

*Yes, there are a couple of places where God makes a comment about Avraham keeping 'chukosy, torosy umishpotay' but thats not the same thing. [DB: The actual quot is Gen 26:5: עֵקֶב, אֲשֶׁר-שָׁמַע אַבְרָהָם בְּקֹלִי; וַיִּשְׁמֹר, מִשְׁמַרְתִּי, מִצְו‍ֹתַי, חֻקּוֹתַי וְתוֹרֹתָי ie: mishmarti, mitzvotai, chookotai, v'toroty]

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Another honest Republican family man has been brought down by the liberal smear machine

Shed a tear.
Republican Rep. John Doolittle, who is under investigation in a congressional lobbying scandal, plans to announce Thursday that he'll retire from Congress at the end of his current term, according to a Republican official who spoke with Doolittle
(Why does the Party of Values and Integrity produce so many crooks?)

We give them $50 billion a year and all Bush got was a T-shirt?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Our system for choosing a president is absurd.

A short summary of my objections:

1 - We vote in November because the Founding Fathers wanted to wait until the crops were in. We vote on Tuesday because the FF wanted church-goers to vote, and thought scheduling elections on Tuesday would give people time to both attend services, and travel to the county seat to cast their votes. In other words, the considerations used to inform this policy are 100 percent out of date, and should be reviewed. I think we should able to vote by telephone, or by computer, from our homes for, maybe, the entire month of November.

2 - Currently, a few hundred thousand people in backwards and cow-heavy states like New Hampshire and Iowa are allowed to set the national agenda. They liked Hukabee, Obama, McCain and Clinton, so suddenly these four people matter? Why should the headlines, and the slant of newspaper articles be determined by such a small segment of the population? I think the whole primary system should be abandoned. Let's go back to smoke-filled rooms, and let the party heavyweights decide. Or lets have one national primary. Or better yet, let's skip the primaries altogether and go straight to the national election. If it means 20 candidates will be on the final ballot, all the better.

3 - The electoral college is anti-democratic. The guy who gets the most votes should be president. End of story.

4 - The electoral college corrupts the campaign. For example, the electoral college votes of Florida and Ohio are currently significant, so we can expect the candidates to spend an inordinate amount of time in Ohio and Florida kissing up to the voters of that state. They'll ignore NY, and the tens of millions of voters who live here, because the polls say NY will vote democrat no matter what. This is both ridiculous and unfair, and not just we NYers deserve some kissing up, too. Why should a few million voters in some mediocre state like Ohio be permitted to swing the entire election?

More later.

For the record-

...I don't thing the granite-headed opinions of the people of New Hampshire are any more, or any less, significant than the cow-centric attitudes of the people of Iowa.


In an earlier post I incorrectly remembered R' Samson Raphael Hirsch's view on the court magicians of Egypt and the plague of frogs. [To be fair, the act of misremembering was two years ago when I wrote the original post; earlier this week I simply relied on what I had written earler]

What I said

What RSRH said

Summary of RSRH's view

The magicians were attempting to remove the frogs from Egypt when they "did likewise with their secret arts" [8.3: וַיַּעֲשׂוּ-כֵן הַחַרְטֻמִּים, בְּלָטֵיהֶם.] However they failed and instead "they brought up frogs upon the land" [8.3: וַיַּעֲלוּ אֶת-הַצְפַרְדְּעִים, עַל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם]

The ellipse, RSRH says, creates a parallel between this verse, and the one that appears later [8:16] about Kinim: ויעשו כן החרטמים בלטיהם להוציא את הכנים ie: the magicians did likewise with their secret arts to remove (להוציא ) the lice. The words ויעשו כן החרטמים בלטיהם appear in both places, and from this RSRH concludes that in both places, the magicians were attempting to perform the same sort of act. Thus, according to RSRH the verse about frogs should be read: "The magicians did likewise with their secret arts... (to remove the frogs; and instead)... they brought frogs upon the land."

In both cases, RSRH says, the magicians were attempting to undo the plague. In both cases they failed, and in the plague of frogs they succeeded only in bringing up more frogs (or so it appeared to them.)

DovBear regrets the error.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

"I knew them all. I buried all these people. Now they are all in pieces"

Jewish cemetery's desecration hits a community hard:

"I knew them all. I buried all these people. Now they are all in pieces," Jack Oziel, 91, said with red eyes as he surveyed the damage at the Poile Zedek Cemetery in New Brunswick."

HT: AskShifra

How Did The Egyptian Magicians Create Frogs?

How Did The Egyptian Magicians Create Frogs?

Josh Waxman has a sort of scientific answer that doesn't really fit the verse, but in my opinion his post makes a fundamental mistake. Namely, why is he presuming that the magicians created anything?

Here's the problem: The average first grader is taught that the magicians were able to duplicate the first two makkot. He was taught the court magicians knew real magic. And, unfortunately, the average Orthodox Jewish Adult never bothers to re-examine anything he was taught in first grade.(1)

But Josh Waxman isn't average.

He knows that verses about the magicians duplicating the makkot are ambiguous at best. (2) He knows that the view that the magicians had the power to create frogs, as recorded in Shmot Rabba, is a minority opinion. (3) And he knows that the Rambam insisted strongly that all magic is fraudulent (4)

So why is he pretending otherwise?


(1) Worse, the average Orthodox Jewish Adult gets upset when you tell him that his first grade understanding of parsha is superficial; he also angrily dismisses clear-cut rishonim, when you attempt to show him that Rashi's or the Midrash he was taught is disputed.

(2) The following interpolation demonstrates the ambiguity in the frog verse (translation of v. 7 is according to SRH):

6 And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt.

7 And the magicians copied Aaron's with their magic charms, [nonetheless] frogs covered the land of Egypt. [Were the magicians hoping for MORE frogs? Or were they trying to undo Aaron's action? A clue that the magicians were trying to remove the frogs, and failed can be seen in the next verse when Pharoh calls for help. See next verse.]

8 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Entreat the LORD, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the LORD. [Does this sound like someone with much faith in magicians?]

(3) Rabbi Eliezer says the court magicians created frogs. The Sages, as recorded in Shemot Rabba, say that they could only gather the frogs in one place. They couldn't be created ex nilo.

(4) See note 1A

Monday, January 07, 2008

KAJ dumps Agriprocessors

What does this mean for Aaron’s Best, Supreme and Habor?

Update: Shmarya has had it for four days. With details.

Where are the tears?

This is the already famous video of Hillary Clinton allegedly crying this morning. Do you see any tears? I don't. And even if she did weep a little, big deal. Means nothing. Some people cry. Some people think. Some people talk in coherent sentences. GWB does none of the above.

The end of Orthodox Judaism?

Rend your garments

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Memo to those smarty smartensteins yelling "gotcha."


When I used insulting words like "yokel" to insult the insult-worthy people of Iowa, I was attempting to be insulting. That's why I chose the insulting words, see? Oorah, on the other hand, was probably not trying to offend anyone when they used the word "lady" in a situation where SWE calls for the word "woman."

Get the difference? I was trying to offend, Oorah was not.

Speakers of yeshivish understand that in that dialect of English "lady" and "woman" are interchangable. Those who do not speak yeshivish, however, are likely to detect an unintended note of irony or condencension when "lady" is used as a synonym for woman.

Should Oorah care? Should Oorah, and other Jewish organizations like it, take care to use SWE, and only SWE, in their publications? I'm not sure. [With the help of God this will be addressed in the next post]

Friday, January 04, 2008

Oorah's Chinese Auction Questionnaire

See it here (knowledge of the yeshivish dialect of English helpful)

As a man of the 21st century, I respect Oorah for asking its supporters for their opinions on matters of policy, but as a Torah True Jew I am deeply offended. Can't they just find a Rabbi, preferably one with an extra long beard, and just do as he says?

Here's an example of the sort of questions they are asking:
Should Oorah use photographs of ladies in its promotional materials?
Oorah is proud of the wide range of people who support kiruv through our organization. They reflect the entire range of Jewish communities from Chassidish to Modern Orthodox. Since our rabbonim have decided that, as long as the people in a photograph are dressed according to the halachic parameters of tznius, there is no reason a photo of a woman cannot be published. But the question remains as to how Oorah should balance the various sensitivities of its diverse base of supporters. Unfortunately, each option holds the possibility of diminishing our contributions, which in turn deprives Jewish children of the opportunity for a Torah chinuch.

Option One: Do not publish photographs of ladies, so that those who are offended by such photos will be able to welcome Oorah’s printed materials into their homes. In this case, Oorah would be likely to lose support from the “middle-to-left” segment of our supporters, who are offended by the deliberate omission of half the people Oorah serves.
Option Two:Include photos of ladies so that we can depict the reality of what we do – for instance, showing families at our Shabbat With Oorah or staff and campers at GirlZone. This option would be within the guidelines set by our rabbonim and would not offend the “middle-to-left” supporters. However, it would offend a portion of those in the right-wing sector, who might then cease to support Oorah and cease to accept its printed materials into their homes.
Option Three: Use photos of ladies, but only those that are reasonably small and inconspicuous. This would address the sensitivities of both sides while still allowing Oorah to show a realistic view of the kiruv we do.

Because my own choice ("Your use of the word 'ladies' offends me.") is not represented, I'm struggling to choose between options ONE and THREE. On the one hand, I think picturing women might lead to dancing. In fact, it sort of disturbs me that Oorah even allows women to attend their events. I'd much prefer that they stay in the house where they belong. However, the idea of using small and inconspicuous pictures of women appeals to me, too, because it suggests that women are inferior and worthy of disrespect, and I think that in addition to kiruv, Oorah should be making it known, both far and wide, that God likes men best. So here is my compromise idea: Follow the conventions of the Elizabethan theatre and have men dressed as women pose for the pictures that are used in the promotional materials, but make the photos extra small and caption them as follows: STOP LOOKING AT THESE PICTURES OF FAKE WOMEN YOU PERVERT.

The words should, of course, be larger than the pictures. And if it helps you can also use a photo of me, wearing a fake beard, and tell everyone that I was the Rav who approved this idea.

Ohr Somayach from the inside

Letter From Dark Light (Part III) : The Kvetcher

Oh, was Iowa last night?

Memo to the media: STOP TALKING ABOUT IOWA

The idea that Huckabozo or Obama are now front runners, or otherwise more significant than they were earlier this week is altogether absurd. The Iowa caucus is a joke. It tells us only what a bunch of yokels in Iowa think (and because its a caucus, not a primary, it doesn't even do an especially good job of telling us what a bunch of Iowans think)

This notion that either of the Iowa winners now has some kind of momentum or significance does nothing but illustrate the central deficiency in the whole primary/caucus system: in this gigantic, diverse country of no one should be anointed anything on the basis of the results in some two-bit state like Iowa.

Memo to my pal Lurker: How'd your boy Rudy do? I didn't have time to read all the way to the very, very bottom of the results. I assume he's down there somewhere, because he sure wasn't anywhere near the top.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Maybe I should teach pre-1A?


Take the survey here

Not that he ever had it, but boy did Rudy just lose my vote

Unintended irony alert: Isn't it interesting how this ad reminds people that Osama is still on the loose, and the world is even more of a mess than it was when the Republicans took control of the presidency, the congress and the judiciary? I mean, isn't the subtext of this ad something like "Boy did the Republicans screw up, so... Vote Republican!"

The other side's comeback: Uh.. In a dangerous world full of threats, we need a mayor with less foreign policy experience than my second cousin's pet poodle?

Worry: Is this what we can expect from now on from the so-called party of ideas? "Be afraid, be afraid, vote for me?" How 1984.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Quote of the Year

'I'm in the private sector and for the first time in my life I'm earning money, you know that's sort of part of the Jewish tradition and I do not find anything wrong with that."

- Tommy Thompson, at the time a Republican candidate for president

(at 1:21)

Or am I being too sensitive? ;)

Macho, macho men

I see via The Washington Monthly that old Minister Huck is running an Iowa ad that condemns the Mitwit for not ever having killed anyone. From the link:
About mid-way through the ad, during a litany of accusations against Mitt Romney, Huckabee criticizes his rival with this data point: "No executions."

Apparently, Huckabee -- you know, the evangelical, pro-life Republican -- is going after Romney for not having executed any Americans during his gubernatorial tenure.

I realize Republican politics are far more crass than norms should allow, but it's disconcerting to think "You didn't kill anyone" has suddenly become a criticism in conservative circles.
Alas, Massachusetts (and this is the humorous part) has no death penalty. Isn't that great? According to Huck, Mit isn't a suitable president because he followed the laws of his state! Way to go, Law and Order Republicans!

And the law, of course, gives Mitwit the perfect GOP excuse: "I'd have killed PLENTY of people," we expect Governor Flip-flop would say, "only those durn liberals who elected me governor after I successfully appealed to their sensibilities wouldn't let me!"

To which Huck, no doubt, would reply: "Pansy. If you were a real Christian republican you'd have killed them anyway!"

A prediction for the future based on the history of religion

This guest post was submitted by a reader, who approved of David Gruber's column about intermarriage. S/he is not the same writer who is joining the blog later this month, nor has s/he written for DovBear before.

A prediction for the future based on the history of religion
By TikunOlam

Human beings at one time believed that inanimate objects held powers. They progressed toward a time when humans became capable of abstract thinking and symbolism. The human psyche then evolved further and became capable of developing the concept of monotheism. We (humans) are now in the midst of leaving monotheism behind, as CA wrote, agnostics may be the silent majority. Soon we will move toward atheism because we simply won't need to explain the working of the world and the meaning of life based on an omniscient parent figure that through setting rules and system of reward and punishment determines how we should live our lives. We will understand that through utilitarianism and humanism we can have a wonderful, productive and civilized society based on values, morals and ideas that come from within us and not from some external force. Of course the values, morals and ideas came from within us all along.

Kohlberg, who studied stages of moral development, talks about the same idea when explaining how children develop from wanting to avoid punishment and please the parent, to concern over the law of the land and then toward a development of a code of morality that is dependent on values from within (though he argues that most people never get there). See the Heinz Dilemma for some classic psychology research on the topic

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Can Moshiach ben Dovid be a girl?

Someone I know and like is joining the blog just as soon as she figures out what to call herself. Meantime, here is her second post

My kids like to ask me about difficult topics. God, for one. Death, for another. Salvation, the afterlife, the Chosen Nation, reward and punishment, and so forth. And of course, mashiach. "When is he going to come?" "When he comes are we going to move to the Beis ha-Mikdash?" "My teacher said all the shuls are going to fly to Yerushalayim. How are they going to fly if they aren't airplanes?" Etc. So I provide straight answers to the best of my ability, watering it down for age purposes, generally trying not to confuse them by blatantly undermining their teachers unless it's absolutely necessary.

So over Shabbos my five year-old daughter asked me, out of nowhere, if mashiach can be a girl. I have to say that threw me for a loop. I mean, CAN mashiach be female? To the extent that there are texts on this topic, I confess to not being very familiar with them. Is there any actual reason to say that no, it's impossible for mashiach to be a woman? I imagine that there is such a reason, but I don't know it, and I never say anything unequivocal if I don't have the background to explain it fully.

So, not knowing what to say, I went with the old parental stand-by that usually works wonders for us in cases like this, and I said to my daughter, "That's a very good question. What do you think?" And she said "I think mashiach could be anyone. Because otherwise, it wouldn't be fair."

Works for me.

Update: The author adds: "I realize the texts say "him", but if it were in fact possible for it to be a him OR a her, the texts would STILL say "him", since that's the "generic."

My Pathetic Annual Telethon Redux


DovBear: My Pathetic Telethon
My Pathetic Annual 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.