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Dec 31, 2007

Senator sighting

A certain United States State Senator was sighted in Ramat Bet Shemesh A today! We are on the map! (even though he was not here for any diplomatic meetings, but "just" visiting family...)

He would be happy to know I voted for him in the primary absentee ballot I mailed off a few days ago...

The status of internet use in the Haredi world

We recently read in all the frum newspapers (Mishpacha, Hamodia, etc.) that the Rabbonim have allowed [limited] use of the internet. I would guess they realized that no matter how bad and destructive it has the potential to be, it cannot be banned completely, as people use it for daily life; paying bills, work, livelihood, information, etc. Better to try to control it to a certain extent, than unsuccessfully fight against it.

Being that it is now allowed, Globes (a leading Israeli financial newspaper) was curious as to the level of Internet usage already in the Haredi community. They spoke with the Assistant CEO of Bezeq - the leading company providing infrastructure and connectivity for the Internet, and asked him what the percentages of connectivity are in the Haredi neighborhoods.

Ran Goron, the Assistant CEO of Bezeq, responded that overall the Internet in Haredi areas is hovering at about 20%. Now that the Internet has been declared to be allowed, they expect the percentage to increase.

Interesting numbers he mentioned were the usage in specific neighborhoods:
Beitar - 18%
Bnei brak - 17%
Netivot - 27%
Tzfat - 31%
Kfar Hassidim - 29%
Elad - 31%
Jerusalem (Ramot) - 29%
Modiin Ilit 15%
The most interesting one that I found (all the previous cities can be written off to a certain extent as to having younger crowds, maybe a little more modern communities, ergo reasonably high percentages of internet users, despite the ban) is that in Romema/Mea Shearim the internet use was at 19% of the community!

Other internet companies provided numbers that were slightly higher.

That is the status of the internet ban, and, I would suggest, a large part of the reason they decided to do away with it. the people showed this was a "takana she'ain ha'tzibur yacholin la'amod bo" - a decree that the public could not stand by. People were using the internet regardless of the ban. They were smart to do away with it. Now the trick is for them to actually find a way to successfully control it (if the people will allow them)..

Interesting psak from Rav Elyashiv: No more Mi She'Beirach on shabbos

Rav Elyashiv gives a shiur every shabbos on a halachik topic. Last Shabbos the topic under discussion was regarding the halachos of dealing with sick people on shabbos.

Rav Elyashiv had just said that it is prohibited to say the "Mi She'Beirach" prayer for the sick (prayign for their recovery), unless the sick person is in the category of "Choleh She'Yesh bo Sakanah" - a sick person whose life is in danger.

This is a very big "chiddush" as pretty much all shuls make a "mi she'beirach" during one of the breaks of the Torah reading on shabbos and people submit names of sick people they know. They will say the names of people who are deathly ill, along with people who have the flu or pneumonia or a toothache or whatever. I have never seen the gabbai or Rabbi in a shul get up and say only certain types of sick people cna have their names submitted.

Anyways, Rav Elyashiv paskened that only a sick person whose life is in actual danger can be davened for on shabbos. The reason is because we do not daven for sick people on shabbos, unless their lives are in danger. Shuls do not read paragraphs of tehillim after davening for sick people (somethign they often do after davening during the week), unless it is an unusual situation. I remember when Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was very sick and the shul I was in said tehillim on a Friday night after davening. Everybody was talkign trying to figure out what is happening, until it became clarified. It is unusual to daven for a sick person on shabbos, and the times we do are the exceptions. These exceptions are made for sick people whose lives are in danger.

So Rav Elyashiv paskened that this "Mi She'Beirach" that is said in shul on shabbos is really a prayer for the sick and therefore cannot be said for someone unless he is in danger.

Moments after Rav Elyashiv declared this psak, while still in the middle of the discussion and shiur, he felt weak. He had to cancel the rest of the shiur and he went home to rest. Supposedly, this is the first time he had to cancel the shiur in the middle since he began the shiur tens of years ago.

On the one hand, Rav Elyashiv is 97 years old and it happens that elderly people feel weak and get sick and need to change their schedules. On the other hand, many people are attributing it to the fact that he had just said that we cannot say the mi she'beirach for the sick on shabbos.

Rav Elyashiv rested and later felt better. He returned to his regular schedule the next day.

The real question is if shuls will adopt this psak of Rav Elyashiv and stop sayign the "Mi She'Beirach" on shabbos or not.

Borat and Abbie Hoffman

Abbie Hoffman was one of the Chicago 7. In 1968 at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, some anti-Vietnam protests turned violent as the Chicago 7 led the protests and turned them into riots. At their trial for incitement they were up to all sorts of antics, especially Hoffman, including suggesting the judge try LSD. They were all convicted, but the decisions were later overturned on appeal.

Abbie Hoffman was best known for his leftist, anti-war, rebellious activism. He seems to have been the most colorful of the group. Read those wiki links. They are pretty enlightening and entertaining.

Anyways, according to Boing Boing, Steven Spielberg is making a movie about the Chicago Seven. Sacha Baron Cohen - you heard me, has been chosen to play the character of Abbie Hoffman. I guess they needed someone colorful enough. If there is anybody who can copy Hoffman's antics and replay them, the guy who played Ali G and Borat is the one!

Dec 30, 2007

Haveil Havalim #147 is up

Soccer Dad has done it again! Haveil Havalim #147 is up...

If you are a blogger, I urge you to volunteer to host an upcoming edition. Soccer Dad has hosted I think 3 in a row now on his own.

contest reminder

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Reminder: NJOP is still running their contest called Judaica Across America but it is coming close to the end. If you want to submit an entry for the contest to possibly win 2 free tickets to Israel, you have to submit before the fast approaching date of December 31, 2007.

All you have to do to enter the contest is to submit a picture of a piece of Judaica you own, and tell its story....

The contest is over December 31, so get those submissions sent in.. no more procrastinating..
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protection from the bitter cold

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I remember the bitter cold winter days from my days back in Chicago. I remember whenever there was a cold spell, a serious cold spell, they would report on the news the number of deaths related to the cold.

I, as a kid, never really understood why or how people would die from the cold. It is not like they were drowned in a Tsunami, or whipped away in a Tornado. It was just cold. Turn on the heat. Put on a few extra sweaters. Drink a cup of tea. There must be something a person can do to prevent death from cold. There were also the cases of frostbite - people losing fingers to frostbite or being hospitalized for hypothermia - these were more understandable.

Then I finally understood one day. The people dieing from the cold weather were generally a combination of a couple of different types of people. There were the homeless people who have nowhere to go to stay warm, they have no extra sweater to put on, they have no heat to turn up. They just sit out there in the cold bundling up as well as they can. When they are exposed for too long, they just freeze to death.

Then there were the older people. Many of them live in older apartments that are not heated. They live on measly pensions or welfare and cannot afford extra heat. They are not able to protect themselves properly. They are more fragile due to their age and health. Eventually the cold gets to them.

Warmtheneedy.org is a charity that has put as its mission the goal of helping the needy in Israel get through the winter safely. Many people who live below the poverty line do not have the means to heat their homes and provide warmth and protection for themselves and their family during the cold winter. Warm the Needy last winter helped 1500 families get through the winter safely by providing heating and other assistance.

Warmtheneedy is a charity that is about to see its busy season, as the winter is beginning to bear down. It can use your assistance in order to assist all those who cannot assist themselves in providing a warm home against the strong winds and bitter cold of the winter.

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can't wait to see this on the TA-Jerusalem highway!



The moment you have all been waiting for is almost here!


I saw a little notice in the paper this morning that the importer of Fiat cars also holds the import rights on Ferrari and Maserati cars.

The importer says they are weighing the possibility of bringing these cars in. They say there is a market in Israel of people who buy cars worth between 1 and 2 million shekels. There are people in Israel who look for the "top", and therefore they are considering it.

I would like to see those driving around the Tel Aviv area. I already get to see the occassional Porsche...

Dec 27, 2007

Shmitta: holy soil on ebay!


A little while back there was a notice about an organization that, in an effort to raise awareness of shmitta and to give people abroad the opportunity of fulfilling the mitzva of shmitta, was selling small plots of land that they would manage and leave fallow for the shmitta year on the buyers behalf.

Now comes the latest venture out of Israel. Somebody, in Bet Shemesh no less, is selling, on ebay no less, bottles of land from Israel.

I do not know how this fits in with the laws of shmitta. If he sells the dirt to a non-Jew, is he using the hetter mechira? If the non-Jewish buyer grew a tomato in the bottle would it only be permitted according to some authorities and not others? Then again, if he plants things in the bottle, it is really matza m'nutak (grown disconnected from the ground) and should be ok to eat anyways.

But let us say the buyer is a Jew. Does that present more problems? Are you allowed to export soil during shmitta? One technically cannot export shmitta produce to outside of the Land of Israel, but can he ship this bottle of dirt out?

Will the US Department of Agriculture allow a bottle of foreign soil into the US? I know they ban fruits, veggies and flowers from coming in. What about soil?

Anyways, go place your bids and get some holy soil!

Achmed the Dead Terrorist 2 (video)

Achmed the Dead Terrorist came back to sing a Christmas carol... hilarious!


(hattip: Am Kshe Oref)

Dec 26, 2007

Letters to the Editor: mehadrin (separate) buses

The Mishpacha (Hebrew) magazine a couple of weeks ago ran a "Letter to the Editor" about the separate buses. This past week they ran another "Letter to the Editor" that was a response to the original. I do not have the original any longer, but the response quotes the relevant part of the original, so I will rely on that...

[the original letter is quoted]"On the way to a Haredi city, they requested from 4 grandmothers (they were not so old and infirm) to move out of the front sets of 8 seats. The young man asked politely and was holding a letter from the Rav of the town (a recommendation? a demand? a request?). Of course we did not refuse his polite request. Still, all my life I grew up with the concept that the front rows of seats on the bus are for the handicapped and/or older people. What will happen to [the mitzva of] Respecting the elders?"

[the response now begins]"I, reading this, want to note:
1. Why is it called a "polite" request and not a "just" request? Honored grandmothers, the ones that had enough energy and strength to walk to the bus-stop, to wait for the bus, to alight the bus, suddenly they have no more energy to take a few more steps further into the bus in order to avoid causing (even if only m'safek - even if only possibly avoiding) men to falter with an issur d'oraisa?
2. If they were grandmothers, how can they not be aware that not too many years ago smoking was allowed on buses by law and people smoked with no limitations. Yet today if anybody would dare smoke on the bus, and if people would "politely" request the person stop smoking, would the person write a letter to a respectable newspaper that he did no refuse a "polite" request even though he grew up and remembers a time when smoking on buses was permitted?
3. What about [the mitzva of] And you should be holy, that is written in the Torah?"

This letter leaves me without many words.
I am not sure what issur d'oraisa" the writer is referring to in point #1. Looking at women is an issur d'oraisa? it does not say it anywhere in the Torah. It might be a middas chassidus, but an issur d'oraisa? I doubt he can be referring to erva in general, because he does not say there were dressed improperly, or their hair was uncovered, which even then I am not so sure it is an issur d'oraisa.
If the men are concerned about issurei d'oraisa (that as far as I know do not exist), they do not have to look. That in no way obligates the women to move to the back of the bus.

I am not sure how he compares elderly in the front of the bus to smoking on a bus. Smoking has been declared illegal. Elderly sitting in the front of the bus is not illegal.

If you go to any parking lot or public place, the reserved seats or parking spaces for the handicapped and the elderly (when applicable) are always in the easy access areas and where it would be quicker for them to come and go (closer to the stores, near the aisles and/or front of a room), etc. It is basic humanity, aside from the mitzva of respecting the elderly, to be considerate of the elderly. Yet this fellow says "If they could walk this far, they can walk a little farther".


Getting lost in Israel... with a GPS

This is what happens when you rely too heavily on a GPS system.... he was fortunate there were two good people there to extricate him from a near lynching and save his life!

He is right about the road signs being unclear. I remember when I drove to Bet El (right near Ramallah) I was very confused by the road signs and by remnants of an old army checkpoint. In my situation, the soldiers at a checkpoint told me where I was going and that I should turn around. This guy was not so fortunate, but those road signs really need to be redone to avoid further situations....

Dec 25, 2007

a burka wedding post

Check out A Mother in Israel's post about a wedding her friend went to. This was not just any wedding, but the family was from the group of women who wear burkas.... She even posted a couple of pics...

what would happen if we had nuclear war with Iran....


In today's newspaper there was a report of a study some organization had done (I no longer have a copy of the paper and I do not remember the name of the organization that conducted the study) regarding the forecast of what would happen in the event of nuclear war in the Middle East.

The study came to the conclusion that Israel, if attacked by Iran and Syria, would suffer tremendously with great losses. We would lose, the study estimated, about 800,000 people from direct nuclear hits, plus more from fallout and other damage. The center of losses would be focused in the major cities of Haifa, Tel Aviv and Ashdod.

On the other hand, the study continued, Iran would suffer much greater losses. The study concluded that we would wipe Iran out completely.

The study is based on the idea that Iran would be in possession of up to 50 fairly small nuclear warheads with which to attack Israel. Israel, on the other hand, would have up to an arsenal of over 200 nuclear warheads of the larger variety of over 1 megaton each, with which to attack Iran.

I hope that the balance is even more in our favor and the report is being overly cautious. I am just curious how they came to these estimates considering Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons and how many we have even if we do. As well, why do they assume Iran would only have small warheads available and why only up to 50?

It was kind of funny to see the maps in the paper depicting the expected attacks and ranges. Our little Israel was placed next to Iran which is much bigger.
The map of Israel showed nuclear hits in the three main cities (other than Jerusalem - I am not sure why they would not strike Jerusalem. I guess because of the Arab population there and maybe because of the Temple Mount). They had these squiggly lines showing how far around the cities would be affected.
The map of Iran showed a nuclear hit only on Tehran which is in northern Iran. Yet the squiggly lines were depicted as destroying the whole rest of the country, not just the immediate area around the hit (as it did by Israel). If Israel hits Tehran and can destroy the whole country from Tehran, that means the countries to the north (Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan and others) might be in danger as well. I guess that is what they mean when they say "Woe to the wicked, and woe to his neighbor".

Again, I hope, for my sake, the people doing the study were not being overly optimistic but realistic, but the contrast seems extreme.

I hope it never comes to this point and we never have to find out how accurate the report was....

interesting psak from Rav Steinman

This week's interesting psak (even though I have missed posting the feature some weeks) is from Rav Steinman.

The Mishpacha reported that yeshiva students have had a dilemma as to the price of a bus ticket. Egged has different rates for minors (under 18), adults (above 18) and students. The yeshiva boys are not officially recognized as students and therefore do not enjoy the discounted price on bus tickets available to students.

Many yeshiva boys felt this was discriminatory and unfair and have considered the option of buying tickets at the lower student rate without the approval of Egged management. The dilemma was whether they have a right to decide on their own that it is discriminatory and go buy discounted tickets without Egged's approval (or the Ministry of Transportation who ultimately makes this decision), or would that be called theft.

A group first approached Rav Chaim Kanievsky. Rav Kanievsky sent them on to Rav Steinman with instructions that whatever he answers is what they should do.

Rav Steinman weighed the question and clarified the various issues involved. His decision was that because Egged and the Ministry of Transportation have an active decision, even if unfair, to not give the students status and the discounts to yeshiva students, rather than it being a mistake or an anomaly they were not aware of that they would fix as soon as they found out (i.e. that all these students do not have student status), the boys would not be allowed to make such a decision on their own.

Rav Steinman said, "If the Ministry of Transportation is not willing to give the yeshiva boys the discount, an older yeshiva student using such a discounted ticket would be considered taking without permission (i.e. theft)."

Seems kind of obvious to me, but I guess once you involve political decisions it raises questions of fairness and taking the law and decision making into your own hands. These kinds of problems usually arise when we try to figure out the logic behind any specific law and then try to apply the logic equally to other situations that were not included in the law. The real action to be taken would be for the Haredi politicians to pressure the Ministry of Transportation to apply the discounts equally to yeshiva students as well.

Dec 24, 2007

schooling and conformity

I have heard the following argument a number of time recently, and I wanted to voice my thoughts on the issue. I would also like to know your opinion on the matter, if you do not mind sharing.

The issue is schooling. The specific issue is sending your child to a school that is not totally compatible with your world-view. From the schools viewpoint.

For example, if I want to send my child to a cheider, yet I continue to wear colored shirts, have internet access at home, play basketball once a week, etc. So on the surface it seems unlikely they would accept my child to study in their school. Their argument would be that your child should not be in our school. Not that there is anything wrong with your child, but if that is what your family does, if that is what your child sees at home, than it is not an appropriate match.

From the parents viewpoint, the argument goes, I am making a mistake putting my child in an environment that is one I do not hold of or agree with it. By living a different lifestyle other than the one supported by the school, I am setting my kid up for failure, as he will have conflicting messages. Therefore, it is a no-no to send your kid to a school that is different from your lifestyle.

I say there is a way and a reason to do so. And it does not have to be a failure, and it does not have to be a mistake. If I believe that the specific school has something to offer my child that I want my child to absorb, even if I disagree with the school on other points, and I feel that this lesson, this quality found in this school, is more important than the other issues on which we disagree, than I say I should be able to send my child to that school. And it can be a success.

Obviously my child, in this case, would have to be a child who is not detrimental to the system. He does his work, and he even excels at it. He dresses according to the school code. Basically, he is not out of the ordinary in any way other than the family he comes from.

I am not going to the school. They should not be making rules for me to follow. They should have rules for my son to follow, but not me. I went to yeshiva when I was younger. I had a mashgiach and a rosh yeshiva back then. They told me what to do and what not to do. I listened at times and broke the rules at times. When I broke the rules, I paid the consequences (if I was caught and if it was something bad enough that they cared to punish or admonish me). I am not a student in this cheder. I am an adult. They should not be telling me how to live my life. I am past that stage already. They can, they should, and they do tell my son what to do - what the rules are, what he should be doing when, what he should not be doing, how he should be dressing, how he should be behaving, etc. That is acceptable. He is in their institution and needs to follow their rules.

And I am not talking about a situation in which I disagree with the school and it becomes an issue. I am completely respectful of the school and its rules for my son. I never talk badly about the school, even though there are things I do disagree with. I dress according to the style they desire whenever I am at a school function or even if I am just going to drop my kids off. I have a good relationship with the teachers and we talk fairly often. So nothing I am doing is damaging the school's image in my sons eyes.

So if I want to send my son to a school whose rules I personally do not live my life by, I see nothing wrong with sending my son there. Why I would want to is a different story, but I see no reason why it should not be ok, as long as I do not talk badly about the school or tell my son to not follow the rules.

My father has told me regarding his own experiences that he always sent us to schools, wherever we lived, that were more religious on the spectrum than the family was at the time. Why, I do not know and I never really understood why they made that choice. But that was their choice. For better or worse we went to schools that our family's lifestyle may not have been 100% in compliance with the lifestyle promoted by the school.

Many people in many schools do the same. There were always kids in my classes in the day school, high school, yeshivas I went to that came from a more modern background than the school actually catered to.

If you walk into pretty much any of the most yeshivish yeshivas, in Israel or America, you will find plenty of students who come from more modern backgrounds. YU boys learning in Brisk type yeshivas, boys who grew up in schools like HAFTR and Skokie and others end up in Yeshivas that eschew the modern orthodox communities. It is part of life. Yeshivas take students even though they come from different and varying backgrounds.

It works the other way as well. A very religiously right wing boy wants to study in a more liberal school, the school should not reject him because his parents way of life is not appropriate for the school.

Not only that, but the schools should be happy to do so. It opens their way of life to a different crowd. If a more modern boy wants to learn in a more right wing yeshiva, the yeshiva should be open to teaching him and showing him their way of life. It will withstand the test on its merits, and if they believe they are right, they should have nothing to fear. They will be teaching another student to live by what they believe to be true.

So why should I be told that my son should not be in school x, y or z just because I wear colored shirts or because I play basketball or softball? My son does not. He is the student, not me. As long as I do not damage the school's rep in my son's eyes, there should be nothing wrong with my son going to a school that is promoting a different view than the one I personally live by.

Haveil Havalim #146 is live

Soccer Dad has Haveil Havalim #146 running right now....

Dov Shurin Simchas Beis Ha'Shoeva (video)

This is the video of the Simchas Bei Ha'Shoeiva with Dov Shurin in RBS in 2005...

Dec 23, 2007

taking advantage of our advantage

The politicians and the IDF have finally done some serious, fairly proactive, attacks to neutralize the Qassam rocket attacks on Sderot and the area. It has met with considerable success. Mainly because the leaders in Gaza are scared for their lives.

This was not a ground op (which is probably necessary anyway) which puts Israeli soldiers at risk. This was targeted attacks on the leadership who are giving the ok to shoot the rockets. As soon as a couple of their leaders were knocked off, the rest ran like scared bunnies and started calling for ceasefires. The call itself is funny, as we only targeted their people because of the Qassam attacks. In other words, stop shooting Qassams, and we stop, automatically, picking off your leaders.

But they were scared, so they called for a ceasefire.

Yet at the same time they call for a ceasefire, they have still been shooting Qassam rockets into Israel. It kind of makes their call for a ceasefire meaningless. They should have stopped shooting and then call for a ceasefire. Then they could say we have stopped, let us now negotiate a ceasefire and if an agreement is not reached, then they should start up again. As it is, their call for a ceasefire is meaningless.

Israel, wisely I think, is refusing to talk to Hamas until Hamas recognizes Israel (though we all know they do talk, as they claim to have been negotiating for Shalit's release). It should keep them scared.

At the same time, I think, Israel should continue going after their leadership and knocking them off, until such an agreement is in place. Keep them scared.

What Israel should really do now, I think, is negotiate a ceasefire with Hamas. but not on Hamas' terms. Not an agreement that says Hamas stops shooting Qassam rockets and Israel stops killing terrorists.
The agreements negotiated should be that Hamas stops shooting Qassam rockets and returns Gilad Shalit to Israel, and Israel stops killing terrorists.

Now that Israel finally has some semblance of an upper-hand on the Gaza situation, we should take advantage of it. They are scared for their lives. Tell them that if they want us to stop shooting at their leaders, they should stop shooting at us and give us back Shalit.

We finally have an advantage. Let's use it.

(cross posted at the Free Gilad Shalit blog)

the power of the Jews

I just received the following sermon by email. There is really not anything for me to add, so I am posting it as is...
as always, your comments are welcome...

SHABBAT SERMON

OCTOBER 20, 2007
RABBI MITCHELL WOHLBERG
Are Jews Too Powerful? The Vanity Fair Perspective

This magazine may be dangerous to your health … or maybe not! You can't tell which magazine it is because I've only shown you the back cover. The front cover has a picture of Nicole Kidman in a state of undress and I fear if I show it to you, you may have trouble focusing on me!

The magazine I am referring to is the October issue of Vanity Fair. Vanity Fair is one of the magazines I subscribe to. I do so because I have a subscription that costs only $12 a year and despite the fact that most of its advertisements (the main reason I subscribe to any magazine) is geared toward women, I find Vanity Fair a lively magazine where every month at least one or two of its articles I find of interest. But nothing prepared me to expect what is found in two articles in October's Vanity Fair – two articles that may be dangerous to your health as a Jew – or maybe not!

In the October issue of Vanity Fair there is an article on page 259 entitled, "The 2007 New Establishment" – a list of what Vanity Fair considers the 100 most powerful, influential people in American society. Now I think it was Joseph Aaron in the Chicago Jewish News who first took note of a rather remarkable aspect about these 100 people.
We Jews represent about 2.5 percent of the American people. So one could naturally expect that out of the 100 most influential people in America, one would find listed two or three Jews. How many Jews do you think were listed? You're going to find this hard to believe, but according to Mr. Aaron's calculation, 51 out of the 100 are Jewish! Now, keep in mind that this is not a list of shleppers … amongst the 100 are people with names like Warren Buffet, Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey. And yet, right along side of them are people with names like Schwartzman and Spielberg and Bloomberg and Geffen and Perelman and Lauder and Wasserstein and Cohen and Weinstein and Weintraub, and Friedman, and Silver.

Not bad, my friends! Not bad! Not bad when one considers that there are more people born in China every year than there are Jews in the whole world!
And as if all this is not enough, on page 306 in the same issue of the magazine, there is another list. This one called "The Next Establishment" listing younger people who Vanity Fair believes will eventually make it to the 'big list.' There are 26 people on that list … 15 are Jews. Again, over 50%! Eat your heart out, Anne Coulter!

And then, just in case you still don't get it, on page 308 of Vanity Fair they have a list of people who made the "New Establishment" list in the past, but for one reason or another didn't make it this year, but Vanity Fair believes will be back in the future.
There are 9 names on this list … 8 of them are Jews! This is absolutely unbelievable!

This is absolutely incredible! The only question is – the age old question: Is it good for the Jews? Does presenting so many Jews out front in the public, in positions of power, drawing attention to us … is that good? It shows how good we are? Or is it bad, feeding the hatred of the anti-Semites who accuse us of being too powerful and too controlling.

It's not easy giving a correct answer to this question because I believe Jewish tradition provides two contradictory responses. On a verse toward the end of Genesis where Jacob speaks to his children as they are about to go down to Egypt, the Midrash describes the conversation: "Jacob requested of them: do not go out with bread in your hands and do not all enter through one gate … do not go out with bread in your hands in order not to arouse ill feeling and do not all enter through one gate for fear of the eye."
There was a famine in Egypt and Jacob is telling his children that when they go down to Egypt don't let the people see that you have bread. And don't all come marching in together as one; people will be afraid of you; people will envy you; people will give you the 'evil eye.' With this in mind, one cannot help but think that the articles in Vanity Fair are not doing us any favor. It would be better if there wasn't so much attention drawn to our success.

On the other hand, in the Book of Exodus, in describing the garment that was made for the High Priest to wear in the Temple, we are told that the hem of his robe had bells on it so that people would know that he was coming. And the Lubavitcher Rebbe saw this as a lesson that a Jew should go out into this world proud and confident, trying to spread the message.

And that's just what Lubavitcher Chasidim do these days, with their "Mitzvah Mobiles" and the big Chanukah menorahs they put up in public squares throughout our country. So, from the perspective of the Lubavitcher Rebbe you could say – although he never would have put it this way: "If you've got it, flaunt it!"

So what do you think? Lay low or flaunt it? Is Vanity Fair good for the Jews or not? I venture to say that your answer depends upon how old you are.

Alan Dershowitz put it so well in his book appropriately entitled, Chutzpah" when he pointed out, "We are at a generational crossroads. The Jews who were the American pioneers – our first generations of immigrants – were indeed guests in other people's land." Yes, many of our fathers and mothers and certainly our grandfathers and grandmothers felt that they were guests in America. And so they made sure that they did nothing to 'rock the boat.'
They did as little as possible to draw attention to themselves. They had a 'sha-shtil' philosophy – lay low and they won't come after us with an ax. And so, Betty Perske changed her name to Lauren Bacall, and Joseph Gottlieb to Joey Bishop, and Issur Danielovich Demsky to Kirk Douglas, and Sidney Liebowitz to Steve Lawrence. But as Jews grew more successful in America they also grew to feel at home in America. And suddenly Jews were asserting their rights as Jews. In the 50's and 60's when many Jews moved to the suburbs there were many synagogues across the country that built their parking lot in the front and the synagogue in the back so as not to upset their neighbors.
But then, all of a sudden, in the 70's "Freedom for Soviet Jewry" was put on billboards in front of every synagogue … and Jews started demanding their rights and asserting their interests. Sure, it led the Jimmy Carters and the Walts and the Mearsheimers to claim that the Jewish lobby was too powerful. But just one generation ago there was no Jewish lobby! And there was no Israeli Air Force! And by the time others fought our battle 6 million Jews had gone up in smoke!


At the beginning of this morning's Torah portion God challenges Abraham to leave his country and to come to the Promised Land of Israel. "V'escha l'goy gadol – and I will make of thee a great nation and I will bless thee and make thy name great and be thou a blessing." God promised Abraham that his progeny would become a great nation. As you know, the Jewish people have never been great in numbers, and yet there are people who think that we rule the world! It's unbelievable! There are ¾ of a billion Hindus in this world. There are over 300 million Buddhists. There are more Zoroastrians and Mormons in the world than there are Jews! But who rules the world?
Not them! Who rules? Me and you … and our 'mishpocho' over at Vanity Fair.
And you know what? There are lots of people who think that's true! And you know what? I'm glad they do! It's very important for our survival.

My teacher, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, of blessed memory, once pointed out an interesting fact about Abraham. Abraham found respect from the outside world only in the aftermath of one particular incident. As we're told in our Torah portion this morning, "Melchizedak, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine." He went so far as to make a kiddush – "And he blessed him and said: Blessed be Abraham of God most high, maker of heaven and earth." What prompted this profusion of compliments? Why was a Jew suddenly thrust into the role of universal hero? Pointed out Rabbi Soleveitchik: this reception was never accorded Abraham when he fulfilled his characteristic of chesed, showing kindness to strangers and hospitality to wayfarers. Helping others won Abraham no worldly praise. It was only now – now that Abraham has pursued the terrorists who held his nephew Lott captive, and in the words of the Torah: "Smote them and pursued them." … only now did the world show respect. For what impresses the world is not saintliness as much as strength, not character as much as courage, not piety as much as power.

Let our enemies think that we are all-powerful. As Akiva Eldar once put it in the Haaretz newspaper, "The Arab belief that the Jews rule the world has become one of Israel's most important deterrent factors, no less than its military strength. The lunatic idea that 6 million Jews dictate the policies of a superpower with 280 million inhabitants has contributed greatly to the decisions by Arab and Palestinian leaders, and even to that of the Arab League, to accept – albeit with gritted teeth – the existence of the Jewish
state. When Anwar Sadat and King Hussein came to Jerusalem, they had at least one eye fixed on Washington." Yes, let the Arab world think that we're all-powerful. That's the only way they may somehow come to the realization that they're going to have to learn how to live with us.

And here in America, I'm sure there are some people who, when they read Vanity Fair, will have an upset stomach. But do you think they would learn to love us if we were less successful? Should we be less successful just to please them? The Jews living in the shtetels of Eastern Europe were not successful, had no power. That didn't stop the Cossacks and others from destroying their homes and killing their families!

I've told you the story of someone sitting in a café in London on Feb. 28, 2001 reading the International Herald Tribune. He couldn't get over the fact, in turning to the editorial page, five of the six columns were written by Jews: Richard Cohen, Stephen Rosenfeld, Robert Caplan, Ellen Goodman and Thomas Friedman. The sixth column was written by a South Korean by the name of Prof. Han Sung-Joo. Five Jews and a Joo! It's true, with so many Jewish names in positions of prominence, it drives our enemies crazy.

But you know what? It makes many of our friends feel good! And we Jews have many friends here in America. Many of them believe that the Bible is the word of God. And they take seriously – very seriously – the words of God's promise to Abraham when He said, "V'avorcha m'vorechacha u'mkalelcha oar – and I will bless them that bless thee and him that curseth thee I will curse." Those are very important words that God promised to Abraham; that those who will support the Jews will be blessed and those who curse us will be cursed. You should know that it is this promise which forms the basis of much of the Evangelical Christian support for the State of Israel. Type in the words of this promise on an Internet search engine; type in Genesis 12:3 and you'll see how many Christian websites pop up. If you are our friend, you'll be blessed … if you are against us you'll be cursed. It's one of the facts of history.

We speak of the "glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome."

But that glory and grandeur soon departed after the Greeks and Romans turned against us. Similarly, soon after Spain expelled its Jews, the sun began to set on the Spanish Empire. And in modern times, the Iron Curtain of Communism first began to fall when the Jews sought their freedom. So let people think we are blessed. They just might be right … and they just might be blessed as well.
"I will bless them that bless thee and him that curseth thee I will curse."

On a majestic night nearly 4000 years ago, God promised our forefather Abraham that his people would be made in to a "great nation." That pledge by the Almighty was repeated to our forefathers and remains a solemn oath. This month's Vanity Fair seems to indicate the pledge is being fulfilled in our day. We are the most blessed generation in the last 2000 years of our people. We should thank God for being that privileged generation that has an Israeli Air Force that could knock out Iraq's nuclear reactor and Syria's as well. We should thank God for living in this great country, the good old U.S. of A., where a majority of the members of the New Establishment are Jewish. "Hashem oz l'amo yiten. Hashem yevorach et amo beshalom. The Lord has given strength to His people. May He now bless us with peace." Amen.

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg • October 20, 2007 • Beth Tfiloh Congregation • Baltimore, Maryland

Dec 20, 2007

best discussion of the kosher cheeseburger

There were two main topics of conversation in the Jewish world today. I chose not to blog about either of them.

One was the arrest in LA of the Spinka Rebbe and a few others for a money laundering scheme.

The second was the new kosher cheeseburger (the cheese is made of soy) being served in a New York restaurant. A lot of blogs discussed this issue. The best conversation I found on a blog took place by A Simple Jew.

Now Labor wants to kick us out of Israel proper as well

Lod. A city with a mixed community. Mixed meaning Arabs and Jews.

Lod happens to have a large Arab population. Recently the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood of Lod (not to be confused with the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood of Jerusalem) has been in the new a number of times. Ramat Eshkol (of Lod) is a neighborhood populated by a majority of Arabs and a minority of Jews. The Arabs in Ramat Eshkol have perpetrated a number of attacks on the Jews there. When going to shul the Arabs throw stones at them. They have probably become emboldened by the recent riots in Pekiin in which the Druze community showed the police a thing or two and in the process they chased out just about all the Jews from the town.

Anyways, there has always been the occasional strife between the Jews and the Arabs, but overall Lod is generally quiet in that regard. Recently it has heated up.

One would think that in properly functioning government, be it municipality, be it national government, the authorities (police, government decisions, etc.) would crack down on the recent uptrend of violence and put a stop to it. They would say we will not tolerate that here. Arrest the violent perpetrators. Dole out some harsh punishments and quickly put an end to it before things get out of hand.

What does our government do? Well, Yoram Marciano, a Member of Knesset from the Labor Party and a resident of Lod, has petitioned the government to take action. What action you ask?

Instead of him demanding that they quell the violence before it turns to riots, he chose capitulation.

Did you think "disengagement" was only for "Occupied Territories"? Did you think the government was only going to remove Jews from Gaza and the Shomron?

Marciano's solution to the problem in Lod was to petition the government, get this - are you sitting down? - to permanently transfer all the Jews out of the neighborhood and make it into an Arab neighborhood.

When the left does not really believe in our right to be here anyway, so why not just move Jews out of every neighborhood, city, settlement, etc. in which the Arabs make trouble. It is much easier to do that than to enforce the law on the Arabs.

If it is no longer just the Occupied Territories but Israel proper, what more remains. At what point will the left stop turnign over parts of Israel? Two years ago it was Gaza. Last year it was Homesh. This year it is Lod. Next year it will be Jerusalem. Then it will be Tel Aviv. Where exactly do we have a right to be according to them?

Dec 19, 2007

the dog Friedman with Crazy Ahmed (video)

Moishe Aryeh Friedman is a sick man. By sick I do not mean he is sick with cancer or AIDS, or anything of the like. By sick I mean sickening.
he calls himself the Chief Rabbi of Austria, but he does not really hold that title. He supposedly never even completed his rabbinic studies and his use of the title "Rabbi" is being challenged in court (by Rabbi Yonah Metzger, Chief Rabbi of Israel).

Friedman is involved and in charge of many anti-Israel groups, including Neturei Karta. He has publicly met with the president of Iran Ahmadinejad and called for the destruction of Israel..

Here is a recent video of Friedman in Iran with Ahmadinejad. Not only did the dog Friedman meet Ahmadinejad and kiss his scruffy cheeks, but he brought his kids along for the joyride as well.

Important Days in Judaism: 10 Teves

Today is the 10th day of the Hebrew month Teves. 10 Teves is a fast day.

The days leading up to 10 Teves, the 8th and 9th, are also fast days, but they are not public fast days. They have been declared as "Fasts of the Righteous" - individuals can accept those days as fast days, but they are not publicly mandated. 10 Teves is a public fast day and has incorporated the concepts of the 8th and 9th days for the majority of people who do not fast on those days.

8 Teves is the day when the Septuagint was completed. While that Wiki page gives a lot of info on the Septuagint, according to our tradition Ptolemy the king of Greece ordered 72 sages of the Jewish people to translate the bible into Greek. He was clearly not looking for a translation of the bible, because if he was he would have let these sages sit together and work on a proper translation. Instead, what he did was put each sage in his own room and made him translate the whole thing. He then would compare the 72 different translations and look for inconsistencies with which to attack Judaism. The bible had never before been translated out of the original biblical Hebrew, and in Jewish tradition, this day was considered comparable to the day of the worshiping of the Golden Calf.

9 Teves is the day of the deaths of Ezra and Nehemia. They were the two who brought the Jews out of the galus of Bavel and returned them to Eretz Yisrael. They began the rebuilding of the Second Temple. Few Jews came back with them to Israel. Most Jews were comfortable in the Diaspora living lives of wealth and comfort. Most of the Jews who joined them on the journey to the Land of Israel were the poor and destitute.

10 Teves is the day of the beginning of the siege around Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylonia besieged Jerusalem on 10 Teves. The siege subsequently lasted 3 years and led to the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash and the exile of the nation.

10 Teves has also been incorporated as the day commemorating the memories of those whose day of death is not known. Because of this, last night the gravesites of Yehoshua Bin Nun and Calev ben Yefunah were opened to the Jewish public. I was not able to go this time (though I have gone in the past), but hundreds of people went. Calev's date of death is not known and that is why the site was opened last night. The site of these graves is located in Kafr Hares, an Arab village in the Shomron.

Fast days are meant for repentance and contemplation.

May we see the rebuilding of the Temple in the near future, preceded by world peace, specifically (but not limited to) in the Middle East, the return of our captured soldiers, and harmony among Jews.

Get out your bag of popcorn

This old post recently re-awakened and the comments section lit up with a spirited debate. It recently turned up a notch with reps of competing tzedaka organizations weighing in on the issues..

I just ask that if you participate in the debate, on either side, please show respect for the other and do not resort to slandering people and organizations. No lashon ha'ra please.

Dec 18, 2007

what I have in common with the Rosh yeshiva of Ponevezh

Yesterday evening, my son in first grade had a "mesibat chumash". That is a party where the first grade boys receive their "first" chumash to learn from. I put "first" in quotation marks because he has been learning chumash since the beginning of the school year and already has one. So technically this is his second chumash, but in quotation marks it is celebrating his having received his first. It is also funny they made the party now, as the kids have already finished breishis, Shmos and Lech Lecha. I do not know why they did not make the party closer to the beginning of the school year.

Anyways, one of the Rosh Yeshivas of Ponevezh yeshiva was there as a guest, due to his having a grandchild in the class. He was invited to speak. He said something interesting. he said that as the principal was asking the boys questions as a test in front of the parents to show off how much they know, he was very nervous. he was concerned his grandson would not know the answer to the question he would get asked. Everybody is rattling off their answers, but maybe when it came to his grandson's turn, he would not know the answer. That would be very embarrassing. His concern was without basis, as his grandson knew the answer, just like all the other kids.

I thought that was funny of him to say, as I was nervous about the same thing. Maybe they would ask my kid a question he would not know the answer to and he would be embarrassed as the only one not knowing the answer in public... Nobody is perfect and even though these kids have absorbed a tremendous amount in a short period of time, maybe he would get a question he did not know the answer to...

My kid also knew the answer to his questions. I just thought it was funny that the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh was nervous about the same thing as me, and probably as all the other parents and grandparents.

how do you choose to whom to give tzedaka?

About 9 months ago I posted a post about giving tzedaka to different organizations. Someone recently found that post and has commented on it with some very serious comments and allegations... You might be interested in checking it out...keep your eyes on the comments section

Dec 17, 2007

2 responses to the Annapolis Conference (video)

Someone sent me this video as a response to the recent Annapolis Conference.....


and then I found this one....

shnekel or shtekel


Israel recently released the 2 shekel coin.

There is a raging debate what nickname to call the new coin by. The two main suggestions, I think, are "shnekel" and "shtekel".

Shnekel is a combination of "Shnei Shekel" - 2 shekel in Hebrew.
Shtekel is a combination of "Shtei Shekel" - 2 shekel in Hebrew.

I do not know which is grammatically correct. One would be feminine and one would be masculine tense. I do not know if coins are considered masculine or feminine, but the structure of the word seems to be masculine. I think that would make "shnekel" more correct. But grammar was never my favorite subject, so I might be wrong.

A reader pointed me to this website where you can vote on the name "shtekel"..

maybe he should run a contest

MK Michael Melchior has a great idea. He dislikes the term "Maternity Vacation". In English the term is really "Maternity Leave", but in Hebrew it is "Chufshat Leidah" which literally means "Maternity Vacation (or break)".

Melchior feels that the term "Chufshat" - Vacation - is deceiving. He says it gives people, including co-workers, the feeling that the new mother is taking a vacation tanning on some beach somewhere. the reality is really different, as the mother is trying to acclimate to a new child with a nursing and sleeping schedule. It is not a vacation, but a time that is demanding, both physically and mentally.

The only problem is that Melchior has not yet thought of an alternative name for the legally mandated "Chufshat leidah".

I think he should run a contest. Maybe the prize should be an extra 2 weeks of "chufshat leidah" for the mother who comes up with the best name.

train minyan the source of train delays

The Mishpacha magazine (Hebrew edition) this past week had a nice write-up about the minyanim on the Bet Shemesh - Tel Aviv train.

One thing about it irked me. They spoke to the gabbai of the minyan and they were discussing the timing. The gabbai said they have never pulled into Tel Aviv without having completed the davening.

He then said that even on days where davening is longer, such as Rosh Chodesh because of Hallel and Mussaf, they finish before Tel Aviv. He said that on those days, Hashem arranges an extra mifgash rakavot (mifgash rakavot is when a train is coming in the opposite direction and one train needs to wait until it passes because of track limitations, such as one track in certain spots) that causes a delay of another 10 minutes or so, allowing them to finish on time.

So, because these guys do not want to wake up a little earlier and daven in shul, 200 or so other people on the train need to be delayed an extra 10 minutes, so they can finish on time? That is called Hashem coming to their assistance? What about Hashem coming to our assistance and getting us into the station on time once in a while!

(NOTE: I have nothing against the train minyan. I actually like it. I prefer not to daven in it for personal reasons, though on (rare) occasion I do join them for a minyan.)

Haveil Havalim #145

Soccer Dad has posted Haveil Havalim #145.. check it out...

Dec 14, 2007

Is Gilad Shalit in danger?

(cross posted at Free Gilad Shalit blog)

With all this talk of a possible offensive entry by the army into Gaza due to the recent wave of Qassam rocket attacks, I consider the fate of Gilad Shalit.





All indications point to the fact that he is still alive. Going into Gaza now on an offensive will likely create a situation in which Hamas will execute, God forbid, Shalit.

Remember Nachshon Wachsman? The soldier kidnapped by Palestinians. He was held in a rigged building and while Israeli forces broke in to try to free him, the terrorists killed him in full view.

Is that what we want to happen now? Could we not have released Shalit earlier, before it came to necessity of an armed offensive in Gaza? Does the army not think that this will be Shalit's fate?

The price demanded for Shalit was very high. I was against trading so many terrorist for Shalit, and the government was as well. It is horrible to have a soldier in captivity, but when one pays too high a price for his freedom, it encourages more kidnappings.

But since then, we have released about a thousand terrorists anyway. Just as a sign of goodwill. To strengthen Abu Mazen. For free. With nothing in return.

If we were going to release a thousand terrorists, couldn't we have done it to obtain Shalit's release? Especially knowing that there would be a good chance we would need to go into Gaza on the offensive at some point?

Let's hope this scenario does not play out and Shalit comes home safely, but it is very worrying..

Dec 13, 2007

Sammy did not use steroids!

Just a quick thought on the steroid scandal rocking baseball right now with the release of the Mitchell report... out of all the players listed of having taken steroids or suspected of doing so, and there are some pretty big names on the list, Sammy Sosa's name does not appear anywhere..

At the time when Balco broke and everyone was talking about Bonds and McGwire and some others, Sosa's name came up often as having been suspect of taking steroids as well. He could not shake the suspicions at the time because of his home run performance. It kind of dogged him down. Now it turns out he is not on any of the lists...

It still could be he took steroids and just has not yet been found out with enough evidence to get into the report, but this was pretty thorough and if his name is not on the list, his reputation should be cleared..

Some people might owe Sammy an apology for those accusations...though he still used a corked bat (at least in one game)..

religious and secular fathers explain Hanukkah to their sons

Ynet (in Hebrew) has an enjoyable article describing 2 parents explaining Hanukkah to their children. One is a secular Jew and the second is a Litvishe Jew (haredi I guess).

I will translate it here for those of you who might have a hard time with the Hebrew.....

Secular Jew:

Dad, why did the Maccabees fight with the Greeks?
Not now, son.

Why not now?
Because I am watching basketball.

Nu, Dad!
What's the difference? The main thing is that they won.

Dad, in the encyclopedia it says it was because the Maccabees did not want to eat pork.
Could be.

And for that there was such a war?
See, pork has a ton of cholesterol. Maybe the Maccabees were into a health thing.

and for that there was a war?
These Maccabees could be very extremist.

Why did the Greeks make them eat pork?
Because the religious make a big deal out of everything.

The Maccabees were religious?
No way. The religious people do not go to the army.

So how did they defeat the Greeks?
God helped them

But you told me there is no God?
There isn't?

I do not understand - there is or is not?
There is not but they thought there is.

I do not understand.
What?

Is there a God?
Ask your mother.

Every time you do not know something you send me to mother!
I know important things. If there is a God is not important.

It says Judah Maccabee defeated the Greeks at Bet Horon.
If that is what it says, that is what it says.

Where is Bet Choron?
Far away. Not in Israel. In America.

Dad, Columbus discovered America only in 1492!
You are a nudnik. It is in the Occupied Territories.

The Maccabees were Settlers?
I know that. Maybe go play with Sean?

Dad, when we will go to Tiv Taam [a non-kosher food store], will they make me eat pork?
If you keep asking these questions there will be no Festigal this year!

But Dad, I am scared. I only have one sister.
So what?

The Maccabees were five brothers who fought together!
Maybe go watch Dora the Explorer.

I want to see Maccabees.
Good, so watch Maccabees.

Where are the Maccabees?
Right there in yellow (the basketball team Maccabee Tel Aviv)

These are Maccabees?
Yes.

What are their names?
Fizer, Beinum, Batista, Blutental, and Cummings.

You are making me crazy. Those are not Maccabee names.
Where are you going?

To fight the Greeks!
You are not going anywhere!

I want to be a Maccabee, religious and a settler!
Are you crazy? You are not leaving the house! Did you hear me?!

Dad, calm down. I am just going to McDonald's with Sean.
ok. Get me a cheeseburger.

-------------------

Litvishe Jew:

Dad, how did we defeat the Greeks?
With Hashem's help.

So what were the Maccabees for?
They were just the soldiers. Hashem helped them with Hashem's help. and Baruch Hashem they won.

The Maccabees were soldiers?
Ehh.. soldiers of Hashem. In Hashem's army.

So the Maccabees were Chabadniks?
No. Of course not. God forbid! they were Litvishe.

Judah Maccabee had weapons?
yes.

So Judah Maccabee was secular or a non-Jew?
God forbid. Why would he be a secular or non-Jew?

only seculars and non-Jews go to the army!
there was a time when even the religious went to the army.

Why did the Maccabees go to the army and we do not?
Today the Torah protects us.

Then the Torah did not protect them?
Maybe go with Moishi and learn some Mishnayos!

Did the Maccabees learn Mishnayos?
They learned Torah. A lot of Torah.

They did not work?
God Forbid!

So Antiochus gave them money?
No. They worked and profited here and there.

They worked 'black' like Uncle Yanky?
Yanky does not work 'black'!

So what did Matisyahu Maccabee do?
He worked in agriculture.

Matisyahu was from Thailand?
God have mercy! Why from Thailand?

How did he work in the field with a white shirt?
Why do you think he wore a white shirt?

Moishi told em a real Jew only wears white shirts.
You are spending too much time with Moishi. But he is right.

What did the Maccabees want?
They wanted an independent Jewish country that they would run.

That is also what we want?
Yes, but we are not allowed to say it. We are not Zionists.

Dad, I want to be a Maccabee, Zionist, soldier!
Gevald! What happened to you??

Just joking dad. I am going to the Shwekey concert.
OK. very nice. Send regards to Moishi's family.

questions about the kesuba

Now that we are within a couple of weeks of concluding the tractate of Kesubos in daf yomi, I have some questions..

1. Why is the kesuba nowadays still written in Aramaic? It was written in Aramaic originally because that is the language they spoke. Even most Jews living in Eretz Yisrael at the time spoke in Aramaic (proof is if you watched the movie by the anti-semite Mel Gibson called Passion of Christ). So instituting it in Aramaic at the time made sense. But there is no intrinsic holiness to the kesuba nor to the Aramaic language.
So why do we continue to write the kesuba in Aramaic and not switch it to Hebrew? Some might want it in Yiddish, or English, and I see nothing wrong with that either, but at least we should switch it to Hebrew!
As it is in Aramaic, nobody understands it. We all sign on our kesubas and how many of us have actually read the document? Do you know to what you have obligated yourself? Even those of us who have read it hardly understand most of it.
So why continue writing the kesuba in Aramaic? Why not switch to a language that is used nowadays?

2. What is the role of the kesuba in today's marriage?

We had two separate divorced people (separately) speak to our shiur about the topic. Our main question posed to the two of them was during the divorce proceedings in beis din, did the issue of the kesuba come up? How ws the kesuba used in the divorce? Did the judges say let us now read the kesuba to see what you promised? Did they discuss how much value the kesuba had and how much he had to pay her because of it? etc.

The answer of each of the two divorced men who spoke to us was the kesuba had absolutely no role in the divorce. The judges never asked for it. They never looked at it. There was never a discussion as to what the value of it was.

I would guess the reason why it is irrelevant is because in today's divorce settlements the man is generally going to be paying much more that what the kesuba obligates him to pay, so there is no reason to bother getting into the kesuba itself.

But if the kesuba is so irrelevant that it is not even used or even looked at in the divorce proceedings, why then are we so insistent that the couple have a kesuba, to the point that if they lose the kesuba, they cannot live together until a replacement kesuba is written.

So what is the point of the kesuba if it is not used at all anymore in case of divorce?

anybody?

Dec 12, 2007

Chocolate Coins (video)

And one last one for Hannukah - another Hannukah rap called Chocolate Coins

some parting Hannukah songs (videos)

A couple more videos in honor of the last day of Hannukah.....

The Dreidel song sung Texas style..


Hannukah wRap..

Jameel's trip to Kever Yosef

Jameel got in on a top secret trip Sunday night to Kever Yosef. I tried every way possible to get in other than going and fighting with hundreds of others to try to get onto a bus. I could not find a way on. So I missed what looks like an amazing trip... Jameel posted a video with images of the trip and a review....

Dec 11, 2007

Quote of the Day (qotd)

Avigdor Lieberman, the Minister for Strategic Affairs (whatever that is) and the head of Yisrael Beiteinu party in the Knesset, criticized the government today for taking down and threatening to remove illegal outposts put up around the West Bank. Lieberman said that Israel cannot discuss the issue of illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank, while ignoring illegal construction in the Negev and Galilee. The Arabs and Bedouin famously erect illegal structures and villages with no permits, and Israel generally ignores it.

In response to Lieberman's attack, Tzippi Livni, the Foreign Minister, wins today's qotd award for saying, "
The fact that the law is not enforced in one place is not an excuse for not enforcing it in another"

Actually, it is an excuse. The excuse is called Selective Law Enforcement, otherwise known as "tyrrany".

Or better yet, it is not an excuse, but if you are going to begin enforcing such laws, they should be enforced equally and not whitewashed....

The truth is, that the government does not enforce these laws suddenly because they are so concerned with the rule of law. they use the law as an excuse to implement policy. When the disengagement was in effect, and when they dismantled Amona and Homesh, they passed laws to make these places illegal and then removed the residents and destroyed the homes as enforcement of the law.

If they really cared about the law, as soon as the government decided it was strong enough and capable enough to enforce a certain law, they would implement it equally everywhere. The fact that they do not and only do so selectively is a cynical use of the law and is, in essence, tyrrany.

a user manual for cholent


The above news item was clipped from the Maariv newspaper. It reports about a user manual for cholent being distributed by the Municipality of Afula.

It says that because many people who make cholent, a.k.a. "hamin" among the sfardim, use an electric hotplate and then cover the pot with blankets and towels as a way of retaining the heat and allowing the pot of cholent to cook better, many a fire has broken out in houses causing damage and danger to many. Sounds like potent cholent to me.

Avi Elkobetz, the mayor of Afula, in coordination with the FireStation of the Jezreel Region, are publishing a manual for successful cholent making. I do not know if the manual includes the best recipes for cholent, but it includes such wisdoms as not using the electric hotplate but to use a slowcooker (crock pot) instead. For someone who insists on using the electric hotplate, they should be careful to not use blankets to cover the pot, to distance the hotplate from the curtains, distance the hotplate from the electricity cables, and to distance it from any plastic materials.

NOTE: This could raise some halachic questions (the first suggestion at least) because some people refuse to use crock pots due to a halachic question that arose as to whether the crock pot creates a situation of "hatmanah". Some people solve the question by placing a couple of small rocks beneath the ceramic pot insert which raises it above the element level, some line it with foil, some say there is no problem at all, and some will not use crock pots. I protest the City of Afula mixing into religious questions and trying to influence religious practice by telling people how to make cholent and what type of pot to use. :-) Whatever happened to separation of Shul and State??

Eating Chinese food on Christmas (video)

Dec 10, 2007

Headline of the Day (hotd)

11:34 Teachers attempt to heckle PM Olmert during speech at Business Conference (Haaretz)

What is an "attempt" to heckle? Did they start but could not get the actual heckle out? Were they all arrested just as they were about to complete the heckle?

The Hannukah song p3 (video)

I can't find a good copy of Adam Sandler's Hannukah song part 2, so I am skipping to part 3... He has not put out a new version in a long time, and I am hoping he does soon...

background behind the HDTV haredi ad campaign (video)

Last week I posted the video of the YES cable TV ad for their upcoming release of HDTV depicting Haredim protesting the impending toeyva.
After I posted it, YES released their own digital version of the commercial and the quality was, obviously, a million times better than the version I put up. However, due to Haredi protests against the commercial (ironic isn't it that they protest a commercial about them protesting..), they took it down and stopped the commercial.
I will now give you the juiccy background to the story, but first.....
Here it is again, in case you missed it:



So here is the background...

They went to Romania and hired Romanian actors to act. They acquired and sewed Haredi style clothes. They performed the "protest" dancing in the streets, as you can see above...

The organization B'Tzedek turned to DBS Sattelite Services, the company behind YES, and sued them to remove the offensive ad and cancel its broadcast. Not only that but they demanded that YES/DBS issue an apology to the Haredi community.

The head of the Haredi department of the advertising agency involved, responded as a private response (not in the name of the agency) that he sees nothing wrong with the advertisement as it is.It shows Haredim protesting against the TV, not coming out in favor of it. They worked hard to create an ad that would not insult the Haredi public...

Rav Yisrael Eichler, a former MK from UTJ and the current chairman of the Center ofr Jewish Hasbarah, thinks differently. Eichler says, "They planned the ad with the response of the Haredi public in advance as part of the campaign. The ad depicts the object of hatred, the haredim, and the abonimation (the TV) as the reason to purchase it. Eichler says, We should have just ignored the ad, but on the other hand we can learn from American Judaism: We cannot allow a precedent - American Jews do not let a slight reference of anti-semitism spread. They fight it immediately. Even though not all non-Jews love Jews, they know that they cannot start up with the Jews.

Rav Eichler called for a consumer boycott against all companies involved in the campaign, and that would teach them a lesson that the Haredi public cannot be used as a way to sell items.

Dec 9, 2007

Hamas is smoking marijuana, and inhaled!

The news is reporting that Hamas officials confiscated hundreds of kilo of marijuana, hash and marijuana plants and is holding a public burning ceremony..

I am waiting to see a news report on what this looked like, but I suspect it will look something like this old video of a news report of a public burning of marijuana....

If Clinton would have been there, he would not have inhaled, Obama would have and Bush just would not tell us whether or not he did, as it is part of his private life and should be kept that way.

getting married? time to go back to school


If you are getting married, you might want to consider signing up for this course.... It seems that the management of "Prime Gan Oranim" conducted a study of weddings held in their hall over the course of three months. The results of the study show that 15% of grooms were unsuccessful in their first attempt at breaking the glass under the huppa. Further study shows that another 8% of grooms were unsuccessful in the second attempt as well.

The management of Prime Gan Oranim saw the opportunity and have created a course for grooms. The course is to teach grooms how to break the glass under the huppa on the first try.

The course is being led by Rav Pinchas Althoiz. 10 grooms were in the first course. They learned the meaning of the breaking of the cup, along with the optimal stepping methods for efficient breakage. The purpose is to teach them to break it on the first try, so as to avoid snickers, embarrassment, laughter, and even pressure etc...

Rav Althoiz claims the best way to break the glass is to raise the foot to a height of 30 cm., stepping on the glass with the center of the shoe, and looking straight ahead and not at the glass.

It is hard to believe this is true, but I guess nowadays you can find a course for pretty much anything...Next we will see a book "Breaking the Glass for Dummies"..

Hat Tip: Zvi

Haveil Havalim 144 - oy too many latkes

Jack is hosting #144 and ate too many latkes....

Quote of the Day - Jewish proverb

I am on some mailing list to receive "Quotes of the Day" by email.

Today's email had one that was sourced to a "Jewish Proverb" that I had never heard before, that I can remember at least..

Anyways, I liked it and think it is probably true... so here it is...

"If God lived on earth, people would break his windows."

Dec 7, 2007

92 year old hero makes aliyah!

I don't know how I missed this piece of news... Maybe it was because I was taking a course this week and followed the news a bit less than usual..

The jewish secretary, Mimi Reinhardt, of Oskar Schindler, the non-Jew who saved thousands of Jews in the Holocaust, just made aliya this week. She is 92 years old. Her only child, a son, lives in Israel, and she has decided it was time to join him here.

Reinhardt was hired as Schindler's secretary. When he began his work to save Jews, Schindler would ask her for name so fJews she knew so he could add them to his lists for when he would bribe the German officers to obtain their freedom. Mimi Reinhardt is responsible for having supplied Schindler with many names - she included pretty much everyone she knew or could find - of people to be saved.

"Yishuv tov" to you Ms. Steinhardt and welcome to Israel.

Adventures in Eretz Yisrael:I forgot my camera


but it was not really a big deal.... there was not much to photograph anyways....

I decided that it was time for a return trip to Hebron to daven at the Cave of the Patriarchs, aka Me'arat Ha'Machpela. It has been a couple of months since I was last there, so I decided it was time.

I contacted a couple of my regular partners in crime to see if they wanted to join me. One was interested but not sure. He had never gone with me but expressed interest when I told him I might go, so I let him know I decided to go and asked if he wanted to join. The second wanted to come and told me to call him at 4:50 AM, as we were scheduling to leave at 5:05.

In addition I was taking my daughter along. She just turned Bat Mitzvah and I thought it would be nice for her to go. As well, my two older boys wanted to join in.

Late last night partner number one calls me up and says he wants to go but is it really safe and he does not know what to do. I said I am not God and cannot gaurantee anything, but I have gone a lot of times and never had any trouble. At the same time, I told him, there are plenty of people who would not go unless it was in an armored bus.

So, he was nervous and backed out.

I woke up early and woke up my kids and we all got ready to go. I called my next partner in crime and got the dreaded message - "Orange Shalom. The call cannot be completed right now. Try again later". That message means either his phone is somewhere with no reception or he turned it off when he went to bed. I could not call his house phone that early, so after a few tries I gave up. I do not know if he chickened out or just had bad luck to miss it. I suspect the latter, because he has gone with me in the past and even lived in Hebron for a while after he got married. he even got himself banned from Hebron for 6 months many years ago by the IDF for being a troublemaker, so I guess he just had bad luck this morning and missed it.

Off to Hebron.

The trip was uneventful, as usual. We drove right there. On the way I picked up Elchonon from Kiryat Arba, and we hurried into Hebron because it was running a little late.

There was a pretty big crowd, as a large group had come from Yerushalayim, so there were a few minyanim. We davened in the regular vasikin minyan. After davening they had put out sufganiyot for all the people there to enjoy...

And then it was back to RBS and the mundane...

Dec 6, 2007

for the third candle of Hannukah (video)

the reason for collecting guns


Everyone in the West Bank is in a huff today about the IDF having received orders to collect all the guns from the residents.

They suspect, with good reason, that the government might be leading up to another disengagement.

I say "with good reason" because before the diengagement from the Gaza Strip, the government collected the weapons of the residents of the area to ensure they would not be able to fight against the soldiers and police executing the disengagement.

If now they are beginning collections of weapons from the residents of the West Bank, it is reasonable to assume that it might be leading up to a disengagement, or at least some other upcoming surprise Olmert has in store for Israel.

I have a different explanation for the collection of weapons.

Olmert just recently promised the Palestinian Authority that we would arm them to the teeth. Weapons, ammunition, armored vehicles, etc. Those weapons have to come from somewhere. Olmert is taking the weapons from the settlers in the West Bank and giving them to the Palestinians.

See, no big secret sinister plans going on. Just a simple fulfillment of international obligations and agreements.

Or maybe not...maybe there is some sinister plan going on..

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