Thursday, March 31, 2011

Meshuga Deal on Shvimkleids

A Guest Post By E. Fink

For all the heilege yidden who want a tzniusdike shvimkleid before the summer comes there is a meshuga deal at on shvimkleids.

From here ---> From Faigy's Fashions

Personally, I am waiting for a meshuga deal on a tuna salad sandwhich from Crunch n Munch...

(Don't get it? Click here ---> A trip to Miami)

And Meshuga Deals is an actual company with meshuga deals for all heilege (and not so heilege) yidden.

My Negative Review of the Very Poorly Executed "Japan Song" Video

So here's what I have to say about the slick new video ostensibly created to raise awareness and money to support the two young men who have been held in Japan for almost three years on drug charges.

See the video and read my reaction after the jump

What Baseball Tells Us about Judaism

Whenever I think about the history of baseball, I find myself thinking of the history of Judaism.

Let me explain.

One of the enduring myths of American history is that in 1839 a man called Abner Doubleday invented a game called baseball in Cooperstown, NY. According to the myth he invented this game out of whole cloth. Before he drew up the rules, there was no such thing as baseball; afterwards, the game as we know it existed, a product of nothing but Doubleday's imagination. This myth is why a church called the Baseball Hall of Fame stands in Cooperstown and why millions of people make a pilgrimage to it each year.

The truth, as an article in today's paper reminds us, is messier. Baseball as we know it, developed from games like cricket, and rounders, and proto-versions of baseball called the "Massachusetts Game" and the "New York Game". All were once played in the United States, but gradually over time these games combined and developed into the sport we recognize as baseball. This happened not because of any process, or because any "official criteria for developing a national game" were followed, but because over a very long time people made choices, and/or allowed themselves to be swayed by stronger personalities, and/or responded to historical changes, and/or because of all the many different factors that go into establishing styles and tastes.

Hasn't something similar happened to Judaism? Whatever we think happened at Sinai, the contents of that revelation have been in human hands for a very long time. As it was passed from generation to generation changes were introduced, and different styles of Judaism developed. The Judaism of Yemen was similar to the Judaism of Poland, but also different. The Judaism of the Tannaim was similar to the Judaism of the Achronim, but also different. Some Jews, in some times and some places were corprealists who brought sacrifices; other Jews in other times and other places were strict rationalists who refused even to allow piyutim into the liturgy. Your father wears a shtrimel and won't eat gbroks; my father didn't have or give me an upshurim; his father thinks the Lubovitch Rebbe is the Messiah, and does something wierd with aravot: Where did all these changes come from? Through the same messy, man-made, contingent, human historical process that changed rounders into baseball.

NEXT POST: Why it doesn't matter

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Corey Booker's Dvar Torah

The mayor of Newark and famous Chabad acolyte delivers a dvar torah as Chabad Week on DovBear continues...

See it here.

The password, by the way, is chabad. And I don't know about you, but it bugs me when a non-Jew tells Jews what their Jewish obligations are.

Hattip: @noahroth

A worthy retread

All this recent talk about Chabad Mesianism reminds me of one of the very first guest posts I ever published. It dates to May 2005 and was written by the venerable Akiva of Mystical Paths

See it after the jump

By the standards of the Gedolim Matzav is just like VIN

A sharp point by Muppet

This is the English translation Hirhurim ran of the Vos Iz Neais ban's section explaining what the Gedolim thought was wrong with VIN:
"Yet the Satan has found a way, that a site exists on the Internet known as “Vos Is Naiz”, as if it were founded only to spread news of the Jewish world; yet it contains a hidden ambush — as with the news, it includes stories and events of the corrupt, abdominable, and lowly; full of contamination, filth, foul language; slander, gossip, and degrading of Torah scholars; it also prints libels and slander regarding Torah individuals and organizations. Similarly the comments written there are filled with adultery and slander, and increase fights in Israel, putting everyone’s dirty laundry in public. It also writes against officers and politicians under whose favor we live, to ruin their repuation; the disgrace of G-d’s name is immense and mighty."
The lead article on Matzav right now has a headline claiming that Rabbi Joshua Maroof ordained Sarah Hurwitz, even though the article contains a specific denial from him that he did that. It strains credulity to believe Matzav did not print this to tie the RCA to Sarah Hurwitz, as well.

In what way is this not exactly what VIN was banned for?


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
America at Not-War - Obama Defends Military Action in Libya
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Be sure to catch:
- The gratuitous mention of Purim
- The mocking of the Vice President. Can you imagine anyone on the right showing such disrespect to one of their top guys? I can't, and this is one of the many things that makes the left a more appealing place of residence.
- How every president, pretty much, going back to the beginning of television recorded history has had to make the same kind of choices Obama made regarding Lebanon. This includes Saint Ronald Reagan of Blessed Memory and George the Greatest Friend of Israel Who Kept the Whole World Safe Bush*.

* Just wanted to point out that people on the right have actually and without irony used such words to describe W, whereas no one on the left has ever once called Obama his God or Messiah.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thought of the day


Yael Dallal Simon
One of the things Twitter is good for is random people interfering in your conversations. Mustve been built by Jews.

Midrash, Kabbalah, Mathew and Chabad

Chabad ideas about the messiah-ship of the Rebbe are like midrash and Kabbalah but not for the reasons you might think. None of these things were "revealed," as if they were always known to an elite few who kept them hidden. Rather they were created by clever, God fearing interpreters. Jews have always interpreted the Torah. One of the first examples of this is in the Torah itself when Ezra tells the story of  Abraham:
You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous
As many have pointed out, this is not what Genesis says. In Genesis Aberham leaves Ur because his father took him, not because Abraham had had been chosen by God. The idea that he was chosen is thus an early example of Biblical interpretation.

Now, not all clever interpretation are ultimately accepted, and some interpretation go in and out of style. For instance, the interpretation that Ballam was a prophet equal in stature to Moses is the one most people today accept as true, but other midrashic collections take a different view.

Other clever interpretations are only accepted by a few Jew who with the passage of time cease to be Jews. That is what happened with Christianity. At first all Christians were Jews, who relied on clever interpretations, interpretations that were functionally the same as midrashim, to justify their belief in Jesus. Mathew (or his teacher) for example uses an approach that can only be called midrashic to justify his belief in the Virgin birth. Interpretations such as this one were rejected by other Jews, and in time the minority of Jews who relied upon them were rejected as well by the community of Israel.

The same thing is happening now, in our own time, with the interpretations, and to the interpreters that claim messiah-ship for the rebbe of chabad.

Jewish Colony Found in the Caucasus!

From the New York Times, September 14, 1902

Click to enlarge. Amazing story of a community of Jews "discovered" in the Caucuses. (Its amazing both because of what it tell us about those Jews, and also about the attitudes of the reporter.) 

The paradox of the heap and Jewish customs

The paradox of the heap:
1,000,000 grains of sand is a heap of sand (Premise 1)
A heap of sand minus one grain is still a heap. (Premise 2)

Repeated applications of Premise 2 (each time starting with one less grain), eventually forces one to accept the conclusion that a heap may be composed of just one grain of sand (and consequently, if one grain of sand is still a heap, then removing that one grain of sand to leave no grains at all still leaves a heap of sand, and indeed a negative number of grains also form a heap [Wikipedia]
The connection to Jewish customs:

600 or 700 years ago no one performed the Jewish haircutting ceremony know as an upsherin. Today the custom is widespread, and has become so popular that the default expectation in many frum communities is that it will be performed. How this happened is easy to explain:

Step 1: Muslims performed a haircutting ceremony at the Tomb of Samuel
Step 2: Musta'arabi Jews saw this and copied it, later taking it to Meron after they were banned from the Tomb of Samuel
Step 3: Sephadim who lived in Israel, the descendants of Jews who had been expelled from Spain and settled in the Ottoman Empire, saw this and copied it (Today, the Musta'arabi have assimilated with the Sephardim; in the 15th century the two groups were distinct)
Step 4: The Hasidim came into existence, and fascinated as they were with all things mystical and/or related to Sefad and the Ari, copied it.
Step 5: Insecure American Orthodox Jews, fascinated as they are by all things related to the Hasidim, copied it

And that, after factoring in bullying and birth rates, is where we are today.

What is not quite so easy to explain is how the perception of upsherin changed. How did it go from being considered a fringe practice, not having the status of even a custom, to becoming something many consider essential to frumkeit?What was the tipping point? When only one Jew or one Jewish community accepted upsherin it did not have the status of minhag. Today it does. The paradox of the heap suggests that something that was irrelevant and unimportant in the eyes of God when only one Jew did it, remains irrelevant and unimportant even after all Jews have embraced it. The solution is to take a descriptive view of religion, and argue that if lots of Jews come to think something is important, it becomes something of Jewish importance. Those of you who take a normative view of Judaism have a problem, though, as you're forced to explain how the status of an ordinary haircut was so dramatically altered without relying on a descriptive solution. For if you're prepared to concede the descriptivist's point on upshuren then how can you object to something like Yom Ha'atzmaut on normative grounds?  

Jews in the Movies

This clip is from the 1936 Yiddish film YIDL MITN FIDL [one of the most successful Yiddish film of all time, starring the very great Molly (Malkele) Picon.]

Monday, March 28, 2011

Thought for the day

When liberals point to whackjobs on the other side, they name elected officials and presidential candidates. When conservatives do it, it's Ward Churchill, Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers.

-- dommanno3075 commenting on Media Matters.

Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies about the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior into a Raging Homosexual

Newt Gingrich Thinks We're becoming Godless

Here's a little quote from one of the many non-Sarah's currently angeling for the GOP nomination for President.

I don't know how anyone survived winter without this

Put some money in the magic hat and
your protection is assured

Sam, Izzy and the Sandbox

A post by Vicki, taken with permission from here

Once, there were two brothers named Sam and Izzy. Sam was the older brother and Izzy was just a baby, really, six or seven years old. Sometimes he asked Sam for advice, but usually he liked to figure things out for himself. Izzy was extremely active and always getting into scrapes with other kids in the sandbox at the playground. Sometimes it was his fault, sometimes it was their fault. Sometimes it was serious, sometimes it was just a cut. Whenever something happened to Izzy, Sam would worry.

The Good Rabbi Berger

A guest post by Arthur

Firstly, I am a Lubavitcher. I learned in Lubavitcher yeshiva and I once was an agnostic as to whether the Lubavitcher Rebbe was Moshiach. That, however, ended when he died. I now believe that the rebbe has as much a chance of being the redeemer as King David (about whom we say lives forever), Rabbi David Berger, or Bob Dylan.

The subject of this post
Secondly, I believe that Dr. Berger’s quixotic battle is, at least in his mind, “for the sake of heaven.” I also believe (or would like to believe) that Dr. Berger takes no joy in having become the poster child of those whose hatred of Lubavitch precedes the “rebbe is moshiach” issue. While some of Dr. Berger’s recent articles have been mean spirited and some of his latest arguments have bordered on personal attacks, I cannot fault him. My fellow Lubavitchers have done a very good job pillorying him and he is only human.

That being said I believe Dr. Berger is misguided in his battles against those who say that the rebbe is moshiach.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Pesach Message From The Feds

A Guest Post By E. Fink

In the spirit of "kol dichfin yaysay v'yaychol" the Jewish Community Federation reminds us to help needy Jews in our neighborhoods, communities, nationally and globally. This video is just about the perfect way to impart this message. There's not much more to say about it. Enjoy.

5 year old learns non-Jews are our servants

My 5 year old learned in school that when mashiach comes the goyim will have to listen to the yidden. So he can "tell a goyishe kid" to do things for him... What do I do now?

I think you should tell the kid that this may or may not be true - we won't know until mashiach actually gets here, but you hunch is its not true - but for now non-Jews are people just like us, who are entitled to respect and decency. They are every bit as valuable as we are, and every bit as fully human. Also, tell the kid that he can't call them "goyim" in your house. Though I know the word isn't a slur, it encourages kids (and adults) to believe that there is something fundamentally different about non-Jews, which leads to intolerance.


Parsha in Limerick:Shmini

A limerick to illustrate each aliya in Parshat Shemini, written by Rabbi Avraham Bronstein

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ultra Liberal Wyatt Cenac of the Ultra Liberal Daily Show Delivers an Ultra-Liberal Report on the Westhampton Eruv

... and guess what? Its pro-Orthodox Jewish in the very best Ultra-Liberal tradition.

That sound you GOP Jews hear is your misconceptions exploding.

How YOU can help Israel

Based on the behavior of my Jewish friends and neighbors here in the states, the proper way for an American Jew to respond to a terror attack in Israel is as follows:

1: Complain about the media. Before the attack was 20 minutes old, my email box and Twitter feed were alive with complaints about various media offense. Among the sins and atrocities: Reuters, when quoting the Israeli police, put the words "terrorist attack"  in, um, quotations marks and the always evil New York Times ran Elizabeth Taylor's obituary ahead of its story about the bombing. How I wish I was making this up.

2: Complain about POTUS:  By 9:40 someone on my Twitter feed was already mad that's latest item was still about the president's trip to El Salvador. The assumption, apparently, is that no matter what he is doing, the President of the United States (when he is a Democrat) must  pause the moment any thing happens in Israel, and immediately instruct his aids, advisors and webs masters to make the necessary statments, remarks and adjustments. With these kinds of assumptions, no wonder Obama's critics are always so disappointed. After the White House finally released his statment (by noon) we were treated to a new display of acrobatics by the always honest GOP Jews who took issue with the President's very strong affirmation of Israel's right to self-defense. As Gushnik replied to the whiners on my thread:
[GOP Jewish complaints are] completely insane.

Anytime Israel takes military action in the West Bank and Gaza the standard hasbara trope is that "Israel has a right to defend itself." The President of the United States agrees.

What would the RWers say if he didn't agree? It's a lose-lose and shows just how far people are willing to go twisting themselves into logical pretzels to criticize Obama.
Meanwhile, some especially hard-hearted Jews demonstrated that they, in fact, are not "compassionate children of compassionate ancestors" by fervently objecting to the President's one sentence, 15 word, expression of compassion for dead Palestinian civilians. For the record, I object to this, too. The President should have delivered his condolences to the dead Palestinian civilians two days ago in a distinct statement, or (pay attention) said nothing at all. Either approach would have been preferable to suggesting that dead Palestinian civilians only attract his attention when there are also dead Jewish civilians to mourn.

3. Complain about the UN and the world I agree the UN sucks; when it comes to Israel it is also toothless, thanks, in part, to the reliable American veto. Generally, I think its a waste of time and energy to complain about thing that are as weak and pathetic as the UN, but if you find such displays cathartic, who am I to object? There are people who rail against their weak and toothless elderly relatives, too. What I do take issue with, however, is the caterwauling about the unfair, evil, Jew-hating world. Not that I don't agree that parts of the world are unfair, evil, and Jew-hating. Certainly some large parts of it are, but the rest of it isn't. More importantly, the world's response or non-response to events Israel is no longer a surprise. Do we need to act like we've discovered America every time it happens? Nowadays a  bomb in Jerusalem doesn't attract international attention the way it once did, and this change isn't evidence of antisemitism: As discussed yesterday, how many of you took notice of the 50-plus Pakistanis who were killed this month by bombs or rockets? The mainstream media didn't, and neither did the average man on the street. So before you go on a screed against the antii-Israel world, ask yourself if you, as an individual, behave any differently when someone who is not your co-religionists is suffering; then remember that the "world" is not a monolith, but a collection of people who, for the most part, are just like you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Statement by the President on Bombing in Jerusalem

I condemn in the strongest possible terms the bombing in Jerusalem today, as well as the rockets and mortars fired from Gaza in recent days. Together with the American people, I offer my deepest condolences for those injured or killed. There is never any possible justification for terrorism. The United States calls on the groups responsible to end these attacks at once and we underscore that Israel, like all nations, has a right to self-defense. We also express our deepest condolences for the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza yesterday. We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to do everything in their power to prevent further violence and civilian casualties.

Ok nitpickers on the right, what did the President do wrong?

Purim Politics


The hats say A JEW, NOT A ZIONIST from Ladaat's Jerusalem Purim gallery 

Random Purim Tweets by Stranger

I was trying to find a picture of Demi Moore in her Purim pig costume (Seriously) but came up with these instead.

Obligatory Post on the Jerusalem Bus Bombing

Terrible morning. We wish a full recovery to those who were wounded, and offer condolences to the friends and relatives of those who were killed.

Aside from the fact that a bomb exploded killing at least 1 person, and seriously wounding several others, here are a few things I find distasteful about this morning's events in Jerusalem:

:: That I'm required by some blogger law to post about it. I'm not saying I don't want to post about the attack, or that I think its beneath my notice, just that I don't always have something new, or interesting, or satisfying to say, and I resent being expected to just make something up for the sake of the judgmental masses. Can't we just agree that not posting about a terrorist attack is okay, and that it doesn't necessarily mean something? Can't we just agree you're not going to email me demanding to know when my post about the attack is going to appear, or expressing bewilderment that a whole half of the morning has gone by without a comment from DovBear? Do I really have to keep saying that I think attacks on civilians are despicable, and impossible to justify? OK: This morning's attack on civilians was despicable and impossible to justify. Happy?

:: The knee-jerk attacks on the New York Time, which this morning at 10:00 a.m. had an article about Liz Taylor's death in the top spot on its website. At least 5 of my Twitter friends thought this was inexcusable. A few things you have to understand:

(1)  Obituaries about famous people are written well in advance, so that they can be posted in the top spot on your website the very instant a celebrity dies. The Taylor obituary has been ready to go for weeks, if not months. When the announcement of Taylor's death came across the wire at the same time as the news from Jerusalem, an editor didn't say, "We think the Taylor story is more important. Screw Israel." What he said was, "The Taylor story is already written and ready to go. Post it -- and let's make some calls and find out what the story is in Jerusalem."

(2) Sorry in advance if you find this painful, but a terrorist attack in Jerusalem that doesn't kill too many people is not a big news story in the United States. Bombs go off in places like Pakistan fairly often and the Times hardly ever mentions it. In fact, three rocket attacks and a bomb struck parts of western Pakistan TODAY (this morning Pakistan time) killing 5 people. That story is STILL not on the front page of And on March 9, a suicide bomber killed 37 people in northwestern Pakistan, a day after a car-bomb left more than 20 people dead. Did you know about either of those attacks? I don't recall seeing either of those stories on the Times website. Did you? So instead of asking why the Jerusalem attack wasn't covered more extensively, perhaps you really should be asking why the Times covered it at all.

(3) The Times is not an "if it bleeds it leads" sort of paper. They aren't in the business of providing generic news. They know you can go to USA Today or Washington Post for that. Also, the Times is simply not going to lead their paper or website with an AP story. As I explained by way of analogy, some restaurants will serve store-bought mayonnaise. The Times has to make their own. If they haven't written their own article, they aren't going to give the story top play. (Anecdotal backup: The Times first piece on the Jerusalem attack was four paragraphs long, and relied heavily on Haaretz and the A.P. It was available at about 10 am, but wasn't on the home page. About 35 minutes ago, the Times posted a much longer story, containing some original reporting. This one is on the home page, currently in the #2 spot.)

:: The people who, upon hearing the news of the attack, immediately said something like "Let's see if the world condemns this." What does this even mean? Has the world ever condemned an attack on a Jerusalem bus? Did it condemn the three recent attacks in Pakistan? Is that really the sort of thing the world does? So why would you even expect an international outcry about what happened this morning? Manage your expectations, please.  ...also, whenever I hear someone complain about the world's uneven treatment of Israel, it reminds me of how my kids scream when they perceive an injustice on the part of their parents: "You love him more!" "You never punish him!" "What about what he did?!" Its immature when my kids do this, and its immature when Jews and Israelis do it.

Look: The world isn't a fair place. The world is going to make mistakes. Sometimes, the world is going to behave maliciously and unfairly and treat you badly; sometimes the world is going to make a legitimate choice that you don't like. That's how it goes. Whining doesn't help. ...and you know what? In this case, I'm even willing to concede that its possible "the world" loves the Arabs best. If you want the world to love you more, make the changes the world wants to see. If you're not willing to make the changes, stop expecting the world to love you best. I'm not saying there is anything fair or just about this --there isn't: its completely unfair -- but you can't have it both ways.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Peeerim in Skver

Barak Obama shows up at @4 (in black face, natch) I make my grand entrance at @5:30

Don't understand a word of this.

Why is Greek Esther frummer than the Esther we know?


The LXX version of Esther is much longer than the one we know, and read on Purim. [What is the LXX, and where did it come from?] It contains 6 extra chapters, and more than 100 additional verses. These additions contain the following extra information:


A:   The beginning of the story. It tells about a dream of Mordecai which foreshadows Haman's plot, and about his discovery of a plan to assassinate the king. After Mordecai reports this to the King, he is rewarded with a position in the Court. It is this appointment that spurs Haman's anger.

B:   The exact wording of Haman's edict regarding the destruction of the Jews

C:   A prayer of Mordecai, in which he asks God to save the Jews from Haman and a similar prayer of Esther in which she says specifically that she never eaten from the non-kosher tables and that she abhors the king's bed. She also mentions the Temple.

D:  A longer and more dramatic description of Esther's entry into the King's throne room, in which she compares the King to an angel of God, and specifically asks God for His help.

E:   The exact wording of the King's edict on behalf of the Jews. Oddly, he tells Gentiles to celebrate Purim, too.

F:   An interpretation of Mordecai's dream (this makes the link between the Esther and Joseph stories more explicit)

The royal edicts are thought to have originally been written in Greek, but the other additions are considered to have a Hebrew Vorlage.

Additionally, there are many minor difference in the text. For instance:

1:10-22 The kings servants, and close advisors have different names; Vashti is called both to display her beauty and to be officially coronated "in order to proclaim her as Queen."

2: 1 -12 In the Greek, the king no longer remembers Vashti, or is concerned about her. Esther's Hebrew name is not given, and her father is Aminadav, not Avichayil.

2:7 In some translations of the Greek, Esther is said to be Mordecai's wife. Moore suggests the LXX translator read bt as BAYIT rather than as BAT

2:14 The MT suggests that the Queen was selected based on sexual prowess alone (the audition is one night with the king) In the LXX the candidate goes to the king in the afternoon, not the evening, and returns at some indistinct point during the next day suggesting there was time for conversation. (Day)

2-20 We're told that Esther didn't change "her mode of life" while in the palace and that Mordecai expressly instructed her to "fear God and keep his laws" This does not appear in the Hebrew.

3:1 At his first mention, Haman is identified as a Bougean, not an Aggagite

4:1 We're told the contents of Mordecai's long and bitter cry "An innocent nation is being destroyed."

4:8 Mordecai tells Esther to speak to the King, and also to pray to God.

6:1 In the MT, the King is simply unable to sleep; in the LXX we're told that the Lord kept him awake.

6:13 Zeresh tells Haman that he can't win because the "living God" is with Mordecai

8:17 The Heb says many of the gentiles became Jews; in the Greek they also circumcise themselves.

9:16 In the LXX the Jews kill 15000 people; in the MT the number is 75000.

  • Greek Esther (the character)  is frummer. There are no two ways about this. She and Mordecai pray and demonstrate knowledge and observance of ritual law. In the Hebrew, Esther's religious observations are not mentioned and she seems like a Jew by ethnicity, not practice. Esther even mentions a distaste for intermarriage that we recognize as a prominent concern of Ezra's.
  • Greek Esther(the book)  is also frummer. God's presence is explicit, with His name mentioned more than 50 times. In the Greek, we're told specifically that God planned Esther's ascension, and that he kept the King awake; in the Hebrew all of this is only implied. Instead of suggesting that the victory of Purim was random, without God's direct and obvious involvement, the Greek makes it clear that God rescued his people.
The scholarly suggestion is that second temple Jews added some of the material discussed above for the purpose of making the Megilla seem more biblical.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Right Way to Celebrate Purim in Jerusalem

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Today was Shushan Purim so in Jerusalem they celebrated Purim today instead of yesterday. Except most American Yeshiva bochurim / Kollel fellows I know of, celebrate Purim outside Jerusalem on Purim and then celebrate a second day of Purim in Jerusalem on Shushan Purim.

I don't think this was the intent behind Shushan Purim.

I have a younger brother who is learning in Kollel in Israel. After 5 years of intense post marriage Torah study. He is a bona fide Talmid Chacham who is serious about his learning and avodas Hashem. He doesn't "play games" and is making the most of his time in Kollel. He doesn't take vacations, he doesn't spend time drinking coffee, he doesn't skip minyanim, he doesn't throw rocks at cars on Shabbos. He's a really good guy.

Anyway, he and his friends spent Purim in the Beis Medrash seeing as it was not a holiday in Jerusalem. He celebrated one day of Purim, on Shushan Purim.

That's the right way to do it.

Scooby Doo meets Queen Esther

Hanna-Barbera tell the Esther story in the style of all their cheap-o cartoons. Scooby-Doo does not actually appear.

Megillah Notes 5771 (part 1)

This is the first of several posts on Megillas Esther, I hope.

A Meshichist Purim

A guest post by Philo

After a late Purim night, I slept in quite late on Purim morning. It was so late that I had to scramble to find a place that had a late Megillah. I was staying in Brooklyn for Purim and assumed that it would be easy. But after calling a few shuls, looking at shul websites, and having no luck, I turned to Chabad.

I went to the Chabad website and found a laining at Chabad of Flatbush at 10:45 am. When I got there, they were still davening, only up to the Amidah. I had davened at home, thinking that this was a stand-alone Megillah reading, so I quietly found a seat & waited for the Megillah to begin. While waiting, I looked at the various paraphernalia on the table in front of me. There was a “Moshiach Times”, a Megillat Esther booklet, and a couple of other things. As I started looking at them, I noticed that almost every single one had " יחי אדוננו מורנו ורבינו מלך המשיח לעולם ועד" (“Long live our master, our teacher, and our rabbi, King Mashiach, forever”) written on it. The Megillah even indicated that before the blessings were to be read, the "Yechi" should be declared aloud. To be fair, they didn’t do that last one. But they certainly murmured the Yechi several times. This was clearly a “Meshichist” Chabad, one where they believed that the deceased Rebbe was the Messiah, and that he would rise from the dead to fulfill that role.

When it was time for laining, they decided to casually auction them off. There was only one Kohen, but they pressed him to donate. He was obviously a regular (though not a full chabadnik) and seemed comfortable with them. He offered $18. The gabbai urged him to offer “3 times yechi” (which I presume would be $84, 3 x $28, the numerical value of Yechi. When they asked if anyone was a Levi (I am) I just said nothing, not wanting to be pressed to give to Meshichists.

It was at that point that I tweeted my situation, wondering if I should leave. In the end, I stayed, not sure if I’d get another chance to hear the Megillah that day, and ducked out as soon as the laining was over.

My biggest issue, I guess, is that the main Chabad website led me to this place. For all their talk of disavowing Meshichists, they obviously have no problem listing Meshichist Chabad houses on their website as legitimate Chabad branches.

My other issue is that half the people there were Jews from the former Soviet Union, who have obviously been taught that Judaism means believing in the Messianism of the Rebbe.

Costume notes

Quick jumble of unrelated thoughts about Purim costumes...
  1. The costume of the year was Spiderman in a neck brace. Last year, it was Tiger Woods with a golf club broken over his head. 
  2. I saw too many people in black-face this year. Is that racist? I'm not sure, and can argue it both ways.
  3. What about going ghetto-fab? Even if you're not in black-face is it racist to wear do-rags, bling, and fake gold teeth? Such portrayals invoke stereotypical images of black people, don't they? Would we accept it if a black person dressed like a hasid for Halloween? Why not? 
  4. You can say the same about corn-seed costumes. Plenty of people dress like rednecks, with mullet wigs and straw hats. Is is appropriate to suggest that poor white people are deserving of ridicule? Again, I can argue the point both ways.
  5. Its not uncommon to see M.O people dress up like Hasidim. What, if anything, should we make of that? Most of these depictions are intended as mockery, I think, though a myth persists in some Hasidic circles that M.Os who dress like Hasidim have a secret wish to actually be Hasidim. This sort of amateur analysis crumbles immediately on examination and says more about the speaker's insecurity then it does about the person who is wearing the costume. Still, if its discriminatory for a white person to wear black face, why isn't it discriminatory for an M.O Jew to wear a shtriemel and parade around like a buffoon?

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Nice Little Kiddush Hashem

A Guest Post By E. Fink

I just bumped into one of my (Jewish) Law School professors and he told me something worth sharing.

He was reading an article about the Japan disaster fund. Donations are coming in from all over the world. In the article, a Japanese government official was quoted [paraphrase] with this little gem:

"Why do so many people send donations of $18? It's such a strange number for a donation."

(HT Tin Man for the source: NY Times)

Purim Torah by Rav Shmuel Brazil

Our friends and admirers at Matzav have posted a witty piece of Purim Torah by Rav Shmuel Brazil which purports to reveal the Real and True Message of the Japan Disaster.  Here's the best passage:
These four elements might seem for a while a fixed component of nature. However, our emunah is that they are all being constantly controlled by Hashem and can be altered at any given moment. When Hashem makes war He can utilize all of these elements to do His will and command. This is hinted in the passuk איש מלחמה ה’ the word איש is gematriah 311 which is the same gematriah as the first letter of each of the four elements ארמע. What we have witnessed in the last few days is the fulfillment Hashem eesh milchama. First an earthquake which corresponds to the element of earth, then a tsunami which parallels the water element, then a meltdown whose radiation is carried by the wind and finally a volcanic eruption which corresponds to fire.. Hashem’s revenge on the Japanese people, whether because they were allies with the Nazis in WW2 or because they incarcerated and cruelly treated three innocent Yiddishe neshamos whose innocence is clear to all except for their kangaroo court, was all enveloping utilizing all the elements to demonstrate His decisive omnipotence. No man made advanced technology could stop or even slow the earthquake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown and volcano. Everyone stood helpless, stunned and paralyzed as Hashem with one swift blow used His elements to demonstrate as He did to Pharaoh in Mitzrayim that in merely seconds what seems to be one’s reality is no longer. One’s past present and future literally went down the drain in seconds right in front of one’s eyes.
Great stuff. Only there are a few silly errors and oversights, which I'll helpfully point out below:

Prevent Drunk Driving On Purim

A guest post by Chaim Shapiro

I don’t want to get into the debate about drinking and drunkenness on Purim, even though I do have some strong feeling about the subject. I would rather focus on an area in which we can all agree; we must have a zero tolerance policy for drunk driving, especially on Purim.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A plethora of Purim posts

First mention: Purim
In which I discuss the very first time the New York Times reported on Purim

Some Purim Torah (intended seriously, I'm afraid)

An absurd drash someone thinks is legitimate. A commentary on the attitudes of the ultra-religious.

Why I like Purim less 
Once I thought Purim the most magnificent of holidays. Now, not so much. 

 When it Comes to Mishloach Manot.
..most are either lunatics or a lazybones. Which are you?

In which the real reason for this custom is provided.

A summary of a great Torah article by R. Menachem Leibtag.

Al ha'mar v'hamatok 
A 2006 review of the Purim foodstuff I received

I dare you to try and top it

Rafi G. on what the lousy Purim weather might mean (besides nothing)

Grouchity grouch grouch but I DO make some good points.

A long list of all the presumed historical errors in the Book of Esther

A midrash on Esther 3:3

Where the humantachen came from

What Robbie said about costumes
Sorry. You'll have to click on the link to find out.

There are at least 9

Purimfest 1946!!
Do you know the famous story about Striecher and his last words? Its presented here, along with some other relevant facts.

Hava Narisha
A not so traditional way to sing a traditional song.

The Magnificent Magilla Meme
 Some of the thoughts that danced through my sugar and caffine deprived mind one Purim night.

Why do we rattle noisemakers at the mention of Haman's name?
Some irresponsible speculation 

An unauthorized adaption of The Politically Correct Megilla by Eric Sommer, which, if you haven't seen it, was tasteless and unfunny. My rebuttal is much worse, I am sure, but at least the politics represented here are somewhat more appealing.