Friday, March 29, 2013

Has DovBear ever picked up a bible?

I confess to finding way too much pleasure in searching Twitter for mentions of the word JESUS and heckling the tweeters. So far, the Christians I've encountered via this exercise seem identical to the sort of Jews that irritate me the most. They haven't thought about their articles of faith, that make stupid claims on its behalf, and they find it impossible to respond to simple questions.

For example:

Happy Good Friday! Thankful that God chose His son Jesus to die on Calvary so many years ago to save me and you! His love is indescribable!

When I respond with simple questions (eg: (1) In what sense were we "saved?"; or (2) don't we still suffer and die?; or (3) Where is the evidence of this love?) I get ignored or insulted. My favorite:

@DovBear clearly you have never even picked up a Bible. You probably believe in gay rights too don't you?

In the interest of making it clear that I have, indeed, picked up a bible, I give you the following collection of Good Friday-themed posts. 

An Anti-Christian bit of Parshanut

The Good Friday Gemarah

DovBear on resurrection: Originally a Jewish idea?
See here and here.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Better late then not at all: Seder 2013

Time Finished
Around 1:30 the first night and about 1 am the second night. Both seders seemed a bit rushed, but otherwise were (were otherwise?) good. The kids participated. The songs were sung. I spoke some Torah. No one seemed bored. All good. (I like Pesach!)

Potato, of course. I prefer to have it sliced thin, almost like a chip, and roasted in the oven. (This is allowed; the roasting prohibition applies to meat dishes only.) Usually, we're guests at a house where nothing is cooked in the oven on seder night. The hosts use radishes for karpas, but the lady of the house always boils a potato for me. Nice, but not the same. This year, we stayed home, so hopes for a proper potatoes were high.  My good wife roasted them for me but being that she has world-class logistical skills they were done hours ahead of time.  As a result, my karpas neither hot nor crispy. I know: First world problems.

As a change, let me start by telling you what we didn't have: No kugels. At all. No matzo concoctions. At all. We also didn't have my proposed menu. (That post's comments are gone, but this post suggests people hated my proposal) (PS: I know he's called the Shaagas Aryeh; the misnaming was part of an ongoing inside joke-thing that probably seemed funny six years ago.) Instead, we had a roast (it went into the oven sitting in a bath of wine, tomato sauce, and water so it was not actually roasted), kolachol (cooked in soup) glorious fluffy matzo balls, chicken paprikash, lemon chicken, and the perfect salmon (salt and pepper the fish, then sear it in a very hot pan) We also had several different vegetable dishes: potatoes, peppers, mushrooms and various salads. (As the nonstupid readers have figured out the preceding list covers all four meals)

Defeated arguments:
One guest tried to convince me that each of the four questions belongs to one of the four sons. The simple son asked, "why are we leaning." And so on. The guest had an elaborate justification for each of the question assignments he made, but I wasn't buying it. Someone else at the table argued that that the Wicked Son is supposed to be a Christian. No sale on that one either.

Great answers:
Ha Lachma Anya really isn't as Scrooge-like as it seems. We're not announcing that guests are welcome after we've already sat down and no guests are in earshot. Rather, we are recreating that original Seder, and announcing that anyone who is still hungry should eat. Why? Because the Peasach sacrifice can't be eaten on an empty stomach. So we're not saying, "Hey guests, please join us." We're saying "Hey, fellow members of this Habura, please finish up so we can move on to the lamb." This also explains why we say, "This year we are slaves, next year we will be free" and "Next year we're here, next year we're in Israel" The point of Ha Lachma Anya is to put ourselves into the frame of mind of those who left Egypt ("In each and every generation, a person is obligated to regard himself as though he actually left Egypt") and those who left Egypt were counting on being in Israel within the next year.

When we sign Dayenu we aren't telling God we'd have been perfectly happy had He e.g. taken us to the edge of the Sea and left us there to deal with the onrushing Egyptians ourselves. What we mean is any of those favors would have been enough to justify the recitation of Hallel.

Some questions for you
Do you make a fetish out of forbidding anyone to pour their own cup of wine, or are you lax on this point? Do you eat an egg course after korach or not? Do you stand when the door is opened for Eliyahu? Do you let the children lean? Do you sing halel? Do you stick to the text of the haggadah, or do you add family songs and family readings? What's different or especially good about your seder?

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Wait Till You See It......

By @azigra

"18 Minutes are based on a more stringent counting"

Apparently there is a Rishon who holds that a minute is  only 58 seconds. 

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Monday, March 25, 2013

What if Oscar "the" Grouch came to Seder

When Ofnik, the Israeli Oscar, shows up in this video is he trolling the Seder participants, or does he actually have his holidays confused? And PS: See what I mean (previous post) about how every Pesach video has to inject some negativity into the proceedings?

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Let's get this Pesach party started

How do I love this video, let me count the ways...

First, great music;

Second, nice looking woman;

Third, precociously adorable kids;

Fourth, contagious, boundless exuberance about Pesach;

Fifth, the absence of "ironic" or meta Pesach negativity. These tropes have become so common, its almost a shock to see a Pesach video that contains no complaints about matzo, or long seders, or anxious parents, or misfits who require appeasement or accommodation.

Sixth, the way its doubtlessly religious without also being culturally frum;

Seventh, and here we come to the best part, I love how it represents a reclaiming of Passover on behalf of all Jews. The people in this video are unabashedly Jewish. They believe in God and recognize the acts of the Exodus as being essential to their religious and cultural identity. But they are celebrating it on their own terms, with no apologies or deference to Charedi-ism.  This video contains not even a feint to RW sensibilities, yet only the worst kind of narrow minded RW Jew would say that these people aren't his people.

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Two posts about Pesach that sum up my view of everything

Friday, March 22, 2013

In which I respond to someone who is really mad that YU's Bible Department taught him about Bible.

Eliot Resnik has taken to the pages of Kol Hamevasor, a YU publication, to accuse the YU bible department of undermining core Jewish beliefs. His article calls for the department to be shuttered.

In what follows I explain why his premise is wrong and his argument fails.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Machine Matzah

by @azigra

There is a debate as old as matza machines about the kosher for Passover status of their products. Many people believe they are chometz while some believe they are less likely to be chometz than hand made ones. The reason being that there is less chance for human error when a perfectly engineered machine runs its course. Some people only use hand made during the Seder but use machine ones during the rest of holiday, while others specifically use machine matza at the Seder for the reasons stated above (ie students of Telz yeshiva.)

I have no opinion on the matter, other than being sure machine matzos are kosher and I use them.

The Forward posted a video today of the Manischewitz Matzo factory machine like you would see on the TV show 'How it's Made'. After watching this, machine matzos seem inauthentic, and sterile, and corporate. I'll still eat them, but the idea of fulfilling an ancient custom with something produced in this way just seems off-putting to me now.

How to Make 31,000 Boxes of Manischewitz Matzo from Jewish Daily Forward on Vimeo.

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More great moments in Pesach price gouging

On the one hand, give Mister Hoffman credit for dreaming up this new and original way to rip off his coreligionists; on the other hand tear kriah for the morons who will buy it. 

For the British-impaired, I am told the price in real money is about a buck-fifty.

HT: ‏@yhbrooklyn


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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Korporate Kosher

by @azigra
I copied this Passover shopping list from the blog of HS Milner which I searched for after hearing a debate in my office about whether milk really needs to be certified as kosher for Passover.

My initial gut feeling is that it of course doesn't, besides 100 years ago before the Kosher Mafia existed there were certainly no certifications on most things that have them today. When you purchase a container for Kosher for Pesach sugar, for example, you just know that someone just poured Domino® Sugar into a different box with their own label.

Here is the list; some items obviously do need certification, ie matza, but I've decided to leave the list intact. 

* Do you think all of these items need to be certified? * Would you purchase any of these items without certifications? * How did your grandparents keep a kosher home on Passover without the OU?

Full list after the jump:

The Somewhat Complete DovBear Pesach Collection

How the Passover laws changed (Part 1)

Why the Passover laws changed (Part 2)

More on boiling the Passover offering

A Torah True History of Quinoa on Passover

Quinoa on Pesach 2.0

Why I Don't Eat Kitniyot On Pesach

Passover Psychology

Miriam's Cup
I had never heard of Miriam’s Cup at the seder before and I set out to find out what it means, is it feminist, conservative, reform, or modern orthodox? by HSABOMILNER

Passover Purchases

Pesach and Wasting Food

Great moments in Price Gouging

Chaval Siddur Pesach

Why we think we were redeemed in the merit of keeping out names? ...

Eating matzah on Erev Pesach
(One who eats matzah on the eve of Passover is like one who has intimate relations with his bride-to-be in his [future] father-in-law's home. ) ...

Pesach 1865: What Jews did when Lincoln was shot

Why do we read the vision of the valley dry bones on the Shabos of Chol Hamoed?

NYT hearts Matzo

Wanted: special chumros for Pesach
My daughter came home from school yesterday with an unusual homework project. She has to write down a special chumra we do for Pesach.

Fun facts(?) to know and tell about Pesach
Aside for the one about Coke, I have absolutely no idea if these are true...

Pesach Gripes

Dear Jews: McDonalds would like to spend Pesach with you

How to run a Seder
A seder is primarily a teaching tool. Everyone present should be prepared to learn and to teach, to share something brief but brilliant, and to listen patiently when it's the other fellows turn. So long as this rule is followed, the more snippets the better. This chatter is part of the charm of the seder. I couldn't imagine doing without it.

Was the first matzo kosher l'pesach?

Charoset: The Untold True Story
My theory on Charoset is that it was either an ordinary condiment or a year-round treat in the ancient world.

This is not a complaint about my wife

On baseball in general and Pesach in particular

Go get some g'broks!

Whe we really eat matzoh and bitter herbs (maybe)

The sixty-second seder

Scenes from the Kneidel fressing contest

I have an imitation bagel. It's called a matzo

How did they sit at the first korbon pesach?

Defending the diaspora's second day of Yom Tov

The Seder is a Modified Symposia
The rituals and forms of the Seder are very similar to the forms of the symposia, a type of Greek banquet which was wildly popular in the ...

Seder wrap up
No brushing your teeth on seder night. Otherwise the taste of the matzah might not last until morning. (What about the last two cups of wine?)

Why was Rabbi Akiva's Seder different from all others?
Something was definitely up in Benai Brak

Eggs at the Seder
Many Seders serve eggs at the start of Shulchan Orech. Reasons and lessons of this custom are varied and numerous.

Maror in the middle
If your plate  is like 999 out of 1000 it's arranged with the maror in the middle, but did you know that this arrangement is not the one originally used 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Great Idea

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Here in Los Angeles we are inundated with billboards. No one likes them, but the frum community is especially sensitive to ads that are too explicit or even too suggestive for our tastes.

In the past, when a particularly nefarious billboard was put up in the frum neighborhoods, the community would organize petitions and stage mass call-ins to have the billboards changed. I wrote about it on this blog last year: Offensive Billboards

Recently, Baron Herzog has started a campaign on some Los Angeles billboards. I understand that they have a similar campaign in New York. While I find the ads cringeworthy for the most part, it spawned an idea in my head.

The frum community should buy all the ad space in the frum neighborhood and use the space to post (clean) ads for frum businesses and events! Instead of trying to regulate the ads with political or social pressure, we should just use the billboards for ourselves. This would avoid the discomfort that some may have with imposing our morals on the community. It's the ultimate Capitalist solution!

Here's the latest Baron Herzog billboard:

Israeli embassy celebrates Obama's visit with pointless new video

The Israeli embassy has released a Jib-Jab type video to celebrate President Obama's visit to Israel.

See it here:

The only reason I can see to make such a video is to bait idiot RWers. I can relate to such a desire of course. In fact, that's why I've put the video on my own blog. But otherwise? Non crazy people already know Israel and the US are (still) BFFs. And the video itself is barely entertaining. No jokes. No wit. No send ups. So what was the point? It doesn't even work as a suck-up move.

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Pesach diets

This is so dumb it drools. Ashkenazim can eat meat, chicken, fish,  fruit, (many) vegetables, eggs, and matzo (which is good!) The only thing in my regular diet that I can't eat on Pesach are rice, bread (whole wheat) and pasta. Otherwise, its the same food.

 Here's a perfectly good menu for a weekday:

Eggs, hash browns, coffee

Soup (tomato, potato, vegetable)
Maybe a piece of fish.
Salad, as you like it. 

Stir fried chicken (mix it with broccoli or cauliflower) 
Potatoes, as you like them 
Salad, as you like it. 

See what I mean? This is how I eat even when it isn't Pesach. So what's the problem?

Now, those of you who suffer on Pesach get no sympathy from me because its self-inflicted. The people with problems from matzo constipation simply aren't eating enough vegetables. Add some carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes to your diet and your troubles will disappear. 

The Frummest Yeshiva

by @azigra

The NYT is reporting today that a massive fraud perpetrated by Island Child Development Center, a provider of special education services to preschoolers with disabilities, has been uncovered by auditors:
After subpoenaing more than 13,000 checks from the agency’s bank, auditors said they gave up counting after the first 1,549 checks they reviewed turned up $5.8 million in what they said was fraudulent spending over a six-year period when Island Child billed the state and the city more than $27 million.
The particular local yeshiva involved is Bnos Bais Yaakov in Far Rockaway:
Yet Island Child, in Far Rockaway, Queens, paid nearly $2 million to Bnos Bais Yaakov, a nearby school for Orthodox Jewish girls, of which the auditors said Rabbi Samuel Hiler, the assistant executive director of Island Child, is both dean and an owner. Another $877,000 went to various Jewish summer camps, two of them tied to Mr. Hiler, and more than $330,000 in nonpayroll checks went to Mr. Hiler himself, the auditors said. 
I make no claims as to the culpability of  Island Child Development Center,  Bnos Bais Yaakov, or Rabbi Samuel Hiler. They are all innocent unless proven guilty and perhaps they deserve the benefit of the doubt. 
 Bnos Bais Yaakov of Far Rockaway,
image via Google Maps

When I read this story I was reminded of the time my parents were searching for a High School to send my younger sister to. Of the schools close to home the options were few, TAG, Bnos Bais Yaakov, and one other which was in the basement of the local Young Israel. My mother rejected the YI school since she had gone to Bais Yaacov of Pelham Parkway which was also in a basement and she didn't want that dark and dusty experiences for my sister. When they met with reps from Bnos Bais Yaakov they were told that no girl would be accepted to the school if there is a television at home. 

It wasn't a question of American Idol versus a better education for my sister. It was my parents weltanschauung versus that of the Charedi guys who ran the school. The cloistered, closeted, cave dwelling life of the TV-less just wasn't what my parents wanted for their family. 

The fellow referenced in the story above may be guilty of massive fraud, but we can be certain that he doesn't have a television at home. Let's make sure he gets an aliya this shabbos. 

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Monday, March 18, 2013

YU Torah Editorializes the Title of a Shiur

A Guest Post By E. Fink

On Friday, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg posted his Chumash class on He tweeted the link with its title. He called the class "A Rabbi (talmid chacham) who lacks common sense is worse than a carcass". The tweet is here for your reference:
If you click the link today, it will take you to the same class, however now it sports a brand new title. The shiur is now called "Common Courtesy with Common Sense". The URL still has the old branding, or at least part of it. As you can see here:


Curious. I wonder if anything might have happened over the weekend that influenced the change in title? Hmm...

HT: Withheld

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In a Jewish Bookstore: Read this 1878 account of a visit to a Jewish store. #David #Brooks

It feels wrong to continue beating this particular dead horse now that both Avi Shafran and Yaakov Menken have pronounced the David Books article about Pomegranate as being entirely without flaw. But I did want you to see what the piece might have looked like had Brooks, you know, done a good job.

After the jump, you can see a description of a visit to a Jewish bookstore from an 1878 edition of Harper's Magazine.

* 1878! Not to go off tangent, but I hope the Hungarians who think they colonized the new word for Torah Judaism after 1950 read this and comes to a new understanding about pre-war American Judaism. 

Though the Harpers write-up has its own flaws, of course, the writer avoided all of Brook's mistakes. In particular, he tells his readers what he saw, without extrapolating it to define every Jew in the world. Also, the Harper's man doesn't try to draw any lessons or morals. He just paints a word picture, and let's the description stand on its own merits. Brooks, on the other hand, drew lessons, none of them correct. 

* Though as S has said: "Brooks didn't see anything. He didn't see Jewish Flatbush. He was blindfolded, pushed against an elephant, told to touch it, and Meir Soloveitchik told him what it was he was touching"

Great Comment from MarkSofla: "[From 1878 to 2013] we went from being people of the book to people of the fress"

Thursday, March 14, 2013

RIP Allan Gould

A Guest Eulogy/Plug by G.A.

As a child, I was enthralled by my copy of The Unorthodox Book of Jewish Records & Lists by Allan Gould and Danny Siegel. For those who are not familiar with this book, or who are unwilling to fork out the $0.01 plus shipping it currently sells for, it is a spoof containing such items as “The Greatest One-Liner Guilt Trips Laid on a Jewish Child by his Mother,” “The Largest Matza Ball in History,” and “Famous Jewish Mountain Climbers” (Answer: None—A man could get killed!). I was too young to articulate what satire or parody was, or to situate this work in the canon of Jewish humor  but it was crystal clear to me that this dog-eared book (signed by Mr. Gould, no less!) was a work of utter genius. So many of the mechanics that make funny funny—recurring jokes, inside humor  send-ups, irreverence—were being executed with subject matter that belonged to me, and I slept with this book next to my bed.

Years passed, the book was misplaced, and I recently spotted a copy on my wife’s parents’ bookshelf. This one was signed by the other author, and I took this as a sign that I should immediately steal the book, which I did. In the intervening years, I had become a fan and amateur practitioner of humour (i.e. too shy to talk to girls), read Israel Davidson’s Parody in Jewish Literature (1907) cover to cover, and passed by Allan Gould’s house about a hundred times, wanting to knock on the door, express my appreciation, and have him marvel at my wit and collaborate with me on a series of screenplays that would take us to the Academy Awards, where we would leave a trail of laughter and admiration down the red carpet (he lives on my walk to Shul; I am not a stalker).

I never knocked on that door, and Allan passed away suddenly of a brain aneurysm at 68. In tribute to him, I dedicate my twitter feed (, reproduced below. People sometimes characterize rain at funerals as the heavens crying, but any inclement weather on February 22nd was no doubt the result of the belly-laughs of a thousand angels.

ASKAN [ass-can] (n): Community activist tasked with ensuring that Rabbinical leaders meet annual ban quotas.

GET (n): Divorce document purchased by wife’s parents from husband following dissolution of marriage.

HECHSHER (n): Rabbinic certification that a bottle of spring water is Kosher, Parve, and may be consumed on Passover.

HISHTADLUS (n): Effort, esp. in the context of earning a living. Includes tax fraud, but not post-secondary education. See PARSHAS HAMAN.

KEFIRA (n): Position taken by Orthodox sect other than one's own.

KEZAYIS (n): Unit of measurement ranging in size from a large olive (when consuming Karpas) to a small watermelon (when consuming Matza).

MEKUBAL (n): Kabbalist; Mystic. Capable of foreseeing/influencing the future, yet mysteriously unable to use such gift to self-finance.

MIDRASH (n): Non-literal genre of Biblical exegesis which employs parable and metaphor for homiletic effect; cf. MEDRISH.

MEDRISH (n): Series of miraculous but true tales passed down through an unbroken chain of 2nd grade Rebbis and Parsha sheet illustrators.

PIDYON SHVUYIM (n): The utilization of scarce community resources for the purpose of keeping Orthodox felons on the streets.

PRITZUS (n): Lit. immodesty; One of the primary causes of natural disasters, most cancers, and other assorted misfortune. See also TOEVAH.

REB (n): Orthodox Jewish male above the age of nine.

SHEITEL (n): $3000 strawberry blonde hairpiece employed by Orthodox women to preserve short matted hair for their husbands' sole viewing.

TEHILIM (n): Compilation of Jewish techno and pop lyrics circa 930 BCE.

YESHUA (n): On-demand divine intervention granted in exchange for charitable donation in multiple of 18. See KUPAT HAIR.
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Here's Gershom Gorenberg destroying David Brooks

Hogan's Heroes was a straightforward,
accurate depiction of life in
German POW camps
Well, first, of course, Avi Shfran has read David Brook's propaganda tour of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn and pronounced it good, saying: 
All in all, [it is] a straightforward, accurate depiction of the community and its values
Uh huh. And Hogan's Heroes was a straightforward, accurate depiction of life in German POW camps.

We'll let Gershom Gorenberg deal with this: (if this sounds familiar, its because I made some of the same points, only in less elegant, less professional language)

A self-absorbed DovBear discussion about the new pope and what it means to him

So, the Catholics have a new pope. The first thing I'd like to understand is why do I care? Why did we glue ourselves to the Twitter and the Facebook and the CNN Live Feed waiting to see which elderly, white, possibly closeted homosexual, would appear on the balcony? Did we have a rooting interest or something? Makes no sense.

The second thing I'd like to understand is why the Catholics are trying to ruin this blog. What am I supposed to carp about now that they have elected a nonEuropean pope who is using a brand new Papal name, a name that references a guy who was not especially evil. I mean I had a great "I can't believe he's calling himself Pius" post all written in my head and everything. Also, unlike Ratzinger who looked like Palpatine's more evil twin, this fellow has a somewhat genial expression so good luck finding funny photos. Hashmark grumble. 

Aside: Wonkette has dubbed Ratzinger "quitterPope" which, because God is awesome, will totally catch on.  

Double Aside: Thanks to the new guy being from Beunos Aeres I suppose we could do something on the ratline and how the Vatican did more to save Nazis and Wannabe Nazis then it did to save Jews, but Pontiff Frank was like eight years old when that was going on. Blaming him for that would be like blaming the Weathermen on Barak Obama and we are not Sarah Palin or Tea Party whackjobs here.

Finally, the third thing I'd like to know is when did the Catholics go all communist? Here's something the new guy said, as per Wonkette who ripped it off from the National Catholic Reporter:
“We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least,” Bergoglio said during a gathering of Latin American bishops in 2007. “The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”
Also, Rabbi Fink deposited the following quote on our FB:
"In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don't baptize the children of single mothers because they weren't conceived in the sanctity of marriage," Bergoglio told his priests. "These are today's hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it's baptized!" 
Bergoglio compared this concept of Catholicism to the Pharisees of Christ's time: people who congratulate themselves while condemning others.
OK, using Pharisee as a pejorative isn't exactly music to a Jew's ears but the other stuff is fine. (Unless you are a Right Winger who hates poor people in which case: suck it)

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam!

Hope its a black guy. Seeing RW heads explode makes me giggle.

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What was your Emperor's New Clothes moment?

But he has nothing on...

For some, Avi Shafran's new blog might be considered an Emperor's New Clothes moment. After all, he had been the Jewish world's chief demonizer of blogs and bloggers and now he's become one himself. So much for the complaints and teeth gnashing.  Like the cheers of the spectators who admired their stark naked leader in the Hans Christian Anderson tale, Avi's anti-blog grumbling seems to have been rooted in something other than reality. When he next goes to war against someone or something, will we be able to trust him?

"Sneering cynicism. Self-glorification in the guise of advocacy. Ostentatious observance cloaking rank jealousy. “Democracy” in the pursuit of evil ends. Haughtiness pretending to the selfless pursuit of justice and truth. What do all those things bring to mind?... Much of the “Orthodox Jewish” blogosphere. - Korach@ by Avi Shafran, June 26, 2012

For others, the Orthodox Union's Pesach ban on quinoa, a Peruvian berry, might have been an ENC moment. Silly us for thinking kashrus is determined by the consistant application of clear rules. Silly us for thinking (because that's what we were told) that kitniyus is a non-grain item that once upon a time was routinely mixed with grains. Now it turns out that kitniyus is whatever the man with the kosher stamp says it is. And try not to laugh too loudly at the alleged reason* as you shop this year for Pesach approved noodles, crackers and cookies.

* “[we] can’t certify quinoa because it looks like a grain and people might get confused" - the OU as reported by @azigra

My first ENC moment came several years ago when the leadership pronounced its ban on Natan Slifkin. Nothing in his books was new. All of it was based on, or copied from (with proper cites) our Rishonim. The fact that they banned him anyway suggested the leadership didn't know this or, more likely, didn't care. Matters were made worse when we found out that the Rabbis who signed the ban hadn't even read his books, and that the ban itself had been engineered by a pair of common criminals. Like the crowds in the Anderson story, I'd previously clapped and cheered and even sought to justify whatever our emperors said and did. After Slifkin, they no longer had my trust when it came to matters of policy because I could no longer be certain of their motives or of their process.

Want to hear irony? I've been among RNS's #1 supporters, and his no holds barred, smash the shiboleths approach to rabinincs has been a model for some of my own blogging. Yet, as per the blog scuttlebutt, he capital "H" hates me.* No good deed goes unpunished and choose your intellectual exemplars carefully, I guess. 

* We misspoke. He does not hate me, and has written to tell me this. Apologies.

Ok, enough about me. What was your ENC moment?

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Great Moments in Wig Marketing

From the current Mishpacha

This is a wonderful development, by the way. For ages, scolds have complained that certain wigs make Jewish women look like hookers.*

* In fact, as Tesyaa reminds us, back in 2007 someone was selling a wig called The Pretty Woman that s/he claimed was "inspired by the motion picture" which was, of course, the story of a prostitute.

Well, those days are over. With a Madam on her head,  she can look like she runs the brothel instead.

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Let's send Ratzinger off in style

Quite by accident I stumbled across a post from 2006 (AKA back when no one read this blog) in which I put my finger directly on the modern church's greatest sin: Holocaust usurpation.

Here's what Ratzinger said at Auschwitz-Birkenau on May 28, 2006
"By destroying Israel, by the Shoah, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful"
So in case you were unsure, the Holocaust was all about them. To drive home this point,. the Pope greeted 32 Auschwitz survivors after his speech. 31 of them were Polish Catholics. Also: Remember Edith Stein

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Quinoa on Pesach 2.0

By @azigra 

Two years ago I wrote about and predicted the inevitable future of quinoa as a non kosher for Passover food item:

.................Quinoa becomes a popular food in the 1970s as people look for healthy foods -> Jews question the halachic status of Quinoa on Pesach as kitniyos -> R. Moshe Feinstein permits the consumption of Quinoa on Pesach -> The Eida HaCharedis prohibits the consumption of Quinoa on Pesach -> Jews remain divided on Quinoa’s halachic status -> Rabbis place bans on quinoa in Jewish weekly’s stating that quinoa production has changed since the Igros Moshe was published -> Hotels advertise their kitchen as glatt kosher and quinoa free -> Jews choose hotels based on the shechita and quinoa use of the caterer -> Non-Haimish Jews who stay home for Pesach burn their Quinoa -> Shidduchim are broken based on gebrochts and quinoa -> Most Jews do not consume Quinoa on Pesach, it is only the more modern elements that still pretend it’s permissible -> It is assur gamur to consume Quinoa on Pesach -> Jews who eat Quinoa on Pesach are chayiv Kares and are basically seeking to destroy Judaism as it has been know since the times of the Tanaim, Amoraim, and Achronim, who all knew that quinoa was assur and didn’t eat it on Pesach  
see original post here for additional notes.
When I wrote this, only the Eida HaCharedis, a fanatical Hasidic faction,  prohibited this item, however, today the Forward reports that as of this year the Orthodox Union will no longer certify quinoa as kosher for Passover:

The Orthodox Union announced last year that it would not certify quinoa as kosher for Passover out of concern that quinoa falls into the category of kitniyot, a group of legumes forbidden because they look similar to grains proscribed on the holiday.
Star-K, a rival kosher certification company based in Baltimore, has been certifying quinoa as Passover-friendly for years and dismisses what it sees as an outlandish prohibition.
As of now the reason provided by the OU is that  “[they] can’t certify quinoa because it looks like a grain and people might get confused” otherwise known as Ma'aris Ayin, the same reason why many people dont serve non dairy ice cream at meat centric meals. 

This of course means that any hotel that is under the OU will not be serving quinoa this year. A new generation of Jews will grow up under this prohibition, confusing fact with fiction. As Orthodoxy moves to the right, the Star-K will be forced to prohibit quinoa as well or risk losing their validity as a legitimate kashrut organization in the face of an ever right moving world.  

In several generations there will be no working memory of a time when people did eat quinoa.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Another RW unicorn spotted!! Evil Barry and his State Department are mean to a Muslim (who totally deserved it)

We get to tick off lots of boxes with this little story, so pay attention:
Samira Ibrahim was scheduled to receive an award yesterday from First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry honoring her as one of the "International Women of Courage". But that was before the State Department became aware of a number of tweets that Ibrahim had sent out endorsing Hitler quotes and celebrating the deaths of Israeli tourists. Now her award has been "delayed" as State Department officials look into the source of the tweets (which Ibrahim had been claiming weren't hers). 
Ibrahim, an activist on behalf of Palestinians, was to receive the award for her work in Egypt speaking out against gender-based violence. Her State Department biography identifies her as one of the seven women subjected to "virginity tests" during the protests in Tahrir Square that eventually lead to the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak. 
Originally Ibrahim said the tweets were not hers and that her twitter had been hacked. After an attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, Ibrahim tweeted, "Oh Wowwww this eases off the day today very nice very nice news." She also tweeted that the Saudi royal family was "dirtier than the Jews." 
She seems to have backed off her claims that her Twitter account was hacked. In response to the delay of her honor, Ibrahim tweeted, "I refused to apologize to the Zionist lobby in America on the previous statements hostile to Zionism under pressure from the American government, so the prize was withdrawn."
So what do we got here?

  • Obama and his state department opposing antisemitism? Check!
  • Obama and his state department opposing Arab. Muslim, Palestinian antisemitism? Check!
  • The mainstream media reporting on Obama and his state department opposing Arab. Muslim, Palestinian antisemitism? Check!
It's not so often we see so many things the GOP Jews claim "never happen" get crammed into one, single story.

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Burn your challah at the gas station for double extra mitzvah points

I think I am going to set up a bunch of bird nests in my backyard and charge stupid people for the privilege for chasing away the mother birds "under the supervision" of some big rabbi. Or maybe I will locate an authentic Egyptian or Edomite and let the dummies pay me for the chance to not abhor them. And of course, I'll pass all the profits on to tzedaka, so no one criticizes me (Sending my son to yeshiva is a tzedaka, btw. Look it up)

Two new ads in the local Orthodox birdcage liner suggest there is a real market for this sort of thing:

Let's document the atrocities...  (Vocabulary first: Here challah is the portion of dough that the Torah tells us to give to a priest, not the braided loaf nor the witch with the braids who, likely, gave the braided loaf its name. Nowadays, instead of giving the dough to a priest we dispose of it, usually via burning)

(1) You can burn challah right in your very own oven. Our wives and mothers have been doing this for centuries. It's pretty simple: You just say a blessing and set it on fire. Nothing else.
Pro tip: If you don't want to set it on fire, you can also double wrap the challah, and toss it in the trash. That's perfectly okay.

(2) The ads seem silent on this point, but many home bakers never need to separate challah. The ritual isn't performed at all unless you're using at least 2.6 POUNDS of flour (enough for almost three loafs) No blessing is said unless you are using almost 5 POUNDS of flour (five huge loafs) (Chabadniks say the blessing when they use more than 3.6 POUNDS)

(3) Scare Tactics! If you make any mistakes with challah your kids will "stray from the ways of Torah" The second ad pretty much promises this is true! And what's the source? Check out the cite: "as stated in text". Which text? Never mind! Challah bakers shouldn't be studying Torah anyway! (We're kidding: Obviously, the ads author is referring to the text he reproduced in the ad; however its mistranslated. The text in the ad says your kids will go bad if you fail to correctly burn the challah, and it gets eaten by a non-kosher animal)

Unfortunately if this catches on, we'll have a new way to exclude perfectly pious and God fearing Jews:  "What? You don't burn your challah at the gas station? You do it yourself, in your house? I don't think our kids should be friends, plus I am not no longer confident in your kashrus."

Don't roll your eyes, either. This happens.

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Advisory: Reading this post may cost you some brain cells

@azigra showed us this fun excerpt on the Twitter. It comes from All I Need to Know I Learned In Yeshiva, by Yaakov Wolfson. According to @azigra the whole book is like this.

But the very fact that the generations before us did a particular thing is sufficient proof that there is a just and valid reason or our doing so. 

[Insert exploding head here]

I will award 1,000 DovBear dollars to the author of the best rebuttal to this bit of idiocy. (And 10,000 DovBear dollars to the one who can successfully defend it.)

Standard boiler plate rebuttal. I do not hate Jews and Judaism. Quite the contrary: I love Jews and Judaism which is why I am so eager to root out the idiocy, superstition, bad arguments, and dumb doctrines. If I hated Judaism I'd ignore or encourage this nonsense instead of dedicating a whole blog post to undermining it.

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Friday, March 08, 2013

Comment of the Day: Marksofla replies to me and to New York Times Op Ed Writer David Brooks

Marksofla writes:
While I think the article/oped is rather lacking and is way too superficial, I have a few comments (as well as a few criticisms of your criticism).

David Brooks has Published a Terrible and Deceptive Article about Brooklyn Orthodox Jews

I'm not the brightest guy, so I tend to rely on paid smarties like New York Times Op Ed Columnist David Brooks to explain things. Unfortunately, his new column on the Orthodox Jews of Faltbush has me reconsidering the wisdom of that approach. There are school children better equipted to write for the New York Times about Orthodox Judaism. If Brooks is as much of a lightweight on other subjects as he is on this one, we who read the Times and have trusted his reporting, may have grounds for a malpractice suit.

Fisking after the jump:

Thursday, March 07, 2013

George's trip to Israel

Blast from the past... During his (only) trip to Israel which took place at the tail end of his failed presidency George "Best Friend of Israel" called on Israel to "end the occupation" after making a negative remark about checkpoints during a visit to Rammalah. Remember?

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Great moments in hasbarah

Let's have a round of diaspora applause for the supporters of  Beitar Jerusalem, the popular Israel soccer team! Their wonderful hasbrah efforts continue to impress! Here's the latest success story:
DeadSpin: Bigoted Israeli Soccer Fans Walk Out After Muslim Player Scores For Their Team
These soccer fans, of course, are the same darlings featured last year on an ESPN report that included footage of Beitar fans screaming racist insults at Arab players and using "Death to Arabs" as a celebration chant.   

On the ESPN report, some of the Beitar fans try to justify their behavior. They say that they have every right to hate Arabs. Arabs are at war with Israel. Arabs blow up buses. They've earned our animosity. (Some of my Facebook frenimies take the same position) 

OK, but pay attention: The guy who scored the goal that sent Beitar fans scurrying from the stadium is not an Arab. Remember? And the Arab players they terrorize with insults and attacks aren't at war with anyone. They are co-citizens, trying to earn a living. In most cases, they have zero in common with the diabolical, war-mongering Arabs. So why should they be subjected to your abuse? Why should they be lumped together with the worst representatives of their community?  And how can anyone claim that abusing innocent people on the basis on their ethnicity isn't racism?

More importantly, why don't the non-crazy Israelis recognize this for what it is, ie, blatant racism. Why don't the non-crazies boycott Beitar and their sponsors? Why haven't the vocal racists (you can see them on ESPN. They aren't hiding.) suffered any social consequences? Why does Israel put up with this crap?

And why do my Israeli frenemies keep acting so hurt and surprised whenever we say that Israel, too often, disappoints us? 

Thanks, Avi, for the counter-example

This week's Avi is a warm and tender tribute to Yosef Friedenson, an Agudath Israel employee who, we learn from Avi's article, was responsible for an Aggudah publication called Dos Yiddishe Vort. It's quite a nice piece. When he's not writing about Reform rabbis or pilot heroes, or bloggers,  Avi can be thoughtful, gentle and complimentary.

One of Avi's main beefs about bloggers is that they are often anonymous, and that anonymity breeds discord, nastiness, and opportunities to articulate ideas that haven't been pre-approved by Ingsoc. But guess what? R' Friedenson himself was an anono blogger (sort of/not really but keep reading):
During his final years, Reb Yosef did much of the writing for Dos Yiddishe Vort himself, often under pseudonyms that were transparent to most everyone who read the publication. (No one cared; his own recollections and writings were deeply appreciated by readers.)
First off, thanks, Avi, for the counter-example!! Apparently you can write important things absent your real name without also being a menace to society! Good to know!  But, still, what a strange set of sentences! If the pseudonyms were "transparent" why bother with them. And catch that parenthetical: "No one cared?" (a) how does he know; and (b) why is the baseline assumption that someone would care?  

If I check an author's name, its for one of two reasons and two reasons only: (a) I'm lazy or short on time and I want to see if the article or book is by someone I know before I commit to it; or (b) I like what I've read, and I'd like to know who gets the credit for entertaining or educating me. 

I can think of no other reason to care about a writer's real identity, but then I don't work for Big Brother.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Update on the non-racist, totally desegregated Arab-only buses

Though some of you wanted us to believe that the Palestinians were overjoyed at the chance to ride to work on Arab-only buses, some Palestinians apparently saw the matter differently. Yesterday, two of the buses were set on fire during the morning commute. 

Now, I am going to say again that I reject this act of violence and property destruction. The arsonists were wrong. They should be arrested and prosecuted. Please read and re-read and read again.

But here comes the "however." Are you ready?

HOWEVER, the new bus lines are racist. Here's why: (1)  Palestinians are discouraged from riding on the mixed lines with Israelis (see here PP#2); and (2) because they were originally set up after Jewish settlers made a racist complaint, on the order of "riding with Arabs creates a security risk" (see it here PP#5); and (3) because the existence of separate lines encourages intolerance by reinforcing the idea that Arabs are dangerous and/or that Arabs and Israelis can't get along and shouldn't do things together.

The non racist way to address a real or perceived security risk is to put more security personal on buses or to employ metal detectors, dogs, and so on. Solving the problem by imposing rules and restrictions on every single Arab is the very definition of racism, because you're judging an entire community on the basis of its worst members. No two ways about it.

Now, the right way to fight racism is through education and non-violent protest. The bus burners were wrong. They must be arrested and tried. Instead of arson, they should have organized boycotts of the Arab buses or sit-ins on the Israeli buses. But from day one  the Palestinians have always, always, always gotten this wrong. With them, its always been too much Malcolm and not nearly enough Martin.

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The Brochos Dialog

Do you talk to yourself? I don't, but occasionally the old id and superego will have a little back and forth. For example:

ID: Num num, Hungry. Going to eat bread and cheese

Superego: Don't forget to wash and say "hamotzi"

ID: God no care. God no need hear me chant dumb words. God big. Me small. Him not petty. Him great.

Superego: Yes, of course that true. But we don't say brachot to benefit God. We say them to benefit ourselves. He doesn't need our praise, but we need to be reminded of our dependence on Him. Brachot are a way to remind ourselves of God's presence and to bring Him into our daily routine...

ID: OK, done, thanks to this conversation I have been reminded of God! Eat now!

Superego: Well, its also a good character trait to say Thank You to the one who provides you with things.

ID: Thank you God. Eat now!

For me the problem isn't with the (supposed) idea behind brachot but with the format. Saying thank you and recognizing God are fine, but why can't we do it in our own words? If we don't believe the words have any special, magical, properties why must we use the prescribed formula? Also, my hunch is the explanations for brachot suggested here by the Superego were developed after Jews started saying brachot. See, I think we originally thought God wanted to hear blessings or received some benefit from them just as we originally thought God benefited from sacrifices. [ עֹלָה אִשֵּׁה רֵיחַ-נִיחוֹחַ לַיהוָה] As time passed, and doctrines developed, it became untenable to think of God as desiring anything from us or benefiting from anything we say or do. 

But rather than drop brachot, they were reinterpreted.

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

What the stork can teach us about the mind and morals of (some) Orthodox Jews

Here's a classic example of sloppy OJ thinking. It was provided in an earlier comment:
The חסידה bird is traife because it only shows compassion for those residing in her own nest.
So many mistakes, so little time. But lets begin at the beginning.

The bird in question (commonly believed to be the stork) is not treif for the reason provided here, but  because the Bible says so. (Lev 11:19 and Duet 14:8.) It is listed with a score of other birds (20 total in Leviticus, 21 total in Deuteronomy) all of which are identified as unfit for consumption by Jews. No special reasons are given.

Later, the Mishna (Chulin 3:6) explains what the listed and unlisted birds have in common. It says kosher and non-kosher bird can be recognized by four features: "every bird that is 1) dores ("a predator") is not kosher. Every bird that has 2) an extra toe, 3) a zefek (crop)  and 4) a korkuvan (gizzard) that can be peeled, is kosher."

A stork is a predator. It eats frogs, reptiles and other birds. Per the Mishna this qualifies it as non-kosher.

Nonetheless, the stork developed a reputation for kindness, a reputation that is evidenced in both Torah and non-Torah sources. It's Hebrew name, hasida, seems derived from hesed the word for kind or pious. On BT Chulin 63a R' Hisda is quoted, saying:
The hasidah is the white stork. And why is it called hasidah? Because it shows
kindness [hasiduth] to its companions. The anafah is the heron. And why is it called anafah?
Because it quarrels [mean'efeth] with its companions.
Several hundred years later Rashi develops this idea, writing on Lev 11:19:
The stork: Heb. הַחֲסִידָה. This is a white dayah, [called] zigoyne [in Old French, cigogne in modern French]. And why is it called חֲסִידָה ? Because it does kindness (חִסִידוּת) with its fellow birds [by sharing] its food (Chul. 63a)
Concurrently, non-Jews were attributing similar characteristics to the stork. For instance, the ancient Greek law about how children must care for their parents, Pelargonia, is derived from pelargo, their word for stork. R' Hisda's idea (above) seems based on a different interpretation of the same observation, namely the fact that storks continue to feed and care for their offspring for a very long time. The Greeks seem to have noticed that the young birds stay with their parents, and imagined the children were providing their parents with care. Meanwhile R' Hisda seems to have believed the storks were feeding each other, rather than their own, older offspring (as Rashi says outright)

In the 18th century Yitzchak Meir Alter (Chidushei Harim),  the first Ger Rebbe, introduced a new wrinkle. 

Following Rambam, he says all of the non-kosher birds have a cruel nature, and asks: What then is the cruelty of the stork which shares food with its companions? 

The obvious answer, of course, is that the stork's cruelty is identical to the cruelty of every other non-kosher bird. Like the eagle, and the heron, and the falcon, the stork is a predator. Predators (arguably) are cruel to the animals they hunt and eat.

But for reasons unknown (I confess to never having seen this particular teaching inside; maybe its clearer there) R' Alter rejects this obvious answer and suggests the stork is cruel because it only cares about its own kind.* I suspect R' Alter was mussering his people and encouraging them to take more responsibility for the well-being of other Jews, but this is just a guess.

*It would be interesting to see if R' Alter criticizes the stork for carrying only about its own family or only about its own species. 

The sloppy-thinking OJ, on the other hand, sees it differently. Instead of exploring the historical context and seeking to understand R' Alter's message, he makes unfounded claims about the nature of storks and the basis of its kosher status. 

Worse, R' Alter's apparent lesson goes right over his head. Instead of doubling down on chesed or making a point to go out and do something charitable for people who belong to other subsects, sects or (horrors) other religions, the sloppy-thinking OJ goes back to his cholent, congratulating himself on having decoded and explained a mystery of kashrus.

Nearly, every OJ knows R' Alter's teaching, but how many take it to heart and seek opportunities to help people from other Jewish groups? Eg: After Sandy, I noticed that areas like Far Rockaway and Sea Gate received assistance from black hat neighborhoods like Monsey, while modern neighborhoods like Oceanside and Long Beach were helped by modern people from Teaneck. Isn't R' Alter discouraging this sort of behavior? Isn't that his real message? Yet, it seems to fall on deaf ears. 

Monday, March 04, 2013

Reasons why Israel's new segregated bus lines are the most justified thing ever

As you may have heard, an Israeli bus line is no longer allowing Palestinians and Jews to travel together.  Effective today, the two groups will ride separate buses. But don't you dare call it apartheid, you anti-Semite! There are all sorts of awesome reasons why this is totally justified.  For instance, Israeli women are already forced to ride in the back of some buses, so where were we supposed to put the Palestinians? On the roof?

OK, just give us a few minutes, and we'll think of some more totally awesome justifications...

Oh right! They all want to kill us! Of course! This is the convenient excuse trotted out by tyrants to justify injustice. Want to get rid of an undesirable? Just label them an enemy of the state, on the basis of their heritage or the behavior of their neighbors and then let the mistreatment commence.

Oh, and here's another justification for Israel's appalling behavior: Saudi Arabia is much worse! See, as civilized people with a two-thousand year tradition of moral exquisiteness we deserve gold stars whenever we outperform tyrannical Wahhabi regimes. Arabs set the moral standard of excellence, see, so as long as we're slightly better behaved then they are, nothing further is required of us. High fives all around!

What else, what else... Oh right: Must mention this:
The new lines are not separate lines for Palestinians but rather two designated lines meant to improve the services offered to Palestinian workers who enter Israel through Eyal Crossing.
"The new lines will replace irregular, pirate lines that charge very high prices from Palestinian passengers. The new lines will reduce congestion and will benefit Israelis and Palestinians alike."
According to the statement, "The Transportation Ministry is forbidden from preventing any passenger from boarding any line of public transportation, nor do we know of a directive to that effect. Instating these lines was done with the knowledge and complete agreement of the Palestinians."
See guys? The segregated bus lines are totally optional, and aside for subjecting Palestinians who choose to ride the Israeli buses to checkpoint humiliations and delays, absolutely nothing will be done to discourage Arabs from riding with the white people.

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