Thursday, July 31, 2008

Are non-OJs welcomed at Ohel?

A guest post by TikunOlam

So, if you have been around this blog for a while, you likely know that my family has been working toward becoming foster family. We went directly through the state to obtain our certification but I decided to contact Ohel recently to see if there was a chance we could work with them toward having a Jewish child placed in our home. A family member had recently shared that he thought that I might be incorrect in believing that Ohel would not work with non-OJs. And with the strife that bringing a non-Jewish child into our home is apparently causing some extended family members, I figured I should at least make the inquiry before I made any further assumptions. It is not like I wouldn't *want* to foster a Jewish child, in fact, I would love to, I just did not think it would be an option for us. And to me, a child is a child, so their ethnic or religious background was not that important for me.

I am still waiting on a response to a recent email inquiry with Ohel, which is actually the second one, after I was unable to get my answer in the first email exchange. I noticed that on their website, they refer to themselves as a “Jewish Agency.” But I also noticed that in all the pictures of staff and clients, all the people pictured appear to be Orthodox. I explained in my email that I was toward the end of the certification process through the state and asked if Ohel worked with Jewish families of denominations other than Orthodox. I received a polite email back thanking me for my interest and asking me in what state I resided and who was certifying me. I responded with my state and explained that even if it were not possible to work directly with me, I would like to know, in general, in case I knew of other Jewish families in NY who were interested, would they be welcome at Ohel if they were Conservative, Reform or non-affiliated. I am not sure why this question was not answered in the first email. Readers, some of you are more familiar with Ohel than I am. Would they welcome my non-OJ family (assuming my location is not an issue) at Ohel? Or should I not get my hopes up that my family can both welcome in a child in need of a foster family while also helping my extended family to be more at ease with what we are doing?


The quadrennial accusations that the Democrat running for president is a "flip-flopper" are usually incorrect. When they come from someone like John McCain they are also the very definition of chutzpah. As Jonathan Chait tells it, once upon a time McCain was:
" opponent, on moral and fiscal grounds, of tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefited the rich. He was also a fierce opponent of the extreme elements of the religious right. He was a proponent of global-warming legislation, the Law of the Sea Treaty, a moderate immigration bill, expanded public financing of elections, a tobacco tax, and many other liberal reforms. Today, he is none of these things."
Why did he change? Political expediency, of course. A liberal-minded reformer can't succeed in today's Republican party, and McCain would rather be president that stick with his principles.

Update: Ok. It's true you can't get to the point of running for president without changing your mind a few times. It's also true that some positions have a limited shelf life (for instance, Obama's three-year old position on the Iraq war. Changing facts on the ground have made that opinion obsolete.) So why is it always the Democrat who gets labled a "flip-flopper" by the too-cooperative media? As Chait argues here this is because Democrats campaign on issues like
" care, the minimum wage, education, Medicare, or Social Security, [while the Republican campaigns] on themes like Trust, Courage, and so forth. The details of the Republican character narrative vary a bit from campaign to campaign. (In 1992, 1996, and 2008, Republicans waxed rhapsodic about the moral virtues inherent in military service; in 2000 and 2004, they played them down.) The alleged flip-floppiness of the Democratic nominee, though, is a hardy perennial. Flip-flopping is a simple accusation that campaign reporters can sink their teeth into. And, so, whatever two or three issues the Democratic nominee has changed his emphasis on are inevitably blown up into a devastating character indictment. The Charles Krauthammers and Sean Hannitys of the world can be counted on to whip themselves into a moralistic frenzy against the feckless Democrat. And news reporters will stroke their chins and ponder, because the question is being asked: Just who is Obama (Kerry/Gore/Clinton), anyway? Yes, he may have a detailed platform on domestic and foreign policy, but do we really know anything about this man?"

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Sin that Dare Not Speak its Name

By the semi-refrocked Bray of Fundie

On 17 Tamuz I posed this question (among others): Why do we mourn the wages of the sin (busted tablets) rather than the sin itself (golden calf)? No one in the comment thread cared to address it. Here are my=2 own theories:

1. While all fast days are T’shuva days, Yom Kippur being the archetype, the bookend fasts of 17 Tamuz and 9 Av are first and foremost mourning days. The tears we shed now are tears of loss whereas on Yom Kippur they are tears of remorse. We are licking our wounds and as such focus more on what are sins lost for us than the evil of the sins themselves.

2. The Golden Calf is just too awful to confront directly. When we say “broken tablets” we MEAN Golden Calf, just as when the cowed witches and wizards say “Dark Lord” or “He who must not be named” they MEAN Voldermort. As Yiras Shamayim compels us not to enunciate G-d’s name so too Yiras Khet compels us not to enunciate certain sins names.

3. Poskim argue about whether or not one should ask mekhila from a person for speaking lashon hara about them that they are unaware o f. The logic of those that opine you should not is that “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” and what they do know will. I.e. the inuy d’varim arising from the person realizing that their reputation has been sullied is itself, a sin and an offense. One is not allowed to give offense bein adam l’khaveiro, in order to fill a personal need for absolution. Hence no interpersonal confession aka asking forgiveness.

The Golden Calf was more than idolatry it was an act of national marital infidelity “Woe to the bride that was unfaithful while still beneath the Marriage Canopy” is the Midrashic metaphor for this sin. Jewish Idolatry is the sin that arouses Divine jealousy and revenge. As such, despite G-d being omniscient and fully aware of our sin it may be we don’t confess it as this would be like a faithless wife explicitly reminding her husband of her infidelities. As in the case above one is not allowed to give offense bein adam l’makom, in order to fill a personal need for absolution.

Hence no confession or even a mention of the Golden Calf on 17 Tamuz.

Rats, Shmarya's famous

Jewish blogger is the watchdog of the Orthodox world

...but you know what? He deserves every bit of it.

GOP Perp Walk

Ted Stevens a [this can't be right] Republican [Republican?!] from Alaska has been indicted on seven counts of making false statements. [No doubt this is Bill Clinton's fault.]

John McCain's Horrible Awful Terrible No-Good Week

And don't miss John Oliver explaining that "John McCain is now banking his campaign on the one thing that's more powerful than hope and change: pity."

fit to be a commando

A Guest Post by Elite Commando Rafi G.

In light of my most recent experience shechting, an article I saw in the newspaper today particularly appealed to me....

The Yisrael Hayom newspaper today had an article about how a commander of the elite commando unit "Egoz" has come up with a new feature in the training program for his soldiers. He has decided that in order to train properly, so they will not later, when in action, be suddenly surprised by blood and gore, they have to experience it during the training.

This commander was one who received awards for his excellence during the Second Lebanon War. But he realized that many of his soldiers came back traumatized from having seen all the blood and gore...

No, training will not be conducted with live fire, "shirts and skins" style, or anything like that.

What this commander did was take his soldiers, after the war, to a slaughterhouse. By seeing up close the internal organs, the blood, the guts and all, by getting a visual understanding how it all works and getting used to the blood, his soldiers came out of their trauma and shock.

Since then he has included it as a regular part of his training regimen. He takes his unit for a day of learning in the slaughterhouse to watch the shechita and the butchering.

Another officer praised his ingenuity saying that doctors also go to similar places, to get used to seeing the blood so they will not be affected by it later.

So it turns out that I am fit to serve in the elite commando unit of Egoz! Where do I sign up?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A quick question about Ronald Reagen

The media are now saying that 200,000 Germans turned out last week to hear Barak Obama speak. Though we know the count is probably unreliable we can tell from the pictures that the venue was mobbed. When Kennedy, the white Obama, spoke in Berlin 40-odd years ago, it is reported that 100,000 people attended.

Ronald Reagan is the other president deliver a famous address in Berlin. When he told Mr. Gorbachev to "open this gate" and "tear down this wall" how many Germans were present to applaud the translation?

BT Bashing

What I loath and despise about this column written by Toby Katz is that she argues that the widespread and well-documented discrimination experienced by (non-wealthy) converts and BTs who attempt to join the Haredi community is (wait for it) entirely the fault of the BTs and converts themselves!

According to our Tobahlina, only "sour, dour, picky people" protest when their children are shunned, kept out of the best schools, or denied high caliber shiduchim. Only "difficult" people object when they are treated in shul like second-class citizens and subjected to other forms of condescension. "Sweet, outgoing, pleasant, talented, easy-going" people take the abuse and marginalization in stride! And some even ask for second helpings!

This godless drivel from Toby is the same dodge and excuse given by bigots in every time and every place. Their pathetic rationalizations go like this "We are perfect. Our community is holy/patriotic/moral/blessed/without error. If only the blacks/Asians/Jews/PRs/Homosexuals weren't so uppity/pushy/strange/dirty/queer our prejudices would vanish!"

...when the truth is that in order for prejudices to vanish, people like Toby must disappear first.

In better news, good old Gil, once again, tells Toby to stuff it:

Why don’t we solve the problem in our community instead of blaming the victim?

BTs and Gerim are subject to many different forms of discrimination, some of it is overt, some is systematic, and some is unconscious. You know it and I know it, lets be honest and real and deal with it instead of sweeping it under the rug.

Comment by Gil — July 27, 2008 @
9:17 pm
[You should click on the once again above. Gil was great that time, too]
What I don't like about this column written by RYH is that he goes to the bother of defending something demonstrably false (the young universe) when there is no theological, hashkofic or halachic reason to do so. Its a fact of nature that the universe is billions of years old, and the Rishonim either give us room to believe this or they agree with it outright, (See the Kaplan book, and this) so why kvetch it?



Monday, July 28, 2008

DovBear: Suitable for Audiences of All Ages

Unlike filthmonger blogs like CrossCurrents and Hirhurim, MY blog is rated "G."

If you're an MD what's so special about the GOP?

A guest post by Teanek SheNishba

Thanks to my wife’s profession, I have had the privilege of spending the past six years living among medical doctors and residents. While the shabbos conversations during med school evolved from human dissection (first year of medical school) to the Boards (second year), to choosing a specific field (third and part of fourth years of medical school), for the most part the conversations during residency have remained status quo: whining that doctors no longer make any money, that the concept of universal healthcare is a universal evil and that anyone who doesn’t vote Republican is an idiot, anti-Zionist and not a fumma yid.

The main arguments I've heard are as follows:

· Republicans are Better for Israel: I’m sorry; did President Clinton push Israel and the P.A. to allow Hamas to participate in the Palestinian elections? Did Clinton call for the creation of a Palestinian state? I’m lost on this one.

· Obama is a Muslim: I refuse to address this issue.

· Tax Cuts Help Us (i.e Doctors): According to a January 8, 2008 New York Times article “Families earning more than $1 million a year saw their federal tax rates drop more sharply than any group in the country as a result of President Bush’s tax cuts, according to a new Congressional study.” Although I do believe my neighbors are extremely bright, I highly doubt any of them will become the head of neurology at Mt. Sinai. The $1 million a year salary is most probably beyond their grasp. Why they favor the uber-rich not carrying their burden is something I fail to grasp and they fail to explain.

· Universal Healthcare is Evil: Yes, let the poor people of this nation die! Better I should be able to go on vacation to Switzerland than a kid whose father lost his health insurance when his job relocated to India be able to have a liver transplant. Don’t you know what Universal Healthcare would do to our country? It will turn us into… (gasp) Canada! Considering that Canadians have an average life expectancy of 80.34 while Americans (with our superior healthcare system) have an average life expectancy of 78.06 maybe this would be a good thing (stats from

· Republicans are Better for the Economy: Bush inherited from Clinton a fiscal surplus of $127 billion. In his first year he turned that into a deficit of $158 billion. ‘Nough said.

I am in favor of doctors making as much money as they can. I honestly hope my wife becomes the most successful doctor the world has ever seen. I am just having trouble understanding any of their pro-GOP arguments. All you medical D.B. readers out there, please post comments and enlighten me.

Has "presumptuous" become the new "uppity"?

Fact: McSame went to Europe and the Middle East last March

Fact: McSame went to Latin America last week, where he held a joint-news conference with the president of Columbia, with each of them taking a few questions. This is the format used when Bush meets presidents, too.

Fact: McSame "distributes mini-schedule booklets that are nearly identical to those used in the White House: same style, same typeface, same size."

Fact: McSame has recently inaugurated a Saturday radio address.


Fact: Hardly anyone has accused McSame of being "presumptuous", though this term of disparagement has been repeated in article after article, many of them appearing in publications that, allegedly wish for Obama to win.

"In a speech that risked being seen as presumptuous..." -- the AP

" the growing sense in some quarters that the presumptive Democratic nominee is getting a little presumptuous..." -- Boston Globe

and more.

What explains this? I mean other than the fact that white men are sometimes uncomfortable when a black man acts like he expects to be treated equally?

Here we go again with another quality post


Friday, July 25, 2008

No, I am not just doing this for the Google Juice

Julio Castillo (ok, maybe a little)

Video here

Yo, its not like I have super powers

On the heels of my last attempt to modernize the language used on our wedding invitations, I have received the following plaintive cry:
DB, see if you can get this annoying wedding Nusach to fall into disrepair.

Why do frum people continue to insist upon describing the Kallah as ?הכלה הבתולה המהוללה

Firstly, as compelling as it might be to gossip about whether the girl put out before marriage or not, why must she be subjected to a public verbal gynecological examination?

Secondly, in a culture where women's name are obscured for Tzniut reasons (most wedding invitations soft-pedal mention of the maternal half of the parents into ורעיתו ), this practice is nothing less than farcical.
I'll do what I can, but moving this mountain might tax even my powers.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Heckler interrupts Western Wall visit

The rabbi and Obama flipped through a holy book on a wooden stand [in front of the kotel], but the moment was interrupted when a man standing about 10 yards away yelled over and over, "Obama, Jerusalem is not for sale! Obama, Jerusalem is not for sale!"
Great move, by that heckler I have to say. A real kiddush hashem. Obama, who most likely isn't familiar with MbD or his anthem, likely walked away thinking, "those Jews, always with the buying and selling."

Lichvod Shabbos Kodesh adds: Please add this quote which sends your message home: "It was rowdier than the last time I was there, you know?" Obama told reporters on the plane. "I mean, people were sort of, like, hollering. You know I was expecting more reverence."

DB: Reminds me of what my school principle said before every class sojourn off the school grounds: "You are representing your parents, your grandparents, your community, and your school. Don't let us down." This foolish heckler let us down.

Kennedy is the white Obama

Obama is alleged to have addresssed 1 million people in Berlin today (no, I don't know how the crowd was counted and if Central Park methods were used. I assume the number is an exageration) (I also don't think Leni filmed it) (Obama spoke in complete, coherent sentences which is always something you want to see from an American president. Unfortunately, the occasional dictator has also address the crowds of Berlin using soaring oratory so I expect the right to ride this pony for as longas they can.)

Confessing gratitude

Release yourselves from tenterhooks, DovBear has something new to gripe about. We complain today about the language found on most every invitation the Bear family receives.

The standard opening formula for the typical Jewish invitation goes like this: ברוב שבח והודיה להשי״ת This translates as: With praise and gratitude to Hashem

Most of the invitations around here substitute an aleph for a yud in the third word resulting in ברוב שבח והודאה להשי״ת or with praise and confession to Hashem. To my ears, this is nonsense.

My first thought was that the aleph version is an error, resulting from poor Hebrew skills or a pious desire to avoid spelling out God's name by putting the letter yud next to the letter hay. Turns out there is more to the story. A google search at shows the aleph version is very common, though twice as many yud versions of "shevach v'hodaya." appear (~4000 with yud vs. ~2000 with aleph)

Jameel (from the muqata) tells me that the aleph version for gratitude/praise appears frequently in Babylonian rabbinic literature, where it may have crossed over into Hebrew from the Aramaic. He also points out that on Friday night we praise the "Kel HaHodaot" which we translate as God of Praises, and that in the alenu prayer we say "vaanachau korim,umishtachavim umodim" where an aleph version of the word translates as "praise" as well, though some (notably RYBS) do take it as "confess."

Additionally, the Talmud Yershalmi (קידושין א,א) at times uses the yud version for confession.

So it seems there's traditionally been some fluidity between the two versions. Nowadays, I think the breakdown is between Hebrew speakiers, and non Hebrew speakers. In modern Hebrew the yud version (and only the yud version) means gratitude, so Hebrew speakers are careful to use it on invitations. Non Hebrew speakers tend to write in "loshon hakodosh" the written dialect of Hebrew used by yeshivish and hasidic types, and this is the community which, in my experience, seems more likely to use the aleph.

[Thanks to those who contributed to this post.]

Understanding the blog's editorial direction

Question: Why do you not raise the exact same objection to the far more numerous blogs [DB: You counted?] that make the exact same sort of idiotic, offensive connections (visual and otherwise) between Bush and Hitler?

Answer: Most of the people I know are well aware that liberals sometimes say and do stupid things. In fact, most seem to take it for granted. In the minds of many members of my real and virtual communities, it is the liberals who are the rude, inaccurate flakes, while conservatives are thought to be solid, patriotic, sensible and practical people.

It won't surprise anyone to see that liberals offensively and incorrectly link Bush with Hitler, but it may surprise some of you to learn that conservatives are guilty of the same offense.

The day is short, the task is great and the Bear is lazy. I can't cover everything. What catches my eye will always be the story that upends conventional wisdom. I may be mistaken, but is is my belief that many friends and readers of this blog will yawn at the news that some liberals think Bush=Hitler, while others might respond with "I knew it! Damn Liberals!" I'm not interested in either reaction. I don't want to bore you, nor do I wish to drum up jingoistic fervor, or lead a rally. I'm not interested in reinforcing cherished beliefs. I'm interested in challenging, questioning or broadening them.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bottom of the barrel political commentary

alicublog has spotted a conservative blogger so stupid she thinks Barak Obama willingly and purposefully chose to make himself look like Adolph Hitler on some collateral being distributed in Germany in advance of an appearance in Berlin. She seems unaware that Hitler is only slightly less popular in Germany than he is in the rest of the world. She also finds it troubling, and slightly treasonous, that a candidate for the American presidency would use a language other than English to communicate with the German speaking residents of a German speaking country. I'm tempted to laugh, but instead I'll just point.

Also noteworthy for those us who have grown weary of Charedi-style news commentary is a withering dismissal from alicublog that I plan to use and reuse as often as I can: Do these people even know how crazy they look to folks who don't spend all day looking for signs, symbols and portents in every goddamned little thing?

They don't. But they are.

Obliging Obama To Wear a Kippah At Yad VaShem

A guest post by Lichvod Shabbat Kodesh

As the standard of Jewish Theological Apologeticism in the 21st Century, (maybe Rabbi Nosson Scherman is of the 20th Century), please explain why we make all high-profile visitors to Yad VaShem (and the Western Wall) cover their heads for the photo-ops. Perhaps another contest is in order?

[DB: Okaaay... What should visiting dignateries to the kotel be forced to wear on their heads? When politicians stumble into Iowa, they're usually handed a cow; in Texas someone slaps a ten gallon on them. A shterimal, or a BH, seems like the obvious way to humiliate a guest at the Western Wall, but that's obvious not funny. Can you do better?]

Furthermore, why make him wear an ugly white cardboard kipah that shines out of place? They can't give him a nicer one (with extremely expensive Jewish, not cheap Arab, labor)?

Is Yad VaShem a synagogue? Last time I checked we don't force men tocover their heads at all musems!

While we are on the slippery slope, to be fair, why don't we make female dignitaries cover their head for these photo ops?

Would a church clergyman make a Jew wear a Christian symbol at one of their functions? Maybe a kippah is equivalent to a cross in their minds?

While I have th floor, I think a much more powerful message is a photo-op at the detention center in Atlit, where the civilized Gentiles held Jews hostage while their relatives were being exterminated in Europe.

[Related: Bush goes to Yad Vahem and so does Condi

Yored dorot

"If the early ones were like angels then we are like human beings, but if the early ones were like human beings then we are like donkeys" (Shabat112b).

Sometimes its true that those who came before us were our superiors. Sometimes its just bad reporting. For instance, its a matter of official NYC legend and lore that concerts in Central Park draw biblical crowds. 300, 000 for Elton John. 400,000 for Simon and Garfunkel. 750,000 for Garth Brooks. Turns out these numbers were as bogus as a three dollar bill.

The exageration was discovered last week, following a Bon Jovi concert in the park. The crowd seemed as full as ever but after the park employees tallied up the numbers on their clickers the official count was just 48,538.

This disparity in numbers was not caused by a change in the tevah: People weren't smaller in the seventies. We fill up the same space men filled 25 years ago.

Nor is it true that our forefathers were zocheh to have the park expand miraculously to accommodate the hordes.

It is not even true that Bon Jovi, a superstar of our flawed and unfortunate generation, is less of a draw than Elton John, a superstar of the heiliga previous generation: The venue was filled to capacity, and the park looked jammed.

So what happened? Simple: The park department had never counted before. The gargantuan crowd estimates of yesteryear were wild guesses, made like this:
“You would get in a room with the producer, with a police official, and a person from parks, and someone would say, ‘What does it look like to you?’” said Doug Blonsky, a former city parks administrator who is now the president of the Central Park Conservancy. “The producer would say, ‘I need it to be higher than the last one.’ That’s the kind of science that went into it.”
And so our emunat Elton must be re-evaluated -- unless you'd rather resort to the final, most pathetic dodge, and claim that the old numbers were true because they were arrived at using traditional methods, and that the new Bon Jovi numbers must, perforce, be rejected because they were determined by evil, atheist park employees who seek only to destroy our emunah with their newfangled goyishe counting methods.

elderly Jews vs. Obama and Yated Neeman

A Guest Post by Rafi G

I apologize in advance - I generally do not link to myself here (and I hope DovBear does not defrock me because of it this time), but I posted enough here this week..

2 knockout funny posts today that I posted on LII..
  1. The Daily Show reporter goes down to Florida to meet with elderly Jews and find out what they think about Barak Obama.
  2. putting the Yated in cherem.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Take Two Broken Tablets

By the semi-refrocked Bray of Fundie

We fasted on 17 Tamuz to remember 5 tragedies that occurred on that day. The first (chronologically at least) was Moshe’s breaking of the “two tablets of the covenant” upon which the Decalogue was inscribed. As my stomach growled my calorie deprived mind pondered these points:

Per Rambam all public fast days are meant to do Teshuva. If so why do we mourn the wages of the sin (busted tablets) rather than the sin itself (golden calf)? A review of the liturgy reveals that 2 of the 3 slikhos for 17 Tamuz do not even mention the sin of the golden calf and that the one that does makes only passing reference to it as the cause of the busted tablets.

What’s the big tragedy? What precisely did we lose? If it’s Lukhos… we got a second set. If it’s the Decalogue they appear twice in the Torah. Come to think of it, whats the big significance of the Decalogue anyway? For those of us who believe in TMS the prohibition against wearing wool-linen combinations is as binding as the one prohibiting covetousness.

[DB: This sounds like a job for MISTER BIBLE CRITIC!]

Psalm "stealing"

I announce to you, Prince Baa'l , and I repeat, Cloud-Rider:
Look your enemies O Ba'al, look your enemies you will smash, look you'll destroy your foes
Your kingship is eternal, your sovereignty endures from generation to generation

-- The Epic of Ba'al (line 2 translated by Robert Alter; rest by William Halo)

שִׁירוּ, לֵאלֹהִים-- זַמְּרוּ שְׁמוֹ:סֹלּוּ, לָרֹכֵב בָּעֲרָבוֹת--בְּיָהּ שְׁמוֹ; וְעִלְזוּ לְפָנָיו.
Sing unto God, sing praises to His name;
extol Him that rideth upon the clouds(*), whose name is the LORD; and exult ye before Him.

- Psalm 68, m'chon mamre translation

וְאַתָּה מָרוֹם-- לְעֹלָם יְהוָה
כִּי הִנֵּה אֹיְבֶיךָ, יְהוָה-- כִּי-הִנֵּה אֹיְבֶיךָ יֹאבֵדוּ:
יִתְפָּרְדוּ, כָּל-פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן
For you are on high forever o Lord,
for look your enemies o Lord, for look, your enemies perish,
all the wrongdoers are scattered.

- Psalm 92, Alter's translation

Does it mean anything that a line from the Psalms is replicated in the Ba'al epic? Or that "Rider of Clouds" is an epithet both for the God of the Hebrews and the God of the Canaanites? Depends who you ask. Over in the synagogue I have a friend who says its "presumptuous and dumb" to think the author of the Psalm lifted a line from the Ugaritic canon. There's no early or later in archeology so its impossible to know (continues my religious friend) which poem came first.

I don't know if she's right - I am in no position to judge between the Rabbis and the archaeologisst - but I can agree (ahem) that motifs and idioms and expressions are often recycled. Bits of poems turn up later in songs, or in dialogue. Movie directors copy each others shots. A gripping bit of biography gets repurposed in someone else's fiction. A clever turn of phrase sticks in your head, and you use it again and again. There were any number of possible avenues for the Jewish writer to encounter the Ugaritic poem. Perhaps he incorporated the line into his poem as an homage to a writer he liked, or as a refutation of a God he had rejected, or... something.

What about the claim that Psalms were divinely inspired? Well, that can be rescued. There are countless examples of motifs and images in Tanach that appear to be have been taken from earlier sources. In both Parshas Vayerah and in the epic of Eqhat, for example, a man waits outside his tent for divine guests. Following their arrival, she ends his wife to prepare a meal that is the best of the best. Both Moshe and Sargan of Akkad were sent sailing down the river in a basket sealed with tar. How do we explain this phenomenon? Take your pick:

1 - The Ugaritics stoles our story/terminology
2 - We stole their story/terminology
3 - Some time after the revelation at Sinai, well-meaning Jews embellished our stories with elements borrowed from other cultures. The Nile floating story could have been added to make Moshe seem more heroic. The "Cloud Rider" epithet could have been appropriated because, well, isn't that what a super powerful God does? And so on.
4 - In writing the Torah, God made use of the stories and myths and language that would have been familiar to and appreciated by His audience.

(*) M'chon mamre translates this as "rideth upon the skies" but the received word is "aravot" whch means "plains." Alter argues persuasively that the word should be "avot", clouds, unless its a varient of 'arafot, a poetic word for clouds. In Ugaritic, Baal is called the rkb 'rpt, or rider of clouds.

Great moments in geography

Reporter's Notebook "Amigo! Amigo!” Mr. Bush called out cheerily in Spanish when he spotted the Italian prime minister. “How you doing, Silvio? Good to see you!” At least he didn't offer back rubs this time, though I am impressed with the president's capacity to humiliate himself overseas. It's always something with our George.,

Meanwhile, McSame let Americans know he is very concerned about the Iraq-Pakistan border. [Note: Iraq and Pakistan, technically, do not share a border.]

Quality or Quantity?

A Guest Post by Rafi G.

We learned in our daf yomi shiur yesterday about the "Kutim". Kutim were a group of people who basically converted to Judaism out of fear of being ripped apart by lions sent by God because of their idol worship in the Holy Land. "Kutim" is sometimes defined as "Samaritans", but I do not know if this is the same Samaritan group as the one we have today.

The Gemara debates whether Kutim can be trusted in Judaism as witnesses. Are they considered real converts or not? It seems they kept some mitzvos very pedantically, but other mitzvos they did not keep at all. The Gemara says that things they kept, they can also be relied upon and trusted for, while mitzvos they did not keep offer them no trust on those issues.

As we are wont to do in our Idaf yomi shiur, our discussion got off topic (only a bit this time). I asked whether it would be better for a person to keep some mitzvos well, very well, while letting others slip away unobserved, or would it be better for a person to keep all the mitzvos, or at least as many as possible, but doing so halfheatedly withut being careful and doing it well?

If a person has only so much energy, and can concentrate his efforts on only a certain amount of miztvos, would it be better to do so concentrating completely on a certain number of mitzvos, and ignoring the others, or should he not ignore the others, do them all - even when it comes at the expense of the quality?

So basically, is it quality or quantity in Judaism?

nobody had any very good answer during the discussion. We spoke about every person trying his best and working to improve. What do you think about the question?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Americans are whiners

"...the truth about what the Republican corporatocracy thinks of 'regular Americans'"

The NbN International Blogging Conference

My pride is forcing me to let you know that I was invited to appear as a panalist at the NbN blogging conference, and offered the free flight to Israel and everything, together with Trep and Gil, Jewlicious and the rest.

I turned it down because I wish to remain anonymous.

It won't be the same without me, but you might as well go anyway. Register here.

Media gets fooled by Rabbi into thinking something old is somethng new

This story got gigantic front-page billing in today's Journal News. It describes some Rabbi who has "discovered" that the Tetragammon backwards reads "hu/hee" which is Hebrew for Him/Her. This, says that Rabbi, is solid proof that God contains both male and female elements.

[It is also, says the Bear, solid proof that mysticism is ad hoc, arbitrary and dumb. When you get mystical anything can mean anything. There are no rules, no rhyme and very little reason. Significance can be attached to everything -or nothing - according to the fancy of the mystic.]

Anyway, the Rabbi's "discovery" is nothing new. For thousands of years, Rabbis have taught that God is neither male nor female, and mystics have emphasized that whatever God might be, He/It has male and female elements. The idea this Rabbi says he has uncovered, and upon which the media is fawning, is not anything new. Anyone aware of what mystics have said about the "Schina" or of what the Ramban and others have said about the essence of God will be unimpressed.

The Satmar Rebbe on Kannaus

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

On Shabbos, we had a yeshiva bachur over. He said over a dvar torah in the name of the Satmar Rebbe (I do not know which, but it seemed like one of the previous rebbes).

He asked, why does the story of Pinchas killing the Nasi and the princess of Midian get split spanning the end of the parsha of Balak and the beginning of Pinchas, with the names and reward only coming in Pinchas? Why not put it all together at the end of Balak where it related the story itself?

He answered, in the name of the Satmar Rebbe, that the reason is because cheider boys only learn the parsha until sheini (the first section of every parsha) before Shabbos in school (I guess this was the custom of the time).
If the Torah would have rewarded Pinchas at the end of Balak, where the story happened, the cheider boys would never have learned that kannaus is a goal deserving of reward. So the Torah split the story spanning it into the first portion of Pinchas, thereby assuring the cheider boys would learn about his reward for his kannaus.

I then suggested that perhaps that is why our kannoim are the way they are - because they never actually learned past sheini in the chumash. If they would ever sit down and learn beyond sheini, perhaps they would get a fuller picture of the Torah, develop middos, and learn how to behave and when kannaus is appropriate and when it is not.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

New J-blog

Boundless Drama of Creation

Hasn't found his voice yet, but worth watching.

Mike Savage is a mamzer...

... not because of what he says about liberals, which is vile enough, but because of what he says about autistic kids.

Watching the Times watchers

Attention Avi Safran, et al.

I know it's cool in your circles to condemn the New York Times for everything, up to and including sun spots, and more power to you. Every blogger needs someone or something to poke (and Avi, I have you) All the same, though, I think your criticism of Craig S. Smith article about Samir Kuntar goes a little overboard.

Smith wrote:
Perhaps Israel's most reviled prisoner, Samir Kuntar, will return to a hero’s welcome when he crosses into Lebanon this week, 29 years after he left its shores in a rubber dinghy to kidnap Israelis from the coastal town of Nahariya. That raid went horribly wrong, leaving five people dead, a community terrorized and a nation traumatized. Two Israeli children and their father were among those killed.
Somehow Avi and the other haters of the Times have construed this paragraph to mean that Smith and his editors think that kidnapping Israelis is a perfectly innocent act and that the raid only "went wrong" because people were killed. This is nuts. What the bolded words mean is that Smith (deluded or not) believes Kunter intended to kidnap Israelis and the fact that he murdered them instead, "terrorizing the community and traumatizing the nation," is something horrible. He's not saying that being kidnapped is a walk in the park. He's saying that wherever a kidnapping falls on the atrocity scale, the murder of a father in front of his child is much, much worse.

Compare what Smith, wrote for example, with this sentence from the HeraldSun: "But the plan to kidnap Dr Ramos-Horta went horribly wrong, ending in Reinado's death... "

Not so noxious now, is it?

Update: Here's another example of a Times-hater letting his hatred cloud his memory of the facts. Complaining about the paragraph above, TimesWatch whines:

Check the passivity of the phrasing as well; in Times-land, Israelis are not murdered by Palestinian terrorists, merely "left dead" or "among those killed"
Um, there's a perfectly innocent reason for this: One of the children who died as a result of the raid was not killed by the terrorist. She was accidentally smothered by her mother. Smith's choice of language is not an attempt to minimize Kuntar's crime. He is merely being precise. Five people died, but only three of them were killed by Kuntar. And of course, had the Times told the truth and said "the terrorist killed three people" some angry Times critic would wail that Kuntar caused the death of five people, not three, which is, of course, true.

TimesWatch above complains about how the paper refers to dead Israelis, but anyone who knows how to operated a search engine can spot the lie. There are numerous examples "in Times-land" of Israelis being "murdered" by Palestenian terrorists. Here's what I found in less than 5 seconds:

:: Mindless Murder in Israel Suicide bombers struck again in Israel this week, killing five Israelis on a suburban Tel Aviv bus and abruptly ending a three-month respite from...

:: Palestinians Kill 2 Israeli Civilians on Road From Gaza

:: Too Soon to Say Israel Has ‘Won’... attend funerals of young Israelis who are murdered by terrorists while hiking.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cracker abuse

This post is about a group of Catholics who are very, very angry because a college student left Mass carrying the transubstantiated host in his mouth. This, apparently, is not allowed, and gives great offense to the creator of heaven of earth. Those of you who imagine God is insulted if the torah reader at shabbos mincha dons a talis take comfort: There are people nuttier than you.

Surprise! The leader of this band of reality-challenged crybabies is Bill Donohue, who won his first mention on this blog by announcing that Hollywood Jews prefer anal sex. (any similarity between what Bill said and some comments once made by Toby Katz is 100 percent coincidental)

Frum satire asks an interesting question. . .some of the answers though. . .

A guest post by TikunOlam

So I clicked on Jacob Da Jew's homepage and followed a link to Frum Satire's blog. I found some of FS's posts quite interesting. One, in particular, asked whether readers would go to a wedding between a Jew and a non-Jew. He has apparently been following Abandoning Eden's blog where she has been discussing her upcoming marriage to a man who is not Jewish. Frum Satire handles this topic very well. In his post and his follow-up comments he remains committed to his own belief system while respectfully posing the question to others, clearly with an ability to treat differing opinions with interest and respect.

In reading some of the comments though, I came across a couple that really irritated me. Here are a couple of exerpts. I think you will see why I found them so annoyingly ignorant. Some of the comments are rather lengthy - follow the links to Frum Satire's blog if you want to read them in their entirety.

Shoshi says:

"Why does the person have a wedding ceremony in the first place? If you are a true atheist (in the sense of the 70ies anti-establishment movement), you do not believe in marriage, so why celebrate it…? … and why insist that certain persons (close friends, parents, family) should attend it…"

The "utube fan" comes in with this comment of brilliant psychological insight:

"Shoshi, I was thinking the same thing. If she truly is an atheist, then why the need for a wedding which is a religious ritual and if she wants this because as she writes in one of her posts, it’s a girl thing, then why be annoyed at the parents for not coming to a meaningless party. Do her parents come to other parties she throws? If it is because she wants their stamp of approval of this party, then that would be quite unreasonable of her to expect. The whole thing doesn’t make sense, but then again neither does her feeling of complete happiness without Judaism. And the reason I say that is because I have taken the time to read her posts and I feel that something is missing. While I understand like Rich says that some people just don’t believe in Orthodox tenets, I usually know more about the choice especially when the person has such an extensive Orthodox background as she does. I can’t help it, but the lifestyle affords so many options within it–options she says she considered–so I wonder why a person would be “happy” to turn away from it. It is–when properly explored–an extremely rich lifestyle choice. I know a few intellectuals who can’t come to grips with the rules or the thought process behind them, but they choose to marry Jewish because they want to give their children the rich, positive experiences of Judaism. I would love to know more about her youthful experiences in Judaism. For some MO young people, the Judaism they are presented is cold, materialistic, and disconnected. And sometimes it’s the middleman of the religion–the parents or the schools–that disappoint the person in their approach or lack of caring and then the whole thing goes to atheism in a handbasket masked as intellectual questioning. . . "

Fortunately Abandoning Eden has more patience for this complete ignorance than I do and had the patience to coming up with the following response:

“. . .Marriage (in my atheistic view) is not a religious thing. To me it is a commitment that no matter what happens in the future, you will honor the love you had for each other at the onset by trying your hardest and best to be good to one another, and to have a working relaitonship. And weddings aren’t s0me mystical thing, but rather a public declaration of those intentions.
Also in terms of the anger thing- I was a lot angrier when I wrote my latest blog post than I am now (after a few days have gone by). And I understand why my parents are sad/angry about my decision. That doesn’t mean I can’t still be sad/angry about their’s.”

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Jewish-American Saga of Gitty Grunwald and Her Daughter

I do not like that Satmar man
I do not like his Satmar clan

I do not like how he treats his wife
I do not agree with how he lives his life

I do not like that Satmar clan
No, I do not like them Sam-I-an

Hat tip: Most all of you

My opinion on the Satmar is that they are morons making Judsaism mornoic with their institutional bigotry, their triumphalism, and their backwards and benighted takes on life, science, history, Chumash and halacha.

I'm siding with the woman in the story you'll reach via the link above. Yes, she stole the girl first, but it seems beyond dispute that the her daughter will be happier outside of the Satmar enclave. See, the little girl is tainted. Her mother is OTD. She's played with Barbie dolls, and seen women wearing pants. For the not-so-good people of Kiryas Joel this makes her damaged goods. You might as well slap a scarlet T for treif on her forehead.

What lies ahead for this little girl, if she remains in KJ, is a life of soul-breaking misery. She's the olderst daughter, and in the land of the Satmar oldest daughters are junior mommies, chasing after dozens of siblings. And because she'll be the eldest daughter in a blended family, she's have no real mother to protect her. It'll be like Cinderella, but instead of a handsome prince, she'll be "rescued" probably at age 17 (though 15 isn't impossible) by a man she'll likely meet in her wedding bed. Anyone deserves better, but unlike her Satmar sisters this girl has a chance at something better because her brave mother saved herself and escaped the shtetl. She should be allowed to save her daughter, too.

We get email

Chardal says:

I have a great source for you for progressive tax rates from Jewish history. See Making of a Godol p. 28 where he writes that some Jewish communities put a tax on meat of about 5%. They felt that if someone was wealthy enough to purchase meat, then there responsibility towards the poor was great enough that the community would tax them. Just don't turn this into a post on how Torah values support the dems. You know full well that it is silly to say that Torah values support any political party!

Want a T-Shirt?

I don't know why you would, but assuming you did click here.
[These happen to be very good shirts.]


Newsweek, a mainstream, liberal-ish publication proves the terrorists have won by arguing for blanket pardons for administration officials who sanctioned torture. This is crazy talk and Sadly No explains why (beware of four-letter words.)

For the record

I oppose the trade Israel made yesterday - and for all the obvious reasons. You don't fight terrorism by making it clear and obvious that even the most vicious murderers will eventually be sent home to a hero's welcome.

The burqa is a prison cell

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

A Muslim minister in the French government was behind the rejection of citizenship, which was later upheld by the High Court of France, of a Muslim immigrant applying for citizenship.

the reason for the rejection?

Because she wears a burqa. While claiming religious needs as the reason for her wearing a burqa, the French Muslim minister says the burqa has nothing to do with religion, rather it is a form of forced submission and is like a prison. She says that the woman cannot possibly integrate into French society while wearing a burqa and her practice of radical Islam is not cohesive with French society and its norms.

On the one hand, being raised with Democrat (rather than Republican) values, to me this is reprehensible. To discriminate against someone just because of what she wears? They did not see in her behavior anything specific linking her to radicalism or anti-French sentiments. What if a religious Jew wants to become a citizen of France - will they reject such an appilcation as wll, because the applicant wears tzitzis and a kippa, or a hat and jacket, or a shtreimel and long coat?

On the other hand, having seen the effects of radical Islam, after seeing the effects of radicalism in general, both by living in an ever increasing radical society of frumkeit, and by living in the Middle East in general, it seems to me to be a good move, even if it impinges on this individuals personal rights. By giving too much in the way of freedoms and rights, by being too liberal with people who are anti-liberal, that is how it came to be that radical Islam has been gaining power in Europe, and even in the USA (though less so). The threat is real, so perhaps certain liberal rights need to be curtailed in order to fend off the deterioration of any specific nations identity.

If this court decision will be one that deters radical Islam from gaining a foothold in French society, perhaps it is worth curtailing her rights, and perhaps France made a good move, from the nations perspective.

I wonder if either the USA or Israel would be able to get away with rejecting someone for such a reason....

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Who said it?

"Did you hear the one about the woman who is attacked on the street by a gorilla, beaten senseless, raped repeatedly and left to die? When she finally regains consciousness and tries to speak, her doctor leans over to hear her sigh contently and to feebly ask, “Where is that marvelous ape?”"

The answer

What his supporters will say: But, but, but CLINTON

Favor Request

Next time I tell a joke that doesn't work, I expect you to procalaim on my behalf that everyone was just too stupid to understand it

Bodies handed over by Hezbollah

Guest post by TikunOlam

Haaretz 7/16/08:

"Two years after Israeli reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were abducted by Hezbollah in a cross-border raid, the Lebanon-based guerilla group transferred coffins containing their bodies from Lebanon to Israel as part of a prisoner exchange. "

To see the article in Haaretz click.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Another famous New Yorker cover

This one is my all-time favorite.

Thought it over: The Obama cover (below) works. It's meant to satire the media's habit of dumbing things down. The New Yorker is part of the media, so by going over the top with their own cover, one that might be titled "The GOP's worst nightmare," the magazine successfully skewers the Obama caricatures published elsewhere. It isn't funny (or offensive) but if you look at it from this perspective, at least its satire.

New Yorker Cover

1 - What, exactly is the joke, and who is it on? If it's satire, shouldn't there be some kind target? Is the scene meant to be a GOP Jew's thought balloon? Even so: Showing how the opposition thinks isn't satire.

2 - Next month, the cover should depict doddering old John McCain as a 400 year old man with anger veins throbbing on his temple. For good measure, let a line of discarded lovers disappear into the distance behind him. Instead of bin Ladin, a protrait of some fat biblebelt theocon should be on the wall, and instead of a flag, put the Constitution in the fireplace. (Note: This wouldn't be any funnier, or any more succesful at satire.)

3 - Perhaps, this is meant as commentary on how the press cheapen political discourse by presenting presidential candidates as broad caricatures. If the New Yorker is attempting to satire its own industry, in effect, they are saying: See? This is what irresponsible magazines do! Unlike us! (Note: Still isn't funny)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bizarro Bush

In the interest of doing what I can to dumb down the already-dumb election, let me make the case that Barak Obama is the Bizarro George Bush. The two men are opposites in ways that are almost spooky: Where one is polished, the other is rough; where one is too-cowboy, the other threatens to be too conciliatory. The man from Chicago has a manner that is measured and slick in a way some find condescending. The owner of the fake ranch has a clumsy locution that suggests an indifference to his audience at times crossing into contempt. One thinks too much about his words, the other too little.

Bush is scion of an old family, a child of money and power who pretends to be an ordinary guy. Obama acts elite, though he grew up poor, with no father. Even their names are Bizarro-opposites of one another. “George Bush” sounds wholesomely patrician; “Barak Obama” is ethnic, almost sinisterly so.

Does this portends an Obama victory in November. Perhaps (but remember, we're still trying to dumb things down) The pendulum has a way of swinging back. The liberal 60s and 70s gave way to the button-downed 80s and the neo-conservative 90s. Last year we had SUVs; today we drive hybrids. The Yankees are down; the Rays are up. And perhaps too-stupid Bush will likewise be followed by his Bizarro antithesis.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Still waiting...

... for either Cross Currents or Yeshiva World to report that Yisroel Valis was convicted of manslaughter.

In 2006, Yisroel Valis was arrested for killing his 3-month old on evidence collected by Jerusalem's Medical Examiner. His community, the staunchly anti-Zionist and hostile-to-the-state Edah Haredit, answered the arrest with three days of rioting, and the obnoxious claim that the Israeli police had fabricated a "Pessah-eve blood libel identical to those concocted by the Europeans against the Jews."

Buying into this absurd claim was Yaakov Mencken of Cross Currents, who published post after post attacking the credibility of the police. As I complained at the time
What I can not abide, however, is the attempt by some, Yaakov Menken included, to undermine the credibility of the police. The authorities have no reason to lie. Only Al Sharpton-types see bias under every badge. The responsible way to defend someone who is facing a mountain of evidence like the one assembled against Valis is to suggest that the evidence has been interpreted incorrectly, not to argue, (based on hearsay, lies and paranoia) that the police manufactured the evidence, and lied on official reports.
Does Yisroel Valis deserve the benefit of the doubt? Certainly. But so do the police (also Jews, after all) and so do the Jews of Hollywood. Yaakov, and his endless drone about judging people favorably, would be much easier to take if Yaakov had ever once applied that principle to Jews less religious than he
Related Posts

How many missles do you see?

Iran's press office manages to defraud dozens of newspapers before getting stone-cold busted by the New York Times

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Lanner at large

A guest post by TikunOlam

Noticed DB mentioning Kolko in his post about the latest at Yeshiva World and thought of this public service announcement put out by the good folks at The Awareness Center, Inc.

Baruch Lanner was released in January 2008 and is now listed as a sex offender as per Megan's Law. He is on parole and living in Elizabeth, New Jersey. According to The Awareness Center, Lanner has been spotted hanging out by a Dunkin Donuts with some kids from the local school.

So did Agriprocessors PR firm really get busted impersonating the founder of Heksher Tzedek?


And way to go Failed Messiah for making the catch.

Anyone think Yeshiva World can't possibly get any worse?

Guess again!

This is the site too frum to publish a single, solitary word about Kolko the pedophile, the site that promises it operates under das torah. So why are they so willing to disgrace Rav Moshe Tendler in public? Just awful.

Hi…I’m a Serial Philanderer

…Now Buy these Sneakers and Soft Drinks
A Guest post by the semi-refrocked Bray of Fundie

According to branding expert Howard Bragman slugger and swordsman Alex Rodriguez is still squeaky clean in the eyes of his corporate sponsors.

After all he is innocent of dog fighting, the sin that cost the quarterback Michael Vick's $9 million in sponsorships from Nike, Reebok, Rawlings and Upper Deck.

But bedding strippers and late-night engagements with Madonna? That won't bother A-Rod sponsors like Nike, Pepsi or Topps, because "We just don't hold affairs against people anymore."

While both adultery and cruelties to animals are wrong. I, for one, hold the former to be far more immoral than the latter. It must me my old “magical thinking”. You see, I’m convinced that humans are created “in the image of G-d” and that human souls are a “bit of G-d on High”. The emotional torture inflicted on a spouse by an adulterous affair is qualitatively far more heinous than any pain inflicted on an animal. But hey that’s just me.

The wig store that tried to appease Yeshivas Chaim Berlin...

...lost anyway.

I hope the Rosh Yeshiva is happy. A man has lost his business, his savings, his self respect. But at least now the holy avrechim can sit smoking cigarettes on the steps of their besmedrash without being tempted by tasteful photographs of females faces.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Yeah baby

I see this DovBear thing is starting to catch on

Oh. Did Jesse Helms die?

Apparently the old racist met Satan on the fourth of July. Guess he couldn't stand to live in an America that might elect a black president. Ah well.

And of course his apologists are already hard at work. Choosing to airbrush and forget Helm's many sins, the partisan rag known as National Review said: "Helms’s real offense was a stubborn and victory-making political incorrectness" Indeed. Being a homophobic, jesus-loving opponent of progress and equality must not be "real" offenses.

Besides he made liberals mad with his oh-so-manly, and principled political incorrectness and that's all that matters.

Fox News is vile

Amazing. Via Media Matters I see that Fox News has attempted to discredit a NY Times reporter by making him look like a goblin. After Jacques Steinberg wrote what can only be described as a middle-of-the road article about the Fox Network's ratings, he was called a "poodle" and his motives were discredited by the fiends on Fox & Friends. Accompanying the segment was a photo of Steinberg in which his "teeth have been yellowed, his nose and chin widened, and his ears made to protrude further."

High journalistic standards, no? And the really amazing thing is this: A Jew (or at least someone with a recognizably Jewish surname) has been given the full Streicher treatment - splayed ears, gargantuan nose, diseased teeth - and the Mighty Bloggers of Zion are silent. Try this thought experiment, oh ye Bloggish Defenders of Israel and/or Charedism: Imagine CNN had played this dirty trick. Imagine they had tried to embarrass and slander a Jew by twisting his face into a Der Strumer caricature. Feeling furious? So where's your righteous outrage now?

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Yeshiva World paskens on P.O Baile Glauber

The word from on high, as recorded by the Torah True scribes at The Yeshiva World :
"A female police officer, by definition, cannot be Orthodox Jewish. She may claim to be Orthodox, like I can claim to be the Pope, but Orthodox it doesn’t make her" -- Comment by Joseph — July 6, 2008 @ 1:32 pm

"she is not frumm" -- Comment by myrivers88 — July 6, 2008 @ 2:00 pm

"this is mamish a prusta zach and i am not mekabel. I hold it is usser to get arrested by her and anyone who does is chayiv curais this is not a joking matter at all" -- Comment by ultimateshtarkness — July 7, 2008 @ 5:06 am [DB: We hold this one is a joke]

Everyone following the thread here? If you wish to be absent from work on shabbos, for the sake of keeping the seventh day holy, you still might not be frum enough to win any respect from this crowd.


Ramapo gives new Orthodox Jewish cop the Sabbath days off pending review

Last week, Ramapo's police department was in the news after a police officer ordered a Hasidic woman to remove her wig for a mug shot. The Hasidim said the order was insensitive. The police said it was procedure. The Town Supervisor, who can follow the money as well as anyone, apologized to the Hasidim and ordered sensitivity training.

Now, the same police department is back in the same news - this time for hiring a Hasidic police officer. She is Baile Glauber, amazingly a graduate of the Hasidic school system. Because she wants shabbos off, the scandal dance described above is being performed again, this time with the police union playing the role of the aggrieved hasidim. The union says giving weekends off to a new recruit like Glauber is unfair to senior officers. The department insists its procedure, and the supervisor, naturally, is apologizing.. The only one in this affair with any guts is Glauber: Can you imagine what it takes for a Hasidic woman to become a cop? Not easy. Not easy at all.

True Self-Sacrifice?

Collected on the Internet: (by she who we do not name)

The following is a translation of a letter received by our offices

To the Central Taharas Hamishpacha Office:

The following story I heard from a good friend and I felt the responsibility to pass it on to you.

In the town of Emmanuel in Eretz Yisroel (Israel), there lived an elderly couple, olim (immigrants) from Russia, who were childless. They lived there for several years, quietly and alone, without any real contact with other members of the community. Last year, the old man passed away. Except for the small community, there weren't many who knew him and therefore at the funeral there was only a minyan (ten men) present, with the help of the Chevra Kaddisha (burial society).

At the time of burial, the wife of the departed asked that someone eulogize her husband. Everyone remained quiet because none of them really knew him. The wife said: "No one is speaking, so I will speak!" Everyone was very quiet as she said the following words: "Hirshel, when you go up in heaven and you are asked why you did not bring children onto this earth, explain to them that in Russia there was no mikvah. By the time we came to Eretz Yisroel, we were already too old!"

Everyone present cried. Even the Chevra Kaddisha, who are already immune to death, also cried.

This story I heard from Matisyahu Kubalkin, a resident of Emmanuel. I am sure that this mesiras nefesh (self-sacrifice) of so-called "simple" Jews must be publicized in order to strengthen others in this area.
I'll be dam l'kaf zechut and assume the people present cried for the same reason I did.


Today, Google has a custom logo honoring the extraordinary Marc Chagall.

The difference between Neturei Karta and Satmar

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

The lines between Neturei Karta and Satmar are often blurred and unclear. Both are anti-zionist, and in general Neturei Karta is an offspring of Satmar. People commonly mistake the two and when Neturei Karta does something outrageous in public, often Satmar gets some flak.

Mishpacha (Hebrew) newspaper reported this past week on a protest in England that Satmar Hassidim were scheduled to take part in.

The protest was to be against some sort of event in London celebrating the 60th anniversary fo Israel. The Satmar Rebbe had called upon his Hassidim to protest the event, as "we must remind everybody that Judaism is not necessarily Zionism, and that there are many who think that the establishment of the State was a rebellion against the kingdom of God that continues to this day".

He set rules however. Rules that included a stipulation that the Hassidim could only protest as long as they "would not be anywhere in the vicinity of Palestinian protestors, who protest for their own reasons, and definitely not near Neturei Karta protestors who make a tremendous chilul Hashem with their identification with the murderous Arabs and their disgracing the kannoim who are God fearing and Jew loving."

They got the various licenses to hod their protest. After all the announcements and arrangements, the police called them up and told them, on the day of the protest, that they had decided that all protestors would have to stand in one area and it did not matter that they were protesting for different reasons.

The Admor of Satmar immediately put out announcements cancelling the protest, despite their having spread the word around all the Haredi areas on Shabbos.

So there you have the difference between Neturei Karta and Satmar. Satmar protests Zionism and what it sees as a rebellion against Hashem. That protest, however, does not allow one to join up with any other people just to achieve a certain goal. No chilul Hashem can be created in the process. While Neturei Karta people go and kiss people like Arafat and Ahmadinejad and praise them in their efforts to eradicate the Jewish people.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

In Parshas Chukas, God behaves almost like a blogger. Rather than authoring his own material, our Lord and Creator twice references the published work of other people. The first occurrence is a cite from the the "Book of the Wars of the Lord" a book that was lost, and excluded from the canon. I'm not aware of a reliable theory that explains why it was lost, though Robert Alter speculates that the book was not preserved because was too mythological. Later authorities, he says, were uncomfortable with a book that represented God as a warrior, in direct combat with Israel's enemies, rather than working through the agency of Israel. I'm not entirely sure why Alter feels comfortable with such a speculation given that just a tiny snippet from the book is extant, but there it is. In the King James translation, the citation seems seriously weird and it reads as follows:
"...Waheb in Suphah and the ravines, the Arnon and the slopes of the ravines that lead to the site of Ar and lie along the border of Moab."
What this means is anyone's guess, forcing us to ask: If God had something to say, why didn't He put it in His own ordinary, easy to understand words instead of borrowing something impenetrable from another man's book?

The second occurrence is even more mysterious. After describing an Israelite victory over Sihon king of the Amorites, the Torah tells us the land Israel took from Sihon first belonged to Moab. The claim is supported not with a historical notice, or a narrative assertion, but with a snippet of poetry. Yes, poetry. The lines are attributed, vaguely, to "moshlim" who may have been something like the Celtic bards who composed and recited verses celebrating the legendary exploits of chieftains and heroes. Today, we would call them folk singers. In the KJV, their song is translated this way:
Come to Heshbon, let it be built, Let the city of Sihon be repaired.
“For fire went out from Heshbon, A flame from the city of Sihon;
It consumed Ar of Moab, The lords of the heights of the Arnon.
Woe to you, Moab! You have perished, O people of Chemosh!
He has given his sons as fugitives, And his daughters into captivity,
To Sihon king of the Amorites. “But we have shot at them; Heshbon has perished as far as Dibon.
Then we laid waste as far as Nophah, Which reaches to Medeba.”
For those of us saddled with a Torah-true perspective this is about as queer as a three dollar bill. Secular poetry? In the Holy Torah? It's a little like using a Bob Dylan tune to clinch an argument about halacha. (This doesn't work) (Unless getting tossed out of class is your goal) Again, we're forced to ask why God preferred this poem to His own writing.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Honoring the fabulous fourth

I feel like I should say something patriotic to celebrate the holiday, but I am not feeling it. America? Blah. Land of liberty, of thee I sing? Not today.

I'm not going to get on the couch, right in front of you, but if I were to attempt some self-analysis I'd say three factors were contributing to my indifference:

(1) I'm an indifferent sort of fellow Israel, as you know, doesn't excite me. Judaism, lately, has been leaving me cold as well. Passion, fervor, fire, zeal, ardor: It all, lately, seems so childish. So, though I recognize the blessing that is America, and appreciate the fact that I can sit at my desk and write about how our president is a pinhead with no repercussions, this is a cold and rational realization which inspires no patriotic excitement.

(2) Patriotism has been perverted In George Bush's America, you're a patriot if you support him and his policies, and a traitor and a terrorist if you do not. Patriotism per the dictionary means "love and devotion for your country" but sometime shortly after 9/11 this meaning was lost. Love and devotion to the president is more important. Once upon a time, a patriot was someone who sacrificed for the common good, someone like John Kerry or Al Gore, both of whom volunteered to fight in Vietnam. Now, no sacrifice is needed. All it takes to be a patriot is tough talk and blind devotion. Salute the flag and you're a patriot. Salute the constitution which provides us all the right to give the flag the finger, if we so choose, and you're a liberal, which some consider the very opposite of patriotic. Teddy Roosevelt once said, "to announce that there must be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile, it is morally treasonable to the American people." That, of course, is pre 9/11 thinking. Among the many casualties Al Queda inflicted upon us is this: "servile" and "patriotic" have become synonyms.

(3) The pinheads are still in charge I confess: Its hard to get excited about America when the worst president we've ever had smirks in the Oval Office. Still, hope is on the way: Even Old Man McCain would be a significant improvement over the chimp and his criminal cronies. Perhaps next year, or even as soon as next November, I'll feel more like celebrating America.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Declaration of Dependence

...Or Why I miss George III
a guest post by Chaim G. The (refrocked) Bray of Fundie

Tomorrow is Independence Day. Guess this is one of those quirky years when it coincides with July the 4th. It is a day when we grill the flesh of bovines in our backyards and our own epidermis’ on beaches. Somewhere, deep in the hidden strata of our collective societal subconscious, we also exult in breaking the shackles of tyrannical monarchy to enjoy the diverse blessings of liberty and democracy.

The eternal question though is; is it good for the Jews?

Hobbes wrote that “the sovereign ruler is by definition above the law” and Jean Bethke Elshtain’s added, “laws take the form of his untrammeled will." Without a doubt this puts all of his/her subject as at a vulnerable disadvantage. Yet the absence of sovereign monarchs from the world stage puts us at a distinct disadvantage in terms of our relationships with HaShem. Lacking kings claiming “the Divine Right (to rule)” we are short of living breathing metaphors for the right of the Divine King. Every brakha containing the phrase Melekh HaOlam= King of the Universe, every Avinu Malkenu, rings hollow without any sense of the majesty, sovereignty and POWER of Princes.

All brakhos are phenomenological. While saying “Blessed are you HaShem, King of the Cosmos, who created the fruit of the vine” is always a true statement it’s a brakha l’vatala= a brakha in vain unless one is about to imbibe wine/ grape juice. Still, by and large, brakhos are opportunistic. We seldom find a halakha of striving to come in contact with a phenomenon that forces a brakha. The brakha pronounced over kings is a notable exception. The Gemara in Brakhos states that one should exert themselves to see kings, even gentile kings. Also IIRC this is the only brakha in which hearing the phenomenon is sufficient and seeing is not required. IMO the brakha over Kings is exceptional because it is so essential for us to forge an authentic relationship with HaShem.

It is striking that King James I claimed for himself the right “to exalt low things, and abase high things, and make of their subjects like men at the Chesse." It resonates with our liturgy in describing HaShem as a “mashpil geyim and maggbihah shefalim”. It is also extremely apt because it implies that although, in theory, the absolute Monarch could make up the rules as he goes along, there is, in fact, a game with certain immutable rules that cannot be flouted. Try as he might a sovereign monarch playing chess cannot move his Rooks as he would his Bishops. This speaks to HaShem's “willingness” to abide by the “limitations” of “midah k’neged midah”= quid pro quo, in dealing with His chess pieces. Re HaShem although “He make-uh da game, He play-uh by da rules”

And while Adam Kirsch wrote in a recent NY Sun Review of Ms. Bethke Elshtain's book Sovereignty: God, State, and Self that “natural law, history shows, has an unsettling malleability: It tends to become an honorific for prejudice and custom” the current era of the sovereign self, the logical conclusion of the French revolution and July 4th 1776, has culminated in “a self conceived in terms of total autonomy and absolute will — … a monster of egotism.”, in Ms. Elshtain's view and the expressions of this egotism include radical feminism, sexual license, abortion rights, eugenics, stem cell research, and cloning.

So here’s my dilemma: While a Merciful Providence micromanaging history replaced monarchies with parliamentary democracies and directed a large chunk of His nearly shattered people to these shores in the years following the Holocaust, shores where we breathe free and enjoy religious liberty unprecedented in our long and bitter Galus= Diaspora, did He do so at the expense of His own “prestige” and, concomitantly, at he expense of our own ability to relate to Him in a real and authentic way? To wax metaphoric, did He “raise us on the wings of eagles” and take the hunters arrows for us yet again? And in so doing are the eaglets and chicks now orphans with warped views of their own Parent?

The article that inspired this post is here. You may hate my post but click on the link and read this provocative review. It alone is worth the price of admission!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

What a blessing that no one ever puts false biographical information on the internet.

You'll be quite glad to know this website "was produced with the haskama of Gedolei Yisrael," --though, al korcha, we must presume that the Gedolei Yisroel who last year told us the Internet was immoral, treif and banned were not invited to the meeting.

Additionally: "Our database includes names of boys, who are presently learning in Eretz Yisroel, Lakewood, Chaim Berlin, and Torah Vodaath. How many times do parents and shadchanim hear the name of what sounds like a great boy, but have no idea how to find information about him?"

To which I can only say boruch hashem. I'm tired of having to go to shul to get dirt on my neighbor's kid. Being able to access the gossip from the comfort and privacy of my own home is so much more convenient. Thanks!

Update: Here's what I want to know: Do these so called "good" boys come from homes where the shabbos table is covered with plastic? Or are the expensive linens left uncovered and at risk to wine and cholent spills, according to the authentic Torah True practice of our ancestors? Actually, never mind. There is no way in hell the gedolai yisroel would, nebach, allow boys with plastic-using parents to be included in such a heimisha data base.

HT: Emigma

Hold on to your head gear

You'll be dancing in your seats to learn that this newfangled kosher sifter thing has been "ENDORSED BY TOP RABBIS TO BE INSECT AND MEALWORM FREE!"

Hoo-ray and phew. Because if it was endorsed by those ordinary riff-raff Rabbis and not the much holier top rabbis I'd never go near the thing. And good thing about it being both insect and meal worm free, am I right? Sure, that's a little bit like being suitable for "dogs and poodles," but you can't be too sure when it comes to kashrus, I guess.

Here's more from the marketing monkeys who created the kosher sifter website:
"Since Rabbonim are reporting significant infestation in grains, the necessity for effective flour sifting has risen to its peak. Today's market offers various different sifters; however, each of them poses a question of kashrus and convenience. Most flour sifters have wide mesh spacing allowing tiny insects, present in flour, to sieve through the sifter.

Furthermore, open to atmosphere sifting gives room for insects or bugs to jump from the sifter to the already sifted flour"
All of which leads me to conclude that until sometime around August 8, 1995 no one kept kosher.

Tip of the fluffy white chef hat to Enigma (not that we're implying that she belongs in the kitchen) (though she can cook as much as she likes) (so long as it is her choice, and her choice alone)

Terrorist attack in Jerusalem

A guest post by TikunOlam

Jameel just got back from tending to the wounded and dead in today's terrorist attack in Jerusalem where a bulldozer driven by a terrorist went on a rampage. Jameel reports that there are now 5 dead - according to updated information from Jameel, 3 dead and 50 injured. Terrorist groups are already claiming credit for the attack. To read more please see Jameel's blog, The Muqata.

Yasher Koach Jameel.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Why men and women should sit together on the bus

A guest post by TikunOlam

I notice that on this blog, there is always a lot of debate about how much or how little women should be separated from men. Just today, Rafi G wrote about the latest in the never-ending Israeli bus soap opera.

I thought it was high time an argument was made as to why women and men *should* sit together on the bus. And in effort to prove that I am not just "eye candy," I figured I would give it a shot.

So I would like to present an argument that not only should men and women sit together on buses, but they should sit together on trains, planes and automobiles too. Of course I also think they should sit together in classrooms, work together in the workplace, share meals together, blog together and even just hang out together. Here are some of my reasons:

1. Adam and Eve did not sit under separate trees. It is only because they hung out at the same tree that any of us were even born and can now sit on buses.

2. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. It is therefore helpful to have a friend or two of the opposite sex (one that you might have met, let’s say, on a bus) with whom you can talk through the challenges of understanding members of the opposite sex.

3. Shidduch dates can be really awkward. It is easier to talk to a member of the opposite sex when you've had, well, some experience talking to them (I mean ones other than your siblings).

4. Platonic friendships between members of the opposite sex can be totally awesome. I can’t imagine my life without my male friends and I credit the ones I had in early adulthood with warning me against getting involved with “bad guys” and letting me know who the good guys were.

5. Friendships between members of the opposite sex sometimes develop into relationships that end up at the chupah. Mine did and I am sure that some of the girls on Rafi G's bus will soon be kallah meidels too.

6. When men spend time with women, they have opportunities to develop their more feminine sides and women who spend time with men can develop their more masculine sides. Results of research on androgyny indicate that having highly developed feminine and masculine traits results in improved well-being. Truth be told, some of the research in this area is mixed and it seems that women benefit more from developing “masculine” traits then men who develop "feminine" traits, but the research is not all in yet.

7. Grown men and women who have been kept separate from each other their whole lives end up in adulthood relating to members of the opposite sex with, at best, an adolescent mentality. I mean, who other than pre-adolescents could possibly get distracted from their Torah learning at the sight of an elbow? Or a picture of a pretty woman, tilting her head, wearing fake hair? That is so 12 years old.

8. There are too many negative stereotypes of women perpetuated by men and men of women. This fosters a lack of respect between the sexes which does nothing good for marriages, communities, workplaces or for the world at large. Just like any other bigotry, sexism is best combated by time shared communicating, sharing, debating and listening to members of the opposite sex. A good conversation or ten, while sitting on the bus side by side, could change the world for the better!

9. Sitting next to each other on a bus has never been proven to lead to mixed dancing, swimming or anything else. We can trust that with proper Torah preparation, people should be able to control their ids. Those who can't control themselves because they are sitting next to a member of the opposite sex, let's face it, have serious problems that separate seating on buses will do little to nothing to solve.

10. Going back to Adam and Eve, we all know what happens when you constantly tell someone, “don’t look at that,” “don’t touch that,” “you can’t have that.” There is a term we psychologists use to describe the way people compulsively want what they can’t have. It is called “coveting the forbidden fruit.”