Friday, July 31, 2009


I received this by email, and meant to put it up yesterday. The cover note said:
I read this letter from a father whose 19 year old son died in a tragic accident last Sunday. I found his message, and perspective, especially inspiring for erev 9 Av, and wish to forward it to you. I happened to have encountered the boy recently, and the descriptions of him fail to do him justice. he was truly a marvel. Your readers may find inspiration as well. Feel free to post.

From The Father Of Yeshayohu Dov Eckstein Z”L

We have no words to describe the outpouring of special nechama we received from so many people.

Thank you for the calls, the letters and the personal visits and beautiful stories you shared. At the kever yesterday, I said You are not just my child - the Jewish nation shared in our pain! - you are not anymore my Yeshayohu Dov - you became our Yeshayohu Dov! Last night after the shiva - our oldest son Gedalyohu - had a firstborn - a baby boy!

Mazel Tov! Let us share simchos! It’s harder to share in other peoples simchos!

The last Friday of our sons life he heard that the camp maintenance person, Rabbi K., had a bar mitzvah of a grandchild in Eretz Yisroel. Yeshayohu Dov was extremely sensitive. He volunteered to make a bar mitzvah to share the simcha of an einikle. The man gave him his credit card to buy the food and paraphernalia. The bochur took the credit card. He went shopping and used his OWN credit card to pay for everything. On shabbos morning, he set up and made the beautiful bar mitzvah. He knocked on the doors of the rabbeim and staff leaders to come and share in the simcha of others!

He was nifter last Sunday, the day after Shabbos we read the prophecy of destruction - Chazon Yeshayohu! this coming shabbos we read about the comfort from HASHEM - Shabbos NACHMU. We are thankful to HASHEM that He prepared the comfort many months ago and we are able to share our simcha with others!

We would like to start some tzedoka in memory of Yeshaya Dov. If you have any suggestions (i.e. a project in sharing the simcha of others), pleas email them to To share in this, monetarily checks can be made to: Congregation Supporters of Torah and mailed to 580 East 8th St. Brooklyn, NY 11218, USA.


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What do we do with Kolko?

He's been arrested, had his day in court, and, having plead guilty, Yehuda Kolko is trying to get on with his life.

This summer, he took a rental at Pine Estates, an upstate community connected to the Yeshiva of South Fallsburg. According to the Jewish Star, Kolko is under the protection of Rabbi Tzvi Abba Gorelick, the dean and owner of the Yeshiva and Rabbi Elya Ber Wachtfogel, the rosh yeshiva. Some residents, however, want him out:

On Kolko’s first Friday night there, a summer resident aware of Kolko’s history confronted him in the shul during Maariv and told him to leave the neighborhood quietly, a witness said. When Kolko refused, the man interrupted the tefilah to announce from the bima that Kolko was a child molester and posed a danger to children. When congregants protested, the man at the bima, said to be a student of Rav Dovid Feinstein, replied with multiple Halachic sources to support his action, one of which was Masechet Chullin 8a, which discusses the need to be strict when it comes to matters of danger.
The next day, the Star continues, Kolko received an aliya. How to explain this schizophrenic reaction? Simple. Some of us think he's evil incarnate, and without hope of redemption while others say he's paid his debt (infuriatingly, the Star reports that Rabbi Elya Ber isn't convinced Kolko was guilty in the first place. I doubt we should expect any better from the man who led the campaign against Slifkin.)

I'm not sure what the right answer is. Certainly, Kolko shouldn't be allowed near children, but is it correct to harass him? Do we ban him from our neighborhoods and deny him any semblance of a normal life? I know the man has been accused of the most heinous of crimes, and I believe he's guilty, but at what point do we say the debt has been paid? How do we make him live now?

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Hattip JacobdaJew

On Evolution

A guest post by JS:

I found this amazing article yesterday about evolution and felt compelled to share it. A scientist has discovered a species that is about to split into two distinct species all because of a mutation in a single gene. Very cool.

See the article here.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Esav and Rome

And so we may arrive by Talmud skill,
And profane Greek, to raise the building up
Of Helen's house against the Ismaelite,King of Thogarma, and his habergions
Brimstony, blue, and fiery; and the force
Of King Abaddon, and the beast of Cittim;
Which rabbi David Kimchi, Onkelos,
And Aben Ezra do interpret Rome.

--Ben Johnson, The Alchemist(1610), act 4, scene 3

A few years back, Bray, some others, and I, argued for months across multiple posts and comments about Esav and Rome. I don't remember the counterarguments, and have no wish to misconstrue them but my claim was that the famous and familair association of Esav with Rome was a late innovation, and an example of rabbinic polemics. As I explained in 2005:

Esav appears as a stand-in for Rome only after the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 C.E.). Until then Esav was generally just a symbol of godlessness and bad stuff, inspired, most likely, by that verse at the beginning of Malachi. Before the Bar Kokhba Revolt, there's no specific equation of Esav with Rome.
Also, prior to the destruction of the Temple, we find a few agadot that don't view Esav negatively. One midrash remembers him as the expert at honoring his father; some others express sympathy for Esav, implicitily criticizing Jacob for stealing the blessing.

The other day, I suggested to @kosheracademic that Esav's association with Rome might make a nice Tisha B'Av study. She pointed me to Traditions of the Bible, by James Kugel, and the Kittim.

According to the genealogy in Genesis, the Kittim decend from a namesake founder who was Yavan's son, and the grandson of Noah's son Yafeth. The Kittim are mentioned in the Dead Dea Scrolls, and by Billam in one of his speeches. According to Kugel, the DSS scrolls clearly identify Rome with the Kittim, and you can deduce from various texts that the DSS authors did not think Rome and Esav/Edom were one and the same. Onkelos glosess the mention of Kitim in Billam's speech (Num 24: 24) as Rome, and Targum Psedeo Jonathan takes it as Italy.

I haven't been able to track down the Ibn Ezra and Kimchi (Radak) cites given by Johnson in his play, but find it facinating that the early modern English poet was so familiar with the writings of our medieval Rabbis.

Search for more information about my battles with Bray at

Bizarro Nusach

If it's true that on the Temple Mount you answer blessings with Boruch Shem Kovod Malchuto L'olam V'oed rather then Amen we're in for some shleppy services post Moshiach.

Judging from this video from a service today at a shul that's technically on Temple Mount property, the custom adds a good ten minutes to the liturgy.

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LSK Asks about Eicha

Some questions from LSK:

(1) Does the third chapter have anything to do with anything? It doesn't mention Zion or Jerusalem, even once...Not even the Jewish people...Only references to YHWH! Was this really written by
Jeremiah? At this time? Huh?

2) On page XII-XIII of Artscroll's overview of Kinnos, it includes a story: "Rav Moshe Isserles, the Rama, wrote in Toras HaOlah, that when King Nebuchadnezzar came to do destroy the First Temple, the Greek philosopher Plato accompanied him. After the Destruction, Plato met the prophet Jeremiah near the Temlpe Mount, weeping and wailing bitterly over the temple ruins..."

OK, wait:

Plato lived from 428-348 BC or a year later, according to detailed and reputable Greek texts.
The temple was destroyed in 586 BC! So these three could never have met!

The story goes on to the seemingly absurd, elucidating two questions by Plato, referring to Jeremiah as the "preeminent sage in Israel," which is obviously false because Jeremiah was mocked by everyone in
Israel, and how after "Plato was dumbfounded," he said about Jeremiah: "I can't believe that any mortal man be so wise!" coming from the man who learned from Socrates, the Stoics, and taught Aristotle.

How do you reconcile Artscroll with history?

I would scan and upload the page, but that would violate Artscroll's copyright laws protecting Torah from the masses.

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When was the Temple Destroyed

Version 1

[2 Kings 25:8-11] And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem: And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man's house burnt he with fire. And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about. Now the rest of the people that were left in the city, and the fugitives that fell away to the king of Babylon, with the remnant of the multitude, did Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carry away.

Version 2

[Jeremiah 52:12-15] Now in the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, which served the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem, And burned the house of the LORD, and the king's house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, and all the houses of the great men, burned he with fire: And all the army of the Chaldeans, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down all the walls of Jerusalem round about. Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive certain of the poor of the people, and the residue of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the multitude.

So what's pshat? Was there a scribal error? Or what?

These passages, aside for the date are remarkably similar in their details and descriptions. In every sense, save the date-discrepancy, these are parallels texts. So why don't they agree on the date of the destruction? What happened? And, if nothing happened, and no error was introduced, how should we understand the passages?

Did the destruction occur on the 7th or the 10th? Is the Torah telling us what happened, or is the Torah deliberately making a false statement?

If I went back in a time machine, would I see the Temple being set on fire on 7 Av or 10 Av? (and try not to worry that we commentate the fire being set on 9 Av)

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Are some secular on 9 av like some haredi on Yom HaZikaron?

A Guest Post by Rafi G

Dan Meridor, a minister in the Israeli government, was spotted today, on Tisha B'Av, eating in a restaurant in Tel Aviv. His response was that he does not think it should be a day of mourning.

Follow my thread and train of thought for a moment as I work this out..
  1. Dan Meridor is a minister, and not a specifically private person. Anything he does is representative of the government.
  2. Even if he is to be looked at as a private person, he is breaking the spirit of the law, if not the law itself (the law does not allow eateries to be open, but I do not know if people eating there are also breaking the law).
  3. Aside from the law about restaurants not being open, there is a law that declares Tisha B'Av as a day of national mourning. Going out to eat in a restaurant with other people is not exactly mourning.
  4. When some religious people do not respect the siren and spirit of the day publicly on Yom HaShoah/Yom HaZikaron, the secular go crazy talking incessantly about how wrong they are (and they are wrong).
  5. Why is Tisha B'Av any different from Yom HaShoah in this regard? i.e. why is it ok for some secular to open restaurants and eat out on Tisha B'Av, but not ok for some religious to not stand during the siren on Yom HaZikaron/Yom HaShoah?

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The truth about Eli Zion

First, I was an idiot to refer to it as Kaylee Zion. As pointed out, on the threads and by email, the word Eli here means "Wail" and has nothing to do with the God of the Hebrews, or the God of the Cannaites who also was called "El"

Second, the famous tune, as many suspected, is not originally from a Jewish source. Scholars have linked it variously with a 15th-century German court ballad called Die Frau zur Weissen Burg, 14th and 17th-century Catholic songs, a 17th-century Spanish folksong, and a Czech song of the same period. Says the Virtual Jewish Library:
Since all these comparisons are based upon resemblances of isolated motives or melodic phrases, and a direct prototype has not been identified as yet, it seems more probable that it represents a particular instance of a widespread European "migrant" tune or melodic pattern.

Third, "the earliest notated evidence of the melody found so far is in the manuscript manual of Judah Elias of Hanover (1743), for Lekhah Dodi" (Virtual Jewish Library)

So, the custom denounced as a "modernishka" tradition is, in fact, older than Chabad Lubovitch (its founder Shneur Zalman of Liadi was born in 1745) and also older then Velozhin, "mother of all Yeshivot: (1803) Considering the Bal Shem Tov was still living in 1743, a case might be made that this scorned and disdained "Young Israel" custom of using Eli Zion on Shabbos Chazon is even older than the whole of Hasidic Judaism


HT: Lkvod Shabbos Kodesh

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The Temple and Jewish dis-unity

Consider this. The Temple was destroyed not because the good, kosher, Torah True Jews hated one another, as most presume, but because the various different Jewish sects were always and forever at each others throats.

Take for instance, the Hellenists, who sparked the Great Revolt by defiling a shul in Ceasrea. Or, the Zealots who murdered the entire leadership of the southern command, and terrorized all of Jerusalem. Or, the Scarii who tried to provoke the Jews to fight by burning all the food in Jerusalem, and so terrified Yochana ben Zackai he was forced to escape Jerusalem in a coffin. Or the Jewish-Christians, who had a strong Jerusalem community (led, at one time by James, brother of Jesus) and were already circulating the books that would become the New Testament. In particular, John, the most anti-Semitic of the gospels, is believed by conservative scholars to have been published between 65 and 90, by proto-Christians who were still marginally a Jewish sect.

In short, Jerusalem, in the late 60s, was a wreck. I have very little doubt that all of this - and more - is what the rabbis meant when they said that baseless hatred destroyed the Temple.

A tale of two perspectives

It was Shabbos Chazon, and I was in a new shul for Friday night services. The Kabbalas Shabbos proceeded as usual, but when we reached Lecha Dodi something unexpected happened. The Chazan used the wrong tune.

The Shabbos Chazon custom I know from childhood camps and shuls is to chant Lecha Dodi to a hauntingly simple dirge-like tune, that heaves like a sigh in (what I think is) minor key. This tune is also used for Kaylee Tzion, the final dirge (kinah) recited on Tisha B'Av morning. Using it on Shabbos Chazon sets the mood for the entire week, and announces that the day of great mourning is on the horizon.

In this shul that custom was unknown. Instead of using Kaylee Tizon, the chazan chose a bouncy Calbachian song. I'm sure my features registered some disapointment, but the faces of the congregation as they clapped and tum tum tumed told me this selection was not unexpected.

Afterwards, I cornered a shtreimal-wearing old-timer, and asked him about the Kaylee Tzion custom.

"Bah," he said. "That's a modernishka custom. You want that, go to a Young Israel."

Ok, so a few years later, on another Shabbas Chazon, I did.

After that Kabalas Shabbas the rabbi, a YU grad with a black hat and a trimmed beard, presented a little talk. His topic was the parsha, but before he got going, he had a few words of introduction.

"I'm sure I speak for many of you," he said, "When I tell you that sitting in shul on Shabbos Chazon singing Lecha Dodi to the traditional tune of Kaylee Tzion is an emotional experience. As I sing, I think of the years gone by, and how my father and grandfather before me, and their fathers and grandfathers before them -stretching all the way back to the beginning - all sang this song on this night. I think how it means we're back again at another Shabbos Chazon, and how we still have so much more work to do."

Too true. Let's start by teaching our friends and neighbors the truth about Jewish customs, in particular the custom of using Kaylee Tzion on Shabbos Chazon. The little lies people know and tell each other about the origins and development of customs -- bah modernishka; oooh it goes back to creation -- is the source ofway too much Orthodox sectarianism. If you wish to eliminate baseless hatred, you can begin by eliminating the errors that propel it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Scamming The Government and Scamming God

A Guest Post By E. Fink

You may think you are far from a money-laundering, tax evading, kidney-dealing, FBI snitching, tax-evading, knucklehead. You may even have the cleanest books on Wall Street and third party audits to prove it. Yet, our entire generation is infected with the same virus that the "knuckleheads" are carrying.

The instant gratification / no effort, big payoff virus. (Yeah, I know, the name needs work, help me out in the comments.)

We, as a group are all looking for shortcuts. For some folks, the shortcuts are business shortcuts. Those are the "knuckleheads" who are going to jail. For others, the shortcuts are in the form of Jewish Magic (sometimes known as Segulos).

We have become overly reliant on the practice of Segulos. We want instant answers, we want instant gratification, we want an incantation to make things better, we want protection from evil and all with minimal effort.

(There is a place for Segulos in Judaism. What irks me is the proliferation of pop-Segulos. I may have mentioned this with regard to Kupat Ha'ir as well.)

Case in point: The Brachos Party (aka the Amen Party). Women (usually younger women) gather on a weekday evening. A little bit of food from each of the Brachos categories are brought to the table, beginning with some grape juice and ending with a jelly bean. Prior to each blessing a kabbalistic interpretation is provided including ideas like "making a mezonos will provide parnasa" and "making a haetz will bring children". Then the blessing is made, a resounding amen is heard. People really do this. I am not kidding.

There also less formal, impromptu amen parties. Like in a summer camp, when everyone goes to wash netilas yadayim, girls calls over all of their friends (waiting for them to come, motioning and making a halachic hefsek) so they can hear her blessing and say amen.

Sounds pretty harmless, right? I disagree.

This is another shortcut.

Chazal reported that there are special benefits to a blessing and an amen recited properly. The point of this is to remind us to take our blessings seriously and to constantly include God in our physical lives. In fact this is a main theme throughout Torah. We are physical beings with the ability to transform the mundane into the sublime by our actions. One of the beautiful parts of Judaism is the constant tension and connection between our physical and spiritual existence. Blessings are a major part of that connection.

By relegating blessings to magic tricks, we lose the whole point of the blessing.

Further, the Aruch HaShulchan writes that one may not use "tricks" to get to the 100 blessing a day threshold mentioned in halacha. It must come organically. Additionally, he writes, saying amen to an "unnecessary blessing" is a terrible thing to do. These are not "unnecessary blessings" but a random drink of grape juice on a Wednesday, purely for the sake of making a blessing is awfully close.

When challenged, an "on the fence Brachos Party participant" told me that she learned that the whole reason we eat is to make blessings, so it is harmless to make more.

That really got me. The reason we eat is to live. When we are eating to live we make blessings. This integrates spirituality into our physical life as stated above. Further, the food "belongs to God", making a blessing gives us the right to enjoy His world as per His instructions to us.

Eating so we make brachos is like going to the bathroom so we can make an Asher Yatzar. We go to the bathroom because otherwise we would burst. When we go successfully we acknowledge and thank God.

Here's an idea. When you are done eating and drinking at the brachos party, go make an Asher Yatzar party!

I truly believe this is another symptom of the instant gratification / no effort, big payoff virus. We want to reap the benefits of the blessing so we invent ways to try and get those benefits.

It doesn't work like that. There are no freebies in Judaism. Judaism is about working hard to follow the Mitzvos and refine one's character. If the bored women want to do something to help the world, volunteer at Tomche Shabbos or homeless shelter, or go to a Torah class, or even say some Tehillim.

You can't fool God. You can try and scam the government, you can try and scam your business associates and you will probably get caught or turned in, but please do not try and scam God.

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Psalm 137

Read it in Hebrew

Psalm 137 is the famous elegy of exile which contains the immortal lines about our right hands and the memory of Jerusalem. The following annotated translation is based mostly on Robert Alter, with a litte of me tossed in.

By the steams of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.
The opening verse alone should silence those who say that King David wrote or published the whole entire book of Psalms. (If you're the type who won't accept the obvious unless it has the blessing of a Rabbi, please refer to the Ibn Ezra, who says this Psalm was written during the exile.)

We hung our harps upon the poplars there
For there our captors requested words of song; and our conquerors demanded rejoicing , saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
How shall we sing the LORD's song in a strange land?

Meir Gruber points out that from the perspective of the Babylonians the songs are thought to be secular and possibly nationalistic ("songs of Zion"); to the captives, however, the same music is sacred. ("the Lord's song".)

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget
The plain Hebrew does not tell us what the right hand should forget. Some say this is a scribal error and substitute tikhash, "wither" (a difference only in the order of consonants.) Others say the Hebrew word tishkach (forget) is meant to pun on tikhash (whither), while refering back to the earlier eshkochaych (future, or perfect present, tense of forget); still others say "let my right hand forget" was a familiar idiom with a widely understood meaning like "losing my mind."

If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
The right hand would have been used to pluck the cords of the previously discarded harp; the tongue would have been used to sing. When the psalmist suggest he is willing to forfeit the use of his hand and tongue, he is dramatically resigning from the occupation of music-making. An athlete might say, "I'm hanging up my sneakers."

Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof. Daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
The Hebrew, here, is a problem, because it puts the destruction of Babylon in the future. Either the psalmist is longing for the destruction of his enemy, or this is another scribal error: Reversing the order of the consonants yields "The despoiler." (I find the first solution, eg that the Psalmist is expressing a wish, to be perfectly plausible; many do not.)

Happy is he who seizes and dashes your infants against the rocks.
This is one of the worst lines in the Hebrew Bible but the sentiment is perfectly understandable: The psalmist is expressing legitimate, honestly-felt outrage. It should not be understood as a biblical endorsement of genocide. It's simply one poet expressing anger. Interestingly, my wife reports that during the three weeks, her moderately-haredi, childhood camp sang Psalm 137 three times per day before bentching but dropped this line.

Search for more information about How Haredi Camps Recite Psalm 137 at

Dwek Gets Disowned

The New York Post is reporting that Solomon Dwek, the canary who sang a song that led to the unraveling of SYNG and the arrest of half -a-dozen rabbis, has been publicly disowned.
A lot of people might like to wring his neck, but the sleazy real-estate mogul who ratted out everyone from politicians to rabbis in a massive corruption case is apparently already as good as dead to his father. Israel Dwek -- the father of Solomon "Shlomo" Dwek, who helped the feds nail three New Jersey mayors and several rabbis in Brooklyn last week -- plans to sit shiva for his son because he is so disgusted with his turning on other Jews, reported the Web site The father -- citing "the Talmudic Law of Moser that prohibits a Jew from informing on another Jew to a non-Jew" -- renounced his son from the pulpit at his synagogue in Deal, NJ, on Saturday, the site said.
Shlomo needn't worry. There are boatloads of excellent Jews from some of the other Orthodox sects who would be glad to adopt him. (Though I confess to being unsure if I'd call him a hero. He did rat out Jews, and there is something sleazy about saving your hide by turning in your friends.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Moderates – Stand Up!

A guest post by Fozzie

This is a critical moment for Moderate Jewish Public Leadership.

The Orthodox Jewish world has lost its integrity.

Orthodox Judaism now stands for scandal, violence, ignorance and bigotry.

Too many of the Orthodox institutions have failed. The NCYI stood by AgriProcessors. The Syrian Jewish community has self-destructed. The Chareidi community has descended into violence. Its economy is in tatters and their children are being failed by their education system.

We are now seeing the results of the right-wing Orthodox policies and practices of isolation and insularity. By cutting themselves off from wider society, they came to feel superior to it. They failed to see how they were ruining themselves and Orthodox Judaism by their ignorance and bigotry.

How can anyone have thought that the Chareidi school system would not create a generation of ‘graduates’ unable to live productive livelihoods? Who did not realize that the Jewish education preached in the Yeshiva system fails to create adults who are able to understand or practice a socially responsible lifestyle?

By leaving moral public leadership to the insular strands of Judaism, we have paved the road to moral, economic and social ruin.

The time has come for the Centrists to stand up.

There are still Orthodox religious leaders whose voices carry respect and integrity. Thankfully we have Rabbis Jonathan Sacks, Shalom Carmy and Benjamin Lau. Thankfully, there are many others.

We need to hear these voices louder than ever.

We need to hear them now.

They need to be setting standards for acceptable moral behavior.

They need to be constantly reminding us what is fundamental about being a good Jew.

Rabbi Sacks’ book ‘A Letter in the Scroll’ is of great importance because it puts the elements of ‘Ben Adam le’Chavero’ front and center. It points out that it is human relationships that are the key to being a good Jew. This is the point we need to be reminded of. This is what we need our Jewish public leadership to focus on.*

We cannot allow those whose focus is on the ritual element at the expense of the moral element to be our leaders.

We need strong moral Jewish public leadership now. We, the lay-people, need to turn to our leaders and demand moral public leadership now.

This is a critical juncture for Orthodox life. Will we allow criminals to destroy our integrity or will we take responsibility for fixing the damage that has been done? Will we make sure that improvements are made?

We must.

Please contact your rabbi and ask them what can be done in order that Judaism will once again be seen as force a Kiddush Hashem? We cannot allow Orthodox Judaism to become a synonym for ‘Chillul Hashem”. We are too close to that already.

Please act now.

*His new book “Future Tense” is an incredibly timely statement. It is an example of the type of leadership we need.

Search for more information about Rabbis Jonathan Sacks at


Offline, I've been given all sorts of excellent advice about moving YourFavoriteBlog (TM) to wordpress. My advisor says the archives and comments will come with me, and that all the great GoogleJuice this blog has built up over the last 4 years will also be mantained. However, moving takes time and effort, and its not perfectly clear to me what the payoff is.

Do YouThePeople have any thoughts on the subject?

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Why was the Temple Destroyed?

Previously posted in 2005 and 2008 (both threads are wonderful)

Why was the Temple Destroyed?

:: Isaiah's explanation (King James version) This is the passage read on Shabbath Chazon
:: Listen to the passage in English

A crackling exegesis by Rabbi Mendel Hirsch:

"For the Shabbat which precedes the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple, the Haphtarah is taken from that first chapter of Isaiah which in broad strokes makes clear to us... the nature and calling of Israel, its place in the midst of mankind, the loftiness of its mission, and the depth to which it has sunk. Its depravity, which made the destruction of the state and of the Temple necessary as the sole means of saving Israel for its everlasting calling. Thereby the mourning of the ninth of Ab is given its sharply defined limits. The Jew does not mourn that thousands of years ago the Temple was destroyed, but that it had to be destroyed. Not over the destruction, but over the causes of the destruction.


For demoralization, not morality, estrangement from, and not approach to, God-fearing was what was effected by Temple visits, praying, and the festival gatherings which were not practiced as means for the true Divine Service which is to be performed in life devoted to duty but as substitutes for it. [v. 11-15] Boundless selfishness, greed for profits, misuse of power in service of their own interests on the part of those in authority and greed for lucre in all classes of the people, the oppression of the defenseless widows and orphans [v.23] was what made the prophet give the people the resounding appellation of "the Lords of Sodom and the people of Gomorrah." [v.10] The people... to whom money and possessions are only to be valued as means of living life in the fulfillment of the God-ordained duties of justice... sunk to the level of Sodom where poverty is considered a crime! Of Sodom, the original picture of cold, smooth, external respectability under which the most complete selfishness, the utter lack of consideration for others, the most pitiless harshness of heart...

Therefore every recurring ninth of Ab, is to pose the question to every generation: Is our... present... deeply imbued with the Jewish spirit, so filled with the Jewish way of thinking.. that it could form a worthy environment for a Temple of God to be erected in its midst?"

A sweet summary by DovBear:

The Temple was destroyed because the leaders of Jerusalem were pious frauds, who used the Temple to justify their selfish behavior.

They were glad to assemble at the Temple for Festivals, Sabbaths and New Moons, to bring fatted rams and the blood of oxen and lambs and he-goats for sacrifice, but none of it meant a thing because (as MH puts it) they also tolerated "social crimes which undermined the happiness and life of their neighbors."

In the language of the Prophet, they did not "Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, [or] plead the case of the widow." They didn't protect the vulnerable or defend the rights of the innocent. Instead they just kept showing up on the Temple Mount, day after day, with their fat bulls and incense. While vulnerable people went exploited and unprotected, the leaders of Jerusalem gathered on a mountaintop to pay lip service to God. (I'll leave it to you to decide if this goes on today, and to determine if this behavior is more prevalent on the left or the right side of the current political divide.)

Finally, God said "enough," and took the Temple away, not as a punishment, but to prevent its continued misuse as a crutch and a dodge, and to force the people to realize that all prayers and offerings are in vain if the law of the Torah is not kept, that the sweetest odors from sacrifices would not save the altar, the Temple, and the State, if they were permitted to take the place of the rest of God's statutes.

Not incidentally, the Hirsch exegesis, coincides with what I wrote last Friday: "God has redeemed us by giving us the power to redeem ourselves -not through hours of prayers, nor through personal stringency, nor through pilpul, nor through conquering Yesha, but through good works." Or as Isaiah himself puts it in the last verse of the Haphtarah: Zion will be redeemed through justice and by those who return to her with righteousness.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

What did the Rabbis Say About the Scandal?

Before shabbos, a friend told he hoped his rabbi would speak about what I've decided to call the SYNJ Scandal. He wanted to hear a strong condemnation of the Jews who were arrested last week and a denouncement of the culture that celebrates ostentatiousness and winks at crimes like fraud and money laundering.

I replied: We're more likely to hear about how the evil media is dragging the Jewish community through the mud. Sample expected quote: "Why did the (evil anti-Semitic Jew hating) New York Times put two Jews in handcuffs on the cover of Friday's paper?! Weren't there enough arrested goyim to choose from?"

Turns out I was wrong. Instead of deflecting attention from criminal rabbis by attacking the newspapers, my LOR preached against the cooperating witness. He's a moser, you see, and, apparently, snitching on another Jew is the worst thing a Jew can do, especially when all the Jewish felon did was rip off the tax man. From what the rabbi said, I gather this is also worse than tricking desperate people into selling their kidneys and taking a $100,000 profit on the deal.

Our religion is over, I tell you. Over. The internal rot runs too deep. Our morality is corrupt and twisted. The idea that Jews are to be a light unto the nations is gone and forgotten. We're grubby and selfish. We've delayed justice and withheld rightuousness. We celebrate criminals and respect frauds who charm us with their hats and segulot and lips that drip with nonsense and superstition. And when the history of this once proud religion is written, I expect the epitaph to read, "But all he did was steal from a gentile."

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Because he isn’t Jewish….

A long overdue guest post from HSM

We all know we are not supposed to speak Lashon Hara. This nasty sin is defined by as
“..any derogatory or damaging statement against an individual. In Hilchot Deot 7:5, Maimonides supplies a litmus test for determining whether something is or isn't Lashon Hara: Anything which, if it would be publicized, would cause the subject physical or monetary damage, or would cause him anguish or fear, is Lashon Hara. “
Whether it is the truth or not, doesn’t really matter. One should not be talking about others. Period. It is even a sin to listen to it.

I am not perfect, but I try not to speak Lashon Hara. I try not to listen to it. As anyone knows when you have kids they are always telling you the bad things the others did to them. But kids and adults are very different.

What really ticks me off more than anything is that you will often hear religious people talking about certain non-Jewish people in a defamatory way, and when you tell them they shouldn’t be speaking this way, the Lashon Hara-ite will say “it’s ok, he isn’t Jewish”. Wait a sec. He isn’t Jewish therefore you can say what you like? It doesn’t count? That’s baloney. That’s the same thing as saying I can dress bareheaded in a bikini on the beach because there are no Jewish men around to see me. That I can steal from my neighbour because he isn’t Jewish. (oh wait, is that how some people are maskim for you to cheat on your taxes, because it’s a non Jewish government???)

If we are not supposed to talk badly about people, in my view, we should make it our habit to not speak that way about anyone. If you justify gossiping about one person, then what’s to stop you getting used to gossiping and forgetting and then badmouthing everyone. If you are in the habit of dressing in a tzanua way, you don’t give that up when you are in a different habitat. You don’t give up eating kosher when there are no other Jews around. As far as I know there is no halachic suspension clause for when we want / need it. Our Torah, our halacha, our minhagim – they are all about living our life in a certain way. No exceptions. People died to uphold our way of life, and we allow it to be cheapened this way?

Search for more information about slanderous gossip HSM has repeated or heard at

Name that Scandal

Can anyone supply a short pithy name for the money laundering and corruption scandal involving the Syrian Jewish community, various high ranking rabbis, and several NJ elected officials? I ask because I'm writing a post about it, and having to refer to it as "the money laundering and corruption scandal involving the Syrian Jewish community, various high ranking rabbis, and several NJ elected officials" is a pain in the rear.

A pile of DovBear dollars and a dinner date with Bray to the best entry.

Search for more information about the money laundering and corruption scandal involving the Syrian Jewish community, various high ranking rabbis, and several NJ elected officials at

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Lunch With The Bray of Fundie

A Guest Post By E. Fink

I just got returned from a lunch meeting with the one and only Bray of Fundie. It was our first in real life interaction. We never met before and I do not know his name.

I was a little nervous in light of recent MySpace and Craigslist murders, but I hedged my bets and decided to take the plunge and meet the one and only, Bray of Fundie.

We had a great time. (No we were not bashing DovBear the entire time.)

BOF is a very friendly guy. He reminds me of one of my wife's uncles. Knowledgeable, erudite and genial, he is actually great company.

BOF entered into the restaurant, ambles over to me and says "Sholom Aleichem, The Bray of Fundie". We enjoyed some lovely fare (BOF ordered healthy) in a tri-state area restaurant and of course BOF was very careful with his brachos and other eating related halachos.

Our conversation ranged from sports, to politics (very little, we both don't enjoy the topic), to contemporary issues like Chinuch, Seminary and Segulos, to technological savvy (or his lack thereof), to the Yated, to BOF's opinion on some of the bloggers and commenters on DovBear and elsewhere. I am being honest when I say this, BOF really likes you guys. I asked BOF who he would want to meet in real life. He told me he wants to meet "Sitra Achra", "Back of the Hill" and "Hershey" more that anyone else. Interesting, no? Of course he wants to meet DovBear and TikkunOlam as well.

We also talked about some of the recent posts on DovBear that lacked BOF's voice due to his banishment. BOF feels that the baby issue is very emotional and he would probably not have commented, but he did agree that for most Frum people, having large families is a social issue and not halachic. Another recent post that we discussed was the Kolko Jr. news. BOF has no sympathy for pedophiles and sex abusers.

BOF joked that he would love to infiltrate the Lakewood Elementary School System and give the boys in his class Milky Way (not Cholov Yisrael) candy bars. How quickly would he be tossed from the school? Would his supporters say "it was a set-up", "the accusers are just seeking revenge", "the Rebbe is such a good person, he would never give the kinderlach Milky Ways" etc. the way they hide their pedophiles? Funny to think about, not funny that he is probably right.

Of course, two Jews, three opinions. We did have a few disagreements. Particularly about me "enabling" DovBear with my glowing review of DovBear on the Parsha. I explained to him that I am in favor of thinking and DovBear on the Parsha makes you think. He actually budged a little on this, but I don't think he fully agreed. BOF is also not as against Segulos as me. But I did give him a preview of an upcoming post on Brachos / Amen Parties. He liked it.

Not a native New Yorker, BOF has some of the subtle niceties of the Out Of Town Frum Jew. My impression of BOF as a person are all positive. He works for a living, has a balanced knowledge of the world around him, he is a champion of Torah and halachic Judaism and he is a very smiley guy too. He had a grin on his face throughout most of our meeting. As a blogger, I suggested to BOF that he's gotta tone it down a little and try and match his blogging persona with his real life persona.

Oh, and his name is not actually Chaim (or Grossferster for that matter). BOF debated revealing his true identity to me...

...But he remains anonymous (or as he prefers: chameleonymous). BOF promised to consider giving me his name next time we meet. In the meantime, at least I have a face to attach to his pseudonym.

(I apologize if I bored you with this post. A few people asked about our meeting, so there you go.)

Search for more information about The Bray of Fundie at

Riot Watch &c

Holy Jewish fathers were separated today from their holy Jewish children in Deal and Newark, yet oddly no tire fires have as yet been reported. Has the Eidat HaCharedit been briefed?

I understand some Torah True Jews have scheduled a public Tehillim in support of the arrested rabonim. I expect the jail doors to swing open soon thereafter.

I'm deeply disturbed that the anti-Semitic media has chosen to report this story. The fact that they've given this kind of play to a insignificant little inter-state corruption bust that involved several politicians is only proof of their evil anti-Jewish agenda.

More as it occurs to me.

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Memo to my fellow Jews

Attention Fellow Jews

Going without meat is not a hardship.

I hate to say it, but those of you whining about how tough the Nine Days are on your poor precious stomachs sound spoiled rotten.

There's plenty of good food to eat that isn't meat. Fish, for instance. And eggs. And pasta. And vegetables. And best of all, there's always ice cream or cheese cake for desert. So kwtcherbellyachin'

That is all.

Anticipated Objections and My Replies

"Real men need meat!"
Pathetic. A real man survives in the wilderness on bugs and rain water he slurps off leaves. Stuffing your face with processed beef isn't masculine. It's soft and weak.

"Whah, whah. I'm lactose intolerant!"
Fish isn't dairy. Pasta isn't dairy.

"Ick fish? Fish stinks."
Not if its fresh it doesn't stink. People who don't like fish, deserve about as much sympathy as do people who don't like sex, scotch and rock and roll.

"What are you? Gay?"
Dahlink, gay men LOVE meat

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The story you all want to talk about: NJ Rabbis arrrested in corruption probe

N.J. rabbis arrested in corruption probe along with two mayors, a state assembly man and dozens of others.

Ah, New Jersey. [Insert Mafia Joke Here]

The US Attorney has promised to connect the dots, today, at a noon press conference. Valentine from Avi "We Love Bernie Madoff" Shafron to the implicated Rabbis expected soon after.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Shorter Yael Mishali

Here, for the hard-of-reading, is a boiled down summary of Yael Mishali's awful Ynet article:

I really like ice cream. Eating it gives me joy, pleasure and fulfilment. Anyone who disagrees is an evil, liberal, secular, selfish feminist terrorist.

And, this, at bottom, is what I found most offensive about her piece. Somehow, Mishali has acquired the idea that having a large family is the one true path to happiness, and anyone who disagrees is deluded, dangerous or both. She seems not to understand that different people find fulfilment in different ways, and that what satisfies her may not work for someone else.

Ironically, Mishali is behaving exactly like the 70s style feminists she disdains. It was the 70s style feminists who (per the caricature, at least) thought only careers brought fulfilment and showered scorn on women who chose children instead. Now, some 40 years later, here comes Mishali acting no less viciously toward woman who've made the opposite choice.

The ones having the last laugh are the women I know, the third wave feminists who live in 2009. They have no use for Mishali, and no use for the sort of feminists she criticizes. For them, feminism means choices, and most all choices are equal. You can be June Cleaver, or you can choose to follow Mary Richard's path instead. That's up to you, and no one - not society, not your parents, and certainly not some fire-breathing barely literate Ynet editorialist - has the right to make that decision on your behalf.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

One (Big) Happy Family

A Guest Post By E. Fink

The writer, a woman, calls upon all Orthodox Jews to reject "the evil feminists" of Kolech and "have as many children as possible, as soon as possible". For there is no greater joy in life than having many children.

Her arguments are weak (read it for yourself) and the ending says it all: "Trust me". Why should I trust her?

As a proud father of 2 beautiful boys (a 6 year old and 8 month old) I can attest to the joys of parenthood. Giving the gift of life to one's offspring is both very powerful and oftentimes emotional. I cannot imagine my life without my family.

I must take issue with this woman's assertion that "the greatest gift we can give our families is a big family. Very big".

In the VIN comments, there is a quote from R' Shlomo Zalman Aurbach. When approached with a shaila regarding a woman who had 6 children and suffered a nervous breakdown for a heter to use birth control. His response, "why are you asking me, ask the Rav who gave her a heter to have 6 children in the first place!?"

Reb Moshe Feinstein writes in his Tshuvos that if the mother would suffer any physical, psychological or emotional harm from bearing more children she must use birth control.

Having a large family is not rooted in halacha. It is rooted in a social pressure to conform.

What has happened is the children of the "survivors" and that generation had a social calling to have large families. They were able to bear it (for the most part) with a low cost of living and 9-5 jobs, leaving time and money to spare. Enough to support many of those children in Kollel.

For many people pregnancy and childbirth as well as child rearing are difficult. For many families the cost of living is too high to support a large family. Work hours are long and the money does not go as far as it used to go.

Today's society requires different approaches to life's challenges from previous generations. The cost of living is higher. This forces most families to need a dual income. Who is going to raise these large families? What about the marriages? Husbands and wives who work full time, come home tired with children who need their time and attention. The idea of marriage in Judaism is to develop a relationship with a significant other. This cannot be ignored either!

Our schools are suffering from unprecedented deficits and budget cutting. Parents are having a hard time paying the tuition bills. Large families may be all of "your joy" but they can be an unfair burden on the tzibbur.

I am not calling for a "child cap" ala China. I am saying use your sechel and please don't tell me what is good for you is good for everyone. Please don't preach to me about what you think is right when it is not based on halacha.

Bitachon does not allow for recklessness. We cannot overburden ourselves or the system and expect bitachon to bail us out. There are children of large families who I know resented the lack of attention they received, the handouts they needed and the hustle and bustle of their busy homes. Those parents were likely ill equipped to deal with the large family dynamics and their children felt it.

Also, I happen to think that there are folks who have lots of kids to distract themselves from their unhappy lives, or their unhappy marriages (yes like a drug). Those folks need help. Not bigger families.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

What's in a name?

A camp counselor who worked at a program run at a Lakewood private school has been arrested on charges that he sexually assaulted a young boy.

Yosef A. Kolko, 33, of Gefen Drive, Lakewood, who worked as a camp counselor at Yachad, a summer camp based out of Bais Hatorah School on Swathmore Drive, was arrested Sunday, authorities said.
Our insiders say this Kolko is a nephew to the other Kolko, the one noted and self proclaimed godol Lippy Margolis protected for twenty years.

What kind of 33 year old works as a counselor? And aren't Yachad kids developmentally disabled? So this sicko was preying on the weakest and most vilnerable? Disgusting.

Some new Ani Maamins for these trying and spiritually deficient times

Got nothing, so how about a rehash?

Some new Ani Maamins for these trying and spiritually deficient times

Attention all Jews who are meticulously careful to repeat the 13 Ani Maamins each and every day. You are koferim. Heretics. Deficient in belief. Spiritual Pygmies.

Perhaps 13 fundamentals were enough for our ancestors, but we live in more challenging times. Therefore, following the excellent advice acquired here, I firmly suggest that you add the following affirmations to your daily devotions:

- I firmly believe the world in exactly 5767 years old. [*] [1]
- I firmly believe that the sun, moon and planets revolve around the earth. [1]
- I firmly believe that the Mediterranean Sea is the largest body of water (hence it's name "yam hagadol").
- I firmly believe that Eretz Yisroel is higher than all other lands, including Mount Everest [1]
- I firmly believe that there are six planets
- I firmly believe that there are 4 elements [1]
- I firmly believe that lice do not come from eggs [1]
- I firmly believe that the moon generates its own light, and does not merely reflect the sun.
- I firmly believe that there was a flood that covered the entire earth.
up. [1]
- I firmly believe that the moon landing was a fraud, because there is a bible verse which suggests space travel is impossible. [1]
- I firmly believe that no animal species will ever go extinct. [1]
- I firmly believe global warming is a hoax, not because I've studied the science, but because a bible verse suggests the climate won't ever change. [1]
- I firmly believe men are smarter then women, because there's a lone passage in the Talmud attributed to one Sage which seems to make this claim. [1]

Laughing? Stop. These are genuine Haredi beliefs.

[*] Any Rishon who suggested otherwise was a kofer.
[1] I know actual people who believe this.

Already a schism

Talk about your time wasting discussions, and pointless, possibly self-destructive, gestures:

The Religious Women's Forum Kolech decided at their conference last week to choose a Hebrew title for a woman ordained as a rabbi by an Orthodox institution, although no woman in Israel yet holds this position.

The title chosen by a majority of conference participants is "rabba."

In NY, the only ordained Orthodox woman is called "maharat." This strikes me as a perfectly good word. Why are the Israelis trying to fix something that isn't broken? Why are they naming something that's already been named? If they want this woman-rabbi thing to catch on, the thing to do is to go and ordain one. Calling a conference to choose a title, when a title already exists, is like something out of Orwell. It wastes time, deflects attention, saps momentum, and creates internal controversy, confusion and disagreement when what's needed is a unified front.

Less talk, more action Kolech members.

Are You Superstitious?

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Yesterday, the gadget blog Gizmodo ran a post that got the internets buzzing.

The original post headline read: "Orthodox Couple Imprisoned By Superstition Blame Motion Sensing Light Instead". Subsequently, the headline was changed to be a little more PC.

In a nutshell, a regular Frum couple (as per Haddassah Sabo Milner who knows them) has a vacation home in a building. They were promised motion sensing lights would not be installed. Motion sensing lights were installed. They asked if they could pay to have them switched and any difference in monthly cost to the building. The owner of the building did not cooperate. The Frum folks are now filing suit.

Gizmodo writer Jack Lofton says that they are imprisoned by their superstition.

I would say they are trying to follow halacha.

(This post will not investigate the merits of their halachic position. I am giving this a fuller treatment on my blog here.)

For now, I'd just like to know what you think. Is adhering to halacha superstitious?

Update by DovBear: James Dean comments on the halacha: The worst case Melacha scenario is a Davar Sheino Miskaven and a Psik Reisha Dlo Ichpas Lei and therefore since the light is turned on Derech Hilucha there is sufficient reason to be maikel using a Sfeik Sfeika approach on a D'Rabonon of Kilachei Yad instead of causing a Chillul Hashem which is more likely a D'Oraisa.This would be following the Halcha. What we have here is what is more and more the typical Chareidi ignorance of what the Halachah really is.

Sheesh, go learn some Rishonim for Hashem's sake.

Update by E.Fink: Because I want to give an opinion and not leave the post ending with a question: I think following Halacha is superstitious. But that is not a bad thing. It means we believe in something supernatural. Nothing wrong with that!

Update by E.Fink: By the way... The writer apologized.

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Terrifying confluence of events alert

Lunatic RW bloggers are certain Obama has already announced and put into motion an evil anti Israel plan that involves the destruction of settlements and the internationalisation of Jerusalem. Their slightly more sane counterparts acknowledge this has not yet happened, but feel somewhat certain an evil anti-Israel Obama Plan will be announced "before the end of July."

This year Tisha B'av is July 30.

Now, the idea that every Jewish catastrophe occurred on Tisha Bav is a myth, as Josh Yuter successfully argued back in 2003. I don't think the day has any special power, and I also think the Obama Plan will be nothing but a retread of previous US peace plans. I doubt it will go beyond Bush Jr's Road Map, and I'm certain it won't include anything like the overt threats Bush Sr made in 1990. Still, I'm intrigued by the potential for a coincidence for the ages.

Play along with me, for a second. What if the terrified RW is correct? What if Obama actually does announce something evil and anti-Israel? And what if the announcement comes on Tisha B'av?

I'll mark it down as a coincidence, of course. But I suppose those who haven't read Yuter's article, and think Tisha B'av is the magic day for tragedy will be oddly reassured.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Moshe's Massacre &c.

Did you catch the massacre Moshe orders toward the end of Matos? A nasty bit of business, no? And the worst part about it, as aptly noted by many, is that it isn't God who tells Moshe to tell Israel to go and rape girl children and murder women and boy children. Per the text, the slaughter is Moshe's own idea:
15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?

16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.

17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
Reading this, all sorts of important questions about "torah morality" and the nature of Moshe's authority come to mind.

Additional puzzlements:
1) When the Israelites go out to war, Pinchas accompanies them. Rashi gives many reasons why he, and not his father Eliezer, Elazar went out with the troops. What Rashi does not explain is this: why isnt Joshua mentioned as the field commander here as in previous battles?

2) Just what exactly does Rashi think a kumaz is? I mean I know he says its some kind of pendant or clasp that went around the, ahem, female crotch area, but what kind of weird jewelry item is that?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

OU and Conspiracy Theories

A guest post by JS:

Can someone verify whether the OU is really involved in this? I'd like to believe the answer is no, but that seems like a naive assumption nowadays.

Search for more information about the OU at

Friday, July 17, 2009

Media Bias

Media bias is a tricky thing, but when it comes to reporting about Haredi rioters, things can get even stickier. To help Jew haters in the media stay out of trouble, I've prepared a few illustrative examples:

Biased sentence: Haredim protest in Jerusalem and cause massive property damage
Unbiased sentence: A handful of people who may have been Haredim but also could have been hilonim dressed as Haredim for the purpose of making God's favorite people look bad were marching peacefully in the street for very good Torah True reasons when by mistake some people accidently caused some damage to a few things that were already broken and ready to be thrown out.

Biased sentence: Haredim throw diapers at police.
Unbiased sentence: A fine Haredi mother of 10 children who would never dream of divorcing her masmid husband was attempting to heave a diaper into a trash can from a distance of 25 yards, when an evil, provocative, Jew-hating Jewish police man purposely got his head in the way.

Biased sentence: A crowd of angry Jews burned garbage in Tel Aviv.
Unbiased sentence: A handful of fine, wonderful Jews who learn Torah 24/7 and come from families where drugs and divorce are unknown, were a little angry for very good reasons and unintentionally responded to evil police provocations by accidentally by mistake being in the vicinity when some unknown parties set some garbage on fire.

Biased sentence: Jewish protesters threw rocks at cars to protect shabbos desecration
Unbiased sentence: A slightly disturbed young person demonstrated his wonderful and inspiring love for shabbos by unintentionally nudging a small pebble in the general direction of a car windshield which inexplicably broke.

What a world that must be

A guest post by TikunOlam

Ever since I read Haddasah Sabo Milner's post on Single Mothers by Choice, something has been really bugging me. What is bugging me even more, is that it didn't seem to bug anyone else. Haddasah commented, as many in the OJ community probably would, of women who are considering having a child on their own in their thirties and forties:

I also wondered, where is this woman’s emunah, faith, in G-d? Does she not trust that He will send her a husband when He decides it’s the right time? That if G-d decides she should have a child, then He will make it happen the right way?

I wonder how this way of thinking affects those who have not yet found their spouses. Do they believe that suffering through years of dating while watching as their friends get married and have children are being punished by Hashem? Are women who have miscarried or parents who have suffered the death of a child supposed to believe that they have been deemed unworthy by god of seeing this child grow up. Are infertile women really supposed to have emunah that this was Hashem's will?

It seems to me, that living within such a paradigm would be so painful, so invalidating. To have one's emunah questioned because a woman or a man is suffering with frustration or even depression because his/her dreams of having a life partner or becoming a parent have not come to fruition. To have to believe that one should be ashamed that they are suffering from lack of emunah because they are longing for something that they don't have. To then feel embarrassed to express these feeling to others for fear of being viewed as having weak emunah. And then to be told, "you have to have emunah!"

All I can say is, what a world that must be for those who are not fortunate enough to have met their life partner in their twenties. And what a world that must be for couples trying to have children who cannot. And what a world that must be for those who have suffered miscarriage or the death of a child.

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A Sad Commentary On Judaism Today

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Yesterday I was driving down a Monsey road with my wife. We saw a woman walking on the street who was very modeslty dressed. As we got closer we saw she was clearly wearing a burqa or something like a burqa. Her entire face and head was covered save for her eyes.

At the same moment we said to each other "you think she is a Frum Jew?".

Now that is a sad commentary on Judaism today...


I didn't think I had to spell it out for you...

In case you were wondering, she was a Muslim. This is a commentary on how some Jewish women have begun to dress in "Burqaesque" garb. I never thought that I would see a woman in a Burqa and consider whether she was a Frum Jewish woman with Hijab tendencies...

That is all.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Another Flawed Sales Pitch

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Recently, DovBear (the blog) has seen quite a few posts on the same theme. We had misleading Kashrus, misleading Charity and misleading Sukkah adverts. This post follows the same theme.

Yesterday I read an important column on

The column was a great perpective on Baal Teshuvas and their integration into the Frum community. In particular the column focused on various reactions of the BT (I use the term adoringly) when encountered with other (supposedly) Frum Jews who are not living up to their own standards.

Some BTs "
can't handle the truth" and wind up right where they started - wonderful secular people. Other BTs are more adept at maintaining their Frum lifestyle despite the disappointment. The article enumerates some of the great things that BTs have contributed to the Frum lifestyle. Like manners, healthy eating, special education, etc.

While there is room for debate on whether the Frum community can attribute these "innovations" to BTs I am happy to give them the credit.

The article concludes by thanking the Frum community for showing them a way of life they love and appreciate.

I have two main points that I want to make in relation to this article.

1- The fake sales pitch the Frum From Birth Kiruv Rabbis spew.

2- The BTs reaction to the reality check.

I cannot stand the sales pitch that Frum people have no problems and Torah life is free from all social ills. It is simply not accurate. Please don't use it!

In fact, the Torah is a guidebook for flawed people. If people were able to just become perfect then the Torah would give us one time instructions to "fix" our flaws and then we would be good to go! But instead, the Torah gives us instructions to develop our character through Mitzva observance with specific tasks. Some tasks only come around once in a lifetime, or once every 50 years, or once every seven years, or once a year, or once a month, once a week, once a day, and even every second. The clear message is that we need constant work because humans will eventually fall.

The Talmud explicitly states: "Do not believe in yourself (righteousness) until the day you die". The human being is designed to fail without constant work and guidance.

I believe the honest sales pitch (and yes it is a sales pitch and that's okay) is: Humans are flawed, we all need guidance, the Torah provides guidance. Some of it is obvious, some of it is hidden, but we believe that the Torah lifestyle is a guide for life. If you want a guide, you can buy in. We are all trying to use the guide as best as we can and we feel our lives are more enriched by using the guide. Maybe you will too.

Perhaps more important is the reaction of the BT. I sent this email to
Judd Magilnick, a Pacific Jewish Center board member and he offered some great insight.

First, many "not yet" BTs back off from greater commitment by rationalizing that they saw a Frum person who lacked derech eretz (common courtesy). Judd says this is the Yetzer Hara talking but Frum folks need to realize that they are being judged and should act accordingly.

I once heard that R' Moshe Feinstein asked why we ask in Ahava Rabba that Hashem give us the ability to understand, listen to and teach Torah. Should the teaching part be reserved for teachers and rabbis? Why does everyone say it? And R' Moshe answers that we are all teachers. We are teaching others about how the Torah wants us to behave every time we act.

Judd's next point was even better. Why should an impious Frum person affect one's opinion of Torah? The analogy is if one sticks his wet finger in a socket he is going to get a shock. That doesn't indicate a flaw in elecricity! And like electricity Torah has the power to do great good and it also has the power to cause ill. It depends on its user.

So (potential) BTs, if you can use Torah for good why would you let it bother you that someone else is abusing it? One has nothing to do with the other!

As a Rabbi in shul of mostly BTs and potential BTs I hear this kind of rhetoric often. "If he's a Frum person he shouldn't do X or Y etc". It is disheartening but I have one response.

I always quote Rabbi Wein: "Don't judge Judaism by its Jews".

Additionally, I don't
pitch anything other that learning more Torah and experiencing a Shabbos meal. One should make their personal decisions based on an informed view that can only come from one's own study. The Shabbos meal is just to make it a little more personal and less abstract. That's all.

So, I am looking for insight, do people really judge Torah by its Jews?

Is there an "accurate" (non-cynical) sales pitch?

Anything else in the original column that struck you?

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Not Again, Please

A guest post by JS:

You have got to be kidding me. Chareidim are rioting in Jerusalem because a mother who starved her child has been arrested. Someone please tell me there's more to the story than what's being reported here.

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Obama's first pitch

Was it a ball? Was it a strike? Thanks to a clumsy camera angel, it was impossible for the home view to know if President Barak Obama's ceremonial first pitch at the All Star game even reached the plate. Does it matter? Not to me, but those shining intellectuals on the right who've grown tired of the passing around the out-of-context photo of Obama not really leering at someone's rear end, have moved on to claiming that Obama's sinister henchmen interfered with the shot to protect the president's reputation. I mean lord only knows what those baseball loving leaders in Iran or North Korea might try if word gets out that the president throws like a girl.

Meanwhile, FOX staffers not roughed up by presidential goons took matters into their own hands, and presented an alternate reality version of the pitch. As Jon Stewart pointed out last night, Fox's opinion of you, the viewer, is so low, their staff will lie directly to your face about what appears on the screen.

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100 DovBear Dollars to the great Miriam Shaviv

One of my original blogging heros was the great Miriam Shaviv who currently blogs for some English newspaper. She confirmed my high opinion of her this morning with a follow-up post about the magical flying sukka.
I phoned the gentleman who owns the company, one Mr Bard, to find out why exactly anyone would want this.

He explained to me that the Gemara says that when Moshiach comes, all shuls will go to Israel. The Kedushas Levi adds that so will all Jewish houses which were filled with Torah. Sukkahs going to Israel as well, however, are Mr Bard's own addition - "if houses that are filled with Torah go, a Sukkah, which is a piece of a mitzvah, must go too."

There's no actual need for a sukkah to be transported to Israel in messianic times
Not only that, but according to Mr. Bard's halachic novella, every sukka will fly to Israel on Air Moshiach, including those purchased from his competitor. This is rather shrewd. Instead of promising some benefit or feature unique to his own product, this Jewish businessman is making a sales case out of something that he believes is true for any sukka.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Torah True Marketing Ploy of the Week

100 DovBear dollars to the first reader to supply me with a scan of said "guarantee."

I don't even understand the premise of this absurd offer. Why do I need a guarantee that my sukka will fly to Israel with me (presumably on the wings of one ginourmous eagle)? Can't festival huts be purchased in the Holy Land? And why are we so certain Air Moshiach accepts sukkas as carry-on luggage?

The utter brazenness of this claim brings to mind the famous zinger uttered by the Ramban at Barcelona "He who wises to lie brings witnesses from far away" (or something like that.) What he meant was that a bold, impossible-to-verify claim is the mark of a charlatan (Its zingier in Hebrew, and zingier still, I imagine, in the original medieval Spanish).

Instead of promising their product will outlast wind or rain or provide a "lifetime of happiness" this sukka company has cleverly made a promise it can't even be accused of breaking.

HT: Voldermort's wife

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Chukas HaGoyim?

Browsing around the internets, I came across this interesting recollection in an article by Timothy Noah about how people react to summer camp:
"Some people really, really enjoy camp. I wish I could tell you that these people grow up to be really, really normal, but they don't. You know who I'm talking about. These are the ones who wept uncontrollably when the paper-mache numbers spelling out 1967 were set ablaze on a little raft that a camp counselor, under cover of darkness, towed stealthily to the middle of Lake Weecheewachee on the evening of the last group sing."
Group sing? Every Jewish camp -even the uber-Haredim- does something just like that after Eicha is read. To be honest, I never understood the point -- why burn the year? -- and the discovery that this ritual was copied from the WASP camps doesn't shed any light on it.

PS. At my camp, the numbers (letters actually: This was the hebrew year) were gasoline soaked tampons-- not paper mache.

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A guest post by JS:

Back on DB's post about prayer, Double Harvard indicated he didn't pray because he found the entire process tedious and boring. A valid complaint and one the rabbis were clearly concerned about as is evidenced by their warning not to make one's prayer routine ("keva").

I'd like to know what single prayer do you find most inspiring, uplifting, moving, emotional, etc?

What single prayer do you find the most tedious, boring, monotonous, and dry?

In each case, what makes you feel this way? Is it the words of the prayer, a song or melody attached to it, a special significance it has taken on in your life, or maybe something else?

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Single mother by choice

Another Guest Post by Hadassah Sabo Milner

Over Shavuot we had an interesting discussion around the table at a friend’s house. I have heard of some single women in large religious communities who are still unmarried in their mid to late thirties and feeling the tick tick tick of their biological clock, and have spoken to their rabbis about the ethics of having a baby through sperm donation.

I totally get these women – they desperately want a child, and Mister Right has not shown up, (or he has been and gone without them realizing it) and their child bearing years are coming to a close. What to do? In the secular world, many women would not think much more than twice about going to a sperm bank, or even (following a coronation street story line – I watch ‘em all) have a male friend help them out donation wise. Single mothers by choice are not the anomaly they once were. Plus these days we are so part of the NOW generation. I want a baby, I want it now, there is no man on the horizon, nor is there likely to be, I am out of patience, let’s go get me a baby.

(Let me just say that it is another thing if one finds oneself in a situation where one is pregnant and the father walks away from the responsibility. To me this is a totally different kettle of fish)

But this is the religious world I am talking about. There must be so many halachic issues here. So, the baby will have a Jewish mother, that makes it Jewish. It won’t be a “mamzer” because that only applies to the child of a married woman who becomes pregnant by a man other than her husband. The woman isn’t sinning because she is not having premarital sex. Does she have to ensure that the anonymous donor is NOT Jewish? Because if the donor were to be Jewish, then maybe one day the child may meet a sibling, not know it was a sibling, and fall in love.

Then, what would she tell the child? How would the child be treated in its religious school? The “acceptable” Jewish family is mom, dad and kids. Other children can be so mean. Would she be setting up her child for a lifetime of aggravation from his/her community. Would the child be accepted? What about the child’s emotional needs? doesn’t every child have the right to two parents, at least to start off life properly?

I also wondered, where is this woman’s emunah, faith, in G-d? Does she not trust that He will send her a husband when He decides it’s the right time? That if G-d decides she should have a child, then He will make it happen in the right way?

I have so many concerns about this, and am so curious as to what others think about it. Those of you who live in Israel (or other places with a high concentration of Jews) – have you heard of cases like these? What have been the reactions of the community and rabbis?

Please let me know your thoughts – I am sure this is a complicated topic.