Friday, May 31, 2013

LGBT group gives Haredi Rabbis new excuse

I think its hysterical that a bunch of Haredi Rabbis, including one who is on the record protecting a child molester, and another who presides over a shul where the women "dress like hookers",  are now using the presence of an LGBT group to discourage Jews from marching in support of Israel. 

I guess their previous instructions -- "don't march with women" or "don't be mevatel Torah" or "don't march with Zionists" -- were being ignored. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013


"Adam wet his lips and said, "There is one question I should like to ask you. It is this. If, as you say, there is only the bad to start with, and the good must be made from the bad, then how do you ever know what the good is? How do you even recognize the good? Assuming you have made it from the bad. Answer me that."

"Easy, Doc, easy," the Boss said.

"Well, answer it."

"You just make it up as you go along/"

"Make up what?"

"The good," the Boss said. "What the else are we talking about? Good with a capital G."

"So you make it up as you go along?" Adam repeated gently.

"What the hell else you think folks been doing for a million years, Doc? When your great-great-grandpappy climbed down out of the tree, he didn't have any more notion of good or bad, or right and wrong, than the hoot own that stayed up in the tree. Well, he climbed down and he began to make Good up as he went along. He made up what he needed to do business, Doc. And what he made up and got everybody to mirate on as good and right was always just a couple of jumps behind what he needed to do business on. That's why things change, Doc. Because what folks claim is right is always just a couple of jumps short of what they need to do business. Now, an individual, one fellow, he will stop doing business because he's got a notion of what is right, and he is a hero. But folks in general, which is society, Doc, is never going to stop doing business. Society is just going to cook up a new notion of what is right. Society is sure not ever going to commit suicide. At least, not that way and of a purpose. And is a fact. Now ain't it?"

"It is?" Adam said.

"You're damned right it is, Doc. And right is a lid you put on something and some of the things under the lid look just like some of the things not under the lid, and there never was any notion of what was right if you put it down on folks in general that a lot of them didn't start squalling because they just couldn't do any human business under that kind of right. Hell, look at when folks couldn't get a divorce. Look at all the good women got beat and the good men got nagged and couldn't do any human damned thing about it. Then, all of a sudden, a divorce got to be right. What next, you don't know. Nor me. But I do know this." He stopped, leaned forward again, the elbows again cocked out.

What?" Adam demanded.

"This. I'm not denying there's got to be a notion of right to get business done, but by God, any particular notion at any particular time will sooner or later get to be just like a stopper put tight in a bottle of water and thrown in a hot stove the way we kids used to do at school to hear the bang. The steam that blows the bottle and scares the teacher to wet her drawers is just the human business that is going to get done, and it will blow anything you put it in if you seal it tight, but you put it in the right place and let it get out in a certain way and it will run a freight engine." he sank back again into the chair, his eyelids sagging now, but the eyes watchful, and the hair down over his forehead like an ambush.

-- Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men

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Blasphemy, idolatry and sodomy

Elsewhere, Facebook is telling me that it is right and proper for Jews to fight gay marriage, while tolerating shell fish, because the famous Seven Noachide Laws permit non-Jews to eat crabs, while forbidding them to engage in sodomy.

Ok, Facebook, counterpoint: The big Seven also prohibit non-Jews from engaging in blasphemy and idolatry. This suggests, rather strongly, that all three - blasphemy, idolatry and sodomy - are moral crimes of the same caliber. But here's the interesting thing:  Blasphemy and idolatry are both protected rights under the US constitution. And (a) no one cares and (b) nothing bad has happened.

In fact, let me restate (b) with a bit more power. Not only has nothing bad happened, but the same sort of people who routinely insist that US morality will go down the tubes if gay marriage is legalized, are also the sort of people who think America is currently the greatest country ever. So two huge moral failings and we can still be awesome, but let a third moral failing receive the official OK and its all over?

Is the country's morality really so porcelain--thin that it is mortally threatened by the possibility that gay men might sodomize each other, but not by the blasphemy and idolatry that already occur with the full and complete sanction of US law?

If anti-gay activists were the sort of consistent, principled, totally non-bigoted gentlemen that they say they are they would be working concurrently to repeal the First and Second Amendments of the US Constitution. They would be holding up as moral exemplars such blasphemy, sodomy and idolatry banning republics as Saudi Arabia. Instead of breaking bread with questionably idolatrous Christians, they would be seeking common cause with hard core anti-idolatry Muslims.

Now, I admit that none of these examples of their hypocrisy are puzzling to me as I have already concluded that anti-gay activists are bigots and hypocrites, but perhaps someone in the audience can offer an argument that might shake me of this conviction.

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Scam of the day

This is disgusting. These people are predators. Their customers are fools. And our so-called leaders are complacent collaborators via their chronically gutless inability to denounce this. 

Lonely? Loathsome?

Just pay us and we promise that your spiritual luck will change and you will find your mate very soon.

DovBear nation I invite you to call their number (1-718 794-0607) and flood them with complaints.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Vote for the next team of DovBear bloggers

From time to time, this blog morphs into a team effort, and I'd like the blog enter that phase once again. I'm looking for a few people to write and publish posts over the next several weeks, and perhaps indefinately (Rafi G., technically, is still a team member, though he hasn't published anything here in years)  

If you have opinions and a distinctive voice, you qualify. Successful applicants will be following in the footsteps of illustrious former team-members such as Godol Hador, Mis-Nagid, OrthoMom, Amshinover, TikunOlam, EFink, Shifra, Shira, Ezzie, CA, Lurker, S.M, Noyam, Naftuli,  and many others. Volunteers?

Or better yet: Nominations?

Who would you, the 3 -4 million or so people who stop by every day, like to hear from?

If you'd like to volunteer to guest post here, hit me on Facebook or send me an email. 

Rarely have I been so disappointed by the performance of a Cross Currents writer

Its a cheap trick to respond to criticism with an attempted psychoanalysis of the critic, but cheap tricks are all Yitzchak Alderstam seems to have left at his disposal. In the current Forward Jay Michealson says some things that are painfully, inconveniently, true and all Alderstan can offer in response are ad homs.

Here's what Michelson said:

  • Fundamentalism is bad.
  • American ultra Orthodox kids aren't receiving decent educations.
  • The major Orthodox Yeshivot all take tons of Federal Aid, despite an absence of standards and an unwillingness to prepare students for work.
  • Israeli Haredim are no better. 
  • Their lack of an education makes it difficult, if not impossible, for disillusioned Haredim to try something else.
  • It also leaves them poor, and at the mercy of their leaders.
  • We have to rescue these poor, uneducated Jews. 
The piece concludes with some concrete ideas for improving the situation.

Here's how Alderstan responded to these points of fact:

  • Michelson is a gay activist
  • Plus he hates Israel
  • Also, Michelson is really mad, but not for the reason he gave in his piece, but for a reason I'm happy to invent viz: Michelson  knows his type of Judaism is going down the tubes so he's lashing out at the winning team.

I've hated Cross Currents for years, but rarely have I been so disappointed by the performance of one of its writers.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I know, I keep beating this horse

For a woman, wearing a talis is a voluntary mitzvah. When a man tries to do a voluntary mitzvah (eg remarrying after he has kids) no one asks if he is making a political statement or demands to know why he isn't focusing his attention on the performance of required mitzvot. We just commend him politely on his performance of the voluntary miztvah and move on. Is it really so controversial to insist that women receive the same courtesy?

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How do you keep your makeup fresh over the weekend?

Thousands of years ago, the Torah predicted that the nations of the world would one day proclaim "Surely, the Jews are a wise and understanding nation." Well, good news, true believers. It has come to pass.

Is this not the greatest thing ever? Our women are using SHARPIE markers to decorate their faces. I call that clever.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Is Kolel a Mental Disorder?

by @azigra 

The Jerusalem Post carried the following story on Sunday:

Finance Minister Yair Lapid said Thursday the harshest cuts in his controversial budget were aimed at haredim in hopes of pushing them into the labor force. “I already cut for the haredim more than ever has been,” he said in a Facebook chat Thursday night, alluding to cuts in child allowances that disproportionally affect the ultra-Orthodox community, whose birth rate is four times the Israeli average. “Israel doesn’t need a culture of allowances, but a culture of work.” “What are child allowances? Child allowances say ‘I have kids but want someone else to pay.’ Who is paying? Someone else who has kids, who is taking from his kids and giving to others’ kids,” Lapid said. The cuts, he continued, “act to push people to the job market.”

One questioner, who said he was a full-time yeshiva student, complained that cuts would leave his family short of money, and said his wife would have to divorce him to obtain a subsidy for single mothers in order for their family to survive. Isn’t that a “piggish” intervention in his wife’s private life, the man asked? Lapid’s response: “There’s another
option – that you’ll work.” Noting that the man would only need to work for 10 hours a week to bridge the difference, Lapid shot back, his decision not to work was the gross intervention into his wife’s private life.

As someone who has studied in Lakewood yeshiva I should be able to say this isn’t shocking to me but it is. The idea of getting a job never even occurred to this young Torah Scholar for a single second! It’s not even an option to consider. In this man’s mind divorcing his wife and tearing apart his family, makes more sense than finding gainful employment.

Is this about Torah and religion? Is it about someone on welfare who has become addicted to it? Why doesn’t he fake a claim that he has AIDS and get help that way? Would his rabbis sanction a divorce instead of finding work? Do you think this would be a common response from many people in his circles? 

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

WOW and their motives

Some people say they can see that the WOW have no real interest in performing mitzvot because WOW only care about one mitzvah, namely the mitzvah of wearing a talis; moreover they only care about this one mitzvah when in can be performed in public. 

I happen to know that, in a few cases at least, this is false. Some WOW pray as often as they can, wherever they happen to be, wrapped in talitot. Most of them are committed to the social justice commandments, and many of them follow the shabbos and kashrus rule as they interpret and understand those laws. So it isn't true at all that the WOW, in the main, are not interested in Jewish law.

But lets play with this for a moment. 

Opponents of WOW say that this (alleged) selective interest in performing mitzvos disqualifies their attempt to perform one particular mitzvah, namely the mitzvah of wearing a talis, a mitzvah which is recognized by Rishonim and Achronim such as Rav Moshe as a Mitzvas Reshus for women requiring a brocha. They say this (alleged) selective interest demonstrates that the WOW are operating from impure motives; moreover WOW opponents claim that this selective interest is supporting evidence for the contention that all WOW really and truly wants to do is undermine Orthodox law, embarrass Haredim and so forth.

Fine. But let's look at the behavior of some of their more violent opponents, the men who answer singing women with flying chairs. Are these men only interested in defending the sanctity of a holy spot? Do they react with anger and violence simply because they can not abide even a hint of desecration? This is what some supporters of the violent opponents want you to believe. Unfortunately, the rule of selective interest undermines this contention.

As the great Mark SoFla has pointed out the kotel is desecrated every day by the prayers of Christians, many of whom loudly invoke Jesus. The Pope has visited the Kotel wearing a cross. Other pray at the Kotel using Reform and Conservative sidurim. As a rule, no one objects, and certainly not with violence. The anti-social behavior is reserved for women, and women alone. 

If the law of selective interest means the WOW are simply anti-Judaism, doesn't the law of selective interest reveal that their opponents are simply misogynists?

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Some more arguments on behalf of women who wish to wear talitot

From where I sit the argument over women wearing talitot is not like an argument over the kashrus of pig meat, as some have tried to characterize it, but more like an argument over whether or not women should listen to the shofar or take a lulav.

I base this on the writings of our Rabbis.

According to the law books, a woman wearing a talis and a woman listening to the shofar are technically the same. Both are characterized as reshus, meaning women have no obligation to perform either mitzvah but receive a reward when they do.

My question, then, is directed at those of you who wish to stop women from wearing talitot at the kotel.  Do you also wish to stop women from hearing the shofar? Would you prefer that women stay home on Rosh Hashona rather than "acting like men" by allowing the shofar blasts to penetrate their delicate ear drums? Anyone who has resolved himself to women hearing the shofar, shoud resolve himself  to women wearing talitot. Technically there is no difference. Here is Rav Moshe Feinstein on the subject:
But since any woman is permitted to perform even those commandments that the Torah does not obligate her to perform, and these women do a mitzvah and are rewarded for performing these commandments. And according to Tosfot’s view they are also told to recite the blessings on these commandments — and in accordance with our custom that they perform the commandments of [hearing the] shofar and [waving the] lulav and recite blessings [on these performances]. If so, with respect to tzitzit as well, it is possible for a woman who wishes to fulfill this mitzvah to wear a clothing item that is distinct from the one typically worn by men but which has four corners and for her to attach tzitzit to it and thereby fulfill this commandment. - Iggrot Moshe OC 4:49
I expect those who wish to strip the  Women of the Wall of their talitot will sidestep this challenge by offering a meta-halachic sociological argument, a meta-halachic sociological argument that goes something like this: Women who wish to wear talitot are following the zeitgeist rather then the yearnings of their soul. They don't wish to perform mitzvos. They wish to be like men. And if the motive is not perfect, neither is the performance of the mitzvah.

And indeed, Rav Moshe has something to say in support of this view as well. Here's the rest of the quote cited above:
However, it is obvious that this applies only if her soul yearns to perform mitzvot, notwithstanding the fact that she is not commanded to perform them. However, since it is not with this intent but rather stems from her protest against God and His Torah this is not the act of a mitzvah at all; quite the opposite, [it is] a forbidden act, for she commits heresy, thinking it possible for the laws of the Torah to be changed even in a grave matter.
I wouldn't dream of arguing with Rav Moshe, but I do have some questions bout this statement, questions that also apply to the meta-halachic sociological argument against women wearing talitot: 
  • First, we can't know with any certainty what motivates a person to take on a new commandment. While, Rav Moshe's psak will certainly apply after we've perfected mind-reading technology, what do we do in the meantime? Shouldn't we offer women the benefit of the doubt? 
  • Second, I don't understand the double-standard Rav Moshe proposes. We never look into a man's motive when he decides to take on something new. Maariv,  for example, is technically a reshus but no one worries that a man who say maariv every day is only trying to impress his neighbors. Why do we impeach a woman's motive, but not a man's?
  • Third, why are we looking at motives at all? On Psachim 50B,  Rav Judah says in Rav’s name: “A person should always occupy himself with Torah and good deeds, though it is not for their own sake, for out of [doing mitzvot] with an ulterior motive there comes [doing them] for its own sake.” This seems like a very sensible law. We want people to do mitzvos, so we abstain from challenging their motives. Its a mitzvah for a woman to wear a talis, Rav Moshe agrees, just as surely as it is a mitzvah for her to take a lulav or hear the shofar. As a result, we should abstain from challenging the motives of a women who wishes to wear a talis on the theory that it is better for her to the mitzvah then to not do the mitzvah.
  • Finally, is it possible to protests the Torah by following the Torah? Rav Moshe, and others who make the sociological argument, accuse talit-wearing women of violating the Torah, but where is the violation? The Torah allows them to wear talitot. They accuse the women of wishing to change the laws of the Torah, but what Torah law do the wish to change? Rav Moshe (and others) have already said that the law permits women to wear talitot.  If I think a law is bad, I protest that law by refusing to follow it. When Ghandi wanted to overthrow the British, he broke British laws. He didn't call on his followers to follow them publicly. Martin Luthor King Jr did the same. So how can these women be accused of opposing laws by following them? How can they be accused of rejecting a system that, by Rav Moshe's own admission, allows them to do the very thing they wish to do? 

Monday, May 20, 2013

My belief in God

On the subject of belief, my belief anyway, I've always tried to be clear. But the comments below and on Twitter show me I haven't succeeded. So let's try again.

As the dictionary defines it, belief is a state or habit of the mind. Sometimes, beliefs are based on evidence --but not always. You can end up with a belief thanks to education or upbringing or even bad brain wiring. A case of  indigestion can be interpreted as an apparition and produce a belief in space aliens. The way your father spoke about black people might be why you believe they are inferior. Or perhaps your inability to resolve your own sexual tendencies has left you believing that homosexuality is immoral. The point is beliefs need not be based on anything. They just are. Like any other habit, this habit of the mind is something we fall into for one reason or another. Sometimes the reason is a good one. Sometimes it isn't.

Habits can be hard to break, but we aren't their prisoners. When introduced to clear evidence, intelligent people will attempt to break their old habit of believing in something that clearly isn't true. And I have done this. Once upon a time, I was firm in my belief that every word in the Torah, as we have it today, was given by God to Moses. Having encountered reams of evidence for things like scribal errors, I no longer believe in the Immutability of the Torah. When evidence speaks, I try to listen.

On the question of God, however, the evidence is notoriously silent. There are no good grounds for saying that He exists, and also no grounds to deny Him. Had I grown up with no a belief in God, its unlikely that such a belief would have been acquired.  I'd have stayed in the habit of disbelieving. But that isn't how I grew up. My upbringing and education have conspired to produce a human being who believes in God. That's the habit of the mind I've fallen into and its a habit I see no reason to break. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Everything you need for shavuot

What did we actually get at Sinai?
5/14/10: All time favorite post.

Demolishing dumb arguments (The mass revelation argument for the Torah's Historical Veracity)
2/20/06 Another post I'd put in the top 10

Facts and Myths
8/3/07 The first myth I address: "On Har Sinai Moshe received a copy of the Vilna Shas and the complete Mikraot Gedolot." Many others.

A Tale of Two Torah Revelations at Sinai
5/18/10 I really like this post. Discusses how the various midrashim about matan torah aren't reconcilable.

Was the mountain held over their heads?
2/18/09 What the midrash means

The Emptiness of Ruth and Naomi
6/10/11 Literary

The inside-out betrothal scene in Ruth
6/2/11 Literary

The mystery of Boaz's... um... turnip
6/7/11 What is the meaning of Vayilafes?** — Rav said: His flesh became [as hard] as turnip heads [ie a "lefes".

How modest was Ruth?
6/07/11 From the very beginning its been the habit of Jewish commenters to project ideas onto scripture. 

Preposterous Pentecostal Parlor Games
5/23/12 If you're the parent of small, haredi-educated children you're likely to be told about one or both of these silly numerical coincidences over the upcoming holiday weekend. As a service to you, my dear freeloading reader, I've provide appropriate rejoinders

What does a woman do with Shavuos?
From 2006. Gil asked what a "traditional" woman does with Shavuot, and I answered. Irreverently

Fulfilling the requirement to eat meat on the dairy holiday
From June 2008. Along with discussing the so called meat requirement, I get into male vs female roles

Stuff my five year old knows that Chazal did not
Eg: He knows when the Torah was given.

Rashi's difficulty with or ignorance of a particular Midrash on Megilas Rus
Like he didn't even know it existed

Israeli Rabinate Rules Moshiach ben Dovid isn't Jewish
How could he be? "Ruth the Moabite did not go to the mikva. She did not accept upon herself all 613 mitzvot and the accompanying chumrot of the high court. She behaved in a licentious manner with a local farmer named Boaz, and was known to walk around the fields with various body parts uncovered, including her hair.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Shul casting call


You're opening a new shul. Along with a rabbi to make speeches and a control-freak to serve as gabbai what are some of the roles that must be filled if your shul is going to feel "authentic?" My list:

  • A guy to bang a table to remind people to say prayers that aren't part of the daily liturgy such as ya'aleh v'yavo. This role can be filled by the gabbai, but most proper shuls have at least two or three self appointed table-bangers.
  • If your shul  is going to recite Kel Adon responsively, you will need a least one guy to say the word "Shevach" really loudly right before the congregation recites the last stitch. 
  • Shushers (1 for every 35 members): Whenever the talking gets a little robust these guys play the important role of adding to the noise and the general sense of no-decorum by hissing - sshhhhhhhhh - really loudly. At least one shusher should also be a glarer.
  • Eye-rollers (1 for every 50 members) Because its near-impossible for a speaker to sparkle week after week, your Rabbi will occasionally say something ludicrous or barbaric. Once upon a time it was correct to ignore the offending statement or to nod in agreement. Not anymore. Your shul will need a guy or two who can, via their animated responses, let the rest of the congregation know when the Rabbi has stepped over the line. 
  • Kiddush shlepper and Shtriemel fetcher. In general, the holier a shul is, the more its congregation disrespects musaf. Generally, this disrespect is achieved in two ways: (1) The kiddush is unpacked the moment kedusha ends; (2) The men participate in a mass exodus to the alcove to fetch hats and shtreimals, a mass exodus that starts as soon as kedusha is finished. If you wish to disrespect musaf in the proper Toirah true fashion your new shul will need a few burly fellows to interrupt chazeres hashas by carrying in the boxes of cake and soda and by folding up the chairs and tables. You'll also need a lithe, little man to slip through the hordes to bring the Rabbi his shtreimal. (Heaven forbid your rabbi should be forced sit through the chazan's repetition with a talis on his head like some kind of lowlife.)
  • Rabbi hogger A truly excellent shul needs a guy who buttonholes the Rabbi at the end of every service. Ideally, you want someone innocent and sincere who naively believes that regularly subjecting the Rabbi to nonsense questions, inane anecdotes, or recycled divrei torah is appropriate and welcome. If you can't find such a simple soul, get a cynical creep who thinks his status is enhanced whenever he's seen chatting up the Rabbi. 
What else do we need?

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To spare you the embarressment of having your name mentioned on this blog, I've used initials only. If you'd like a proper hat-tip let me know

  • The chazen sheni who never takes the amud himself, but always gets in the chazan's ear, davening as loudly as possible, usually off key.  (D.S)
  • Candy man (by RJY) 
  • Sleeper. Every shul needs a guy who drifts off the second a speech starts (D.S) 
  • The learner: Studies instead of davening, always conspicuous (D.J)
  • The three alcoholics who step out as soon as they do pesicha and start doing shots in the kitchen, pausing only to answer BRRRICHI and UMEIN to everyone's aliyah. (LF)
  • The gangs of kids stampeding through the shul every so often. (LF)
  • The guy who ignores the whole service until the Tefillah for the Medinah is said. Then he stands up and declares his allegiance to Israel by casting mean looks at people who haven't stood.
  • The "What is this? A Young Israel!" person. Utters his motto as a quick and easy way to discredit any new idea. Example: We really shouldn't set up the kiddush during musaf.... What is this? A Young Israel!
  • The little kid with the HUGE bag of food. Raised by parents who believe starvation can happen in less than an hour. Also, someone in his family survived the war, and BY GOD MY CHILDREN WILL NEVER GO HUNGRY
  • Yaamod guy. Without him how will chatanim and bar mitzvah boys get aliyahs?
  • Dagger eyes aka Red face. Whenever the shul deviates from its own established nusach or custom or style in any way, however minor the deviation might be, this guy lives up to his name
  • Hatzola guys- in shul with their radios squawking just loud enough for others to hear and know that he's "on Hatzolah" (SM)

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Badeken Battle

Here's Wikipedia explaining the badeken ritual
Badeken, Bedeken, Badekenish, or Bedekung (Yiddish: באַדעקן badekn, lit. covering), is the ceremony where the groom veils the bride in a Jewish wedding. 
Just prior to the actual wedding ceremony, which takes place under the chuppah, the bridegroom, accompanied by his parents, the Rabbi, and other dignitaries, and amidst joyous singing of his friends, covers the bride's face with a veil. At this point it is traditional for the Rabbi to pronounce a blessing upon the couple. The bride wears this veil until the conclusion of the chuppah ceremony
Quite bad, right? First the author is obviously an Orthodox ashkenazi, yet his nusach (style or flavor) for the badeken is presented as the one right way. Second, it's not true that the groom is accompanied by "his parents, the Rabbi, and other dignitaries." His mother is with the bride and the groom (usually) isn't escorted by "dignitaries" but by his friends. Third, who is this mystery character identified as "The Rabbi"? At the typical Orthodox wedding dozens if not scores of Rabbis are in attendance, and as many as nine of them might have an official role in the wedding. I suppose the author means the Mesader Kidushin, the one person (not necessarily a  rabbi) who has overall responsibility for the ceremony, but he will skip the badeken as often as he attends it. Also, I have never seen "the Rabbi" bless the couple. I've seen various family members - fathers and grandfathers usually - bless the bride but I've never seen "the Rabbi" do anything. 

Now,  more about my first point: Nowadays, a Torah True badekin almost always works like this: The bride sits on something resembling a throne surrounded by her attendants. Ten to fifteen minutes after the scheduled time, the band strikes up a tune (always the same one unless you're from a one of the small yeshivish or hasidic sects that use something else) and in comes the groom with his friends and family. He approaches the bride and veils her. Sometimes, the father of the groom or the father of the bride pronounce blessings before  the groom is carried off ) by his friends (sometimes figuratively but often literally. 

Was it always done this way? 

I ask because in some of the Israeli wedding videos I've found on YouTube something else happens. The badeken takes place at the chuppah. After the bride is escorted down the aisle by her parents, the groom veils her and they take the final steps to the chupah together.

On Facebook @azigra says the mainstream Sephardic custom is for the bride and groom to enter the chupah together. Fine, but which is the older minhag? How did the first badeken I described develop? And that song everyone uses. It can't be that old. How did it take over?

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Where do Midrashim Come From?

Where do Midrashim Come From?

"The second account of the Calf is read but not translated. What is the second account of the Calf? — From ‘And Moses said’ up to ‘and Moses saw’. It has been taught: A man should always be careful in wording his answers, because on the basis of the answer which Aaron made to Moses the unbelievers were able to deny [God], as it says, And I cast it into the fire and this calf came forth." - BT Megillah 25B

The verse mentioned in this passage, when read hyper-literally, suggests that statue of the golden calf was created magically  The raw material was tossed into the fire, and the calf statue came out whole. ("I cast [the gold] into the fire and this calf came forth") And indeed this hyper-literal reading is reflected in the midrashim.

Here's Rashi quoting two midrashic sources:
As soon as they had cast it into the fire of the crucible, the sorcerers of the mixed multitude who had gone up with them from Egypt came and made it with sorcery. [See commentary on Exod. 12:38.] Others say that Micah was there, who had emerged from the layer of the building where he had been crushed in Egypt. (Sanh. 101b). In his hand was a plate upon which Moses had inscribed “Ascend, O ox; ascend, O ox,” to [miraculously] bring up Joseph’s coffin from the Nile. They cast it [the plate] into the crucible, and the calf emerged. - [from Midrash Tanchuma 19]
Rashi makes this comment on a verse that is part of the "first account of the Calf" i.e., the Torah's own narrative of the events. Later in the "second account of the Calf", i.e, when Aaron reports the story to Moshe, he offers this explanation of Aaron's words:
[Aaron said] I threw it into the fire: [meaning] I did not know that this calf would come out, but out it came.
This verse is what the Talmud (above) has in mind when it mention "the answer which Aaron made to Moses". Though (see here) one line of rabbinic thought insists that nothing magical occurred when the calf was created, another line of rabbinic thought uses this answer as the basis of a very detailed back story including a villain called Michah and two Egyptian sorcerers with implausibly Greek names (Jannes and Jambre) who had served Paro as advisers, before leaving with the Jews during the Exodus [More here]

The very interesting point is our nameless amora or sevora seems to believe that Aaron's answer carries no special significance. It's not a hint at something magical. The story of Janes and Jambre isn't hidden behind it. The midrash isn't history. Aaron simply misspoke. And because he was not "careful in his wording" a host of interpretations sprouted.

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Great Wedding Video

Huge WOW factor here. Only bad thing I can say is the song reminds me of Catholics in general and the Sopranos in particular. #syncretism

Another great:

And then we have this:

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It's the End of the(ir) World as they know it... thank G-d.


It is perhaps one of the most bizarre comments ever made by a Haredi spokesman and yet it went largely un-noticed.

The reason it went un-noticed is that, bizarre as it this comment, it is much less newsworthy that the comments surrounding it, when the spokesman, Haim Valder - writing in the mainstream haredi paper Yated Neeman - compared Yair Lapid, Israel's Finance Minister to Adolf Hitler, ex-Fuhrer of the Nazi Party.

But here's the bizarre quote. Valder is talking about what will happen as a result of Lapid's proposal to revoke certain benefits from those who are neither working nor actively looking for work.
"(It hurts) our ability to live normal lives... To deny us our basic rights to stipends, municipal tax discounts, income support, food for children, ...."
In other words, Valder is claiming that Haredim have a basic right (!) to live off government (i.e. taxpayer) handouts and to help themselves to money that could otherwise be used for defense costs, public schools, or even supporting the genuinely poor (as opposed to the voluntarily poor). What Valder is saying is that the Haredi lifestyle is dependent on taking government money. What Valder is saying is that they have an inherent right to that money.

And, yet, he denies that Haredim are parasites. Amazing! Bewildering! Did you ever hear anything like it?
For the first time ever, a leading Haredi paper has describes Haredim as parasites. This is extremely significant! Why? Because now we can all feel free to use this phrase without any worries. Yated Neeman thinks they are parasites, and we agree with the Yated.

Now their world is ending. Parasitic Judaism (which began a only a short time ago) is now a threatened stream of Judaism.

In the second paragraph of the Shema, G-d says He will grant economic support for those who do His will. Since the economy of the Haredi society is now falling apart, one can only learn from this that G-d Himself, (never mind Yair Lapid) doesn't like their behavior.

And Valder, bless him, said it without a trace of irony or self-awareness

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Lakewood Lies

Now this is funny. As bluke reports, one of the honchos at the Lakewood Yeshiva is telling people that his school doesn't really insist that its student be Jews:
Moshe Gleiberman, vice president of administration at Beth Medrash Govoha, said... there is no "religious test" for admission, but it does have rigid education standards.
Why the lie? Easy. The state of NJ has just awarded the yeshiva $10 million. Unfortunately, its illegal to provide public money to an organization that engages in discrimination. So if Lakewood wants to keep the money, they have only two choices: They can throw open their doors to women and non Jews, or they can pretend the doors are already wide open. They've chosen choice B.

And now let's say a word about the soul-numbing hypocrisy of one of our major rabbinic organizations. When a left-leaning Orthodox Jewish institution decided to create a new synagogue leadership position for women, the RCA lost its lunch. "They're deviating from our Mesorah," screamed the RCA from the rooftops. "This new position you've created is too similar to "Rabbi!" And women can't be Rabbis! So what you're doing is anti-Torah and must be protested!"

But when a right-leaning Orthodox Jewish institution scams the state of NJ out of $10 million dollars and then  protects the scam with a transparent lie, what does the RCA say and do? This:

[ nothing ]

And I'll tell you something else. If the Ludmirer Moyde  emerged today and if she was accepted by the Hasidim our day to the extent that she was accepted by the  Hasidim of the 19th century you can bet the gutless wonders at the RCA would be too frightened to utter a single word of protest.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Mordechai Anilievitcz

A hero is a man who does what he can.

May his neshama have an aliya.

TODAY IN JEWISH HISTORY: May 8, 1943. Mordechai Anilievitcz, the leader of the Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto 1943 took his own life, along with his girlfriend Mira Fuchrer and many of his co-fighters after the place of their hiding was surrounded by the Gestapo.

Its a shame I know more about Leon Uris's Mila 18 then I do about the real events.

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Segulot and me

There's a heiliga FB member who thinks I am a horrible, no-good hater of God and Judaism because I seek to undermine everyone's belief in segulot. Here is what he wrote:
So there are people who look for shortcuts, i.e. segulos... so what? Better that than having no connection whatsoever. You and I can agree that we fail ourselves when look at G-d strictly as an ATM machine, but some people connect that way and guess what, it's still a connection.
Now, I don't think my corespondent is a bad guy himself. His heart seems to be in the right place. Unfortunately, his brain isn't. For starters, he's wrong to assume these ridiculous segulot create any kind of "connection" with God They don't.

Here's the Radak:
"...people thought that many things and certain actions would help or damage, sicken or heal. These things are not based upon wisdom or medicine or natural forces, but rather they are based upon the repeated customs of people throughout the generations...and these are the darkei ha-emori." (Radak on Yeshayahu 40:21) 
What segulot really do is connect the person to the dangerous and false idea that the world is a magical place run by a God who can be controlled with spells and incantations. Instead of heightening a person's awe of heaven, these segulot cause you to take God lightly. After all, who really respects a God who can be so easily manipulated?  Are you capable of worshiping a God who would tip the scales of justice in favor of someone who performed a silly segulah? I'm not. I can't believe such a tiny God exists or is worthy of our faith. But the segulah worshipers do.  

To make matters worse, people who believe in segulot are often victimized by con men who sell magical charms and blessings for large sums of money. They succeed because people like my correspondent offer the shysters protection and respect and compliant silence instead of the rebuke they richly deserve. I may be weak and of little influence, but if these posts can make one person think twice before allowing himself to be deceived, I will be satisfied. Helping Jews avoid scams is a worthy goal. Contributing in any way to the mass delusion that segulot work isn't. 

Two on psychics and other despicable frauds

Sylvia Browne is a liar, like all psychics

In November 2004 Amanda Bery's's mother, Louwana Miller, appeared on Montel Williams show with psychic Sylvia Browne. Browne told Miller that her daughter was dead.

Hat tip Cousin Oliver

Idiot Legislator Permits his Idiot State to Continue Teaching Creationism After a Shrewd Charlatan Cons Him

In one of the armpit states (Louisiana, we think) a legislator gave this reason for refusing to vote against a bill that permits creationism to be taught in science class
Sen. Elbert Guillory, D-Opelousas, said he had reservations with repealing the act after a spiritual healer correctly diagnosed a specific medical ailment he had. He said he thought repealing the act could "lock the door on being able to view ideas from many places, concepts from many cultures." 
“Yet if I closed my mind when I saw this man—in the dust, throwing some bones on the ground, semi-clothed—if I had closed him off and just said, ‘That's not science. I'm not going to see this doctor,’ I would have shut off a very good experience for myself,” Guillory said.
I don't know even where to begin responding to this idiocy.  But I will note that the witch doctor probably did a cold reading on him.In the clip below you can see Stan from South Park show you how its done.

Monday, May 06, 2013

A dialog with a dummy... or what kind of booth did God cause the Israelites to live it?

A few weeks ago, one of the guys I know was pontificating in honor of Parshas Emor. His verse was Leviticus 23:43. Here is our conversation, edited and enhanced for entertainment and educational purposes.

Speaker: ...from this we see another example of God's kindness and generosity. For 40 years he  enveloped us in  the clouds of glory, protecting us from all harm...

Random Guy: How do we know this?

Speaker: It's plainly stated in Rashi. The verse say "כי בסכות הושבתי"[=I sheltered you in booths] and on the spot Rashi tells us that what is really meant is ענני כבוד [=Clouds of glory]

Me: What is "really meant?"

Speaker: Yes! Rashi is telling us that the verse isn't talking about booths at all. What the verse really means to say is that God protected us with the clouds of glory!

Me: But isn't it possible to say that when the verse says booths it really means booths?

Speaker: Are you doubting Rashi?

Me: No...

Speaker Do you think you know more than he did?

Me: Not at all.

Speaker: So what's the problem? I'll tell you what your problem is: No Emunah!!

Me: Ok, but...

Speaker: Honestly, where is your Emunah?

Me: Can...

Speaker: Any small hint of the supernatural and -boom- you turn into a heretic!

Me: Okay, let me...

Speaker: Well, I have news for you. The supernatural is the natural when it comes to Torah. God can do anything. And its only your small brain, and your narrow perspective that prevents you from accepting that.

Me: Right. Now can I...

Speaker: More importantly when a great Rabbi like Rashi says something happened you're required as a Jew to believe it.

Me: Which brings...

Speaker No questions asked!

Me: --

Speaker: No questions asked!

Me: Can I say...

Speaker: No questions asked!

Me: Great. Can I say something now?

Speaker: What?!

Me: I asked if it was possible to say that the booths the verses speaks about are actual booths. In response, you launched into a holy tirade accusing me of being a heretic, and denying the wisdom of Rabbis. Correct?

Speaker:  Correct!

Me: So according to you anyone who says that those were actual booths is disrespecting Rashi and denying a Torah truth?

Speaker:  Correct!

Me:  And, also, he's being a heretic?

Speaker:  Correct!

Me:  You know, that's a terrible thing to say about Rabbi Akiva.

Speaker:  What?!

Me: Here. Look at this passage from the Gemara (BT: Sukka 11b) For it has
been taught: For I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths (Leviticus 23:43)  These [booths] were clouds of glory, so says R. Eliezer. R. Akiba says, They made for themselves real booths. 

Bonus questions!

How did the speaker respond?

A:  We don't pasken like Rabbi Akiva!
B:  Rabbi Akiva is not from our Mesorah!  
C: They were both real booths AND clouds of glory. And if you can't figure out how they could be both, at the same time, that's your problem
D: DovBear, I accept you point and your criticism. It was wrong of me to attack you as a heretic. Clearly anything Rabbi Akiva said is valid. 

Why did Rashi choose Rabbi Eliezer over Rabbi Akiva? 

A: He knew through Ruach HaKodesh that Rabbi Akiva was wrong
B: He paskened that Rabbi Akiva was wrong.
C: He knew through the unbroken Mesorah going back to Sinai that Rabbi Akiva was wrong
D: Rashi had a particular interpretive agenda (Genesis 3:8: "I have come only to teach the plain meaning of the passage and such Aggadah which explains the words of the Bible.) When faced with an apparent scriptual anamoly Rashi provides the aggada that resolves the difficulty. In our verse the words הושבתי means that God made the Israelites live in the Sukkot. If these were ordinary booths, it would say merely that "the Israelites lived in booths" The fact that it says instead that God caused us to dwell in these booths suggests something supernaturtal. This is why Rashi cites Rabbi Eliezer in his commentary and not Rabbi Akiva

A New Low in Modesty


A deeply disturbing video has come to light recently of two well known rabbinical wives. The fact they would both so brazenly disrespect their husbands and the Torah they stand for should be of grave concern to all Yarei Shomayim. Think of the lessons to be learned by the bachrim in each of their respective yeshivas, it's nothing but chilling.

This past summer, Reb Moshe Feinstein of MTJ visited Reb Yaakov Kaminetzky of YTV at the latter's summer camp. For some reason their wives came along, though they knew they were entering a boys only camp. These two women deliberately and brazenly walked around in clothing so far from the modesty that is expected of a holy Bas Yisroel that it boggles the mind.

 Skirts above the ankles!

 Sleeves above the wrist!
Light colored clothing!

The undersigned hereby place Mrs. Feinstein and Mrs. Kaminetzy in Cherim.

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Saturday, May 04, 2013

Segulah power!

The following was one of the items in a women’s e-mail list. [Related to this]
There is an Egyptian living across the street from our house.

Feel free to come and do the Mitzvah of Lo SiSayv Mizri (known to be a segula for many things, including children, Arichus Yamim, finding a house,finding a shidduch.)

Please be careful when you come to have in mind that you are not despising the Egyptian for the sake of the Mitzvah because the Egyptian gets really annoyed when people stand on his lawn and dislikes it intensly when people holler "Hey! Egyptian! L'shem Mitzvah I don't despise you!" and you don't want to drive him away and miss the opportunity .

The mitzvah can be done by men, women, and children

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Thursday, May 02, 2013

Guest Rant

by G.A

The following was one of the items in a women’s e-mail list.

There is an American robin that laid eggs in a nest on our electric box
right outside our front door.

Feel free to come and do the Mitzvah of Shiluach Hakan (known to be a
segula for many things, including children, Arichus Yamim, finding a house,
finding a shidduch)

Please be careful when you come to close to have in mind that you are
scaring away the bird for the Mitzvah because the bird flies away very
easily and you don't want to miss the opportunity(the american robin is
always a female that sits on the eggs)

After you scare the mother away (can be just by coming close)Climb up the
ladder (VERY carefully, it is rickety) Lift up one of the eggs and have in
mind that you are taking the egg for yourself, then be Mafkir it in your
mind and put it back.

The mitzvah can be done by men, women, and children

Is there any better expression of what is broken with Orthodox Judaism, or how far apart the letter and spirit of the law have drifted?

A commandment meant to train us to act compassionately (by not taking the eggs in front of the mother), or to instil the message that species need to be preserved and shouldn’t be over-harvested (Danger! Radical Reform Conservationist Tikkun Olam Alert!) has instead become a Segulah to be finagled on a technicality.

To detach a commandment from the associated character development, and to turn it into a series of legal fictions (having in mind that you’re taking possession of the egg, then enacting a Kinyan, then having in mind that you in fact do not need the egg after all) meant to score a reward is to miss the boat. Just because you can touch two wires together inside a pinball machine and get the scoreboard to read 1,000,000 points doesn’t mean that you know how to play.

Are God’s commandments just another venue for us to ply our loopholes and party tricks?

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Israeli McDonalds

Whatever you may think of the Israeli McDonalds chain, they deserve credit for their creative commercials.

In this one, the Secret Service is depicted rounding up teenagers so that a branch can be opened for a special guest:

And here we see some stereotypical American tourists interacting with a stereotypical Israeli cabbie.

Merits of the ads aside, what do we say about the prevalence of the American chain in Israel?

 I don't like it, on the grounds that the entire world doesn't need to look the same. I like diversity. I like regional differences. I like competition. I like the underdog. So, of course I don't like the idea of a big, boring American chain conquering new territory

On the subject of cheeseburgers in the Holy Land, however, I'm a bit mixed. I don't eat treif of course, but I don't want one flavor or style of Judaism to conquer the world any more than I want one type of fast food company to become dominant. I want the different sects to continue fighting each other with words and ideas and I want there to be room for a plurality of acceptable approaches and practices. While I, personally, believe that cheeseburger-eating isn't one of those acceptable Jewish practices, the Jews (all the Jews) must decide that point for themselves.

The existence of a flourishing chain of Israeli McDonalds means the Jews haven't done that yet. (Just as the widespread practice of idol worship during the First Temple period tells us that the Jews of that era hadn't yet fully embraced monotheistim.)

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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The Arguments from N’Kh: (PART II of 2)

Submitted by David A.

Previously here I outlined how the contents of the books of N’Kh can be seen as arguing that the Torah, as we have it today, had developed over time and was written by multiple authors. The reasoning fir this is simple. The earlier books, consisting of Judges and Samuel have almost no references to terms like Torah or Sefer or to any specific Torah commandment, and even in Kings where the references do begin to show up, they appear much later in the timeline of the recorded history. The implication then is that the there was, at best, a limited version of a Torah at those times in history, while the increasing number of Torah references found in the much later books, like Chronicles, indicates that these authors likely, by then, had a more expanded version of a Torah.  

The faithful believers of TMS, and maybe others, of course, dismiss this argument as not very convincing and meaningless.  Well, maybe…

In this second part, is presented a further analysis of the text in N’Kh that builds on this theme and hopefully will make for a much more compelling and convincing argument.

Noda beYehuda on Leshem Yichud

One of the chashuv and heiliga Facebook members has helpfully translated and published the Noda be'Yehuda's thoughts on the prayer many say after counting the omer:
"Concerning the formula LESHEM YICHUD that has recently spread and has been printed in the Siddurim ... in my view this is a sore EVIL in our generation. Generations prior to our time knew NOTHING of this formula, and did NOT say it. They toiled all their days in Torah and Mitzvos, and did everything according to the Torah and according to the Poskim whose words stem from the source of living waters, the sea of the Talmud. Of them it is said; "The integrity of the upright shall guide them" (Proverbs 11:3). It is they who produced fruit above; their piety is great above the heavens! But in this generation of ours ... each one says: "I am the seer! The gates of heaven have been opened to me! The world exists because of me"! ... I have much to say about this, but just as it is a mitzvah to say what will be accepted, so too is it a mitzvah to refrain from saying what will not be accepted. May Hashem have mercy upon us."
First, check out the snark and angry language. Someone please call the tone police. We have a violator.

Second, I never say this prayer. And neither should you. And while you're at it maybe drop some of the other new fangeled, kabala-influenced reforms?  I mean if you're going to take the positiion that chodosh" is osur minhatorah and if you're going to use that motto to crush any attempt to innovate, you really shouldn't be perfoming any of the other rituals that were invented in recent history. These include kabalas shabbos, the Ari's seder plate,  upsherin, nusach sefard nanuot, and loads more. While you're at it, maybe stop forbiding your maariv chazan from wearing a talis,  avoiding gebroks, and going to the mikvah every day. Just a suggestion.

PS: I say Kabalas Shabos, of course. That's one of the many relgious reforms I accept. But then I am, generally, in favor of spiritiual and religious inovations just as I am in favor of rejecting spiritual and religious inovations that don't speak to me or "feed" me. And you?

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