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Dec 31, 2006

10 Teves full circle

Today is the Fast Day of 10 Teves, well known as "Asara B'Teves".

Today's fast remembers the beginning of the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash, the Temple in Jerusalem. On the 10th of Teves, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon laid siege to jerusalem. The siege lasted for 3 years, but the siege which began on 10 Teves 3336 (from creation, or 425 BCE) was the beginning of the end.

My shul last night held its annual siyum hashas. This shul, for the past 4 years, divides the Talmud into sections of, give or take, 40 pages and each member selects a section he will learn over the course of the year. As a community we work on finishing shas together.

The guest speaker last night at the melave malka siyum was Rav Yoel Schwartz. Rav Schwartz is a famous Rav in Israel. He is connected to the Bnei Noah movements, he is the Rav of the Nahal Hariedi unit of the army, he has written over 200 seforim and I do him no justice by any of this introduction, just trying to give you an idea of his stature.

Rav Schwartz mentioned some amazing information. It was very timely that Saddam was hanged yesterday, right before the fast of 10 Teves. 10 Teves was the date Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon began the destruction of Jerusalem. Saddam, famously, declared himself as Nebuchadnezzar II many times and erected a statue of himself and of Nebuchadnezzar in his palace. He saw in himself the continuation of Nebuchadnezzar. Fitting that the circle of Nebuchadnezzar was closed. On 10 Teves Nebuchadnezzar I laid siege to jerusalem, on 9 Teves, Nebuchadnezzar II was killed by hanging after many attempts to beign destruction on Jewish Israel.

Saddam hanged! (video)

WARNING!! The following video is graphic and should only be watched by those not faint of heart.

I finally found a full video of the hanging of Saddam Hussein. I believe it is a (quasi) mitzvah to watch this evil monster (rasha gamur) who killed millions of people get what he deserved. An execution by shooting would have been cooler, but this will have to do.

The main sites are only showing up to the point of the noose being placed around Saddams neck. For those of us who want more than that, I searched long and hard and finally found some links pointing through the Drudge Report to a video uploaded to Google Video. This video, as you will see if you watch it, is not the official video of the execution. Rather it is a video taken on somebody's cellphone.

"באבוד רשעים רינה" - Rejoice in the downfall of the evil.

Dec 28, 2006

Gerald Ford dead as announced by Tom Brokaw

This is a hilarious clip from about 10 years ago. Dana Carvey on SNL playing Tom Brokaw pre-announcing the death of Gerald Ford, taking into account various possible methods...

(HatTip: going around a lot by email but I first saw it on PsychoToddler)

abuse of emergency lights

Were you ever sitting in a traffic jam with cars passing you on the shoulder with their lights flashing? Did you ever sit their wishing you had your own set of emergency lights so you could get through traffic? Did you ever wonder if those guys driving by you with lights flashing were really headed to an emergency or just taking advantage of their lights?

Watch this video to check out abuse of emergency lights by a frum guy in NY named Isaac Heschel. His response to questions is always, "I have reasons"

(HatTip: FailedMessiah)

the affect of famous people

A couple of months ago Rabbi Yitzchak Solomon posted an interesting 1 minute video (really they are all interesting, but I am commenting on this one) in his series of "Something to Think About" on the aish.com website.

The clip was one referring to the plane crash in which a baseball pitcher for the New York Yankees named Cory Lidle died. Rabbi Solomon was discussing the fact that people lament the loss of a celebrity but neglect to realize that along with, for example, Cory Lidle in that plane crash also died the pilot who was a husband and a father and is a great tragedy to his family. He asked why we get all excited about news of a celebrity and not of the other people connected. Why do we not mourn the loss of the pilot?

Rabbi Solomon's point was good. It is a loss. Every person is a world and every person has people who care about him or her. Anybody who dies, especially if it is in an unusual manner, is a tragedy.

That being said, I think it is understandable that we, the general public who usually knew neither the celebrity nor the pilot (in this example) personally but were familiar with and maybe adored the celebrity, think about the celeb and forget the non-celeb. The celebrity somehow touched our lives.

For example, in the case of this plane crash, I was not affected by the death of Cory Lidle. I was not a fan of his. In fact I had never heard of him. I hardly even paid attention to the story when it happened. To me, his death was no more and no less tragic then the death of the pilot. But if it had been somebody else who had died, maybe I would have been affected (depending on who it was).

Why am I writing about this now?

In yesterday's daf in daf yomi, in Rosh Hashana 22b, the gamara was discussing the details of witnesses coming to beis din to testify regarding the status of the moon in order to declare the new month. One of the points under discussion was the fact that the witnesses must also bring charachter witnesses (references of sorts) to tell beis din that these guys are kosher Jews and trustworthy. After all, beis din has no idea who they are, so a reference clears things up.

The gemara discusses how many references the witness needs. One or two. The gemara mentions a story in which the witness went to Jerusalem to testify and along with him went Rav Nehorai as a charachter witness. The gemara wants to prove from this that he only needs one reference, not two. The gemara rejects the claim by explaining that really that witness had two references. It only mentioned Rav Nehorai and left out the other guy because Rav Nehorai was so great it says, "משום כבודו של רב נהוראי" - because of the greatness (honor) of Rav Nehorai.

In other words, because Rav Nehorai was a celebrity (of sorts), it is normal to not mention the other guy accompanying him.

When President Bush shows up, nobody mentions the aides that are with him. When Rav Elyashiv shows up somewhere, nobody mentions the shamash who tags along. When Ehud Olmert shows up somewhere, nobody discusses the name of the guy who drove him. When Cory Lidle dies, nobody mentions the pilot.

Sure, each person is important, and his death is tragic to those close to him. But the celebrity has a different status.


Mazel tov to me.

This is very unlike me. While I have never forgotten my wife's birthday or our anniversary, I generally tend to forget about other milestone dates until about 2 weeks after they have passed. Somehow I woke up at exactly the right moment this time.

I was laying in bed tonight and was thinking about a couple of posts I have brewing in my head. I am laying there developing a post in my head, which usually means by morning it will be long forgotten and never get posted. The post went off on some tangents and somehow I realized that I missed my blogaversary. Probably not by much, but missed it nonetheless.

That made me curious, so I got up and looked back at my archives to see when I actually started posting last year. Sure enough, it turns out I did not miss it. My first post of this blog (really my first post of the second life of this blog) was exactly one year ago on December 28, 2005.

A blogaversary has become an occasion for taking some perspective and introspection, similar to a birthday or an anniversary (though I do not do so on my birthdays or anniversaries), so humor me for a few moments and let me ramble a bit.

I always enjoyed writing and (even more so) reading. The blog is my outlet, my way of getting my thoughts out and my rants off my chest. But in reality it has become more than that.

It allows my wife and the rest of my family to have a window into my head. Often times I express things better her, in writing, than I would or could in conversation. Sometimes it is simply a matter of convenience. While a thought might strike me, by the time I get home or talk to a friend or relative, the thought is gone, forgotten. With my blog, I can jot it down and write it up and they, and you, can all read what I have been thinking about (why you would want to is a different story), despite the fact that ten minutes later I have already forgotten about it.

It has also become part of a community. I have met and become friends with some very fine people, both virtually and in reality. I have renewed contact with some old friends I have bene out of touch with for a long time. I have learned a lot from reading your blogs and from your commenting on mine. I have become aware of issues that I never would have been aware of, and have come to see and understand many more viewpoints and opinions.

So I will take this opportunity and give some thanks now.

In no particular order (other than the first and last), thank you Shifra for putting up with me. Sometimes it is frustrating to you when I blog about something before I mention it to you. Yet you put up with it and me honorably and allow me this outlet without too much hassle (except the occasional post you do not let me publish).

Thank you to mil, fil, sil and bils (mother in law, father in law, sister in law and brothers in law) who are all readers (but almost never comment in writing, only in real life). We used to live in Israel all alone and only had the yearly visits, which were nice. Since you have moved to Israel, we see that it is a completely different life having family nearby, being available to help us when we are stuck in different things. The kids have an opportunity to hop on a bus and head out to Jerusalem to hang out with their grandparents and aunt and uncles. Along with everything else.

Thanks to my parents and brothers (I do not think my sisters read my blog, so they will not get mentioned). You guys are of my more faithful readers and more frequent commenters. Distance keeps us apart, but I think this blog has succeeded, in some way, in keeping us together and in contact (even more in contact than by our normal email and phone correpondence) and aware of what we each are up to.

Thank you to all the blog writers. I enjoy reading lots of different blogs. Some of you are very eloquent, some provocative, some humorous, some inspiring, some interesting, some educational, etc. The variety is great and the jblog community is great.

Thank you to all the readers of this blog (and my Torah Thoughts blog), and to all the commenters. While I like to think I would blog even if nobody read it, it is much more interesting when there is feedback from readers, and even more interesting when there is some great debate taking place.

Thanks to Blogger for providing this free service. If I had to pay for it, I probably would not do it.

And thank you to Hashem for giving me the strength to go on and post and the words that sometimes make my posts interesting.

Dec 27, 2006

enjoying the rain

the goose is enjoying the wet weather....
notice how dark the sky is at 7:15 am. It has been a downpour since yesterday afternoon (and morning in other places), We are still hopeful for a chance of snow later....

Dec 26, 2006

rumor has it..

UPDATE: Haaretz just posted on their site an article saying pretty much what I wrote last night, confirming a draft of an agreement. Either they stole the info from my blog or the rumors are correct.
Don't forget - you heard it here first...

The rumor going around the "yeshivishe velt" right now is that El Al has come to an agreement with The Haredi leaders. This rumor is uncomfirmed and unsubstantiated, but is going around nonetheless, so I bring it to you.

Supposedly, El Al and the organization given authority by Rav Elyashiv to deal with leading the Haredi charge against El Al have come to an agreement and have signed letters of intent. They, supposedly, are still working out the small details of the agreement, but the main issues have been resolved and agreed upon.

I do not know what all the details are, but the rumor is that the main part of the deal is that El Al agrees not to fly commercial flights under the El Al name on shabbos. They will continue (as they did before) to fly under the SunDor name and will fly non-commercial flights on shabbos, along with grounds crew and other staff continuing to work on shabbos.

Basically, if the rumor is true, little has changed in how El Al will be working and/or resting on sghabbos, but the agreement of not flying using the El Al name probably has more teeth to it and probably includes some sort of penalty of they do.

I find it amusing, if the rumors are true, that the Rabbonim will now be much more involved in hillul shabbos than they were before. Prior to the alleged agreement, El Al, a secular company, would not fly on shabbos unless there was a situation they considered an emergency. The haredi world did not like it, but bit their lips and let it be. Now, if the rumor os true, the Rabbonim are signing a paper allowing El Al to do all sorts of hillul shabbos, except for actually flying under the El Al name. Basically the hillul shabbos now has the hechsher of the Rabbonim.

Or maybe the rumor is not true...

will it or won't it?

That is the question on everybody's mind today. Is it going to snow tomorrow all around Israel, including Jerusalem and points further south as predicted or will this fall the way of many past predictions?

It is already raining and getting colder. This time it looks like the chances are pretty good...

Dec 25, 2006

interesting points from the conference

I went to a Microsoft conference today. The objective of the conference was to introduce to IT professionals some of the new generation applications being released right now. Those include Windows Vista, MS Exchange 2007, and Office 2007 with Sharepoint Services. Overall the conference was great and the new programs have really nice features, which I will not go into here. Unfortunately I could only go to one track so I went to the MS Exchange track because it is most relevant for me. I really would have liked to go to the Vista track as well, but it was not meant to be...

A few interesting points from the conference.

The conference opened up with a dedication to Nimrod Segev. Nimrod Segev was one of the prime developers and a major contributor in the development of Windows Vista. Nimrod was killed in the Lebanon War II.

Danny Yamin, the CEO of Microsoft Israel gave an introductory speech to the conference. He started off the speech by comparing it to his bar mitzvah speech, and then went on to thank numerous people who were involved in putting together the days events, along with teams involved in the development of the applications.

Danny Yamin, in his speech, was very hesitant when he did this, but he wished everybody well for the new year. He was cautious and even said it might not be appropriate as it is not really our new year but because it is the new calendar year he wished everybody a successful year. He mentioned an anecdote that his daughter is studying in Bar Ilan University and was sitting in a lecture next to a pregnant woman. She asked the lady when she is due to give birth and the response was, "in Cheshvan (the Hebrew month rather than mentioning the English month)".

Efi (I don't remember his last name), one of the heads of the development teams on Exchange 2007, was showing some and explaining some of the new features. He mentioned a movie clip that had been going around virally by email. The clip was one in which somebody used the Windows beeps to play a Christmas song. He mentioned it and then showed us what he did using the new version - he used the Windows beeps to make a Hannuka song instead!

And last but not least, there were the typos throughout the slideshows. It is a bit surprising considering these were senior people in Microsoft Israel, yet they had spelling mistakes in their presentations. The funniest of the mistakes was at the end of the day. The presenter was describing a case installation his team did in the Prime Ministers Office with the new applications. He was going to concentrate on one specific feature called Unified Messaging. The title of the slideshow presentation said, "Unified Massaging". It was pretty funny (I do not know how many people noticed it, but it was funny for me) picturing this guy installing a massage system for the Prime Ministers Office.

at conference today

I am at a Microsoft conference today. The topics under discussion are the new operating system Windows Vista and the new version of the mail server, Exchange 2007. It is taking place at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv.

While waiting to go in I found this corner where they offer free wifi access. I won't be connected much today, but maybe will have another chance or two over the course of the day.

old friends

We went to a wedding last night. Our time at the wedding was very limited. I wanted to be back home in time for my shiur and on the way there we were cut short because of traffic and navigation. We knew in advance our time there would be brief, but we wanted to go anyway. The marriage was of the son of an old friend and our friend's siblings (even better and older friends) were in town for the wedding, so we really wanted to say mazel tov and hello to our old friends.

We got to the wedding as the chuppa was finishing. The chasan and kalla were already being escorted to the yichud room, so we missed that. Sure enough, as we walk in, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau is walking out to get his ride home. Rabbi Lau, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel and the curent Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, had officiated the wedding. That description I just gave does him no justice for the greatness of his life's work. He walked right by us and we shook hands in greeting. I have met him a number of times, though I would never believe he remembers me (he meets thousands and thousands of people all the time). That was exciting, as Rabbi Lau is really a great person.

We continued in and found the parents of the chassan and said our mazel tovs and greetings. Then we found our old friends who came in for the wedding. It was nice to catch up with them even though it was brief.

While we are standing there talking, someone comes over and asks if I would watch his bag while he uses the restrooms. I said of course I would. He puts the bag down and disappears towards the bathroom. I look at my wife and friends and say, "you think that is going to blow up now?" I had no idea who he was but then someone else said he recognized him. Anyways, bombers never ask if you would watch their bag (yeah right). The guy came back a few minutes later

And we made it back in time for my shiur. A short but worthwhile trip into Jerusalem.

Dec 21, 2006

Happy 7th night of Hanuka

getting close to the end....

Blogrolling problems

I used to rely on the Blogrolling account in my sidebar to stay updated with other blogs. When a blogger in my blogroll would post a new post, Blogroll (usually) would make a notation indicating it. That was a big help for me and made my keeping up with other blogs easier.

Recently though the feature in Blogroll has not been working. It does not make any indication that a blog has been updated. Either that or maybe nobody is posting anything new to their sites!

I do not know if it is something in my account or my site that is preventing Blogroller from working properly, or if Blogroller is having problems.

Anybody else have this problem?

Dec 20, 2006

the shechita

The post you have all been waiting for is finally here!!

After a couple of hours driving through the beautiful countryside to the northern village of Zarzir , located in the Jezreel Valley, we passed the village of Kfar Gidon. Kfar Gidon had been the living place of the Kramer Family and the subject of a great book I recently had read called Holy Woman. Kfar Gidon is about 10 minutes away from the Bedouin village of Zarzir, which is where we go to shecht.

We go to Zarzir to shecht because the guy there gives us a gaurantee of chlak, or glatt, meat. His gaurantee is that if the meat does not come out glatt, we do not take the meat. He will sell that meat to his Arabs and we can slaughter a different animal. While he seemingly has a high percentage of glatt results (probably why he gives us that gaurantee), the gaurantee does come in handy on occassion, as it did yesterday.

Let me now introduce you to the cow. I did not name him. This is he, prior to shechita:

In the picture above, he is being prepared for shechita. The process is interesting. They maneuver the calf (he was only 8 months old) through the pen into a track where he is alone and on the way out. I suspect the cow knows what is coming, because he did not want to be there. As a matter of fact, I saw some stuff that PETA could only dream of.

They get the calf into the track and they get this long rope and tie it around a back leg. They then tie another loop aeound a front leg. They leverage the rope by wrapping it around some poles and they begin to pull him out of the track onto the open floor. They then tie the other end of the rope, after some more leveraging around some poles, to the back of a car. They get the calf onto the spot of the floor they want him in. And in case you thought Cow Tipping was only a sport, one guy then pulls the back rope, the other guy drives the car forward just a little bit, and the cow tips over onto his side. They then stretch it a bit farther, so the animal is splayed out in a way that his movement is restricted.

The shechita was smooth and quick. No problems. After skinning the animal and opening it up, we checked the lungs, which were completely clean of any problems.

Here he looks like a real beast, hanging there waiting to be skinned....

WARNING: The following images are more graphic and are not for the faint of heart... do not read further if you cannot handle the sight of blood, or if you are under 18 years of age.

After the calf was done, I shechted a lamb. The "glatt gaurantee" came in handy because its lungs were a complete mess and it was a pure treifa. I shechted a second one and it was even worse than the first. The gaurantee was coming out worthwhile.

I was going to give up on the sheep, as it was starting to get late and we wanted to start heading back soon, but the Arabs were ok with my trying one more. Sometimes they are not willing to, because they have to be able to sell it to Arabs. If they already have enough meat, it is a bigger risk for them that they will be stuck with meat they cannot sell. I figured after two bad sheep, they will not be happy about a third, but they were ok with it. They said to go ahead, so I did.

Well, as they say, the third time is a charm . The third lamb was 100% glatt with absolutely nothing wrong with it!

Here you can see the local cats enjoying a good meal...

And then there was this guy:

I think he suspected he was next because when I got close to him, he ran away.

We headed back to Jerusalem where I koshered all the meat. It took a lot of time and energy, but with the help of a couple of my kids, my wife and my mother in law, we got all the meat kashered, trimmed into normal looking pieces, bagged and put away.

Hanuka at the White House

Here you can see some interesting pictures of the annual Hanuka celebration at the White House, including a picture of Laura Bush having the kitchen koshered....

Dec 19, 2006

quick update

Everything went well today. All shechitas were great. Details and longer post tomorrow when I can keep my eyes open. I have been cutting up meat all day long.

Dec 18, 2006


I won't lie about it or beat around the bush. I am nervous.

I do not get nervous often. It is actually quite rare. But right now I am nervous. Apprehensive might even be a better word.

Tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow I go up north and shecht my first cow/bull. I have done a couple of sheep, but never a cow. These things are big animals. And strong. And they can get pretty nasty.

I am not worried about the animal itself. His time will have come when he meets up with me tomorrow. That is his fate and he will be fulfilling his purpose in this world by becoming a hamburger (and steak). The shechting itself does not scare me or make me sick.

I am nervous because this is a big animal. It is expensive. If it is not kosher, no big deal. That is why we shlep up north to shecht - we have somebody there (a Druze guy) who supplies us with the cattle but our deal is that if it is not glatt, we do not take it. He will sell it to Arabs. That is even good for me - because I might then get to shecht a second cow for the same price.

The problem is if I mess up the shechita. If I mess it up and he cannot sell it to Arabs (they have some requirements for their halal meat and the basic shechita has to be good), then I have to take the loss.
And these guys are expensive.

Hopefully it will all go smoothly and we will not have any problems.

hh #98

Yehuda did a great job on this weeks Haveil Havalim... Head on over and check it out. Be prepared for a fabulously hilarious work of storytelling.

Dec 17, 2006

toys for GK kids

donate toys for Hannuka to kids of the families that were expelled/evacuated/transferred from Gush Katif.

click here

Dec 14, 2006

Questioned on various issues regarding haredi attitude

A commenter named "Whatsinaname" sent me a bunch of questions he wanted discussed and to hear my take on them. I decded to make it into a separate post rather than respond in the comments section, due to the nature of the questions and the lengthiness and complexity of the answers....

whats - 1. Among the chareidi communities there are arguably some problems with the school system. Schools accept kids based on reputation of the parents, occupations of parents, and general look and feel. In a country where “aliyah” and immigration is one of the largest issues, how can the schools continue to enforce these rules? People come here, expecting to send their kids to schools, and the schools do not allow them to enter. Why is it that schools can create rules such as Sheitel Length, no Denim, and white shirts only? Should the child be turned away, when there will be no where else to go?! Sometimes it feels the schools care more for a personal reputation than the well being of the general society they are in. Isn’t that philosophy against any foundation of a “School”?

Rafi G: Because you are asking me these questions, I am assuming you want to hear my opinion on these matters. I in no way speak for anybody other than me (even my wife does not agree with me much of the time!) and, as the saying goes, two Jews three opinions. The questions you ask are difficult and complex questions and different people would respond differently to them. I speak for no community nor for any individual other than me.

I agree with the premise of your question, that it is wrong to base criteria of acceptance into school on these superficial and peripheral issues. However, let's try to analyze and explain why they do so.

The society in Israel is much more stereotyping than it is in Chutz La'Aretz. School administrators believe that they have to set (unofficial) rules of acceptance, such as sheitel length, denim skirts, shirt color, etc. because they have a school they wish to keep to a certain standard. That standard is not necessarily (but might be) academic. It might be (and in the Haredi system often is) based on frumkeit, or perceived frumkeit.

Does it matter that the guy wearing the colored shirt learns as much as the guy in the white shirt? no. Does it matter than the woman with the longer sheitel raises her kids just as well as the woman with the shorter sheitel? no.

They have the perception that families in which the wife wears a shoulder length sheitel (for example, but any of the examples you suggested are equally good) is more modern and less dedicated to living a Torah lifestyle. They therefore say that such people are not appropriate for their specific school. They would say that you should send your child to a school that is more appropriate for the lifestyle you live in. They are also concerned that your child, coming from a home deficient in their level of frumkeit, would be a bad influence on other children, and better to keep the kids separate than cause such a situation.

Do I agree with it? Partially yes and partially no. Overall it is based on misperceptions and is therefore wrong. However, the schools need some criteria for acceptance.

We are not in Memphis or Chicago or other places in America that have limited numbers of frum people and therefore have to try to attract a wider range of students. Also, in America (at least in the more "out of town" places) the schools have the additional goal of being available for the general community (non-religious) and, again, have to cater to a wider range of people. Here in Israel that is not really the case. There are so many people that every group is large enough of a pool from which to have your own type of school.

So they say why do you want to come to us? Go to your own type. And yes, it does sometimes seem that they are more worried about the reputation of the school than of the actual welfare of the children. But that is a casualty not just related to schools, but to the whole Haredi society. See the Kolko case (as an example) going on in America and how the Aguda never came out against hims or his actions. They have practically abandoned the safety of the children because they are more worried about publicizing that some of their members are molesters or longtime supporters of those molesters.

In general, schools and communities in Israel are more homogenous than abroad, for better or worse.

whats: 2. Should we be teaching our children secular studies? Do you see any value in teaching your kids math, science or history?

Rafi G: My opinion is that yes we should be teaching them more of secular studies. And yes I do see value in teaching them these subjects.

whats: 3. There are certain Chareidi communities which have not one basketball court in the entire neighborhood. They build structures which severely limit any social outlet for teenage boys. Girls are allowed to have plays, or chuggim, but boys are expected to be learning 24/7. Do you agree with this philosophy? Do you create a social outlet for your own children? Do you feel this is the correct way to bring up children in a Torah atmosphere?

Rafi G: I do not agree with that approach. I believe that such an approach causes serious "burnout" at a young age and issues similar to that. The school we send our children to is fairly decent in that regard (despite their being a Haredi school) in the sense that they allow the kids to play ball and they go on hikes in the nearby mountains and have other activities on occassion.

A Torah atmosphere is not in any way limited to requiring a community to "learn 24/7". the Torah provides no preference for such a lifestyle. The Jewish Nation was split between 12 tribes, each with its own style and culture, only one of which was completely dedicated to a life of Torah 24/7 with no distraction.

Our goal should be to have our focus on Torah and Mitzvos in whatever we do. Even if you work, your focus should be on Torah and mitzvos, whether that manifests itself in learning Torah in your spare time or by doing chessed with other people when possible or by trying to live your life in a way that is mekadesh shem shamayim. That is relevant when you are learning Torah 24/7 and when you are working and when you are playing basketball or softball or whatever else you might be doing.

whats: 4. Army or yeshiva? Why?

Rafi G: what about army or yeshiva?

I have no problem with somebody going to the army. Hafuch (or aderabba in yeshivishe talk), I have told people to go and support people going to the army. Yeshiva life is not for everybody. Not everyone is cut out for that regimen and lifestyle, just like not everyone is cut out to be a doctor, or an electrician or politician, or anything else. (As long as you are focused on Torah and mitzvos, your profession or place in life does not make a difference). Somebody who cannot stay in yeshiva and learn and dedicate his life to that lifestyle should got to the army.

There is no mitzva in being in the army. I am not saying army is an end or a goal. However, being that in Israel we have a mandatory draft, it is something one must do in order for him to progress in life. If you learn in yeshiva you have a deferment. The army is simply a stepping stone, a necessary step to take in order for you to be able to go on living a productive life.

As long as you are truly learning in yeshiva that is acceptable. If you are not really learning and just using the yeshiva as a way to avoid the army, that is where the problem is.

I personally did not serve in the army. But that was not by choice. When I made aliya I was called to the army for an interview. I went through the whole process with the intention of being called up for service. They chose not to draft me because of my age, though they kept me on their lists of possible draftees. They did not give me an exemption, just simply did not call me up.

whats: 5. How come Chalav Yisrael is so much more prominent than Yoshon? Why don't more people hold Yoshon? Is it fair to enforce close relatives to serve only Yoshon in the presence of one who holds Yoshon? (This question applies both to Israel and America. There are many American products bought in Israel which are not Yoshon, and people are buying them unaware of the problems involved).

Rafi G: I do not know the answer to this. This is something that we have discussed many times in daf yomi when the topic of chadash has come up, and we have yet to find a reasonable answer.

whats: 6. Should women learn Gemara? Why or Why not?

Rafi G: Should they? I do not see why they should learn gemara. They have no obligation in talmud torah, so there is no reason (that I know of) to say they should learn gemara. If your question is "could they" that is something else. It does not bother me if a woman learns gemara. If that is what will give her spiritual fulfillness, more power to her.

I remember when we were in Taeneck, NJ last year for a couple of days, I davened early one Sunday morning in a shul there. The name of the congregation currently eludes me, but it was a big shul and even on a Sunday they had a minyan every half hour from 6am until something like 9 or 10 am.
I went about 6:30 to daven and found the minyan that was starting. As I was walking around the shul looking for the right minyan (and looking around out of curiosity) I found a fairly large beis medrash with maybe 25 or 30 people learning, mostly in chavrusa groups, and I think there was one shiur going on. I was very impressed to see so many people out early on a Sunday morning learning.

As I looked around I noticed one of the tables was a woman learning daf yomi. I was shocked but also impressed that she was obviously not just doing this as part of a fight for womens rights. If she only believed in her right to learn as part of womens rights, she would not have been out there at 6:30 am on a Sunday morning. That showed her dedication and enjoyment of learning. I see nothing wrong with it.

UPDATE: Talk about a small world - a fellow jblogger who is well known just called me to tell me that that woman is his mother. He tells me she has been through shas three times (!) in daf yomi. She just loves going to learn. She is not into the feminist stuff and will not join womens minyanim or anything like that, but she simply loves learning.

Dec 13, 2006

interview at JBM

Jewish Blogmeister is doing a series of interviews with jbloggers. This week he interviewed me. He just posted the interview...

Head on over to Jewish Blogmeister and check it out!

and of course Hannuka #3 (video)

This is Sandler's third version of his Hannuka song (haven't found #2 yet available..).. enjoy

The (original) Hannuka song (video)

With Hannuka coming upon us, it is time to break out the Hunnka music! This is the original version of the Adam Sandler Hannuka song... enjoy..

The holocaust conference in Iran

The title actually sounds like that old song from Journeys "The Atheist Convention in LA" .

The holocaust conference taking place in Iran has brought forth, to me, a couple of strange events.

The first I would mention is the horrendous images of the Neturei Karta freaks french kissing (must be because the French are anti-semites as well) Ahmedinjajad (a.k.a. Crazy Ahmed) and their general participation the conference.

I have no real problem with the Iranians and the rest of their buddies "debating" whether the holocaust happened or not. (NOTE: I put the word "debating" in quotes because anyone who wanted to come to prove the holocaust did happen had their request rejected and no invitation issued. So it is not really a debate or open discussion.). I do not really care what they think about it. It has no ramification on me. I know that anything they need to hide for political reasons is automatically declared to never have happened, such as any Jewish presence in Jerusalem before 1948, such as any Jewish Temple on Temple Mount, etc. The fact that they prefer to declare the holocaust as a non-event, is nothing unusual or unexpected.

The part of it that bothers me is the participation of the freaks from Neturei Karta. True, they claim they are not denying the holocaust. They claim that they are there participating in order to explain and protest to the world how as a result of the holocaust the Zionists persecuted the Palestinians and stole their land. However, just their mere presence makes it appear as though they support the denial or the possibility of denial of the events of the holocaust.

People see the images of their participation and think that they are considering or even agreeing with the "fact" that there was no holocaust and that allows them to solidify in their own minds that possibility. Did these freaks never hear of the issur of Maaris Ayin - giving over a wrong impression? The actual issur might not apply here, but the concept is the same - by their participation, they are giving some legitimacy to the idea of a faked holocaust.

Another issue with it is just their sensitivity. Let's say, for arguments sake, that their hatred of Zionism and Israel is legitimate. Let's even say that their cozying up to terrorists like Arafat and the like is legitimate under their claim that Zionism is evil, and they even justify helping Arabs physically throw Jews out of the Land of Israel and murdering and maiming them is legitimate. Let's just say all this for arguments sake. How can they morally attend this conference? How can they look at themselves and their families after [articipating in such an event? Did they not suffer any losses personally in the holocaust? Were their families not affected? Did they not have parents or grandparents or cousins or other relatives or Rebbes or shtetl members who died in the holocaust? How can they participate in such a conference, no matter how much hatred they have for Zionism?

That question just boggles my mind.

My second issue is with a guy named David Duke. David Duke is a former head of the Ku Klux Klan. He is an avowed anti-semite. Ok - there are plenty of them, at least he says it openly that he hates the Jews and thinks the Jews are "occupying America just like they are occupying Palestine" (as he said in Syria last year). Better than many others who talk nice but quietly hate the Jews.

David Duke shows up at the conference discussing the veracity of the holocaust. No problem. Very synergetic of David Duke.

My question is, how does the mind of a Ku Klux Klan (or any anti-semite) guy work? Why does he hate Jews? What have we done, other than take over the world with all 13 million of us? How can he hate jews but love Arabs? There are hundreds of millions of Arabs, they are the source of most terrorism in the world, they are the fastest growing ethnic community "taking over America", and they are a Semitic race just like the Jews.

Why does a guy like David Duke hate the Jews but love the Arabs? The Ku Klux Klan hated everybody who was not white. Most of their racial actions were against blacks, even more so than against Jews. It makes no sense to me. He should hate the Arabs even worse because they are a greater threat to his way of life.

Why would David Duke love the Arabs? The only answer I have is "It is a known fact (and halacha of sorts) that Esau hates Jacob" - even if it makes no sense.

Important announcement from.... (video)

from Barack Obama....pay attention

qotd (quote of the day)

And todays "Quote of the Day" segment is brought to you by the tomato growers association.

Ever since the banks raised many of their fees last month, there has been a debate going on about whether to, and how to, legislate the banking fees. The banks are pulling in record profits and they keep raising their rates for everything. In a free market, a bank could take the chance on raising its rates. A competing bank might lower some of its rates. The competing bank might pick up some business from disgruntled customers of the bank that raised its rates.

In Israel it does not work like that. There is a certain amount of collusion among the banks, so there is no free market and no real competition. As soon as one bank announces it is raising its rates, the others all fall in line and raise their rates as well.

The debate is still raging and nobody knows how it will turn out.

In the meantime the quote of the day comes from MK Yaakov Cohen of the UTJ party. He said, "God in His benevolence set it up that we purchase our tomatoes at the fruit and vegetable store and not at a bank. If we had to purchase them in a bank, we would pay fees for weighing the tomato, for bagging the tomato, for the right to select a tomato, etc."

Dec 12, 2006

dead Yemenite children

Briefly, in the early days of the State of Israel, it has been claimed, the secular Zionist government was very sympathetic to Jews of Ashkenazy origin and prejudiced to Jews of Sephardic origin.

It has been claimed that the leaders of Israel took advantage of immigrants from Arabic countries, mostly Yemenite Jews, due to their overwhelming naivete and trust of the government. The government was supposedly responsible for a campaign of stealing their babies and "selling" them to Ashkenazy couples, usually childless and willing to pay alot of money.
The natural parents would be told their child had died in childbirth, or shortly after because of a disease or birth defect and had to be buried right away. The parents would be left with nothing to do other than mourn their dead child.
Unbeknowest to them the child was really removed from the hospital and sold to childless Ashkenazy couples for lots of money.

This has never really been verified whether the allegations are true or not, but there is a lot of proof out there. The story almost came to a head a few years ago when a mother and daughter reunited claiming the daughter, Tzilla Levine had supposedly been "dead at childbirth" but was really raised on a kibbutz.
The story died down when the DNA was inconclusive. One DNA test had shown with 99% definity that they were mother daughter, but then a new test had been ordered by the government which contradicted the earlier tests findings and was less conclucive and not a high enough percentage to be considered proof.

There is plenty of information available. The results of a Google search using the words sold Yemenite children can be seen here.

Rabbi Uzi Meshullam gathered evidence and names of over 4500 children but was then arrested. He was let go after a number of years due to health problems, with the condition of his release being that he would not continue the investigations.

Here we have a fascinating story that seems to show the Yemenite community were not the only victims of evil government beaurocrats. In this story a Satmar couple had given birth to twins. One died in childbirth and the second, the parents were told, had died shortly after childbirth due to a fatal disease and had already been buried. The parents had nothing to do other than mourn their babies.

It turns out a young man in Canada, raised as a non-Jew, was told in his will by his dead mother that he had been adopted when he was just a few days old and is really from Bnei Brak in Israel. The young man has gone on to search for the truth and to find his real family and is now in the process of genetic testing.

Haredi Air

Ever wonder what flying a Haredi owned airline would be like? Well head on over to DAG who wrote a great parody of what such an experience would be like...

Dec 11, 2006

El Al negotiations

The crisis between the Haredi community and El Al is continuing.

The crisis was caused, briefly, because El Al flew and landed some planes on shabbos last week. El Al claims they considered it an emergency situation due to the effects of the strike that messed everything up. They had been inundated with requests from people who had to catch flights that were already terribly delayed, so they decided it was important enough to break with their usual protocol of not flying on shabbos.

The Haredim are up in arms over this because they had an agreement with the heads of El Al that El Al planes would not fly on shabbos. El Al is the national carrier and any flying on shabbos done by El Al is very much in the public eye. This is so despite the fact that El Al was privatized and is no longer officially the national carrier, nor government owned, because the perception in the public is that El Al is the airlines of Israel. The Haredim say that this was not serious enough to be deemed an emergency. They could have transferred passengers to other flights, even to El Al flights under the Sandor name (El Al has a sub-company called Sandor - the haredim have no beef with flights that take place on shabbos under the Sandor name because that is not in the public eye), or to other airlines. Due to El Al's lieral definition of "emergency" the Haredim decided to boycott El Al.

There were all sorts of pronunciations and declarations by the various leaders, such as without shabbos protecting El Al it is now dangerous to fly and therefore nobody (Haredi) should fly El Al, or it is assur to fly El Al because of the Hillul Shabbos, and the like.

El Al and the leaders of the Haredi public have been negotiating a new deal. The Haredim are insisting that El Al sign over exclusive decision making regarding future emergencies to the Haredi Rabbonim. if El Al should ever feel they are in an emergency situation that requores them to fly, they will first need to obtain the approval of the Rabbis. El Al is refusing to give over that level of control, so the negotiations continue and are currently very close to falling apart.

That is a brief review of the crisis.

I have no problem with a boycott of El Al.
If any consumer group feels they have enough buying power to request certain changes in a product or service to cater to their needs, they can threaten the provider to switch suppliers or providers.

If a group of people called up Heinz and said we do not like the way you make your ketchup and we will stop buying it unless you change this or that, more power to them. Heinz will listen to their requests. They will evaluate the buying power of the group compared to that of other groups. They will evaluate the finances involved in making such changes. And they will make a decision one way or the other. If Heinz decides not to make the requested changes then the group of people will have to decide whether to continue buying or not.

If the Haredim feel that they make up a significant percentage of El Al's business and they have enough power to threaten a boycott unless changes are made to the way El Al deals with shabbos observance, more power to them. El Al will have to weigh the potential loss of business with the other expenses involved and make a decision how to respond to the demand.

I am uncomfortable with the Haredi leaders using religion as the way of swaying their public to adhere to the boycott. If the leaders would get up and say we cannot fly El Al until they give in to our demands and show sensitivity to our needs, that would be fine. People would listen, maybe some would not, and they would ahve their boycott.

What I do not like is that the only way they tell the public to adhere to the boycott is by creating issurim that do not exist and declaring that El Al has lost its divine protection and is therefore dangerous. I suspect that they did so because that is the only way the people will listen to the Rabbis. If the Rabbis just say we are negotiating for better terms and nobody should fly El Al until further notice, people would write them off. The only way to get people to listen is by creating an issur. That way I look "not frum" if I do fly El Al and nobody wants to look "not frum".

the real problem si that people fall for it. People let themselves be manipulated like that and actually believe there is a real issur to fly El Al and therefore switch their tickets to other airlines that are even more mechalel shabbos than El Al.

The reason not to fly El Al is not because of any issur involved, but because it is the only way to acheive a successful boycott which might lead to a change in El Al policy.

Dec 10, 2006

Haveil Havalim #97 is up

Jack did a great job with a heavy duty roundup. Check it out here - this HH shows why he is worthy of the weblog award he is a finalist for. Click on the link in his post to vote for him..

in the batters box

Over here


We all get the viral emails, right? How often do you get something that you originated?

Does not ahppen to me often, but today it did. This morning a friend of mine sent to me an email with the contents of this post: http://lifeinisrael.blogspot.com/2006/11/sharon-wakes-up.html

I did not write the original spiel. It was written in hebrew. I simply was the first (that I know of) to translate it to English. After I translated it, a few other blogs copied and posted it (I know some gave me credit, maybe there were others as well though that I do not know of.

It seems someone copied it off a blog and sent it out by email. As these emails go, the email has made its rounds and someone sent me the post that I wrote!

Dec 9, 2006

great new choir in the Jewish music scene! (video)

Enjoy!!! and think of them when you are looking for a band for your simcha!

Dec 8, 2006

a late night in Bnei Brak

Tonight I spent in Bnei Brak. I guess I really get around - last night in Jerusalem, tonight in Bnei Brak...

We had our daf yomi siyum for Masechet Beitzah in Bnei Brak. The guy who gives our daf shiur was finishing the daf cycle of shas with his chavrusa (they started learnign together after Beitza, so concluding Beitza for them was completing the whole cycle) and we had the siyum by his chavrusa's house in Bnei Brak.

Bnei brak is completely different than any place else. At nearly 11pm as we were leaving Bnei Brak back to Bet Shemesh, the streets are still teeming with people wandering around. Many people are doing their shabbos shopping, weddings and bar mitzvas are in full swing, people are just wandering around talking to friends. Traffic jams. People are outside with their kids. It is like the middle of the day in Bnei Brak. While in most other places things are winding down and getting quiet, in Bnei Brak it is picking up steam.

back of the bus

I did not write the following letter. It was written and sent out to some mailing lists by the woman it happened to. I will not comment on the story, as even if it is slightly exaggerated (and I do not know if it is or is not), it still leaves one with nothing to say...
(I first saw it posted at Dov Bear where there is a raging debate in the comments... thensaw it on some other sites as well)

I have removed the letter based on information presented to me in the comments that show that the woman involved in the story has no credibility and is well known to make up stories to discredit people. I will try to verify the information.

UPDATE: While I found it very difficult to confirm this story one way or the other Jonathan Rosenblum does confirm the story. At least in the general sense that it happened more or less as stated in the letter, not getting into the details. Jonathan Rosenblum is a man of integrity and I am sure him posting such a story goes against his grain, due to his being an apologist for the Haredi community most of the time. I also happen to know Jonathan Rosenblum and his brother and know him (and his brother) to be a man of honesty and integrity (though I knew him a long time ago before he became famous so he probably does not remember me). If Jonathan Rosenblum confirms the story that is good enough for me.

That being said, the anonymous commenter wrote to me offline and gae me details of himself and the author of the letter. While generally she might be or might not be unreliable, this time she is at least generally reliable (even if it turns out she exaggerated the details of the story).

Therefore, since my goal is not to malign her, nor anybody else, just to publicize and comment on the news, I am now reposting the letter, since we now know it happened.

For the past 5 weeks, I have been waking up at 3:50 a.m. to catch the # 2 bus out of Har Nof to the Kotel. I enjoy davening by the neitz at the Kotel HaKatan in the Moslem quarter. It is peaceful, quiet, and yes, even though I am totally alone - it IS safe. I have never been bothered by the Arabs there in that area.

On several occasions, both men and women have stopped by my seat and asked me to move to the back of the bus. I have politely - and firmly - refused this "invitation". This is not a Mehadrin bus and there are no signs indicating that it is. It is, rather, the arbitrary decision reached without due process by a group that claims it is "the majority" to render the # 2 bus a Mehadrin bus. I checked with Egged - it is not.
After a few weeks, other women decided that they, too, do not enjoy sitting in the back and sat down next to me or behind me. These women were verbally bullied by the other passengers to move to the back. All of them caved. However, 1 woman who had been literally picked up by 2 other women and moved to the back of the bus, came back a few days later, took a seat behind me and adamantly refused to move when beckoned to move to the back. Another woman later sat next to her but moved when other women loudly demanded that she moved. In the meantime, they were leaving me alone and I became somewhat confident that they would continue to leave me alone.
But . . . .Last Friday morning, November 24th, I took my makom kavua on the bus and did my usual thing of just looking out the window. A few stops later, a man who is regularly on this bus, stopped at my seat and said, "I want to sit here. Please move to the back of the bus". I smiled and said, "I'm sorry, I'm not moving but there are 2 seats in front of me, 1 across the aisle - you can sit there". He refused and demanded MY seat.
I was somewhat amused at this childish and arrogant behavior but told him again, politely and quietly, that I am not moving and that if he really, really wants to sit here, he could even sit in the empty seat next to me. But - I'm not moving. This man stared at me for about 10 straight seconds and then spat in my face. Without missing a beat, I jumped up, called him a son-of-a-bitch, and spat back at him. This brought screams from the women calling me a crazy woman. He responded to my response with a push in the face and a punch to the breasts that sent me flying on to the floor. I jumped up and punched him back. At this point, no fewer than 4 other men jumped up - not to defend ME - but to ATTACK me by punching, hitting, slapping, and kicking me to the floor. I was fighting back the whole time but was no match for 4 men in such cramped quarters. I finally got enough aim to kick one man in the privates and he went limping back to his seat in unmistakable agony. (Yes, I DO smile every time I think about it in the aftermath).
But, in the meantime, the "holy" man sat in my seat and had discarded my bag onto the middle of the aisle. I went after him again, demanding my seat back. He spat at me which evoked the same response from me. My snood had come off my head during this scuffle so I knelt down to the floor to find it and the "holy" man kicked me in the face. The kick was so strong that the dirty outline of his shoe could be seen on my right cheek. Within a short amount of time my cheek began to swell and it took no less that 4 Ibuprofens over Shabbos to keep the swelling and the pain down. At the time of the kick, however, I felt no pain - only rage, equally distributed between the Chillul Hashem and the perversion of what some of these Chareidim call "kedusha".

I kicked him back, grabbed his black hat and threw it down the aisle. It was handed back up to him but I grabbed it again, turned it upside down and spat into it. It was grabbed from me and I yelled that he would not get his hat back until I got my snood back. Someone passed up a knitted beret, I said "Todah", and put it on my head. I went back to demanding my seat back but he stared straight ahead, refusing to move. He was being protected by one particular man who held both poles between the seats to block my access.By this time you are most likely asking:
What was the bus driver doing during all this? What about the other passengers? Answer: NOTHING!!!! Other than 4 men protecting him by beating, kicking, punching, slapping me - not one person on the bus came to my assistance. In fact, the women were screaming at me that this was MY fault because "you don't know your place, you stupid American". The wheels on the bus kept rolling along as the bus driver never once stopped the bus or got on his PA to demand order.HOWEVER - almost immediately after the initial spitting, kicking, and punching, 2 men - both secular and whom I've never seen on that bus before - got on the bus with 2 large video cameras and filmed the "activities".
While catching my breath and regaining my strength, I looked around at me and saw men sitting there with their noses in their siddurim as if a woman being beaten and kicked was normal. I began yelling at them: "Is this the Chareidi way of life??? How can you sit there with your noses in your siddurim while a Jewish woman is being beaten and kicked and spat in the face??? Do you think your tefillahs are being answered while you sit there and DO NOTHING????!!! Your tefillahs are being flushed bittul - how can you stand before the Ribbono Shel Olam at the Kotel this morning and expect that Hashem will hear you???? What is wrong with you people???"

And then, I turned to the women: "And - you women! - you let a Jewish woman be treated this way and you say and do NOTHING - ABSOLUTLEY NOTHING! - to help her? Last week it was your trash cans they burned, soon it will be your homes and then it will be you. These men will treat you worse than the Arabs treat their wives and daughters - You are MAKING A HUGE MISTAKE!!! What are you worried about - that if you speak up your daughter won't get a shidduch??? Well - you've perverted the whole thing. If you are wiling to condone this then you will get everything you deserve. You are just as bad as this rasha is!" I then told all of them - men and women - that they could take their Torah learning and their tefillahs and flush them down the toilet because they have learned NOTHING - ABSOLUTLEY NOTHING - and they are a perversion to everything that is kadosh.

Note: During the entire time I was being blocked in the human cage of 4 men, these holy men were pressed against every part of my body. I taunted them asking - "Ah - so this is more tzniut than me sitting there? Or is this really what you all wanted?" One of them actually replied: "Yes, this is more tzniut".As we approached the Old City, I whispered to one of the camera men to get me the police. As one of them attempted to get off, he was blocked by the men and several of the men yelled at him in Hebrew to not get the police. He backed away.

However, when we got off the bus, I attempted to stay with the "holy man" who was cowardly trying to avoid me. I began yelling at the top of my lungs for the police, ran through security and a soldier and police man came and detained him. At this point a bunch of women came up to the police and the soldier and loudly started telling them that this was all my fault, that I had started it by refusing to move to the back of the bus. (Yes, I know, the Kafkaesque nature of it does not elude me either). However, the police and the soldier weren't buying it and demanded that this man wait while they went to get a supervisor.

While waiting, an American woman came up to me and calmly asked me, "Why is it so important to you to sit there? We are the majority - we have decided that we want a separate seating bus." I calmly responded: "Why is it so important to you that I NOT sit there? And who says you are the majority? If you are, then why not use the 2 choices available to you: 1) Petition Egged to make this a Mehadrin bus, or 2) Get your own private hasa'a. But until you succeed in doing either, this is a public bus and anybody can sit wherever they want. Now, let me ask you, is there really more kedusha in men beating, kicking, and spitting at a woman because she won't give up her seat?" She never responded, she just looked down, shrugged, and walked away.

While waiting for the supervisor, several of the "holy" man's friends surrounded him and quickly ran with him escorting him to the tunnel in the men's section of the Kotel. I would not go into the men's section of the Kotel so I waited there mistakenly thinking he had to go out from where he went in. I later learned that one can escape into the Moslem quarter via an exit. This was apparently what he did as the police came back and could not find him. In the meantime, the men with the video cameras showed the film to the police.

And then, one brave soul . . . . .One of the men on the bus came up to me while I was standing with the police and said he would like to help me. He was thoroughly disgusted by what happened and he had witnessed the entire series of events. This man gave the police his name and phone number and offered to be a witness. He said he could not get up to help me because he was blocked by the men beating me and he was sure they would have all ganged up on him, too. Perhaps this is why the bus driver did not stop. I don't know. But, the bus driver did not summon the police at the Kotel, either. Yes - he was wearing a kippa, the black velvet kind.The witness offered to get me a doctor as my face was red and starting to swell but I declined his kind offer and wished him a good Shabbos. The police advised me to make a report at the Old City Police Station (Kishlei) inside Sha'ar Yaffo which I did at 9 a.m. with the commander, Yoram.
And, Sunday morning, November 26 I was back on the # 2 bus in my makom kavua. Curiously missing was the "holy" man and his defenders. And nobody asked me to go to the back of the bus.

Miriam Shear

P.S. I have sent an email to Egged filing a formal complaint. I am asking that the # 2 bus not be granted Mehadrin status as I feel that this privilege has been nullified by the actions and inactions of the # 2 passengers. And YES - you may print this, post it on your web site, forward it, do with it as you please. Covering up what we are afraid will be a Chillul Hashem will not rein in such evil - only exposure. Violence against one's fellow Jews should have a very, very heavy cost until it is no longer "acceptable".

Dec 7, 2006


Rav Yisrael Ariel was arrested a short while ago.

Rav Ariel is the founder and head of Machon Hamikdash - The Temple Institue. He has done amazing work. The arrest is based on a letter he wrote at the time of the evacuation of Amona criticizing the evacuation and the participants.

I just got an sms on my cellphone announcing that there will be a demonstration outside of the police station at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem this afternoon at 2pm (14:00) at the back entrance. I will not be able to make it, but anybody else who can should be encouraged to go show support for Rav Ariel.

Jerusalem the melting pot

Ah, holy Jerusalem. I relish the opportunity to go to Jerusalem. It is exciting and suspenseful. Aside from the fact that you never know what you will run into when you are there, anything from a hafganah (protest that sometimes turns to riots) to terrorism (should never happen, but has happened to me a number of times) to achnassat sefer Torah blocking the road, to you name it.

Aside from all that, it is just simply exhilirating going to Jerusalem. The fresh air. The holy city. The range of different types of people. The unique shops and markets. The neighborhoods full of atmosphere. Oh Jerusalem - if I forget thee, my right hand should wither.

Tonight I had the good fortune to be in Jerusalem. I was there for a learning session for shechita and treifos. As usual, we met in a beis medrash near the great and famous Mir Yeshiva in the Beis Yisroel neighborhood of Meah Shearim.

In the past I wrote about seeing the men learning during their off-hours. Tonight I saw something unusual. It might not actually be unusual, but it struck me as being unusual. What I saw tonight I would have expected to see in YU, Skokie Yeshiva, most of the more modern yeshivas for American boys, etc. So when I saw it in this beis medrash next to the Mir, it was a bit of a surprise, pleasant at that.

In the beis medrash was sitting an avreich learning. Not very unusual, so what's your point Rafi? This avreich looked like your typical "greasy" guy, excuse the terminology, but I do not know another word. He was very skinny with a scraggly beard and a thick set of wild peyos (though not as wild as Brisker guys), his skin was pale as though he never spent a day in the sun, and he was wearing one of the navy blue shapeless button down sweaters they wear in the super yeshivishe yeshivas. You know the type.

That's still just some background info.

So what was so unusual?

He sits down to learn and in addition to his sefer, he opened a laptop in front of him. He was putting down his notes in digital format. Maybe he's writing a sefer, I have no idea. But this guy was the last person on earth I would have expected to be using a computer, let alone in a beis medrash by the Mir Yeshiva! Yet there he sat comfortably in front of his trusty laptop commiting his thoughts and words to his electronic notebook (hmmm, maybe he was blogging?).

I wonder if I would have seen that in bnei Brak....

But that's not it... A short while later, as we are learning, another avreich walks in with his bags. He whips out his sefer and then sure enough pulls out his IBM laptop and places it on the table. He, very comfortably, starts learning and doing whatever he was doing on his laptop (blogging perhaps as well?). he may have been playing Freecell, but it looked like he was committing his notes to his electronic journal.

This guy looked even less likely to be using a computer than the first guy! Similar dress and appearance, but seemed even further from the modern world than the first guy. Man can appearances be deceiving!

Shortly after that a night kollel filled the room with Yerushalmi men in full garb.

Ah, Jerusalem. The melting pot of the Jewish people.

Dec 5, 2006

a new choir in town (video)

book these guys for your next simcha!!

(Hat Tip: Shoshana )

joke of the day

10. Botched Ark Opening - (aka. The undetectable curtain string) Any ark opening delay whatsoever triggers the entire congregation to respond with the "It's on the other side!" scream coupled with some gabbai flailing hand gestures for further instruction and further humiliation.

9. The Asher Bachar Banu, Asher Nasan Lanu Mix-up - The real reason men close their eyes during aliyos : they are praying they remember which line is first.

8. Walking in During Kedusha - Once you see the tippy-toeing Kadosh-Kadosh-Kadosh it's stop-drop-redlight-greenlight-1--2-3-Freeze mode. You take one step in and you've pretty much forfeited getting an aliyah for the next year.

7. The Mashiv HaRuach Skip - If you are chazan and you skip this, people will react as if you just ate bacon. .

6. Beating Chest during SHABBOS Shemona Esrai - You think you are so cool davening without a siddur on shabbos, that is until you realize you are in the middle of Slach Lanu.

5. Scarfing: When the Only Tallis Left is The Scarf - In an Orthodox shul, the Scarf tallis has the instant ability of making you look like mix between the pope, Amelia Earhart, and someone who has completely no clue of what they are doing.

4. The Delayed Galila: When the torah is taking longer to dress than your wife, you know your in trouble.

3. Mourners' Confusion: You've just began to belt out one of the most emotionally stirring kaddish recitations of your entire mourning period when suddenly half the congregation screams: "EHHHHHHHH AAAAH NNNNNUUU SHHHHH!!!" - which is actually the compassionate way of saying in Hebrew,"Kaddish isn't said now, stupid".

2. Sitting in Someone's Seat - How was I supposed to know it was the Rabbi's seat ?

1. The 1.5 column Hagbah - You know what they say about guys who do small hagbahs...

Dec 4, 2006

soqotd (Stupid Olmert Quote Of The Day)

Today PM Ehud Olmert said something very stupid. He was meeting with kids in a school in the northern town of Nahariya. He was in the school in which Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser had attended. He was asked about the war and why he stopped it without having achieved his stated goal and purpose of returning the abducted soldiers to israel.

His response was, "it is preferable that they spend a little more time in captivity than having more soldiers die".

In other words, it was not worth it. The price to get the boys back was too high.

Let's not forget that the motto of the army, of every army, is never to leave a soldier in the field. An army goes after and protects its soldiers at all costs, yet PM Olmert is saying they should sit in captivity.

Let's not forget that these same people are the ones responsible for the disappearance of Ron Arad, Zachary Baumel, Zvi Feldman, and Yehuda Katz (Guy Hever simply disappeared and as far as I know we do not know that Hezbollah, Lebanon, Syria or Iran were involved, though they might have been, so he is not in the list), well over 20 years ago. Is that the attitude we used in reference to those soldiers? Better they should sit in captivity a little longer? Is Ehud Olmert signing them off to the same fate?

Let us not forget that these boys have families. These families must not be too happy to hear that the Prime Minister did not feel their childrens return was important enough. Let them sit in captivity a little longer.

Let us not forget that the stated goal of the war, the whole impetus for war, was the abduction of the two soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

Let us not forget that many soldiers died in war attempting to retrieve Udi and Eldad safely and by Olmert saying that "it is preferable that they spend a little more time in captivity than having more soldiers die" he is saying that the all soldiers that did die and all the soldiers that were injured and all the soldiers that put themselves at risk was all for naught. There was no need for them to go to war. The ones that died already - oh well.

Let us not forget that the basic responsibility of an army is to protect its soldiers at all costs.

Let us not forget that the basic responsibility of a country and its government is to protect its borders and provide security to its citizens. The purpose of an army is just for that purpose, even if at times it entails soldiers deaths, sad as that may be. By saying it was not worth soldiers dying for that cause, PM Olmert is absconding his responsibility. The enemy sees that we are not willing to protect our borders nor to provide security for our citizens.

There is something rotten at the top.

Dec 3, 2006

vandalism for halachic reasons

My daughters kindergarten has been the subject of some debate between (some of) the parents and the administration. The parents want certain issues addressed, such as covering the sandbox at night so the cats do not sleep and poop where the kids will be playing and extra cover for more shade in the play area, along with some other issues. One more of those issues was the security of the grounds of the kindergarten. The gates are kept unlocked and open at nights.

The parents put together some sort of petition to be presented to the administration with a list of requests and concerns.

On Friday the school sent home with the kids a letter addressing the issues raised by the parents.

Much of the administrators resonse was reasonable and showed he is dealing with the concerns of the parents.

There was one response of his I take issue with. Regarding the issue of locking the gates at night and over the weekends. Now personally, I do not care if it is open or not. The gate is not one that would keep anybody out who is trying to get in and we live in a fairly sleepy neighborhood. I am not paranoid and while basic security measures must be adhered to, I am not someone who insists on extra in this realm.

However, his response to the concerns of the parents (many of whom do care about this issue I guess) irked me a bit.

He wrote (I do not have the paper in front of me so I am quoting (and translating to English) from memory): The front and back gate to the school grounds have been locked in the past. A number of times the lock was broken and replaced. One time the gate was broken in a way that could not be fixed (my comment: without having to replace the whole gate). It was then explained to me that this gate must be kept open in order for the eruv to be kosher for shabbos.

In other words the guys who check, fix and construct the eruv in the neighborhood (and it is referring to the "eruv mehudar", not the city mandated eruv) vandalised the gate and destroyed private property.

I do not know why this gate needs to be open for the eruv to work. I might even ask one of those guys. I would not care if they left it open. As a matter of fact, I personally gain from it being open, because I use those grounds as a shortcut to shul on Motzei Shabbat. But that is not the point.

These guys are vandals. They could just as easily have approached the administrator of the school and requested he keep the fence open. They could have worked with him to find a solution that would allow the gates to be closed and secure and still find a way to work in the eruv, maybe altering the route slightly. A solution could have been found. Or they could have not found a solution but asked/requested that the gate stay open. I am sure the administrator would have been more than willing to work with them to find a solution (I know he would, because he is not someone who would take a stand against the rabbi who heads that eruv).

Instead they preferred to take the initiative and do irreparable damage to private property so they would not be inconvenienced. And this is what they call the "Eruv Mehudar" that meets the strictest and highest standards of halacha.
I guess destroying private property is not one of the criteria to meet when deciding the standards of mehudar.

Nov 30, 2006

DIY candles

In Israel it is very common for people to light their menoras (in Israel we call them hanukia) with oil, usually of the olive variety, rather than with candles.

Lighting with olive oil is considered a more mehudar way of fulfilling the mitzva of Hanuka. The light is considered nicer, along with the more similar commemoration of the miracle which happened with olive oil and the menora in the Mikdash was lit daily with olive oil.

The problem with using olive oil is that it is very messy. You have to pur the oil into these little cups. You have to prepare the wicks. You have to soak the wicks a bit in oil so the flame will be a nice one. Basically it is a messy job. Oil is sure to spill and it is sure to get all over your hands, table and likely on your shirt as well.

A number of years ago a product came on the market. This product was meant to deal with the messiness of preparing the oil for the menora. This product is a set of 44 prefilled cups of olive oil with wicks already inserted in the cups. All you do is take out the appropriate number of cups per day, put them in the menora and you are ready to go. No mess. And the flame is beautiful because the wick has been soaking (for a long time) in the oil.

I always rejected using this product. It felt special to actually prepare the wicks myself rather (or have my kids do it). Like I was busying myself with doing the mitzva. I always figured there must be something better about doing it yourself rather than buying it pre-made.

But is it better? I do not know. The past couple of years I have not been so sure. It gets pretty messy. the flame is never as nice. It takes a few times attempting to light it before the flame catches decently. When lighting the menora I always say this is the last time we do this - next year we buy the prepared cups and forget this mess.

Thinking about it, I do not know what is better. Is there something to the thought that busying myself with the mitzva is better, even if it does not come out as nice? Maybe it is still considered nicer because I toiled towards the fulfillment of the mitzva?

Or maybe not. Maybe preparing the candles is not a mitzva at all and it does not matter whether you prepare it by hand or just go buy it already prepared. Maybe spending a bit more money so it comes out cleaner and nicer is better than being "cheap", saving the money, doing it myself and it not coming out as nice.

I am still not sure which way to go, but I am more open to buying it this year than I have been in the past, though still undecided.

question for other Israeli bloggers

I am thinking about putting advertising on this blog. That way I would be able to earn a little money for the time spent writing here. Much of that money (if any money is actually made from advertising on my site) would go towards improving the usability of this blog and improving features.

The question I pose to you is what blog advertising service have you found to be the most beneficial and efficient? I ask this of Israeli bloggers because most of the issues I blog about are Israeli in nature and therefore Israeli bloggers would know how the relevant advertising works and earns more so than general and even jewish bloggers (the ad services usually pair ads with topics of posts).

However, I would appreciate feedback from all of you, my readers. Would advertisements hurt your reading experience? Think of other blogs you read and think about whether the ads on those sites bother you, help you (find products and sites you did not know about and need or find useful) or none of the above (e.g. indifferent, don't notice, etc.)

Also, one more thing - if anybody has recommendations for a specific blog advertising service that you feel is better than the others (better ads, gives the blogger more control, earns more money, etc) let me know your thoughts. As well, if you kno of one I should stay away from, let me know.

Thanks in advance for your time and assistance.

You can either leave your suggestions in the comments, or email me directly at israeli.jew at gmail dot com

thoughts on the strike

The strike is over. The Labor Courts last night declared the strike must be ended immediately and that the workers must return to work.

I do not know which side is right in this case. I feel horrible about the poor employees who have not had their salaries paid in months, but it is not so clear the government is at fault for that.

Regardless of who is at fault, I think the strike was wrong. Maybe they should have held a more limited strike and it would have been more appropriate. Maybe shut down a few of the government offices that were involved in the problem.

It was wrong to shut down the airport and cause aggravation to travellers. People have lost lots of money because of the strike, along with lots of time and anxiety. They have had business trips delayed causing losses, vacations must be rescheduled effecting cancellation and rescheduling fees, etc. The one port of entry to Israel should be excluded from any strike. It should be made illegal for airport employees to strike.

The trains should not have been on strike. People just want to get to work and home. It took me 2 hours to get home from work last night. I had to take a bus to the bus station to get another bus that takes a circuitous route to my home. I had to pay extra (I already have a monthly ticket on the train) because of the strike. I had to find rides at times. I had to sit cramped in overcrowded buses because regular methods of transportation were not available. The trains have nothing to do with the issues of the strike.

The ports should not have been closed. Israel lost millions of shekels because of ports closed. No imports were let in and no exports were let out. The ports have nothing to do with the problems of the strike.

The kindergartens should not have been affected. The assistants had no reason to strike. By law with no assistant in the kindergarten, the teacher cannot open the clss, unless there is a voluntary replacement (who meets certain requirements). That means people had to stay home from work to take care of their kids who had no school, or alternatively take their kid to work with them if possible.

All the strikers did was lose support among the general public. People feel bad for them. people were saying that this strike was sort of justified. After a day of spending hours trying to figure out how to get to and from work in very uncomfortable and expensive methods, people changed their tunes. By the end of the day yesterday there was very little supprot for the unpaid workers. People were grumbling why they had to suffer like this and there was no reason for such a large strike.

I came to a revelation. If you want to lose your cause (marketing-wise) go on strike. it is the quickest way to lose support. You might get a short term victory because you hold someone over the barrel with few choices but in the long run you have lost. You hurt people who had nothing to do with the problem and lost all their support.

Nov 29, 2006

Lebanon, Arabs and Israel part 7 (final video)

Brigitte Gabriel part 7 (FINAL)

Lebanon, Arabs and Israel part6 (video)

Brigitte Gabriel part 6

Lebanon, Arabs and Israel part5

Brigitte Gabriel part 5

Lebanon, Arabs and Israel part4

Brigitte Gabriel part 4

Lebanon, Arabs and Israel part3 (video)

Brigitte Gabriel part 3

Lebanon, Arabs and Israel part 2 (video)

Brigitte Gabriel part 2

Lebanon, Arabs and Israel, part 1 (video)

Brigitte Gabriel Part 1

striking out

We all thought when Amir Peretz was appointed Defence Minister and not Finance Minister that the days of the general strikes were over and behind us. No more could Amir Peretz wreak havoc in order to flex his muscle as head of the Labor Union.

We were wrong.

Today and for the foreseeable future there will be a general strike of the Labor Union in Israel. The impetus for the strike was the fact that many (I think 80) municipalities have not paid employees for many months, some as long as 12 months! There are some other issues as well, such as changes to some pension plans, but the main issue is the unpaid employees.

So all government offices are on strike and nobody can get services. The airport is shut down so nobody can come and go. The trains are on the blink so it is pure hell getting to and from work. Ports are closed so no imports and exports will be happening. Among many other basic needs and necessities that will be put on hold until the negotiations bear success.

At first I thought this strike was one of the most, if not the most, justified strikes in the history of the Labor Union. These poor employees have not been paid salaries in up to 12 months!! That is ridiculous and should nto happen. This is the only weapon available to them. Stop working. Make it uncomfortable for the people, and by extension the government.

I heard some guy on the radio today. He was being interviewed because he has not been paid his salary in 12 months. He has no money. He has used up all his savings that have been socked away for kids education and his retirement because he has no had a salary for the past 12 months. he needed that money for basic living expenses. He paid fees and fines for breaking savings plans. Every shekel counts, literally, for him and he never knows if he will be able to feed his kids the next meal.

It is a shonda that it has come to this.

Then I heard an interview with a government minister, Meir Sheetrit. I never liked him, even when he was part of the Likud Party, let alone now that he is in Kadima. However what said in the interview sounded sensible. He was being interviewed because last year he was Assistant Minister of Finance and is partially being blamed as the cause for the current strike.

They asked Sheetrit how it came to this and why the government is not paying the salaries. I did not understand everything he said because I am not completely clear and the interaction between municipal government and federal government, but here it is to the best of my understanding. He explained that the employees are not employees of the government. If the government comes in and bails them out now, it will set a bad precedent. He explained the deficit of the affected municipalities is above 14 billion shekels(!). The government does not have that kind of money to bail them out with. He asked why they woke up when it hit 14 billion and did not take care of it when it hit 1 billion . Where were the accountants who were being paid to deal with this all along. He therefore claims it is not the governments responsibility, nor should it be.

He added that the government had been in negotiations with the municipalities and offered to bail them out at times over the past few years with certain conditions, such as putting into place plans for recovery. These plans would include layoffs of employees not needed, cancellation of projects deemed extra, cancellation of departments that are considered wasteful and "fat", etc. among others. The municipalities, and the Labor Union, refused and therefore it has come to this.

Now I do not know who is right and who is wrong. I feel bad that the poor guy has not had a salary in 12 months and can barely put food on his table. I cannot even imagine what that would be like and what I would do if I was in his situation! I feel bad for the people trying to travel, be it for business, vacations, health issues, family simchas that they might now miss. All these people will likely lose lots of money due to rescheduling and cancellations. I feel bad for the people (like me) who just need to get to work in the morning and home in the evening who now have to go through delays of hours looking for alternate transportation and extra expenses incurred.

I do not know who is right, but I hope they negotiate an end to this strike quickly.

We did think of some creative solutions to the strike, or at least those aspects of it affecting us. One such solution included contacting Arkady Gaydamak and requesting he evacuate the residents of Bet Shemesh to Tel Aviv due to our extreme "traumatic" situation. He would hire buses for us and take us to Tel Aviv so we could go to work.

Another such solution was asking Gaydamak to purchase Israel Railways and get the trains running. At least that way he would gain the profits of the railway in addition to helping all the travellers.

Another solution suggested was have Gaydamak pay off all those salaries that have not been paid. This way he would be helping people in financial ruin and emotional distress and there would be no reason for the strike.

There were some others, some suggested on radio and some just in personal conversation, and they all involved Gaydamak coming to the rescue.

And that is really the pickle we are in. Nobody expects the government to actually do its job and take care of the people and provide us with safety and security, so Gaydamak comes in and fills the void, and then the government criticizes him for it.

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