Friday, October 31, 2008

An important message from HaRav Pinky Schmeckelstein Shlita

The following is brought to you by BOTH:

Here's an important message from HaRav Pinky Schmeckelstein Shlita zol sein shtark und gazunt that I believe says it all about the election:

"Most importantly, both the presidential and vice presidential candidates subscribe to a belief set that is anathema to Klal Yisroel: They all believe in Yushka. Yushka Pandra: The man who abandoned our great faith in order to found a new movement and come up with worldwide franchise success and a popular Broadway musical. Yushka: The symbol who inspired historical persecutions against Klal Yisroel, and who amongst Evangelicals inspires a vision of either mass conversion or destruction of Klal Yisroel in the "End of Days". These are your candidates, you minuvals, so I suggest you not get too excited about any of them.

So in answer to the question of who you should vote for: I say go move to France and vote for Sarkozy – At least his father was a Jew. And his wife is a smoking hot shiksa, sort of like a Palin, but without the Evangelical Hashkafa or the pregnant teenage daughter."

Pro polygamy

We all know that God was happy to allow us multiple wives. Were it not for the reforms of Rebbenu Gershon, who 1000 years ago decided that the perfection of the Torah needed to be adjusted because the world had changed, any of us men would be permitted by Torah law/morality to marry a second, or even a third or fourth wife. (The rule change was never accepted by Arab Jews. Some of them emigrated to Israel from places like Iraq and Yemen with more than one wife.) Now I have discovered that the Meshech Chochma believed (comment to Bereshis 3:16) that, along with not wanting men to work, God's original plan was for women to be able to take multiple husbands:

The Talmud (Eruvin 100B) itemizes 10 curses for Eve/women [after the sin of the tree of union of good and evil]. Among these is that she is “forbidden to a house of two” [i.e. whereas a man may marry multiple wives a women can be married to only one husband at a time].

The Talmud’s intent is not to state what is forbidden to women from a religious standpoint or on account of the seven Noahide laws. Rather all curses on the list are things that are biological and social. Such that natural law, rather than religious strictures, is what restrains women from polygamy while allowing polygamy to men. As follows:

If women were polygamous the settlement and peopling of the world would be negated. People would waste their lives [rather than work and settle the world]. Neither recognizing fathers nor identifying with certainty sons that they had sired the very foundations of society would be undermined. For who would exert themselves absent a name and legacy??....

However prior to the sin [of the tree of union of good and evil] ascertaining paternity was unambiguous and instantaneous: “They came up on the bed as two and descended as three” (Bereshis Rabbah 22) [there was no time lapse for pregnancy. Human reproduction occurred immediately after sexual intercourse. As such] the reason for women refraining from multiple partners did not pertain.

It is for these reasons that slaves who have no chayis/yichus [familial relationships and inheritance] (Yevamos 32A) lack the institution of marriage as well. [I.e. As marriage is a post –sin institution meant to protect yichus-bloodlines-family relationships it is useless for slaves. Slave women may, in fact, legally have multiple partners.]

The take-away lessons are many; the most important of them I think is this: Morality is not absolute. Like everything else, it is a function of time and place.

*Cite and translation provided by someone who does not wish to be named.
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More Corrosive than Porn

It's always been my conviction that Bible movies were more dangerous to ones spiritual health than lascivous images. We know that the latter are unseemly and there is no confusion between good and evil, qodesh and khol. But how many of us still see Charlton Heston when we think of Moshe Rabenu and Cecil B. DeMilles special effects when we imagine the parting of the sea of reeds? These impressions are childish, shallow and almost inavariably at odds with Torah she-baal peh. Biblical history is best left abstract and imagined from the word pictures painted by Chazal rather than from the oil paintings and sculptures of the great masters.

Whish is why it took a goyisher kop to come up with this and moronic Jews (see comment 13) to cheer it and find something positive about it!

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

You know you're in trouble when even FoxNews thinks your ideas are too wingnutty for prime time

Attention Yeshiva World morons: In this clip Shep Smith of Fox News DEMOLISHES Joe The Plumber for saying that "A vote for Obama is a vote for the destruction of Israel." Watch it and learn.

Best line: When asked why he thinks Obama is "bad for Israel," Joe answers "Let me put it back on your listeners, let them go and find out why I would agree with something like that"

What immediately came to my mind was this: "Why would you agree with something like that, Joe? Perhaps, because you're a know-nothing idiot?"

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Parsha Notes (Noach)

Here we go with a new DovBear series (remember this one?) in which I will attempt to briefly summarize all that is odd and interesting about the current Parsha. [Others]


Things everyone should know:

(1) There are two flood stories, that appear to be woven together, that themselves are uncomfortably similar to the Gilgamesh epic. [Mis-nagid had a post on this a few years back, that made the facts as clear as day.] Sure, the Divine Author may have done this, but the differences between the Bible's two stories, and the parallels to the other source call out for commentary.

(2) The Ibn Ezra says that those who believe Cham and/or Canaan were published with blackness have forgotten that Nimrod, the first king mentioned in the bible was from Kush and presumably Black. [More on why teachings about Cham are terrible]

Famous Argument

Rainbows: The Ibn Ezra says that rainbows never existed before the flood, and that we see them now because God made the sun stronger. The Kli Yakar says that rainbows never existed before the flood and we see them now because God dissipated the thick cloud cover that had existed from the time of creation. The Ramban says that rainbows always existed, nature didn't change. The Ranbam further says that we should rely on science, which would demolish the views of both the Kli Yakar and the Ibn Ezra together with lots of things lots of Rabbis say, and have said, about the world.


The man who brings the first recorded animal sacrifice is immediately killed. The man who brings the second recorded animal sacrifice is violated. Message: Divine acceptance of offering provides no protection. (This jaded view of Genesis toward sacrifice is observed by Alter.)

Word Play

(1) Gen 7:17 : וַיְהִי הַמַּבּוּל אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם, עַל-הָאָרֶץ; וַיִּרְבּוּ הַמַּיִם, וַיִּשְׂאוּ אֶת-הַתֵּבָה, וַתָּרָם, מֵעַל הָאָרֶץ.
The identical verb appears here, and earlier when God instructs the animals to "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ) Says Alter (paraphrase): "The multiplying waters are made to destroy the living creatures who were enjoined to proliferate with the same verb."

(2) Gen 7:11 tells us "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened."
This sounds like a reversal of the second day of creation, when "God said: Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so."

(3) Gen 5:29 וַיִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ נֹחַ, לֵאמֹר: זֶה יְנַחֲמֵנוּ מִמַּעֲשֵׂנוּ, וּמֵעִצְּבוֹן יָדֵינוּ, מִן-הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר אֵרְרָהּ יְהוָה.
"And he called his name Noah, saying: 'This same shall comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands, which cometh from the ground which the LORD hath cursed.'"
How did Noah bring comfort? With the plow he invented, Rashi says. Before Noah man had to contend with the thorns and thistles mentioned in Adam's curse (Some support: the root 'zb appears here (וּמֵעִצְּבוֹן יָדֵינוּ) and at the curse (בְּעִצָּבוֹן תֹּאכְלֶנָּה)). But I wonder: Perhaps the comfort Noach brings the workingman is wine?


God commands Noah to leave the Arks secure isolation and to engage the world with all its dangers and all its challenges.

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Smarter school teachers please

Well, I should be surprised but I'm not. The littlest DovBearlings came back from school yesterday believing that חשון has the "nickname" of "מר חשון" because, well, you know.

[The name of the month comes from the Babylonian מרח שון, ie: Eighth month.]
[Yes, the holy Jewish people refer to their holy Jewish month with probably-not-so-holy Babylonian names. Deal with it.]

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Time to Abdicate???

by the (erstwhile) BRAY OF FUNDIE

It's not easy being a member of the landed gentry *SIGH*. What with all those castle-topped estates to manage, crocs in the moats to feed and serfs to oppress and exploit things can get pretty intense. But there's more. Now I'm having a crisis of self-confidence. I may be a mere pretender to the title and there may be one far more suited to occupy the Braydom of the flourishing fiefdom of Fundie.

Dov's link opened mine eyes to the glory of the L-rd. The Jewish Philosopher is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of G-d's terrible swift sword. Based on my rapid perusal of his blog I'd say that he is both a far more fundamental fundamentalist than I and that he brays much louder.
What say thee??? Should I abdicate my own braydom in Jacob's favor?
Glory Hallelukah! ---------
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Just when you thought Rove-style Swiftboating couldn't get any worse

I see the Dole family is continuing to disgrace itself. First, Bob Dole phoned in a presidential campaign, then shuffled off to ogle Britney Spears. Now, his wife Senator Libby, is running adverts in North Carolina calling her opponent, Kay Hagan, a "godless American" which end with this classy touch: A Kay Hagen impersonator saying "There is no God."

Oh, by the way: Kay Hagan is a Sunday school teacher, and a Church elder.

Incidentally, there's a theory floating around that McCain is going to lose because he went Rovian. Instead of talking about things that matter, he ran around the country shrieking about Bill Ayers. Instead of attempting to elevate the conversation, he demeaned Obama as a "celebrity" who offers nothing but "rhetoric." Instead of putting County First, he showed us that he didn't believe his own slogan by choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate. Obama did none of that, and is now poised to win.

Does it mean the branded Republican sort of crap now being perpetrated by Libby Dole is no longer effective? Let's hope so.

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Jewish Philosopher: Soft on Atheists?

In his new post, the Jewish "Philosopher" announces that all suspected OJ atheists should be submitted not just to lie detector tests, but also to STD and hair-drug tests. Horrified? It gets better:
"A refusal to be tested should be taken as an admission of guilt. Once a person is found to be guilty, then all communications with him should be severed permanently and his name, address and photograph should be published on a website established for this purpose."
This desire to humiliate and destroy those who refuse to submit to invasive, nosy testing is offensive to decency, common sense, and also to the Torah itself. For all his bluster, JP is a wimp, a maykil, and a taker of short-cuts: If he took Torah seriously he wouldn't be all namby-pamby with this "cut off all communications" cowardice. He'd kill atheists as the Rambam, and others say we should.

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Seeing Red

A guest post by JS:

It is well-known that only the most treif, immodest, and scandalous women amongst us will wear red. This is in keeping with the well-known edict that part of tzniut (modesty) is not drawing improper attention to oneself. Red is bright, flashy, and the color of lust and desire and thus wearing this color is inappropriate for a modest woman. This is often mocked and derided, but were Chazal so far off the mark?

A new study indicates that perhaps they weren't. The study indicates that even a red border around a woman's picture made her more attractive to males. Red clothing was also tried with similar results. Furthermore, not only was the "lady in red" deemed more attractive, men were willing to spend more money on her as well. There's even research under way trying to prove that women find men in red more attractive as well.

At the same time perhaps this lights up the old debate about whether tzniut is intended to make a person appear less attractive. Did Chazal have some special insight into human nature that has only recently been proven? And does this scientific study add strength and authority to Chazal's words?

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Parsha Notes (Berayshis)

Here we go with a new DovBear series (remember this one?) in which I will attempt to briefly summarize all that is interesting and eye catching about the current Parsha.


Moments of Majesty: The first creation story, with its grand symmetries. Lovely, timeless, powerful writing.

Things everyone should know:
(1) There are two creation stories, stories that differ in matters large and small. This, it must be noted, does not rule out the possibility of a divine author, but the fact that God is said to create (barah) in the first story and fashion (yotzar) in the second, among many other differences cries out for commentary.
(2) In this Parsha, Rashi announces his mission statement: (Genesis 3:8) "I have come only to teach the plain meaning of the passage and such Aggadah which explains the words of the Bible.” This is a useful reminder for those who treat Rashi like an anthology of midrashim.

Kefira moments:
(1) The first woman is called ChaVa, though ChaYA would be a better name for the mother of all things,אֵם כָּל-חָי. As I said here, ChaVa sounds like ChiVya, the Aramaic for serpent, and scholars have recognized an old Mesopotamian myth in which a serpent is imagined to be the progenitor of all things, or, in other words, the אֵם כָּל-חָי.
(2) The MT says (Gen 4:8) "And Cain said to Abel his brother" but doesn't tell us what was said. The LXX, Syriac and Aramaic all provide Cain's words: "Let us go out to the field."
(3) Enoch, the man who "walked with God" and "was no more" after God "took" him, is the seventh generation from Adam. In a list of pre-flood Mesopotamian kings, the seventh one is taken by the Sun God. In the Torah Enoch lives 365 years, the number of days in the solar year.

Cool beans:
(1) Lemach is the seventh name of the first genealogy list, and he is said to have liver 777 years. Seven, of course, is a magic number in Judaism, and elsewhere.
(2) In the second genealogy list ten names are given. Ten is also a magic Jewish number.

More, should it come to me. (Noach tomorrow) (I hope)

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Palin's Creepy Love Video with Ted Steven

Palin: I have great respect for the senator….

This was in 2006. 2008 2008 2008. I may be cold hearted contrarian, with handsome eyes, but I find it odd and disturbing that she has so much respect for an indicted (and now convicted) law breaker, who was, it must be noted, stroking her back. And I additionally suppose that per the Ayers/Obama Rule of Correlations this unfortunate video "proves" Palin is a taker of bribes, who wishes to destroy the Senate. Ah well. She's not winning anyway.

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In honor of Halloween ...

Hirhurim warns against demons

Long story short: In what must be a holiday-inspired post Ari Enkin publishes Rabbi Yehuda haTzadik's famous warning about demons. You (I hope) are laughing, but lots of people in my shul think this stuff is real, and many of them have stories about people who ignored the warnings and suffered DIRE CONSEQUENCES.

[Who's surprised that so many people worry about this sort of superstitious nonsense more than they worry about actual, codified halacha? Not me. Who's surprised that Gil, in his comments, protests that we must be respectful and tolerant of superstitious nonsense. Again, not me. I'm also not surprised to see this lunacy propogated on an MO blog like Hirhurim: The MO are chronically insecure: "We musn't look less frum than Haredim."]

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What are rainbows?

A sign that God is mad at the world, but has elected not to deliver the destruction it deserves. He puts up a rainbow to convey this message; when he's not mad at the world rainbows do not appear. Indeed, there were several generations when no rainbows ever appeared. [This is a (a) untenable and (b) a modification of the Midrash which states only that two generations went without rainbows]

We ignore science at out own peril. When light hits water rainbows appear. This is built into nature. The rainbow serves as a sign in the same way that Lavan's pillar serves as a sign. There's no special message in it. It's not something external to nature, rather it is something that exists in nature that serves as a reminder of the deal God made with the creation following the deluge.

The Pslams speak (metaphorically?) about an angry God shooting lightning arrows at the earth. When ancient warriors wished to indicate hostilities had ended they'd hold up their bows either to show they were empty, or tyo show they weren't being used. (we hold up our hands now). The rainbow, which points its business end at the sky, is God's way of putting down his weapon, of saying hostilities have ended. (Ramban says this, too, (not the bit about the lightning arrows) but rejects it, because he won't ignore the fact that rainbows, pace Rashi, are a natural phenomenon that appear whenever light is refracted through water.)

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Redistribution of Wealth

A guest post by JS:

There's an article going around from National Review Online (link here). It was sent to me by someone who thought I'd appreciate it. The article features an exchange in 2001 from Barack Obama on a radio program (link here) in which he mentions redistribution of wealth and the successes and failures of the Civil Rights Movement.

Maybe I just don't get it, but I don't see what was so bad about what Obama said. He's 100% correct that the major success of the Civil Rights Movement was a vestment of powers (such as voting and anti-discrimination laws) and one of the major failures, and an issue this country is still dealing with, is the disparity between the wealth and power of Whites and Blacks (as well as other minorities). I don't see why pointing that out is "radical" or "liberal." I don't think there's any argument that there aren't poor and disenfranchised Whites, but we're talking about percentages.

Look at this chart from the Census Bureau. For 2006, for people in families (not single mothers) percent of Whites, non-Hispanic below the poverty line is 6.1%, percent of Blacks is 23.1%, percent of Asians is 8.0%, percent of Hispanics is 19.5%. For single mothers, the rates are the following in 2006: Whites, non-Hispanic below the poverty line is 22.5%, percent of Blacks is 39.1%, percent of Asians is 17.7%, percent of Hispanics is 36.9%.

If this doesn't scream disparity, I don't know what does. And the problem is obvious, single-parenthood, lack of opportunities, and lack of education combined with past (and continuing) injustices.

The article has racial overtones even though it tries to couch the argument that America is great because Government doesn't butt its nose into our business. But, you can almost hear the horror of taking money from hard-working Whites and handing it over to lazy Blacks.

What I think this article misses (and those who think like this miss) is that we're all in this mess we call America together. If Blacks and Hispanics and single mothers are doing better, we're all doing better. And if a plan exists or can be formulated where those who are doing better can help those who are not, regardless of race, by creating real opportunities, providing jobs, providing education, etc we all benefit. This isn't charity and this isn't redistribution of wealth. It's making this country better from which we all benefit.

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the need for soul-searching in Modiin

A Guest Post by Rafi G.
(originally posted on LII)

Modiin has been going through a lot of religious fights recently. I think this is what happens when a city becomes much more religious than originally expected. the city of Modiin was planned to be a secular city, but has become a fairly religious, National Religious mostly, city.

Bet Shemesh was also originally planned as a secular neighborhood. When the religious chose to move to Bet Shemesh, the fights for control began.

It seems that has been happening in Modiin too, with the increase in religious residents. That is why we are witness to a number if recent incidents, such as the school banning the kid from wearing tefillin, the recent kid becoming religious and fighting with parents, a kid being banned from the soccer team because he wears a kipa, and others.

On the one hand it is easy to say we can buy apartments wherever we want, and they have to learn to live with us. And that sentiment is kind of correct. It is a free world, and if I want to move to a secular neighborhood, nobody can stop me.

On the other hand, perhaps the approach of those moving in is too heavy handed and not sensitive enough to those already living there. I do not have specific examples, but just the idea that some soul-searching might be in order.

Why do I say that? Why do I suggest that perhaps the religious people moving in to Modiin have perhaps been not sensitive enough to the secular residents?

only because of the recent incident on Simchas Torah in which a sefer torah was dropped. The torah was dropped after being given to a child to carry. The child was old enough that this act was not considered negligence.

Rav Dovid Lau, the rav of Modiin, therefore paskened that the community must fast. He differentiates between causes, saying that if the Torah was dropped out of negligence, then there is no need for a communal fast. When, however, the torah is dropped with no negligence, then it is a sign from heavan that the community must do soul-searching and improve its ways.

Rav Lau says that in this situation the child was old enough to hold the torah, and therefore there was no negligence. That means that they must fast and look for ways to improve.

I would suggest, perhaps rightly perhaps wrongly, that this incident indicating the need for soul-searching added to, and occurring in such a close time-frame to, all the recent incidents of secular fighting with religious residents, perhaps the soul-searching needs to be directed toward the way the religious have treated the irreligious when they have moved in en masse to a secular neighborhood. Perhps if they would find ways in which they could be more friendly, less threatening, mor eopen, etc. to their secular neighbors, and improve in those areas, perhaps all of these incidents would happen less frequently.

Thank you to the reader who sent me the scan of Rav Lau's original letter

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Note to self (1): Rely less on Wikipdia; Note to self (2): ABC can be as pro-Conservative as Fox

Yesterday, I suggested that Barbara West, the WFTV reporter who launched a stupid and unprofessional attack on Joe Biden, was an employee of FoxNews. I based this on instinct (who but a FOX reporter would dare to appear so nakedly biased?) and also on Wikipdia, where West's station was identified as a FOX affiliate (the Wikipedia entry has since been updated, but you can still see what I saw in the cache here and here.)

What's funny is that wingnuts, morons and DovBear haters are failing to draw the appropriate lessons from this discovery. If Barbara West is indeed employed by ABC, shouldn't her treatment of Joe Biden obviate any claims that the "liberal" media has it in the tank for Obama?

If you still believe that liberal stations like ABC are biased, why don't you compare West's vicious treatment of Biden with the starry-eyed, deferential Valentine his opponent, Sarah Palin, received from WFTV's cross-town competition at Orlando's Fox affiliate?

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Monday, October 27, 2008

I don't think you'll ever find a reporter from any of the so-called liberal stations behaving this unprofessionally.

Biden gave her the clobbering she deserved, but she'll probably get a raise and a promotion all the same from the truth-haters at FAUX News.

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Well lookie here

The pinko America-haters at the Financial Times have endorsed Obama. Key reason:
Mr Obama fought a much better campaign. Campaigning is not the same as governing, and the presidency should not be a prize for giving the best speeches, devising the best television advertisements, shaking the most hands and kissing the most babies.

Nonetheless, a campaign is a test of leadership. Mr Obama ran his superbly; Mr McCain’s has often looked a shambles. After eight years of George W. Bush, the steady competence of the Obama operation commands respect.

Nor should one disdain Mr Obama’s way with a crowd. Good presidents engage the country’s attention; great ones inspire. Mr McCain, on form, is an adequate speaker but no more. Mr Obama, on form, is as fine a political orator as the country has heard in decades. Put to the right purposes, this is no mere decoration but a priceless asset.
I agree with this, but part of me still wishes the 2000 version of McCain was running and not this hack, retread of a Hannity Conservative who imagined choosing the unproven, untested, ignorant, spiteful, rapture-tongued, barbie doll from Alaska was "putting country first." McCain 2000 would have had the trust of both Democrats and Republicans and, therefore, a chance of fixing Bush's mega mess. Obama will be met with instant opposition - from the press, from the heartland, and most of all the Republicans who will dig in and attempt to block him and embarrass him at every turn.

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Too many mitzvot?

A guest post by JS:

SephardiLady posted recently about personal responsibility (see here).

Specifically, the post dealt with a report that worker's at the Raleigh Hotel were not paid on time due to a snafu which, purely by coincidence I'm sure, happened last year around the Chagim as well. YWN and VIN both posted articles on the matter. Some of the comments on the sites are simply beyond belief. A sample:
Interesting enough!! You could have thought that the high end workers were delayed pay. I was at the hotel this summer & I recognise every single face in the picture. These a re the cleaning goites who half the time don't do their jobs. They should be happy that even have a place to work. If I were the manager I would have fired them long ago.

SephardiLady points out that kashrut (external signs of frumkeit) always seems to take the place of yashrut (internal signs of frumkeit). I couldn't agree more. In fact, it made me wonder if, as if it were possible, do we have too many mitzvot?

After all, there are so many mitzvot, and so many customs, and so many chumrot on the mitzvot and on the customs that it's just too easy for one to pick and choose what he wants to keep and what he doesn't want to keep. All the while, this person believes they're frum because, after all, they do so many mitzvot. And more often than not, it's the external mitzvot, customs, and chumrot that people choose to observe. And why not? They give the greatest immediate reward, from an external observer the person appears to be frum. The internal mitzvot, those of being a good, upright person, offer no such incentive, no one can see when you don't cheat or steal, when you give tzedaka privately, when you hold you tongue and don't slander someone.

I almost wish that the only mitzvot we had were yashrut-related. Can you imagine if the only way to gauge whether someone was frum was how upright and upstanding they were? That people could eat and drink whatever they want and wear whatever they want, but all we'd care about is if they were good people to the core? Wouldn't this be, on some level at least, a better form of Judaism? Is this not in line with what God tells us time and again through his Prophets, that God does not care for our sacrifices and our fasts, he just wants us to care for and do justice by the needy, the orphans, and the widows?

The other issuse is that it's so easy to pick one maxim over another and still be frum all the while. When it's beneficial to your cause you can point to dan l'kaf z'chut (when you're the one being judged) or you can point to lashon ha'ra (when you're the one being exposed). Just too many mitzvot and the focus is always on the wrong ones it seems.

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What Bush Boom?

Jonathan Cait in TNR:

For several years--the "Bush Boom" years--Republicans were essentially arguing that the mere fact that the economy was expanding should be taken as proof that Bush's economic policies succeeded.
President Bush would routinely announce facts such as (from a speech last year), "During the time when we cut taxes to today, our economy has grown by more than $1.9 trillion." He would mock his critics and declare, "events have proven them wrong."

The whole trick here was to start at the bottom point of the economic cycle and assume that any subsequent improvement was the result of his policies. Of course, this is a ludicrously forgiving measure. Over time, the economy tends to grow, and it also goes through cycles. To point out that we're better off at the peak of a cycle than at the trough is something that could be said of any economic cycle. Bush was claiming his miracle fertilizer succeeded because his plants were taller at the end of the summer than at the beginning of spring.


I'd never go as far as conservatives do in attributing economic growth to tax rates. But that's the right's game, so let's see how the Bush Boom measures up, now that it's gone to macroeconomic heaven. A recent paper by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) compares the Bush Boom to the ten previous periods of economic expansion since 1949. If you measure it from the peak of the previous business cycle, the Bush Boom ranks eighth out of the last ten expansions. If you measure it from the trough of the recession, Bush's preferred gauge, it ranks dead last.

And the meager growth that did occur accrued almost entirely to the rich. One of the few categories where the Bush Boom really did boom was corporate profits, which rank, depending on which measure you use, second or fourth. But wage and salary growth ranks last out of the ten previous expansions. Median family income actually declined. As the EPI paper notes, "this marks the first time this has happened since World War II in a business cycle lasting anywhere near as long as the most recent cycle." So, from the standpoint of making most people better off--which, of course, is the whole point of economic growth--the Bush Boom was a staggering catastrophe.


If you're keeping score at home, this makes two consecutive economic cycles that have annihilated the premises of right-wing economics. When Bill Clinton raised the top tax rate in 1993, conservatives unanimously predicted it would destroy the economy. When Bush cut the top tax rate, conservatives insisted it would produce (in fact, already had produced) widespread prosperity.

Of course, you could say that this was all horrible luck for the Republicans, and tax rates had little effect either way. But that would also undercut the right's case. The initial effect of tax cuts for the rich is to increase public debt and income inequality. Conservatives justify these consequences by pointing to the alleged second-order effects of tax cuts--promoting stronger incentives and higher growth. But, if the second-order effects are so tiny they get washed out by larger economic factors--and the evidence overwhelmingly suggests they are--why should we pay the price for them?

a family break-up

A Guest Post by Rafi G.
(originally posted on LII)

There is a sad, and even tragic, story, happening in Modiin. It is one of those stories in which a family is torn apart. I think it is more common for these types of family fights to happen when a child from a religious family goes off on his own and chooses to not be religious, and this case is exactly the opposite. A family is fighting because a child chose to become religious.

The brief story as reported goes that one of the children, 16.5 years old, started going to shul and to classes. Slowly he became more and more connected and eventually began putting on tefillin and wearing tzitzis and a kipa.

The article does not describe how he got attracted to religion. Was he drawn in by "religious missionaries"? It does not say. Was he simply turned on by a friend who was religious? Perhaps it was something innocuous like assistance that was offered in a time of need by someone religious that turned him on? It does not say.

How did the parents react? They say that at first they played along thinking it would blow over quickly. he had dreams of being a pilot, after all! As he continued taking on more aspects of religion - even "studying from morning to night", "he became a child we did not recognize, his whole life having been erased".

So what did they do? They forced him to come back home, they locked him in the house, they argued with him and with the rabbi. Nothing worked - eventually he ran away and disappeared. Now they have no idea where he is, and he is probably hiding out in some yeshiva learning, to their chagrin.

I did not see the article in print, but Michael did and quoted other aspects from it - they called the rabbi and argued about how important the mitzva on honoring one's parents is and how could he allow their son to transgress that.

The rabbi's response was that they should be considerate of the child's wishes. The child says he wants to learn in yeshiva. So what's the big deal?

I am not impressed with the rabbi's response. If it went the other way, would he same the same thing? If a child from a religious family became not religious, would the rabbi say "so what? all he wants to do is go study science and history. is that so bad?"? Somehow I do not think so.

First of all, it is truly a tragic story. It is always sad to see families torn apart simply because different individuals in the family choose different paths. From firsthand experience I can say that accepting each other and their choices is just as easy. I have siblings and we each have chosen different paths with a very extreme range. if we would fight about it and hate each other and be insulted by the other's choices, we would be torn apart. Instead we each respect the other, we are close each with the other, even if not agreeing with all the other siblings choices.

The parents, understandably, feel rejected. Their way of life has been rejected. They are insulted and hurt. But if they would look at their son as not just someone who has to do what they say, but someone intelligent enough to make choices, then perhaps they can respect his choice, even if they disagree with it, to become religious. Then perhaps the son would come back and renew his relationship with his parents and family.

Is religion so bad that it is worth breaking up the family over? The kid became religious and studied all day long! What a bad child! What would they have preferred he be doing all day long? Playing video games? trading drugs in school?

And where do the parents come off talking as if they are so religious demanding that he keep the mitzva of honoring one's parents? They are not religious but demand certain mitzvas of him? That is an important mitzva, but there are nine others in the Ten Commandments. There are 612 others in the Torah. You can't just pick and choose.

(HatTip: Michael Sedley)

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Sunday, October 26, 2008


It wasn't too long ago, that most all of you disagreed with me about George W.Bush. I heard about how he was Israel's best friend. I heard about how his policies were brilliant, and about how his tax cuts were the cause and the source of all good in the world. Many of you loved his war, and his plan to make elderly Americans victims of market unpredictability. One notable, and well-loved J-blogger even said Bush was on his way to going "down as one of the most effective Presidents in history." [name on request]

Really, I hate to say I told you so, but with W's approval rating at 20, and McCain running away from him as fast as he can, and the consensus growing that Bush is one of the worst presidents we've ever had, well, I think some mild Schadenfreude can be excused.

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Finally, an explanation!

A guest post by JS:

Turns out the reason Palin performed so poorly on her interview with Katie Couric is that Couric's questions were just, plain annoying.

At least there's no argument between Palin's camp and McCain's camp that's spilling into the news.

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cloning and stem cell research in the parsha

A Guest Post by Rafi G.
(originally posted on LII)

NOTE: the following should not be taken as a halachic decision or be used for halachic guidance. I do not know what the halachic and/or rabbinic position on these matters is. I consulted no rabbis when writing this, and the following words are simply my thoughts on the subject.

We say that we are supposed to emulate the ways of Hashem. "מה הוא חנון, אף אתה חנון וכו" - "Just as He is slow to anger, so to you should be slow to anger. Just as He is merciful, so to should you be merciful, etc." so the gemara says.

In parshas Breishis, which we just read, Hashem decided there was a need to create a woman to be with Adam. He could have snapped His fingers, so to speak, and said "Let there be woman", and created her just llike He created man. But He did not.

He put Adam through surgery, with a general anesthesia (ויפל תרדמה), and then cut Adam open, removed a rib (or whatever bone or piece you might define צלע to be), and then formed the flesh and the whole woman around that bone.

To me that sounds like God preferred to not go through the process of creation again once it had been completed. And it would be immoral for us to take the place of God and "create" through science.

But on the other hand, it would also seem that cloning, and stem cell research should be ok. Those are the methods used by God to form Chava, post-creation, and it would seem that it should be acceptable for us to study and use these methods as well.

What do you think?

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Friday, October 24, 2008

John McCain admits in 2000 he'd be too old to run in 2008


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Some, no doubt, will find this video deeply spiritual, and perhaps "moving"...

...we call such people "crazy"

Incidentally, the weirdest idea I've ever heard about the lulav is that it serves as a spiritual "antenna" used to collect, or attract, or to otherwise draw in various and vital spiritual "energies."

Uh huh.

Though it's not without its own serious problems, I confess a preference for the old, disfavored view of that modern Orthodox thinker from Egypt, who said in his Moreh Nevuchim (3:43) that we take the arab minim to remember the fruits of the land of Israel and the happiness experienced by our ancestors upon emerging from the desert and entering the promised land.

(Problem: If you want to remember the fruits of EY, why not take them? The Rambam (there) gives an answer (easy to find; likely to maintain freshness in way grapes, for example, won't.) I don't like it much though its worth noting that the plain meaning of the Torah (Lev 23:40) seems to say that any fruit, from any stately tree, ie etz hadar, is acceptable.)

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Real Americans own 13 houses.

I found it funny when George W. Bush (millionaire son of a US president, grandson of a US senator) complained about the "elites"; now I find it just as funny listening to John S. McCain III (son of an Admiral, grandson of an Admiral, legacy admission to Annapolis, owner of 13 houses, and member of one of Arizona's wealthiest families) do the same:
"Well, in our nation's capital and New York City," McCain replied. "I've seen it. I've lived there. I know the town. I know -- I know what a lot of these elitists are. The ones that she never went to a cocktail party with in Georgetown. I'll be very frank with you. Who think that they can dictate what they believe to America rather than let Americans decide for themselves."
Also: How do we feel about McCain singling out as "elite" the two places attacked on 9/11? I don't like it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Boo hoo hoo. Whah wha wah

Washed up, all but forgotten, intellectual hack Newt Gingrich thinks Palin has grounds for a lawsuit against SNL for the presenting Queen Sarah as something less than the Goddess Newty imagines her to be.

What's also funny, in a sad, makes you want to slit your wrists sort of way, is how these Republican fools keep talking about how the "elite" media mistreats their candidates. Yeah right. Al Gore and John Kerry sure were kid-gloved by SNL. Remember the sighs? And if the media is so elite, and so liberal loving, why have they subjected Obama to the sort of scrutiny and criticism Palin and McCain haven't ever received from their puppies at Fox and the EIB network? And, did you catch how that non-biased, entitely objective, pure as the driven snow Fox News reporter framed her question?

Anyway, the funniest of the Palin skits, was the one in which Tina Fey quoted Palin's exact words.

(Incidentally, calling Bill Ayres a terrorist as the "elite" media and the McCain family surrogates have done incessantly for the less few weeks might qualify as slander since he has not, in fact, ever been convicted of terrorism. Also, notice how Newt isn't quibbling with SNL's portrayal of McCain as senile?)

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Xmas in New Orleans
[All information in this PSA supplied by the sponsoring organization]

Things young Jewish adults like:

- Traveling
- Meeting other young Jewish adults
- Volunteering

So why not try Tzevet Mitzvot: Adult Mitzvah Corps, a trip that combines all three? The program, geared toward Jewish 25-35 year olds, runs Dec. 20-25th in New Orleans. Participants will spend the week volunteering, studying and, of course, having some fun in the Big Easy.

The trip is heavily subsidized ($250 + transportation to and from NOLA). So spend a week of your winter healing the world – starting with New Orleans. If you’re interested in joining us on this trip, check out the Tzevet Mitzvot Web site, where you’ll find an application, FAQ and itinerary, or contact Naomi Abelson at with questions.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Women's Hakafot at Young Israel

Guest Post from Anonymous.

I attended a Young Israel for the first time on Simchat Torah. I was quite surprised to see that they gave a Sefer Torah to the women, and the women danced around with it and held it. Isn't this against NCYI policy? Do other Young Israel shul's follow this practice? Personally I have no problem with this, as long as they don't drop the Torah, or contaminate it with female impurity.

DB: My own view is as follows: Who Cares? Or to put it religiously zeh neheneh v’zeh lo chaser (This one benefits, and that one suffers no loss) Who is hurt if women gather privately to dance with a Torah? Who is offended? Who is harmed? You can present any religious argument you like, but at the end of the day there's no victim, and therefore no reason to make a stink. If you don't like it, don't do it, or start an anti-Woman's Hakafah blog. Those are appropriate responses. Banning it, protesting it, or forbidding the women you know from joining are not.

PS: We finished hakafot at 2 PM today, and, as usual, I had a blast with the singing, shtick and so on. None of our women danced or came within spitting distance of a Torah. I can't say excluding them did anything to improve my holiday, though.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Hebrew 101 - Part 1

A guest post by JS:

From an interesting article I was sent. A little Hebrew lesson:

Remaining parts to be posted at later dates.

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The GOP cares about workers?

Yeah right <- link. Click on it.

Republicans care about ordinary working class people about as much as this guy does -->

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Who will the Republicans blame?

Thanks to the mess Bush and his cronies have made of this country the next president -no matter who it is - is almost certain to be a one termer. Four years and out. True for McCain. True for Palin. And true for Obama.

If McCain wins, (or if Palin succeeds in the the first year or two) no one will put the blame where it belongs, ie, on Bush. Instead, we'll hear from Republicans that "the Democrats in Congress" or the generic "liberals" ruined things for him/her.

But what if Obama wins? Republicans won't tell the truth and attribute the inevitable failure of Obama's presidency to the deep hole Bush has dug us into. Instead, they'll likely blame his skin color or to his party. This is why an Obama victory is likely to be a curse in disguise. Neither, blacks nor Democrats won't recover from it soon.

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Only in Texas

Three people were injured when a gun accidentally discharged during Rosh Hashanah services at Temple Emanu-El on Wednesday evening.

Well, what do you expect from people who own belt buckles larger than their fists?

True story: Last time I was in that backwards, benighted, state I saw movie rental, beer, ammunition, and bait all in the same store.


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What many of the men in the audeince have been waiting for.

Israeli film “The Secrets” portrays lesbian love in frum seminary

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Friday, October 17, 2008

To Assad, Love Bush

Bush Offers Golan Withdrawal,7340,L-3609907,00.html

Some "best friend" (and of course no lunatic Republic mouth breather is ever going to criticize Bush for this. Just as no one criticizes Palin for applauding a J for J who said terrorism is God's way of punishing the Jews for rejecting Jesus.)


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The Final Debate | McCain won

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Just when you though Republican radio couldn't get any dumber

"[W]hat is that flag that Obama's been standing in front of that looks like an American flag, but instead of having the field of 50 stars representing the 50 states, there's a circle? Is the circle the 'O' for Obama? Is that what it is?" -- Conservative Republican genius Bob Grant


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Curtains for McCain

Posting on DB's behalf - good grammar and spelling are JS's doing though:

Watching the debate last night, I found myself occasionally being drawn to McCain: he IS an American hero; he DOES have a record of reform; and he WAS among the first to be publicly slimed by that demon, Rove, and his puppet, king Bush. But as soon as I found myself starting to warm to McCain, the old navy man would ruin it by pandering to his slack jaw yokel base of GOP bumpkins, or by stating that Palin is anything but queen of the SJYBOGOPB, or by launching some horrible and easily discredited line of slanderous attack on Obama's record.

As many of you are fond of reminding me, I was an early McCain supporter. The debate reminded me of why this was true, while also reminding me of how he lost my vote. Perhaps DovBear would have voted republican this time around, if only McCain had escaped the temptations of "crazy base land."

Aside: Why won't Obama forcefully slap down the Ayers slander? Why does he give one thoughtful and calm explanation after another, instead of flashing some temper and telling McCain that he, McCain, is a disingenuous liar and we all know it? The idea that Ayers disreputable past has any bearing on Obama's qualifications is absurd anyways. Anyone who knows how politics works and how large fortunes are made knows that there has never been a candidate for president who could boast of spending every second of his time in the presence of altar boys - John Sidney McCain included.

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TV or not TV, that is the question

A guest post by JS:

So my wife and I were by my in-laws for the first part of Succot*. On the drive home, we were listening to the debate on the radio. We both thought McCain was very aggressive and was really sticking it to Obama and putting Obama on the defensive. Finally, we both thought, McCain is going on the attack, this will definitely win him some points.

Then we got home with about 30 minutes left in the debate and we got to see the candidates on TV. Our opinion completely changed. McCain had a sarcastic grin on his face, looked overly smug, and just plain mean and nasty. It was a major turn off and led me to conclude that anyone seeing the debate would rate McCain very negatively for his facial expressions. Interestingly, I didn't hear any post-debate commentators mention this.

Thoughts? Another Kennedy-Nixon moment? Does the difference between radio and TV matter anymore?

* - To clarify for anyone still confused: I am a guy. I am married.

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Understanding Uman

A guest post by Y Ginzburg:

Each year, the size of the audience increases dramatically as a long-dead Chassidic Rebbe turns Chassidus back into what it was originally, a mass movement back to Judaism for the unlearned and unwashed masses.

Current Chassidic trends demand that each sect have it’s own very specific attire, instantly recognizable to another Chassid even if invisible to the uneducated viewer. In some cases, this is the hat style they wear, in others the coat or the shoes. At the annual pilgrimage to Uman, though, anything goes, as it was in the 1700’s when Chassidus was invented and when most of the adherents were farmers and owned no more than one change of clothing. Thus Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, deceased since roughly the Louisiana Purchase, is influencing today’s Chassidic mores despite his death, and arguably in ways more important, more visible, and more dramatic than any living Rebbe.

Making the arduous trek to Uman, a shtetl in Ukraine that is about 5000 miles and 200 years away from New York, tens of thousands of Jews of all types unite as one.

The phenomenon of this trip has attracted even so many Sefardic Jews (traditionally not followers of Chassidus) that the world’s most famous Sefardic Rabbi, Ovadiah Yosef, has banned them, but to no avail.

What is the attraction of spending a few days away from family among tens of thousands of strangers, and paying dearly for the privilege? What spiritual uplift can be found in a backwards town of hygiene-challenged anti-Semitic villagers, whose most famous and most visited resident is dead?

A few years ago, I went to find out for myself, and this is what I wrote immediately upon my return, when the adrenaline was still pulsing, as it does now, years later, just remembering.

Without fanfare, without publicity, without subsidies from any of the umpteen organizations dedicated to preserving Judaism, tens of thousands of Jews converged on what is undoubtedly the largest Jewish gathering in the world. And they did so in perhaps the wackiest possible venue, in the remote backwaters of Ukraine, in a village that is still very close to medieval.

They ranged in type from the Ultra’s, the Meah Shearim Jews, to the secular Sefardic Egged bus drivers, to the new-agers dressed in robes and turbans. From blacks to black-hatters and from Ultra-orthodox to ultra-modern but respectful. Accurate numbers seem to be unavailable, but everyone agrees that there were at least 25,000 men there, and some claim as high as 100,000. Virtually no women were there, and there are no facilities for them. There were some hippie-ish and hermaphrodite-looking pony-tailed people there, though, that looked to me suspiciously like “Yentle” wanna-be’s.

No permission, no registration, no formalities, and yet they came. At great expense and with huge effort, they came from all over. A 3-hour drive from the closest airport in Kiev, some drove for days from more remote areas to where they found flights that were cheaper. Some of my roommates (we shared, six of us in a small “villa”, a 3-room house with no hot water and only an outhouse. Not even a cold shower!) came from Israel via Budapest, a 34-hour drive away. Others came via Odessa, 4 or 5 hours.

Ask any one of the people who attended how it was and the only response will be a glazed-eye look and a hummed snatch of the doggerel verse “Uman, Uman, Rosh Hashanah”.

So what inspires this kind of behavior, this kind of dedication, this elusive goal that every Jewish organization in America cannot achieve with their millions in subsidies, publicity, advertising, and convenient elegant venues?

If the answer could be cut and dried, it would be replicable, and that it obviously isn’t. Let me therefore reply with why I went, and what I got from it.

This past year has been emotionally turbulent for me, and with the High Holidays approaching seeking out a new and spiritually uplifting experience seemed more apt than returning to my dry and usual services. Because of this, I actually listened when my brother called me and, mostly in jest, told me that the Breslov Chassidim were offering cheap trips to Uman, Ukraine, for the holiday. He, knowing me and my rationalist leanings as well as my constant railings against Chassidic and neo-spiritual non-Jewish influences on our shared religion, was stunned when I actually booked the flight. In fact, with my self-claimed role as the Jewish Martin Luther, everyone who knows me was stunned by my spur-of-the-moment decision.

It has been my experience that total immersion in another culture can allow one to reap a wealth of information in a short time. This has worked for me in the past in a wide variety of arcane areas of interest, and my need for increased spirituality this year led me to try this.

Anyway, I always try to follow that saying that could have and should have been by a Rabbi, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (It’s actually by Nietszche).

It is tempting to digress about the backwater culture found here, where people live without running water or electricity. To talk about my feelings of gratitude to the communists, who drove my family away from this part of the world in the early 1920’s, else I might have grown up here, too, pummeled by lack of opportunities and facilities, even had I managed to survive the Pogroms and the subsequent Nazi and Ukrainian Nazi-sympathizer mass killings.

But to digress, even though it would be interesting, would detract from the story of this holiday ritual, observed at such a high cost and with such physical strain by so many people.

Uman has three huge synagogues, as well as many many smaller ones, and there were outdoor minyans set up everywhere one turned, including very many right in the open streets, which were free of traffic. The synagogue I attended had about 4500 seats, and every inch of standing room was occupied. The lower floor of the same building was only slightly smaller, and was equally jammed. The other main synagogue had about 2500 seats, again crammed to capacity.

All of the synagogues, while they follow varying prayer customs, follow the “shteibel” concept of informality in prayer. Thus, it is perfectly acceptable to wander in and out during services, or to have brief conversation during the service, except at the most solemn moments.

More importantly, they also follow the Breslov concept, what I believe is the secret of the whole thing, that “Our Father In Heaven” isn’t just lip-service, it’s real. The Lord is viewed as a real father would be, someone to be equally loved and respected, but in any case to be spoken to with love and affection, and with an open heart. What follows from this approach is that everyone who shares that same father is a brother, to be treated as a brother would be, blood no matter what his behavior, his looks, or his dress.

Thus one has a huge crowd powered by unbridled affection. No handshakes with dry New Year wishes- here there are hugs and big sloppy kisses on the cheek. Even casual acquaintances are greeted like family, taken to heart and affection. Attire, skin color, dress habits, all the usual things that at home differentiate between us here are ignored, detritus fallen by the wayside. One sees the striped caftans of the Jerusalem Chassid embracing the New-age Kabbalah-Center devotee, the Yemeni with long peyos hugging the Black-hatted American, and the Ethiopian bonding with the Carlebachian from California or Oregon. Cab drivers embraced doctors, the rich and the poor became indistinguishable, all covered with the same thin layer of fine gray dust and thick layer of brotherly love. Professional status, financial standing, political opinions, nothing mattered but that you were a Jew, and thus my brother. And all this was accomplished without any intoxicants, without alcohol, indeed without even the things many consider basics. Yet somehow, no one went hungry and no one felt slighted.

And this boundless love creates an effect similar to a contact high. Somehow, annoyed as I was by the people walking in and out during the service and exchanging pleasantries, at the high points of the service, I wept like a baby.

When the entire assemblage clapped for Kabalistic reasons at certain points in the service, it sounded like they were giving God a round of applause, and I wept.

When I witnessed the spontaneous eruption of spirited dancing (to the tune of “Uman, Uman, Rosh Hashanah”, thanking the Lord for the privilege of being there), after the service, where all barriers between the different types of Jews present fell totally so that I strained to impress the beautiful sight into my mind, I wept again.

And when I witnessed a boy of perhaps ten years old, confined to a wheelchair and wheeling himself around in the circle, filled with boundless joy and beaming in happiness, I wept at the sheer beauty of the moment.

And I do feel, strongly, that all that weeping changed me. I just pray that I can hold on to that feeling.

It will take me a long time to fully assimilate what happened to me there, in that bleak gray Ukrainian village, but this much was immediately clear: The spiritual values one seeks for the high Holidays, inclusiveness, boundless love, closeness to Hashem, and pleadings for your loved ones, were far more easily accessible than they would be in the sterile synagogues I am familiar with.

And, with my own eyes glazed, I can only challenge you: Try it. It’s not replicable here.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

A boy, a girl, and an apple

A guest post by JS:

A beautiful story of love springing from the Holocaust:,2933,436582,00.html

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hockey Mom Gets Boo'ed

Though to be fair, Philidelphia fans are evil and would boo their own mothers, (but Palin as a hockey mom, might have anticipated this and not allowed her small, theoretically beloved daughter to accompany her on to the ice.) (The blasting background music suggests the team management expected a negative reaction)

In case you didn't see it on SNL

A guest post by TikunOlam

I am thinking that Tina Fey would be make a better vice presidential nominee than Sarah Palin.

The latest SNL spoof, this time, on the debate.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mee Lahashem Aylai (received by email)

Mee Lahashem Aylai
(received by email)

Let’s make a Kiddush Hashem and stand up for our children

On Yom Kippur we read the part in the Torah where incest is prohibited. It is the first time in history where a code of law condemned this practice officially. It is where we all first learned about the crime. We read it right before Neilla. While for many, and for many years it has been confusing as to why we read this horrible portion with all the examples of sexual depravity at the holiest time of the year, on THIS year, the explanation may seem readily apparent. In light of the recent horrific news about child abuse that have rocked our communities and as a partial fulfillment of our obligation for Teshuva on Yom Kippur we the undersigned resolve that:

We are committed to the undeniable right of children to live and learn in a safe, secure happy environment where people they are supposed to look up to and trust are not threatening their physical, emotional and mental health and well-being.

We denounce those individuals who act so immorally and dishonorably as sinners against the Torah and its moral values whether they are ill or evil and must be immediately removed from their innocent prey.

We will not stand blindly, silently or helplessly while child abuse happens in our communities. We resolve to do everything in our power to speak up and confront abuse

We will educate ourselves and protect our children.

We will offer support and/or protection to victims/survivors of child abuse.

We will follow appropriate guidelines for reporting child abuse and molestation to legal authorities.

We will support legislation to make our Yeshivos/schools safe for all students.

We will work to educate our community to prevent further abuse.

If you would like to add your name to the hundreds who have already signed this petition, please email

I was forgiven

How about you?

Facts and figures:

:: Finished: 2:30, and back again at 4:30. Shofer was 1 minute late

:: Break fast: Eggs, then soup, then roast chicken.

:: Favorite piyut: Solachti, from the maariv. Perfect words, perfect poetry.

:: Worst moment: Any time the chazan used Carlbach or Deveykus to accompany an 800 year old piyut, instead of the Official, Authentic, Tune (by which I mean the one used by the chazan at my childhood shul, of course.)

:: Best moment: Any time he got it right. By the grace of God, the tunes for Mareh Kohen and Kee Anu Amecha (twice out of 5 times) were spot on. Still waiting and praying for someone to do Labrit Habet correctly. (Wish these melodies had name so that they could be referred to easily.)

:: As an aside, I expect there's a place in hell waiting both for chazonim who depart from the nusach on set pieces like Alenu or the Avoda, and for people who sit and chat during the Neilah slichot. Not because I think God minds or anything, but because some things are sacred, and I mean that in the very best secular sense. You don't spit in the wind, you don't pull on Superman's cape, and you don't act against the decorum of the synagogue at the moment Jews have recognize for thousands of years as being pregnant with overwhelming power.

:: A less painful circle of hell waits for people who read or learn when they should be singing instead.

Ok, your turn.

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Raw meat for media haters

British Channel 4's "Picture of the Day" yesterday
Hattip: She who knows who she is.
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A guest post by JS:

The book of Yonah is one of the most fascinating in Tanach and endless questions have been asked about it and the bizarre story it tells.

But, here's a question I've always wondered: Why do we read the book of Yonah on Yom Kippur, a day whose very theme is repentance, when the book of Yonah ends with our protagonist completely unrepentant?

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Save Our Soles

A guest post by JS:

I'm often puzzled when people wish their fellow Jews, "Have an easy fast." After all, it would seem the whole point is to NOT have an easy fast.

God commands us in reference to Yom Kippur, "V'Ani'tem et naf'sho'tei'chem" - "You shall afflict your soul." This goes to the whole idea of Yom Kippur. "Kippur" does not merely mean "atonement" it actually means "ransom" as in the phrase "Then every man shall give a ransom to God for his soul" (Shemot 30:12). The implication for Yom Kippur is that our suffering is in exchange for forgiveness. Of course this is not enough in and of itself as is taught to us in the HafTorah.

The rabbis expounded on "V'Ani'tem et naf'sho'tei'chem" and taught it means 5 things:
1) No eating or drinking
2) No bathing
3) No anointing
4) No wearing leather shoes
5) No marital relations

I can't speak for the rest of you, but I always wondered about #5. Is anyone really up for that given #1, #2, and #3? Maybe as compared to our radically increased standards of hygiene people back then didn't mind #2 or #3 that much, which might have cleared the way for #5. But nowadays, if you even look at your spouse for #5 and you haven't showered, you haven't brushed your teeth, and you haven't put on deodorant...well, good luck.

And what about #4? It used to be that without leather shoes you were in for some mighty uncomfortable times. Your shoes probably had to be made of wood or other plant products. But now, with the proliferation of man-made materials, you can buy shoes that are completely leather-free and are cheaper and more comfortable than any leather shoe. In fact, it often takes some serious searching nowadays to find a shoe with a leather sole.

I feel that the afflictions as experienced today are radically different than they were experienced when codified by the rabbis so many years ago. I think we suffer equally on #1, but I think we suffer much more on #2 and #3 and probably not at all on #4 and #5 as compared with our ancestors. So, I wonder if, although traditional, the afflictions are no longer serving the intended purpose.

Which brings me to my main point: How do you think rabbis today would expound on what it means to "afflict your soul"?

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Rabbi Akiva's homily on Teshuva

משנה - מסכת יומא: "אמר רבי עקיבה, אשריכם ישראל, לפני מי אתם מיטהרין ומי מטהר אתכם--אביכם שבשמיים: שנאמר 'וזרקתי עליכם מים טהורים, וטהרתם . . .' (יחזקאל לו,כה), ואומר 'מקוה ישראל ה'' (ירמיהו יז,יג)--מה המקוה מטהר את הטמאים, אף הקדוש ברוך הוא מטהר את ישראל"

Rabbi Akiva said: "Israel you are fortunate! For before whom are you made holy, and who makes you holy? Your father in heaven; as it is written. And I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be holy. And it also says, The Lord is the hope (mikva) of Israel; - as the mikva make holy the impure, the Holy one blessed be he, makes Israel holy.

What an odd teaching and one about which so many questions might be asked. Why does Rabbi Akiva resort to a pun? What compelled him to deliver this particular teaching? What, at bottom is his lesson?

The answer, I think, like so many things, has to do with the Christians. One of the central teachings of the early Jesus movement was that Jesus had replaced the Temple. "Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up," he said, according to the Gospel of John. "... but he spoke of the Temple of his own body."

John is the last Gospel, written (most hold) after the destruction. Like all the Gospels, John is a polemic that reflects the thinking and teachings of its own time and place. John isn't trying to tell us what happened. It is trying to make an argument, to persuade Jews to join the Jesus movement. If John says that Jesus claimed to replace the Temple, it follows that the idea the the Temple had been replaced had currency at the moment, and we can speculate that it was an appealing message.

Without the Temple, Jews were religiously handicapped. Though the Temple was gone, the Jewish desire to bring sacrifices, to watch the Kohen Godol preform the avodah, and to participate in the other Temple rituals hadn't vanished with it. Some Jews likely worried that with no Temple, they could no longer properly serve God, no longer achieve ritual purity, and no longer receive atonement. R. Yochana b. Zackai, famously, provided a response which some Jews accepted. But we see from the Gospel of John that another answer was circulating: Whatever you once did via the Temple, you can now do via Jesus.

Rabbi Akiva was living when John was published, and I propose that this homily was his response to the argument that Jesus was the new Temple. Rabbi Akiva is saying, "We may have lost the Temple, but we have not lost God and it wasn't a building that made you holy. You are fortunate because your holiness is a function of the fact that you are his people, and he is your father. Nothing else is needed." The use of the pun not only drives home the main idea, but reinforces a secondary assurance: We may have lost the Temple, and been exiled. We may have lost the ability to perform our rituals. But we are not without hope."

Rabbi Akiva

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Be like Sarah

Perhaps little Jewish boys are discouraged from emulating professional athletes, but if your wife or husband (happy TO?) wants to look like the the clueless and vapid Warrier from Wasila this is the wig for her (or him).


Why spend $695 to be like Sarah? All you need to do is mangle your sentences, butcher your syntax, twist your logic, all the while winking at everything that moves, and presto! you're Sarah. -by letz

Another update:
Query: Why is it ok for holy Jewish women to emulate this simplistic, idol-worshipping fool, but not ok for Jewish boys to model their behavior after athletes?


A guest post by JS:

As is well known, Yom Kippur is the only time of the year where we recite "Baruch sheim k'vod malchu'to l'olam va'ed" (Blessed be the name of his glorious majesty forever and ever) out loud after saying the first verse of the Shma (Shma yisroel...).

However, we say this verse many times out loud during the avoda portion of the mussaf service which commemorates the temple service which took place on Yom Kippur. The source for this is actually this week's parsha, Ha'azinu. Moshe says, "When I call out the name of the Lord, ascribe greatness to our God."

Rashi notes that it is from this verse that the Rabbis learned that when God's name is declared (such as in in blessing), those who hear it need to "ascribe greatness to our God." In the temple, this was done by saying the verse "Baruch sheim k'vod malchu'to l'olam va'ed." However, outside of the temple, people instead said "Amen." This is why to this day we say "Amen" and only say "Baruch sheim k'vod malchu'to l'olam va'ed" on Yom Kippur when we recount what was said in the temple during the service on Yom Kippur.

But how does "Amen" fulfill the command to "ascribe greatness to our God"? The word "Amen" is related to the word "Emuna" which means faithfulness. Perhaps the answer is in the next verse in Ha'azinu:

"The deeds of the Rock (God) are perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness, without injustice; He is righteous and upright."

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I think Mendy needs a nap

Here's the retired head of the OU busting a gut that those gosh darn Hollywood liberals have the temerity to embrace the first amendment, speak their minds and voice their opinions about Sarah Palin:
These Hollywood degenerates are the most immoral conceited and overpaid members of society.They have NO VALUES except glamour and glitz.Yes they know how to read a script,sing a song,tell a joke written by someone else,however where in the great plan of this world did the almighty bless them with superior wisdom? or political insight [absence of capitalization is sic]?

That's a wonderful question, Mendy. Really excellent. And anytime you get around to complaining about Hollywood conservatives like Chuck Norris, Charlton Heston, Gary Sinese, and Arnord Shwartzneger I'll be glad to hear your answer. Meanwhile, I'll just agree with you that no one but retired OU presidents should be allowed the opportunity to spout off.

From the same post: I was briefly excited when I saw Mendy had said this "As we approach Rosh Hashonah, one cannot help but marvel at the lies that politicians will throw out in the name of winning elections."

"Finally!" I thought. "A partisan Republican former OU president who has no use for standard capitalization schemes is going to condemn the McCain campaign's incessant lying. He's going to blast Sarah for lying about the bridge to nowhere. He's going to clobber McCain for that lip-stick on a pig mishigas. What a nice thing to do as we approach Rosh Hashana!"

Alas, I was mistaken. All Mendy wanted to do was pose as an indignant, integrity-filled old man, so that yet another of his partisan attacks on congressional democrats would appear less biased. Ah, well.

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Putting Country First

"The fires of Hell are glaciers compared to my hate for the American government, and I won’t be buried under their damn flag.”

The patriotic words were uttered by Joe Vogler, head of the Alaskan Independence Party. Though the media filter prefers to talk about Obama's church, Sarah Palin's husband Todd was a registered member of the AIP for 5 years, and the Palins attended the 2000 AIP convention. Sarah herself has also addressed the group, telling them to "Keep up the good work." Is that putting country first?

More to the point, according to right-wing bloggers who insist on judging Obama on the basis of all the people he's ever met or stood next to, what lessons shall we learn about Queen Sarah from her association with Joe Vogler?

Housekeeping note: Last night, Jon Stewart called Sarah the "She-Bush." I think that one's a keeper, don't you?

Monday, October 06, 2008

The difinitive Avinu Malkeinu

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Today's story you won't see on yeshiva world news


[The Yeshiva World Editor is a tool, and a coward.]
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Uman on Rosh Hashana

A Guest Post by Rafi G.
(originally posted on LII)

No, I was not there. But my friend was. He is a Breslaver and just got back from his trip to Uman for RH.

I have no problem with going to Uman for Rosh Hashana. I think in the past I did, but I have reconsidered and decided it is ok. That is, I understand why Breslavers, or other people who somehow feel the connection to Rebbe Nachman, would go to Uman. It is like any chossid leaving his family to go to his rebbe for yom tov, or yeshiva alumni going back to their yeshiva for yom tov. And that happens all the time. The fact that Rabbi Nachman is dead does not make it much different. And then there are the people who go for the experience of being there. Looking for inspiration perhaps. Perhaps some just want to be where the excitement is.

I asked my friend to tell me something from Uman; something that happened there. He told me there were something like 40,000 people there for the holiday. Many of the people who go are not breslavers, and many are not religious or knowledgeable in these things and how it works to go daven by a kever.

He told me there were some people there who were screaming out that Rabbi Nachman should save us all in the merit of Hashem!

Now, I should reiterate, he told me these were some people. Not the standard person who was at Uman. Not the breslavers, not the regulars. But some people were praying like that.

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Rosh Hashana in Yavneh

In Temple times, the shofer was blown on shabbos, but only within the vicinity of the Temple itself. Following the destruction, and the exile of the Sages to Yavneh, some thought the practice of blowing the shofar on Shabbos should be discontinued. R. Yochanan b. Zackai disagreed, and as the story is told in Tractate Rosh Hashana, he used an unorthodox ploy to win the point

On the first post destruction Shabbos Rosh Hashana , the masses of ordinary people came to Yavneh expecting to hear the shofar. R. Yochanan b. Zackai was presiding. "Blow the shofar," he said.

"Well, hold on," replied the other Sages. "We need to talk this over and make a decision."

"The people are here and waiting," answered R. Yochanan b. Zackai "Blow now, and we'll discuss it afterwards."

The other Sages agreed and the shofar was sounded.

Afterwards, they said, "Let's discuss how this will be handled the next time Rosh Hashana and Shabbos coincide."

Replied R. Yochanan b. Zackai: "The shofar has already been sounded in Yavnah! If we discontinue the practive the people will think we made a mistake. They will come to doubt our authority. We can't change the custom now that it has been established!"

Pretty sneaky, no?

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