Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gods change; prayers are here to stay

A poem by Yehuda Amichai

DovBear's Contrition

I often say that Rabbi David Orlofsky and those like him are no different from bloggers. He stands in front of a crowd, or a classroom, and says what he thinks about Torah, hashkofa, or the news of the day, while we do the same at our keyboards. He sometimes gets angry, says what he shouldn't, and experiences a public backlash -- and so do we.  

Last week, I was part of the chorus of bloggers and blog-readers who publicly requested an apology from Rabbi David Orlofsky for the intemperate things he said about the blogging community, and about Rabbi Hersh Weinreb, the former head of the OU. I didn't post about it 5 years ago, but I was also among those who privately thought RDO owed Natan Slifkin an apology for the contents of the now-famous, but disavowed, "Bullet for the Gedolim" letter.  

This morning, I realized I was guilty of perpetrating a double standard. I realized that if I sincerely believe that that RDO is categorically the same as a blogger, I can't demand apologies from him when he acts like a blogger, unless I am prepared to deliver them myself. 

When I posted about RDO's original remarks about RWH and his subsequent apology, my intent was to provide fair commentary about the news of the day using information that had already appeared on other web sites*. There's no question in my mind that when RDO wrote his first Slifkin letter, and when he addressed his classroom about RHW he was trying to do the same thing. As we know, RDO went too far, and said things he shouldn't have said. I confess that in my discussion of his remarks, I did the exact same thing. I left the arena of fair commentary, and made rude personal remarks.  If I'm going to insist that RDO apologize, I have to apologize myself. I have to follow the same rules I expect him to follow. 

So... Rabbi David Orlofsky, if you're reading this, please accept my sincere apology. I don't retract all of what I said as I think some of it was legitimate, but the two posts did contain remarks that were undoubtedly nasty, and absolutely gratuitous. I am deeply sorry for those remarks, specifically for what you or one of your defenders quite correctly called "pot shots". I ask that you find it in your heart to forgive me.

Please write to me at yourfavoriteblogger at gmail dot com should you require additional information.


*I make it a rule never to be the first one to publish on these types of matters, following the opinion that discussing something that is already public knowledge isn't necessarily loshon hara. I don't claim that I always follow this rule, but those of you have emailed me scoops know that I often turn them down if there's no newspaper or blog story to back them up. 

Search for more information about contrition  at 4torah.com.

A strange Roman ritual, and two interpretations of it

On BT Avoda Zara 11b, Rav Yehudah b. Ezekiel (d 299) provides a description of a Roman ritual which he attributes to his teacher Shmuel (d 250)
Said Rab Judah in the name of Samuel: They have yet another festival in Rome [which occurs] once every seventy years. Then a healthy man is brought and made to ride on a lame man; he is dressed in the attire of Adam, on his head is placed the scalp of R. Ishmael, and on his neck are hung pieces of fine gold to the weight of four zuzim, the market places [through which these pass] are paved with onyx stones, and the proclamation is made before him: 'The reckoning of the ruler is wrong. The brother of our lord, the impostor! Let him who will see it see it; he who will not see it now will never see it. Of what avail is the treason to the traitor or deceit to the deceiver!'; and they concluded thus: Woe unto the one when the other will arise [Soncino translation]
According to Rashi, the ritual is a Jacob and Esav pageant. Soncino summarizes Rashi's view:
Jacob, representing the Jews, here impersonated by the lame man (Gen. XXXII, 32 and he halted upon his thigh); and to Esau, representing Rome, impersonated by the healthy man; The reckoning which is pronounced as wrong alludes Jacob's prediction as to what would happen to his descendants at the end of days (Gen. XLIX, 1) the treason being an allusion to Jacob's deceitful gaining of the paternal blessing which was intended for Esau, and the concluding threat is a warning to Israel for whom the rising of Rome would be fraught with trouble
In short, Rashi seems to beleive that Rome created a ceremony in which various Rabbinic teachings are expressly rebuked. The problem is we don't have any reason to assume that Rome accepted Rabbinic teachings. The idea that Esav = Rome, for example, is nowhere found in scripture. Its an interpretation, propagated by the Rabbis after Rome ascended; prior to the rise of Rome, Esav was identified with Edom.  It's also hard to understand why Rome would go to the bother of establishing a ritual designed specifically to rebuke this teaching. What would such a ritual accomplish? Why go to the trouble of putting on such a show, unless you shared the perspective of the Rabbis, which Rome certainly did not?

A better answer (no offense to Rashi) is provided by Soncino:
Quite a different interpretation is offered by Rapaport ('Erek Millin s.v. [H]). According to him, Samuel here presents an account which reached him of one of the Ludi Saeculares, the spectacular carnivals and pompous pageants, of which altogether ten are known to Roman history. This one must have been arranged by the Roman Emperor Philippus, about 247 C.E., who introduced into the pageant the spectacle of a halting dancer ridden upon by a strong man. This was intended to satyrise and discredit P's rival, Decius, who pretended to be a friend and 'brother' of the Emperor, yet had accepted the crown which P. fondly hoped would be handed to his own son. The lame dancer with a larva, or kind of mask, tied at his neck (described by the Rabbi as R. Ishmael's scalp), thus impersonated Decius the treacherous 'ruler' whose plans and plottings are declared as wrong. The rider was impersonating Philippus. When he (or his son) rises woe betide his rival. The exclamation 'Let him who will see it etc.' alludes to the festivity which occurs but once in a lifetime. The fact that Samuel lived till 3 or 13 years after the date of this Game lends added feasibility to this interpretation.
This is a much better explanation of Samuel's words, but its not without problems. First, Samuel assumes that the larva was actually R. Ishmael's scalp (apparently the Rabbis thought Rome kept it as a souvenir after murdering him); second  he imagines one of the men was dressed in the "attire of Adam."  According to Rapaport's reading, Samuel was wrong on both counts. Can we say such a thing? Yes, I think, we can. Samuel's interpretation of the Roman event does not have the status of Torah She Ba'al Peh. We can't say that he received his description or interpretation of the ritual as part of an unbroken chain stretching back to Sinai, as the revelation occurred over a thousand years before the event in Rome. We can also rely on the teaching of Shmuel Hanagid (d 1050) who said that the non-halachic parts of the Torah are not binding on us, and that we're free to disregard or accept them as we see fit. (a view shared by many) Therefore it strikes me as perfectly okay to say that Samuel was wrong when he misidentified the larva as R. Ishmael's scalp; likewise, its valid to suggest that Rashi was mistaken when he interpreted the ceremony as having to do with Jacob and Esav.

What do you think?

Aside: Last night I had a whole long discussion with @unclechaim and others about this on Twitter in which I erroneously attributed Rashi's explanation to Samuel. As you can see from the cite, Samuel never claimed that the ritual had anything to do with Jacob or Esav.

Search for more information about Rome at 4torah.com.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ron Paul Blasts Mosque Opponents for "hate and Islamaphobia."

Republican Ron Paul opened fire of mosque opponents the other day, as follows:
Is the controversy over building a mosque near ground zero a grand distraction or a grand opportunity? Or is it, once again, grandiose demagoguery?

It has been said, “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.” Are we not overly preoccupied with this controversy, now being used in various ways by grandstanding politicians? It looks to me like the politicians are “fiddling while the economy burns.”

The debate should have provided the conservative defenders of property rights with a perfect example of how the right to own property also protects the 1st Amendment rights of assembly and religion by supporting the building of the mosque.

Instead, we hear lip service given to the property rights position while demanding that the need to be “sensitive” requires an all-out assault on the building of a mosque, several blocks from “ground zero.”

Just think of what might (not) have happened if the whole issue had been ignored and the national debate stuck with war, peace, and prosperity. There certainly would have been a lot less emotionalism on both sides. The fact that so much attention has been given the mosque debate, raises the question of just why and driven by whom?

In my opinion it has come from the neo-conservatives who demand continual war in the Middle East and Central Asia and are compelled to constantly justify it.

They never miss a chance to use hatred toward Muslims to rally support for the ill conceived preventative wars. A select quote from soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq expressing concern over the mosque is pure propaganda and an affront to their bravery and sacrifice.

The claim is that we are in the Middle East to protect our liberties is misleading. To continue this charade, millions of Muslims are indicted and we are obligated to rescue them from their religious and political leaders. And, we’re supposed to believe that abusing our liberties here at home and pursuing unconstitutional wars overseas will solve our problems.

The nineteen suicide bombers didn’t come from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran. Fifteen came from our ally Saudi Arabia, a country that harbors strong American resentment, yet we invade and occupy Iraq where no al Qaeda existed prior to 9/11.

Many fellow conservatives say they understand the property rights and 1st Amendment issues and don’t want a legal ban on building the mosque. They just want everybody to be “sensitive” and force, through public pressure, cancellation of the mosque construction.

This sentiment seems to confirm that Islam itself is to be made the issue, and radical religious Islamic views were the only reasons for 9/11. If it became known that 9/11 resulted in part from a desire to retaliate against what many Muslims saw as American aggression and occupation, the need to demonize Islam would be difficult if not impossible.

There is no doubt that a small portion of radical, angry Islamists do want to kill us but the question remains, what exactly motivates this hatred?

If Islam is further discredited by making the building of the mosque the issue, then the false justification for our wars in the Middle East will continue to be acceptable.

The justification to ban the mosque is no more rational than banning a soccer field in the same place because all the suicide bombers loved to play soccer.

Conservatives are once again, unfortunately, failing to defend private property rights, a policy we claim to cherish. In addition conservatives missed a chance to challenge the hypocrisy of the left which now claims they defend property rights of Muslims, yet rarely if ever, the property rights of American private businesses.

Defending the controversial use of property should be no more difficult than defending the 1st Amendment principle of defending controversial speech. But many conservatives and liberals do not want to diminish the hatred for Islam–the driving emotion that keeps us in the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.

It is repeatedly said that 64% of the people, after listening to the political demagogues, don’t want the mosque to be built. What would we do if 75% of the people insist that no more Catholic churches be built in New York City? The point being is that majorities can become oppressors of minority rights as well as individual dictators. Statistics of support is irrelevant when it comes to the purpose of government in a free society—protecting liberty.

The outcry over the building of the mosque, near ground zero, implies that Islam alone was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. According to those who are condemning the building of the mosque, the nineteen suicide terrorists on 9/11 spoke for all Muslims. This is like blaming all Christians for the wars of aggression and occupation because some Christians supported the neo-conservatives’ aggressive wars.

This is all about hate and Islamaphobia.

We now have an epidemic of “sunshine patriots” on both the right and the left who are all for freedom, as long as there’s no controversy and nobody is offended.

Political demagoguery rules when truth and liberty are ignored.

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The only thing I want to know about the Beck rally

Two days ago, unscrupulous opportunist Glen Beck invited some friends to Washington for a "Restoring Honor" rally*. You may recall that the last time Republicans thought honor needed to be restored to Washington, a democrat was president, only that particular democrat actually was involved in dishonorable activities. You may feel that whatever happens between a man and his intern is private, and no business of ours, but dishonorable activities were in fact occuring.

Has Obama done something similar? What exactly did our current president do to sully the honor of his office, or the country? Has he even been accused of doing something inappropriate? Why the sudden need to restore honor? 
*Amusingly some of Beck's followers chose to restore honor by wearing racist T-shirts and carrying racists signs.

Search for more information about Glenn Beck at 4torah.com.

A Miracle, Sort Of...

A Guest Post By Rafi G

I guess it is a miracle, but...

Last night I saw reported on the Haredim WAP site that a miracle happened as someone drove up to the shtieblech to daven. he parked his car on the side and ran out to go to the shtiebele. As he was davening, a cement block fell on his car from a wall above.

It was declared a miracle, as it could have killed him, sort of I guess, had he been there and not inside davening.

But, while it damaged the top of the car (I saw the picture), it didnt go through, so it would not have hit him in the head and killed him, even had he still been in the car. And second, had he not gone to daven there he would not have been placed under the falling rock, so just like it fell while he wasnt there because he was inside davening, it would have fallen while he wasnt there but was two blocks away learning in his kollel in the Mir Yeshiva. But I guess it is close to home, as it hit his car, so it is his miracle..

Hodu LaHashem Ki Tov!

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Getting Into the Holiday Spirit

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Living among Christmas Celebrators for almost my entire life, I have picked up on a notion of the "Holiday Spirit" that ushers in the Holidays of Christmas and New Year's. Folks are generally more friendly and generous under the "guise" of Holiday Spirit.

Seeing as Rosh Hashana is a mere 9 days away, if we were Christian and the New Year was 9 days away, we would be knee-deep in the "Holiday Spirit". A congregant of mine told me an anecdote that would fit neatly in the "Holiday Spirit" if we had an equivalent. But alas, our Holiday Spirit is usually getting out of bed early for slichos and nothing more.

This fellow (happens to be a BT) was shopping at the local butcher (Western Kosher) and he noticed a frum woman had stacked her yogurt on top of her chicken. Now, most FFBs don't think twice about that kind of move, but I know MANY BTs who prefer to keep their milk and meat products separate in their shopping carts. (Yes, baseless, silly, superstitious, hyper-sensitive, call it what you want, let's move on to the point of the story.) So the fellow thinks about saying something to the nice lady but thought it was a silly thing to bring to her attention because he realized that there is nothing wrong with stacking cold yogurt in a package on top of cold chicken in a package.

By now, she had caught his attention and he noticed that she was holding a list with at least 8 or 9 items. Her overhears that woman say to the manager "Please put $1000 in the Schwartz* account. $1000 in the Goldberg account. $1000 in the Cohen account." and so she went for a few minutes, quite simply crediting at least 8 or 9 families with $1000 out of her own pocket. This fellow was witnessing a true act of charity. Charity given in the most respectful way with no begging, handouts or embarrassment. An estimated $10,000 went to the less fortunate of Los Angeles last week from this woman alone.

Mi K'amcha Yisrael.

May we merit a wonderfully sweet new year.

*names changed (duh)

Search for more information about matan b'seser at 4torah.com.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

David Orlofsky repudiates his apology

Rabbi David Orlofsky has written the following letter to Luke Ford:
Dear Sir,

I’m curious – do you ever verify if what you post on your website is authentic?

The letter than you chose to post is not an official apology or anything of the kind. It is personal thoughts that I wrote up for myself to try to get a handle on what had happened. I chose to review the situation, obviously from my point of view, to try to get a grasp on why someone would take a 2 minute snippet from 5 years ago and post it on the internet.

If the purpose was to hurt me and in the process cause pain to Rabbi Weinreb, I think that is a bad thing to do. Of course I regret words said in anger – I am not alone in nthis regard. I immediately apologized to Rabbi Weinreb and sat back and watched as people piled abuse and obscenity on me for speaking poorly. Seems a tad hypocritical.

I sent this letter to my friend of twenty years Rabbi Kurland to share my thoughts. He made the mistake of forwarding it to someone he didn’t know who then sent it to you. You then posted it as if I had released it.

You have my email obviously. Why not take 10 seconds and ask me if I released this? I would have told you know, it is private. I was working on an “official” apology which of course I can’t release now, since you put this up as if it was my official view and not just me working out issues.

So after you took a private corrrespondence and posted it without authorization, you want me to apologize to you? Don’t you see something surrelistic to all this?

Ksiva VaChasima Tova.

P.S. I am writing to you PRIVATELY AND NOT FOR PBLIC RELEASE. Please respect my private correspondence to you
(Luke ignored the tacked on request for confidentiality because he holds that such requests must be made and accepted in advance. I don't agree with him - my policy is not to print letters without express permission  -  but I hold that once something has been made public, reprinting it is okay. The bell has already been rung.)

We see from this letter that David Orlofsky hasn't learned a thing.

Five years ago, in his now-famous "I took a bullet for the Gedolim" letter, Orlo "defended" the case for the 5000 year old universe by heaping unsubstantiated lies and abuse on Nosson Slifkin. When it was pointed out that absolutely nothing Orlo said about Slifkin's personal history was true, Orlo claimed that the letter was not-official and that it had been leaked by mistake. Now he's playing the same game. Rather than give Rabbi Weinreb a real apology, he put the blame on every blogger in the world, and rather than apologize to the bloggers for heaping unsubstantiated lies and abuse on them, he's claiming the apology letter was not-official, and that it was leaked by mistake.

Search for more information about pathetic characters at 4torah.com.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Are you a Park51 bigot?

Definition of BIGOT
: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance


Opposed to the Park51 Mosque? Ok, that's fine. You're entitled. But perhaps you've been reading this blog, and others, and have grown concerned that your opposition to the mosque means you're a bigot. Well, I'm here to tell you that's not necessarily so: You can be definitely be opposed to the mosque without being a bigot.  I want to be clear about this: Not every mosque opponent is a bigot.

However, some are. Here's a simple test you can use to determine if your mosque-opposition is rooted in bigotry.

Answer yes or no to the following questions:

1. Do you realize the mosque is 2 long city blocks away from Ground Zero?
2. Are you aware that the Ground Zero is not visible from the construction site?
3. Are you aware that the mosque won't be the tallest building in the neighborhood?
4. Did you know that the neighborhood already has 2 mosques? (and several strip clubs!)
5. Are you aware the "mosque" is really more like a community center, boasting a swimming pool and other facilities that will be open to Muslims and non-Muslims alike?
6. Did you know that in 2006 Glen Beck conceded that Iman Rauf is a "good Muslim"  See his friendly conversation with the Imam here:

7. Did you know that Laura Ingraham supported the project in 2009? See her fawning interview with the Imam's wife below:
repeatedly condemned violence and militants

9. Are you aware that Rauf says in his books that the U.S political structure is already Sharia compliant? (thus the charge that he wants America "to become" Sharia compliant is false)

10. Did you know that Fox's second largest shareholder is one of Rauf's top funders? (He's the guy FOX news accuses in hushed tones of being a "terror funder." Yes, in reality the scary Arab terror funder is one of their owners) (Typical FOX lies)

11. Were you aware that what Raud actually said about 9/11 was this "I wouldn't say the United States deserved what happened on 9-11, but the United States' policies were an accessory to the crime that happened." and that Glen Beck said this: "When people said they hate us, well, did we deserve 9-11? No. But were we minding our business? No. Were we in bed with dictators and abandoned our values and principles? Yes. That causes problems." (Really, what's the difference between the two statements? Nothing, right? So why is Rauf the "inflammatory" one?)

If you answered YES to all of these questions and you're STILL against the mosque, well, I'm sorry but you very well might be a bigot. 

EXCEPTION: If your objection is solely based on some nebulous, undefinable, subjective issue like "taste" you're not a bigot. (unless you're of the opinion that every Muslim in the world is an exact clone of the Hamas and Al Queda terrorists in which case you are. See, we don't ask all Jews and Christians to take responsibility for the worst elements of their religions, so its bigotry to make that demand of Muslims. Unless you think Jews, as a community, are responsible for Barush Goldstein, and Christians, as a community, are responsible for abortion clinic bombers, you can't hold 1.5 billion Muslims responsible for their terrorists.)


Search for more information about bigotry at 4torah.com.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Halachavore’s Dilemma

A guest post by G.A.

Some time ago, after making the mistake of peeking behind the white Styrofoam façade that shields us from the backstory of the animals we consume, I made the decision to limit my meat consumption to Shabbos and holidays. Little did I realize that my 15 years of Orthodox Jewish education would prove a more frustrating obstacle than double that time spent developing a taste for brisket.

Not far beneath the soil of every vegetarian or variant thereof lies a polemic ready to sprout forth; I may as well get mine out of the way. I have no particular love for live animals, and my relationship with them has historically been limited to eating the Kosher ones and viewing the Treif ones at zoos. However, after one of the Jewish community scandals prompted a torrent of research on the subject of meat origins, I became increasingly uncomfortable with prevailing industry practices, from both a Halachic and moral perspective.

Perhaps the simplest way to put it is that, while neither I nor Jewish law object to cutting the head off an animal because its body is tasty, there is no justification for subjecting an animal to unnecessary suffering. The Torah’s conceptualization of Tzar Ba’alei Chaim (cruelty to animals) calls for a model pursuant to which any suffering inflicted upon animals must be reasonable and justified and, as I see it, the right to pay lower prices for meat and poultry does not justify feeding a cow corn on a factory farm or housing a chicken in a cramped cage, when more pastoral options are available. I should clarify that it is not the moment of death, however gory, that concerns me, but rather the months leading up to it, during which animals are systematically made to endure unnatural stresses in the sole pursuit of keeping costs down.

Needless to say, this was not an ideal realization for a devoted carnivore, but, like a sausage that had erupted from its casing, it was not possible to stuff this back from whence it had came. However, no sooner had I undertaken to eat meat or chicken only on Shabbos and holidays (which, thankfully, comprise roughly 42% of the Jewish calendar), that the Talmudic questions began to bubble to the surface.

1) When cooking for Shabbos on Thursday night, was one permitted to taste meat dishes for seasoning purposes? On one hand, this was a clear violation of the rule, but, on the other hand, the Sabbath could potentially be dishonoured by the serving of an inferior dish (especially as I do not believe in adhering to recipes). If so, how much was one permitted to taste? A mouthful? A portion the size of an egg? An olive? Kalamata or Manzanilla? Must it be spat out, or may it be swallowed? Spitting would be in the spirit of the rule, but the injunction of Ba’al Tashchis (not wasting) is a counterbalancing concern. Perhaps one may swallow, but have in mind not to enjoy. The tasting could even be preceded by a declaration clarifying the ascetic purpose of the impending mouthful (one version for Ashkenazic Jews, and another for Sefardim, naturally).

2) Does Saturday night count as Shabbos? Does ceasing carnivorous behaviour immediately at nightfall demonstrate added respect to the Sabbath (only the actual Sabbath is enough to lift the restrictions of vegetarianism), or is the Sabbath honoured precisely by enjoying the remaining roast on Saturday night, as if to show that the aura of the Seventh Day endures even after its departure. In fact, is not the Saturday night meal known as Melave Malka (literally, “Escorting the Queen”) held specifically for this purpose?

3) What about leftovers (Saturday night according to the former opinion in the above paragraph, Sunday morning according to the latter)? Once again, the no-meat rule butts heads with the prohibition against wasting. Undeniably, it is neither ethical nor economical to throw good meat in the garbage or let it die a slow death in the fridge. Had I found a loophole, whereby I could prepare a massive amount of meat “for the Sabbath” and then eat it for the entire week to come? Would freezing Sabbath-prepared leftover meat cause it to lose its status as a Permissible Leftover, or would it be grandfathered even subsequent to defrosting?

While my Rabbis would no doubt be proud of me, what had begun as a clear-headed initiative had, over the course of a single weekend, been reduced in my mind to a cat and mouse game of stringencies and loopholes, of fences to guard the commandments versus tunnels burrowing beneath.

Formal rules and regulations seem necessary, lest observance devolve into a casual, self-determined mess. But, at some point, do the regulations take on a mind of their own. Does one lose sight of the ethics that the regulations were put in place to uphold, and instead gauge one’s morality simply by whether the regulations are being adhered to. Put differently, does the letter of the law subvert, or even replace, the spirit. How does one find the right balance of letter and spirit. More importantly, can I or can I not bite into this sandwich (leftover roast beef, caramelized onions, homemade mayonnaise) as I sit here on this Saturday night…

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Gilad Shalit's Birthday

A Guest Post By E. Fink

It is hard to wish someone a "Happy" Birthday when they are being held captive. This Shabbos will be the 24th Birthday of Gilad Shalit. Hopefully this will be his final birthday in captivity.

His case is a real case of Pidyon Shvuyim min haTorah and we have an obligation to help secure his release. In an era where criminals and swindlers have had massive campaigns by the Charedi world on their behalf Shalit's case has been somewhat ignored by the Charedim.

To that end, my father and couple of friends have sponsored an ad on behalf of Gilad Shalit in the preeminent American Charedi paper, the Yated Ne'eman. The ad quotes R' Elyashiv who proclaimed it necessary to pray for Gilad as it is a matter of life and death and genuine redemption of a captive.

I could not agree more.

Search for more information about true pidyon shvuyim at 4torah.com.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dedicated to Double Marist

...and anyone else who thinks we must be very, very, very afraid of Muslims who seek to exercuse their right to pray as they see fit:

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Are the 2010 Muslims Equivalent to the Japanese of the 60's?

A Guest Post By E. Fink

In this clip from Mad Men, Roger Sterling does something very reminiscent of what the anti-Cordoba Center movement has been doing.

Just something to think about.

Search for more information about xenophobia at 4torah.com.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Orlofsky's contrition

David Orlofsky has published a letter in which he appologizes for insulting RHW (The letter was sent to me, likely by the same person who sent it to Luke Ford, but he published it first. I guess that wins Luke a hat-tip).

Full text and my comments after the jump

My comments have been updated.

More strife in the house of Cross?

Well, this is interesting.

RYA has published a  harsh article about Orlo which basically says the guy is, well, an idiot and a moron for insulting Hersh Weinreb in a public forum.  It concludes by suggesting that the organizations that employ Orlo "part ways [with him] and regain the position of respect they deserve." Only guess what? The article does not appear on RYA's home blog, Cross Currents, but on RHM's Emes Ve-Emunah.

What do we think this means true believers? Is it possible Yaakov Menken told RYA that his post couldn't appear on CC because it was unkind to Charedim? That fits what we know about Menken -- for 5 years Menken has faithfully minimized, denied and ran interference for every Charedi wrongdoing from riots to child abuse to murder. Spiking RYA's article would be perfectly in keeping with Menken's dishonest and disreputable approach to blogging.

Anyone know the truth?

Search for more information about [topic] at 4torah.com.

Holiday Cons and Heresies

I see that pious-seeming Jews with long beards, and a familiarity with words like "tazdik", "kvitel" and "pidyon" are breaching the sanctity of our homes and polluting them with words of heresy and chicanery.

It reads: Oh, how it pains Hashem to see a tzadik in pain.
This is kfira. God feels no pain.

It continues:  Thus Hashem is compelled to to bring salvation....

This is kfira. Nothing can compel God to do something.

It concludes: Your contribution of $100 or more to Vaad Harabbanim will be submitted to the tzaddik of your choice. In addition a minyan of pious Jews will pray for those named on your kvittel for 40 consecutive days at the Kossel.

And now we're thisclose to mail fraud. The stops just short of promising that your $100 donation guarantees that your wish will come true. Instead it says that God is compelled to alleviate a Tzadik's pain (heresy) so please send up your money and a note detailing your troubles. The Tzadik (presumably in pain about your issues) will pray for you, and (presumably) the prayer will be answered, and your problems will be solved.

Unfortunately, I can't imagine a real tzadik agreeing to take part in such a scheme. 


Search for more information about Jewish cons at 4torah.com.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Something A Little Lighter: Ikea Gedola

A Guest Post By E. Fink

This made me laugh. (Yes, I have a lame sense of humor.)

Sent to me by a friend (the baal tokeah and the baal hajoke).

Search for more information about Ikea at 4torah.com.

Stupid or evil?

Fox News is either evil or stupid for not mentioning that Alwaleed bin Talal is News Corp.'s largest shareholder.

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Reform can't rent. yes they can.

A Guest Post by Rafi G

Many people are frequently trying to find ways to "prove" that Barak Obama is a Muslim. I am not sure what the point is - he already won the election for the presidency, and the revelation that he is a Muslim is no longer relevant. And it is not illegal for a Muslim to be president of the USA.

Yet for some reason people think that just because "I" don't like somebody, for whatever reason - who he is, what or who he represents - he deserves no rights in society.

A Reform Synagogue has rented a community center, a.k.a. Matnas, in Holon for High Holiday Services.

This has upset the local Torani community "garin" who have rented that community center for their services in recent years. Perhaps the amdinistrator of the Center should have told the Torani admin that there are others looking to rent and offered them first priority. But he did not. And now the Torani people are upset that the Reform have rented a place that has been already in use the past few years. Perhaps they did so to trick people who might come for services in the Torani shul, not realizing it is a Reform minyan.

No matter how much we dislike and do not approve of Reform Judaism, they are people and have social rights like anybody else. It is sad that that statement even needs to be said. I would not daven in a Reform shul, but they have the right to run their minyan as they see fit, and to rent suitable premises.

I might not have any particular affinity for mosques and Muslims, but they have a right to rent or buy any private piece of property they want. They can use it as they see fit, within the limitations of the zoning laws.

The country operates on a free market, and the Reform have the right to rent a community center just like anybody else does. Maybe next year the Torani people should wake up a little bit earlier and take care of arranging the rental before others do.

Search for more information about rights for Reform Jews at 4torah.com.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mosque vs Cultural Center Debate Videos

A Guest Post By E . Fink

(DovBear indicated last week that he was done with the Cordoba Center debate. I ran this post on my blog last week but didn't crosspost because I wanted to respect the Baal Hablog's wishes. The moratorium has been lifted so here it is.)

I honestly cannot believe that this story still has legs.

Silly me. I actually thought that if people knew the truth about Cordoba House they would simply cease to oppose its existence. (See: The Mosque at Ground Zero Has A Marketing Problem)

Yet, weeks later, people still call it a mosque and people still think it is being built at Ground Zero and people still think it is being funded by Osama bin Laden and it will become a terror cell and the reason they are building the mosque is to proclaim victory for Islam etc etc etc.

(You really should read the (insane) comments on my blog Ground Zero Mosque vs. Downtown Manhattan Islamic Cultural Center: Video Debate and Facebook page: click here to see what I mean.)

I have seen several videos about the issue. I have placed two of the videos on this page. Watch them both and you decide who makes the more cogent, reasoned, fair arguments.

I present you with Keep America Safe's latest video:

And I present you with Keith Olbermann (with whom I rarely agree):

Search for more information about ridiculous debates about silly things at 4torah.com.

Frum guy at pro-Park 51 rally

A Guest Post by Rabba bar bar Chana

This is from the New York Times photos of the opposing rallies for and against the Park 51 project (the mislabeled "ground zero mosque"). It's nice to see a frum guy, with tzitzit out, standing up against bigotry and intolerance. Based on my Facebook friends statuses and emails from various friends and Jewish organizations, I suspect there were quite a few frum people, unfortunately, at the anti-Park 51 protest, a protest where people held up blatantly bigoted signs such as the word "Sharia" dripping with blood and "No Clubhouse For Terrorists"

Search for more information about Islamophobia at 4torah.com.

Feeding the dead in ancient Israel

Among ancient Canaanites there seems to have been a basic belief that the dead required food.
The Canaanites buried their dead communally in caves outside their settlements, supplying them with pottery vessels containing food and drink, and with other necessities such as furniture, weapons and jewelry.
Scholars have also identified a practice called kipsu, in which families went to the grave at regular intervals to deliver food and water. In Ugarit and Bet Shemesh, tubes have been found that archeologists believe were used to conduct food and water to the dead body. Their discovery in Bet Shemesh strongly suggests that Israelites also fed their dead. Additional evidence is found in this week's parsha (KiTavo), where the practice is mentioned, without prejudice, as part of the liturgy the Torah establishes for offering tithes.
I have not eaten [from the food] while I was in mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor have I deposited any of it with the dead. (ולא נתתי ממנו למת)  I have obeyed the LORD my God; I have done everything you commanded me.
Later biblical interpreters, including the authors of the Sifrei and the Mishna, were likely unaware of kipsu, and took the verse differently. Instead of reading ולא נתתי ממנו למת to mean "I have not given any of [the food] to the dead"  they interpreted it as "I have not given any [of the sale proceeds] of the food to a dead person [to use for coffins or shrouds.]" Rashi, following both Sifrei and the Mishna takes it that way.

Update: 6:26 p.m.  The first paragraph is found here; the second is from here

Search for more information about biblical interp. as a function of time and place at 4torah.com.

Friday, August 20, 2010

David Orlofsky: "Hersh Weinreb is an idiot: Modern Orthodox Jews aren't Benai Torah"

First Pinter. Then Tropper. Now Orlofsky. One by one, the holy, holy, holy Ultra Orthodox Rabbis who led the religious war against Natan Slkifkin are being exposed for what they really are. Pinter, who incited Gedolim to ban books they hadn't read, was a crook. Tropper, who helped organize the ban, was a sex fiend. And Orlofsky, who appointed himself chief spokesman for the ban, and ran around defending absurdity after absurdity in the name of some warped, non--existent ideal of Torah True Purity has now been caught on tape heaping insults on Modern Orthodoxy, the Orthodox Union and its dignified former head Hersh Weinreb.

Here he is screaming in front of a class full of nervously, snickering Ohr Somayich students that Hersh Weinreb is an idiot, a moron, a cow, and a katan. What's neat about this is so-called Rabbi Orlofsky is basing his judgement on a private conversation R. Weinreb allegedly had with someone named Manny Nissel. The account of the conversation sounds fabricated to me - or at least embellished for comic effect. In any event, there's no indication Weinreb gave Nissel, or  that Nissel gave Orlo, permission to tell anyone what was said. I feel certain the gdolim that Orlo claims to adore would not betray confidences, and certainly not for the purpose of ridiculing someone.

On this clip, we hear Orlo providing a very odd definition of Conservative Judaism that ends with him suggesting Modern Orthodox Jews aren't Benai Torah. The clip begins with an attack on the idea that the Gedolim don't speak English, or that they can be manipulated. Of course, its in Orlo's interest to take this approach, as he's at bottom a missionary, trying to win converts to his Godol-worshiping sect. In Orlo land, I suppose there are only 70 languages which all Gedolom speak fluently; the reality is that many of the Israeli Gedolim are illiterate in English, and have nonetheless banned English books, books they can't read or evaluate first hand. These books include Rabbi Nosson Kaminetsky's Making of a Godol, and Rabbi Natan Slifkin's Challange of Creation Science of Torah both of which were banned on advice (some would say under pressure) from zealots. If that's not manipulation, what is? And if you doubt Gedolim can be manipulated, well, its been captured on tape.

Let's be clear. Orlo is an extremist who turns young people against their parents and communities in the name of kiruv. He's been caught at it red-handed. The communities he disparages should return the favor and say no more checks and no more students for Ohr Somayech until Orlo and any other instructors like him are dismissed.


Update: Here's the same man attacking Lubovitch last year, and here's his apology.

Search for more information about nasty OJ Jews at 4torah.com.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

That's not how we did it in Yavneh

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," is one way to translate the first verse of Genesis, and to my mind preferable to "At the beginning of the creation of heaven and earth.… God said let there be light" which is how Rashi reads it. I say this not on textual grounds, but for mussar reasons. I like the idea of God first creating heaven and earth rather than beginning with a boring, old dichotomy. Light or dark, right or wrong, true or false - as if all the universe contains might be boiled down to one or the other. 
Beginnings are hard. Its human nature to soften them with rituals, or with things we've brought with us from before . We come into the world naked, but that's about it; afterwards there are no fresh starts. We go to new schools with old friends, or favorite sweaters. We take our old furniture, and our old families into our new homes. The past comes with us everywhere we venture. To leave it behind is to invite stress, and disorientation.

Along with the new year, Rosh Hashana is a celebration of our personal history. The liturgy with its well-remembered songs and the meals with their traditional foods are all cues that reminds of our parents, our childhood, our innocence. And it is these memories that are the source of the holiday's great, irreplaceable pleasures.This is why the first holiday away from home can be such a stressful challenge. We want what we remember, because only what we remember holds meaning. If any of the details are wrong - details that according to all theologists are insignificant - we feel that the holiday is wrong. Their absence makes the holiday into something foreign.

This is a natural, altogether human way of thinking, of course, and one that, taken to extremes, can  create sectarianism. Fifteen years ago, my neighborhood had one shul where Jews of many different descents and traditions happily coexisted. Today my neighborhood has five shuls, and diversity under one roof is hard to find. Each group wanted only what they knew, and couldn't quite swallow the suspicion that the other ways were wrong. Rather than stay together and create something new, and possibly better, the community split apart in pursuit of something quite impossible: a perfect representation of the past.

The more Jews change the more they stay the same. The story of my shul was told for perhaps the first time by the authors of the Talmud Bavli, on  BT Rosh Hashana 32A: 
When the Sanhedrin went to Usha, R. Yochanan b. Beruka was the chazan [on Rosh Hashana] in front [of the Nasi] Shimon b. Gamliel and he followed the liturgy of R. Yochanan b. Nuri.

R. Shimon b. Gamliel said to him "That's not how we did it in Yavneh."

On the second day, R. Chanina b. R. Yosi Hagelili was the chazan and he followed the liturgy of R. Akiva

R. Shimon b. Gamliel said to him "That's how we did it in Yavneh."
Much of this is familiar. Twenty-first century Orthodox Jews will recognize the fetishistic view of customs, and the holiday sense of longing for the old home, in this case Yavneh. What's different - strikingly different,even astoundingly different - is the behavior of R. Shimon b. Gamliel.

In our day, I can't imagine a  Rabbi allowing a competing liturgy to be used in his shul. In our day, angry faces are made at the gabbai, and at least one old man starts yelling "Neee! Neee!" the moment R. Yochanan departs from the house style.

Contrast this with the behavior of R. Shimon. "That's not how we did it in Yavneh." There is so much nobility, so much maturity, so much dignity, in his simple response, in words I imagine he uttered quietly and with something of a shrug. 

"We're all Jews,"  he might have continued. "with more in common then the small differences that distinguish us. Let R. Yochanan do it his way. It's not the end of the world. And who knows? I might enjoy it, or learn something new from his approach. His way isn't wrong; my way isn't right. They're just different, and diversity is a source of strength not weakness."

Think of how much stronger the House of Israel would be if the Jews of different descents and different traditions and different, but legitimate, imperatives, could greet each other with R. Shimon's words and, in keeping with R. Shimon's behavior, continue to pray together. Wouldn't it be great if we could find a way to pay proper homage to our past, to our personal Yavnahs, without allowing the homage to become something larger, something that obstructs unity? Can't we find a way to free ourselves from the tyrannous thought that everything is either right or wrong, dark or light, when most things are neither?  Can't we begin again, together?

This post is part of Jewels of Elul, which celebrates the Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days of the month of Elul to growth and discovery in preparation for the coming high holy days. This year the program is benefiting Beit T'shuvah, a residential addiction treatment center in Los Angeles. You can subscribe on Jewels of Elul to receive inspirational reflections from public figures each day of the month. You don’t have to be on the blog tour to write a blog post on “The Art of Beginning... Again”. We invite everyone to post this month (August 11th - September 8th) with Jewels of Elul to grow and learn.”

Search for more information about Yavnah  at 4torah.com.



PLANS to build a state-of-the-art library next to Republican catastrophe Sarah Palin are causing outrage across mainstream America.

Almost 40% of Americans still support the idea of books.

Campaigners have described the project as insensitive and a deliberate act of provocation by people with brains.

The issue is forming a dividing line in advance of November's mid-term congressional elections with candidates being forced to declare whether they have ever been to a library or spoken to someone who has books in their home.

Meanwhile President Obama has caused unease within his own Democratic party by endorsing the library and claiming that not everyone who reads books is responsible for calling Mrs Palin a nutjob nightmare of a human being.

But Bill McKay, a leading member of the right-wing Teapot movement, said: "Sarah Palin is a hallowed place for Americans who can't read.

"How is she going to feel knowing that every day there are people going inside a building to find things out for themselves and have thoughts, right in the very shadow of her amazing smile."

He added: "Our founding fathers intended for every building in this country to be a church containing one book, written by Jesus, that would be read out in a strange voice by an orange man in a shiny suit who would also tell you who you were allowed to kill.

"Building a library next to Mrs Palin is like Pearl Harbour. Or 9/11."

And Wayne Hayes, a pig masseur from Coontree, Virginia, said: "I is so angry right now.

He added: "Would these library lovers allow me to set up a stall next to the Smithsonian Museum and start selling DVDs of bible cartoons as long as it was in accordance with local regulations?

"Oh they would? I see. So is that why they're better than me?"

HATTIP: EF, from here: http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/international/outrage-over-plans-to-build-library-next-to-sarah-palin-201008193017/

Search for more information about [topic] at 4torah.com.

New Zealand

Here's is my knee-jerk response to Jewish caterwauling about the pending ban on kosher slaughter in New Zealand

Stop taking everything so personally, you big stupid babies.

Look, I fully concede that going without meat is an inconvenience. I like eating meat. The taste and feel of it on my tongue gives me pleasure, and like any 21st century man I'm loath to give up something that feels nice (and also loath to think about how sentient creatures are made to suffer in order to produce that pleasure).  But let's be honest: There's no Torah or rabbinic requirement to eat meat. Its just something the Torah, in its celestial wisdom, permits,  like holding slaves, or marrying 10 women. Today, the law in most places forbids slavery and bigamy, but we Jews soldier on despite the real  inconvenience of paying for labor or having just one wife. Why wouldn't we do the same, if kosher slaughter is ever banned? This is not to say I support the ban - I don't - but I don't see the ban as a disaster. If it happens, we'll adjust to the inconvenience and enjoy the benefits of better health and longer lives, just as we've adjusted to the inconvenience of  having no slaves.

Though I support efforts to defeat the ban, I concurrently reject the claim that those on the other side are Jew haters. Predictably, some Jews are in the grips of the paranoid notion that the attempt to ban kosher slaughter is related to antisemitism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Banning kosher slaughter is not an attack on Judaism. It has nothing to do with Judaism. The attempt to ban this style of slaughter is simply an attempt to help animals that incidentaly affects me. I don't feel persecuted by it. I'm not the target. Just as the bans on slavery and bigamy weren't created to hurt us, the ban on kosher slaughter isn't rooted in Jew hatred. And the possibility remains that we would be better off, as a species and as a religious community, if we gave more thought to how our meat is processed, and stopped putting our love of beef ahead of every other consideration. Jews should eat less meat, but that's a conclusion for us to reach on our own, and not something a government should require.

Though the ban on slaughter is a misguided policy, its not the work of anti Semites.

Ultra Orthodox Judaism in America

The following story, I think, provides a good illustration of how religious thinking can corrupt human decency.

A man I know lives in a fine, well-appointed house, with a pool and fancy furniture, most of which he acquired dishonestly. He's a crook, plain and simple. He needn't worry, though, about the approbation of his neighbors, as he attends a shul led by a Rav who is mostly preoccupied with sex and irreligious Jews. His speeches are straight from the Agudas Yisroel playbook. They rail against malls, and the internet and improperly dressed women and modern and heterodox Jews, but never say a word about honesty, manners, hard work and decent living. This suits the crook fine. His wife dresses correctly , and he has no television or computer. Despite his financial corruption, the crook retains the respect of his Rav and community, a community that in the past has made women with uncovered heads and children who attend co-ed schools feel unwelcome.* (This is not so unusual, by the way: The typical RW Orthodox shul prefers a crook in a hat, to an honest man in a knitted kippa.) 

Last week, the crook and I were seated together at a bar mitzvah. He washed for bread, and found the salt was out of reach. A man with manners would have gestured for the salt, or allowed himself to take a nibble from the bread without salting it. Not our crook. Unwilling to forgo an opportunity to look frum - or perhaps so deeply in the grips of his own corruption that he thought what he was doing made sense - our crook dipped his bread - three times! - into the communal pickle plate.

I take offense, not merely at his bad manners or at his criminal activity, but at how frumkeit is allowed to answer for all sins. Its the triumph of style over substance. He looks frum - he dipped his bread - but via something disgusting. Same as with his bewigged wife and internet free household, all paid for with stolen money, but which make him a welcome member of the community. Can't we learn to look at the book and ignore the cover?

*I can't report him due to confidentiality rules. Or maybe I already have reported him. Or maybe he's blackmailing me. Or maybe he's my brother. Not the point.

Search for more information about people at 4torah.com.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The new PC

Its true. Religious people (and I know religious Jews, so I mean them) say anything they like about every other group, and every other religion (Which is for the most part fine: Nothing wrong with honest criticism so long as it doesn't venture into bigotry). But let someone say something about Orthodox Judaism, and what happens? Suddenly "tone" and "respect" start to matter. Among the worst offenders are the clowns at Cross Currents who attack every one even an inch to their left with the most abusive language, but scream bloody murder whenever a newspaper fails to treat the haredim with obsequiousness.

Search for more information about religious double standards at 4torah.com.

Special Offer for Tiferes Yisroel Parents!

A certain "Rabbi Wiener" saw the announcement from Yeshiva Tiferes Yisroel about their new Internet policy, and is making the following service available to DovBear readers with children in the school.
For a fee of only $1.99 a month, I will act as your Web Chaver and maintain in strict confidence and not divulge to your wife or others the adult Web sites you visit. For an additional $1.99, I will provide you with a monthly list of recommended hot Web sites for your viewing pleasure.
Discounts avaliable to Kollel and Hanhola families as well high volume users.
In conjunction with Yeshiva Tiferes Yisroel, I will soon be offering the following additional services:
-- Supervised "Key" Parties (limited to Marine Park residents)
-- Web cam bedroom monitoring
-- Acting as your wife's mikveh 'lady'
-- Massage Therapy
Finally, be sure to look out for our upcoming publication "Rabinically Sanctioned Sexual Positions." (Available only in Hard Cover).
Please contact the Rabbi directly for registration information.

Search for more information about great ideas at 4torah.com.

Hitch on Antisemitism

Chris Hitchens has something in the new Atlantic about Antisemitism which can be summed up thusly:

Muslim Jew-hating is categorically the same as Christian Jew-hating in that it's a product of religious delusions, lunatic notions of theological superiority and the like. If Christians no longer hate Jews, its only because they've lost their religion. If Muslims hate Jews more now than they did 500 years ago its only (or mostly) because Islam has recently taken a hard turn to the right. The problem, at bottom, he says is religious faith.

Read it all here.

Search for more information about Antisemitism  at 4torah.com.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Last Mosque Comment b'n

I think its really this simple:

You're a <strike>racist</strike> bigot if you wish to deprive a whole community of their civil rights because of a crime committed by someone else. Blocking the mosque on the grounds that ten years ago a completely different group of Muslims attacked the Towers, is exactly like saying no black people should be allowed in my neighborhood because ten years ago different black people went on a mugging spree. (Thanks to Klypod for this analogy.)

You're a fascist if you wish to deprive a whole community of their civil rights because of something individual members of that community said or thought. Blocking the mosque on the grounds that the Iman, or some of his congregation, expressed sympathy (whatever that might mean) for the 9/11 criminals is exactly like saying no shuls should be allowed near Wall Street because Avi Shafran et al. have expressed both sympathy and admiration for Bernie Madoff, that  killer from Florida, and Shlomo Rubishkan.

You're an idiot if you don't understand and accept that (a) Al Queda, i.e. the real 9/11 villains, take the same dim view of this mosque, with its public swimming pool and auditorium, as they do of America. (b) A few blocks in lower Manhattan might as well be a different state. The buildings are really that tall, and the area is really that congested. (c) There are already mosques in lower Manhattan! What shall we do with them? Shut them down? What principle says this mosque gets denied, but the others stay? (d) The glorious and marvelous U.S. constitution protects this mosque, and RLUIPA makes it impossible for any municipality to stop it on zoning pretexts. 

This sums up my view of the anti-mosque arguments.

Note: I didn't say "If you disagree with me you're an idiot, fascist, or  bigot." I said "If you are making any of the following listed claims and arguments then you are an idiot, fascist, or bigot." See the difference? Read this note again, if you don't.

Rate the rejection letters

On the occasion of Travis's Bar Mitzvah his father invited 40-odd famous people to attend the ceremomy. All of them said no, but some of the refusal letters are weirdly sweet. The presidents of Poland, Ethiopia and Nigeria were among those who sent friendly refusals. See them all here

Hat tip Jameel.

Search for more information about [topic] at 4torah.com.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Spying Yeshiva Update

In comment #67, G*3 catches what many of us missed
Something just occurred to me. The students at Tiferes Yisroel are already banned from using the internet anywhere for any reason, and the school isn’t changing that rule. Therefore the web filter/chaver service isn’t meant to keep the students from visiting inappropriate sites, but to control the PARENTS. Either that, or the school feels it cannot trust the parents to watch their kids. Not only has the school arrogated to itself the right to raise its students, its treating the parents like high-school kids living in the dorms.
What’s next, a service to ensure that all food brought into students’ houses is kosher? Maybe the local shuls will have to start taking attendance and submitting member lists and standings. If a student’s father is absent once, the student is suspended for a week. Three absences and he’s expelled.
He's right. The school isn't attempting to make sure that kids stay clear of porn. They're making sure that parents are using the Internet correctly. This is outrageous.  Its also blackmail because the schools know that parents have no choice but to comply. Its already August after all, To turn down this demand is to risk your kids place in school.

I restate my earlier position: Schools should let us raise our kids ourselves, and to make demands on how we parents conduct ourselves behind closed doors is an terrible abuse of power. I liked Ha-Safran's compromise idea. Let parents call the schools once each month and assert that everyone in the household followed halacha. That should be enough.

Search for more information about crazy yeshiva impositions at 4torah.com.

A conservative argument in favor of the Ground Zero mosque

A Very Long Post on Cordoba House
August 15, 2010 4:09 PM
By Josh Barro

I complained last week about conservatives urging bureaucrats in New York City to throw up roadblocks to the construction of a mosque at 51 Park Place in the name of “historic preservation.” Landmark preservation schemes like the one that now covers 16% of Manhattan below 96th Street are an affront to property rights and should be used sparingly, if at all. The last thing we should want are new, pretextual landmark designations designed to serve political goals unrelated to preservation. Continue reading this post.

I Spy: A Brooklyn Yeshiva demands parents install monitoring software

A school in Brooklyn is demanding a closer look at what yeshiva parents do on their home computers. They're requiring parents to choose a "Web chaver" and allow him/her access to all surfing logs. (The required software makes it easy-ish.)

I think this demand is heavy handed, and an abuse of power - and also shrewd marketing. Many Orthodox Jews value superficial signs of frumkeit and a school that makes it seem like they're being mindlessly extra strict about the Internet is a much more attractive school then one that tries to, you know, do the right thing by its parents and students.

Anyway, the thing has no chance of working. First, checking the monitoring logs is a pain in the rear. No one will bother to do it consistently. Second, only an idiot would choose as his chaver someone who is likely to turn him in to the school. So great work Brooklyn Yeshiva You've done nothing but give yourself bragging right for being super frum.

 See the school's letters and more of my arguments against the policy  after the jump

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Zero Grounds: The Case for the Lower Manhattan Mosque

A guest post by Hendrik Hertzberg
From the New Yorker

A couple of weeks before the last election, the Republican nominees for President and Vice-President granted a joint interview to Brian Williams, of NBC. “Governor,” he asked, turning to the distaff half of the ticket, “what is an élite? Who is a member of the élite?” Sarah Palin replied, “Anyone who thinks that they are, I guess, better than anyone else—that’s my definition of élitism.” “It’s not geography?” Williams pursued. “Of course not,” she said. The ticket’s other half blinked and smiled a tight smile. John McCain had something to say.

MCCAIN: I know where a lot of them live.
WILLIAMS: Where’s that?
MCCAIN: Well, in our nation’s capital and New York City. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived there.

These élitists, he went on to explain, “think that they can dictate what they believe to America rather than let Americans decide for themselves.”

It was nice of Palin not to go all geographical on us back then. She has forgotten her patron’s admonition about Americans letting other Americans decide for themselves, but at least she says please, or its Twitter equivalent. In a follow-up to her quickly famous, quickly removed “pls refudiate” tweet, she tweeted, “Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real.” Sic, sic, sic.

Ah, the “Ground Zero mosque.” Well, for a start, it won’t be at Ground Zero. It’ll be on Park Place, two blocks north of the World Trade Center site (from which it will not be visible), in a neighborhood ajumble with restaurants, shops (electronics, porn, you name it), churches, office cubes, and the rest of the New York mishmash. Park51, as it is to be called, will have a large Islamic “prayer room,” which presumably qualifies as a mosque. But the rest of the building will be devoted to classrooms, an auditorium, galleries, a restaurant, a memorial to the victims of September 11, 2001, and a swimming pool and gym. Its sponsors envision something like the 92nd Street Y—a Y.M.I.A., you might say, open to all, including persons of the C. and H. persuasions.

Like many New Yorkers, the people in charge of Park51, a married couple, are from somewhere else—he from Kuwait, she from Kashmir. Feisal Abdul Rauf is a Columbia grad. He has been the imam of a mosque in Tribeca for close to thirty years. He is the author of a book called “What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America.” He is a vice-chair of the Interfaith Center of New York. “My colleagues and I are the anti-terrorists,” he wrote recently—in the Daily News, no less. He denounces terrorism in general and the 9/11 attacks in particular, often and at length. The F.B.I. tapped him to conduct “sensitivity training” for agents and cops. His wife, Daisy Khan, runs the American Society for Muslim Advancement, which she co-founded with him. It promotes “cultural and religious harmony through interfaith collaboration, youth and women’s empowerment, and arts and cultural exchange.”

Pretty scary. Leading the pack of scaredy-cats, along with Palin, was her fellow Presidential mentionee Newt Gingrich, a leading intellectual light of the Republican Party. According to Gingrich, Park51 is “an assertion of Islamist triumphalism,” part of “an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization.” Those who think it’s O.K. are “apologists for radical Islamist hypocrisy” who “argue that we have to allow the construction of this mosque in order to prove America’s commitment to religious liberty.” Gingrich argues for proving our devotion to religious liberty by taking it hostage: “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.”

Not all the project’s opponents have embraced the Gingrichian apocalypse. Most, like Palin, have appealed to hurt feelings—“especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001,” in the words of a statement issued by the Anti-Defamation League, the venerable Jewish civil-rights organization, which (disgracefully, and in opposition to local Jewish organizations such as the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan and the U.J.A.-Federation of New York) takes the Palin line. There are many 9/11 families who feel differently, and just as strongly. Defending the A.D.L.’s position, its national director, Abraham H. Foxman, reflexively likened the families—the anti-Park51 ones, that is—to Holocaust survivors: “Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would characterize as irrational or bigoted.” No doubt. But, as a guide to public policy, anguish is hardly better than bigotry. Nor is it an entitlement to abandon rationality itself.

Where the “Ground Zero mosque” is concerned, opposition is roughly proportional to distance, even in New York. According to a recent poll, Manhattanites are mostly for it, Staten Islanders mostly against. Community Board No. 1 endorsed it, twenty-nine to one. That’s the council that represents a corner of Manhattan that includes both Park51 and the 9/11 site—and us, too, in the not too distant future. The New Yorker is set to move from 4 Times Square to 1 World Trade Center, once it gets built. Opinion here is divided, depending on whether one’s subway ride will be longer or shorter. No one has a problem with Park51.

Last Tuesday, after the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, in a unanimous vote, gave Park51 a green light, Mayor Michael Bloomberg celebrated the occasion with a speech that, in its gruff eloquence, will be remembered as a high point in his distinguished tenure. “We may not always agree with every one of our neighbors,” he said.

That’s life. And it’s part of living in such a diverse and dense city. But we also recognize that part of being a New Yorker is living with your neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance. It was exactly that spirit of openness and acceptance that was attacked on 9/11.

That should have been the end of it, but it isn’t. The midterm elections loom. Locally, partisanship—Republican partisanship, to be specific—trumps propinquity. The two leading Republican candidates for governor of New York have made the “Ground Zero mosque” an issue, urged on by Rudy Giuliani, the ex-mayor, and by George Pataki, the ex-governor. Nationally, opposition to Park51 is rapidly becoming a matter of Republican discipline and conservative orthodoxy. By the end of last week, John McCain had joined his former running mate’s chorus. (“Obviously my opinion is that I’m opposed to it.”)

In a famous letter—the one that holds that the United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens”—George Washington offered a benediction:
May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
Lower Manhattan is a little short on vines and fig trees nowadays, though there are some excellent wine bars. Washington’s point remains. His letter was addressed to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island. But, as he knew, Muslims are Abraham’s children, too. By the McCain standard, George Washington was a three-time loser: as President, he lived in New York City; the nation’s capital bears his name; and, even by the standards of his time, he was an élitist. Nevertheless: he was right. ♦

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2010/08/16/100816taco_talk_hertzberg?printable=true#ixzz0whMqj1zG

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Save Eliyahu Weinstein! Send me your money!

Apparently, evil, anti-Semtic FBI agents have been sent by the Jew-hater in charge, Barak Hussein-From-Nigeria Obama, to arrest Eliyahu Weinstein a most holy and upright Jewish man from Lakewood on trumped up charges of fraud, money laundering, etc.

This is an outrage, a travesty and also a golden opportunity for me to cash in. I invite you to please join me in the great mitzvah of defending the indefensible, as follows:

For just $25 American dollars I promise to say 3 prayers every single day in which I will call upon Almighty God to undo this grave miscarriage of justice and return Eli Weinstein to the arms of his loving family. I will also throw in some impossible-to-ignore blessings for Zion, Justice, and 16 other wonderful things at no extra charge.

For just $50 American dollars, I promise to send Eliyahu Weinstein's defense team $40 American dollars. I understand that for those of you in the grips of Satanic forces it may seem like funneling the money through me is an unnecessary, extra step. Unfortunately those of you who have reached this self-evident conclusion are deranged, dangerous, and probably heretics besides. Trust me. God wants me to wet my beak.

For just 100 American dollars, I promise you multiple yeshuos and nechamos. Your fat, ugly, daughter will get married; your pimples will clear up; your cholent will never spoil; and your herring will always stink just as herring should. Oh, and Eli Weinstein will also get out of jail free. Guaranteed. Note: There is no time-frame. If none of this happens tomorrow, perhaps it will happen the next day. And if your fat, ugly daughter dies a spinster, rest assured the chuppa will take place in heaven, with all the angels as bridesmaids, and Moshe Rabaynu as mesader kedushin. You can trust me on this; also to doubt me is to doubt God, so beware.

For just $500 American dollars I will arrange to have three bloggers dedicate all of their Torah learning to the merit of Eliyahu Weinstein. Though it should be clear to you that a Lakewood resident like Eliyahu Weinstein has more merits then he will ever need, I really could use the 5 large. By the way, I do not plan to share any of the dough with the other bloggers, and would appreciate your keeping our arrangement on the QT.

DO NOT DELAY Every extra second it takes for you to send me money is an extra second that poor Eliyahu Weinstein must languish in jail with no access to his watches and cars.

Thanks in advance and may all your Torah wishes come true.

FrumSatire's thing here.

Search for more information about Eliyahu Weinstein at 4torah.com.