Monday, March 31, 2008

Bush’s plan for the inner cities

There's an unconfirmed rumor floating around the blogs that boy king Bush was on ESPN during the baseball opener last night talking about the marvelous opportunities playing professional baseball offers inner-city youth. I can't find the quote, and I don't know the context, but I agree with the president's "Let them eat cake" philosophy and plan to join the Yankees this afternoon.

Reminds me of when his mother said that the people who lost their homes in Katrina and were forced to live in the AstroDome had actually done quite well for themselves.

Bummed out

Spent too much time this morning trying to convince the TNR website to reveal the fabulous article I saw in their current print edition about the Oyneg Shabes archive. For those not in the know Oyneg Shabes is a collection of some 35,000 pages of documents written in Polish and Yiddish about life in the Warsaw Ghetto. The archive was hidden in tin boxes and milk cans before the ghetto was liquadated, and unocovered after the war.

Update: Found it! Deborah Lipstat blogged the TNR article, allowing me to provide you with this money quote:
What was the Oyneg Shabes project? In the first instance, it was people. About fifty or sixty of them, to be precise, nearly all intellectuals. Before the war they had been professors, journalists, writers, poets. In the ghetto, they participated in [Emanuel] Ringelblum's project from their particular vantage points, documenting house committees, soup kitchens, or postal routes, so as to interview, study, analyze, and record daily life in that purgatory. Their essays were then copied over by a second group of collaborators. There was a third group, the executive committee, that provided funding--typically, well-to- do Jews whose surviving wealth was spent on everything from pen and ink to the medicines needed to keep valuable contributors alive. Ringelblum also took advantage of his position in the Jewish self-help umbrella organization in the Warsaw Ghetto. The soup kitchens run by the Aleynhilf fed his writers.

It was called Oyneg Shabes, or Sabbath Joy, because its board met on Saturday afternoons. But its content was secret. Besides Ringelblum and his closest secretaries, no one had contact with the three people whose task was to store and, on the appropriate signal, to bury the archive. They lived entirely cut off from the collective project, so that if the ring were broken they would not be compromised. Revolutionary organizations had used a cellular structure of this sort to protect the lives of killers; here it was adopted to protect documents from the killers. Not lives, but documents: everyone in Oyneg Shabes, at least by the autumn of 1942, knew what their fate would be. (Only three survived the war, including one who knew the location of the hiding place.)
There's much more good and interesting stuff in the article, written by Peter N. Miller. We learn more about Rigelbaum and his project, about daily life in the Ghetto, and about the importance and significance of the study of history.

The close, however, is a chiller:
On August 3, 1942, with the Germans only a block away from the building at 68 Nowolipki Street, under which he was to bury the first cache of the archive, Israel Lichtenstein hurriedly deposited his testament--and in that instant gained his eternity. "I do not ask for any thanks, for any memorial, for any praise. I only wish to be remembered.... I wish my wife to be remembered, Gele Sekstein.... I wish my little daughter to be remembered. Margalit is 20 months old today.... She too deserves to be remembered." Working with him were two teenagers, David Graber and Nahum Grzywacz. They, too, left little reminders of themselves in the archive that they were burying. Grzywacz was eighteen years old, and when he heard that the Germans had blockaded his parents' building, he wrote, "I am going to run to my parents and see if they are all right. I don't know what's going to happen to me. Remember, my name is Nahum Grzywacz." The emphasis is in the original.
Read the rest of it here

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Obsessed with Sex

A Guest Post by Rafi G.

(This was first posted on my blog, and has now been cross-posted here, due to your love for Rabbi Horowitz)

Now that the big news has broken, we have to look back and try to figure out how it happened and what our take-away ought to be.

A number of months ago, several RBS residents reached out to Rabbi Yakov Horowitz (Rosh Yeshiva of Darchei Noam in Monsey and head of Project Y.E.S. of Agudas Yisrael) for guidance regarding the violence perpetrated by the kannoim of Bet Shemesh, after which Rav Horowitz bravely wrote several columns condemning the violence in the strongest terms here and here.
At the time, Rav Horowitz said something that turned out to be very prescient.

Rabbi Horowitz said that anybody who is violently forcing his chumrohs on others, and especially those who are physically assaulting women are prime candidates for being sexual predators, pedophiles and wife beaters. He repeatedly told us that over the course of time, it will become evident to all that a disproportionately high percentage of these thugs are not only abusing the women on the buses, but are committing far worse on those close to them. He said that, in his view, these people have a distorted and perverse obsession with women and sexual matters, as opposed to, lehavdil, true tzadikim, whose minds are preoccupied with torah and avodah. Tzadikim and true Chassidim make chumros – on themselves. And never resort to violence on others.

Yesterday, I spoke with Rabbi Horowitz about the subject and he pointed me to the sefer Kav Ha'Yashar chapter 52. The sefer says, I will summarize it briefly, that "A person who busies himself all day with davening with kavanah, and he walks with his tefillin all day long (an unusual behavior – a super-frum chumrah, as men typically remove their tefilin before leaving shul) - it looks like this person is very pious. You think that he must be a kosher and straight person who deals constantly with the holy work of heaven. But you do not really know what is in his heart. As Shlomo HaMelech wrote (in Koheles) - don't be too righteous or too evil, and Chazal said be wary of the "tzvu'im" (hypocrites) - they look like prushim (people who separate themselves from materialism), but they act like zimri, and then they request reward like Pinchas. Rather you should look for someone who is really a tzaddik" – one who is an honest and decent man.

When I asked Rabbi Horowitz what his guidelines were regarding healthy chumros and those mentioned above, he identified three areas:The chumroh is within the realm of the Torah and established Mesorah, and not way beyond what Mesorah advocates. The chumroh is personal and not imposed upon others. When a person is obsessed with forcing (as opposed to appropriately inspiring or encouraging others other people to keep those chumrohs), that is an indication something is wrong.

When the person advocating the chumroh is ready to resort to violence to ensure that others adhere to it, that is a clear indication that something is wrong.Rabbi Horowitz said that the concept of, “Kadesh atzmecha b’mutar lach,” taking on chumrohs – essentially removing oneself from things that are halachicly permitted) is a wonderful thing – especially in these times when society around us is in a moral free-fall. But a chumroh is personal. Nobody has any right to impose his own chumrohs on other people – especially through violence. .

I would like to add my thoughts to those of Rabbi Horowitz.We, as members of frum society, are quick to denounce any public display of kulah. Yet we never see a public denouncement of people who are keeping chumrohs or any public display of chumrohs. The reason we do not is because we do not want to be seen as less frum or not accepting of someone who wants to do a chumroh and come close to Hashem.

Yet in essence it is the same thing. Just like we denounce the Kulah phenomenon, we need to equally denounce the chumroh phenomenon (not personal chumrohs, but when it meets the criteria mentioned above by Rabbi Horowitz).

I remember once I went to an oneg shabbos with a well respected guest Rabbi. He had a question and answer session and the discussion was centered around dressing Haredi. He said what he said, and I asked why there is such an issue with how to dress and that everyone should look the same. His answer was that dressing the part puts you in the social group. Once you are part of the group, in appearance, you can get away with a lot. If you look the part, they are forgiving on many things you might do not in accordance with the social group. He did not mean anything like what is going on here, he just meant issues of individuality on small scales. But it really includes people doing all sorts of things, even leading to the phenomenon discussed here.

Just because someone dresses from and talks with the words of Hashem, chumrohs Torah, does not mean he is someone that is really within the pale, and it does not mean he is somebody who's ways we need to accept. This is a phenomenon that is something we should be wary of. When we see these people, just because they look super-frum and talk super-frum, we should be very, very wary of them. Their behavior is an indication that there is more going on behind the picture.

Back to the burqas and the kannoim. The Burqa ladies were not, as far as I know, imposing their way on other people. She had her group of followers, and maybe she used charisma or subconscious methods to get them to follow her, but they seemed to be non-violent and even unobtrusive - just doing their own thing.

The last person you would have expected to hear about this from is the Burqa woman. Yet we see that is where it happened, in the worst kind of way. As the police said, they have never seen anything as bad as the situation they are investigating in this case.

Just as it happened there, "al achas kama v'kama", how much more so, we must be wary of the public display and aggressiveness in enforcing chumrohs on the public.

Tzniyus is not a matter of a hemline or a sheitel style or a thickness of stocking (technical details notwithstanding). Tzniyus is a way of life of being modest and living the way Hashem wants us to. When the outcry is in public to, for example, separate the genders on the buses (and there is nothing wrong with separate buses, just the enforcing and insisting on them when it even comes to the point of using violence) or hang signs or tell people what to wear when they go certain places, that is no longer tzniyus, but the opposite of it.

Lakewood man named as suspect in jewelry store armed robbery

This, of course, is a liberal media frame up. I mean, the so-called suspect in this so-called jewlery store robbery wears a black hat and everything.

Tangential fun fact to know and tell: Know how the Stern gang financed their Torah True activities back in the 40s? In part, by robbing Jewish owned jewlery stores [Source]

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The GOPJew's Megillah (yeah, I'm late)

The following is an unauthorized adaption of The Politically Correct Megilla by Eric Sommer, which, if you haven't seen it, was tasteless and unfunny. My rebuttal is much worse, I am sure, but at least the politics represented here are somewhat more appealing.

Chapter I

And it came to pass in the third year of the reign of Achashverosh, King of Persia, that the King threw a great party. And it was during that party, that the King became intoxicated and after telling the assembled guests about the greatness of America he called for his wife Vashti. Dutifully, she came to his side, with a tray of cookies in her hand, but they were not exactly the kind the king's ancestors had always served so he ordered her killed. "If word gets out that my wife was less than perfectly responsive to my needs, in fulfilment of her divinely ordained purpose, all the other kings will laugh at me and my daughter might not find a shidduch," he reasoned. The next morning, Achashverosh was quite surprised to discover that most Persians still considered him "soft-on-wife-disobedience" so he swiftly authorized the execution of a mentally-deficient teenager. Problem solved.

Chapter II

It was after those events that the King missed Vashti, and wanted to find a new wife. He consulted the lobbyists and old school chums who made up his inner circle of advisers and they were unanimous in their advice: "Find yourself a sweet, twenty-something who'll keep her mouth shut and wear the feather costume when you want it," they said. Now it just so happened that in the Kingdom of Persia there lived a young Jewish girl named Esther who was very beautiful, but much more importantly, had been raised in a Jewish home, and so was completely comfortable with the idea that men were in all ways her superior. She was brought to the harem, and following a year of instruction on the finer points of serving and pleasing she was brought to the king, and crowned Queen of Persia.

Following these events, Esther's Uncle Mordecai discovered a plot to assassinate the king. He told Esther, who told the King, who ordered the arrest and execution of Bigson and Theresh, the two people involved in the plot. For good measure, the king additionally authorized the expulsion from Shushan of all persons bearing a passing resemblance to either Bigson or Theresh, along with anyone with a name (first or last) starting with the letter B or T. "Its all for national security," he explained.

Chapter III

After those events King Achashverosh attempt to promote an under-qualified hack who had loyally licked the king's rear end for many years, but after his base protested, the king elevated a man called Haman instead. "I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul," said the king. "I'm sure he can be trusted."

Haman's elevation was celebrated and praised on the pages of PaganGodCurrents, the leading blog of Shushan. Mordecai did not agree and when his dislike for Haman became known, the editors of PaganGodCurrents and other leading pro-Haman Jews subjected Mordecai to withering abuse. "How dare you," said they. "The evangelical idol-worshipers are our very best friends; moreover, Haman hates homosexuals and heaps upon them fiery contempt. Surely, this is a man Jews should support!" Nonetheless, Mordecai was unswayed: He did not kneel and he did not bow.

Haman's animosity toward gays was soon revealed to be only the tip of the proverbial iceberg: He was also a degenrate anti-Semite. Once Haman managed to eliminate civil protections for homosexuals he went after the kingdom's other vulnerabe minority and asked for permission to kill the Jews, which he got. Haman sent out a proclamation to all the lands in the kingdom outlining his plan. Distressed, the Jews pointed out the genocide was expressly banned by the Constituion of Persia. Haman's lawyer, a man named John Yoo, convinced the court that what the Constitution really meant was that the King could pretty much do whatever he darn well pleased, especially in light of the ongoing people-who-look-like-Bigsan-and Theresh menace. The men and women of Shusan was outraged at this flagrant distortion of the Constitution's intent, until, providentially, Fox News reported a missing white woman had been eaten by a shark. The other cable stations picked up the story, played it 24/7, and the city of Shushan was distracted.

Chapter IV

And Mordecai knew of all that had happened, and he went shopping for shoes as a sign of his distress. And Esther sent a messenger to Mordecai to console him, but he would not be consoled. Mordecai sent word to Esther that she should go the King and ask him to stop the impending murder of all Jews. Esther replied that, genocide was the UN's problem and anyway FEMA was staffed by reliable professionals who could be counted on to manage the crises with skill and intelligence. Mordecai persuaded her as to the urgency of the matter, and she finally agreed. Mordecai suggested calling all the Jews to synagogue for three days of fasting and prayers, but Esther thought that it would be better if she took a quick airplane trip over the Jewish neighborhoods while wearing a pout on her face. And it was so.

Chapter V
And it came to pass on the third day that Esther put on the feather costume and went to see the King. The King spoke to Esther in a manner that was at once patronizing and condescending, offering to give her an increase in her allowance - up to half the kingdom! - if she'd just leave him alone, but she brushed it off, and insisted that the King and Haman attend a party she was hosting the next day. The King said he would go, but only if Esther served "guy food" and promised to keep the yapping to a minimum. Esther agreed, and the King and Haman shuffled into her party. When the King saw that Esther was serving steak, and that nothing green was on the menu, his heart filled with love, and he offered to buy Esther "something pretty." She replied that she'd much prefer that the King and Haman join her the following day at a second party. After she assured the king that all the food would be well-done to the point of being almost burnt, he agreed. Upon leaving the party, Haman spotted his old nemesis Mordechai,
which ruined his night. Haman's wife advised Haman to invite Mordecai on a hunting trip and shoot him in the face. Haman thought that was a swell idea, and he arranged the trip.

Chapter VI

That night, the King had trouble sleeping. He called for his servants to bring him the royal archives instead, and there he read that Mordecai had uncovered the politically beneficial Bigthan and Theresh plot. "We should send Mordecai to a foreign country and have him tortured," said the King, "Its possible he and the plotters were in cahoots."

Just then, Haman came in, and the King asked him what to do for someone to whom he wished to honor. Haman suggested a romantic walk among the flowers at the fake ranch in Crawford, and the King approved, with the following slight variation: "Take Mordecai," he said, "and bring him to the fake ranch and put in his hands an ax, or perhaps a machete, and while he is clearing the brush, call in a loud voice 'this is how we persuade red-state yokels that the king is an ordinary guy!'" And so it was. When he was done, Haman walked home, despondent. But no sooner had he returned home than the King's messengers arrived to bring him to Esther's second party.

Chapter VII

And the King and Haman came to drink with Esther. And it was during the party that Esther shocked the King by telling him that someone in that very room was plotting to kill her and all the other Jews. "Who is that man?" yelled the King. To which Esther replied "Haman!" To which the king replied "Oh... IOKIYAR." The King stormed out in a fit of rage that someone had dared to suggest that one of his loyal advisers was less that perfect. Meanwhile Haman fell on Esther's couch and attempted to beseech her in a manner that appeared as if he was, in fact, molesting her. When the King returned, and saw Haman on top of the Queen he raised his voice in self-righteous indignation and said. "But... but... but Clinton!"

After an awkward silence, Haman agreed to resign, but a few weeks later, after the king and the people had become preoccupied with yet another missing white woman who had been eaten by a shark, Haman announced that his original guilty plea represented a "manifest injustice" and canceled his resignation.

Chapter VIII

That day, the King gave Esther Haman's house, and she told the King that Mordechai was her uncle. And Mordechai asked the King's permission for the Jews to rise up and kill their enemies and the king said, "Sure, why not, but I suggest you do it under the pretense of WMDs. Then, hold a press conference bragging about how you brought them freedom." And it was so.

Chapter IX

And in the twelfth month, the month of Adar, on the day when the Jews were supposed to have been exterminated, the Gedolim issued scores of pashkevils announcing that smiling was illegal, fun was the devil's work, and that pretty much everything bad could be blamed on women and their hemlines. The pashklevils further announced the creation of a new holiday, called Purim, while simultaneously insisting that changing the mesorah was impossible and that anything Jews wore, ate, said or did could be expressly traced to Sinai.

Chapter X

And King Achashverosh shifted the tax burden to the middle class, and granted the wealthy additional subsidies, deductions and incentives in homage to the crackpot idea that lowering taxes increases revenues. When the math caught up with him, he borrowed money from the Chinese, and no-one noticed. And the great deeds of Esther and her uncle Mordechai were duly recorded in the annals of Persia.

Asleep at the switch

Received by email:
From: Amshi
Subject: Dovdov you are a loser

i gave you the posts of the year,( lakewood faker for real,hatzalah druggies) and you didn't run with them?
:( Guilty as charged.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Peek A Jew

Men arrested for soliciting sex attend a John School in Brooklyn. [Link]


Shocked, disgusted, and offended

I was horrified to spot a shocking display of blasphemous sacrilege on the food pages of today's New York Times. FRIED KREPLACH!

As anyone with a Torah-true education knows kreplach must be boiled. The suggestion that kreplach can be fried, like wontons or tortellinis, offends our sensibilties and makes a mockery of everything we, as Jews, hold holy.

You are hereby urged to write the editor fiery letters of condemnation, and to self-righteously announce your intention to boycott the Times forevermore (though its still ok to sneek a peek over someones shoulder.) But please don't fail to respond forcefully: Careless simple-seeming innovations like this are precisely how Hasidut got started. If we're going to protect the authenticity of our direct-to-Sinai mesorah uncompromising vigilance is needed.

The demise of the Burqa Babes?

A Guest Post by Rafi G.

(much of this was cross-posted at Life in Israel, but I saved some of it
just for here..)

It looks like the phenomenon of the Burqa cult might be seeing its last days.

Yesterday a woman was arrested for heavy duty child abuse and heavy duty sexual molestation. From the brief descriptions I have heard and read, it makes Dave Pelzer's story seem boring.

The woman arrested was part of the Burqa club. As you saw in the news clip I posted earlier, she was wearing her burqa in court along with her multiple layers of clothing to hide any body shape that might appear.

The whole story is shocking, but, as I said, no group is immune from having sickos and crazies. So they were a bit eccentric and weird (some might call them a cult) and were behaving way beyond what people consider "within the pale". But as long as they were harmless, so it was just a curiosity, at least for me.

But this is a whole new ballgame. Now, if it was just a member of the group, that would be one thing. Every group has crazies, so you cannot judge a group just because of one sicko within it. For example, if there is a Rabbi caught, as there has been, abusing his students, that does not mean all Rabbis are bad. Lehavdil, if the Church has a minister who is caught abusing altar boys, as has happened, it does not mean the whole church is bad (I am not saying the church is good - I am just saying don't judge the whole group by the minister who was evil).

So one lady in the group was a sicko. That does not mean the whole group is evil.

But now I have just come into more information. The woman arrested, it turns out, was none other than Rabbanit Bruriah keren, herself. The founder and leader of the group. So the group is not just an eccentric group with on sicko as a member. the group is rotten from the core.

BTW, this information has been confirmed by my source - he confirmed it with her neighbors and with the police.

So now that she has been arrested and her evil exposed, hopefully that will be the demise of this evil group of people.

Not only that, but her son in law is Binyamin Friedman - the leader of the kannoim in RBS B that have been the source of all the violence in the past. The question is if the expose revealing all that she has done will now put a damper on Friedman's activities, and the support he has had from the local Rabbonim of the Eidah and of the even more extreme Rabbonim...

The even more shocking aspect of the story, not including the level of abuse itself, is something that was in today's newspaper. They spoke with the 17 year old son. This son related that he had had sexual relations with a number of his sisters, and his younger brother did as well (including with an 8 year old sister).

One of the daughters said "My brother had relations with me. But also, my brother had relations with my other brother as well. Basically everybody had sex with everybody."

The 17 year old son said that he had wanted to reveal what was going on, so they sent him to the Rabbonim (to ask permission, I guess). The Rabbonim told him he is not allowed to tell anyone

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Blaming the victim

My dear friends the GOP Jews all seem to think the Wright Reverend Wrong did something horrible by suggesting America had it coming on 9/11. And, fact is, we agree 100 percent: Obama's minister did go too far. He did legitimize the Al Queda attack by suggesting that the bad behavior of our military and elected leaders had, so to speak, set the murder in motion.

Unconscionable, perhaps but as bad as Wright's words were, I remember another blame-mongering minister who said something much worse:.

The ACLU’s got to take a lot of blame for [9/11]…And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The
abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be
mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen’.
Many GOP Jews thought the world of Jerry Falwell. One of them even said kaddish for him (metaphorically) at Cross Currents. So tell me: How is Minister Falwell's finger-pointing any better than Pastor Wright's?


Can you Name That Booze?

Monday, March 24, 2008

When it Comes to Mishloach Manot...

...are you a lunatic, or a lazy bones?

The two post-Purim questions on the mind of every God-fearing Jew: Did I suck up to a sufficient number of people? And did a sufficient number of people suck up to me?

I honestly don't know.

Also: Mishloach manot I liked (in 2006) (not updated)

And the idea of the year (the year was 2006) from

Moishe Potemkin Homepage 03.16.06 - 4:35 pm #
So this year's theme was an Oh Henry! bar (unwrapped) and a medical specimen bottle filled with apple juice, wrapped up neatly in a disposable diaper and labelled "Hap-PEE POO-rim from the Potemkins."

The year that gets translated from my mind to reality is the year Mme. Potemkin finally throws me out.


Purim Torah (intended seriously) (I'm afraid)

So, you may have noticed that when we first meet the two men who plotted against King Achashverush their names are Bigsan and Theresh; later when the names are found in the King's Memory book they are given as Bigsana and Theresh.

What gives?

According to the old guy who sits behind me in shul, this discrepancy was caused by a miracle. The King's scribe was in cahoots with Haman. When he first wrote down the story of how Mordecai passed on the details of the B&T conspiracy to Esther, the scribe attempted to deny Mordecai some credit by writing בגתן או תרש (Bigsan OR Teresh). The way he wrote it Mordecai wasn't sure about the details:It could have been Bigsan; it could have been Teresh; and it was just dumb luck that it either of them -let alone both of them- were involved.

On the night the king's sleep was disturbed (continued the old man) what the scribe had done was miraculously altered. Where he had written בגתן או תרש it now read בגתנא ותרש (Bigthana AND Theresh) Wow! Tremendous! Unbelievable!

Though the old man attributed this foolishness to the Zohar, I am not convinced. In fact, I'm a little outraged and offended on the Zohar's behalf. I think its lousy that such stupid teachings are routinely attributed to it. The Zohar may be an 11th century forgery, but its author was no idiot. He was a Sage, and a full-fledged Rishon. If a moderately successful blogger with cruel yet handsome eyes like me can spot the giant gaping holes[*] in this story, couldn't he?

Giant Gaping Holes [*]
1 - In Hebrew the word או can be split in the manner described here. Does that work in Persian, too? If not, why was the King of Persia's personal secretary writing in Hebrew?
2 - As miracles go, this one is pretty cheesy. Wouldn't it have been much more impressive if God had just made the word או disappear? Why did it need to be split in half? Or better yet why was the scribe's modification changed to בגתנא ותרש? If you're already going to mess with the official record via divine intervention, why not go whole hog and make it say something like "Mordecai is the greatest person ever and you should heap upon him large rewards!" That has a much higher degree of difficulty and therefore makes for a better miracle.

Is Spiritual Height a Measure of Piety?

Is Spiritual Height a Measure of Piety?
A guest post by mevaseretzion

[DB : I don't even understand the question.]

It is second nature for most religious people to assume that when one does G-d's will, he becomes more spiritual, i.e., he rises in spiritual attainment (מדרגה). We usually assume that spiritual height is a measure of our closeness to God, and thus, of our fulfillment of His will. This seems to hold in many areas of life. However, in the extremes, this thesis seems to unravel, and our tasks in this world become uncomfortably subjective.

In Megilla 16b, the Talmud relates two conflicting enumerations of those men who left Bavel to found the second state of Israel. In the first, Mordechai is counted fifth. Twenty-four years later, he is mentioned sixth in the list. The talmud finds this puzzling, and Rav Yosef posits the reason for Mordechai's demotion: "the study of Torah is greater than life-saving..."

This passage does not sit right. Mordechai was seen as less spiritually complete because he occupied himslef with protecting Jewish lives while he could have been learning? We know that anyone who saves a Jewish life, is as if he saved an entire world (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:9). Also, we are commanded not to stand by our brother's blood (Lev. 19:16). So how can it be that Mordechai was lower spiritually after seemingly fulfilling God's will on a large scale?

On this troubling passage, Rashi says that "...because of this [his work on behalf of the Jewish People], Mordechai's status was lowered in the eyes of the sages." (emphasis mine) Perhaps this is the key. In the eyes of the sages, in the eyes of Man, Mordechai was on a lower spiritual level. In the simplistic calculus of humanity, he spent less time concerning himself with the study of Torah (which, after all, is כנגד כולם), and dealt with the nitty gritty aspects of the world around us. He dealt, in the parlance of the בית מדרש, with חיי שעה, temporal concerns, and neglected חיי עולם, the eternal torah (see Shabbos 10a). Thus he lost ground to his study partners, who did not leave the study hall, and who thus reached high spiritual levels.

A person, it turns out, can be a צדיק חוטא. One can constantly concern himself with the spiritual climax of Torah, and while developing himself spiritually, miss (חטא) his actual job in this world. To use an analogy, one can cheat on his taxes, and become more wealthy. Similarly, one can cheat on his tasks in this world (for example, by not saving lives when he can), and dishonestly gather for himself higher spiritual attainment (by studying Torah during the time he saved).

In Pesachim 50a, (the same?) Rav Yosef visits the next world. When he returns, his father asks him to describe what he saw. He answers, "I saw an upside-down world, those who are high here, are low there, and vice-versa." His father said, "You saw the true world, and this one is inverted." Perhaps his statement from Megilla is an example of what Rav Yosef saw in Pesachim. Not only are the rich here sometimes lowly there, and the poor here, on a high level there, but Rav Yosef is making a deeper point, as well. Spiritual giants that we see in our world, may have gained their spiritual height deceitfully, and thus, they will be made low in the world of truth. That is a world where God, who insight and knowledge is perfect, judges people not only by how much spiritual currency they have, but, more importantly, by how (and why) they attained it.

It is relatively simple to know what God wants us not to do. סור מרע, keep from evil, is pretty straightforward. It is the עשה טוב, the 'actively do good' that is so tricky. We must be self aware and cognizant of the totality of our situation in this world, in order to choose the right action instead of simply a good action. We must realize that right is subjective, and what is right for everyone else may not be right for me. We must not allow herd mentality to affect our service of G-d in this world. May we resolve to follow the path of Mordechai and do right, not just good.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

XGH - this one's for you

A guest post by TikunOlam

The other day I was exploring some of the J-blogs out there. Man, there sure are some interesting reads. And some really disturbing ones. So after I got through much of the thoroughly awesome RenReb’s archives I landed and spent a great deal of time with Angstgnostik. I know, I know, I am EXTREMELY late to the game. Please forgive me.

As I read some of the posts and some of the comments I started to steam. And I mean steam. I started developing this rant in my head that was growing so long that I initially thought I’d have to post about it to make it go away.

So I wrote DovBear and told him about the rant developing in my head. He told me (of course) that I should post about it. He reminded me that “not everyone knows what (I) know.” Well, that itself was validating enough to shut down the rant. So, instead, I decided to try to write a post which will hopefully result in something productive rather than simply a way to release my frustration. So, for what it’s worth, I’d like to relate some of my experiences and thoughts to you in hopes that you find them helpful.

Here is a little about me. I too went through a long, emotional, and painful struggle which resulted in my becoming a non-believer (and ultimately an atheist – I know, boo boo – go ahead). I did it young though, was done by my early twenties. So I have a few years on you in that sense. So let me tell you what you may expect if your experience turns out to be anything like mine.

At first, without Orthodox Judaism to provide me with a sense of meaning and purpose in my life, I went through a prolonged period of loss and grief. For a while I felt unsure of who I was anymore and I didn’t know what to do next. I found myself asking myself, how will I know what is right and wrong? Will I ever be a part of a community again? Can I survive without the structure of a tight knit community where all I have to do is consult a rabbi if I have a question? So, in other words, I’ve been there.

So, anyway, I understand that you are in search of a “spiritual high.” While spiritual experiences for many people are religious in nature, I have found that they do not have to be. In your search, you hit upon an excellent concept when you discovered Maslow and Peak Experiences. I actually teach this area of psychology at a college in the Tri-State area – if we weren’t both anonymous I’d invite you to come and sit in.

So this is the thing I feel very strongly about and needed to tell you– If you are looking for spiritual or peak experiences - you are looking in all the wrong places. You asked:

Is it right to expect religion to provide such experiences?

Well, duh. Not for you, not anymore. How can you expect to have a spiritual or peak experience from something you don’t believe in? So you can imagine what my response is to:

Should I investigate TM or some Eastern Religion? Should I join with the Chassidim? Should I become Geek (sic?) Orthodox and get my kicks from discovering obscure rishonim?

Well, no. Not unless you expect to find any more truth in those religions/denominations than you have in your own.

So here is my advice to you. Stop living life like you are still in the Beit Midrash. This means you have to stop surrounding yourself solely with books, debates, philosophies and concepts and expect that the peak experiences will come. You’ve been there, you’ve done that. You’ve gone through the intellectual part of this struggle. You’ve come to conclusions. If you are looking to have peak experiences – spiritual or not, I ASSURE you, you will not find them by continuing to use a method that you have already found doesn't work for you.

Where will you find them? Well, since I don’t know you, I can’t answer that for you. What I can tell you though, is that peak experiences often come from interpersonal experiences rather than intrapersonal ones. They come from expressing your talents and leaving your mark on the world. They come from meeting new and different people and discovering new and different places and ways of life. They come from making a difference in the world. To find your peak experiences – you have to go out there. Out from behind the computer. Out of the Bait Midrash way of thinking and into the world. Use the good old trial and error method. I assure you, the answers will come.

Oh, and for the record. Don’t do drugs. Kugel however, I am okay with.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Just great, now the Gedolim...

...have went and banned megillah reading

Chag Purim Sameach

A guest post by TikunOlam

Best costume at my shul? Client Number 9. Yours?

A few modest Purim proposals


For Yehudi Hilchati

A guest post by TikunOlam

This must be the speech that Yehudi Hilchati was referring to when he commented in a recent thread that Barak Obama deserves to be president. Since DB didn't link it, I decided I had to. Not because I am necessarily voting for Obama - but because the speech is worth reading no matter what political opinion you have or who your candidate it. So I know it is already old news, but in case you haven't had a chance (I didn't until today) here is the link:

Funny, funny, fox

Fox News makes with the fact-checking:

Iranian youths staged a massive protest Wednesday, calling for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s demise during the Persian celebration of Lag Ba'omer, United Press International reported.

As I learned from the lying liberal rag, the holiday is actually called Nowruz [There was a photo of a Persian boy leaping over a bonfire in yesterday's edition. I can't find it online.]


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Some "best friend"

Bush blackmails Israel

Great misnagdishe moments

Who said this:
"There is among them one who is small and impoverished and who is completely empty of any knowledge, who has attempted to study neither mysticism not Talmud; he acts deceitfully, raising his voice, skipping upon the mountains, with music and loud songs... Although he has not learned, he is called a Sage and 'Rebbe.' The more he engages in movements and gesticulations, the more he is praised in the mouths of women and children... the dim witted and simple-minded offer up some of his praises, saying:'What a Hassid, what a righteous man."

Caveat Emptor

A Guest Post by Rafi G.

I wrote on my blog about a set of posters put up around RBS in which Rav Kanievsky is quoted that people should give preference for mattanos l'evyonim to the local tzedaka organization over non-local organizations, but then the poster therefore calls on the readers to give, in Rav K's name, to one specific local organization (over other local organizations).

The specifics of the story are local to RBS, so i will not write about it here (hop on over to mine if it interests you). But the issue is a general issue that affects everybody.

Nowadays, in the days surrounding Purim, we are inundated with various groups of yeshiva boys knocking on our doors to raise money for their yeshivas or tzedaka organizations. We are inundated with posters and flyers calling on us in the name of this gadol or that tzaddik to give to this organization over others or that organization over others.

It is deceptive and manipulative to misappropriate the words of the gedolim to raise money for your organization with the attempt of taking your money away from the organization you would otherwise have given to.

Another ramification of this incident, is how it proves that the words of the gedolim can be, and are, manipulated and used for ones benefit.

They could have said Rav Kanievsky said to give to the local tzedaka, and left it at that. They probably would have gotten a little more money than otherwise, as people would think that Rav K supports them. His name behind an organization carries weight. But instead they chose to corrupt his words for their own goals. Now, we wait and see how it will affect them. Will they make even more money because now it looks like Rav k says they are better than the others, or will they make less because of the backlash of their trying to deceive the local residents?

When we hear all sorts of statements in the name of the gedolim or various Rabbonim calling for this ban, that boycott, this declaration, this new hanhaga, etc. - we need to ask ourselves - did the quoted gadol really mean what they are telling me he meant? Does one person stand to gain from this over another, and therefore try to manipulate us? Or did he really say that and mean it as it was quoted?

Caveat Emptor.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Stressing Already

A guest post by TikunOlam

So it is that time again. Mom sent me the email asking for food requests – officially time to stress about Pesach. And it’s not at all what you might think. I am not stressing about cooking and cleaning. I am stressed about spending a three day Yom Tov in my parents’ Orthodox community. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. Just, since leaving Orthodoxy, I prefer when the time spent is on Sundays at the science museum, a ball game or barbequing. It is tough to go back to my childhood home for Yom Tov. I feel like I don’t have the right clothes or the right hat. I feel like my kids stick out as out of place because they don’t have fancy Shabbat coats as they are not the custom at my (non-Orthodox, non-New York based) shul. So when I am there, I feel like I am going to jump out of my skin. And I feel this way in part because my lack of frumkeit is a taboo subject much like the pink elephant in the room at my parents house. And I don’t enjoy the awkwardness this brings to me or my family. And it still hurts when I wonder if my family is embarrassed of me.

And also, it is because, even after being out of the Orthodox community for 15 years, I still dread the conversations that tend to go something like this:

Friend of my Parents: Gut Yontif (my name)!
Me: Chag Sameach, it is nice to see you.
FOMP: You too, you’re children are getting so big! So where are you living now?
Me: We live in (my town)
FOMP: Oh, that’s nice – you must know (insert Orthodox person in their 30s name here)
Me: No, sorry I don’t
FOMP: Oh, I’m surprised. So where do you daven? (oh, here it comes, the awkward conversation that gets repeated every time I visit.)
Me: (wishing I could say, I don’t daven cause I am an atheist) I belong to (my non-Orthodox shul’s name)
FOMP: Oh, is that a new shul there?
Me: No, it is a (non-Orthodox denomination shul)
FOMP: Oh. (inevitable awkward silence) That’s. Nice.

Or it goes something like this:

FOMP: Your kids are getting so big, you still live in (my town) right? So your kids go to (name of local Orthodox school)?
Me: No actually. They go to (name of non-Orthodox school).
FOMP: Oh. (inevitable awkward silence) Are. . .you. . . ummm, happy with (name of non-Orthodox school)?
Me: Yes, thanks. The kids are doing very well there.

Why do I dread this so much? Because I wonder what people are thinking as I answer these questions. And call me a paranoid freak if you want to – but since I have been openly criticized, yelled at and outright abandoned by some from my former life, these conversations still make me cringe. Because I know what some want to know. How do I know? Because these have been questions that have been posed to me or people in my life many times before:

What happened to her? (Nothing! I just need to live a life consistent with my beliefs)
What did her parents do wrong? (Nothing! In fact, all of their other children are fine Orthodox Jews)
Is it because she went to that (secular college)? (you get the idea)

So I dread it. so why do I go? Because I want to share Yom Tov with my family – whatever the terms. I want my children to have a relationship with their grandparents. But I wish it didn’t have to come with so much discomfort.

It's not too late...

Make an online shloach manot purchase at Oh Nuts and use code HBP1118. You will receive a 10 percent discount

Strange Jewish reference of the day

From the New York Times coverage of Governor Patterson's swearing-in ceremony
He and Mr. Silver got together before last year’s State of the State speech. Mr. Paterson was to bang the gavel, and he said Mr. Silver “brought me in here so I didn’t destroy anything in our first year.”

“But in our second year, I said, don’t bother, I know how to do this,” he continued. “And apparently, I was about to bring the gavel down on a glass, like this one.”

He held up the kind of water glass found at lecterns everywhere.

“The speaker, at the last second, grabbed the gavel away from me and told me in his own inimitable way, as only Shelly can” — here Mr. Paterson dropped his voice to sound like Mr. Silver — “I would not allow you to turn the State of the State into a Jewish wedding.”

The first thing we do it fire all the Arabs...

A leading haredi spiritual leader and halachic authority ruled this week that due to the potential danger to Jewish life, it was forbidden to hire Arab workers, according to Yom Chadash, a new ultra-orthodox daily.

Rabbi Haim Kanyevsky told yeshiva administrators, "We are war with them [Arabs]," therefore "according to Jewish law it is prohibited to hire them," according to Yom Chadash.
Yeshiva administrators, after the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva attack, asked Kanyevsky whether they should fire their Arab employees.

Kanyevsky, who expressed surprise that Arab workers were preferred to Jews, asked, "Are there no Jews who can work and earn a living from the same work?"

He said that under normal circumstances it was always preferable to hire Jews rather than Arabs, unless there was a significant difference in cost. But in the present situation, due to the danger to Jewish life, there was a prohibition against hiring Arabs, he said.

Kanyevsky's ruling is likely to result in a mass firing of Arab employees at hundreds of haredi yeshivot across the country.
Some rapid responses:

1 - You can't hold every Arab in the world responsible for the behavior of a few lunatics.
2 - Arabs have been working in yeshivot for generations. How many times have one of them gone postal? (I honestly don't know.)
3 - Is dismissing hundreds of workers, and depriving them of paychecks, and possibly food and shelter, too, going to make the situation better or worse?
4 - If Rabbi K honestly believes that Israel is in a state of war, how does he justify keeping the yeshivot running at full capacity? If Israel is at war, shouldn't those haredim who are less than average learners be in uniform?
5 - Why is it "always preferable to hire Jews?" I understand this is a long-standing halacha, but where does it come from? What's the reason behind it? Is it simply the chosen religion's way of protecting its economic vitality? Or is there something else behind it?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Note to the slow and stupid

A whole host of RWers missed the point of my previous post so allow me to explain.

I wasn't attempting to "prove" the media isn't anti-Jewish. I was attempting to mock the morons all throw up articles and clips as part of their own anti-media crusades, together with the dopes, who as as a result of those types of posts, are now mightily convinced that the media is one big anti-Israel monolith.

And yes, yes, I made a mistake about where the baskets were being sent, but that isn't a mistake which undermines the purpose of the post. It's still funny because it still parodies the sort of post and the sort of news item many of you on the right accept as conclusive evidence of your pet paranoias.

anti Jewish, Anti-Israel Media Alert

Leave it to those hedonist Jew-hating atheists at CBS News to celebrate a group of frum girls for sending gift baskets to Israeli soldiers.

A perfect example of how over-ritualized Judasim has become

AidelMaidel: HELP! - UPDATED

Why do I say over-ritualized? Because Aidel is in a blind panic because she's stuck in Midtown with no bedikah cloth. Not only that, I hear some scorn in her voice when she describes the old lady at the Judaica store who told her to just use her underwear. "How frum is that?"Aidel seems to be saying. You can almost see her nose wrinkle.

However, the old lady at the Judaica store is right! Any clean white cloth will do! It doesn't have to be a special, fresh from the bag, bedikah cloth! Once RenReb even used her husband's dirty undershirt!

[If anyone's curious, writing this post did ick me out a little. If you don't know what a bedikah is, find a Jewish woman and ask her.]

Why didn't M bow to H?

You are going to hear this week that Mordecai refused to bow to Haman because Haman wore an idol around his neck and Mordecai wanted it perfectly clear that idol worship was wrong.

That's one Midrash, and a popular midrash, but its not the only view on the subject. The Yalkut Shimoni 956, for example, says that Mordecai refused to bow because he was a prisoner of his own pride. Haman, the midrash says, was actually Mordecai's slave, and Mordecai could not bring himself to show him any reverence. In the view of this Midrash, Mordecai's vanity created the crisis and his teshuva ameliorated it. (This parallels Moshe who first abandoned klal yisroel before returning to redeem them) On the other hand, Esther Rabbah 7:8 says that the Chachamin of the time wanted to bow to Haman, and follow the precedent of Yaakov who bowed to Esav. They thought this was how a galus Jew was supposed to behave. Mordecai, as discussed in the post directly beneath this one, held differently.

Was Mordichai a proto-blogger?

In the post beneath this one, Rafi imagines the shaloshudis muttering in old Shushan Habirah

Why does that Mordecai guy have to make so much trouble for us? Can't he just bow down to Haman like the rest of us and get it out of the way? Why does he rock the boat? Does he think God speaks to him more than to us? All he does is make trouble, while we just want to be left alone to live our own lives quietly. Why does he have to be sucha fanatic and make trouble for the rest of us?"
This is cute, but not in keeping with the midrash cited in Yalkut Shimoni 953 which says the people who objected to Mordecai's behavior were not the common people, but the rabbinic judges, the gedolim of the time. According to this Midrash the עבדי המלך who said to Mordecai in 3:3 "Why do you transgress the king's commandment" were not courtiers of the King of Persia, but servants of the one true King. The rules Mordecai was transgressing, in their view, were not the laws of the kingdom, but the laws of the Torah. They argued that bowing to a king is permitted. They reminded him that Yaakov had bowed to Esav. They told him the survival of the Jewish people was at risk unless Mordecai acquiesced to their ruling.

ומרדכי לא יכרע ולא ישתחוה׃
But Mordecai did not bow and did not show homage.

In this Midrash, the pressure on Mordecai to bow comes not from gentile leaders but from the Jewish establishment. They are the ones Mordecai resists. Though Rafi sees Mordichai as a champion of "authentic Judaism" (whatever that might be) this Midrash sees Mordecai as an opponent of the old ways, as a protester and a rebel. In fact, others have pointed out the language used to describe Mordecai's non-compliance echos Berashis 39:10, where we're told that Yosef rejected Potiphar's wife. The words there are ויהי כדברה אל יוסף יום יום ולא שמע אליה. Here we're told that Mordecai rejected the wishes of the עבדי המלך and the words are: ויהי באמרם אליו יום ויום ולא שמע אליהם. This similarity suggests that Mordecai, like Yosef, was resisting the conventions of the land, and the demands of the powerful.

modern day fanatics compared to Mordechai

A Guest Post by Rafi G.

Purim is coming. We all know what it represents and we are all familiar with the miracles and the salvation.

I was thinking about Purim and I realized that Purim has something similar with other Jewish holidays. Mostly it is similar to Hannukah, in that we were miraculously saved, against all odds, from enemies that tried to wipe us out. But is also similar to Pesach, in the sense that Pesach also represents that, as as others holidays to more or lesser extents. As the saying goes to briefly describe all Jewish holidays, "They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat!"

Thinking about the Purim story, and all the other holidays, and the thought struck me that we are really celebrating what we would nowadays decry as fanaticism and extremism.

Today we look at the crazies in RBS B (and other places) and call them crazies. They think of themselves as modern day Mordechais, modern day Mattisyahus, etc. They are trying to save Klal Yisrael with keeping it authentic and staying away from modernity (Hellenism?). We look at the Rabbonim who ban everything that moves without asking first for permission and think of them as antiquated and controlling.

We reject their notions, call them crazies, sometimes protest against them.

I imagine that in the days of Mordechai HaTzaddik, most people were mumbling to themselves, "Why does that Mordechai guy have to make so much trouble for us? Can't he just bow down to Haman like the rest of us and get it out of the way? Why does he rock the boat? Does he think God speaks to him more than to us? All he does is make trouble, while we just want to be left alone to live our own lives quietly. Why does he have to be sucha fanatic and make trouble for the rest of us?" and other things like that.

During the days of Hannukah, most people probably said, "Those Maccabim! Nothing but fanatics and extremists! All they do is make trouble for us. We are happy under Greek rule, living our lives, earning a decent living, minding our own business, but this Mattisyahu and his gang of zealots can't seem to leave things be. They rock the boat and make trouble for everyone" and thing like that.

Then, after history looks back on these stories and events, they became holidays and everybody celebrated, and celebrates, the victory of the few crazies, the few fanatics and zealots, over the goyim.

So, while we are rejecting modern day fanatics and zealots, we are, at the same time, celebrating the fanatics and zealots of old.

How do you reconcile that? What are your thoughts?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Forgive us for thinking this was obvious...

The Rabbi who boasted in the Times about signing God up us an ally in the battle against Wal-Mart is named Horowitz, but he is not the Rabbi Horowitz who blogs elsewhere and is fondly referred to here as the Admar.

I mean, come on people.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Great moments in Kfirah

Here's Rabbi Jacob Horowitz of Monsey, NY, presuming to speak for God in yesterday's Times:
We’re very strong believers that everything comes from the Almighty. I think the Almighty realized that for our children to grow up in a beautiful community, for our traditions to be preserved, we couldn’t have a Wal-Mart.
Huh? Just yesterday the Almighty was telling me that He was gung-ho in favor of Wal-Mart! How dare the Almighty flip-flop on me like that.

No, in all seriousness, I think its swell that Rabbi Horowitz and the Almighty are finally on the same page. I just wish Rabbi Horowitz had explained exactly what it was that brought the Almighty over to His new and more correct realization. Did Rabbi Horowitz win Him over with words? Or was it our prayers and good deeds that showed the Almighty the error of His ways? And how about now? Does the Almighty regret all the time He wasted in the grips of an incorrect idea, or does He feel like He grew from the experience?

Anyway, one small quibble: Given how things work in Monsey, NY, I think what Rabbi Horowitz meant to say is that he is a big believer in how everything comes from the state and local government.

Bonus content: Courtesy of the Times here's a photo of Rabbi Horowitz standing with one of the Almighty's special angels (It only looks like they were holding hands).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

'Collateral damage'

Its not often I find a quote that manages to explode multiple Likudnik/Kachnik/Chardalnik myths at once.

From Haaretz:
In another part of Jabalya, Dib Dardouna's 11-year-old son, Dardouna, was one of the four children killed by a missile while playing soccer on February 27. Dib was having tea on the terrace when he received the news of what had happened. In spite of this, her husband was still talking of peace with Israel.

"I don't hate the Israelis," Dardouna says. "We are cousins."

As a day laborer in Israel back in the 1980s and '90s, he helped build Moshe atsav's house in Kiryat Malakhi. Katsav brought the workers food and Coca-Cola and Dib shook his hand. Dardouna also met former foreign minister David Levy when he built an office building in Petah Tikva.

"I want those days to come back," he says. "I want us to live together. I think we have had enough killed."
Here are some of the claims and promises this snippet discredits:

(1) All Arabs and all Muslims hate all Jews completely.
(2) The IDF aims its missiles with absolute precision
(3) The only Arab civilians the IDF ever harms are those who let themselves be used as human shields
(4) Israeli Arabs desperately wish to join their Arab "brothers" in other lands.
(5) Arabs, by nature, are murderous, barbarous, impossible people.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Sent to me by an email buddy

Let's see. David Vitter is up to his eyeballs in French Quarter hookers. Fine, no problem. Larry Craig is arrested for soliciting sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. Well, so what? Jeff Gannon, male prostitute, treated like a VIP in the White House Press Room, with frequent, yet to be explained visits to the White House. Nobody cares. Eliot Spitzer is exposed as a customer of a high priced prostitute in what may prove to be Patriot Act related wiretaps, and resigns two days later.

All together now: It's OK If You're A Republican.

The Crisis in Darfur

A guest post by TikunOlam

Just over a month ago I attended a conference at Kean University in Union, NJ. The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies hosted the International Conference on Human Rights entitled: Darfur: The First Genocide of the Twenty First Century. I was so proud to see that the Master of Ceremonies was Professor Harry Reicher, a man with a velvet kippa and a long beard. And it was no surprise that amongst the many diverse attendees, there were many kippot and women with sheitels in attendance. And those were just the Jews with the obvious garb.

In my opinion, the most powerful speaker of the day was another gentleman with a very Jewish sounding name, Dr. Jerry Ehrlich, a New Jersey based pediatrician and former volunteer with Doctors without Borders. He spoke about the horrible atrocities he witnessed while working in Darfur and shared a Powerpoint presentation of children’s drawings which he smuggled out of the country. If there was ever any doubt in anyone’s mind about what is really going on over there, the children’s pictures assuaged those doubts. While I couldn’t find Dr. Ehrlich’s collection of drawings online, I was able to find a link to drawings which portray similar images.

I was touched when Dr. Ehrlich told us that when people ask him if he believes that he accomplished anything in Darfur, that he responds by explaining that in his religious tradition, "Saving a life is the equivalent of saving the world." I believe that was quoted to me when I was in my rut and posted "My Hurricane."

As a Jew, I am proud of my people for being at the forefront of the movement to help the people of Darfur.

So what can we do?

According to the speakers, when there is a lot of noise being made criticizing the Sudanese government, the killings decrease. Multiple speakers said that those green wristbands, the tee-shirts, the lawn signs, and letters to local politicians actually help. They credited President Bush and his administration for the good work they are doing in Africa though all believed that he is not doing enough. They said that Bush cares about his legacy with regards to Africa because it is a place where he has been portrayed as a hero and not burned in effigy. In fact, some refugees in Darfur have named their children after him. So the more noise that is made, the more Bush feels he must respond.

I won’t go into a whole long discussion of China’s role in all of this as this post is long already, but if you’d like to learn more about what can be done, check out the information regarding the importance of China’s role as well as general information on the crisis in Darfur at the websites listed below.

And for a recent article see:

Massacre at Merkaz Harav: What you can do

A message from Dan Illouz of

After the terrorist attack on the students of Merkaz HaRav, many of us are asking ourselves: What can we possibly do?

Rav Kook, the founder of the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva had given the answer long ago:
"-The purely righteous do not complain about evil, rather they add justice.
-They do not complain about heresy, rather they add faith.
-They do not complain about ignorance, rather they add wisdom. "
Arpilei Tohar p. 39

Every time a person dies, we say kaddish for him. The Kaddish expressed the greatness of God. Why should such a prayer be recited when a person dies?
Because the Jewish response to tragedy is to build on the destruction, the fill the void with holiness.
We are organizing a major fundraising campain for the victims of the terrorist attack at Merkaz Harav. We will be fundraising to publish a book in their memory which will compile articles written by different prominent rabbis on the subject of Unity. At the end of the book will be a memorial for each of the victims.

We had many ideas for fundraisers, and none were perfect. This one is not perfect either. Still, we opted for this one since:

1. It will be a lasting memorial for those killed, not something which goes away after a while.
2. It will bring a lot of merit to their souls whenever people read words of Torah from these books.
3. It is something everyone can unite towards.

Ideologically, it also seems like an appropriate response – fighting darkness with light.
Our website is set up at

Please visit it and make generous contributions. Please tell everyone you know about this project. Blog about it, email your friends, tell people. Together, we can make a difference.

Spitzer, a Democrat, is done

Spitzer Resigns

For the record, I think former-governor Spitzer, a Democrat, deserves every last bit of the disgrace and humiliation being heaped upon him this morning. He's embarrassed us all, the children of Israel, God's special guys, by paying $5000 for a tryst with a hooker. I mean, couldn't he have, maybe, found a bargain? $5000? Who pays retail for a prostitute?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A response to the annual price gouging tradition

Each year, at this time, in this season, the markets and greengrocers raise their prices for Pesach. UOJ has a solution. Sounding every bit like a broadsider of old, he writes:
Stop eating all meat and poultry products -for one week - starting Sunday - the week of March 30 - until they drop their prices by 25% - You can survive on fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables for a week! Pigs!That's just before Pesach when the Jewish Cow Mafia jack up their prices by 25%! Tell them you will now take control of the "kosher" meat industry, by regulating prices and hashgochos!
*Note UOJ's original message mentioned someone by name. I don't know why this man was singled out; therefore his name isn't included here.

Some pictures of Boro Park

Also from the New York Times

Things people worry about

From the New York Times:
"Is Great Neck going the way of Cedarhurst and seeing business shut down on the Jewish Sabbath?"

(Don't misunderstand: The article isn't unfriendly to Shabbos-observers.)

Who went and detonated the dam?

Suddenly I seem inundated with agony aunt letters. The latest one:

[Dear DovBear]
There's a garrulous young man in my shul who offends me with his constant chatter. During Kabbalat Shabbat, for instance, he'll walk around the shul engaging people in open conversation (unlike more respectable member of the congregation he does nothing to conceal his talking.) During musaf he stands in the back chatting away. Our gabbai ignores it. Our Rabbi sits with his back to the congregation so is unacquainted with the disturbance. (Needless to say, this man wears a hat and long coat, and imagines himself superior in every way to the more modern elements in the room.) Can anything be done?
[Seething in Shul]

Readers? Its your pitch.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bialik Would Weep

A guest post by TikunOlam

Daniel Gordis is almost glad that Hayyim Nachman Bialik is not around to see what is happening in Israel today. Gordis believes that if he did, Bialik would weep.

Thanks “Buddha” for forwarding the article, truly a worthwhile read.

Something on the most boring parsha of them all

Took a while, but I finally found something interesting to say about parshas Pekudei.

When the work of the creating the world was done the verse says:

ויכלו השמים והארץ וכל צבאם... ויברך אלהים את
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed... and God blessed [the seventh day]

When the work of creating the tabernacle was done, the verse says

ותכל כל עבדת משכן אהל מועד... ויברך אתם משה׃
Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was completed... and Moshe blessed them.

Parallels are neat.

Do I look like AskShifra?

Received by email:

I have a rabbi at my shul who is a pretty good guy, and seems to be a talmud chochom. He, unfortunately, likes to use the word "shvartza." I think this is unbecoming and a bad example for my kids, but I realize he may not see it this way. Its possible he thinks that's an acceptable word to use in public. How do I tell him he's wrong?


Oh joy

More competition

So how many bloggers does this make who went from commenting here to opening their own blog? (And 100 DovBear dollars if you can name the first one of them)

(Welcome to my world HH, and good luck to you)

So much for Saint Eliot

This can't be good for the Jews
Gov. Eliot Spitzer has informed his most senior administration officials that he had been involved in a prostitution ring, an administration official said this morning.
Paging David Vitter. Sen Vitter, any advice for Gov Spitzer?

Update: No resignation and it looks like that was his wife next to him, too. (not pretty enough to be one of his associates from the hooker ring)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

My Appeal to You

A guest post by TikunOlam

Sometime, in the not so distant future, I hope to have the fortune of having a young African American child join my family. You see, my husband and I are in the process of becoming licensed foster parents in our state. Because in our part of the country, the majority of children in need of temporary and permanent homes are African American, we expect that chances are, the child placed in our home with be African American.

Before you ask, yes, I know what I am getting myself into. I have been working with the social service system for years and I know. I know better than most. How we made this decision is for a whole other post, so I won’t go into the details right now.

So here is my appeal to you:

Please, when you hear people use the term “shvartza” in your presence, don’t pretend you didn’t hear it. This is particularly important if it is your rabbi, shul president, child’s principal, Rosh Yeshivah or other leader in the community. Please, I urge you, don’t stand idly by as people talk in derogatory terms of “goyim” or in elitist terms of the “yiddisha cup.” And not just for the sake of the child that might join my family one day, but for all the Jews of different races and ethnicities in our midst and for all of the adopted children and adults that are already a part of our community and deserve to be welcomed as equals and with open arms. If not for them, then for the sake of raising all of our children as “menches” with “derech eretz” and respect for all human beings.

I know I don’t have to worry much about this in my community at home. There are so many wonderful Jewish multiracial families who have paved the way for my family already. They have had very little difficulty. But I come as a guest to lots of other communities where fostering and adopting may be less common when I go to family Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Auf Rufs, Brises, Shalom Bats and for Yom Tov.

I know the DovBear readers, if nothing else, care about what is right. I hope you can help me with this one.

celebrating after the terror

A Guest Post by Rafi G.

I was recently in the car driving somewhere and heard on the radio an interesting item. They have all sorts of filler shows on the radio to fill slots of 2 or 3 minutes between the end of a talk show and the top of the hour news. Some of these fillers are very interesting. One such show is a show where the host spends two or three minutes analyzing and conjugating a Hebrew word. Another such show is a description of a Jewish day (e.g. a holiday or some important day in Jewish history).

So, I was in the car and turned on the radio and heard the show describing a Jewish holiday. I have no idea why they chose Lag B'Omer at the time (about a week or two ago), as I turned it on in the middle of the show, but that was the topic. The host (a woman) gave the basic description of Lag B'Omer.

I cannot point to anything specific that she said that made me think of this, but as she was describing the deaths of Rabbi Akiva's students, I was struck by a thought that seems to be relevant today.

I started wondering how it could be that for 33 or so days, Rabbi Akiva's students drop dead like flies from a horrible plague. Finally the dieing stops. The day the deaths stop becomes a day of celebration. It makes no sense. What about mourning the dead? Why is it that the day they stopped dieing has become a great day of celebration with weddings and parties, when we should be mourning the deaths of the last month? How can we transition like that from mourning to celebration?

The thought came to me that the deaths of all these students was a horrible disaster and was, and still is, a time of mourning. But, at some point, we must move on. We don't forget the dead, but life goes on and we have to renew our spirits to celebrating life and living our lives. So we mourn for 33 days, but then we re-embrace life to the fullest, with all levels of celebration. We move on.

After the deaths on Thursday night in the horrible terrorist attack in Yeshivas Merkaz Ha'Rav in Jerusalem, we mourn and remember the dead. I lit a 24 hour candle for their memories before Shabbos. How can we do anything, how can we go to a kiddush, play ball, go to an engagement party, a wedding etc. so soon after the horror?

The answer is that, like Lag B'Omer, we have to move on. We have to re-embrace life and celebrate our happy moments, while remembering the victims. It is Adar, and it is meant to be a time of happiness and joy. It might be difficult to get into the mood at first, so soon after what happened, but that is what we must do. We have to motivate ourselves to celebrate.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Worth repeating

From one of my comment threads:

I've lost three friends in terrorist attacks; two in Israel, one in New York. I mourn deeply for the dead, I feel nothing but sympathy for their surviving loved ones. But every violent event, on either side, just makes me want less violence. I don't want Isreal to "respond with force" when something like this happens. I want the whole country to be decently in mourning and respect the dead by refusing to create any more grieving families. And I'm not the only one.

And I am not "self hating," and I don't think the Palestinians are "cuddly" or whatever, and I recognize that the Palestinian community is not doing anything to condemn the actions of the terrorists, (although I'm glad at least Abbas did), but even g-d was willing to spare S'dom & Gomorrah for the sake of 10 good people, and there are more than 10 good Palestinians, whether or not you want to believe it.

Michal Homepage 03.08.08 - 4:18 am #

I don't know what Israel should do, or what Israel shouldn't do. Really I don't. I don't live there. I don't vote there. And thank God I don't have the tremendous burden of making decisions that affect all of Klal Yisroel. Still, I can't help noticing that every time Israel hits, they get hit back. And vice versa.

According to the papers, the massacre at Mercaz Harav was carried out by a man who had no connection to Hamas or Islamic Jihad or any other Islamacist organization. He was a civilian, engaged to be married this summer. According to his sister, as quoted by the Associated Press, he took a gun and invaded the yeshiva, and murdered 8 Jews because he was "transfixed by the bloodshed in Gaza, where 126 Palestinians [including women and children] died from Wednesday through Monday." No one sent him, and he didn't represent anyone. He was just an Arab, devestated by the deaths of other Arabs.

Don't look at me to excuse 8 murders. I wouldn't dream of trying. What this man did with his devestation was monsterous. Unpseakable. Unforgivable. But.... transfixed? -- that I can understand. Hearing about the massacre, and reading today about the funerals, I was transfixed. You, too, probably.

So what happens now? What shall we do now that we've been transfixed? Shall we get a gun? Do we go shoot up an Arab neighborhood? No. Of course not. We have the IDF. And some of us think the IDF should be dispatched at once to go kill some Arabs for us.

Suppose they do. Suppose the IDF launches an attack on Gaza and more civillians die. Then what? Who does that transfix? How will he respond? And who suffers next?

Kol Hakovod RHS

Rav Herschel Shachter's apology “Statements I made informally have been publicly excerpted this week. I deeply regret such statements and apologize for them. They were uttered spontaneously, off the cuff, and were not meant seriously. And, they do not, God forbid, represent my views. Jewish law demands respect for representatives of the Jewish government and the state of Israel.”

Works for me.

Friday, March 07, 2008


Blasts Kill at Least 54 in Baghdad

Good thing the surge is working!

Note: Guess which of yesterday's two major attacks made the front page of the Times today, photograph included. Hint: It is also on the front page of the Times website.

What they said about the Jerusalem attack

George W. Bush: "I condemn in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack in Jerusalem that targeted innocent students at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. This barbaric and vicious attack on innocent civilians deserves the condemnation of every nation." [click]

Hillary Clinton: "My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families who are suffering the loss and horror of this despicable act of terrorism. The United States and the international community must make clear that such deplorable acts of terrorism will not be tolerated and we must continue to stand with Israel in its fight against terror.” [click]

Barak Obama: "I strongly condemn this cowardly and outrageous attack. The United States must strongly support Israel's right and capability to defend itself. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, and with the Israeli people who defeat these terrorists every single day that they go about their daily lives." [click]

John McCain: [Nothing as of 9 a.m] [click]

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Breaking: Attack at Jerusalem's Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva

Arutz Sheva says six dead (they've updated and now say 8)

BBC says eight

Guardian says four

The New York Times says seven and reports celebrations in Gaza

Al Jazeera says 8 and adds: "the attack is a major escalation, and points to a premeditated attack from the Palestinian territories."

Stay tuned...

My Hurricane

A guest post by TikunOlam

While I may not be counted as a “frum” Jew anymore, some of the Jewish values that I was taught growing up in the Modern Orthodox world are forever a part of the core of who I am. I remember being taught that Hashem created the world as an imperfect place and that each individual human was bestowed with talents and gifts to lend to the world in order to make it a more perfect place. I learned that it is each of our jobs to discover our talents and do what we can in order to make the world a better place.

Well, I am pretty sure I found my calling when I started working as a psychologist with emotionally disturbed children and teens. I joke that I could have never imagined that I, as a White girl from a Long Island Orthodox Jewish home would have had any success working with predominantly African American, inner city gang members, but here I am and have been for a number of years. I love my work and though I am still honing my skills and I am sure that I will be for the rest of my life, I believe that I am pretty good at my job.

But sometimes I get seriously overwhelmed and emotionally burned out. I feel like whatever tiny difference I am making is nothing in the scheme of things. I feel powerless and lost. A past supervisor used to tell me that he too knows what that feels like. He said that sometimes he feels, and excuse my language, as though he is “pissing into a hurricane.” That is what I feel like right now. Like I am pissing into a hurricane.

I feel like this when I watch as security has to restrain an out of control adolescent as he loses complete control of his rage and becomes destructive by tearing down exit signs. I feel like this when kids come into my place of work hungry because their guardian is taking their social service checks and buying drugs with them instead of feeding them. I feel like this when I call Social Services to report that I spoke with a child who had a broken jaw and his mother did not take him to see a doctor and the social service worker (and her supervisor) refuse to pursue the investigation because the child did not allege abuse. And I am feeling burned out right now because yet another one of my past patients was killed by gunshot.

Today I helped some teens work out their differences and hopefully prevented some violence from breaking out. I feel good about that. I need to hold on to those moments.

Who does the press like best?

McCain, hands down, though I grant you Obama comes in second.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bush says he supports a Palestenain state and, now so do American Jews

Click (and by click, I mean NYAH and TOLD YOU SO)



Who wants to hear from Bray?

He claims he has something important to say about Lipa, and wantsto rejoin the blog. Should we let him?

OU Protests Bush Aid Transfer To Palestinians

Ye Gods. Has the Orthodox Union put a shiv into the president's back? And I thought he was Israel's best friend ever? Money quote
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation's largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, protested President Bush's decision to waive Congressional restrictions to directly transfer $150 million to the Palestinian Authority
All credit to TTC

Kavod tzibur - Can Women Read from the Torah in Public?

A guest post by LADYKAYE

So I think the time has come for me to attempt to articulate my thoughts about "kavod tzibur", the reason given by the Gemara (Megillah 23a) as to why women should not read from the Torah.

I've heard this explained in two different ways. Whichever explanation is adopted, the question of whether or not the kavod tzibur statement "still applies today" has been dissected and discussed endlessly over the years, as has the ensuing question of whether or not women should be allowed to read from the Torah if the reason is indeed outdated and no longer applicable.

One explanation I've heard: Back when the Talmudic texts were recorded, it was believed that women were inferior, and that therefore, having a woman do something important like read from the Torah would be demeaning to the congregation.

The other explanation I've heard: There is a halachic obligation upon each Jewish community to provide a Torah education to the men in its midst. Providing a Torah education to women is optional; it is not, however, an obligation. Thus, if a female were to be called up to read from the Torah, the implication would be that the congregation had spent its resources educating her rather than educating its men. This would be embarrassing to the congregation, because it would imply that the congregation had not fulfilled its obligation. Therefore, to save the congregation from looking as though it had shirked on its obligation, we don't allow women to read from the Torah.

So here's what I think about this.

I don't know which of these explanations is accurate. Perhaps neither is accurate and the true understanding of the phrase "kavod tzibur" is something completely different. Personally, I find the phrase itself intriguing, and I would really like to know the truth about what it means. However, let's assume one of the above explanations is correct. In my opinion, the whole question of whether kavod tzibur "still applies today" is sort of far from clear. And perhaps surprisingly, I find it easier to accept that the second explanation "no longer applies today" than that the first explanation no longer applies today.

Today I believe it's sort of assumed by ANY Orthodox community that women do know how to read Hebrew. Perhaps they don't know anything else, but that much of an education I think even the most right-wing schools do provide them (don't they?). So I personally feel like nobody would assume, if a woman were to read from the Torah, that the community was teaching women instead of men. I believe it's fairly common knowledge in all communities that both women AND men are taught to read. So if that's the explanation, then that type of dishonor to the community would never happen today, so the reason would no longer apply.

It's the first explanation that I think might be more difficult to claim no longer applies.

Is it really and truly accepted, today in 2008, that women are not inferior to men? Is this something that all, or even most, people believe, I mean really believe, in their heart of hearts? Leave aside the question, for the moment, of how universal something has to be before we can say it "no longer applies". Let's say it's just that congregation - the one in which the woman is being called up to the Torah - that has to believe it. Has the feminist movement really been that successful just yet? Does every member, or even the majority of members, of even a typical American Modern Orthodox congregation really and truly accept that women are in no way whatsoever inferior to men?

I don't think they do. I don't think that belief has been anywhere near as universally accepted as we like to think it has. I don't think mankind - in which I include women - has evolved that far. I think if we were to carefully examine the inner workings of people's minds, we would be surprised by the gender biases that still exist, and by how prevalent they are, even among the most liberal and open populations. There are people who, for example, instinctively trust men more than women when it comes to knowledge and professional competence. I know I've been guilty of this. I've caught myself in the assumption, for example, that most doctors are men, even though I think I personally know more women than men who are doctors. Somehow, I still sort of expect that kind of expertise to mostly exist among men. I've also caught myself assuming, when I'm reading an article or a column that's especially learned and intelligent, that the author is a man, only to find myself surprised when I look at the name and it's a woman. I have no explanation for this. I thought I was a good feminist daughter of a 1970's-style feminist mother. And yet I find myself not only adhering to these stereotypes, but feeling them as well. And if I can be guilty of this, I have little doubt that other people are too, perhaps without even realizing it.

So that's my issue with kavod tzibur. If it's predicated on the belief that men are somehow superior to women, well, I don't think our generation has surpassed that belief yet. I think we have a way to go before that happens.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Lonely Girl 1944

A guest post by TikunOlam

I recently accompanied my husband on a business trip to Amsterdam. While I was there I had the opportunity to visit the Anne Frank House. I was heartened to see what a central tourist attraction the House has become for tourists from all around the world. There was a line around the block on a weekday afternoon just to get in.
At night we went to see “Boom Chicago,” a comedy show that features English speaking comedians in Amsterdam on a daily basis.

One of the features was a spoof on a popular YouTube video. Check it out: