Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NYT's stupid article on an Israeli cookbook, and the stupid rabbinical comment it contained


Some Israeli has written a pork cookbook, and self-published it. Though fewer than 3000 copies of the book have sold, the New York Times sees a story. Their article about the book, and the non reaction from both the rabbinical and pork eating community is here.

Two Orthodox Rabbis were trotted out to give obligatory objections. One, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, says the book no one has bought "hurts" him but wisely tells the Times that interfering with the eating habits of secular Jews is not on the top of his list of priorities. The other, Shimon  Felix said "he thought Dr. Landau’s intent was “let’s stick it to the religious tradition.”

This, of course, is the intentional fallacy. Instead of responding to what the book actually says, the Rabbi assumes the author intended something, and responds to that instead. If the book, itself, does nothing provacative and is, as I presume, merely a collection of recipes, Shimon Felix is out of order, and guilty of making a baseless assumption. The article continues:

“There’s something childish to being so naughty,” the rabbi said. “It’s more mature and adult to look at this as an ancient tradition.”

Well, no, Rabbi, I disagree. There's something childish about assigning motives to people you've never met, and to books you haven't read. Perhaps the author of the book is the child, and grandchild of pork eaters. Perhaps he's always eaten pork, and sees nothing unusual about eating it. Or if the author grew up kosher, perhaps he's by now a comfortable atheist who has already satisfied himself that there is no God and no commandments. In either case would there anything "immature" or "naughty" about sharing some favorite recipes? The author of this book likes pork. That's all we know. Anything else is speculation and assumption.

By the way, New York Times,  I've also self-published a book that sold fewer than 3000 copies. And unlike the pork cookbook, mine was publicly burnt, so I'd venture to say it created more of a stir. So, how about doing a story on that?

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Does John Oliver go too far?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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You be the judge

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Hoshana Raba Notes

All week long, I like that hasidic sefard congregations do their hoshanos after halel. Its a nice convenience that I presume was originated because the earliest Hasidim weren't patient enough to stay until the end (1). On Hoshana Raba though, I prefer to pray with my own people. This is because some Hasidim blow the shofar after each circuit today (2) and I deeply dislike the practice. Additionally, it seems anti-climatic to do the 7 hoshanas, and the willow whipping before musaf.

MFY (on Twitter) says blowing the shofar today connects the Hoshanas to Joshua's 7 circuits around Yericho. He also says that shofar and prayers for rain go together like kugel and kishka. The latter idea has plenty of merit (3); I'm not sure about the former: Seven is a magic Jewish number (4). That's likely the common source for both Joshua's march and our trips around the bima today.


We started praying at 8 and were done before 10. Not bad. Some of my hasidic friends are still in shul, and can expect to be there until at least noon. This is because the davening is very long, but also because Hasidim treat it like a regular holiday, with holiday tunes, singing, a sermon, aliya auctions and mi shebayrachs at torah reading. Some also duchan.


Some, no doubt, will find this video deeply spiritual, and perhaps "moving". Not me. At best this is ostentatious behavior. At worst... well, draw your own conclusions.

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

(1) I made that up. I have no idea why, or even when, this custom was created. (I should look it up) However, the reason I invented fits with what I know about the earliest Hasidim and also creates a nice irony: Nowadays, those who daven ashkenaz are the ones who, per stereotype, duck out early.

(2) Not all Hasidim do this, but it seems relatively common.

(3) See any Mishna or Rambam on prayers for rain. Shafar blowing is always mentioned, and the last part of today's prayers are for sustenance.

(4) This explains:  It all started, by the way, with the seven visible planets.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ezra's Sukkos Part 2, or How did he use the arba minim?

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

One problem is that if you wish to remember the fruits of Israel, why not take them? The Rambam (there) gives an answer (The items we take instead are easy to find; likely to maintain freshness in way grapes, for example, won't.) A better solution to this question is in Leviticus 23:40, where the plain meaning seems to be that any fruit (or better yet any foliage), from any stately or majestic (fruit) tree, ie etz hadar is acceptable for the fulfillment of the mitzvah.

And, indeed, in the time of Ezra, this appears to be exactly what the people did, taking the branches of olive trees (together with olive branches and oil tree branches and myrtle branches and date branches and branches of thick trees) in fulfillment of Leviticus 23:40.

Here's the passage:
"And they found written in the Torah that YHWH commanded through Moses that the Children of Israel dwell in Booths (Succoth) in the Seventh month. And concerning that which they heard [in the public reading] they passed a voice through all their cities and Jerusalem saying 'Go out to the mountain and bring olive branches and oil tree branches and myrtle branches and date branches and branches of thick trees to make booths, as it is written.' And the people went out and they brought and they made for themselves booths, each man on his roof and in their courtyards and in the courtyard of the House of God and in the broad areas of the Water Gate and the broad areas of Ephraim Gate."
or in Hebrew
 וַֽיִּמְצְא֖וּ כָּת֣וּב בַּתֹּורָ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר צִוָּ֤ה יְהוָה֙ בְּיַד־מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֲשֶׁר֩ יֵשְׁב֨וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֧ל בַּסֻּכֹּ֛ות בֶּחָ֖ג בַּחֹ֥דֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִֽי׃

וַאֲשֶׁ֣ר יַשְׁמִ֗יעוּ וְיַעֲבִ֨ירוּ קֹ֥ול בְּכָל־עָרֵיהֶם֮ וּבִירוּשָׁלִַ֣ם לֵאמֹר֒ צְא֣וּ הָהָ֗ר וְהָבִ֙יאוּ֙ עֲלֵי־זַ֙יִת֙ וַעֲלֵי־עֵ֣ץ שֶׁ֔מֶן וַעֲלֵ֤י הֲדַס֙ וַעֲלֵ֣י תְמָרִ֔ים וַעֲלֵ֖י עֵ֣ץ עָבֹ֑ת לַעֲשֹׂ֥ת סֻכֹּ֖ת כַּכָּתֽוּב׃

וַיֵּצְא֣וּ הָעָם֮ וַיָּבִיאוּ֒ וַיַּעֲשׂוּ֩ לָהֶ֨ם סֻכֹּ֜ות אִ֤ישׁ עַל־גַּגֹּו֙ וּבְחַצְרֹ֣תֵיהֶ֔ם וּבְחַצְרֹ֖ות בֵּ֣ית הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים וּבִרְחֹוב֙ שַׁ֣עַר הַמַּ֔יִם וּבִרְחֹ֖וב שַׁ֥עַר אֶפְרָֽיִם׃

וַיַּֽעֲשׂ֣וּ כָֽל־הַ֠קָּהָל הַשָּׁבִ֨ים מִן־הַשְּׁבִ֥י ׀ סֻכֹּות֮ וַיֵּשְׁב֣וּ בַסֻּכֹּות֒ כִּ֣י לֹֽא־עָשׂ֡וּ מִימֵי֩ יֵשׁ֨וּעַ בִּן־נ֥וּן כֵּן֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עַ֖ד הַיֹּ֣ום הַה֑וּא וַתְּהִ֥י שִׂמְחָ֖ה גְּדֹולָ֥ה מְאֹֽד׃
Notice something else? According to this passage the four species mentioned in Leviticus were used as materials for building a Succah. Note that according to Neh 8:15 using the four species to build a Succah is what is required because "it is written". In other words, when the people read Lev 23:40 they understood it to be commanding the taking of the "four species" for the purpose of building Succot. To this day, Samritans do just this, building their Succot from fruit and palm fronds. See here. Later Chazal would interpret Leviticus differently, and rule that we're to take the four species and wave them around, but Ezra's interpretation seems at least as reasonable, and it does have more support in the text.

More: Josh Waxman has a series of posts on Nehemia 8:13-18 and how the four species are understood there.You can read them herehere, and here.

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Ezra's Sukkos Part 1

After Ezra publicly reads from the "book of the law of Moses" we're told that the people "found written in the law... that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month."

Nehemiah 8 continues:
So, the people went forth, and brought [olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees] and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness

How should the concientious and believing Jew understand these verses? There are at least three approaches.

See them after the jump

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chag Rishon rundown

Finish times: (all days started at 9)
Day 1: noon
Day 2: noon-ish
Shabbos: noon-ish

Reason for late finishes
Day 1: Yotzros
Day 2: Yotzros
Day 3: Koheles and the halel that never ends, it just went on and on my friends.

Neighborhood sukka hopping? No.
Rain delays? None
All Songs of Ascent recited at the Simchas bes Hashoeva? Yes
Meat at every meal? Are you kidding? [Note to scolds: Some achronim say meat is NOT required as meat in our day doesn't produce "simcha"]

More soon

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Chol Hamoed Outings: The Soundtrack

A Guest Post By E. Fink

For your typical frum family, Chol Hamoed is a time for family outings. (Check out this picture I took of our son on Venice Beach 150 steps away from my Shul.) When the whole family gets together in the car, some disagreements about music can ensue. I am the oldest of seven and my musical tastes matured earlier than that of my younger siblings (obviously) so when they wanted Uncle Moishy, I wanted MBD or Dveykus. Then we got the Marvelous Middos Machine. This was a great compromise because the songs were Abie Rottenberg songs, the story was entertaining for the younger children and the message was wholesome enough that we were (hopefully) learning something during the trip.

When our older son was old enough to understand the story we got all three MMM CDs for him (and us). He loved them and now that he is 7, he appreciates them even more while the almost 2 year old enjoys the music as well. Win / Win!

I recommend MMM for your family. The songs are good enough, the characters are funny enough and the lessons positive enough for everyone. The middos that the songs teach are important. (Not to get angry, not to take revenge, treat animals nicely, not to be greedy, respect your parents, ahavas Yisrael etc. among many others.)

However, listening to the CDs with a critical ear does raise the issue of some pernicious messages. For example, the MMM has a massive satellite on the roof of the home of Dr. Middos. He gets busted for not having a license ("A license? I didn't know I needed a license!?) But instead of requiring the good Doctor to get a license, the officer witnesses a Middos Alert and upon seeing how amazing the MMM is, he grants Dr. Middos a pardon and says that if anyone gives him any trouble - send him to me. Dr. Middos gets off the hook. There is no citation and now he doesn't even need a license. I can't help but think that this a subtle, but wrong message about how some frum people deal with the law and its enforcement. It's almost as if we are doing something so important that the laws don't apply to us... which of course is not the case.

In the end, Dr. Middos was pardoned and was in compliance with the law. It just makes me a little uneasy that Dr. Middos didn't just get the license...

Of course, listening to CDs that were recorded 25 years ago have many funny anachronisms that your kids will not understand and will make you chuckle. (Remember Construx?)

So if you're ears are bleeding from too much Country Yossi and Shmuel Kunda (generally silly CDs with little meaningful content) go and get the Marvelous Middos Machine and enjoy...!

(This was totally not a paid advertisement - just a friendly recommendation)

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Christological Artscroll

Some congregations say extra piyutim, or yoztrot, on Sukkot.  The very first one, said at the beginning of the Reader's repetition on the first day's Shachris, connects Yom Kippur with Sukkot.

"We're here," the poem says (paraphrased) because we survived the judgment on Yom Kippur. Sinners have been destroyed, and Satan has been turned aside, and all we have before us is the joy of the holiday and the chance to do God's will." The lulav and esrog are mentioned, and though I forget the specifics, I know (because I quadruple checked) that there's nothing in the poem to support how the Artscroll commentary takes it.

According to the Artscroll commentary, the poem claims that the lulav and esrog are held up as a sign of our victory over Satan. If it were actually in the poem, this would be astounding as it seems like a clear reference to the cross, what it symbolizes, and how its used. But as I say, I don't think the text supports this reading. So it wasn't the mideival Jewish poet who l tried to connect his lulav and esrog to the artifacts of the surrounding culture.  It was Artscroll -- which is astounding enough, I suppose. 

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

TDS pokes out Obama's eye. Again.

Last night, TDS destroyed Barak Obama yet again... just like how the FOX shows used to destroy GWB back in the day... Oh... wait

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Meet the Depressed
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

I also like how a real, unscreened, unprepared person was permitted to directly challange the president on TV at the Town Hall meeting. This is also exactly like how things went at those GWB town halls back in the day.... Oh... wait.

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Shopping for esrogim, Ushpizin, &c

I'm starting to think this whole esrog thing is a scam. Have you noticed they all look the same? Sure some are straighter, or cleaner, or more yellow, or more green than others, but for the most part there are minor differences. Yet, these minor differences can add upwards of $75 to the price. I can't understand it. In fact, I've been buying esrogim for year, and I always get the one that looks nicest to me. Some years, the most gorgeous esrog (again, to me) costs $20; sometimes it costs $75. What's the difference? I have no idea. In each case, I'm buying the one I like best.


I shop for my arbah minim in an open market where dozens of vendors hawk their wares. Every year, I visit 10 or more stalls, and I've still never seen a $300/1000 NIS esrog like the yahalom which played such a crucial role in the film Ushpizin. Prices, this year, ranged from $20 per set to about $100. And, the last time I watched the movie, I hit pause at a moment when the 1000 NIS filled the screen, and gave it a close look. (right) Its a little crooked, no? And not very bumpy. So what made it so expensive? 


Speaking of Ushpizon here's a great collection of clips from the movie (below). The lip-synching woman gets me every time, though in general, I find it hard to relate to people as intensely emotional as the Bellanga couple (watch the clip to see what I mean). Don't get me wrong. I'm not judging such people. It's how they are, and that's fine. I just take issue with the widely held belief that there's something more authentic, or more deeply religious, or more honest, or more legitimately spiritual, about that particular personality type.  I accept that King David was the sort to go around "leaping and whirling before the Lord.” [(II Sam. 6:16)] But that's not me, and there has to be room in Judaism for both types.

Ok, you may be asking, what about the requirement to "be happy." Surely, that's God telling you how to feel, right? Well not so fast. The verse is question says "וְהָיִ֖יתָ אַ֥ךְ שָׂמֵֽח" and most translate this as "you should be really happy." Samson Rephael Hirsch takes it differently
In my humble opinion, this explanation is to be interpreted as follows, in terms of the context of what precedes it: The waste left over from your threshing floor and vats is used to make the booths for your festival. In these nomadic booths you experience the joy of national elation with your entire household, in your settlements. Moreover, during the period of ingathering you leave the field and vineyard, the threshing floor and vat, and you meld with the national gathering that assembles at the Lord’s Temple, at His chosen place, for the source of your blessedness and joy is not in your settlements, your fields and vineyards, your threshing floor and vats; rather, it is the Lord your G-d Who bestows this bountiful blessing on you from the place of His Torah and through the means of His Teaching, if you dwell in His tent faithfully. This adherence to the Lord and His Teaching, not the city and field, nor the threshing floor and vat, is what gives you joy, and your joy shall be such as to fulfill the words, “you shall having nothing but joy.”
You shall have nothing but joy. This, I think, a better description of the original Sukkot experience. The crops are in, and you're in the very best position of the year: There's no heavy work to do, your money for the year has been made, and you've got plenty of food in storage. All you have is joy.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Things I wonder while waiting in line at the stationary store

Suppose we took the Koran and printed in on paper such as the kind depicted at left. 

And then suppose we took our Koran printed on flag  paper and burnt it. 

Who'd go more medieval? The Muslims or the Palin People?

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How prophecy works today

Seems a crazy preacher woman who writes for  Renew America, the important conservative web site, saw a scorpion crawl out from under one of her five (!) broken down cars, and thinks this absolutely, totally, must have meant something important. So she prayed on it, and came back with something weapons grade insane:
If America had remained with God, we would not be weak and facing Islam. Allah is nothing. God is everything. If you don't know Him, I pray there is still time to seek Him while you can.
Here's Wikipedia: Allah (Arabic: الله‎ Allāh, IPA: [ʔalˤːɑːh] ( listen)) is the standard Arabic name for God. While the term is best known in the West for its use by Muslims as a reference to God, it is used by Arabs of all Abrahamic faiths, including Mizrahi Jews, Bahá'ís and Eastern Orthodox Christians, in reference to God..

Secrets of Jewish cooking

I like the food shows, and one of the best is Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with Guy Fieri. Each episode features Guy showing up at some hole-in-the-wall to sample the house specialty. Usually, he likes it, and indicates his pleasure with exaggerated facial expressions, moaning, and deep breathing. (I call the genre "food porn" for a reason.) The other night, Guy was in some dirty diner, located in Armpit, America eating scrapple.

Briefly, you make scrapple out of leftover scraps. [Unless it was first made by some guy named Scrapple, I presume that's the origin of the dish's name.] Start by tossing pork bones into a pot of hot water. After they've boiled for a while, remove the meat and puree it. Add some cornmeal to this disgusting slurry, and bake the whole, reeking, mess until firm. That's scrapple. Judging from how Guy's eyeballs bulged, he liked it. I thought the whole thing looked horrible, so of course I got on the phone to tell people about it. 

The first person I called, shared my disgust. The next, pointed out something interesting. "That's pretty much how you make gefilte fish"

And of course he was right.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Going Back Home For Yom Kippur

A Guest Post By E. Fink

This post was written by my Father in Law, Shimon Pepper. My Father in Law was raised in a traditional Jewish home, not a very religious home like the religious home in which he raised his children. He went back to the synagogue of his youth for Yom Kippur this year.

His experience was inspiring and the account of his experience is beautiful and important.

I recently spoke at a High School orientation and urged the students to “Listen to your messages” especially during the Yom Noraim (the high holiday period). So when a random text message arrived on my BlackBerry with the following message: “A Few Men needed to help ensure a Minyan in Fall River Massachusetts”, I was eager to respond. While I live in the culturally rich community of Monsey, New York with three Shuls on my block and almost 60 Jewish Schools, I was born and raised in Fall River. When I was growing up in the 1950′s and 60′s there were around 3000 Jews out of a population of close to 100,000 people. Today the Jewish Community has dwindled dramatically through outmigration, assimilation, and aging.

For me this was a unique opportunity to give back to my community in some small way and to help the shul that helped me and shaped much of my personal history. In this shul, I first learned “Alef Bais” and Mishnayos, (with Rabbi Lipschutz and Chazan Schneider) and even delivered my first complete Haftorah (which ironically enough was Maftir Yonah – which I chanted again on this Yom Kippur). More than these “activities”, the Adas Israel Shul gave me memories: memories of my zaydie and bubby whose hybrid European and American cultures provided me with a glimpse and a small anchor back to the old country (Belarus circa 1910). It gave me memories of the years I attended services on Erev Pesach with my uncle with whom I shared the distinct merit of being a “first born son”; the memory of pleasantly surprising my parents on one Neilah afternoon by making certain that despite the fact that I was a “1960′s college student” I was not going to forsake the precious moment when G-d opened up the gates of repentance; and my Aufruf held in the very same Shul – more than 36 years ago.

These thoughts raced through me as I headed North from New York to Providence on Route 95, and then 20 miles East over the bridge to Fall River on Route 195.

I was also motivated to go because I had recently learned that the Shul was up for sale. After all, how could the 70 remaining members, most of whom were in their 80′s maintain the synagogue. Minyanim were harder and harder to come by even on Shabbosim. Even on Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur. I felt as Avrohom Fried sings about Moshiach, “Now’s the Time”.

I spent 26 magical hours in the shul. In fact, from 6:00 PM Erev Yom Kippur until after Shofar blowing, at 8:15 PM the next evening, I remained inside the building. I even slept in the shul on an air mattress which the visiting chazan had brought from New Jersey.

I had five significant reactions during my experience.

Gratitude: I most profoundly felt gratitude and humility that the Kadosh Baruch Hu had provided me with a “GPS which recalculated my direction” and put my family and me on the right roads. After all, the five little Peppers had all grown up here in Fall River and today, Baruch Hashem each of us have families (spouses, children, and grandchildren) who are fully committed frum Jews.

Sadness: As I entered the sanctuary I had a visceral reaction to the brightness. The shul was lit up. There were 1155 names on the nine memorial plaques which illuminated the shul. Yet there were just 16 men and less than 20 women at the height of attendance on Yom Kippur. I thought and actually hummed the following:

Where have all the children gone long time passing?
Where have all the yidden gone long time ago?
Gone to places everywhere but most about their Judaism they are unaware?
When will they ever learn? How can they can they recognize that they must learn?

Family Pride: Of the 30 people present, about one third were family members. While these children and offspring of my Uncle Zack had only received the same rudimentary Hebrew school education that most young people in New England get (as did I), these cousins have worked tirelessly to keep the shul alive and to breath a little Jewish life into the community. I felt the concept of the Pintele Yid in action.

Confused: In Monsey and in other well developed communities, Jews have labels for each other: FFB, BT, ashkenazi and sepharedi, Litvish and chasidish, Frum, Frei, the list goes on. In Fall River there we no labels. Just the Jewish children, of Avraham, Yitzchok ,and Yaakov. While not technically very religious or observant, these Jews showed reverence during the service. They didn’t talk during prayers and stood throughout neila as the holy ark was opened.

Responsibility: The Yom Kippur experience gave me a renewed sense of Jewish Ownership: the world was created for me and that which I do matters. I chanted along with the chain, conversed with everyone during the breaks, and felt that my tefillos and those of my Fall River brothers and sisters were inextricably connected.

This was a most profound Yom Tov for me, one which allowed me to remember the past, live the present, and trust the future. I felt a connection from generation to generation and I felt the renewed sense of responsibility that all Jews are responsible for one another and that indeed we are one people with a single destiny.

Am Yisroel Chai.

- Shimon Pepper, September 2010.

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Yom Kippur 5771 run down

Here's my Yom Kippur 5771 run down

Final meal (we eat once, not twice*)
  • Melon
  • Soup with kreplach
  • Roast chicken
  • Roast potatoes
  • Israeli salad
  • Chocolate cake
Daytime Services
  • Started at 8 am 
  • Finished at 3 p.m.
  • Started again at 5:15 p,m
  • Finished for good on time

Break-fast **
  • Havdalah
  • Strawberry rhubarb pie
  • Mushroom barley soup
  • Shnitzel
  • More pie
Other notes:
  • As usual, the music in my shul was very good, though less Deveykus and no MBD at all would have been even better.
  • There is exactly one way to do Avos, one way to do Aleinu, and one way to do Neilah. If you're not going to do it that way, don't be shat'z.
  • I was less annoyed than usual at the self-absorbed people who sit with a Gemarah open, oblivious to the service going on around them.
  • I was more amazed than usual at the skill, brilliance, and talent that went into composing the shachris Imru Laylokim. It was as if I was seeing it for the first time. (the musaf Imru Laylokim is less good for a few reasons).
  • The four maariv piyutim, if I haven't said it before, are perfect, and a chazan who debases them with a bubblegum tune should be dragged out of the building and kicked to the curb (In my shul the chazan's selections were fine.)
  • The Rabbi spoke after Kol Nidrei, and did not speak at all on Yom Kippur (which is exactly as it should be.)
* For reasons I can't fathom, the Hasidic Jews, and those who wish to emulate them (also for reasons I can't fathom) have two, big sit-down meals on erev Yom Kippur. There's nothing wrong with this.
** Because Shabbos and Yom Kippur coincided, eating was not permitted until after Havdalah. If you goofed, and ate before a man made havdalah for you (Surprise ladies: Orthodox Judaism frowns on women making their own havdalah) you have to do the whole fast over again. (KIDDING!) (only about the last part) (the rest is true)

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Ne'ilah Shofar in Mandate Palestine

Click below to watch a short documentary about some Jewish teenagers who defied British policemen to blow the shofar at the conclusion of Yom Kippur in Mandate days.

Their story is interesting in the extreme, though I'm not convinced it was worth the risk or the effort. Blowing shofar at the end of Yom Kippur is deeply significant, of course, but its it required by Jewish law? Are we to put ourselves at risk to do it? Or does the symbolic value of performing this rite at the Kotel, and sticking a finger, so to speak, in the eyes of the Mandatory authorities, outweigh everything?

Are there parallels between the inspiring acts of defiance depicted here and the attempts made in our day by Jewish women to read the Torah or to pray as a congregation at the kotel? In 1930 the British arrested shofar blowing Jews at the kotel; today the Israelis arrests Torah reading women there: Is this analogous? I don't know, but what seems an unmistakable theme of this video is an idea propagated by men like Malcom X: Talk takes you only so far. No one really respects you until you take action and stand up for yourself.

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A Yom Kippur Appeal (That Won’t Cost you a Penny)

A Yom Kippur Appeal (That Won’t Cost you a Penny)
By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Many of the kids my colleagues and I work with all year long return to shul for Yom Kippur – even though they may no longer be observant. Often, their dress and overall appearance are at odds with the standards of our community and they may be standing at the outer edge of the shul.

On their behalf, I humbly appeal to you to reach out to them warmly and welcome them back. Please don’t comment on their appearance or how long they have been away. (I don’t mean to be negative Erev Yom Kippur, but so many of the kids tell me that well-intentioned, decent people ‘kibbitz’ with them about the length of their absence or their clothing – and how deeply hurt they are by that.)

Don’t misread their discomfort as disrespect and their tentativeness as a lack of commitment. Just walk over to him/her and tell them how nice it is to see them. Invite them to sit next to you – and permit them the space to turn down your invitation. I assure you that whether or not they accept it; they will be grateful to you for your unconditional acceptance. (I ask that you take a few minutes and read the last few paragraphs of the column below which I published in Mishpacha Magazine a few years back about a similar encounter in a shul that took place thirty years ago.)

As we will soon read in the beautiful and haunting Tefilla Zakka of Rabbi Avraham Danzig before Kol Nidrei this evening, “Avinu Malkeinu, rachem aleinu k’rachem av al b’noi shemarad b’aviv ……”

“Our Father and King, have mercy on us as a father has mercy on his son who rebelled against him and left his home; [and] when he returns to his father with shame and tears, it is the nature of the father to have mercy on his son.”

In the zechus of us welcoming our wayward children back home with open arms, so too, shall Hashem envelope us in His welcoming embrace and grant us a year filled with fulfillment, joy and happiness.

Best wishes for a G’mar Chasima Tova

Yakov Horowitz

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More Kol Nidrei Experiences

Three more Kol Nidre experiences have been added (in the comments) to the five I posted yesterday. I find this fascinating, and encourage you to add your own.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wishing You a Successful Yom Kippur

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Please be mochel me if I offended you in any way. You have nothing to worry about on my end.

I put this video together for today's post. It is a video of of one the most inspiring Jewish songs I have heard.

Please enjoy and have a successful Yom Kippur.

- E. Fink

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Intolerance: Or how RW bloggers and FOX people are like mullahs

by Lawrence Wright
SEPTEMBER 20, 2010

When a dozen cartoons satirizing the Prophet Mohammed appeared in the conservative Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, in September, 2005, there was only a muted outcry from the small Danish Muslim community, and little reaction in the rest of the Muslim world. Six months later, however, riots broke out and Danish embassies were burned; more than a hundred people died. Assassination threats were made, and continue to this day.

Read the rest after the jump

Sectarian Differences on Kol Nidrei Night

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ibn Ezra's War on Piyutim

The following note from YeedleYid got me thinking again how nothing about contemporary Judasim was inevitable. Piyutin might have been banned, chicken-parm might have been approved, and our idea of shabbos could have turned out altogether different.

Why The Ibn Ezra Is Wrong
A guest post by Yeedle

In Ecclesiastes 5:1 it says: Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

The Iben Ezra, in his commentary ,goes into a lengthy discussion about saying (or rather: not saying) Piyutim (poems) while one davens, specifically the piyutim of Rabbi Eliezer HaKalir.

It is too long to reprint it in it's entirety, but here are a few citations:

In the poems of Rabbi Eliezer HaKalir, may he rest in peace, there are four difficulties. The first one: Most of the words he uses in his poems / piyutim are made up of riddles and allegories. ... Would anybody dare say "Blessed Are You, Lion", because it says (Jeremiah 25:30) God will roar like a lion?! Is this what God wants from us?! Why shouldn't we learn from Solomon the most clever of all, who prayed in the most simple Hebrew with no allegories and riddles? And the same goes for Daniel who prayed in a language everyone understood! We never find a prayer that Chaza"l constituted with words that are riddles and can't be understood literally. 
The second matter is that HaKalir uses phraseology from talmud, which is known that a lot of talmud isn't written in Hebrew. Why do we need this trouble of praying in foreign languages?
The third problem of HaKalir is that his usage of Hebrew is messed up, turning feminine words into masculine and vice versa.
The fourth and last is that his poems are full of Midrashim and Aggadic stuff, and Chaza"l already told us: The verse never 'goes out' of its simple meaning.

The IE also adds a interesting question and answer, which can be said about many things and not only about poems:

There are those who ask me: How do you dare disagree on the Lion (i.e. HaKalir) after his death? My answer to them is: We are all made of flesh and blood, and therefore no one is infallible. We know that Daniel was a prophet, and was able to contend all of the magicians of Babylonia, and yet he erred with his calculation, as Chaza"l tell us in Megila (12a)

This is in a nutshell what the IE has to say about poems during davening in general, and about HaKalir's poems in particular.

The IE finishes off:
In my opinion, one should rather not pray only the regular prayers. And our words of prayer should be few, so that our prayer won't be sinful.

The later gedolei yisrael like the Chasam Sofer, Rabbi Akiva Eiger and others, strongly felt that one should say the piyutim, and to abolish the custom of saying the piyutim would be a wrong thing to do.

Rabbi Akiva Eiger writes in a letter:

The Good Lord will forgive The Ibn Ezra on his great error in this matter.

But here is an original explanation, given by one of the leading Chasidic Rabbis of yore, to explain how  a great person such as the IE could go so wrong about such a fundamental issue:

This is analogous to a person who walks in the woods at night. It is pitch dark and he can't see anything. Suddenly, he notices a fire burning far away.If this person has strong feet, he will run towards the source of light so that he will be able to see. If he has strong eyes, he will strain his eyes, so he will be able to see even the source of light is far away. 
Those who were in the generations after the destruction of the Temple, still had the light of the Temple to illuminate their way. We, in our generations can already see from afar the light of Mashiach. But the Iben Ezra, he was in a period of complete darkness. The light of the Temple was gone already, and the light of Mashiach has not arrived yet. Thus, he was left in complete total darkness, and that's the reason he said what he said about HaKalir.
(Rabbi  Pinchas from Koritz 1726-1791)

Full text of the IE's objection to piyutim after the jump

A 3/4 defense of piyutim

I put up versions of this post every year. The first one appeared on October 7, 2005. Then I was completely in favor of piyutim, and had no patience or sympathy for anyone who thought differently. You might say I was a snob. Today, I still think piyutim are wonderful, but agree that if most people find them uninspiring we should remove them from the service, instead of playing make believe. 

Isn't it odd that the frum thing to do nowadays is to complain about the High Holiday piyutim Some say they are boring, others argue they should be dropped from the service. I hear it in yeshivish shuls. I hear it in shtiebles, too. And the evidence of my own eyes is incontrovertible. Everywhere I go, I see men who self-identify as very frum, or as utterly and completely "Torah True", ignoring the piyutim. None of this makes any sense to me. Also confusing is the claim, often heard and often repeated, that davening is not a show.

I don't think the composers of the piyutim would agree.

Aside from the silent Amidah, which was set aside for silent reflections and meditations, and the Torah reading, the tefillah was designed to sweep you up in the mood, a mood that is set by the liturgical readings (piyutim) and the sacred music (chazanut.) Every so often, you are called to participate in the pageant - during modim at oleinu, for example, or during the avoda when everyone becomes an actor in the events the Reader is describing. The piyutim were (for the most part)  written as introductions to the avoda, to oleinu, and to vidui, and they were designed (for the most part)  expressly to create a mood, or to warm you up, so to speak, for the key parts of the service.

The strange, new idea that you're supposed to sit with your forehead scrunched in rapt concentration for the full service would be foreign to the men who composed the tefillah, imho. To some extent, they designed tefillah not only to be enjoyed, but to be experienced. The philistine complaining about music and poetry I hear every year sounds a lot like the griping you get when you accompany a small child to the symphony or the opera.

And that analogy about the opera is meant to work on many levels because I believe the piyutim need to be appreciated as art. What else did those who elected to include them in the davening expect us to do with them? They're not magic spells, or kabbalistic formulas. They're poems that are meant to be appreciated as poems, and that are meant to have the affect on you that is accomplished by all good poetry.

If a poem doesn't mean anything to you - especially a poem that the Rabbis thought appropriate for Yom Kippur davening - perhaps you owe it to yourself to find out what you are missing? And if the cause is lost, and we're simply not capable anymore of appreciating this particular art form, why don't we admit defeat, face reality, and remove the piyutim from the service? Here's another analogy: Shul architecture. When the money is available, we construct sacred space that we find significant, rather then employing the forms and styles our ancestors would have appreciated.  We no longer ask shul-goers to sit in dimly-lit Gothic interiors, nor do we expect anyone to spend the day staring at a crazily-elaborate Baroque aron kodesh. These styles have been phased out, because they no longer work, by which I mean we no longer find them inspiring or significant. If the consensus is that piyutim no longer work, perhaps this style of liturgy should be phased out as well.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Leading Conservative Commentator Wishes for U.S. to be More Like Syria

Here's Cal Thomas from Clown Hall
We won't win this war if we permit the uncontrolled construction of mosques, as well as Islamic schools, some of which already have sown the seeds from which future terrorists will be cultivated. We won't win this war if we continue to permit the large-scale conversion to Islam of prison inmates, many of whom become radicalized and upon release enlist in al-Qaida's army.
And if we continue to allow Satmar Hasidim the right to procreate we're soon going to be ruled by someone named Teitelbaum!
Even Syria understands the threat better than our own government. The New York Times reported on Sept. 3 that the Syrian government has asked imams for recordings of their Friday sermons and has begun closely monitoring what is taught in religious schools: "(Syria), which had sought to show solidarity with Islamist groups and allow religious figures a greater role in public life, has recently reversed course, moving forcefully to curb the influence of Muslim conservatives in its mosques, public universities and charities."
Yes, indeed. Let's model ourselves on the best practices of the anti-Freedom, America-hating, oppressed, depressed, and repressed Middle East. Good thinking.
What does Syria know that we refuse to acknowledge out of fear of offending "sensibilities"?
Its not about "sensibilities" Benito. It's about fundamental freedoms, our founding values, and the rock-solid idea that free expression and diversity make us stronger, smarter, better and happier.

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Yechiel Spero Wants Women Back in the Kitchen

A Guest Post By E. Fink

This item was sent to me by Dag and apparently he sent it to some other bloggers as well (see Orthonomics for her take).

The Yated Chinuch Roundtable is one of the more interesting parts of the paper. I have particular interest as my father is one of the members of the roundtable (his is the voice of reason).

Last week the question was:
As the mother of, B"H, a nice sized family with teenage girls, I would like to ask for the opinion of the chosheve panelists as we begin a new year, with its demanding schedule.

We are not a chassidishe family, but I have noticed something about the way many of the chassidishe girls schools run their curriculum and schedule that we might well learn from. Their school week runs from Sunday through Thursday. Because Friday is erev Shabbos Kodesh, the girls stay home and help prepare for Shabbos. Last year, I 
received a letter from my daughter's principal stating that school is 6 days a week and that my daughter had missed 3 Fridays, and was likely to be penalized for too many absences. I spoke to teacher and explained my position, that I need my daughter's help on erev Shabbos Kodesh. I suggested that they poll other mothers and assured them that many feel as I do, that they would prefer to have their daughters at home on Friday. 

The teacher told me that this only the practice in chassidishe schools. but I wonder why we stress academics so much and are not spending more time teaching our girls how to run a Yiddishe home. Pardon me for using this expression but I think you will understand me when I say that when our daughters get married there should not be 'baptism by fire'; they need to know how to prepare for Shabbos.
Spero took this as an opportunity to remind us all that women belong in the kitchen. Short version: The only thing a girl needs to know is how to bake a cake. The need for girls school as an eis laasos lahashem - why? not because they need jobs or stimulation, rather, because otherwise they would be lured by shopping. The money quote: "Ideally girls should learn how to be housewives".

Perhaps I would have offered my response for this blog post but I think my father did a good job answering the question. Shorter version: The programs offered to our girls need to be academically ambitious, intellectually stimulating and made relevant to their lives. Also if you have kollel then you need to have women working, if they are working they need an education. And, having school on Friday has not compromised the next generation's ability to take care of a home.

Personally, I find it offensive that the "get back in the kitchen" movement still has legs. Not only is it wrong, it is self contradictory within the prevalent kollel system. If the wife is baking and the husband is learning who is providing? You can't have both.

An anecdote: My aunt is a psychiatrist. She went to school in the early 80's when there were far fewer Orthodox Jewish women professionals. (Not including my grandmother who is a psychologist.) Before she went, she asked R' Yaakov Weinberg (Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel) what he thought. He replied that there will certainly be a need for frum, female psychiatrists and that she was doing a great chesed to the community by going to school.

Link to scan of article: Here

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Rabbi Akiva's homily on Teshuva

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In which the naked, unrehabilitated biases of Fox News are once again exposed

Noteworthy moments in this clip:

(1) Before bashing FOX, Jon first takes a shot at MSNBC
(2) The little story comfortable conservatives tell about how people only object to THAT PARTICULAR mosque in THAT PARTICULAR location, and not mosques, Muslims or Islam in general is once again shown to be a baldfaced lie.
(3) The (lame) Torah joke (Honestly, its not really a joke.)
(4) The clip includes the segment from CNN in which the Iman essentially debunks every lie conservatives tell about him. Specifically, he denounces Hamas, and says he won't take money from any questionable sources. Does Fox care? What do you think?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Argument of the Millennium

Which is the bonobo
 and which is Megan McCardle? 
Megan McCardle at the Atlantic:
For example, like a lot of evolutionary biology critiques, this one leans heavily on bonobos (at least so far). Here’s the thing: humans aren’t like bonobos. And do you know how I know that we are not like bonobos? Because we're not like bonobos. [Emphasis SIC]
Now that is some flashy and skillful arguing. Do you think I might get a prestigious gig blogging for one of the best magazines in the country if I start "proving" my points by repeating my points using italics?

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Me and my favorite machzor

My favorite machzor is the zichron lipa a pocket sized, hard cover,  ashkenaz machzor that goes with me even when I have the misfortune of davening with sefardim.

Pocket size is better (for as long as my eyes last) because I can hold it in my hand, easily and comfortably. And if it closes by itself,  as some complain the small machzorim do when they are left unattended on a table, you know what I do? I take three seconds and flip it back to the right page. Three seconds.

I'll happily pay those three second as often as needed if it means I get a machzor that is light, and can be held easily with one hand.

Pocket sized rules. I have no love at all for bulky, cyclopean machzorim that remind me of the too-big book Popes use at mass. Another benefit of the smaller machzorim is that they reduce the need for tables and removing the tables reduces crowding and makes everyone more comfortable.

The Birnbaum machzor isn't bad either, It offers a better translation and commentary as compared with the Art Scroll. Two examples of Birnbaum's superiority : (1) In the Art Scroll, several piyutim are attributed to annonymous; in the Birnbaum most of the "annonymous" authors are identified. (2) Art Scroll insists that the acrostics have "kabbalistic" significance, and provides drivel-heavy explanations of the method; Birnbaum tells the truth, i.e., in the days before the printing press, acrostics were an essesntial memory aid. The downside of Birnbaum is that is doesn't come in a pocket-sized, and owing to a flaky eccentricity of the editor, the book is hard to use. According to the Introduction, Philip Birnbaum fretted that using fonts of different sizes or weights might suggest to a reader that not all of the prayers are equal. Rather than mislead someone, he chose to use the exact same font style for every prayer. This was not a user-friendly decision. The use of one font makes it harder for a skimmer to find the place, and dramatically reduces the visual appeal of the page.

If anyone knows of a critical-edition of the Yom Kippur machzor, please provide me with a link.

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Signs, Omens and Portents

The original post:

It has been said that omens are of significance; therefore, one should make a regular habit of eating, at the beginning of the year, guord, fenugreek, leek, beet and dates [as these grow in profussion and are symbolic of prosperity... (Horayot 12a)

Some other suggestions:

Let it be Your will, O' Lord our God, the God of our ancestors...

...that we all live in harmony.

Crown Royal
...that we rise to every occasion.

...that our evil inclination be buried.

...that accusations against us be impeached.

...that we enjoy peace.

...that we figure out what you want from us

...that our enemies be squashed

Celeries and raisons
...that we all receive a raise in salary

Reader suggestions 2006

you should eat a lot of corn to match these corny joke (Rare Find)

kirby - curbed be your dog
pear - may you find it easy to find a clean pair of underpants every morning
parsnip - may your bris not be too short, nor too long
beet - may the beat go on, bro'
eggs - eggsellent source of B12 vitamins
bacon - may everything you put in your over bake on
Shevach - on your children, not on your dinner plate
black eyed peas - good music (Endless Silliness)

beets- may we beat our enemies
carrots- may our enemies be hit by cars, or may they rot (Avi Grossman)

Tuna so that our orchestras will be neither flat nor sharp. (priss)

We take several varities of deli meat and make a yehi ratzon that we should only see besuros (basaros) tovos. (Voice of Reason)

Reader suggestions 2009

Pis-tachois ...That we may have better urine flow.
Honey ...That we may get along with our spouse.
Plums ...That we may plumb the mysteries of our Torah.
Carobs ...That we may win a vacation for two in the Caribbian.
Beets ...That we may stop beating our wives. (letz)

Broccoli -- she-t'hei bracha li (tesyaa)

Ratatouille - that we don't rat on our colleagues (esp good for Republicans ;))
Kishke - that we get mixed up round non-Jewish girls
Kashe - that we get to ask our Rov lots of questions and/or that we stop accepting cheques and credit cards
Martini - that our (Yiddishe) mother loses weight in the coming year
Borekas - that we work hard (SM)

Sour sticks- our enemies should have a sour year
Laffy Taffy-we should have a yr full of laughs (YC's kids)

Mango: May our enemies be mangled.
Osem Bisli: May we all have an "awesome" year. (Jameel)

Pickles ...the we should conquer the entire Land of Israel (Lurker)

Cake... so that our work may be as easy as cake.
Smarties... so that we will grow more intelligent this year.
Reeses... so that our arguments may have more reason.
Skittles... so that we may become better in our work.
Kudos... so that we may get credit for the work that we do.
Pocky... so that we can put our problems into our pockets like our presidents tend to.
PayDay... so that they may be larger.
If you're not one of the rich Jewish power elite: 100 Grand... so that we may become one of the rich Jewish power elite.
If you are a single straight female or a single gay male: Mr. Goodbar... self-explanatory.
If you are a single straight male or a single gay female: Hershey... figure it out.
If you are pregnant: Milky Way... self-explanatory.
Likewise, one should refrain from:
Snickers... as it will encourage lashon hara.
M&Ms... as they will encourage our children to listen to violent music.
Butterfinger... as they will encourage us to steal.
Buttons... as they will encourage us to gain weight. (Author's Note: As though all of this candy won't make us gain weight anyway.)
Peeps... as they will encourage us to look at other people as sexual objects rather than human beings.
NutRageous... as they will encourage us to insanity.
Wonka Bar... as they will encourage us to sexual immorality. (kari)

Lettuce: Let us see the light of Moshiach soon. (Garnel Ironheart)

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Why I (E. Fink) Won't Be Waving a Chicken Over My Head This Week

A Guest Post By E. Fink

For hundreds of years, rabbis have been trying to ban kaparos. The Rashba, the Ramban, the Bais Yosef and more recently, the Aruch Hashulchan all wanted to ban kaparos. Some did, and no one listened, others did not because they knew no one would listen.

Classically, the primary halachic objections to kaparos are the issue of "darkei Emori" (pagan ritual) and the likelihood of flawed shechita due to the high volume of chickens being shechted in a short amount of time.

Kaparos lives on. In fact kaparos with chickens has only increased in popularity in my lifetime.

I think it is time to end the kaparos with chickens custom. Here is why:
  1. Many smart rabbis have tried to ban the practice already. (see above for the two primary reasons - pagan / bad shechita)
  2. When the great rabbis of yore try to ban a practice and the PEOPLE are persistent... I am suspicious.
  3. The "reasons" given to justify kaparos are purely kabbalistic and have no other source in nigleh.
  4. It appears like magic.
  5. Saying the formula of "zeh tmurasi" while holding an animal is an activity that is dangerously close to acting as if the chicken is a korban. That is assur.
  6. Money is just as "effective".
  7. The treatment of the animals before, after and during is often tzaar baalei chaim. Chickens were found wandering the streets of Brooklyn one year after a rain forced the organizers indoors and the chickens were neglected. The unlucky chickens drowned in their cages.
  8. The HUGE chillul Hashem that has occurred in many locations over the last few years. Chickens dying from dehydration, feces and feathers on the street for days after Yom Kippur and other health violations as well.
  9. It looks pagan. Thus it makes Orthodox Judaism look pagan in the eyes of others. This might also qualify as a chillul Hashem.
  10. A diyuk in the Aruch Hashulchan (605:4). Why do we need a diyuk? Because some people don't use common sense (1-8) unless there is a "source" in a relied upon halachic decisor. So for them...
Here is my diyuk:

"(Use the chicken that you use for kaparos for your erev Yom Kippur meal or to provide a meal for a poor person.) One is not permitted to search for a WHITE chicken to use for kaparos. This is avoda zara. Whatever one has on hand is what they should use for kaparos."

I think it is fair to say that the Aruch Hashulchan is saying that people were shechting a chicken for the seudah anyway (the same way they would if they would shecht a chicken for any festive meal), they were using a chicken from the backyard. Everyone had chickens that they would use for eggs and eventually for meat, if they wanted to use one of those chickens for kaparos it was okay. However, it was not permissible to seek out a specific chicken (like a white chicken). One was only supposed to use what was on hand.

I think it is likely that the Aruch Hashulchan would prohibit using ANY chickens today when we are ALL seeking a specific chicken as none of us have chickens on hand. The idea was that if you were already shechting a chicken you could add some extra meaning to the procedure by contemplating the irony of the situation. As you were heading to judgment, you were killing a chicken. But for us, who never touch chickens (unless we are shlugging kaparos) are in effect doing just what the Aruch Hashulchan prohibits - seeking after a chicken for kaparos.

There ya go. I don't wave chickens and neither should you.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Time Magazine's Nice Article on Israel

A Guest Post by E. Fink

Time Magazine's September 13th cover article is called "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace".

Unlike some other bloggers, I have actually read the article, not just the excerpt or the headline.

It is an unfortunate title for an article. Unfortunate because it has set off a firestorm of condemnation and consternation from Israel lovers everywhere. But even more unfortunate because the title is betrayed by the actual article.

The article is not about why Israel doesn't care about peace. The article is about why Israeli citizens are not obsessed with peace.

And that is a compliment.

That is a good thing.

The article blames the Palestinian leadership for failing to agree to several peace deals. The moderate Palestinians are praised but the article does not express hope that they will survive. The article justifies the "Wall" as a necessary security measure and the Gaza Incursion as a necessary military operation. These two controversial moves have borne fruit - no suicide attacks in over 2 years and until the August 31 shooting that killed 4 people, no deaths of more than 2 people from any attack in over 2 years. In short, Israel has successfully quashed the insurgence of violence that began with the second intifada.

What has happened as a result of the relative peace in Israel? Israelis have been industrious. They have been working hard and accumulating wealth. They have been inventing things and contributing to the world economy. They have been building families, taking vacations and enjoying life. They have been acting as if they don't live in a war-zone because for the last few years they haven't.

The article indicates that Israelis are happy with the way things are. And they should be.

The article assumes that if there were a peace partner that was willing to recognize Israel as a State and provide the same types of freedoms as Israel provides there would be more talk about peace. But as it stands now, Palestinians are led by politicians who don't want to negotiate with Israel seriously and since the violence is under control, there is no reason to discuss anything.

The article concludes the Palestinian issue by saying that Palestinians need to make themselves heard again. How? With violence? Absolutely not. By giving a voice to the moderates who want to talk to Israel. Who can argue with that?

There is no mention of a "Humanitarian Crisis" in Gaza. There is no mention of "War Crimes". There is no mention of "Disproportionate Response". No mention of "Illegal Settlements". The article is favorable to Israel. No question about it.

I have two and a half minor gripes with the article.

1) The article kind of glosses over the rocket attacks. Those are not negligible and the fear of attack is worth noting.

2) The article says almost no Palestinians are allowed into Israel. As far as I know that is inaccurate.

3) (only half a gripe) The title is provocative - but then again, headlines are meant to grab attention. This one grabbed everyone's attention. So maybe it was a good title.

But I have two major gripes with Israel friends who lambasted the article.

1) I always hear from Zionist friends that "It is so good here", "It's more dangerous in America", "The economy is booming", "Israel is a Western State", etc. And now, Time Magazine is reporting that yes, Israel is in fact a peaceful, productive place and somehow that is not allowed?! Talk about "Double Standard".

2) People should just read the darn thing before complaining about it! There are times where Israel is treated poorly in the court of popular opinion. This is NOT one of those times! We lose credibility if we cry "Wolf" any time we can sniff a trace of anti-Israel sentiment. Here, you'll need to sniff extra hard.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

High heels and the Rosh Hashana Musaf

Required Housekeeping First
We finished at 2:15 p.m on the first day and at 2:00 p.m. on the second day. I thought this was abysmally slow. My son blames the chazan, I blame the pre-shofar kiddush and the aliya auction, neither of which I have a bit of use for.

How'd you do?
I have interesting Rosh Hashana thoughts to share, but for now something mundane.

If you daven nusach ashkenaz your musaf silent Amidah takes forever. The reason is simple: this is a very long prayer -- some twenty pages in my machzor.  But if you daven nusach sefard, the same prayer takes two forevers and three days. This is because sefard congregations sound the shofer at three points during the silent Amidah,at the end of various sections, and the blower of the shofar does not sound it until it appears to him that most of the congregation has concluded the respective section. Meantime, people who pray quickly must wait, standing silently in place until the shofar is sounded.

Now, try doing this in high heels.

My wife was not one of them, but she reports that more than one woman wearing high heels "just gave up and sat down." Her account continues: "They stood up again for [the sounding of the] shofar, prayed until the end of the next section, then sat down again to wait."

I wonder what - if anything - the law codes have to say about this.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Holiday Music II

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Shimi noh rabosei, dayanim, mumchim:

In the last year, I have from time to time posted articles on my blog, sent emails, distributed instant messages, and sent tweets, some of which I typed myself, some of which I forwarded, some of which I found myself, some of which I was given by other people. Should you have found any of these messages annoying, offensive, ignorant or upsetting, I ask that they should be deleted and forgotten

I hereby declare that for the coming year, should I again offer such posts, emails, instant messages, or tweets  they should have no effect and not become binding on me. At this moment I regret any of these and do not wish them to be valid.

May you be blessed with a good year, inscribed in the book of life and sealed for good.

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Shofar Blowing in Yavneh

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

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

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

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

The other Sages agreed and the shofar was sounded.

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

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

Pretty sneaky, no?

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Why don't the Rabbis put a stop to this nonsense?

UPDATE: The same service performed in Lourdes by a Catholic priest appears to be available at no charge (no raffle either). I'm simultaneously proud and embarrassed. 

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A Zechus for the Yomim Noraim

A Guest Post by Rafi G

I saw something tonight in shul and was thinking about it. The truth is that it is a fairly common occurrence - the same thing happens probably every night, maybe even two or three times a night, and at other times of day as well.

A young fellow walked into the shul. He walked around flipping open a folder with a letter, seemingly a letter of approbation attesting to his need to collect tzedaka and the worthiness of the cause.

I watched him walk around the beis medrash, approaching every single person learning there - a total of about 30 people or so. Every person gave him something - 1 shekel, 2 shekel, maybe a tiny bit more. The guy made, in 5 minutes of "work", maybe 30 or 40 shekels. And not a single person actually looked at his piece of paper. Nobody knew why he was collecting or was interested in seeing who confirmed his status of being needy.

Am Yisrael gives tzedaka. Yes there are frauds out there, but that doesn't deter us. We trust most of the people who approach us. He must be needy if he is degrading himself to ask. We are willing to take the chance, for a small amount of money, that he might be a fraud, because if he is real the mitzva is so great.

May it be a zechus for klal yisrael in the upcoming days..

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