Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A response to Rabbi Malinowitz,

by Rabbi Dov Lipman taken from here

Bio: Rebbi, author, lecturer, and community activist who has been working to help unify and maintain the peace between communities and populations in Bet Shemesh.

My entire community was unfairly, unjustly, wrongly, and irresponsibly accused of something on this post and a response is in order. Because it is right before Rosh Hashana, I will avoid the approach of stinging, personal attacks. I will stick just to the facts.

The communities of Sheinfeld and Nofei Aviv have just experienced one of the most devastating months in their histories with little girls being called "shiksa" and "prutza" by grown men on a daily basis, having to dodge eggs and tomatoes being thrown at them, and having to fear that a bag of human feces could be lobbed into their school yard during any recess. The suggestion was made that all of us are "loving every minute of this" because it enables us to act on our anti-Chareidi feelings.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, much of our devastation comes specifically because we respect the Chareidi community so much!

It is true that we are suffering emotionally and the this emotional damage has expressed itself with little Jewish girls having nightmares, experiencing bed wetting, and waking up with stomach pains. Without in any way belittling that, this is not what has been most devastating to us. Even more devastating has been the spiritual damage!

How has this month hurt our communities spiritually you ask? We have always taught our children embrace all Jews including Chareidim. But children cannot differentiate between the hooligans who are terrorizing them and every other Chareidi they see on the street. When we drive up Nahar Yarden they actually ask: "Are those good guys or bad guys?" Even I have seen children cross to the other side of the street when they see me approaching in my hat and jacket until they realize, as one remarked, "phew, it's just Dov." And, we as adults are also confused. Is it just a small group of 20 guys who come out daily to terrorize the children? But 50 came out just today to swarm one of our grandfathers who was caught in a spontaneous hooligan riot!
400 came out to support the goons last week! Some major Rabbis signed a letter calling us very horrible names. Do their students and congregants who number in the thousands also side with the thugs? No one knows who is what any longer? And this turns us into people who fear and lack trust for fellow Jews, a real spiritual deficiency in our eyes.

Without us as parents saying one negative word, our children have lost that love for all Jews in the last month and now suspect that every Chareidi looking person may hurt them. We have lost the comfort of giving all Chareidim rides and generously giving them tzedaka when they come to our doors.

How dare anyone suggest that we "love every minute of this." This is torture for us as parents and is devastating for our childrens' souls.

Despite all the pain and confusion, we worked so hard to organize a unity rally the other night. During that rally it was emphasized over and over again that this was not anti-Chareidi and specifically against those who were threatening and violent. And yet we are accused of being "anti-Chareidi?" This really is a crazy world where people can convince themselves that black can be white and white can be black.

Our communities have been crying to hear the Chareidi Rabbis say something against these thugs and goons because we so badly WANT to continue loving all Jews as we always have. Hearing those comforting words would reassure us of regarding that which is not so obvious in these dark days and would help give us the strength we need to help our children (and ourselves) through these difficult spiritual times.

But, instead, first we heard the sound of silence, a sound that is more confusing and devastating than the accuser can ever imagine. But following the sound of silence we heard the "explanation" for the silence which was simply painful, hurtful, and false!

On behalf of our communities, I call on the accuser you to please retract that horrific charge against our community and to understand why a letter signed by CHAREIDI Rabbis is so critical. Had he seen the faces of the girls when the righteous, sensitive, caring, and loving CHAREIDI women sent them flowers he would understand how much that letter would mean to the children and
the adults.

May that retraction and, hopefully an apology to the thousands of Jewish people he branded so maliciously and falsely serve as a merit for all of us to be blessed with a year in which Hashem truly does remove all "strife" and "sinat chinam" from our midst.

Rosh Hashana Music 2: Battle of the Avinu Malkenus

Rosh Hashana music 1

Profiles in Cowardice

When someone asks you to condemn violence against little girls, the correct response is "Sure. I condemn violence against little girls."

Here's the exact language of the petition this Rabbi was asked to support (translated)
We, the undersigned, condemn all who performs acts physical or verbal harassment against any human being, but especially against girls wearing clothing that might not appeal to your personal taste.

We also call upon the leaders and rabbis of the Beit Shemesh to condemn in no uncertain terms all those who engage in such acts of harassment
It takes a special kind of rabbinical cowardice to refuse to sign your name to those words, and a special kind of crooked morality to justify that cowardice.

Background: This particular coward used to have some guts. The Google Machine tells me that Natan Slifkin prayed in his shul, and enjoyed this rabbi's full support at the height of Slifkingate. Later, this rabbi refused a prominent Bet Shemesh chesed organization permission to fund raise in his shul on the grounds that the organization's founder thinks child molesters should be reported to the police.

So by my count he is 1-2

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An important, yet barely literate message from your local crazy person

The crazy person in question was kind enough to provide his name and phone number. Its at the bottom of the ad. Let's give him a ring and before telling him to get a life we can ask for his source for asserting that stockings are demanded by Jewish law (so long as they aren't capital N N-N-Nude.)

Search for more information about NUDE STOCKING at

Seven things I hate about Alderstein's new Ami article

Here's the short list of what I find reprehensible about Pope Yitzchak Alderstein's attempt to drive LWO Jews out of Orthodoxy:

(1) The timing(a): Its erev Rosh Hashana. Is this really the best time for Jews to be declaring war on each other? Thanks to Alderstein, readers of Ami magazine are entering Rosh Hashana filled with disgust toward their fellow Jews. Thanks to Alderstein, the blogs and social media are alive with Jewish infighting. And for what? I assure you no one is going to act on his suggestions -- nor should they. All he's done is make us mad at each other.

(2) The timing (b): At a moment when RW fanatics in Bet Shemesh are hurling eggs and words like "whore" at our daughters, Alderstein has invited the Charedi world to scorn a Rabbi for the supposed sin of showing women a surfeit of respect. If he disagrees with the arguments Rabbi Kanefsky made, let him address the arguments directly instead of accusing him of being too enlightened and too pro-women. Its surely in bad taste, and possibly dangerous, to discredit a Jewish defense of female dignity while Jewish goons wearing hats and frock-coats are elsewhere greeting schoolgirls with insults and projectiles.

(3) The bad arguments A preacher who takes up space telling us what God wants is appealing to emotions and likely short on arguments. Here's an example: "Hakodosh Boruch Hu expects our deep concern about wide scale counterfeiting of Torah..." I don't know how Rabbi Alderstein knows this. If he's certain that God expects something, let him prove it. If he's certain that the LWOJs are "counterfeiting Torah" let him prove it. He's done neither. In fact, his article is full of assertions, but devoid of any supporting evidence. We're asked to believe that LWOJ is something sinister and dangerous on nothing but his say so. 

(5) The screaming hypocrisy(a): Which great Rabbi permitted Alderstein to pollute the discourse with this high holiday attack on fellow Jews? Which great Rabbi agrees with his position? Though he thinks the RCA must seek guidance from the great Rabbis, there's no evidence that Alderstein has done this himself.  If the innovations proposed by the LWOJs are as terrible as Alderstein imagines, it should be a simple thing to get the usual collection of rabbinic signatures on a document proclaiming their evils. So why hasn't he done this?

(6) The screaming hypocrisy(b): If you ask Aldersetin about the goons of Bet Shemesh, he'll likely say they're extremists with no support from any great Rabbi. He may also say that its so obvious that what they are doing is wrong, no great Rabbi needs to waste his time saying so. This is also how charedim permit themselves to ignore  occurrences of theft and fraud in their community. "This isn't an indication of what we think or believe," they'll say. "Its just a few bad people behaving badly. Do we need a godol to announce its wrong to steal?"

Oddly enough, Alderstein's article provides the RCA with a similar line of defense. After all, as Alderstein himself confesses, no great MO rabbi endorses them, and for the most part the LWOJs are not great scholars in their own right. If Charedi extremists can be institutionally ignored on the grounds that they are a bunch of boors who do not represent mainstream Charedism, why can't the RCA employ the same logic to excuse LWOJ extremism? Do we really need a godol to say that you're supposed to recite she lo asani isha each morning? And if RW free agents who hate women don't keep Alderstein up at night, why is he bothered by their less violent, more rational, women respecting counterparts on the left?

(7) The screaming hypocrisy(c): Rabbi Alderstein, your charedi house is not in order  Until your sect does something about segulah scams, outrageous pashkevils, and assaults on women you have no right to lecture anyone else. If you're so concerned about corruptions of the Mesorah, fix your own house first. Go after the members of your own community who've twisted the teachings into a force of hatred and an object of scorn by failing to put the various abusers and fraudsters and terrorists and their enablers into herem? Until you do this, you're not a noble defender of tradition. You're a petty sectarian, who is feeding the flames of intolerance.

Words in this color courtesy of @yudel
Words in this color courtesy of @sigh

Search for more information about Ami Magazine at

My 2 cents on Lubovitch sect wars

Though the casual anti-Semitism in this NY Post article about Lubovitch infighting (after the jump) is a bit too much to bear, I'm pleased to see Krinsky is taking a stand against the messianics who have conquered Lubovitch headquarters. I don't echo Pope Alderstan and say that the messianics must be expelled from Judaism, or even from Lubovitch, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to ask them to vacate a building they don't own, especially if they are using that building as platform for beliefs the building owner finds reprehensible. 

Its also good to see that the secular courts have been asked to settle this dispute. Its an open secret that Jewish courts are corrupt.. Generally, you only insist on having your case heard by one of them if you already have the judges in the bag. The growing acceptance of this unpleasant fact advances the cause of justice, and also the cause of ending the disgrace and reforming the Beth Dins.

Article after the jump

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pope Alderstein attempts to excommunicate LWOJs

His supreme holiness, the Pontiff Yitzchak Alderstan has published an outrageous article in which he calls for the expulsion of LWOJs from the community of Israel. What a wonderful way to bring in the new year. 

His anti-achdus, ahistorical, willfully blind, poorly argued, Rosh Hashana screed can be found in the current Ami Magazine or  --thanks to the scanning skill of a loyal reader -- after the jump on this blog.  With God's help, a thorough fisking tomorrow.

Rosh Hashana MacaBeats

Another clever video from YU's acapalo group. Noteworthy for finally acknowledging the existence of women and non Jews.

What do Democrats applaud?

It says somewhere that people can be judged by what they praise. Presumably audiences can be judged based on what they applaud. Recently, we saw Republican audiences clap for executions, cheer at the suggestion an uninsured man might die, and boo a U.S soldier who admitted he was gay.  Ugly stuff.

Today President Obama was taking questions at a Town Hall, when a very rich man stood up and made a commendable request:
Would you please raise my taxes? I would like very much to have the country to continue to invest in things like Pell Grants, infrastructure, and job training programs that made it possible for me to get to where I am.
The crowd cheered, and Obama answered with a nice little homily about how America needs both entrepreneurship and government investments.

This short exchange supports what I've always said about rich people benefiting more from government services. Pell Grants, infrastructure and job training programs help poor people individually, but a rich guy with lots of employees who've used the Pell Grants, infrastructure and job training programs benefits exponentially.

SEND OBAMA A MESSAGE by Rabbi Avi Shafran

I kill Avi Shafran when he's wrong, but I'll be the first to congratulate him when he's right.

SEND OBAMA A MESSAGE  by Rabbi Avi Shafran

The Obama administration considers Israel a sponsor of terror —at least according to Dick Morris, the disgraced ex-advisor to Bill Clinton, and a host of self-styled “conservative” media. The news was shocking—well, maybe not to the clever folks who knew all along that the president is a secret Muslim, but certainly to the rest of us.

What turned out to be the case is that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency maintains a list of 36 “specially designated countries” whose immigrating citizens get extra scrutiny because their nations “promote, produce or protect terrorist organizations or their members.” Note the word “or.”

“Produce,” in this context, means that terrorists reside in the country. Thus, countries like the Philippines and Morocco, along with Israel, are on the list. Approximately a million and a half Israeli citizens are Arabs—many of whom have ties to Arab residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. So no, with apologies to Mr. Morris et al, the U.S. does not consider Israel a terror sponsor.

What makes some people all too ready to misrepresent such things is that many Americans, especially in the Jewish community, have deep concerns about President Obama’s Middle East policies. My personal view is that these concerns are overblown. While I realize there are other opinions, as far as I can tell Mr. Obama’s positions on building in the settlements and on the terms of Israel-Palestinian negotiations have been American policy since long before his presidency.

Even doubters of Mr. Obama’s good will, though, should recognize the import of the administration’s declared readiness to veto any U.N. Security Council resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood. That stance risks the U.S.’s international political capital and may even, G-d forbid, come to threaten Americans’ safety. Might it speak more loudly about the president than his opposition to new settlements?

Speaking equally loudly is what happened on September 9, when Mr. Obama acted swiftly to warn Egyptian authorities that they had better protect Israeli embassy guards in Cairo besieged by a mob. When Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minster Barak were unable to reach the apparently indisposed Egyptian military leader Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spent hours hounding the Egyptian, finally reaching him at 1 AM to let him know that if anything happened to the Israelis, there would be “very severe consequences.” Egyptian soldiers protected the hostages until an Israeli Air Force plane safely evacuated them.

Mr. Netanyahu later recounted that he had asked for Mr. Obama’s help and that the president had replied that he would do everything he could. “And so he did,” testified the Prime Minister.

It may not be meaningful for many, but I was struck two days later on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks when the president, betraying his Islamic beliefs (joke!), chose for his reading at the New York ceremony the 46th chapter of Tehillim. The one including the words (in the White House’s translation):

“Though its waters roar and be troubled… there’s a river whose streams shall make glad the City of G-d, the holy place of the Tabernacle of the Most High.”

And: “The God of Jacob is our refuge.”

Whatever our takes on this or that statement or position, hard facts are not up for debate.

Let’s not forget some such facts: The Obama administration has provided more security assistance to Israel than any American administration; he has repeatedly declared (first in 2009 in Cairo during his speech to the Arab world) that the bond between the U.S. and Israel is “unbreakable”; his Secretary of State lectured Al-Jazeera that “when the Israelis pulled out of Lebanon they got Hezbollah and 40,000 rockets and when they pulled out of Gaza they got Hamas and 20,000 rockets”; his State Department has condemned the Palestinian Authority’s “factually incorrect” denial of the Western Wall’s connection to the Jewish people; and much more.

Last week, in the lead-up to a Congressional election in Brooklyn in which Jews had ample other reason to vote against the Democratic candidate, some ads presented the contest as an opportunity to “Send Obama a Message”—which some Jews took to mean an angry message about Israel.

Many thoughtful Jews, though, have a different message for Mr. Obama: Thank you.

The man I voted for

The 2007 edition of Barack Obama appears to be back in the house:
In some of the sharpest comments he’s made this election cycle, President Obama attacked Texas Gov. Rick Perry and recent Republican presidential debate audiences tonight at a fundraiser in Woodside, California.  
“Some of you here may be folks who actually used to be Republicans but are puzzled by what’s happened to that party, are puzzled by what’s happening to that party. I mean, has anybody been watching the debates lately?” Obama said, per a reporter who was there.
“You’ve got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change,” Obama told donors referring to Perry. 
“It’s true. You’ve got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don’t have health care and booing a service member in Iraq because they’re gay. That’s not reflective of who we are,” said Obama
However, Perry, Santorum,  and the other phony Christians on that panel showed us exactly who they are when they permitted the debate audience to jeer a gay soldier. Someone qualified to lead the United States of freaking America would have silenced the crowd, and said "Shame on you. This young man deserves your thanks and your respect regardless of his sexual orientation."

Instead, your GOP contenders stood like mute morons, silently witnessing the humiliation of a US soldier. If they haven't got the courage to correct a crowd of Tea Baggers, how do they expect to lead this country?

Search for more information about Barak Obama at

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ehud Barak thinks Brack Obama backs Israel more than any previous president

Ehud Barak is Israel's defense minister, and which president does he think has done the most to protect Israel and guarantee its security? Why Brack Obama! Surprise! Money quote:
And I should tell you honestly that the Obama administration is backing the security of Israel for which I'm responsible in our government in a way that could hardly be compared to any previous administration.
Barak also went on to say that Obama is not the problem with the negotiations with the Palestinians but he is part of the solution and; also Rick Perry was wrong to say that Obama appeases the Palestinians.

See the full Ehud Barak transcript here

Did Moshe lie to klal yisroel?

On the last day of his life, the teacher of Israel said, "I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to go out and come in and The LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan."

This statement puzzles the commentators, who note that at the end of the Bible the narrator reports "Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone."

The contradiction is resolved in various ways.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

An astounding biblical coincidence

A curious mistake appears in both the Septuagint and the Deuteronomy scroll found at Qumran. This mistake, apparently made by two different scribes working independently, also appears appears to   sheds some thematic light on the first verse in this week's parsha. Such a coincidence!

וַיֵּלֶךְ, מֹשֶׁה; וַיְדַבֵּר אֶת-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, אֶל-כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל.
And Moshe went and spoke these words to all of Israel.

All of the major commenters attempt to explain where Moshe went, and their suggestions vary widely.

 Thanks to the coincidentally identical mistake, by two different scribes working independently the  Septuagint and the Deuteronomy scroll, have a different reading, one that obviates the difficulty:

"And Moshe finished speaking these words to all of Israel.", or "Vayichal Mochel l'daber...

What happened seems clear: The Greek scribe, and the Qumran scribe coincidentally both made the exact same identical error, and reversed the order of the last two letters of the verb vayelehk (he went) producing vayekhal (he finished) instead.

This is astounding, , because apart from the remarkable coincidence of two scribes working in two different places making the same error, and aside from solving the problem of where Moshe went, the scribal error makes much thematic sense.

The final chapters of Deuteronomy form an epilouge to the book, and the mistake makes this verse into what Robert Alter calls "a proper introduction to the epilogue." Moshe has finished his valedictory sermon. the major work of his life is over.   Beginning here, with this verse,  the book is concerned with wrapping up the loose ends: The transfer of authority to Yehoshua, Moshe's song, and the blessing of the 12 tribes.

Park 51 Opens

The cowards and bullies, not to mention the bloviating politicians who led them, seem not to have noticed that Park 51 opened last night. Oh, and the mosque everyone cried about? Been open for two years. Here's the story, taken from Huff Post, only because Fox Fakers didn't think the event they depicted in August 2010 as a threat to freedom and decency was newsworthy enough to mention once it finally happened.

NEW YORK — An Islamic cultural center near the site of the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center held its first exhibit Wednesday evening, the enthusiasm at the opening belying its troubled beginnings.
As a small orchestra played traditional Middle Eastern instruments, people crowded into the center, where a photo exhibit of New York children of different ethnicities lined the walls.
The building at 51 Park Place, two blocks from the World Trade Center site, includes a Muslim prayer space that has been open for two years. El-Gamal said the overall center is modeled after the Jewish Community Center on Manhattan's Upper West Side, where he lives.
"I wanted my daughter to learn how to swim, so I took her to the JCC," said the Brooklyn-born Muslim. "And when I walked in, I said, `Wow. This is great.'"

See my excellent arguments against Park 51 related stupidity and bigotry from 2010 including the seminal "Are you a Park 51 Bigot" 

We're #5! We're #5!

Here's something you Tea Party lunatics can cheer about:
The United States, according to Amnesty International, placed fifth in 2010’s global executions race, with 46 state-sanctioned killings of human beings. China came in first, with a death tally of 1,000-plus. Second-place Iran killed at least 252, North Korea in third with 60, give or take a few, and Yemen pulled up fourth, killing 53, with maybe a few extra tossed in.
Aren't you proud? We're in the same category as brutal dictatorships, Arab states, and our two chief enemies. And you thought gay marriage was proof of our country's moral decline.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why can Republicans undermine the president?

Guest post from "George"

Yesterday, GOP presidential front runner Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) led a news conference to attack President Obama’s Middle East policies, insisting that “as a Christian, I have aclear directive to support Israel.” Fellow candidate Mitt Romney jumped on the bandwagon, calling for the U.S. to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority and re-evaluate funding U.N. programs if Palestinians gain recognition from the U.N. This morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, host (and former Republican Rep.) Joe Scarborough slammed Perry and Romney for “posing for political purposes and undermining our president.” “That is dangerous and it’s not good for our country,” he said. Watch it:

MSNBC’s First Read asks, “If Howard Dean or John Kerry had shown up in New York City while [President George W.] Bush was at U.N. in ’03 — and had accused Bush of ‘appeasement’ (with foreign nationals) at a time of tricky negotiations at the U.N. — wouldn’t that have drawn widespread condemnation

Obama throws down

Dear GOP Jews:

How will you spin this one?

Obama, at U.N., Explains Rationale for Opposing Palestinian Statehood Bid
UNITED NATIONS — President Obama declared his opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood through the Security Council on Wednesday, throwing the weight of the United States directly in the path of the Arab democracy movement even as he hailed what he called the democratic aspirations that have taken hold throughout the Middle East and North Africa. >> More

Peek A Jew!

Right before they kiss

HT: On request (forgot his blog name)
Source: Houston Chronicle's "Best Photos From Around the Country"

YWN attacks Obama's attackers?!

I bash YWN all the time for publishing falsehoods and appeals to the lowest common Orthodox Jewish denominator. For the most part, their articles are written by illiterate morons or stolen from reputable news sources and the comments are mostly written by drones who've outsourced their thinking to people like Avigdor Miller or Joseph Farah. When I assemble my top ten list of things that disappoint me about Jews, the fact that so many of my coreligionists revel in the dreck found daily on YWN will certainly be included.


Today the worst blog in the world ran a guest post by Charles Katz that made perfect sense, and surprisingly the first dozen or so comments offered no objection. The gist is that the Orthodox Jews who protested against Obama in front of the UN yesterday are a bunch of  ingrates who need to get out of Rick Perry's pants. Money quote:
President Obama was across the street at the United Nations working feverishly to stop the Palestinians from declaring a state, and a group of men wearing Yarmulkas publicly gather to blast the President of the United States on live television. Talk about a chilul hashem. And don’t think for one second that most of them mean this “lishem shomayim” to defend Israel. They could not care less about Israel. They care about one thing and one thing only: chanifah towards Rick Perry lest he be the next President. Oh, and as an added bonus they get to pretend that they are machers for a day by getting their photo in a newspaper with the Republican Presidential frontrunner.

What did Obama do to deserve this? Promising to veto the Palestinian State wasn’t enough? How about saving a dozen Jews in the Israeli Embassy in Egypt last Shabbos? Where is the hakoras hatov?
Quite right, and (ahem) all honor to YWN for publishing it and (cough cough) to their readers for concurring with the message.

DADT is done

Yesterday marked the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the 18-year-old policy that prohibited gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military and forced more than 14,000 qualified men and women out of the armed forces. This is great news for all sorts of self-evident reasons, the most important one being that it makes Yehuda Levin cry.

As the president put it when he signed the executive order the ordered the military to end the policy: "Service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country. Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian"

Those of you concerned that the repeal of DADT will hurt morale and hinder effectiveness are referred to this Daily Show segment:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rick Perry lies about Israel (though perhaps he's just stupid)

Here's a quote from Perry's speech today: was wrong for this Administration to suggest the 1967 borders should be the starting point for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. When you consider this suggestion was made on the eve of the Israeli Prime Minister’s visit, we see in this American Administration a willingness to isolate a close ally and to do so in a manner that is insulting and naïve.
Those of you who read the newspaper are aware that this is a naked lie. What Obama actually suggested is no different from what was suggested by his predecessor, George W. Bush

Here is what Obama said on May 19:
"The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.."
In 2005, George W. Bush said the same thing, calling for a Palestinian state  based on the 1949 armistice lines, stating that “changes to the 1949 Armistice lines must be mutually agreed to.”  There is no substantive difference between this and what Obama said.

Also, as William Saletan reminds us, Bush wrote a letter to Ariel Sharon in 2004, in which he made the same suggestion Obama did in May.  Here's the key passage:
In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949 … It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.
Saletan: "That's not a commitment to support Israel on the settlement blocs. It's a prediction that the 1949-1967 border will be adjusted to include these blocs, through mutually agreed swaps—exactly what Obama said on May 19. Furthermore, as Fareed Zakaria points out, Bush reaffirmed in 2008 that "any peace agreement … will require mutually agreed adjustments to the armistice lines of 1949 to reflect current realities and to ensure that the Palestinian state is viable and contiguous."

So is Rick Perry a liar or an ignoramus? Is he lying about Israel for the sake of his run at the presidency, or is he legitimately clueless about what past presidents have actually said?

How can a Republican survive on just $400,000 per year?

Let's pass the hat for John Fleming (R-LA). He's really suffering because after he pays all of his business and household expense his 6.5 million income has evaporated to a mere $400,000.

I know this because the Congressman made a clueless appearance on the T.V in which he appealed for sympathy on the grounds that “by the time I feed my family, I have maybe $400,000 left over to invest....”

The poor fellow! Only $400,000! Perhaps he should use it to purchase for himself the worlds tiniest violin.

PS: This sad sack claims he has 500 employees. I went outside and found a third grader who was able to confirm that 6 million / 500 = 12,000.  So the Congressperson from LA is either lying about having 500 employees or paying them well under the minimum wage. As a Republican, I suppose either is possible.

PPS: Why does this guy take credit for being a job creator? Demand for goods and services is what creates jobs, not an overstuffed bank account.

Quote of the day (sex)

Orthodox Jewish couples are taught, once they get engaged, to have phenomenal, shout-out-loud, swinging-from-the-chandelier sex.” - Shmuley Boteach

This has appeared on two or three FB accounts I follow, and inevitably the comments ran something like this:

A: He's crazy. I didn't find anything out until the wedding day, and the information was just about what went where.
B: He's exactly right. Only we got that information from our mechneches in H.S
C: Pure propaganda. Orthodox couples are only taught what to avoid. Not how to do it right.
D: Is that why Hungarians are big into chandeliers?

In other Kosher Sex news, the proprietor of that new Torah True kinky toy store told the newspaper  that  furry handcuffs are his best seller. What's pshat? Any arm chair sociologists care to explain?

How Obama has hurt Israel

A guest post by Vox Populi

With respect to Rabbi Fink, I can think of at least one very concrete way in which the President’s efforts have harmed Israel. And I say this as a general supporter of the President, and someone who believes that the Americans should exert pressure on the Israeli government to pursue a negotiated settlement with greater vigor.

When Obama called for Netanyahu to impose a settlement freeze before beginning negotiations, that put Netanyahu in a very difficult position. Not because freezing settlements is a bad idea – I’m all for it – but because Netanyahu can’t freeze settlements. Obama misjudged Israel’s domestic political situation, and thought that the only thing standing in his way was Netanyahu’s recalcitrance. The sad fact is, Netanyahu is not Obama’s biggest problem; Netanyahu is his best friend on this.

Even if Bibi wanted to freeze settlements, and go full steam ahead on a two state solution, he could not. The math just isn’t there. A full settlement freeze would destroy his coalition, and probably fracture his party as well. Then, if you exclude Arab parties, there probably aren’t 61 seats in the Knesset in favor of a settlement freeze.

By my calculations, here’s what you can count on for a settlement freeze. 3 from Meretz; 5 from Ha’atzma’ut; 8 from Labor, and probably 28 from Kadima. That gets you 44. To get the other 17, you need Bibi to be able to deliver 17 out of 27 of Likud’s seats. I’m very skeptical such a thing can be done.

Even if such a thing were possible, it would be incredibly controversial to do without an election. You can’t just blow up the government and build a new one without calling an election. And I just don’t see 51% of Jewish votes going to a settlement freeze, especially then.

Even if Bibi did form a new coalition without calling an election, why would he be Prime Minister? He wouldn’t represent the median seat in the coalition, and he wouldn’t even be the leader of the largest party in the coalition. Back when he originally formed his government, one of the reasons Livni refused to join was because her party was bigger than his. She should be Prime Minister! Why would Bibi want to accept a subordinate position in another coalition?

Essentially, Obama was asking Netanyahu to blow up his government, and quite likely, resign his office. The only way that would happen is if Netanyahu was so enamored of a settlement freeze that he was willing to lose power to make it happen. Needless to say, Netanyahu is not enamored of a settlement freeze.

By calling for Netanyahu to do something he could not do, as a precondition for negotiations, Obama set up the current impasse. Now we have this situation where Netanyahu can credibly claim that he offered to negotiate, and blame Palestinian intransigence for insisting on a settlement freeze as a precondition for negotiations. And the Palestinians can blame Netanyahu and Israeli intransigence for not agreeing to a full settlement freeze. And the Palestinians can’t agree to terms that Obama deemed unfair. So we’re stuck. This is at least partly the President’s fault. He should have paid closer attention to Israeli politics.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Yet another post on she lo asni isha

By Rabbi Zev Farber
Taken from here, without permission

(Rabbi Zev Farber was ordained (yoreh yoreh and yadin yadin) by YCT Rabbinical School. He is the founder of AITZIM (Atlanta Institute of Torah and Zionism) - an adult education initiative. Rabbi Farber serves on the board of the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF) and is the coordinator of their Vaad Giyyur. He is also a PhD candidate at Emory University's Graduate Division of Religion.)

Recently, my friend and colleague, Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, wrote a blog-post describing how uncomfortable he has become with men reciting the blessing thanking God for not making them women. If I remember the original post correctly (it has since been deleted), R.Kanefsky felt that this blessing reflected an outdated view of women as something less than men. In our society that belief is no longer held and implying it would be discourteous to women.Therefore, he argued, the blessing should not be said nowadays.

The latter point, i.e. that the blessing should be dropped or changed is, of course, debatable, since where and when halakha is supposed to change is a tricky question. I myself have an article in the works on this subject, advocating an adjustment to our nussah, and I am looking forward to a constructive dialogue on this topic in our community.

R. Kanefsky’s first point, that the blessing reflects, or, at least, originally reflected, a viewpoint of women as being somewhat “less” than men is so patently obvious that it is amazing to me that it needs to be defended. And yet, the nature of our Orthodox world has become one where the patently obvious can be denied as if it were itselfabsurd. This can be seen from the numerous blog posts that have been written over the past week attacking Rabbi Kanefsky for not being “really” Orthodox (a favorite form of “j’accuse” amongst Orthodox bloggers nowadays). At best, some have chalked it up to his strong emotional nature clouding his judgment. I will not engage these posts or their authors directly because of their mean-spirited and inappropriate tone, but I do think a number of points need to be made.

Dear Man

A Guest Post by Shoshanna Jaskoll
[Cross posted on Life in Israel. Reprinted here with the author's permission.]

Dear Man,

Hi, its me, Woman. It’s... been a while. And even longer since we frolicked in the garden of Eden, huh? Was nice back then... before you told me that God said not to touch the tree, but actually, what He said was not to eat from the tree…

Such a world of difference between touching and eating- don’t you think? Like the difference between looking and lusting? Between appreciating and desiring? Between wanting and taking…

I know how the president feels

From the beginning of John Heilman's new piece about Israel and Obama:
On May 20, the day after Obama gave his big speech on the Arab Spring, in which he unleashed a tsunami of tsuris by endorsing the use of Israel’s 1967 borders “with mutually agreed [land] swaps” as the basis for a two-state solution with the Palestinians. Obama and Netanyahu were seated in the Oval Office for what was supposed to be one of those photo ops devoted to roasting rhetorical chestnuts about the solidity of the U.S.-Israel alliance. Instead, while Obama watched silently, looking poleaxed, Netanyahu lectured him—for seven and a half minutes, on live television—about the folly, the sheer absurdity, of suggesting Israel ever return to what he called the “indefensible” 1967 lines.

Obama was furious with Netanyahu, who in choosing to ignore the crucial qualifier about land swaps had twisted Obama’s words beyond recognition—the kind of mendacious misinterpretation that makes the presidential mental
Makes me mental, too. I don't mind honest disagreement with the president. If you think his policy sucks, that's fine. But what I can't stand is the dishonest suggestion made by Obama haters everywhere that the president's remark about borders was a departure from previous American policy or from what his predecessors wanted.  

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Rubashkin and Toeva

Had David Weprin, supporter of civil rights for homosexuals, lost his election during the week we read the Torah verses in which homosexuality is called a "Toeva", you can bet the No-Coincidence-Crowd would be crowing. They're great at matching current events with random bible verses, and during the week of that reading connecting Weprin's loss with the Word of God as revealed in Leviticus would have been a layup.

Well, a few hours ago Samuel Rubashkin's appeal was denied, and one of the very last things we read in last week's parsha are the verses in which cheating at business is declared a "Toeva."

Has the No-Coincidence-Crowd made an announcement yet?  Like you, I am anxiously waiting for the NCC to use the results of their favorite parlor game to tell us exactly what God is thinking.

HT: Named on request

Notes and points on Deut 26:5ff

This is going to be a collection of bullet points, not a full-fledged post. I hope you don't mind. My objective is to summarize some of the very interesting things about Deuteronomy 26:5, and to hint at the various theological and exegetical problems surrounding the interpretation of this verse.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Another Aish video insults our intelligence

Received by email:
I wanted to share with you an amazing Rosh Hashanah video featuring one of Israel's top break dance teams. We hope that you can post this video on your site, blog, Facebook or twitter accounts and hopefully we will get the entire Jewish nation excited about the upcoming Jewish New Year.
The message  was sent by an executive at Forbidden Fruit Media, and it refers to the new Aish Hatorah  video currently making the rounds.  Both the message and the video sort of make my skin crawl.

If you haven't seen it yet, the video starts with a bored, bright-eyed kid in a Jewfro worrying that Rosh Hashana will be a snooze. "Oh no," a black hat wearing friend assures him. "It'll be great. Let me show you" On cue, the speaker is joined by a team of break-dancing, park-our performing rappers, who proceed to bounce around leaping off walls, performing back flips and trying just a little too hard to let us know how cool and hip they are.

The problem, of course, is Aish is neither cool nor hip.  And a deeper problem is that reducing the majesty and marvel of Rosh Hashana to a poorly performed break-dance with inaudible lyrics is sort of like serving a Happy Meal to the guests at your wedding feast. This is supposed to get the "Jewish nation excited about the upcoming Jewish New Year?" This? Are we that low brow?

Here's some past commentary about other Aish Videos that have made us wish to hurl
After the jump, I give you a classic example of song and dance used in a film to achieve a narrative objective, a objective that isn't much different from what Aish attempts to achieve in their video.  In both clips, the main character dances and sings his way to overcoming another party's objection. Ginger Rogers can't see what's so great about Fred Astaire, but by the end of the musical number she gets it - and so do we.  In the Aish video, the Jewfro has similar doubts about Rosh Hashana. When the music stops his doubts are relieved, but ours are not. In the Astaire clip the lyrics and choreography tell the story. They show us why Ginger should be with Fred. In the Aish video the dance is just a distraction that fails to sell us on the holiday, or to explain why we should give it a second thought.

Perhaps next year, an organization will go to the trouble of making a viral video that actually conveys some of what makes Rosh Hashana outstanding

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Can You Help Me Out?

A Guest Post By E. Fink

I am no expert on politics. I'm more of an observer.

This morning, I observed the WSJ op-ed that DovBear posted. I saw it on several of my more right wing leaning Facebook friends' walls. They loved the op-ed. It got me thinking about something. Perhaps one of the enlightened readers of this blog can help me out.

Has the President's alleged misdeeds towards Israel actually hurt Israel? Let's not quibble about whether the President has actually done anything negative towards Israel. I have to really try hard to see that too. But let's assume he HAS done bad things to Israel. Have they actually had an effect on anything?

Here is the question: For all the complaining about Obama's policies toward Israel and his obvious anti-Semitism that is causing Democrats for life to rebel against Mr. President where is the negative effect? Aren't things pretty much the same they were in 2005? 2001? 1993? 1985?

It sure seems that way to me.

WSJ lies about Israel and Obama

The we hate Obama crowd is enjoying a new editorial published by the WSJ which begs a question, and then tries to answer it. Under the heading "Why Obama Is Losing the Jewish Vote?" (Oh, really?) we find a list of bullets, each containing errors, omissions, exaggerations, misstatements of fact, or outright lies. Perhaps in time, I'll point all of them out, but for now, here's a debunking of one, especially egregious error.
• July 2009: Mr. Obama hosted American Jewish leaders at the White House, reportedly telling them that he sought to put "daylight" between America and Israel. "For eight years"—during the Bush administration—"there was no light between the United States and Israel, and nothing got accomplished," he declared
This is not a fair description of what occurred. First of all, common sense ought to tell you something smells fishy here. Would an American president really be foolish enough to announce his plans to screw Israel in front of an audience of American Jewish leaders? And indeed, the facts tell a different story.

Here's the version reported at the time by JTA:
[Malcom] Henlein said that peace progress was likelier when there was "no daylight" between Israel and the United States. Obama agreed that it must always be clear that Israel has unalloyed U.S. support but added that for the past eight years, referring to the Bush administration, there was "no daylight and no progress."

Here's how the New York Times reported it at first 
Participants said some of the toughest questioning of Mr. Obama came from Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Two said that Mr. Hoenlein told the president that diplomatic progress in the Middle East has traditionally occurred when there is “no light” between the positions of the United States and Israel. But Mr. Obama pushed back, citing the administration of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

“He said, ‘I disagree,’ ‘’ said Marla Gilson, director of the Washington action office of Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization. “He said, ‘For eight years, there was no light between the United States and Israel, and nothing got accomplished.’

Here's how the New York Times reported it later
During the July meeting, held in the Roosevelt Room, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told Obama that “public disharmony between Israel and the U.S. is beneficial to neither” and that differences “should be dealt with directly by the parties.” The president, according to Hoenlein, leaned back in his chair and said: “I disagree. We had eight years of no daylight” — between George W. Bush and successive Israeli governments — “and no progress.”

From the context it seems absolutely clear that Obama was not threatening Israel, nor was he announcing a policy shift. Rather, he is telling us that he has Israel's best interests at heart, and that he does not believe that Bush's approach was successful.  He wants progress. He wants peace. And he's not afraid to point out that Bush failed to deliver it. This is not scandalous - unless you're unscrupulously searching for any quote or misquote that can be used to hurt the president.

I don't know what to name this post

A guest post by Bruce

I'm sure many of you heard about the incident in Monsey during Hurricane Irene. A 5-year-old boy (Reuven Herbst) was being electrocuted by a downed power line, a neighbor (Moshe Reichenberg) rushed to rescue him. Reichenberg was killed, and Reuven was injured critically.

As you can see, in the Monsey ad magazine Community Connections dated September 8-15, approximately a dozen women from the neighborhood where this occurred (including Reichenberg's widow) took out a full-page ad. The ad quotes the Chofetz Chaim, who said (allegedly) that machlokes is like fire. The women urge everyone to forgive old grudges and increase peacemaking as a merit for the boy's recovery.

Underneath the copy, as you'll see, is a section that includes updates regarding Reuven's condition: August 31 update: Since this campaign began, we heard that the boy's heart became stabilized and strong (sic). September 5 update: Doctors say that his body is recovering!

Of course, they add 'Chasdei Hashem' and 'Hodu L'Hashem Ki Tov' so we all know that we're praising the Lord for these miraculous signs of recovery, not the righteous women who are burying hatchets and forgiving one another and letting go of resentments right and left.

So they're implying that the kid is improving as a direct result of their actions.

But apparently their actions weren't good enough, because Reuven died on Friday, 9/9. 

I have so many questions, and yes, I don't mind voicing them even while the Herbst family is still sitting shiva.

How do people--BTs or FFBs or Rabbis or Rebbetzins or lay people--justify this kind of sanctimonious nonsense? It's not like we haven't seen it before. We saw it after Motty Borger killed himself, and after Leiby Kletzky's murder, too. People actually believe that they can draw direct corollaries from human actions to G0d, unless and until they can't, at which point they shrug and say, "Who can understand the ways of G0d?"

But you just got finished beating me over the head with guilt, and building up my hopes, telling me that by forgiving my insufferable shrew of an aunt (for example) and letting bygones be bygones, I'm actually making the world a better place *and* helping heal a critically injured child!

Yes, but, you didn't do enough. The improvement in Reuven's condition was from Hashem. And the deterioration was also from Hashem. Who are we to question?

It's infuriating to me that this drivel is what passes for discourse and what passes for Torah and Yiddishkeit among the rank-and-file here in Monsey and throughout the 'frum' or 'haredi' world. They're pushing dumb, blind, feel-good thought control, telling a naive and unquestioning audience that it actually makes a difference, and then wringing their hands piously when G0d, in His infinite humor, yanks the rug out from under them.

I hope that this story causes more people to question and doubt. Because these questions and doubts are more real than a thousand parroted kapitlech of tehillim. If some lose their faith, so be it. If others find it strengthened, more power to them. But for G0d's sake, don't drink the kool-aid. Push back. Force these patronizing know-nothings to admit that they can't predict anything, they don't know anything, and that ultimately, if there is a G0d, they can't say anything about it.

Looking forward to spirited comments. Good night.

How did the Dems lose NY9?

What happened in NY9? Simple. Weprin lost because he didn't call Turner on his lies and because he allowed Turner to distract the voters with non issues. He lost because he ran an awful campaign, and allowed his opponent to set the tone. For example:

Gay marriage: This doesn't affect the people of NY9 in any way shape or form, and I've been unable to find a principled objection to it, that doesn't boil down to simple bigotry.

Israel: There is very little daylight between Weprin and Turner on this, just as there is very little daylight between Bush and Obama. One of the top ten disgusting things I've seen GOP supporters do is lie about Obama's Israel record. Its virtually identical to Bush's! Specifically, I mean the outright lie about the '67 borders. Obama simply repeated what every president for the last 40 years has said, but liars on the right such as Bob Turner said it was something new and something terrible. Anyway, a US representative has very little influence over foreign affairs.

Spending. Sure Turner says he wants to cut spending, but so does every GOP candidate, for every office..  Ronald Reagen said he wanted to cut spending. So did Bush Sr. So did W. Did it happen? No. All three of those presidents increased spending, and W. did it with a GOP house that supported all of his spending increases. So is Turner's promise credible? Doubt it.

Instead the campaign in NY9 should have been about credentials, character, and achievements. Weprin should have talked about his superior track record, and his years of service to the community. He should have forcefully rebuffed every single Turner lie. And he should have made it clear to the people of NY9 that he's "their guy." For over 30 years he's represented the people of Brooklyn and Queens in the corridors of power, and received nothing but high marks for his performance. He always delivered.  That service  have been rewarded, and Weprin's' past success should have been taken as an indication that Weprin would continue to deliver as a Congressman.

Unfortunately, this message was not received, and the fault lies squarely with Weprin.

What do Matt Drudge, the GOP hack, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, have in common?

A coincidence I am sure, but this is what Ahmadinejad said about the Jews during an interview with Slate's Lally Weymouth:
A dreadful party, a feared party, the party that was behind the First World War and the Second World War. Whenever there is a conflict or war--this party is behind it.
And here's Drudge echoing the sentiment in his big fat NY9 headline:

Yes, everything that happens, happens because of us. We're the greedy and immoral overlords who control the world while remaining hidden.

I'll explain what really happened in NY9 in the next post.

The Jews in this district do have a say in who gets elected, and that's nothing like the start of WWI and WWII. However -- and call me oversensitive - I do not like it one bit when non-Jews say we're controlling outcomes especially political or financial outcomes, or when they speak of us as if we all think and act the same way.

HT: @Azigra

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jon Stewart Remember 9/13/01

Right to life sanctimony

A great question asked at the Slog
Republican debate audiences cheer death. They cheer the death of death-row inmates, even the potentially innocent ones. And they cheer the death of the uninsured sick. And yet, Republicans are passionately "Pro-Life" when it comes to the unborn.

Huh. So how do you think Republicans would react to the prospect of an uninsured, unborn fetus, gestating inside the uterus of a death-row inmate?

How would Republicans deal with an uninsured, unborn fetus, gestating inside a death-row inmate?

(1) Bring the fetus to term, then kill the mother. Every life is sacred.
(2) The fetus must take personal responsibility for its own poor choices.
(3) Caught in a logical loop, like Nomad in Star Trek episode #32, they will self-destruct in an enormous explosion.
The Torah True answer is (4) kill the mother and fetus together. This is just one of the Jewish laws that make it clear to anyone paying attention that Judaism and Christianity are not bedfellows on abortion.

After the jump see the Tea Party cheer the death of the uninsured sick

An Orthodox Woman who no longer says She Asani Kirtzono

Written by MFB, and taken from the comment thread on "Sometimes its ok to change the liturgy; sometimes it isn't"

I'm an orthodox woman who stopped saying the bracha of sheasani kirtzono about 15 years ago. Strangely enough, the fact that my husband and other men in my life say shelo asani isha every day doesn't bother me nearly as much as the idea of shelo asani isha as a "consolation prize" bracha. I guess I learned the explanation that shelo asani isha has to do with the number of mitzvot one is obligated to do when I was very young and just never really questioned it. (I thought that explanation is in the gemara, why do you say it was created long after?

[DB: I mis-communicated earlier.The Jerusalem Talmud and Tosefta say the the reason for the blessing is that women are not obligated in Mitzvot. The suggestion, I think, is that this makes men superior to women, just as free Jewish men are superior to non-Jews and slaves. Other sources rely on the reason given by the Tosefta and the Jerusalem Talmud though some also introduce social explanations, or suggest this is just a way of reaching 100 blessings. The business about women being on a higher spiritual level, came much later I think.]

Although now that I think about it, it does seem strange to say that the absolute number of mitzvoth is what matters rather than the amount of time one spends doing mitzvoth. (There are some mitzvoth that are performed very infrequently or take very little time to perform while others are done often and take up a good chunk of one's time)

The bracha of sheasani kirtzono always bothered me much more. It seems that the woman is acknowledging that it is somehow "better" to be a man, but is accepting her lower status as being G-d's will similar to how we accept other evils in the world that we don't understand as being somehow part of G-d's master plan. I never felt comfortable saying a bracha that implied that I wish I were a man. I am sure that being a man has some advantages that as a woman I could never understand (whether spiritual, practical or otherwise) but I do not think that being obligated to wear tzitzit, sit in a sukka and count sefirat haomer could possible make up for the spiritually uplifting experiences of pregnancy, childbirth and nursing a baby. But then again, what do I know, I'm just a woman.

I get that maybe 2000 years ago women might have actually felt that they had somewhat of a lesser status and therefore the bracha was appropriate, but what annoys me most is the modern apologetic spin given to it today. Women, we are told, have fewer mitzvot because they are on a higher spiritual level to begin with. So the bracha of sheasani kirtzono is thanking God for making us according to His will as higher spiritual beings. Huh?? By that logic are non-Jews on a higher spiritual level than Jews? Has any slave being offered freedom ever said, "thanks, but no thanks. I'd rather stay a slave with fewer mitzvot because it keeps me on a higher spriritual level?" And, as I said before, is spirituality measured by the actual number of mitzvot one does or by the kavana and amount of time spent absorbed in mitzvot?

When I got married 18 years ago I was under the mistaken impression that I should start davening in my husband's (Sephardi – edot mizrach) nusach (even though he didn't really care what nusach I daven in.) I noticed that in those siddurim women say the bracha of shelo asani isha without God's name (since it is a bracha that does not appear in the gemara.) I remember learning that these brachot are mentioned in the gamara in the context of trying to say 100 brachot a day and it seemed silly to me to say a bracha that I don't agree with and without God's name so it doesn't even help me reach the 100 brachot. Better to just have a piece of chocolate after I finish davening and make a bracha on that, so I just stopped saying the bracha altogether.

Truth is, the bracha I really want to say (but don’t because of halachic issues of changing the nusach of the tefilla) is one I saw years ago in a Conservative siddur. It had both men and women saying "sheasani b'tzalmo". Now, wouldn't it be wonderful to wake up every morning and thank God for creating you in His image?

Sorry for the long post. Just needed to vent a little.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Not making this up

To DovBear:

Been meaning to write to you about this for lots of days. It was like this. I was by my big bucher's meet the Rebbe breakfast and the Menahel was giving to us his welcome back to yeshiva drasha. We all were sitting in the dining room at the yeshiva in long rows and the Menahel, he has a big beard. I was thinking this is so much like  Hogwarts. We were all by the long tables, with the bochrim in their hats, and the Menahel, he looked a lot like Dumbledore. 

Then he started speaking to us about the big evil lurking where we can't see it but its trying to grab up all the kids and their souls so we should be very frightened and careful. Is this Voldermort I asked in my head? NO! The Internet is what he meant, but it reminded me so much the movie. 

 I guess maybe davening is like the spells, too. 

Your Number One Hasidic Fan

Sometimes its okay to change the liturgy, sometimes it isn't.

Before we had shuls, prayers took place in the Temple where a liturgy was often celebrated by the Levites as sacrifices were brought. One such prayer was the recitation of Psalm 44, which speaks of a slumbering God who no longer performs the miracles our ancestors saw. An excerpt:
9 But now you have rejected and humbled us;
you no longer go out with our armies.
10 You made us retreat before the enemy,
and our adversaries have plundered us.
11 You gave us up to be devoured like sheep
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You sold your people for a pittance,
gaining nothing from their sale.

13 You have made us a reproach to our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations;
the peoples shake their heads at us.
15 I live in disgrace all day long,
and my face is covered with shame
16 at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me,
because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge
[ ]
23 Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?
According to the Gemarah this Pslam was recited by the Leivites every day as sacrifices were offered. The Gemarah also says the practice was instituted during times of suffering. In The Sages, Binyamin Lau suggests the custom owas established as a response to Selucid persecutions. For the Jews who lived through those terrible years, it must have seemed as if God was sleeping.

Year later (probably around 120 BCE)  Yochanan Kohen Godol abolished the prayer (Maaser Sheni 5:15) As Lau argues, the times had changed. A new era of peace and tranquility had begun (see back story below), and it was no longer appropriate to speak of a sleeping God who ignored prayers and left His people defenseless. Though the facts of currents events had previously supported the words of the Psalm, by the time of YKG the facts of current events had changed and the prayer could no longer be said.

There's an analogy here to events in our own time. Once upon a time, there were clear advantages to being a man. In the ancient world, women were slightly better than slaves, with no real legal rights. In such a time and place it made sense to thank God each morning "for not having made me a woman." Those days are over. Women are now full citizens of nearly every country, with rights and opportunities their ancient grandmothers never imagined. Just as Yochanan Kohen Godol abolished the Temple prayer on the grounds that the times no longer justified it, isn't it time for someone of YKG's stature to do the same with our out-of-date morning blessing?

Here is some of the historical back story:  Yochanan Kohen Godol,  identified by scholars as John Hyrkenus, was perhaps the most successful Hashmonian leader. Acting as Prince of Judea, he negotiated a truce with the Selucids, and later took advantage of the collapse of their empire to expand his own kingdom, destroy the rival Samaritan Temple on Mount Grizim, and force the neighboring Idumeans to convert. Read more about the achievements of Yochanan Hyrcanus on Wikipedia

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What is meant by ולא נתתי ממנו למת?

What follows is part of the liturgy established by the Torah for offering tithes:
I have not eaten [from the food] while I was in mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor have I deposited any of it with the dead. (ולא נתתי ממנו למת) I have obeyed the LORD my God; I have done everything you commanded me.
What is meant by ולא נתתי ממנו למת? Did we ever deposit food with the dead? Why yes, most likely we did.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Pretty woman, by Aaron Freeman and Sharon Rosenweig

Bill Buckner gets thrown out of shul

A Secret Chazal Seemingly Didn’t Know

by David A.

….. that the law of the “ben-sorer u’moreh” was not that inexplicable after all.

 If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son, who does not hearken to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother…etc. 19. then his father and mother shall grasp him and take him out to the elders of the city etc. ….. 21. All the men of the his city shall pelt him with stones and etc…[Deut. 21:18]
The law in the Torah pertaining to the rebellious son is among the most difficult to understand. The Torah describes a case where a male child, presumably a minor, who consistently disobeys his parents and acts in a manner defined as “zollel v’sovey”, which is translated as a “glutton and drunkard”. The rebellious child is then brought before the community elders (court) by his parents and if convicted, is sentenced to death.

This law is most strange, primarily on three counts. Nowhere in Torah law, as interpreted by Chazal, is a minor held punishable for his/her crimes or sins, and certainly never to be punished by the death penalty, and secondly the death penalty is given for an actual crime that has been witnessed by at least two proper witnesses, and lastly, the “crime” described certainly can not deserve such a harsh punishment.

Chazal, too were obviously troubled by this law (BT Sanhedrin chap. 8), and therefore sought to mitigate it. Thus, through TSBP (the Oral law), they assigned to its application so many conditions and parameters, that they, in effect, abrogated it. So successfully, that Chazal were able to confidently state that the law of the rebellious son never happened and would not ever happen.

Yet, the question still stands. How could the Torah promulgate such an offensive law, even with all the attached conditions?

The answer lies in the prism that ones views Devarim. If one accepts that, firstly, the Book was written by humans and its law code emerged within the context of ancient mid-east society and its mores. And, second, the author(s) of the Pentateuch was/were disseminating laws that he/they viewed as progressive in the context of being more humane and/or more just and moral than their surrounding societies.

I believe that in the ANE a child was the “property” of the father and the father had a right to discipline his child however he saw fit, presumably including punishment by death. While the law concerning the rebellious son in Devarim did not completely abolish this activity, the Torah may then have been a first step to take away this “right”. This is seen in two aspects. One is that the child’s mother was to be included in any serious disciplinary action (likely a first in the ANE). And second, and more importantly, that this right to discipline was taken from the parents and put into the hands of the community. Hands, that presumably would act in a more rational and just manner.

A progressive step, yet in our eyes still only a tiny one.


A guest post by G.A

Further to DB’s thoughtful post on female POWs and liberal Torah, R. Moshe Meiselman’s words on shoehorning Torah into various worldviews never go out of style. From Jewish Woman in Jewish Law:

The apologist tries to show the consistency of Judaism with another value structure, generally that of his audience—“You are liberal, Judaism is more so; you are conservative, Judaism is more so; you like ecology, Judaism likes it better,” The apologist’s characteristic approach—“Anything you can do, Judaism can do better”—never works because it is essentially dishonest. Judaism fits into its own value structure and no other.

The book is from 1976 (“ecology” was what people said before “green/environmentalist/locavore”). While I am no fan of RMM, he is dead right that trying to “reconcile” Torah with any –ism is a mug’s game. Just try playing the “How Would Jesus/Moses Vote?” game.

The post reminded me of an interesting illustration of what I call Artscrologetics, in Parshas Matos. I was curious to see how ArtScroll treated the execution of the female, and young male, Midianite POWs.

[Background: The Midianites induce the Jews to sin sexually, and the Jews take revenge via war. Moshe is angered that the women have been taken as POWs rather than killed, and orders the people to kill all “Zachar BaTaf VeChol Isha Yoda’at Ish L’Mishkav Zachar” (males among the young, and women who have known (alternatively: are capable of knowing) a man by lying with him). Other girls may be kept alive, Lachem (for you).]

As per Yevamos 60B via Rashi, those women who were fit for sexual activity (3 years and up!) were killed, even if they had not participated in the preceding sexual escapades. In fact, virgins would theoretically have been among those killed. In order to determine whether a woman/girl had in fact crossed the relevant threshold, the group was passed in front of the Kohen Gadol’s headplate, and those fit for sexual activity experienced some sort of discoloration. So far, so good (Geneva convention aside).

Cue the Stone Chumash (see below), which reads that “the Kohen Gadol’s Headplate identified the women whom the Divine wisdom condemned to death. They were made to pass before the Headplate and the guilty parties’ faces miraculously took on a greenish complexion.”

As I see it, ArtScroll is trying to justify the collective capital punishment inflicted on captive women and girls. To me, the first sentence plays things somewhat fast and loose, but I can let it slide. Technically, sure, these women were being condemned to death by the Divine Wisdom via the headplate, although God could easily be pulled from the equation and the headplate likened to nothing more than an infallible ID-detector in its role here. However, the second sentence drives me nuts. “Guilty parties?” Guilty of what? There is simply nothing to support the assertion that the women condemned to death were guilty of anything, other than being of sufficient age to have participated in the relevant sin.

What ArtScroll is doing here is dishonestly shielding readers from certain (currently) unpalatable but undisputed conduct of the Jewish people. In my view, there are three real options here.

1) Own up to the fact that the ethics of war differ from those of 2000 (or 50) years ago, and lament how far we have drifted from Torah-true morality. Look for an Amalekite child to kill.

2) Own up to the fact that the ethics of war differ from those of 2000 (or 50) years ago. However, while acknowledging the Torah as a God-given source of morality, also acknowledge that as humanity matures, we discover new moral truths which are in fact grounded in the Torah. Fall off tightrope, and watch as your kids become either Charedi or secular.

3) Have an honest discussion about the aims, justification, and ethics of collective punishment.

Any of the above are more intellectually honest than crafting a translation which so dramatically obscures the original. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of whatever place it is that they chop the heads off young female POWs, but don’t make stuff up.

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