Monday, June 30, 2008

We've found our Mittens!!!

Romney tops McCain veep list

I doubt this will work. According to my email, Mitt Romney is a secret Muslim.

Anyway, please: choosing your VP from a fringe religious group that wears holy undergarments is so stolen from Al Gore....

Cross Currents Abdication of Responsibility Watch

For reasons known only to Yaakov Menken, the wise wits who contribute to his deeply disturbing blog have not yet weighed in on this week's unprecedented attack on right-wing religion. So as a gesture of friendship and blogger-camaraderie, allow me to write the Cross Currents post I expected to see:

Leave it to those liberals in the media to criticize a god-fearing science teacher. When John Freshwater used an electro-taser device to brand his students with a cross-shaped welt all he meant to do was teach his students about Jesus's role in the regenerative property of skin cells. If we Torah True Jews don't support Freshwater's right to mutilate his students in the name of his make-believe god, you can expect the next thing liberals will attempt is a ban on milah. Count on it. The media might claim that they went after Freshwater because they have the wimpie, girlie-man idea that burning children is wrong, but we know the truth: This is about Freshwater's faith. And if we don't support Freshwater's right to deliver 50,000 watt burns in the name of his idolatry, it will mean the end of values, morals and civilization.
Related:1-1000, 1001, 1002...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Marying your rapist continued.

On the verse in Deuteronomy where we are told that the unbetrothed victim of a rapist must become her rapist's wife with no possibility of divorce[*], Robert Alter says:

It might seem a dubious recompense... [b]ut in this society the condition of a woman who is not a virgin and has no husband is quite desperate (witness Tamar's sense that her life is virtually ended after she has been raped, 2 Samuel 13). The law is no prescription for her happiness, but at least it guarantees her social and economic security.
Alter thinks the Bible is man-made so he is impressed with the provisions of this law. I think the Bible is divine, so I am not.

If God wanted to "guarantee [the victim's] social and economic security, is forcing her to marry her rapist really the best way to do it? Couldn't the same God that imposes fines for various offenses have required a rapist to guarantee his victim's "economic security" by paying her? When a man rapes an unbetrothed woman the law grants her father a payment of 50 weights of silver. Couldn't it have likewise provided for a payment to the victim?

Or as a comment writer put it yesterday: What would have been even more protective of the girl would have been for God to have said, 'If a woman is raped, punish the man and do nothing to the woman, for the act was not her fault, neither should you shun her, nor consider her unfit for marriage, if she was a virgin she shall still be as virgin in your eyes for what she had was not given freely, etc.'

Amen, brother (or sister.)

[*] I'm aware that Talmud might mitgate this, but I an unfamilair with the view of the Rabbis here.

Shorter Scalia

Two days ago
The Great Writ of habeas corpus, a cornerstone of liberty and a check against the abuse of power by kings and presidents since at least the Magna Carta in 1215, must be narrowed, restricted, and limited because to do otherwise "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."

Any attempt to save American lives by narrowing, restricting or limiting the Second Amendment must be rejected "because the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table."

Don't you love it? Scalia opposes granting Gitmo detainees habeas corpus because this might cause Americans to be killed. However, the fact that the Second Amendment causes Americans to be killed is irrelevant because rights are rights dammit!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I'm glad to see the Hasidim of Rockland County are getting their money's worth

Chris St. Lawrence is supervisor of Ramapo, a town in Rockland County, and he and his office are widely assumed to be a wholly-owned subsidiaries of the local Square, Vishnitz and Satmar Hasidim. According to my crack Rockland correspondent (shtriemal tip on request) the theory has merit. He tells me a town police office dared to follow standard police protocols by requiring a woman to remove her wig for a mug-shot. The woman, who was arrested (along with 43 others) on charges of felony welfare fraud, complained and the acrobatic, eager-to-please supervisor has apologized and called for an investigation.

Questions on Kennedy v. Louisiana

Louisiana wanted to execute a guy named Kennedy (no obvious jokes please) who was convicted of raping his 8-year old stepdaughter. The Supreme Court decided yesterday that an execution for a non-homicide offense violates the Eighth Amendment. Kennedy will spend the rest of his life in jail, instead.

- What's the Torah view on this? I don't remember a rule about raping stepdaughters, but I do believe that men who rape minors that are not their stepdaughters are required to marry the victim with no possibility of divorce [Deut 22:29]) So, on biblical grounds at least, the Court was right to cancel Kennedy's execution. Unfortunately, they stopped too soon. Instead of being sent to jail for the rest of his life, Kennedy should have been sent to the chuppah. Like you, we await the glorious day when public policy in this country is based on strict biblical principles, and child-rapers like Kennedy are given permanent live-in victims, as God intended, rather than immoral, non-biblical punishments such as life without parole.

- What do the strict originalist types think of this decision? I imagine they are mightily peeved. After all, the holy inerrant God-like beings who composed and adopted the US Constitution did not object to executions for non-homicide offenses. I rather doubt any of those brilliant, moral, slave-owning men who gave us the 8th amendment intended for it to prevent us from executing child-rapists. Perhaps those crazy commie liberals say that standards of decency and ethics change over time, but originalists know better. They know the Founders got it right the first time, which is why the Constitution is written in stone, and can never, ever be reinterpreted or amended. So I'm sure there's some teeth-gnashing going on today in their secret, originalist clubhouse, presuming one exists.

-- And what is my view? (thanks for asking) I'm okay with the death penalty when you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone has committed a horrible, premeditated crime --and I think the states should be able to define for themselves what "horrible" means. The trouble is that proving something beyond a shadow of a doubt is near impossible, and too many innocent people have already been executed on flimsy evidence. Therefore, in practice I'm anti-capital punishment, and will remain so until time-travel or mind-reading machines have been perfected.

The very best thing ever written about parshas Korach

DovBear: The Korach Crux

Note: Don't waste your time composing witty comments about my vanity: The brilliant parts of the post are the work of Rashi and Robert Alter. All I did was distill their genius. And badly, too, I bet.

Once is a goof. But twice?

For the second day in a row, Chris Mathews, an obscenely well paid member of the so-called liberal media elite, makes the Osama/Obama "mistake." From what I can tell, Christ, I mean Cross, I mean Chris, is justifying his error with the old "I'm stupid" excuse.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thanks to this month's nadvan

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The secret Na Nach gang sign...

...revealed here for the very first time. It's a nice little secret gang sign, I have to say, but the Na Nachs won't be big time, until a pro basketball player throws it one of his opponents mid-game.

HT: Amshi

Nice idea

Probably won't work


Well, Bush always said he was a movement conservative

Some joksters in S.F are attempting to give G.W. Bush the honor he most assuredly deserves:
From the Department of Damned-With-Faint-Praise, a group going by the regal-sounding name of the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco is planning to ask voters here to change the name of a prize-winning water treatment plant on the shoreline to the George W. Bush Sewage Plant.
The only worry is that if the plant operates like the Bush presidency, the good people of San Francisco are in for a massive cholera outbreak.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Babies on the brain

A guest post by TikunOlam

I have been thinking a lot about babies lately. I have a new niece, born in Israel. I have a brand new nephew who hasn't even been named yet. One of our favorite cousins just announced that she is expecting her first. A lot of good news. The family keeps growing. So much simcha and so many beautiful children.

As many of you know, I am also hoping to have a new "baby" in my home in the near future. In fact, today is our last home visit before our application to become a foster/adoptive family is (finally) complete.

With babies on the brain I started thinking back to what I learned while growing up about the mitzvah of "peru u'revu" (the requirement to reproduce). I remember learning (and I am hoping that there are readers out there that could further educate me) that there are various opinions as to what fulfills the mitzvah. I remember learning that according to one opinion, Jews are required to have at least one boy and one girl. I remember that according to another opinion, the requirement is to have 2 boys and 2 girls. I don't remember the sources or even if I am remembering this correctly.

Clearly, having children is a major focus for observant Jews. I have been told from some of the readers here that having large families is a central focus in the chareidi community. Therefore it is not uncommon to see families of 9, 10, even 13 children. In the Modern Orthodox community, families are somewhat smaller, but still larger than the old 2.3 average or today's even smaller 1.7 child average. Today, it seems, having two children in the MO world is almost unheard of and it is very common to have four or five (or more) per family.

Babies on the brain got me wondering about what the OJ thoughts on adoption are. I understand that there is a great deal of money spent on fertility treatments in the chareidi community. Is this because adoption is not considered a way to fulfill this mitzvah?

I also started thinking about other issues that make this mitzvah complicated. And I started wondering, how far is a couple required to go to "go forth and multiply?" What if having an additional child would compromise the mother's health? What if there is a child with special needs in the family and a new addition would take so much time away from the child with special needs that the child would suffer from neglect? What if a man or a woman, for psychological reasons, feels unable to care for another child? What if the mother is required to take medications that might have some detrimental affect on the fetus? What if a couple thinks that the health of the marriage would become compromised if they were to have another child? I know it is a lot of questions (and I edited this down to fewer than I really have), but I have babies on the brain. I'd like to learn more.

Irony alert

You know how those Hashmonaim fought the Greeks and drove them our of Judea, but ended up embracing Greek names and customs themselves within a generation or two? Well, this video clip is sort of the same. It shows, the Lubavitcher Rebbe patiently explaining to an evangelical that we're waiting for the real Moshiach. I've had that same conversation myself with some of his followers.

HT: Hirhurim

Pot meet Kettle

The Associated Press: James Dobson accuses Obama of `distorting' Bible

What's the matter, Jimmy--Obama hasn't acknowledged the Gospel of Supply-Side Jesus, or found the chapter and verse about tax cuts for the rich? Has he committed the unpardonable sin of denying Republican Jesus? Has he asked why you phony hypocrites base your hatred of homosexuals on Leviticus, while IGNORING EVERYTHING ELSE THE BOOK SAYS?!?!?

(Actually, what Obama did was point out that basing public policy on the Bible would be an exercise in futility.)

In other news, it looks like Obama is a Christian again.... for now.

How many Charedim can you fit in a Volvo?

13 is the new record, set by a British man, and I don't think it can be broken without strapping someone to the roof.

Hat-tip: My two favorite Englishmen.

age discrimination in Kollel

A Guest Post by Rafi G.

(cross posted from Life in Israel blog)

Mishpacha magazine recently ran an article about the Kollel system and how their is a growing phenomenon of kollel's rejecting older students. Once someone hits middle age, usually around 40 or so, his spot in any given kollel is at risk.

The article described how Rosh Kollel's consider these men to be difficult to hold for a number of reasons. The main issue was sphere of influence. Rosh Kollels want to have influence on the guys learning in their kollels, and that is more possible with younger guys than older guys. Also older guys stick to the kollel schedule less. And older guys want more flexibility to learn their preferred material rather than that mandated by the kollel. Also there is the sense that if the guy is sitting in kollel for so long, he must not be successful - otherwise he would have started his own kollel or yeshiva.

A more thorough review of the article was written by bluke.

In light of the article, Wolf wrote a post asking what the point of kollel is. If it is to produce gedolim, than kollel should be scaled down and only be for the elite and top learners, and not for the masses like it is. And if it is just to have lots of people, as many as possible, sitting and learning Torah, no matter at what level, than why should a Rosh Kollel care how old the fellow is?

Kollel is clearly not for the the purpose of creating gedolim. Some specific kollels might have that goal, and some might have the goal of creating teachers and Rosh yeshivas.

In general though, kollel is for the purpose of learning Torah. The more kollels there are, the more people are able to learn Torah.

That does not mean every kollel is appropriate for every avreich. Just like not every yeshiva is appropriate for every yeshiva student. Some will learn better in a larger yeshiva, some in a smaller yeshiva. Some will want one that studies in a certain style, some in another style.

It is true of any institution of learning. Some will select one medical , and others will select a different one. And so on and so forth.

The same is with Kollel. One Kollel is good for this person and a different one is good for someone else. The Rosh Kollel has to be discerning with whom he accepts, and not just open his doors to the masses.

Another issue is that the Rosh Kollel puts in a lot of effort to maintaining a kollel. Every Rosh Kollel has levels and styles he wants to adhere to. A certain type of learning. Specific materials studied. Studying at a certain level of depth. etc.

The Rosh Kollel goes out fund raising to maintain the kollel. He deals with the government issues and the army issues. He deals with logistics. He prepares shiurim and directs them in their learning. All so his group of guys he has put together can sit and learn.

The Rosh Kollel puts all that effort into his kollel and his avreichim because he wants it to run a certain way - the way that he sees best.

If someone is not appropriate for this kollel, he can find a kollel that is more appropriate. For this Rosh Kollel, such a person is baggage using up resources that he works hard to obtain.

So if a Rosh Kollel decides, and the article says this is becoming common, that the older avreich is not appropriate for his kollel, I understand that.

Age discrimination is illegal in the workplace. But kollel is not, and has never been, compared to the general workforce. While I feel bad for these older guys with the problem, I understand the Rosh Kollel's point of view.

What would really be interesting to see is if someone would sue a kollel for age discrimination. I wonder how the courts, or even a beis din, would relate to kollels. Would they consider kollel equal to the workforce and be obligated under the general labor laws and therefore not be allowed to discriminate, or would they say it is a place of learning and not a work place and therefore allow the Rosh Kollel to be more discerning (i.e. discriminating).

Monday, June 23, 2008

The thinking of the spies

Jameel reminds me of a teaching that makes the spies seem like some leaders we know. He writes "The zohar writes that the spies were simply worried about losing their status as important leaders if Israel were to enter Israel"

I've also heard (forget where, though I seem to recall blogging it) that the spies saw the worst in Israel because living there would have compared so unfavorably to their lives in the dessert. In the dessert the spies were comfortable: Along with their status, power and prestige, they also had the blessings of divine providence. Food fell from the sky. Their clothing never wore out. Once they entered the land, all of that would end. In Israel, their status would be threatened, and if they hoped to avoid starvation, they'd have to go to work, with their hands, like common people.

(Any similarities to kolel life, are purely intentional.)

The sin of the spies

In Numbers 14, the spies come back from their mission and 10 of them report that Canaan is unconquerable. Two other spies disagree and argue that, with God, anything is possible. Instead of settling the matter, Moshe responds to the claims and counter claims by falling on his face and saying nothing. The thesis of this post is that Moshe's reaction was wrong, and contrary to well-established principles of Judaism. Instead, of suggesting with his body language that the two dissenting spies were correct, he should ruled plainly and forcefully in favor of the ten.

A few thousand years later, the great Rabbi Joshua found himself caught between Eliezer bin Hurkanus and all the Sages of Israel. According to the Mishna Rabbi Eliezer merit outweighed the rest of the Sages combined, and he was convinced a certain type of oven was ritually unfit. To make his case he mustered brilliant arguments; when they failed he called for various miracles and omens. "If the law agrees with me, let the stream of water prove it!” he said, and the stream flowed backwards. "If the law agrees with me let the walls of the study house prove it" and the walls began to collapse. When he saw that neither his arguments nor his signs had swayed the other sages he called for the support of heaven, and a divine voice was heard saying "Why do you disagree with Eliezer bin Hurkanus who is always right?"

According to the Babylonian Temple, Rabbi Joshua protested: Lo Bashamayim Hi “The Torah is not in heaven!” We pay no attention to a divine voice because long ago at Mount Sinai it was written "incline after the majority."

The ten spies who said it was safer and smarter to stay in the dessert were not ordinary men. They were, according to Rashi (citing the Tanchuma) virtuous men. Men of great distinction. They'd been at Mount Sinai. They were the leaders of their tribes. In the language of 21st century Orthodox Judaism, they were "gedolim." Tzadikim. And they were of the opinion that Israel's destiny was in the dessert. By what right did Moshe disagree with them, in favor of the minority? Lo bashamayim he. We pay no attention to a divine voice. God Himself has no power to overule the majority.

Some have attempted to argue that the 10 spies were "reshaim" but that's circular reasoning: We only call them "reshaim" because they went against the will of God, but how do we know they went againt the will of God? Why don't we say that the will of God is represented by their decision? Because they're reshaim! (see? Circular.)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Here we go again...

Collected on the Internet (my comment thread, in fact)

And there has never been a better friend [to Israel] than [John Sidney] McCain.

Oh boy, here we go again... wasn't it just 4 years ago you dopes told us that the shrub, despite being pro-peace plan, and pro-Palestinian state, "was Israel's best friend ever." Don't you jokers ever get tired of being wrong?

Now fact is, McCain wouldn't be bad for Israel, and neither would Obama because (NEWSFLASH) Israel is strategically important to the US, and every one knows it. That (NEWSFLASH) is why every president supports Israel. Not because they love Jews, or because they are afraid of AIPAC, or because they are God's agent on earth but because supporting Israel is good for America.

And Obama knows it just as well as McCain knows it.

Straight from the Rabbi's mouth

Here are two LOL remarks made recently by our local rabbinical types.

"Every time the ark moved, Moshe said "Vayhi B'nisoah"

"And do you know who the stick-gatherer was? He was the bnos Tzelafchad's father!"

More, as warranted

Friday, June 20, 2008

Politics as Usual

Uh oh. Looks like Obama wants the expanded powers W assumed for himself.

[Bright side: This should scare the wingnuts half to death because it means Obama is playing to win. Course the Rethugs are still going to tell everyone he's a liberal softie.]

I may be wrong about this, but wasn't Bush president on 9/11?

Fear monger John Bolton (responding to a softball question from biased FOX moron John Gibson:

Yeah I think honestly that’s an optimistic view of [an Obama presidency], that it will simply be a replay of the Clinton administration. It will simply have more embassy bombings, more bombings of our warships like the Cole, more World Trade Center attacks. That would be the best outcome from that perspective.

I guess you can't blame the mustache man for trying. This sort of thing does seem to work, but only because the media rolls over and plays dead when they should instead be reminding people that Bush was caught with his pants down on 9/11. Remember "Bin Ladin Determined to Attack America"?

[NB: Who in their right mind wouldn't want a replay of the Clinton Administration? Peace and prosperity are GOOD things.]

Obama on anti-Semitism and more

[This is a good rebuttal to some of the stupid things said by stupid people about Obama]

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Explaining my Zionism

A guest post by TikunOlam

"Just arrived and I am as amused as ever to see TO playing cheerleader for Israel. Her children aren't likely to marry Jews. Her grandchildren won't be Jewish. Isn't it obvious her crazy-ass love for Israel is just some kind of overcompensation? Why is she wasting her time? None of her descendants are likely to care about Jews or the Jewish state, anyway.
The Elephant in the Room 06.19.08 - 8:50 pm # "

Well, sometimes trolls trigger ideas for posts. So here is my attempt at explaining my Zionism.

My particular brand of Zionism comes directly from my view that history has taught us that Jews are always at risk of genocide when living in lands controlled by others. Israel was established to fit a need, a need for the very survival of Jewish lives. I believe to the bottom of my toes, that Israel – as a Jewish state, is necessary in this time in history, today, not just in 1948, to exist, in order to ensure that Jews have a place to go if and when they are threatened in other lands. Words cannot convey how deeply I appreciate the sacrifice of those who live in Israel to ensure that I have this place to go.

I also greatly appreciate the Americans that ensure that America is a safe place for me to be too. I am grateful for the Americans ending WWII and grateful to America for allowing what little was left of my family to emigrate to this great country too.

And I do not deny that what comes with Israel is a set of very complicated problems that should have been better addressed and should be better addressed. I want peace. I want all humans to have rights and dignity and freedom. But I do not believe that we should ever compromise the safety of Jewish lives, lives that have been throughout history compromised by everyone else, in order to provide that freedom to others. I would love to see Israel extend those rights to anyone in her borders if and when she is safe. I will always defend Israel’s right to defend herself and fight her enemies (though I agree with DB and many other critics that the current policies in Israel need to be vastly improved) in order to survive.

I do put Jewish lives over lives of others. Not because I believe that Jews are inherently superior (sorry Chaim), but rather, because “Im Ayn Ani Li Me Li?” – Jews are my family (even if some want to disown me) – and my family comes first. That is not a religious notion. That is my instinct. I protect my family first. No one else will ever put Jewish lives first. No one. Period. They never have and they never will. And no one, outside of other Jews, cares if I believe in god or if my children intermarry. As long as we are Jews according to the non-Jews, we are Jews. Hitler saw it that way. History teaches us that he was not the first. One needs to look no further than Iran to see that Hitler is also not the last.

So I hope we continue to be safe here in the US. I love my home and I love this country. I hope we continue to enjoy the benefits of living in the US indefinitely. But I am going to learn my lesson from history and yes, maybe even allow myself to continue to be brainwashed by my fourth grade teachers, when I say that supporting Israel as a Jewish state is an essential way to ensure “Never Again." That there are Jews who are anywhere from apathetic to scornful of Israel scares the heck out of me.

God's Party

Currently on sale (really) at the Texas Republican Convention

Well, if we haven't called it the "Cracker Castle" these last eight years, I don't suppose we'll be making any changes l'kovod Obama. But this,cool, and not-at-all obnoxious Republican button has me thinking: Maybe stodgy, boring old “Hail to the Chief” will be replaced with The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Who Shot Ya" - how cool would that be?

Anyway, Republicans keep it up. This HELP HELP A BLACK MAN strategy is a sure winner.

Hat tip where hat-tips are due: Open Left:: Ah, Republicans

Who is this guy Art and why does he keep turning up naked?

This article is about rancher and father of 14(!) from Texas who has made it his business to get rid of the naked art (statues of half-naked women, mostly) you see everywhere in Washington D.C.
"You don't have nude art on your front porch," the Dallas Morning News quoted the delegate as telling the [GOP] platform committee at the [GOP] state party convention. "So why is it important to have that in the common places of Washington, D.C.?"
This isn't an unfair point, I suppose, except, well, we've always had nude public art in this country, and so have all of the great countries that came before us: In other words, naked art is part of our very long-standing decorating tradition, and though the argument from tradition isn't one I find especially compelling, it surprises me to see a GOP rancher and father of 14(!) from Texas demonstrating such disdain for tired and true American practices. Doesn't he know that sort of thing undermines our men in unform and makes Al Queda stronger?

Besides, if this anti-American petty-bourgeois yokel wants to get the boobs out of Washington D.C all he has to do next November is vote Democrat.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

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I live on stolen land too

A guest post by TikunOlam

I can’t seem to get this comment written by a commenter named Ahem out of my head. The following is what he or she said on my thread linking Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s poignant and timely (IMO) article, “Why My Torah is Crying.”

“Please. Efrat was built on stolen land. He hears the torah crying? I hear the tears of Arabs, and others he and his fellow zionists displaced in the name of their foolish religion.”

When I think about what Ahem said, I can't help but feel terribly guilty. I live on stolen land too. The land I live on was stolen from Native Americans. The Native Americans who used to inhabit my land were very badly treated. So I have decided to do something about it. I decided to live up to my blogger name and right my wrongs. It is time to give back my land to the Native Americans.

So, I have been doing my research. It seems that, mostly likely, before my land was stolen by the colonists, who after a couple of generations sold it to me, it was inhabited by a Native American tribe called the Lenape. I have read about the Lenape. It seems that these folks were and are very good people. And some good news, there are some Lenape still living whom I can contact to offer my land! So at first I am thinking, YAY!

So here I am thinking this is going to great. I will be doing this wonderful thing. But then it gets more complicated. Of course. Why should doing the right thing ever be easy? I find out, low and behold, before the Lanape inhabited my land, the Munsees may have lived there. The Lenape may have stolen it from them for the natural resources! So what am I to do now? Who is the rightful owner? The Lenape, because they inhabited the land directly before the White Men who sold it to me, or the Munsees, who may have had their land stolen from the Lenape. And what if the Munsees killed off some other tribe in order to steal the land. My head is spinning trying to figure out who to contact here!

And to make matters worse, no sooner am I stressing over which Native American tribe to contact, when it occurs to me that there is a whole other problem that I haven't even considered. Where do I go after I give back my land? I am not even sure where I belong. I don't even know what my native land is. I mean, I know that my recent ancestors were Eastern European. I am afraid though, that when I go to Poland and knock on the door of the house that my great-grandparents once owned before it was seized by the Nazis and tell the people there to move out, they might not comply. And I figure, I know that my family must have lived somewhere before Poland anyway. Jews didn't *always* live in Poland right?

So I figure I should keep looking further back to figure out where exactly my native home is. This might take a while and some serious research. So now this is what I am afraid of. What if , at the end of all the exhausting research, I find out that when I trace my ancestry all the way back to when the Hebrews entered the land of Canaan, I find out that my family lived in a little hut in Efrat!

So basically, I am in a serious pickle and it looks like I am going to end up homeless.

The Hetrosexual Revolution

Published: July 5, 2005
Olympia, Wash.

...James Dobson of the evangelical group Focus on the Family has warned that without that ban, marriage as we have known it for 5,000 years will be overturned.

My research on marriage and family life seldom leads me to agree with Dr. Dobson, much less to accuse him of understatement. But in this case, Dr. Dobson's warnings come 30 years too late. Traditional marriage, with its 5,000-year history, has already been upended. Gays and lesbians, however, didn't spearhead that revolution: heterosexuals did.

Heterosexuals were the upstarts who turned marriage into a voluntary love relationship rather than a mandatory economic and political institution. Heterosexuals were the ones who made procreation voluntary, so that some couples could choose childlessness, and who adopted assisted reproduction so that even couples who could not conceive could become parents. And heterosexuals subverted the long-standing rule that every marriage had to have a husband who played one role in the family and a wife who played a completely different one. Gays and lesbians simply looked at the revolution heterosexuals had wrought and noticed that with its new norms, marriage could work for them, too.

The first step down the road to gay and lesbian marriage took place 200 years ago, when Enlightenment thinkers raised the radical idea that parents and the state should not dictate who married whom, and when the American Revolution encouraged people to engage in "the pursuit of happiness," including marrying for love. Almost immediately, some thinkers, including Jeremy Bentham and the Marquis de Condorcet, began to argue that same-sex love should not be a crime.

Same-sex marriage, however, remained unimaginable because marriage had two traditional functions that were inapplicable to gays and lesbians. First, marriage allowed families to increase their household labor force by having children. Throughout much of history, upper-class men divorced their wives if their marriage did not produce children, while peasants often wouldn't marry until a premarital pregnancy confirmed the woman's fertility. But the advent of birth control in the 19th century permitted married couples to decide not to have children, while assisted reproduction in the 20th century allowed infertile couples to have them. This eroded the traditional argument that marriage must be between a man and a woman who were able to procreate.

In addition, traditional marriage imposed a strict division of labor by gender and mandated unequal power relations between men and women. "Husband and wife are one," said the law in both England and America, from early medieval days until the late 19th century, "and that one is the husband."

This law of "coverture" was supposed to reflect the command of God and the essential nature of humans. It stipulated that a wife could not enter into legal contracts or own property on her own. In 1863, a New York court warned that giving wives independent property rights would "sow the seeds of perpetual discord," potentially dooming marriage.

Even after coverture had lost its legal force, courts, legislators and the public still cleaved to the belief that marriage required husbands and wives to play totally different domestic roles. In 1958, the New York Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to the traditional legal view that wives (unlike husbands) couldn't sue for loss of the personal services, including housekeeping and the sexual attentions, of their spouses. The judges reasoned that only wives were expected to provide such personal services anyway.

As late as the 1970's, many American states retained "head and master" laws, giving the husband final say over where the family lived and other household decisions. According to the legal definition of marriage, the man was required to support the family, while the woman was obligated to keep house, nurture children, and provide sex. Not until the 1980's did most states criminalize marital rape. Prevailing opinion held that when a bride said, "I do," she was legally committed to say, "I will" for the rest of her married life.

I am old enough to remember the howls of protest with which some defenders of traditional marriage greeted the gradual dismantling of these traditions. At the time, I thought that the far-right opponents of marital equality were wrong to predict that this would lead to the unraveling of marriage. As it turned out, they had a point.

Giving married women an independent legal existence did not destroy heterosexual marriage. And allowing husbands and wives to construct their marriages around reciprocal duties and negotiated roles - where a wife can choose to be the main breadwinner and a husband can stay home with the children- was an immense boon to many couples. But these changes in the definition and practice of marriage opened the door for gay and lesbian couples to argue that they were now equally qualified to participate in it.

Marriage has been in a constant state of evolution since the dawn of the Stone Age. In the process it has become more flexible, but also more optional. Many people may not like the direction these changes have taken in recent years. But it is simply magical thinking to believe that by banning gay and lesbian marriage, we will turn back the clock.

Stephanie Coontz, the director of public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, is the author of "Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage."

Breaking: Octogenarians marry; civilization ends

Same-sex couple Del Martin, left, and Phyllis Lyon, right, were married by San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom in a private ceremony at San Francisco City Hall Monday. [Both are in their late 80s- DB]

I know many of you Yeshivaniks who read DovBear for the kugel are certain California's ruling last month means the end of marriage, civilization, and possibly the world. But if you take a deep breath and think about this reflectivly for a moment, I'm certain you'll agree that "marriage" has changed many times over the last 2 or 3 thousand years, and life went on. [See the next post for more]

Katrina Closure

Hurrican Katrina was one of my first blogging"paloozas," and the story of the city's destruction and Bush's failure to give a damn, and the efforts of bloggers and pundits to justify and explain and excuse infuriated, and enlightend, and educated me in far too many diffferent ways. I mention this now because a comment (written today) by newcomer Shira Bat Shira took me back:

I just started reading your blog a few weeks ago and noticed your Katrina archive. I was first drawn to your site by your very good response to Lazar Brody and his Katrina message.

My dear, dumb, Dag, what was also dreadful was Bush diverting rescue workers from thgeir jobs so that they could instead stand behind him for photographs. What was also dreadful was that FEMA couldn't get food or water to the convention center for four days. And the list goes on as Bushes buddies become richer.

The national and international news focused on a narrow view of Hurricane Katrina. It has largely ignored the story of my hometown of Gulfport Mississippi and other cities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We have not rebuilt as many commenters have asserted. It will take many, many years to replace the 100,000 that Katrina destroyed, not flooded, destroyed.

But to get back the news media agenda, they reported the lurid tales they could find(those tales proved to false) and ignored the real stories.

The FEMA supply trucks arrived within 3 days on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Why not in Louisiana? Several factors, the first being those in the Superdome and the Convention Center did have food and water supplied by the Louisiana National Guard. It was rationed but nobody starved or died of thirst. Second, why attempt to cart in massive amounts of food and water when the city was being evacuated? Tirdly, the extraordinary rescue efforts of the Coast Guard, the Louisiana National Guard, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, police, fire men, and ordinary citizens tends to give the impression that people in the New Orleans area and Mississippi did not evacuate. This is not true. Over 2 million people evacuated. If they hadn't, the death toll would have been much higher. And speaking of the death toll, the majority of those who died because of Hurricane Katrina in both Mississippi and Louisiana were the elderly, not the poor. They did not want to leave their homes. We had to lie to my Mom to get her to come with us.

So many extraordinary and awesome things occured during and after Hurricane Katrina and it is being lost because of politics. Consider, 50,000 people were rescued, one of the most massive rescues every done and all we hear about is how Bush is to blame for everything. At the beginning of 2007, the number of volunteers helping us to rebuild our lives in Louisiana and Mississippi reached 500,000.

If you want to look at what an ineffective government response to a natural disaster is, just look at what is going on(or not going on) in Burma.

The typhoon in Burma had a storm surge of 12 feet. The storm surge in Katrina, according to NOAA, was 28 feet.

People are looking at the wrong-end of Hurricane Katrina. it did not make sense to bring in food and water to New Orleans when the city was being evacuated and when the Louisiana National Guard had water and food to meet needs.

As one commenter pointed out, each time President Bush visited Biloxi or Gulfport Mississippi, resources had to be used for security and transportation. How much worse would it have been if he had tried to visit New Orleans when that city was still underwater and being evacuated? His visits to Mississippi were very much appreciated because it made us feel less isolated.

There were so many things that did go right during Hurricane Katrina and it makes me sad that the focus is on politics.

The fact is, no amount of Federal aid is going to make rebuilding the 100,000 homes lost in Mississippi and the 100,000 homes flooded in Louisiana be rebuilt any quicker. It will take 10 to 15 years to get back to semblance of normalcy.

Shira, I wish you'd been here in 2005. Your information and POV would have been very helpful.

Japanese jails are equal to concentration camps

A Guest Post by Rafi G.
(cross posted from LII)

The story on the left was an advertisement run in the Yated Neeman by the Kupat Ha'Ir of Bnei Brak. It describes an elderly woman who donated 19,260NIS for the fund for the 3 boys in jail in Japan.

How'd she come up with that number? She explained that this is the number that the Nazis tatooed on her arm. She was imprisoned in the concentration camps. Everything that was written abotu what the boys in Japan are going through, is exactly what she experienced in the concentration camp, and how the Japanese are treating these three boys, that is how the Germans treated them.

She continued with tears that she now feels she has exacted her revenge on the Nazis, by giving this amount to help save Jews from those who were partners with the Nazis, the Japanese. What these boys are going through reminded me of the troubles I went through under the Nazis, and maybe now this money will help free them.

The ad concludes by saying, "This is the check. 19260NIS of revenge. For these forlorn boys, captured by the Japanese, the nation who were partners with the the most horrific of tragedies. Whomever was not there, in the concentration camps, will never understand. Will these boys merit ever returning from there? The answer to that depends, as well, with you."

So now they are playing the Nazi and Holocaust cards to get us to donate. I think it might be exaggerating a bit, no matter how bad the Japanese jail is, for them to have described the Japanese jails in terms that made this woman think that they are going through exactly what she went through in the Holocaust...

Do they have no busha?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Musings about manners

HaRav Ari Eskin: It is interesting to note that not only are table manners mandated by the Talmud...

Is the requirement to eat with the accepted table manners of your own time and place, or with specific Talmud manners which are forever and everywhere in place? If the former: fine; if the latter, well, are we permitted to feed ourselves with forks? The personal table fork probably didn't catch on until at least the 16th century. Before that it was used to serve, but not to eat.

This strange claim about table manners brings me back to a vexing question, encountered again and again, in one form or another, over my long blogging career: How do we square our faith that every thing a Jew does is presrcibed by God or the rabbis, with the irrefutable evidence that customs, practices and even our beliefs, have evolved with the pasage of time? The easy and obvious answer is that most every this thing was not enjoined or set down; rather our practices were described and justified after first being embraced by the masses.

This answer satisfies me. (The vexing part, I guess, is that I've done such p.p job of selling it to the rest of you.)

Fat Tony Hates People, Freedom, Habeas Corpus

Scalia, dissenting from the Court's latest "nuh-uh Mister Bush: "And, most tragically, it sets our military commanders the impossible task of proving to a civilian court, under whatever standards this Court devises in the future, that evidence supports the confinement of each and every enemy prisoner."

And there you have it ladies and gentlemen: A sitting Supreme Court Justice who thinks providing evidence that supports confinement is "an impossible task" and really not worth the bother. Does this clown really think his hand-picked president's War on Terrah is going to fail if the govt has to start giving reasons for locking people up? And isn't the fact that the govt. doesn't seem able to provide those reasons ("an impossible task") the best proof the War has already failed?

And please, please, please spare me the bromides about how "people will die" if those "murderers" aren't kept locked away forever without trial. First, you don't have a crystal ball. Saying "people will die" is just a cheap scare tactic. Second, we don't know that they are murderers, remember? There hasn't been a trial yet; indeed the govt. hasn't even bothered to explain why these men were imprisoned in the first place. Perhaps they were rounded up for mooning a general's car? If that was why they were thrown in jail would you even know? Third, this decision hasn't flung open the gates of Gitmo. No one will be released unless the govt fails to provide cause for keeping them imprisoned. And if the govt can't make that case, do you know what those people are? The word is "Innocent."

And finally, the fact the "people will die" is not a valid argument to curtail freedom. Americans have died because of the 2nd Amendment. They have died because of the 4th and 5th, too. The point of America isn't to make sure Americans don't die. It is to "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity"

Monday, June 16, 2008

Why is YOUR Torah crying?

Shlomo Riskin's Torah is crying because Orthodox conversions are being called into question. My Torah is crying because ia hyperbolic drama queen like S. Riskin is using it to tilt at windmills.

And what about yours?

A Guest post by Modeh B'Miktsas

Since this is a torah post, I will make an effort to avoid "yeshivish"in favor of clarity except for simple phrases.

Everyone has heard about sh'vuos being the holiday commemorating thegiving of the torah. However the Torah itself gives no date for mattan Torah.We only know that it coincided with sh'vuos by counting the days from when they arrived at Mount Sinai until the event (Rashi to Sh'mos 19:1 does it for you.)
The reason given for the holiday of sh'vuos both places it is mentioned in chumash is "so that you should be happy with all the good that Hashem your god has given you." (Parshat Re'eh) And "So that you should be happy with the land" (Emor)

It appears that far from being a holiday of high spirituality and transcendence, sh'vuos is meant as a festival of gashmius, or physicalityon which we praise Hashem for success in our livelihoods (ahem kollel but that's another story)

When I contacted DB about writing this post for his blog instead of my dormant one, he asked if I had any idea as to why it's two days even though we could theoretically count from Pesach. Here are 3 answers:

Lo plug (feel free to debate whether that's an answer or an evasion, I'd go with the latter)We do count from Pesach but since Pesach has a sfeka d'yoma, we count each day of sh'vuos from each day of Pesach.We don't assume people will remember to count (Pesach has 2 days even though erev Pesach is one month after Purim) Don't hesitate to complain about lack of specific references or anything else.

Further proof of Europe's degeneracy

Via the Guardian: In England some laws are being changed to help Muslims learn to stop hating the English Because these laws have to appear equal they often affect the Jewish community as well -


HT: He who I am note sure I can name, but would be glad to HT if he'd say it was ok.

Quality Question

Why my Torah is crying - By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin

A guest post by TikunOlam

To read why Rabbi Riskin's Torah is crying click here for the June 15, 2008 Jerusalem Post article.

Who needs Habias Corpus?

Certainly not a rightuous, god-fearing, inerrant country like ours

Koach hazmanim alert! Yesterday, June 15, was the anniversary of the day in 1215 when King John agreed with his barons that perhaps the king should not be permitted to capriciously imprison people.

Behind the lies

In this new, and problaly one-time-only feature, we tell you what people quoted in the news are actually thinking:

Obama: We Bring a Gun - The Caucus - Politics - New York Times Blog

"Senator Barack Obama was fund-raising Friday night in Philadelphia. But he was talking about “the Chicago way.” Channeling the mob drama, “The Untouchables,” Mr. Obama said in reference to the general election rumble with the Republicans: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

“Why is Barack Obama so negative?” "Why won't Barak Obama just bend over and take it like and take it like past Democratic candidates? Who does he think he is objecting to our nobel and god-fearing pattern of dirty and slanderous attacks?" said Alex Conant, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, calling the line a “hyperbolic attack.”"

Did it happen?

On an NPR podcast accessible here Shalom Auslander, the author of Foreskin's Lament, says an ear- pulling, hand-slapping rabbi taught him in third grade that "Shalom"was also one of God's name and therefore:

1 - His friends could not greet him by name in the bathroom;
2 - His name could not be written on paper;
3 - If it was written, say on a lunchbag, the article had to be deposited in the shaimos box and set aside for burial.

I've been around yeshivot, and yeshiva graduates and I think Auslander's story carries the whiff of truth. Others are calling it a straight fabrication. Can any of you readers provide additional information? If you or someone you know was ever this Rabbi's student, please tell us what you saw and what you think of Auslander's tale.

The askanim of tomorrow

A Guest Post by Rafi G.

I had the opportunity to spend this past Shabbos in the Holy City of Jerusalem. I was in one of the most Haredi neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and I had an epiphany.

My wife and I took our kids to the local park on Shabbos afternoon. This park is an amazing little park. The slides and swings installed there are better than in most parks. There are slides of various sizes, including the most exciting being about 20 feet high with a nice incline. Some include twists and turns. This park is very exciting for the kids, and the number of kids playing there attests to that.

So we take our kids to the park and they get all excited. They go up the structure housing the slide (the ladders up were inside the structure so we could not really see what was going on there). They quickly come back down complaining the line is too long and htere are these kids up there telling everyone who can go down and who cannot.

Sitting there for a few minutes, we saw some other kids come out crying to their mothers, or just upset in general as they went to play on other items.

Eventually we figured out that there were these kids who have taken over the park and they run the show. They decide who can go down which slide. Kind of like a low class mafia. The main kid is about 11 or 12 and about 250 pounds. He put the fear of God into all the kids and his assistants were therefore able to work effectively.

They were basically a bunch of bullies who found little kids to pick on. They would let one down and not the other.

Reflecting back on that later that evening, I told my wife that we had just seen the future askanim of the Haredi world. These are the kids who will grow up and become askanim, telling us which bus we can ride on, where on the bus we can and cannot sit, what day we can go shopping in which store and any other form of control the askanim take.

When askanim take control of a situation, people say they must be doing it l'shem shamayim, with pure intentions, because they are gaining nothing from it. On the off occassion, someone might actually be gaining something, like possibly after the big sheitel (from India) issue when people created hechshers and alternative sheitel companies. but in most situations probably nobody is gaining financially from the bans and takanos.

What is gained, and for some reason people tend to discount this, is that these people enjoy cotrolling others, telling them what to do, when to do it and how to do it.

The askanim, for the most part, are just bullies who other people are afraid to stand up to.

Yes, there are some good askanim who do good for Klal Yisrael.

Most askanim though are just bullies who look for ways to control others. That Shabbos afternoon in the park, I saw the future askanim of Klal Yisrael.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Shalom Auslander talks about commandments 1,2 and 3

A guest post by TikunOlam

Postcast from Chicago Public Radio: The American Life - where people of all different religions talk about their stuggles to follow the Ten Commandments. Click on "Full Episode" to hear it in its entirety.

If you want to fast-forward, Shalom Auslander's piece is about 7.5 minutes into the full podcast.

Shabbat Shalom to all!

Weird Pic

Does Natalie Portman's boyfriend have enough product in his hair? And why is he wearing a talis?


Ex-chief of Empire State Building Skyride accused in fake gyno exams

A few brief words on habeas corpus

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. - Magna Carta, Article 39, as granted by King John in 1215


I am deeply distressed by the thought (comments supra) that habeas corpus is some weak-wristed liberal idea designed to protect, benefit, and otherwise coddle terrorists and other murderous fiends. This is ahistorical and backwards.

Habeas corpus dates to the Magna Carta at least. The Magna Carta was granted in 1215, and the men who put it together were not, I assure you, a bunch of crazy-commie-liberals. What habeas corpus means is that individuals cannot be imprisoned at the whim of the king or for the sake of his own convenience, ie, no one goes to jail without a good reason. The king can't say per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis and throw away the key. He has to demonstrate cause and explain to the court why he thinks you should be imprisoned. If he can't, you are set free.

What should be obvious to anyone with even a child's grasp of logic is that habeas corpus does nothing to help criminals. What it does is protect innocent men (men who might have been arrested by mistake, something that, presumably, could happen to any one of us) while also reassuring us all that the government is behaving credibly.

Absent habeas corpus we don't know that all of the men in Gitmo are terrorists. Absent habeas corpus, its possible that some of them have been imprisoned simply to magnify the glory of the president, to make it seem like his absurdly expensive War on Terror is producing results. It's also possible that honest mistakes were made, that some of the incarcerated men were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, or that bounty-seeking warlords turned them in.

Like you, I desperately wish to believe that all of those men are hardened enemies of America, but without habeas corpus how can we know for sure? How do we know that every last one of those men languishing in prison have been apprehended for good reasons? The answer is we don't and, as the Supreme Court yesterday agreed, basic 800-year old principles of fairness demand that we find out. And the very worst that will happen is that any men collected by mistake, or handed in by bounty-seeking warlords will be set free. This is an outcome no freedom lover should oppose.


From a reader

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Supreme Court rebukes Bush again

I'm not sure what's more horrifying: That, at this late date in history, the Supreme Court needed to reaffirm that, yes, habeus corpus is a smashing good idea, or that four justices dissented from the opinion.

Another repulsive valentine to a replusive person at Cross Currents

Those wondering why the Third Temple remains unbuilt, are directed to Cross Currents, and Avi Shafran's post about why John Hagee is a better Jew than Eric Yoffie.

What, precisely, is wrong with those idiots? For all their claims to be an objective and authentically Jewish voice, Cross Currents seems to exist mostly to prop up Jew-hating Christians. When JP II died, Cross Currents sat with the chief mourners and contributed nothing to the conversation about the Pope's campaign to cast Catholics as victims, rather than perpetrators, of the Holocaust. When that baseball chaplain made some theologically objectionable comments, Cross Currents came to his rescue. When Pat Robertson was rightly reviled for being an anti-Semite and a (possibly reformed) white supremacist, Cross Currents posted in his defense. When that creep Ted Haggard was exposed as a liar and an adulterer Cross Currents attempted to rehabilitate him with post after post after post. This week, Haggee is the down-on-his-luck Christan under fire from the press, and we've already had two Cross Current posts about how poor, corpulent Haggee is really one of our top ten friends of all time.

But let a reform Rabbi step out of line, and its out with the knives.

I mentioned the Temple at the beginning of this post, because the Rabbis teach that groundless hatred is why it was destroyed and that it won't be restored until this sin is erradicated. Most imagine that the hatred described by the Sages existed between the good, kosher Jews - perhaps Shloimy didn't listen to Beryl's drasha with enough respect; perhaps Shaindel failed to compliment Raizy on her new hairstyle - but this is historically inaccurate. In first century Palestine, the period the Rabbis describe, different Jewish sects were always and forever at each others throats. Take for instance, the Hellonists, who sparked the Great Revolt by defiling a shul in Ceasrea. Or, the Zealots who murdered the entire leadership of the southern command, and terrorized all of Jerusalem. Or, the Scarii who tried to provoke the Jews to fight by burning all the food in Jerusalem, and so terrified Yochana ben Zackai he was forced to escape Jerusalem in a coffin. Or the Jewish-Christians, who had a strong Jerusalem community (led, at one time by James, brother of Jesus) and were already circulating the books that would become the New Testament. In particular, John, the most anti-Semitic of the gospels, is believed by conservative scholars to have been published between 65 and 90.In short, Jerusalem, in the late 60s, was a wreck.

I have very little doubt that all of this - and more - is what the rabbis meant when they said that baseless hatred destroyed the Temple. And I have very little doubt that Safran's attacks on Yofee's legitimacy are a continuation of that sad legacy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Treating God worse than the Godfather

I wish to record my admiration for the slight of hand committed here by the Miami Herald, and then I'll have a few words of disapproval for what the article describes. According to the headline:
Cooper City family donates Torah
A Cooper City family honored its youngest son's recovery from once-constant seizures by donating a Torah to its synagogue
a Florida shul appears to have been the beneficiary of a "thanksgiving offering" presented by the grateful family of a boy who no longer suffers seizures. This sort of thing is not unusual. It even has a name in Hebrew (זבח תודה or korban todah) and an unimpeachable pedigree (Ps: 50:23 "...he who offers a thanksgiving offering, honors Me.")

Unfortunately, the article (contra the headline) tells a different story, and I can only presume that the headline was an attempt by the editors to muffle or conceal the vulgarity of what, in fact, transpired:
Gabi Damatov, now 17, suffered from horrific seizures since he was 16 months old.... His parents tried every medicine, every prayer, but nothing worked. Until one day several years ago, when Gabi's mother, Shoshi Damatov, said the family would dedicate a Torah scroll to its synagogue, Chabad of Southwest Broward, if Gabi's seizures stopped. Since then, Gabi has had only a few seizures, going almost three years without one until this past February.
I wish the boy and his family nothing but continued good health, of course, but I'd be abdicating my blogging responsibilities if I neglected to point out that, strictly speaking, the family's gift wasn't a זבח תודה, but a quid pro quo. A payment. After prayer and medicine failed, the family went to the creator of the universe with an offer they thought he couldn't refuse: Cure our son, and we'll buy you something nice. In their imagination, God took the deal, and earned his present, though the favor they requested remains unfulfilled: The boy still suffers seizures!

It all reminds me of how the Italians treated Don Corleone, only the characters in Francis Ford Coppala's movie had the decency to be less direct. Aside for the bumbling undertaker in the opening scene, no one outright offered to pay the Godfather for favors. It was understood that the Don would take care of his friends. Good deeds would be remembered and rewarded. Corleone's people had faith in him, faith in his loyalty, in his justice, and his memory, and to suggest that these things could be improved with a present was to demonstrate disrespect. This attitude, I believe, is closer to the system of schar v' onesh described by the Rambam then the swap proposed by the Damatov family, a proposal that seems to regard God as the sort of favor-seeking bureaucrat who will subvert his own system for the right price.

future US elections on Saturdays?

A Guest Post by Rafi G.

(sorry for posting twice today, but I just saw this and wanted to get the debate out)

Roland Martin wants to change the election day in the US from the first Tuesday of November to the first Saturday of November.

Being that Saturday is a day off for most people, his claim is that the voting percentage would go up. Many people do not vote because they are at work and by the time they get to the polling station the lines are too long, and whatnot. Voting on Saturday would include mroe people in the process.

Obviously voting on Saturday would be bad for religious Jews who cannot vote on Saturday due to it being shabbos. Theoretically, if it is better for 300 million people, should that be sacrificed because of 200,000 who cannot vote (I made that number up. I have no idea how many religious Jews there are) on that day?

What do you think?

(this has nothing to do with the fact that his suggestion clearly will not pass, both because of the Jews and because of the strong aversion to changing things. This is just for the debate)

Who will be Israel's next PM?

A letter from [name temporarily withheld: Will be revealed with permission]:
I really enjoyed your pause to marvel at the historic moment when Democrats officially chose a black man to run for President. I hope your side fears are incorrect, but I guess we'll have to wait and see. Now, onto Israeli election news items...

With cries for his resignation growing stronger (a popular Israeli bumper sticker reads “OLMERT, YOU DISGUST ME”), has a profile of the odds-on favorite to replace Israel’s current Prime Minister: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, chief Israeli negotiator with the Palestinians

Apparently, Livni is not your typical Israeli politician: “Livni, 49, is a no-nonsense former Mossad agent who eschews small talk, avoids the Bar Mitzvah circuit most Israeli politicians use to rack up favors and lives quietly in a modest Tel Aviv home with her husband and two sons.”

It would be great to hear what you and your readers think about’s look at Tzipi Livni and how things might be different if she assumed command. Please feel free to share on your blog and let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

Friday, June 06, 2008


Trying to decide if I need to write yet another post on how the word for sunrise is not "netz" or if the old ones will do...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Those of you who acknowledge the efficacy of prayer are encouraged to honor this request

From the mail bag:

Hey DB, we're moving into a new synagogue building on Sunday, complete with a 20-minute hike through a park to escort our Sifrei Torah to their new home.

Could you ask folks to send sunny thoughts to rainy Oregon?



Breaking: Moshiach ben Dovid Banned!

News Flash: Davidic Dynasty Retroactively Invalidated

In a historic ruling of mammoth proportions, the Supreme Rabbinical Beit Din (Beit Hadin Harabbani Hagadol) in Jerusalem has retroactively disqualified the conversion of Ruth, Great Grandmother of King David. The Bet Din released the following statement:

"Ruth the Moabite did not go to the mikva. She did not accept upon herself all 613 mitzvot and the accompanying chumrot of the high court. She behaved in a licentious manner with a local farmer named Boaz, and was known to walk around the fields with various body parts uncovered, including her hair.

Also, she is unable to produce any documentation from the Rabbis who converted her; anyway, the Rabbis operating in Moab where she claims to have converted are all modern, and therefore unrealible. Because of this we rule that Ruth is not Jewish, and her lineage is retroactively disqualified."

Background and more here.
A smug cheer from CrossCurrents here.

Sign me up

Ten DovBear dollars to whoever is first to add me to this list.

Zot Torah

NYC is the Big Apple, NOLA is the Big Easy, and Beitar Illite is the "Torah City of the Judean Hills." No joke. Or rather it wasn't a joke until this happened:
A 14-year-old girl from Beitar Illite was taken to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem after an unknown person spilled acid on her face, legs and stomach, causing light burn wounds. The act has been attributed to a representative of the so-called 'modesty guard' in this town where religious and secular residents are increasingly at bitter odds.[Source: Ynet]
Our crack Beitar Illite correspondent says there's even a sign at the city gate which reads "Ir HaTorah b'Orai Yehuda." If so, I hope its torn down and used to stuff the private orfices of the self-rightuous thug that did this.

HT Amshi

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Can I ask for your help with this one?

A guest post by TikunOlam

My eldest is currently considering becoming a vegetarian. He is concerned about "animal cruelty" and thinks this might be the right thing for him to do. He hasn't made any decisions yet but has been eating only vegetarian food for the past week as he thinks this through.

One of his major concerns is that if he goes the veggie route he may miss some of his favorite foods such as General Tso Chicken. Today he explained that he thought there might be a remedy to his conflict. Apparently someone (probably a member of "Living Legacy" - a Chabad group that also runs the Matzah Factory at his school) at some point came to speak at his school about Shechita. He remembers the guest saying that chickens feel no pain when they are killed via a shochet. Now, I know nothing about shechita. And I certainly never heard this before. Can anyone help me with this?


From today's keepsake, frame-worthy, Times:

Senator Barack Obama claimed the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday night, prevailing through an epic battle with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in a primary campaign that inspired millions of voters from every corner of America to demand change in Washington.

“You chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears, but to your greatest hopes and highest aspirations,” Mr. Obama told supporters at a rally in St. Paul. “Tonight, we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another — a journey that will bring a new and better day to America. Because of you, tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.”

I can understand if you're not impressed with the man's politics, or his vision. I can even understand (sort of) if you want the old, angry, anti-abortion, Haggee-hugger to win in November. But this is a great moment in American history, a moment to celebrate how far we've come. If you lack the capacity to join that celebration, at least for today, I wonder about your humanity and your sense of history.

A side worry: After the Republicans steal this one (and they will, if not via the Supreme Court than via dirty tricks, or appeals to fear) its going to be a million years before another black man gets nominated. The Dems will beat themselves up saying stuff like "what were we *thinking* nominating a black man in this deeply racist country?"

Holiday gifts for wives

Last night one of the local rabbinical figures made some rabbinical remarks about shavuos. It wasn't bad, as far as these things go, which is to say I was only partially bored. His theme, or topic, was this "How do you handle the age-old [sic] problem [sic] of preparing meat and dairy when you have only one oven." I suppose this is a serious concern, at shavuos time, for those who bake their own cheese cake, but the ins and outs of the discussion didn't hold my attention.

Then he said this: "If you want, you can satisfy the mitzvha deoyraysa (biblical obligation) to give your wife a holiday gift, and buy her a new oven."

Now, I'm sure the Rabbi didn't expect us all to stop at Sears on the way home. I'm sure he was just being funny. But the comment raised a question in my mind, and over time the question gradually morphed into a challenge.

The idea that we men are supposed to present our wives with holiday gifts is enshrined in biblical law, a law that dates to a time when you could made certain reliable presumptions about men and women and marriages. In 9999 out of 10,000 marriages, the man was Mister Outside, responsible for finding food, earning money, genuflecting before the local tough guys, etc. The woman was Mrs. Inside. Her job included baking bread, and brewing beer, and raising children. (and, let's face it, serving as an outlet for the man's sexual energy.) She never had any of her own money to spend, and because holiday time meant feasting, it also meant a lot of extra work for her. So the guy who wanted to demonstrate his appreciation, and to ensure that she would continue to serve as said outlet brought home a present. The gift was a "tribute" just as surely as the goat he presented his local chieftain was a tribute, a way of making sure he stayed on the other person's good side.

[It may have originally been as simple as that, though later the rabbis offered another set of assumptions. They reasoned like this: We are all supposed to be happy at holiday time. Men are made happy with meat and wine, so we hereby decree that men must eat meat and wine on the holiday. Women are made happy with shiny baubles, so we hereby decree that women be presented with sparkly toys. The fallacy of this reasoning is addressed over here] [Note to crybabies: On the original post I misspelled the name of the Shaagas Aryeh. All of you caught it, and some of you made noble attempts to make me feel bad about it, attempts that ultimately failed. The original misspelling remains intact, so those of you who think whining about spelling is productive use of your time are free to pick up where you left off.]

But how many of those old assumptions about the roles of men and women still adhere? Today women work, earn their own money, and are perfectly capable of marching into the local jewelry store and making a purchase. Men nowadays have more "inside" responsibilities. They cook, and clean, and have become excruciatingly aware that women have plenty of sexual urgings of their own, thank you very much. So doesn't the idea of a holiday gift as tribute seem more than a bit outdated?

Yet it remains enshrined in biblical law... though the presumptions that, thousands of years ago, made it a sensible idea no longer adhere... and... here we are again....

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

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frothing at the mouth

A Guest Post by Rafi G.

It looks like the wonderful commenters over at Yeshiva World did not hear Rav Steinman's mussar shmooze in Ponevezsh Yeshiva yesterday...

They are frothing at the mouth again and this time over the Salute Israel parade...

What a waste of a day

June 3, 2008: The day nothing got done. Let's just try again tomorrow.

Monday, June 02, 2008


DovBear: Oh, Artscroll.

How Non-believers Develop Morality

A guest post by TikunOlam

I was asked a couple of posts ago by "I Know TO" why (and I am paraphrasing), if I could just do whatever I want, since I don't believe there is some ultimate divinely perscribed morality or truth, would I act ethically and morally.

Fedup linked this article by Steven Pinker entitled, "The Moral Instinct," which is well worth the read and may explain some things for those who have trouble understanding how anyone could develop a sense of morality without religion as a guide. And if you haven't visited his blog yet, there's some other interesting stuff worth checking out.

Mental Meanderings about Zionism

I need to write a post about why I didn't go to the Israeli Day Parade despite loving Israel as much as anyone; but its just not coming.

Part of me supposes that I am finding the post impossible to write because I really don't care about Israel. That stings a little. In my imagination I care about Israel as much as anyone, but maybe I don't, not really, or at least not in the way that the marchers care about Israel. I don't think I am ready to admit that to anyone, though, including myself. And anyway what does it mean not to care about Israel?

I'd be sad if it disappeared. Horrified, in fact. I don't want Jews to die. (There is something a little vulgar about how I feel required to say this, as if the matter would be in doubt, if I left this unsaid. But its true: If I don't say it outright, some people will pretend and/or presume that I want Jews to die. A little sick, that.) I know many thousands of Jews are alive today because of Israel.

So why can't I demonstrate that this is what I think and feel by marching? Is something wrong with me? Am I too lazy to get to the parade? Am I selfish?

But isn't everyone selfish in that we all just do the things that make us feel good? Don't all of us, at bottom, structure our lives in ways that provide us with the most pleasure and the least pain?

So why doesn't going to the parade make me feel good? Why isn't participating in the parade a source of pleasure? Is it because - let's face it - parades are sort of boring? In fact, the whole idea of a parade - we all agree; we all think alike; we're a monolith of support; rah rah rah - sort of makes me recoil.

A thought: I've noticed that pro-Israel psychos and anti-Israel psychos disturb me in the exact same way. And the way that both kind of psychos disturb me is fundementally similar to the way that Charedi-ism disturbs me, which at bottom, is how all "isms" disturb me, which - aha! - is the thing about parades that makes me recoil. Smugness. Certainty. Us against Them. So is my ambivilance about Israel related to my general distaste for ideologies? Is that why I distance myself from Israel? Because I can't seperate Israel from the unreflective head-nodding of some of its supporters?

But, hold the phone. Israel is more than the sum of its supporters, isn't it? And its not like every supporter of Israel is the sort of psycho I've described. TO isn't. Jameel isn't. Anyway, neyond what those multivarious supporters say and do, Israel serves a purpose, doesn't it? And its a purpose, I am supposed to support. There are living, breathing Jews in Israel, who belong to any number of different ideologies themselves, and all of them would be endangered if Israel were to vanish.

Lots of Jews are better off now because of Israel. Perhaps all of us are. But is Israel still a sanctuary and a safe haven for Jews?

I am not so sure. Anyone with a cursory understanding of risk management knows that it isn't a good idea for all the Jews to be in one place. Makes it too easy for one nut with a big bomb to knock us all off. As father Jacob's behavior showed us, sometimes its wise to divide the camps. And how many Jewish communities are still huddling in fear under the rule of an anti-Semite? Not many. And even in places like Iran, where the few remaining Jews are living pinched and danger-filled lives, how many of them are really and truly trapped? Wouldn't the mullahs be glad to see them leave?

And, along with the expiration, or, if you prefer, fulfilment of Israel's original purpose, I find that even the idea of "Israel" has become wrapped up, in my mind at least, with so much effed-up nonsense, and worse, all of this nonesense becomes kosher, depending with whom you speak, under the heading of "This is what God wants" or "He gave US this land" or "Those Arabs are so much worse" or "Those Arabs started"

In my faulty perception, talking to a certain type of Zionist is exactly like talking to a certain type if charedi. Some charedim attempt to shuts down any debate or conversation about how to make Judaism better by insisting that everything Charedim do is ipso fact the correct and authentic way for Jews to do things. I grew up with Zionosts who offered similar justifications for everything Israel did: Israel was always right, because nothing Israel did could ever be wrong. The media was always wrong, because the media was a monolith that, down to the last man, hated Israel. Same for the Arabs who were always capital E evil. Any attempt by me to bring nuance or new facts to the conversation was taken as proof that I hated Israel, that something was wrong with me for seeing things no one else wanted to notice.

So maybe I just gave up? Maybe I said to hell with it, and backed off leaving the Zionists to their Zionism, as I wish I could leave the Charedim to the Charedism?

Sometimes, I just want to wash my hands of Zionism, in the same way that I sometimes want to wash my hands of charedi nonsense. Sometimes I see the Zionists like I see the Charedim, in that both groups are certain they're right, indifferent to nuance, and convinced that any attempt to disagree, is a demonstration of your own defectivness. (Do I need to say the this is a generalization that doesn't apply to every Charedi or every Zionist? Ok. Said it.)

And Im not sure how much or how little sense this makes, but let's make a post out of it.

Did you see me at the parade?


Did the kannoim win?

Sure looks that way.


(A consolation: J-blogosphere historians will remember that in late 2005 GH also gave up, took down his blog, and pretended to retire. That surrender was celebrated in fundementalist corners yet, in the end, GH was back in about 6 seconds. Let's hope Pravda Ne'eman returns even more quickly.)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Tommy Lapid's death brings out the truth

A Guest Post by Rafi G.
(cross posted from LII)

Tommy Lapid has died this morning. Yosef Tommy Lapid was a person whose obituary I was not going to write. I was not even going to mention it. People die all the time, and Lapid was no longer in the public eye (he was no longer in Knesset - he was director of Yad VaShem the past few years but has kept a low profile). You can get all the obits and eulogies in the regular news.

Lapid founded the Shinui party and his whole being was dedicated to fighting the Haredim and Haredi parties. People called him anti-semitic, but I never thought of him like that. I thought he was anti-Haredi and perhaps anti-religious (that was less clear), but not anti-semitic.

So why am I mentioning it?

Because the various Haredi Members of Knesset, and former MKs have all been speaking about Lapid today, on the radio, in the printed news, etc. Because Lapid was such a bitter opponent, and devoted all his energy in Knesset to fighting the Haredim, I was surprised to hear what I heard today. And don't think it was a one-way street. With all the name calling and mud slinging coming from lapid toward the Haredim, the Haredim gave back as good as they got.

I would have expected to hear them saying how he hurt Haredi Judaism, he damaged the stipends, hurt the yeshivas, he is no loss to anybody, etc.

I was surprised to hear them speak of him fondly and even praise him. Eichler explained he never knew anything about Judaism - the first time he had seen a pair of tefillin was when he was 17 when he was in the army, and he suspected the person donning them of being a spy using comm devices. He was a Holocaust Jew and all he knew about Judaism was the holocaust. He did not fight against the Haredim, but fought for secularism.

Aryeh Deri said Lapid was straight. He had other pleasant words to say abotu him as well.

Zvulun Orlev (NRP, not Haredi party) said Lapid, despite their differences in opinion, fought for democracy.

and more.

When it comes down to it, the battles between people and parties in Knesset are really just politics, and not personal. They each fought for what they believed in and they were on opposite sides of the battle.

But when it comes down to it, it was not personal. Each side respected the other, and saw the good in the other as well.

I wish we did not have to wait for a death to see that, but could see it while people are alive. A fight over ideaology does not need to become personal and destroy relations between people. People fighting for what they believe in can still respect each other in life, and not just after death.