Monday, August 31, 2009

Get: Correction

Last week, I cited Wikipedia and the Torah T'mimah, claiming the get is a Latin loan word. I've since discovered the information upon which I relied was no darn good.

The truth is that get was first a Sumerian word for document (then written on clay.) It made its way into Rabbinic Hebrew via Aramaic and Akkadian. Shtar, the Rabbinic Hebrew word for contract, is likewise an Akkadian loan word.

Even after it entered Hebrew, the word get meant document. It became our word for one specific type of document, i.e. the divorce document, via specialization, a not-very-unusual type of semantic change. In our own language deer (originally any animal) and girl (any child) also changed via specialization.

Search for more information about divorced women at

More Garbage from Glenn

Used to be you needed to go find a street corner lunatic if you wanted to hear someone spout drivel quite this insane:

Hey, are any of you in the readership appaled that Glen Beck is being boycotted by some of his advertisers? If so, why?

Mad Men inspired ruminations on my shul

"I grew up in a club just like this" - Trudy Campbell in Mad Men #303

Jews don't have country clubs. Instead, we go to shul. Last night,on Mad Men, we visited a country club, where the characters who grew up privileged were right at home, while the ones from more modest background felt out of place.

I recognized their discomfort.

The shul where I grew up is nothing like the shul I attend today. My childhood shul was beautiful - high ceilings, handsome pews, thick carpet - and many in the congregation had adopted what I now recognize as WASPish habits and manners. There was something upscale about the place, something rarefied about the air. Announcements were made in a crisp and proper English. The Rabbi, a musmach of Torah v'Dass, spoke eloquently and powerfully. The place felt organized, managed, with an emphasis on derech eretz, by which I mean decorum and also the idea that anything worth doing was worth doing well.

The place where I pray today is about as different from the old shul as two places can be. It's a storefront, with peeling ceilings and worn out rugs. The Rabbi's English is labored, and littered with Yiddishms. Everything about the place feels slip shop, and improvised. The people are different, too. They are coarser, even rougher, then the men from the old shul my imagination now conjures. Unlike the old shul, where kiddush was served by uniformed staff in a well appointed hall, we take kiddush like vagrants, in the main sanctuary and the odor of herring and cholent never really leave the room.

A shul is like a country club. Its where we go for fellowship, friendship, a sense of place or belonging. Or, as Roger Sterling put it at the end of last night's episode, "That's the great thing about a place like this. You can come here and be happy, and you get to choose your guests."

A shul isn't exclusive, of course, but we self-select, each of us picking a place that appeals to us, based on our own unique set of criteria. I picked this place because it was nearby, and because it had a good group of guys. But now, as I age, and the answers to the old questions change, perhaps the time has come to extricate myself.

Today's Reading: Leon Eiseley's The Brown Wasp

Today's selection is the end of Leon Eiseley's The Brown Wasps an essay about nostalgia and how our sense of place and self can be rooted in fantasy and false rememberances. Eisley dreamed of a non-existant tree. I dream sometimes of a shul and a congregation which no longer exist - and perhaps never did.

I have said my life has been passed in the shade of a nonexistent tree... It was planted sixty years ago by a boy with a bucket and a toy spade in a little Nebraska town. That boy was myself. It was a cottonwood sapling and the boy remembered it because of some words spoken by his father and because everyone died or moved away who was supposed to wait and grow old under its shade. The was passed from hand to hand, but the tree for some intangible reason had taken root in his mind. It was under its branches that he sheltered; it was from this tree that his memories, which are my memories, let away into the world.

After sixty years the mood of the brown wasps grows heavier upon one. During a long inward struggle I thought it would do me good to go and look upon that actual tree. I found a rational excuse in which to clothe this madness. I purchased a ticket and at the end of the two thousand miles I walked another mile to an address that was still the same. The house had not been altered.

I came close to the white picket fence and reluctantly, with great effort, looked down the long vista of the yard. There was nothing there to see. For sixty years that cottonwood had been growing in my mind. Season by season its seeds had been floating farther on the hot prairie winds. We had planted it lovingly there, my father and I, because he had a great hunger for soil and live things growing, and because none of these things had long been ours to protect. We had planted the little sapling and watered it faithfully, and I remembered that I had run out with my small bucket to drench its roots the day we moved away. And all the years since it had been growing in my mind, a huge tree that somehow stood for my father and the love bore him. I took a gasp on the picket fence and force myself to look again.

A boy with the hard bird eye of youth pedaled a tricycle slowly up beside me.

"What'cha lookin' at?" he asked curiously.

"A tree," I said.

"What for?" he said.

"It isn't there," I said, to myself mostly, and began to walk away at a pace just slow enough not to seem to be running.

"What isn't there?" the boy asked. I didn't answer. It was obvious I was attached by a thread to a thing that had never been there, or certainly not for long. Something that had to be held in the air, or sustained in the mind, because it was part of my orientation in the universe and I could not survive without it. There was more than an animal's attachment to a place. There was something else, the attachment of the spirit of a grouping of events in time; it was part of our mortality.

So I had come home at last, driven by a memory in the brain as surely as the field mouse who had delved long ago in my flower pot or the pigeons flying forever in the midst the rattle of nut-vending machines. These, the burrow under the greenery in my living room and the red- bellied bowls of peanuts now hovering in midair in the minds of pigeons, were all part of an elusive world that existed nowhere and yet everywhere. I looked once at the real world about me while the persistent boy pedaled at my heels.

It was without meaning, through my feet took a remembered path. In sixty years the house and street had rotted out of my mind. But the tree, the tree that longer was, that had perished in its first season, bloomed on in my individual mind, unblemished as my father's words. "We'll plant a tree here, son, and we're not going to move any more, And when you're an old, old man you can sit under it and think how we planted it here, you and me, together."

I began to outpace the boy on the tricycle.

"Do you live here, Mister?" he shouted after me suspiciously. I took a firm grasp on airy nothing--to be precise, on the bole of the great tree. "I do," I said. I spoke for myself, one field mouse, and several pigeons. We were all out of touch but somehow permanent. It was the world that had changed.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Link Dump

What's the Link Dump? See here

The publicity Gods sure did smile on tireless self-promoter Shumly Boteach. The president of Libya is planning to set up a tent in a backyard that's right next door to his house. Naturally, Shmuly is already on my TeeVee with the whole sordid tale. [Chaim Rubin]

What does dishonest anti-Obama invective look like? An example: Notice that Obama mentioned Israel five days in a row, then (a) construe this as a bad thing; and (b) mischarecterize all five mentions as "negative" [The Muqata]

Hey, dirty hippie liberal Kennedy supporters! Stop focusing on all that Kennedy did to help the poor, sick and defenseless to the exclusion of the "whole picture." You should instead be focusing on Chappaquiddick to the exclusion of the "whole picture." [Not Brisker Yeshiva]

Suffer and die U2 fans! Our Atonement holiday is loads more important than your stupid concert! [Fink or Swim]

How many things do you love about HSM's husband? Oddly she seems to have started a new meme on the subject and... tagged us all? [In the Pink]

How many more messianic "proofs" must Josh debunk before we Jews drop the whole silly habit of discovering and disseminating them? [ParshaBlog]

We've tracked down the Renegade Rebbatzin! She's now blogging as DYS. The piles of unfinished posts are a dead give-away. [Torat Ezra]

More Parsha Puzzles

Some things that kept me up last night (not really)

1 - Why didn't the Torah prohibit soldiers from raping captive women? The oft given excuse - its a concession to human nature - doesn't fly. Why concede to human nature here, and in no other case?

2 - Why does the Torah seem to be addressing a specific time and place when it presumes that the screams of a violated woman would certainly have been heard? That was true in ancient Israel when towns were small and crowded, but it isn't true now. Every modern city has abandoned areas and desolate neighborhoods where its possible to rape a woman without her screams being heard.

3 - Why have we abandoned the practice of Leverite marriage? Isn't this something of a redefinition of marriage? The Torah says plainly that a man is required to marry his brother's widow if there are no children, and should he refuse to fulfil this obligation he is viewed by the Torah as something of a scoundrel and he is subjected to a public shaming. Yet, in our day a man who who chooses not to fulfil this obligation is not considered to have done anything wrong at all. The world shrugs at his sin. Why isn't this attitude considered a modern corruption of Torah values? Shouldn't we readjust our thinking so that its perfectly in line with the Torah on this subject? Why don't Jewish moralists who inveigh against so-called liberal corruptions of the Torah's timeless message ever mention this issue?

4 - How did we acquire the idea that 22:5 prevents women from wearing pants? The plain language of the verse and the earliest interpretations defeat this reading. Full story here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Parsha Notes (Ki Setze)

(Parsha what?)

Credit where credit is due
- In the ancient world, soldiers raped captive women as a matter of course. This was considered to be one of perks of winning a battle. Though the Torah recognizes this unseemly practice and stops short of outlawing it, the human rights of the captive woman (to a degree, and only according to those Torah interpreters who say that she can't be raped until after 30 days have passed) are protected in the opening verses of this week's parsha. (I confess to wondering why the same God who thundered against idol worship and various other practices of the ancient world couldn't also thunder against this. It seems to me a simple "Thou Shalt Not Rape Captive Women" would have done the trick; still, the measures that the Torah does take to protect the captive women (at least according to the more liberal Torah interpreters) are quite extraordinary for that time and place))
- There are all sorts of other humanitarian laws in this week's sedra - too many to list - but in totality they help to defeat the notion that the Torah's philosophy is generally Republican in nature (In January 2007 I actually went through all the commandments, and tried to determine which party had the better claim on "biblical values." See the results: Positive Commendments; Negative Commandments)

Famous questions
- Why "shave [a captive woman's] head and do her nails"? The medieval commentators say this was to make her unattractive. Robert Alter, observing that short nails are hardly ugly, reasons that this was actually a rite of transition, or "the transformation from the daughter of an alien people to a fit mate for an Israelite man." The thirty day wait, he says, supports this view, as this is the set duration for all mourning.
- It seems strange that only Ammonites and Moabites are permanently excluded from joining the Jewish people, when the Edomites were equally unfriendly and the Egyptians treated us far worse. The scholarly answer is that this inconsistency reflects a changing attitude in Israel toward the neighboring people. I'm not aware of the Torah True explanation, and hope someone can provide it in the comments.

Other ANE law codes also call for a rebellious son to be punished, but the Torah is the only one that imposes upon him a death penalty. Shaming, disinheritance and imprisonment are the penalties for disobedience in the parallel codes.

The Talmud says the Law of the Wayward Son was never followed, suggesting that the Rabbis may have found it distasteful. In the same way, the death penalty for premarital sex was also "mitigated through exegesis" (the phrase is Alter's), with the Rabbis ruling that the perpetrators could only be executed if the actual act of intercourse was observed by two witnesses. Other reforms that can be recognized through the study of this sedra include: The heter ishka, which contra 23:21 permits Jews to charge each other interest, 25:5 which calls for Leverite marriage (no longer practiced) and 25:12 where a verse calling for the amputation of a woman's hand is given a less Draconian interpretation.

Accurate Depictions
- The verse says a found ox is to be "brought into the house." This isn't a euphemism: houses at the time had stable-like enclosures on the ground floor.
- Canaanite and Israelite towns were small and crowded, with no empty streets or neighborhoods. This is why the verse assumes (22:24) that someone certainly would hear a woman's cries if she were to be taken unwillingly.
- Mysteriously, 23:19 refers to a "dog's price." This may be a pejorative for prostitute (see the context) and seems to reflect the documented hatred of dogs in ancient Hebrew culture.
- 24:6 says taking a poor man's millstone is like taking his life, and indeed archaeologists have uncovered a great number of them, which seems to confirm that even the poorest man had one of his own (Alter)

As Alter points out there are a series of laws in the sedra which reflect "the general recoil of ancient Hebrew culture from the comingeling of distinct... categories" including, male and female (no cross-dressing), seeds of different plants, oxes and donkeys plowing together, wool (from animals) and linen (from plants), and in the case of Shluach Hakan, nurturing and killing.

-Shatnez appears to be a loan word, the meaning of which was not known to the original audience. This is why the text provides a gloss (i.e. an explanation of what the words means)
- The Torah refers to a bill of divorce as a "Sefer Kritut" rather than the more familiar "Get." The latter (according to R' Baruch Epstein aka the Torah Temimah) is a Latin loan word that originally meant document.

A promiscuous daughter is sad to have committed נְבָלָה...בְיִשְׂרָאֵל a scurrilous thing in Israel. The rape of Dina is described with the same phrase, though Israel, at that moment, consisted of just Jacob and his 12 sons.

- In the old south, supporters of slavery would often insist that the practice had biblical backing, yet for reasons unknown to me, these same supporters were able to ignore 23:16 which makes it clear that an escaped slave is not to be returned to his master.
- In 21st century America, certain Jews make all sorts of pious anti-homosexual noises on the grounds that the Bible calls gay sex an "abomination." No similar pious noises are made about business cheats who (25:16) are also committing what the Torah calls an "abomination."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Now accepting nominees for my nominee

So it says here that I can nominate a blogger to go to the big blogger convention and he or she will get a free trip to Israel. The only catches appear to be that (a) the nomination has to be accepted by unspecified convention honchos and (b) the nominee has to agree to attend the conference and blog about an aliya-bound family.

What I'd really like to do is send someone to Israel who can advance the DovBear agenda only I don't really have a DovBear agenda other than to have some fun and to get people talking and thinking about issues typically misunderstood or suppressed. How would that play out at a convention? Who could I send that could maybe get the convention talking about unexpected subjects? And what would those unexpected subjects even be? I'm drawing a blank.

So, I think that unless someone reading this is both a blogger and willing to streak the convention wearing a DovBear sign, I'm going to go with plan B, and let you the readers tell me who to nominate. If you know a blogger who's (a) not too fanatically left or right-wing, (2) not a rabid Zionist and above all (3) willing to say nice things about me in public make your case on his or her behalf in the comments, and I'll do the rest.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Shidduch Crisis Hits 3 Year Olds

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Reportedly, there is a raging Shidduch Crisis. One of the factors contributing to the mess is the unrealistic expectations of mothers when it comes to finding the perfect match for their precious yingle. Oftentimes, an overemphasis on "looks", dress size and hair color will stop potential matches from ever dating. This is taking its toll on the shidduch system.

But just how deep is the superficiality that is the root of this problem?

This story is 100% true. The names and places have been changed to protect the guilty.

A 3 year old was lucky enough to be in camp for the summer. Let's call him Dovie.

Dovie had a great counselor for the first half of the summer. Unfortunately for Dovie, said counselor left after the first half was over. Dovie's mommy wanted to make sure that Dovie got a good second half counselor so she spoke with the Camp Director.

During their conversation Dovie's mommy reiterated the importance of a "good counselor" for her precious Dovie. The camp director assured her that all the counselors were good. Dovie's mommy was not satisfied. The camp director asked Dovie's mommy to explain what she meant by a "good counselor". Dovie's mommy said "he needs a counselor that he likes". The camp director asked what kind of counselor Dovie's mommy thought Dovie likes. Dovie's mommy replied, "oh that's easy, she should be blond, petite and cute. That is the kind of counselor Dovie likes".

Post script: The camp director did not have a "blond, petite, cute counselor" to spare for Dovie, but his counselor was a nice-looking brunette. When Dovie's mom saw her, she said "She is great, I can already tell. I know he will like her too."

Search for more information about mothers with crazy expectations for their boys at

Got nothing

Chat amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Isn't It Ironic? Rabbi Burstein Style

A Guest Post By E. Fink
Rabbi Menachem Burstein of the Puah Institute for fertility has been in the news quite a bit lately. Last week DovBear posted Rabbi Burstein's now famous opinion that single women should not bear children. The post and discussion focused on his assertion that:
"Judaism does not permit one person's happiness at the expense of another, and it has been proven that a child born to a single woman from in vitro insemination suffers greatly."
Needless to say, this opinion was severely criticized in the comments.

Rabbi Burstein is in the news again. Vosizneias reported that in Haaretz Rabbi Burstein was quoted as saying that the Orthodox world should be more sensitive to homosexuals. This is hotly contested issue with misconceptions abound in the charedi world. Rabbi Burstein takes a step forward on this issue preaching sensitivity and understanding towards orthodox homosexuals.

Rabbi Burstein also presents an idea which is still under consultation. Orthodox men who are keeping mitzvos and are homosexual would marry a woman with the understanding that even without any physical attraction they could have children and raise a family together. The man would also be permitted to maintain his relationship with his significant other provided there was no "forbidden sexual intercourse".

Do you see the irony?

Rabbi Burstein would prefer two people with no love for each other, no physical attraction for each other and no reason to marry each other than to procreate in a business type relationship raise a family than an honest single mother who yearns to bear a child and does not undergo a fake relationship to be a parent.

Let's suspend reality and imagine that we agree with Rabbi Burstein on the matter of single mothers being unfit to raise children, wouldn't it be consistent to say that a loveless marriage is going to provide a negative environment for raising children?

When do the children get to find out that their father doesn't love their mother? Do they get to know their father's lover?

And what about the "happiness of one at the expense of another"? Is a woman "using" a gay man to bear a child not worrying about her happiness at the expense of his?

It may be that Rabbi Burstein can defend and support this paradigm. I just can't figure it out.

Search for more information about non-traditional families at

Are the Kiddush Clubs in danger?

A Guest Post by Rafi G

A while back, the OU tried to put a stop to the popular Kidush Club phenomena in shuls. They say that aside from the disturbance, and aside form the disrespect shown when walking out during the haftorah (or whenever), it also promotes alcoholism and encourages the youth to drink.

I don't know how successful they were in their attempt to put an end to the Kiddush Club, but they are now receiving a big boost from international diplomacy.

Because Scotland agreed to release the Lockerbie bomber, many people and organizations upset over this are calling for a boycott on Scottish products, including, and mostly, Scotch Whiskies.

if they succeed, that might be the death knell of the Kiddush Club.

Of course, Kiddush Clubs that drink bourbon will not be affected by such a ban.

Search for more information about Jews drinking bourbon at


All you guys know Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton strongly condemned Scotland's release of the Lockerbie terrorist, right?

Ok, then. Good.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jews and jewellery

A guest post by HSM

Way back in the day of the Torah women wore a lot of jewellery. They wore earrings and nose rings (and possibly belly rings and chains), anklets and bracelets and necklaces. They were adorned.

In parshat Chayyei Sarah (24:20) we read that Eliezer gave Rivka a nose ring and bracelets when he met her by the well, and knew she was the ideal wife for Yitzchak. Rivka Imenu, Rivka our foremother, wore a nose ring! (she probably didn’t wear stockings but that’s a conversation for a different time). If I walked into any RW yeshiva or Beis Yaakov with a nose ring, they would throw me out.

When did piercing noses and navels start to have such negative connotations? There is nothing in the Torah that prohibits women from piercing their ears and noses, there is no commandment of Thou shalt not pierce thy navel.

From what I have read, I understand that we are not to deface our body or render it so drastically different from the Tzelem Elokim that we were created in. (Image of God). Our bodies are a gift to us from God, and we need to respect that. We are forbidden from cutting the flesh – elective surgery might fall under this category. Tattoos are expressly forbidden min haTorah. I don’t believe this applies to piercings when they are done in moderation. I believe my earrings add to my personal beauty, in a similar way that make-up does. Make up isn’t banned because it might interfere with the way God created us. We use it to enhance what we have been blessed with.

My opinion? So long as one isn’t piercing just to thumb one’s nose at religion and to attract attention there is no aveirah. If you are doing it so you can wear short belly shirts and show off the navel ring – well, that contravenes the laws of tzniut.

I have several religious friends who have a belly ring. They keep it covered all of the time because of the laws of modesty. Does it make them any less of a person? Does it call their morals into question because they have a jewel in their navel? Maybe it opens the door to people’s curiosity IF they find out, but it doesn’t mean they are scum of the earth. When did people start labeling those with nose rings and body piercings as second class citizens?

Search for more information about adornments at

The soft racism of Mishpacha magazine

On page 27 of the current Mishpacha Magazine one of our intrepid readers located the following:
"Based on this understanding of the Maharal, I once heard, in the name of Rav Moshe Shapiro, shlita, a beautiful insight into the structure of human lips. The human body, on its surface, is peach or tan, while the inner lining is red. The lips, on the other hand, are the opposite."
Really? Peach or tan? No other choices? Or is it that no one else is considered to have "human lips" and a "human body"?

Related: Mulling over the Meam Loez

When "Politics" takes over Kashrut

Another Guest Post from HaSafran

Besides my day job(s), I also work as an on-call mashgiach for our MO shul. In this capacity (as well as working in the kitchen for a kosher caterer in Chicago while in college), I have had the opportunity to work with almost all of the kosher caterers in our current locale (and there are many). Most of them are frum; several are not. ALL of them have bones to pick with the local Vaad HaKashrut and/or certain mashgichim. Of course, this is probably to be expected in one fashion or another, but in talking with them about the problems they have encountered with the Vaad/ceratin mashgichim, I have noticed a few disturbing trends.

1) The local Vaad gives no help whatsoever to the mashgichim in our city. If you are one of THEIR mashgichim, this may be different (but from what I have heard, admittedly second-hand, it may not be), but as MOST of the mashgichim here are independent, this presents a basic problem: Say you are working a simcha and a shailah comes up. Who would you ask? Normally, you would call the Vaad and ask the person who, most obviously, is the most learned in this area. After all, they are the Vaad HaKashrut, no? Or, I suppose you could ask the shul rav (IF the simcha is occurring at a shul), but that presents other complications.

However, for all intents and purposes, the Vaad doesn't take these calls. In fact, in relating a situation I had to deal with to a different caterer, this caterer took out a card, wrote a phone number down on it and gave it to me, saying "Here's the phone number for Rabbi So-and-so on the Vaad. Tell him you got his number from me. He still might not take your call, but at least he'll know how you got his unlisted number."


A mashgiach has a shailah - a real-time concern over the kashrut of something that will shortly be given to hundreds of Jews to ingest - and the Vaad either won't take the phone call or be more concerned about how the mashgiach found out their phone number?

I admittedly am nowhere even close to being a "buki b'shas" but I just cannot figure out how the Vaad HaKashrut of any city can consider their job done after putting a PDF on their webpage detailing all of the fruit and vegetables that the community cannot use (because no one in the community can check it well enough, in their opinion - but Bodek, at twice the price, is ok - even though Bodek, even after triple-washing, still has the same problems as the regular fresh produce) and not a whole lot more.

2) Have you ever called your local Vaad HaKashrut about the hechsher on a specific product or restaurant and been told "It's not recommended"? I imagine that if you have EVER done this, this is the answer you would get almost 90% of the time. The reason that number is so high is because no one calls to ask if Spam or lobster roll is kosher. You're only calling because you think it's ok but you have a safek. And the standard answer is "It's not recommended". This is not a kashrut answer, it's a legal answer.

However, have you ever called to find out whether a product or restaurant is still kosher, right after it's hechsher from THAT VAAD has ended? The answer you will get is not "It's not recommended". The answer you get is, with as much certainty as if it were Torat Moshe Mi-Sinai, is that it is absolutely not ok. Even though, two days later, the item or place is magically kosher again, under a different hashgacha.

This is not kashrut. This is politics. And the last time I checked, when we said "na'aseh v'nishmah", it was for the Torah and halacha. I didn't say "na'aseh v'nishmah" over whether someone feels the kashrut certification fees are too high, nor over a certification turf war.

3) When working as a mashgiach, if you are presented with a problem, you deal with it. You don't go looking for problems - problems have a remarkable way of finding you, often enough. The caterers know what they are allowed to use, and specifically, what they are not allowed to use. Very few of them play around with that; this is their livelihood after all. Sure, there are times when they may be in a rush and grab something they shouldn't or they have a new guy who brings the wrong thing - but that's why there is a mashgiach. Mashgichim who go out of their way to look for problems, more often than not, find them. Not because the problems are necessarily there per se, but because they are specifically looking for a problem.

What this ends up boiling down to is that in a large city with multiple communities, with a fair number of mashgichim working, there is no real working consensus on what can be used, how well it needs to be washed, by whom, etc. Yes, the Vaad might say that this particular item can be used, but today's mashgiach says no (even though yesterday's said yes) and the Vaad won't take our calls asking for a straight answer. The caterers are frustrated, the mashgichim are frustrated, the non-Jews working to prepare the food can't keep straight what is ok, today, with this mashgiach, but may not be tomorrow, at a different site, with a different mashgiach.

It's chaos being called kosher. And it's far from it.

Search for more information about kosher at

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Would you urinate with them watching?

A Guest Post by Rafi G

This is pretty funny. they wanted to stop people from urinating on the side of the building, so they put out pictures of Rabbis on the wall of the building. people felt uncomfortable urinating with the rabbis "watching them"...

I wonder if people were specifically urinating on the wall of that building (that would be the religious council of Lod), or if it is just one of many buildings urinated on in Lod...

Anyway, the people of Lod might be uncouth, but at least they have respect for the rabbis!

The Lod religious council has come up with an original solution to stop the indecent act of residents urinating on one of the walls outside its offices – one of the council's employees adorned the wall with pictures of rabbis and holy symbols, and ever since, no one has dared to relieve themselves there.

"Ever since one of the workers here put the rabbis' pictures on the wall, people stopped urinating on it," said Daniel Ben Saadon, head of the religious council. "There are clubs and cafes nearby that attract youths that used to urinating on the wall. Thank heavens this phenomenon has disappeared.
I do hope this guy washed the wall before he did this:
"I even kiss the wall," said one youth at a nearby café. "It's like a holy wall. And it is also very beautiful." When asked if he would urinate there if he had no choice, the youth said: "Heaven forbid. Near the rabbis watching you? Even criminals respect the rabbis, that's how it is here, there is respect for religious clerics."

Search for more information about public urination at

Friday, August 21, 2009

Chaim Berlin shows us just how important the truth is

Like seemingly every other blogger of note, I, too, received an email from Mordy Ovitz, editor of The Knish, about the latest shenanigans at Chaim Berlin.

In brief:

Last year the Chaim Berlin calendar carried a picture of their bes medrash on the cover, only, uh oh, a student in a blue shirt could be seen at the bottom left corner, alone in a sea of students dressed in white. [My post about this from last year]

This year, Chaim Berlin put the same exact picture on the cover of their calendar, only now, the blue shirt wearing student is also dressed in white.

Harmless? Hardly. This is history done charedi style. Rather then show us what happened, Chaim Berlin prefers to manipulate the facts to fit some pre-conceived notion of the ideal. In their imagination land blue shirts are krum, or inappropriate, and the fact that some Chaim Berlin students wear them must not be revealed. This is categorically the same as letting your kid think Moshe wore a shtrimel, or pretending that every shtele dweller was a scholar and a prince.

The other blogs are making silly jokes about how the student "did teshuvah" but I see nothing funny about Chaim Berlin's sin. And make no mistake, I think the error is grave. With one click of the mouse, they airbrushed a student's shirt and announced themselves, as cowards, frauds, liars and conformists. I don't see how any parent can continue to trust that school. What parent with half a brain would send his son to be taught by people who cavalierly delete inconvenient facts? And why would you wish to associate yourself with a place that judges a blue shirt something that ought to be hidden?

Source: An email from The Knish
UPDATE: Hedyot nails it: The really amazing thing about this... is that it undermines the very basis of the OJ belief system - that we can trust what our parents told us and they can trust what their parents told them, etc. If it's been proven that the institutions and individuals entrusted with transmitting the mesorah are willing to lie in order to promote a false historical record, what does that say about the veracity of the mesorah?

The vision of Ezekiel

This is going to be another one of those posts in which I draw no conclusions, provide no interpretations and make no claims. All you're getting are the facts, and as an old Rabbi of mine used to say at the conclusion of every retelling of a miracle story, "That's what happened. You can do with it what you want."


In the book of Ezekiel we're told of the prophet's strange vision of the heavenly throne room where he saw the "likeness of four living creatures" as follows:
And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.
As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces.... -- Ez 1:5-11
This chapter has been a source of much mystical speculation, and supertankers full of ink have been spilled in attempts to explain it.

Recently, some godless archaeologist excavated an old pagan temple in Ain Dara, Syria. The temple is set up much like the temple God told Solomon to build. The dimensions are similar, and like the Temple in Jerusalem, the Ain Dara floor plan its tripartite. (Divided into three parts.) Also discovered were a collection of hybrid figures, all of which were some combination of human, lion, ox and eagle, i.e. the four types of creatures Ezekiel saw.

Now, the temple is dated to the 8th century BCE - long before Ezekiel lived - and there's no evidence he ever visited Syria. Those are the facts, and the question they produce, I suppose, is this: how did the icons of an older pagan religion find their way into Ezekiel's vision of the heavenly throne room?

Source: Kugel, How to Read the Bible (duh)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Is this tweet cluless or ironic?

I used to cry my eyes out at R' Yoel's kever in KJ, begging G-d, in the zchus of this tzaddik, to bring me & fam to E[retz] Y[isroel].

Without the context, who knows?

To paraphrase Barney Frank, "On what planet does this TownHall reporter spend most of her time?"

Too funny. The snark queen at Wonkette recently had some good clean fun with Town Hall's breathless expose -- did you see it? -- about how Barack Obama's mother-in-law is a witch who uses, oh my god!, voodoo on offiical White House property.


The author of said breathless Pulitzer-worthy expose took offense at Wonkette's disrespectful tomfoolery, and really let her have it:

[Warning: Swallow all liquids before proceeding]

Dear Wonkette editors,

I posted a very serious article recently in about witchcraft in the White House, and later realized that your website had made a farce out of it. I saw that your staff and readers made a lot of extremely cruel comments about me and my story. Why are you people so rude? Does anybody take anything seriously anymore?

Do you really, truly, seriously think it is OK for a president to use a forged birth certificate? Do you actually believe it is appropriate for a man who was raised a Muslim to pretend he is a Christian and go to a church for 20 years with an anti-American preacher? Do you really want a president who was brainwashed by communists since he was a child, up through university, to hate America to be our president? Do you think that it is fine if a family member of the president defiles the White House with voodoo? Don’t you know what fate could befall our nation as a result of allowing Satanic forces to gather over the White House?

After 8 years of a president sent by God to lead the American people and rescue us from the horrors of 911 and Islamo-fascists, it now boils down to this? How incredibly tragic. You folks don’t really seem to understand the extreme peril that our nation confronts. Stop making fun of me. Take off your blinders! Wake up!


Ye freaking gods.

Wonkette: After 8 years of a president sent by God to lead the American people and rescue us from the horrors of 911 and Islamo-fascists, it now boils down to this?

Search for more information about crazy women at

Living with our history

A Guest Post by Rafi G

You learn some Jewish history, you learn some Jewish texts - Tana"ch, Mishnayos, Gemara, etc. and then you just trip over pieces of our history. Wherever you walk - you are walking where king David walked, fought and ruled, where Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov walked, where the kings of Israel lead and rebelled. Where the tannoim and amoraim (those who made it to Eretz Yisrael at least, along with those of the Yerushalmi) sat and learned.

Israel is where our history is completely around us at all times.

Here is the latest example of this. Mitch Pilcer has a set of "zimmerim" - or summer bungalows -near his home in Tzipori. We stayed there a number of years ago when we went up north. It is a beatiful place, and Tzipori is a beautiful village in a beautiful location, along with the history of Tzipori being the center of the Mishnaic era.

Well, Mitch Pilcer was digging behind his house in order to begin building some more bungalows. Sure enough, he stumbles upon a grave. After digging some more, it turns out he has found the 1800 year old grave of Rav Yehoshua Ben Levi, of the Talmudic era.

OK, there is a debate which one exactly it might be, and the antiquities authority is fighting about it and all that, but just the fact that he stumbled upon this - in his backyard - is absolutely amazing. Israel is the place where we live with our history.

Search for more information about ancient graves found in peoples backyards at

The CIA Under Bush

A guest post by JS:

Here's a little snapshot of what the CIA was like under Bush.

It seems that the CIA hired private contractor Blackwater (yes, the same Blackwater responsible for killing Iraqi civilians) to hunt down and kill Al Qaeda operatives. At least that what we think. You see the whole program was kept hush hush and Congress wasn't even informed about it until current CIA director Panetta was finally told about it, shut it down, and, correctly, finally told Congress about what the hell has been going on behind their backs. Seems there were never even contracts for this project, just an "understanding."

In another telling portion of the story, everyone's wondering whether Cheney ordered the program - not surprisingly, no one is asking whether Bush even knew about it.

And, of course, the GOP is screaming partisanship.

All in all, I find it frightening if no other reason than the CIA feels it doesn't have the resources to handle this (or interrogations - another thing recently shut down) themselves.

Search for more information about Covert Ops at

Fox News: The New Liberals

Jon Stewart: "Fox News turns into the liberal media by defending protesters, criticizing the president during a time of war, shoving its values down America's throat and acting like a bunch of whiny PC-loving babies."

This is an all time great TDS segment, in which the FOX news geniuses are caught in one hypocritical contradiction after another. Pure gold. [See it]

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Quality Post Alert

Read it here:

Stephen Colbert wags his finger at flying Rabbis

The mockery and prayer bashing starts at 3:45. Stephen tries (and fails) to blow a shofar at 5:01. (The first segment (a tip of the hat to some German strumpet) was funnier)

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tip/Wag- German Campaign, Russian Dogs & Flying Rabbis
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Protests

Source: Email (can I use your name?)


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Americans gone wild #3

The gentleman at left appeared yesterday at an Obama event in Phoenix with a (legal) assault rifle strapped to his back and a (legal) pistol on his hip. According to the AP (via TMP) there were about 12 other people at the event carrying guns, including at least one other man with an assualt rifle.

There were no arrests

Try, if you can, to imagine someone appearing at a Bush event carrying a loaded weapon.

Can't do it? Me neither.

Perhaps, I'm having difficulty with this because when Bush was president he played the wimpy game of discouraging and/or stifling dissent. Rather then allow political opponents to greet him carrying weapons, Bush's guide for planning presidential events had lots of instructions for "preventing demonstrators,” and “deterring potential protesters from attending events." Not only were guns out of the question: Honest opposition was, too.


For example: The man carrying the assualt rifle in the photo above was not arrested, detained or questioned, nor was the man who, last week, stood outside an Obama event with a gun on his hip, while carrying a sign calling for revolution. Yet, just a few years ago two people who attended a Bush event wearing opposition T-Shirts were handcuffed and hauled out out.

See the difference?

TMP: Man Carrying An Assault Rifle And Pistol Outside Obama Event
AZ Central: Obama: 'Honored and humbled' to speak before Valley vets

Search for more information about loony GOPniks at

Huckabee says no to the two state solution. Gee. Wonder why.

Even Bibi Netanyahu is willing to consider the creation of a Palestinian State on the West Bank, but crazed evangelical Mike Huckabee thinks this is a bad idea:

Former US presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said Tuesday there is no room for a Palestinian state "in the middle of the Jewish homeland" and that Israel should be able to build settlements wherever it wants.

Huckabee's opposition to a Palestinian state puts him at odds with the accepted wisdom of both Democrats and Republicans - and to some degree even with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has come out in favor of a demilitarized Palestinian state

Though, Huckabee's real reason for staking out a position far to the right of the prime minister and any mainstream Republican is not reported, my hunch is its rapture related.

JPost: Huckabee: 2-state solution 'unrealistic'

Please don't miss the many levels of irony

Godless archaeologists have discovered a Roman mansion in Jerusalem that appears to have been destroyed by the earthquake that shook Jerusalem in 363. Along with destroying the mansion, this earthquake is believed to have been one of the factors that led to the cancellation of Emperor Julian's attempt to build a Third Temple in Jerusalem.

Along with being the last non-Christian Emperor of Rome, Julian was a traditionalist who wished to restore Roman glory and undermine nascent, yet insurgent Christianity. He thought ordering the Temple rebuilt would demonstrate that Christian successionist claims were false. Unfortunately, in the minds of Christians the earthquake proved the precise opposite. They took the failure of the project and Julian's death that same year as unmistakable proof that God had given up on the Jews and was displeased with Julian's refusal to accept this.

For their part, the Jews made the day of the earthquake into a minor fast day. Today we know it as Lag B'Omer.

Muqata: Lag B'omer: One Big Mistake
Muqata: Facinating new discovery in Ir David
J Post: Magnificent Roman mansion' uncovered in City of David
DB: Ghosts of Lag B'omer Past

Search for more information about lag bomer at

Monday, August 17, 2009

Should single Jewish women have babies?

Rabbi Menachem Burstein, head of the Jewish fertility organization Puah Institute says:
"...there is not one rabbinical religious authority in the world allowing a single woman to give birth."
Hear that single women? Sorry, but those of you who are also pregnant must abort your fetuses at once! It may sound harsh, but Rabbi Menachem Burstein knows best, and he holds its forbidden by Jewish law for you to give birth.

Okay, okay. I kid. Probably what RMB means is that single Jewish women shouldn't run around getting pregnant, in particular by artificial means. Unfortunately, this isn't what he said. And worse, in the same article, Rabbi B is quoted arguing against artificial procedures with this bit of insanity:
"Judaism does not permit one person's happiness at the expense of another, and it has been proven that a child born to a single woman from in vitro insemination suffers greatly."
I don't know how this can be true in every single case, nor do I think its nice for the rabbi to attempt to make his case via an absurd exaggeration ("suffers greatly"). My bet is he's referring to some trite study that shows children are best off when they have two active parents. True as that might be (and I do think its true) I don't think it works as an argument against allowing single women to experience motherhood if this is what they wish to experience.

Ynet: Rabbi Burstein: Single women not allowed to procreate

Nations don't have friends, they have interests

While touring Israel today, Governor Mike Hukabee, putative front-runner for the GOP nominee in 2012 asked the dumb question
“My question is how would the government of the United States feel if Prime Minister Netanyahu began to dictate which people could live in the Bronx, which ones could live in Manhattan, which could live in Queens, and say, ‘We only allow certain people to live in those neighborhoods,’” he said. “How would that go over?
This man wants to be president of the United States, and he's not sure how the Obama administration would react if Israel tried to boss it around? Really? Here's a hint, Huckabee. If Netanyahu started telling Americans where they could or could not live, our president and Congress would laugh so hard they'd wet their collective pants. Then, they'd ignore him.

Not incidentally, this is precisely what I've been advising Mister Netanyahu to do in response to the so-called Obama demands (which aren't that much different from Bush II, Clinton, or Bush I demands.) If Netanyahu allows himself to be pushed around, he's either (a) a creme puff or (b) of the opinion that doing what Obama wants advances Israeli interests.

In either case, no blame should be deposited on the door step of the American president. His job is to advance our interests (as he best understands them) and there are no guarantees that Israeli and American interests will forever coincide.

Arutz Sheva: Huckabee: Would Israel Tell Obama Who Can Live in the Bronx?

Search for more information about realpolitik at

Yeshivas and the NYS Regents

Do yeshiva kids today steal regent exames? Don't know. But in 1980, one person was sufficiently concerned about the practice to send a query to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.

Here's how the rabbi responded:

Per the question you asked me regarding what you had heard about Yeshivos permitting their students to steal the answers to the questions for the terminal test administered by the state (regents [sic]) so that they receive their diplomas in good standing, this is forbidden, not just because it is the law of the land [dina d'malchusa dina] but also by Torah law [din Torah]
-- Igros Moshes Choshen Mishpat 2:30
I'm happy to see that Rav Moshe's prohibition was unequivocal, however, I'm rather worried about the young man who asked the question. What was his assumption? That stealing might be ok?

Where did he go to school, and what sort of fraud is he involved in today?

Your chance to help make history

Looking for a way to celebrate the one year anniversary of the publication of DovBear on the Parsha? Us, too. But rather than throw a garish party with celebrities, live music, and jello shots we've elected to instead publish an electronic version of the book, which can be yours for just 5 bucks.

The electronic DovBear on the Parsha will be available, we hope, by the end of the month. To make this event extra-special, we've also decided to fix whatever typos and misspellings were missed last summer by our crack team of highly-trained professional proofreaders (i.e. me and Tik, and believe it or not, we caught and corrected dozens if not hundreds of mistakes.)

To do this right, we need your help and this (see the title) is how you can help make history. Submit any errors you've found in the printed version to and your name and/or blog URL* will appear in the acknowledgment section of the electronic edition. Plus, you'll have the zchus of helping to make the book better, AND you'll get a free copy!

*No names or blog URLs will be published without express permission.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Actually, I'm already at 205,252, but I didn't notice the odometer moment when it happened last month (2,976 comments to date for August; 6,351 total for July). Thank you readers for helping us reach this milestone.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Healthcare Is Just Another Word For Holocaust

What follows was written by Scott at World O' Crap. Taken without permission.

Professional Paranoid Sher Zieve, has lately found herself out-crazied, by both the national brands of demagogue such as Sarah (”a death panel of dingoes ate my baby!”) Palin, and up-and-coming amateurs such as Kenneth (The Fainting Goat) Gladney. But Sher isn’t about to let a few hand-drawn swastikas steal the limelight, not when she can come right out and say that health care reform will turn your doctor’s office into Auschwitz.
ObamaCare provides Americans healthcare in the same way that Hitler’s ovens provided the German people fresh bread.
Yes, nothing says lovin’ like something from the ovens of Hitler. Now I suppose I get what Sher is saying here — “health care reform will reform health care. NOT!” — but her remarkably overblown, yet trivializing analogy raises another question. Wingnuts denounced any inquiry into possible Bush Administration war crimes as “criminalizing policy differences,” yet they feel entitled to equate actual policy differences with crimes against humanity. So I suppose my question is — WTF?
And where are those who after World War II screamed and shouted “Never again!”?
Well, a lot of them are in Israel, enjoying universal health care.
Where are the people who lost entire families to Hitler’s Holocaust?
This is just a guess, but I imagine at least are few are currently being irked by your suggestion that an additional health insurance option is the same as being gassed, or worked to death as a slave laborer.

Americans Gone Wild #2

I would love that. Attention real non-coastal un-elite Americans: Won't you please paint your faces and flip your kilts at the local congressperson's next Town Hall meeting. Pretty please? With sugar on top?

And afterwards, you can all get drunk and curse out the Jewish people, also like Mel Gibson playing the character of, well, himself.

Search for more information about stuff I desperately wish to see at

Thursday, August 13, 2009

So Proud Right Now

A guest post by JS:

If this doesn't make you proud to be an American, nothing will.

Search for more information about pride at

What does it mean to love God?

The summer parshiot contain many exhortations to love God and, like many of you (and many interpreters) I've wondered how such a thing could be legislated. An emotion like love isn't something that can be controlled or forced. I can't love something on command.

An answer to this question is suggested by the language of an old Assyrian treaty, in which a King commands his vassals to love the King's successor. This, and other clues, suggest to scholars that when the Bible tells us to love God, it is using an idiom for loyalty, and loyalty is something a law, and a ruler can more realistically demand. Much more here

Americans Gone Wild #1

New Feature!

Lots of your less favorite bloggers have been posting video of the various barbarities and insanities occuring around the country at those silly Health Reform Town Hall events. Now I am, too! Here's the first one. It shows a creepy white dude accosting some black woman's banner. I'm not sure who's side the crowd is on.

Israelis at their best

A Guest Post by Rafi G.

One of the greatest things about going camping, besides the obvious things like connecting to the land, bonding with family, cheap vacation, feeling like you really roughed it even though you had a 3G connection, is that you get to see Israelis at their best.

In plenty of situations, we are all to familiar with Israelis at their worst. They are famous for stealing towels from hotels, making noise and damage to tourist sites around the world, typical brashness, etc. If you go camping, you will see the opposite - the Israeli at his best.

We camped overnight in three different locations over the past few days. When camping out, Israelis are generally at their best. They clean up after themselves. The grounds were kept beautiful, and people were careful to pick up their trash. People shared excess food with others, or equipment or coals after a bbq was finished but the coals could still be used, rather than throw it out. People were friendly, and not rude. People davened together, despite the different types of people and dress - Haredim with Dati Leumi made minyanim together without hesitating, people in full dress garb along with people in shorts and t-shirt. People helping each other on tiyulim, whether actually lending a hand or just sharing information.

When you go "La-Tzafon" for vacation, you will see Israelis at their best.

Search for more information about Israelis on vacation at

Swine Flu Alert: Stop Kissing Mezuzot

A Guest Post by Jameel

From YNET:

"Wednesday morning, Israel's Assaf Harofeh Medical Center announced it would limit visits to maternity wards for fear of having patients and newborn babies infected with swine flu, and now, one of the hospital's doctors has also recommended people refrain from kissing mezuzot in public places.

Israel's Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar also addressed the issue, saying, "If a specific order is given in the matter, the mezuzah must be kissed from the air, to ensure that the custom is not forgotten."

The H1N1 epidemic is a cause of major concern worldwide, and ultra-Orthodox media has not overlooked it. Haredi reporter Ozel Vatik interviewed seven doctors - including Emergency Room directors and specialists on infectious diseases – on the risks of contracting the virus from kissing a mezuzah – a custom that is highly common among religious and traditional Jews.

The doctors unanimously agreed that bacteria leave high levels of residue on such objects, but six of them refused to comment on mezuzot in particular, "so as not to get in trouble with the rabbis"."
I remember as a child hearing someone ask the Rabbi, "Why are you telling me not to kiss the mezuza, it's a mitzva, isn't it?"

(edited by Jameel due to piousness and respect for the blog) The Rabbi answered, "Not every "mitzva" needs to be kissed."

Search for more information about [topic] at

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A piety that caused an error

I was amused to realize recently that a famous religious order selected its name based on an older misunderstanding of the Hebrew bible.

The group Jews call the "Witnesses" pronounce the first name of their denomination based on how the Masoretic Text(1) vowelizes the Tetragrammaton, a vowelization which reflects an ancient piety(2) of the Jews. Since Hellenist times at least, Jews have pronounced the Tetragrammaton as Adonai/the Lord. When the Masorites vowelized the Tetregrammaton they used the vowels of this word.[illustration here] (3)

Early Christian Hebraists did not realize this, and presumed this vowelization reflected the proper pronunciation of the name itself. Years later when the Witnesses named themselves, they based the name of their group on this error.

(1)Though some imagine the vowel system goes back to Sinai, they are wrong: The nikudot are a creation of the Masorites.

(2) A piety I share. As you see, I'm unwilling to write the name here.

(3) Occasionally, the Tetragrammaton is read as Elohim. On these occasions the Tetregrammaton is assigned that word's vowels.

Something else you don't see on RW blogs

PLEASE NOTE: Last week, I linked to Rabbi David Bibi's Jewish Star article about SYNJ, calling it an "obfuscation." Today, someone using the name "David" left on the thread an apology and explanation for the article. Of course, I can't confirm that "David" is the article-writing Rabbi, but what he wrote deserves a larger audience, and our calm consideration. You can find it here.

Mesira (The Informant) In Jewish Law

A Guest Post By E. Fink

The topic of mesira is complex. I do not claim expertise on the subject but I have heard a discourse from an expert on Jewish and American Law named Rabbi Breitowitz. Aside from teaching law at University of Maryland, Rabbi Breitowitz is a practicing Rabbi in Silver Spring Maryland. When I lived in Baltimore, I heard Rabbi Breitowitz speak on the topic of mesira, I remembered that he had a clear and direct position and I was able to find the same speech online to refresh my memory.

This is my basic understanding of his take on mesira. Click here to read more. Traditionally, mesira was a very serious crime, according to some it was a Torah prohibition similar to murder. Things have changed.

Rabbi Breitowirz mentions three contemporary positions, Reb Moshe Feinstein, the Aruch HaShulchan and Rav Wosner.

He begins with Reb Moshe. Reb Moshe holds that there is a prohibition of mesira when the secular punishment is worse than the Torah's punishment. A moser has a halachic status of a rodef, one who is trying to kill another, and must be stopped from his mesira. There are 3 big exceptions. 1) When the person about whom the moser is speaking of is a rodef himself. This is because a person who kills a rodef is not a killer nor is his act of attempting to kill the rodef is not considered a rodef. As an aside, a sexual or physical abuser is considered a halachic rodef and thus there is no prohibition of mesira in those situations. 2) If the moser is preventing a major communal disaster then there is no prohibition. 3) If it one's job to inform, then mesira will not apply.

This is the most narrow view of when one is permitted to be moser that Rabbi Breitowitz mentions.

The Aruch Hashulchan says in a footnote to section 381 in Choshen Mishpat that in a benevolent and fair country where there is a justice system that does not unfairly imprison Jews, one is not guilty of mesira by informing the government of a fellow Jew's crimes. He continues by saying "...for example in wonderful Czarist Russia...". There is a question as to the seriousness of this footnote as he could not have possibly meant that Czarist Russia was fair and benevolent. The question is whether the entire footnote has value or if the entire thing was a false gesture of good faith to the Czar. It is not likely that the Aruch Hashulchan would add a deliberately misleading footnote and the reasoning of his footnote stands whether his country was wonderful or not. Thus, the Tzitz Eliezer holds that the Aruch Hashulchan means that wherever there is a "procedural justice" there is no mesira.

The third opinion is that of Rav Wosner. His approach integrates the rules of dina d'malchusa dina (the laws of the non-Jewish nation where you live are "law") with mesira. His reasoning is that when the non-Jews follow the Noachide law of creating a set of laws it becomes a halachic basis for the Jew to obey those laws. Thus, he concludes that it cannot be possible to violate the prohibition of mesira if one is following the laws of their country. Since, he must follow the laws of that country his mesira is not against halacha. This does not mean one is required to be a moser, rather the reporting is not a violation of mesira.

It is necessary to define when dina d'milchusa dina constitutes to determine when mesira is not prohibited according to Rav Wosner. The Mechaber says that dina d'malchusa dina is limited to government interests. The Rama disagrees and says that it applies to anything that is designed to promote the well being of society. Most poskim agree with this definition which includes but is not limited to, criminal law, minimum wage laws, environmental laws and child labor laws.

In conclusion, mesira is a term bandied about to protect our own criminals. In reality, it is very difficult to pin down a halachic moser according to the Aruch Hashulchan or Rav Wosner and although it is possible according to Reb Moshe to be a moser it is still unlikely. We need to be honest with ourselves and stop hiding behind archaic halachic terms to justify false ideas.

To listen to the entire discourse online click here.

Search for more information about Rabbi Breitowitz at

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


A guest post by JS:

You can all breathe easy, at least if you live in Israel, the swine flu pandemic is over. A group of courageous rabbis have flown over the country, blown the shofar, and said some prayers. Skeptical? Don't be. As one of the rabbis involved said, "We are certain that, thanks to the prayer, the danger is already behind us." Read more about it here.

It's a shame this wasn't done earlier as there are over 2,000 confirmed cases of swine flu in Israel and I believe 5 people have already died. I also wonder if those who have the disease have been suddenly cured by this ritual. Someone should check up on that.

What bothers me the most about this, is that so much of religion is already hanging by a thread to any semblance of rationality. Do you really need to do something like this and make me wonder if everything else I do is in the same category? How am I supposed to differentiate flying in a plane, blowing a shofar, and saying a prayer to stave off disease from sitting in a shul, blowing a shofar, and saying some prayers to stave off punishment for sins?

Flicking blood onto altars and tapestries? Swinging a chicken/money over your head? Sitting in a hut? Waving a bunch of branches and a lemon?

Is there anything that makes these people crazy and a "normal" religious person sane?

Search for more information about mystical cures at

Pashkevil of the century

(Click to enlarge)

This despicable anti-Dweck piece of trash was spotted today in Crown Heights. "Mesirah" loosely translates as "snitching out a Jew to the police" and in the manner of mob bosses everywhere, the author of this poster is equating a snitch with a rat and urging his community to do [insert your own ominous looking wink] "something."

Its worth adding that I believe RMF ruled that there's no mesirah in America because the police here don't have an anti-Jewish agenda. As I understand it, the loose translation cited above is halachicaly incorrect. Handing someone over to a professional police department for a lawful trial isn't mesirah.

For Shame

An annoymous guest post

A teenaged girl from a religious community, unmarried, is brutally attacked and raped. Her family keeps it quiet because they don’t want the family to be shamed. Within months it becomes apparent to the mother that the girl is pregnant, a result of this rape. The girl wants an abortion. She is horrified at her predicament. The rabbis say there is no reason halachically to give her permission to do so. She should be sent away out of town to have the baby, give it up for adoption and come back as if nothing has happened. No one ever need to know.

A crime was committed against her, but she will be the one whose life is irreparably altered. Whether she aborts or not – her life will never be the same again.

The previous situation is fictional, but I am sure there have been instances similar. Here’s my problem with it, problems really.

A: No woman should have to bear the child of a rape if that is what she doesn’t want to do. Men cannot understand what this is asking of a woman, no matter how learned they are. Unless you can carry a baby within your own body you cannot possible empathize. I am not saying I believe in abortion, I am not saying that at all, I am saying that in certain cases such as this, there should be a halachic clause allowing for it, due to extreme emotional distress to the mother. Some rape victims who fall pregnant have had the strength to keep the pregnancy and give birth, and love and nurture that child. Some cannot. They shouldn’t be forced to.

B: is this another of those scenarios where if we sweep the whole thing under a rug it will go away? Let’s say this girl does go away to have the baby, comes home – she won’t be the same again. Its naïve to think that one can go through the birthing process and emerge unchanged. Add in giving a child up for adoption – that’s just way more than anyone should have to bear. She will not be able to carry on as usual. SHE will never forget even if her parents tell her she should.

C: I can see her parents being told not to mention this to prospective shidduchim because there is no way anyone will marry her if the parents are honest. This is totally wrong too – none of this is her fault, why should she have to hide it? Again, this is blaming the victim.

D: Where is the emotional support for this girl? This experience is a horrendous one, one that no one should ever have to go through – but in a religious community the attitude will be one of judgmentalism not support. “What did she do to encourage this pervert?” (I have actually heard that from some religious women.)

E: Some families might even marry her off as fast as they can, and she will have a “premie” 6 months after marriage….not a great solution either.

This woman will live the rest of her life with this stain against her, and it was something that was done TO her. She had NO choice in the matter. Who is helping her?

There have been countless variations on this theme, and almost every scenario is swept under the rug. Crimes against women in our community must start to be treated properly, ethically, and helpfully. Enough blaming the victims. “She asked for it” is no longer acceptable, if indeed it ever was.

The To'evah Community

A guest post, and new contest idea by XGH

Readers of Yeshivah World News will have noticed that rather than (chas vesholom) use the word "gay' (or LGBT) they insist on saying 'The To'evah Community'.

Well, two can play at that game. Considering the amount of scandals coming out of the Chareidi world recently maybe we should start calling them 'The Chillul Hashem Community'? (Yes, I know, Chareidim do lots of good works. But then, so do Toevah people, no? )

So let's have a little competition - can you think of a good way to describe the Chareidi Community?

Monday, August 10, 2009

An Obfuscation Par Excellance

Shorter Rabbi David Bibi: Those SYNJ Rabbis who got busted were only helping their close friend's kid. Who can blame them for that?

The Jewish Star: Don’t point fingers

Concrete thinking

Last Friday night, our table game was "Name a Woman from the Bible" We go around the table with each of us taking a turn, um, naming a woman from the bible. If you can't think of one, you're out.

When the spotlight landed on the smallest bear she volunteered "Malki Tzedek."

"But he's a boy," shouted the older kids.

"Come on," said our disbelieving contestant, "Malki is a girl's name!"

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Shiur Annoyances

A guest post by JS:

This post has been percolating for a while in my brain, but a particularly annoying shiur this Shabbos brought it to the forefront.

It seems without fail that the longer a person spends in Yeshiva or Kollel the more inept they become at giving a speech/shiur to normal, able-minded adults. Click here to read more I don't think they all take some course or read a book entitled "How to tick off friends and alienate people," but invariably at every single shiur I attend - especially if the speaker is back home for "bein ha'zmanim" and eager to show others what he's learned - I feel like ripping my hair out.

So, for the betterment of yeshiva guys and kollelniks who give speeches and for the benefit of those stuck listening to them, I've identified several highly annoying traits that simply must stop now:

1) Stop saying "chas v'shalom" every time you mention something even remotely bad. You don't need to say "If a person should stub his toe, chas v'shalom" or "If a pen should run out of ink chas v'shalom." It's really not a tragedy. Reserve it for death or serious bodily injury or financial loss, OK? God is really busy and He doesn't have time to prevent this nonsense.

2) Not every single story ever recounted in a gemara or said by a rabbi is "famous." I don't want to ever hear again "There's a famous story in Bava Basra" or "There's a famous story about the Kotzker Rav."

3) Repeating the same point over and over again and using different synonyms each time you tell it doesn't make the point any stronger, more brilliant, or more true. "Hashem created each person to be unique...The Ribbono Shel Olam was boyrei each human being as an individual...The Abisheter, in His wisdom, made each of us to be one of a kind."

4) In the same vein, supporting your point with 50 different rabbinical statements doesn't make your point any stronger, more brilliant, or more true. Saying the gemara says X, and the Chazon ish says X, and Rav Kook says X, and Rav Feinstein says X, and the Shem M'Shmuel says X doesn't tell me anything. It's especially annoying as everyone knows our tradition is built on people quoting each other and recycling old ideas. It's not surprising or enlightening or awe-inspiring that so many rabbis say the same thing - it's to be expected.

5) And again, related to #3 and #4 - don't give a shiur on something that is brain-dead obvious!!! I don't need a shiur on how every person is unique or how it's important to not be superficial. But, PLEASE, if you really have nothing interesting to talk about and must resort to the mind-numbingly obvious, at least don't do #3 and #4 also!!!

6) Don't say in 50 minutes, what could be said in less than 5.

7) Unless your point is solely based in the minutae of halacha and especially if your point is instead philosophical or something that applies universally, chances are the rabbi you're quoting is ripping off a secular, non-Jewish text or the point was made better and more eloquently by a non-Jew. The fact that you don't realize this, shun the secular, and think your rabbi said it first and best is highly annoying.

8) 99% of the time when giving a shiur, it's really unnecessary to refer to the "goyim." It labels you as a bigot, especially when you refer to goyim in an attempt to show how open-minded you are - "I have a really nice neighbor who's a goy..."

9) You're not an expert in science, math, law, architecture, philosophy, history or really anything other than the section of gemara you heard from your rebbe who also wasn't an expert in any of these fields. Don't tell me "Science says..." or "It's well known that Napolean..." - you're wrong and you're insulting my intelligence.

10) Speaking with yiddishisms, over-pronouncing words with a Yiddish accent, etc doesn't make you more frum. It makes you look ridiculous, especially when I know you from before your "transformation."

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