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Jul 31, 2007

emailing during services

I just read in the newspaper (here in the US of A) about a study that was conducted regarding the proliferation of checking email while in curch. The study showed that about 12% of Americans check and send email while sitting in the pews. Atlanta was one of the highest communities at 22% and Chicago was near the low end with 9%.

I do not think church is any different than synagogue, though I am not aware of any specific studies on the use of email in shul. I would guess we would see similar numbers, if a study was done.

I know that in Israel many shuls have signs up that request people coming in to pray turn off their cellphones. I have not seen similar signs in shuls here in the US, but I am sure there are shuls that do have such signs.

Then again, the signs do not really help much. There is one shul I daven in in which the gabbai himself answers his phone during davening (he is not davening at the time, but present during other minyanim) and talks briefly. Plenty of people answer their phones and either talk, or make noises to let the person know he is davening, or answer questions with hms and uh uhs, or leave the shul when the phone rings. And there are some people who either set their phones on silent and do not answer or turn them off completely.

And that is talking on the phone. The study I mentioned above is regarding not talking but checking and sending email, which is basically a silent and unnoticeable (to others) activity.

Even some of the people who do not (or try not to) talk on the phone while in shul, do read and respond to text messages they recieve while in shul during services. I do as well. I try not to, but sometimes I cannot resist the urge to send out a quick and witty reply to a text message I received. I do not have email or internet access on my cellphone, so I am not guilty of emailing others while talking to God, but I have been guilty of the occassional SMS.

I frequently see people in shul checking their email or surfing the internet (to check the exchange rates, the stock market, on a busy news day to see updated news, etc..) .

Why do we do this? Do we not recognize and believe that we really are talking with God? Are we just in shul out of habit? Are we not paying attention enough to what we are doing?

There might be some of that, but I think most people who go to shul to daven do it not out of habit, but out of belief that it is right and proper. If it was just a habit, it would be easier to stay at home and daven. It is faster, convenient, and easy. I have done so in the past at times in my life when davening was more of a habit to me, but I almost always go to shul now because I believe it to be the correct and appropriate way of davening.

So I think most people who go probably do not just go out of habit. On the other hand, davening does have an element of boredom to it. There is a lot of time wasted in shul during the services. Often the services are moving at a slower pace than the congregants like. It is difficult to pay attention the whole time, even for someone who tries to pay attention and daven properly.

Maybe shuls need to speed up the services a bit so there will be less "dead" time available causing people to lose focus and start emailing and internet surfing. Maybe there is a different solution.

It used to be that if someone was bored or distracted for a few minutes, he just daydreamed or thought about other things. Now, with the world literally at our fingertips, it is easy to suddenly spend even a moment of boredom with other things to do. So where we used to daydream we now check our email or the stock market.

I do not think the reasons for checking email are new. I think the source of it is the same boredom that was always there. It is just a new thing that is available for those down moments.

Jul 26, 2007

impressions from travelling

Two biggies right away...

1. No Birkat Kohanim. In Israel the kohanim do birkat kohanim every day. In chutz la'aretz, only on the holidays (aside from sefardim who do it every day)..

2, realizing how great daf yomi really is. For someone who is travelling, it would be hard to keep to his learning schedule. He does not have his chavrusa, his regular shiur, he might be tired, distracted, etc.. With daf yomi, none of the matters. Wherever you go you just join a local shiur and pick up from where you left off...

setting stereotypes

I was aware of the reputation Israeli travelers have as being loud, obnoxious, brash, and more. We read often in the papers, after vacation season, about how certain hotels in various cities will not rent rooms to Israelis because of how Israelis take stuff from the rooms, from the towels and robes, to the sinks (literally according to some stories I have read in the past)!

So this was a pleasant surprise.

We just flew on Alitalya Airlines to the USA. While the trip was long and tiring, the flight itself was pretty good. The kids were well behaved (or as well behaved as one could expect from kids locked up in a tin can hurtling through the air).

The stewards and stewardesses were very friendly and helpful all the way through.

We asked one of the stewards for a couple cups of drink. He came back with a bottle and said to just take the whole bottle for the whole family. I have never seen that before. He then did it again two more times during the flight, giving us whole bottles for the whole family when being asked for one cup. They were helpful with our kosher meals, and friendly in general.

That steward told my wife, when she commented how nice it was that he gave us the bottles, that the Jewish kids who fly with them are so well behaved, much more so than other kids, and he loves helping them out...

So, a cynic would now say that there is a difference between a "Jewish" kid and an "Israeli" kid and the difference would clearly be based on religion. I do not think, at least for this discussion, that difference is valid. I do not think he differentiated so, based on the context of the discussion.

The same steward told us a story. He was asking for some advice what he should do in the future in similar situations. The story happened: a couple of religious Jews got on the plane at JFK to Israel via Milan. There was a serious delay of something like 4 hours at JFK due to weather. They were on the plane preparing for takeoff and these Jews asked about their connecting flight in Milan to Israel.

He told them that it is too late and they already missed the connecting flight. The next connecting flight from Milan to Israel would be 10pm. That clearly was not an option for these two,, as that would already be during the shabbat and prohibited for them to fly on it. They asked to be removed from the plane, as they preferred to be stuck in NY for shabbos, rather than be stuck in Milan for shabbos.

He could not do that at that point and said they would have to go to Milan and find something there. He tried to help them with arrangements for shabbos (he said he tried calling some of his Jewish friends to ask for someone in the community who would help them, but his friends were on vacation so he could not reach them).

He did not know what happened to them and what they did. He did want to understand the situation and why they had been stuck, and what he could do if a similar situation arises in the future. We helped him come up with some ideas, such as having prepared the number of a couple different reps from the Jewish community in Milan, such as the Chabad house, a local Rabbi, etc.

This steward is doing an amazing job. he is performing beyond his immediate scope and is trying to do his job well and satisfy his customers, even beyond his immediate responsibility.

But, my point is, again, he says he wanted to help them, and he felt bad for their predicament, because he enjoys serving the Jewish passengers, as they are so much better behaved and nicer than the other passengers.

Some Jews must have made a kiddush hashem with stellar behavior to give this guy such a good impression. Kol Hakavod to whoever they might have been. On the other hand, we cana lso see how our performance and behavior really can give someone a good or bad impression of all jews, whether it is fair or not.

Jul 24, 2007

"Happening" at Nitzan

This is a public service announcement...

The second yahrtzeit for the Gush Katif communities falls out on Thursday. They were destroyed two years ago on 11 Av, 5765.

To commemorate the yahrtzeit, they are planning an event for this Thursday in Nitzan with former Gush Katif and Northern Shomron residents at 5:30 pm.

There will be performances by great musicians, such Ariel Zilber, Aaron Razel, Yishai Lapidot, Mendy Gerufi and Sinai Tur.

Entrance is free of charge.

There will be transportation available from areas around the country. For information call Ezrat Menachem 054-7-770631.

Jul 23, 2007

Rabbi Leff on kinos (video)

Rabbi Zev Leff gives over the Tisha B'Av kinos every year with a lengthy drasha explaining various kinos. The event is very popular and he draws hundreds of people to his Moshav, Moshav Matityahu, to listen to his explanations.

His style has been imitated in many communities and shuls, but there is nothing like the original.

Here is a clip of 10 minutes of last years kinos. It is only 10 minutes out of the whole thing which lasts something like 4 or 5 hours.

Jul 22, 2007

IBL baseball cards

Just when you thought the world was coming to an end, as baseball came to Israel, the next piece of news should surely be harbinger of the Messiah.

The Israel Baseball League in coordination with Jewish Major Leaguers are now printing baseball cards for the inaugural season of the Israel Baseball league.

Remember flipping Topps cards of Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Dale Murphy (I have cousins in Atlanta), Jody Davis, Leon Durham and the like (just some of the players I randomly remember growing up watching)?

Now you can flip, trade or just collect cards with players answering to names like Aryeh Rosenbaum, Jeff Mor, Aaron Levin, Rafi Stern, and the like...

My son, the terrorist in training

I am not a very creative person. Nor am I very imaginative or handy.

My son, on the other hand, is pretty creative and handy. Or maybe he just copies his friends. I don't know.

He built himself a clubhouse. I can honestly say I did not help him at ll. I did not even knock in one nail or hold one board for him. This clubhouse is like a castle. Now he is workign on building a second floor to it. He also hooked up all sorts of electrical things; lights, buzzer, fan, and more all wired to 9 volt batteries...

Now he is training to be a terrorist. I came home today to find him assembling a bomb. He was stripping the "explosive" off a sparkler. He put it all into a bottle cap. He taped the bottle cap to another bottle cap and insrted a fuse.

He claims that the pressure will cause the explosive to explode and shoot the caps into the air very high (he says as high as the height of the building). He is waiting for dark to set it off.

Wish me luck.

Signs of the times

We were in Yerushalayim for shabbos. I took advantage and walked to the kotel to daven vasikin. The walk to the kotel at a brisk pace and going through Shaar Shchem (Damascus Gate) took half an hour exactly.

The walk back, also going through Shaar Shchem, took 40 minutes. On the way back I walked slower so I could take the time to read the various "pashkivilim" hung around Jerusalem. I always enjoy reading the pashkevilim, and it always seems there is something exciting going on in religious Jerusalem. This week is no exception.

I am going to give you a sampler of the various signs hanging around the religious neighborhoods of Jerusalem. I do not remember them all verbatim, so some I will just paraphrase.

(note: many of them had to do with the 5 people arrested in the protests a couple of weeks ago in Bet Shemesh. Members of the Satmar/ Neturei Karta sect in Jerusalem have been protesting for their release. So when you see any that say "the abducted 5" that is what it is referring to)

"In the coming days we will be submitting a formal petition to the United Nations Offices in Jerusalem demanding international forces for protection from the Zionist brutality against Charedi Judaism"

"To the suffering children of the abducted 5, we share your pain and will not rest until the abducted 5 are free"

"Reb Chaim Brisker said, "Some say that Zionism was a way to establish a state and uprooting religion was just a medium. They were mistaken - Zionism's goal was uprooting religion. Creating the state was just a medium.""

"Prepare for protests demanding the release of the abducted 5 from the cellars of the Zionist Inquisition".

"It is prohibited to burn garbage bins and destroy traffic lights and security fences during any protests"

There were some signs about various programs for the upcoming shemitta year requesting people sign up through them

There was a sign, very long and vague, about some problem with education in yeshiva ketanas. I did not understand what the problem was, but the sign decried the situation.

There were signs about various trips available for the upcoming vacation. I was particularly disappointed about a sign that informed about a visit to the graves of the children of Aharon Hakohen, Elazar and Isamar, in Givat Pinchas (Arabic name of village was Adua, or something like that). This was scheduled for Rosh Chodesh Av, the yahrtzeit of Aharon. I was disappointed because I saw the sign too late and missed it by a few days.

There were flyers strewn around some of the streets about some Rabbi/Rosh Yeshiva (Rabbi Yezdi) who was an adulterer and thief. It described some story how he stole $70,000 from a student. It described how he sent his thugs to beat people up who testified against him in a recent din torah in Beis Din. It also described how during the din torah, the Badatz, for the first time ever, had to call in the services of the Zionist police anti-riot (Yassamnikim) unit to quell the disturbances caused by his thugs.

Lots of excitement in Jerusalem....

HH #126 is up

at Reb Chaim HaQoton....

Jul 20, 2007

Adventures in Eretz Yisrael: Hebron: Cave of the Patriarchs (M'aras Ha'Machpela)

It was not really much of an adventure, but I guess it qualifies for my "adventures in Eretz Yisrael" series...

I have not been to Hebron in a long time, probably close to a year, so I decided I really wanted to go. I tried to a few weeks ago but was not successful.

Today was going to be the day. To go for "vasikin" nowdays in the Mearat Hamachpela means getting up at 4 am or so, as davening begins about 5:15. Any later than the vasikin minyan is difficult for me because of the timing, so it was either 4 am or bust.

I asked a few of my friends who like to go there if they wanted to join me. I figured if I had people waiting for me it would increase the chances of my waking up on time. None of them could make it today, so I was on my own. As I got home late last night someone called me up that he heard I was going and he would like to join me, as he is here on a short visit. So we set the schedule for me to pick him up at 4:30 am.

And off we go. I have not driven to Hebron in many years, so I was a bit wary. All these years when I have gone, I have gone with groups on arranged buses. Now I was driving in the early morning darkness, through what is considered some fairly dangerous areas, and I am not totally familiar with the way, especially once I get into the immediate area.
So off we go. As I said, it was pretty uneventful. We drove down to Kiryat Arba and went through Kiryat Arba to get to the Mearat Hamachpela. After parking we went in, joined the minyan that was just beginning and davened.
After davening the congregation gathered around the bima and performed Hataras Nedarim (annulment of vows). I asked the gabbai why they did so and his response was that it is an ancient custom of the Ari Hakadosh to do Hataras Nedarim every Friday morning, and so they do.
Afterwards, we checked out the various rooms and davened a bit in each one.


On the way out of the Meara, on the side of the building there is a set of blackened stones. History has it that the Jews were not allowed past the 7th step (stone set) for many hundreds of years during the Crusaders, the Mamluk rule, and beyond. Just beyond the 7th step there is a hole in the wall. The tradition says that that hole is directly opposite the set of graves of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in the internal cave. The tradition is to pray beside that stone, as it is the closest and most direct point connecting us to the Patriarchs. So we stopped there for a bit and prayed some more.

And then we headed back to Bet Shemesh.

Jul 19, 2007

Only in Israel

Are you familiar with those signs on the backs of trucks and delivery vans that say "How am I driving? Call now at 123-4567"?

Well, here is a new variation of that sign....

For the Hebrew challenged among us, it says, "How am I behaving? Call now at 050-767204 (this must be an old picture because about 2 years ago Israel changed over the cellular system to use 10-digit phone numbers..)

new blog - kol hakavod on first post

Rabbi Tal Zwecker has started a new blog called RBS A News. His first post is about charedim in RBS A who are upset about the graffiti about tznius and decided to clean it up....

Rabbi Richman on rebuke, for Shabbos Chazon (video)

Here is a shiur from Rabbi Chaim Richman for this shabbos, Shabbos Chazon, the shabbos before 9 Av.

new kina for 9 Av from Machon Shilo

Machon Shilo has published a Hebrew-language dirge ("kinna") for the destroyed communities of Gush Katif and the northern Samaria. The dirge is to be recited as part of the Jewish Ninth of Av Service that commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Jewish Temples on this day, by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and by the Romans in 70 CE. The Jewish Communities of Gush Katif and northern Samaria were destroyed on the Tenth of Av in 2005. According to the Talmud, this is the very same day that the greater part of the Temple was destroyed. The motivation of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in destroying these communities has been the subject of considerable speculation.

The dirge, authored by Rav Yehoshua Buch of Machon Shilo, is written in the style of Rabbi Eliezer HaKalir, the 6th century composer of liturgical poetry. Rav Buch's dirge is based on "How the Rose of Sharon Sits", HaKalir's dirge of 24 stanzas about the 24 shifts of the Priests ("Kohanim") in the Jewish Temple ("Bet HaMiqdash"). Certain expressions are borrowed from Rabbi Eliezar's original version as well as from the first chapter of the Book of Lamentations ("Megilat Eicha"). The stanzas are arranged according to the Hebrew alphabetical order. The last line of each stanza ends with the name of one of the destroyed communities.

"This is religious poetry that truly speaks from the heart. It eloquently captures the feelings of the day, of both the destruction of our Holy Temple and the holy communities of Gush Katif and northern Samaria," says Rabbi David Bar-Hayim, the head of Machon Shilo.

"Many words in the dirge have double meanings and reflect the bitterness caused by this modern tragedy. Rabbi Buch has expended great effort to adhere to the historical style of the traditional dirge. All words of his dirge—except for one—are found in the Hebrew Bible although grammar may have necessitated minor changes. My only regret is that Rabbi Buch's beautiful poetry reflects our current state of mourning rather than celebration. I look forward to the day when we will be able to publish poetry celebrating the rebuilding of the destroyed communities and our Holy Temple."

The dirge can be downloaded from the Machon Shilo website at http://machonshilo.org/PDF/Machon_Shilo_Gush_Katif_Kinna.pdf

Steven Spielberg Film Archive completed

The Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive has been completed and is online..There is plenty appropriate material there for the Nine Days....

Jul 18, 2007

and people say everything is crazy in Israel!

A lot of people complain about Israel that it is so hard to do anything here.

You can't just go and order something you need. You never know if you will get what you ordered. You have no idea if it will come in working order. You have no idea if it will come looking like the one you looked at in the catalog/website/brochure.

I now have proof that this is not unique to Israel. people who use this as a way to kvetch about Israel are just kvetchers in general.

We are planning a trip to the US. We are scheduling a trip for one day to NJ during the trip. We have been attempting to rent a car for the day. I tried to do so via the Internet using the various rental company websites, along with the discount websites,

We need a large car. On the various websites it is very difficult to figure out the sizes of the cars and how many passengers they hold. When finally making my way through all that, and selecting the appropriate car, which was only available on a couple of the sites, I ran into trouble.

I called the rental company to ask a couple of questions to be clear. One was whether GPS was available, as I do not know my way around the area and do not want to spend half the day getting lost. Some said yes, some said it depends on the day. Ok, no problem.

Then after getting everything clear I would say, ok, I want to make the reservation for car x or something that size. The operator would say, each time, that they do not have that size car at Newark. What do you mean? On the website where I just spent the last 45 minutes wading through irrelevant information it says it is available???

Sorry sir, we do not rent this size vehicle from Newark.

Eventually we found one that did and booked it.

But man, people just provide bad service and incomplete information. It is easier than making sure the website is accurate. It does not matter where you live. It has nothing to do with Israel.

Jul 17, 2007

"not good enough" "unacceptable"

The PA leadership has responded to Ehud Olmert's goodwill gesture by saying it is "not good enough" and "unacceptable" and that Israel ignored the criteria set by the "PA Ministry of Prisoners".

I am not sure what was not good enough, and how the PA can even have criteria for a free gift.

This was a goodwill gesture taken by Israel in an effort to prop up the failing government in the PA led by Mahmoud Abbas. It is not good enough? Were they offering something in return? Gilad Shalit's freedom perhaps? Maybe no more rockets on Sderot, in exchange for 256 prisoners freedom and another 158 given amnesty?

They were giving nothing and getting a free present. But the present is not good enough.

The real problem is that Olmert still thinks he is making goodwill gestures when he does these things. The PA just says these moves are worthless. Olmert likes to ignore reality.

Harry Potter and religious Jewry were always on shaky ground...

This book will be the cause of an earthequake in Israel! The next anti-religious storm is brewing!!!

The next Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last in the popular series, is due to be released on July 21. That falls out on shabbos.

Shas minister Eli Yishai, Minister of Industry Trade and Labor is threatening that any bookstore that will hold an opening sale on shabbos will be fined, as per the Basic Laws in Israel of the shabbos being closed for business.

I can see it now - all along, every shabbos of the year we have stores open for business, with more opening up all the time. Normally it gets ignored unless it gets close to a Haredi area. But now with the upcoming Harry Potter release, this can be expected to be a very popular and crowded event, even at 2 am as the book stores are planning. So because it is expected to be popular, the ministers are threatening it. It probably will not matter. The book stores would probably take the fines, considering how many books they can expect to sell.

The funniest though is what MK Avraham Ravitz said. Ravitz said, "Aside from the book and its poor content, which serves as education for teenagers in Israel and the world in this new age, the book chains add insult to injury with their intent to hold this celebration while massively desecrating the Shabbat, and by violating the law that prohibits employing workers on Shabbat".

Aside from the book and its poor content - <sarcasm>that would be compared to religious novels and books which are well known for their great content and quality... ..

Halfway done

Only a couple of days left!!!

Have any of you participated? What did you think about it?

Nahal Haredi (video)

This is a new video of the Nahal Haredi in the news.....

Jul 16, 2007

grad speech (video)

This is the Law School graduation speech of Ezra Landes from Pepperdine University. He is originally from Skokie, Illinois (no I do not know him). The speech is enjoyable, humorous and inspiring with lessons from his great great grandfather Rav Tzi Pesach Frank, a former Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Today is the day!

If you can get there, I can't think of anything more appropriate to do during the 9 days....

Jul 15, 2007

quote of the day (qotd) - Shimon Peres

This post is being dedicated to two people:
  1. members and supporters of Shas
  2. all those who supported Shimon Peres for President on the belief that the position of the presidency has no power and he will not be able to affect any left-wing policies from the position.

We have to get rid of the territories,” “I won't make any secrets of my mind. I shall respect the minority. I shall not insult them,” “I changed my position. I didn't change my beliefs and concepts

Shimon Peres said the above statements during the ceremony of his inauguration into the presidency of Israel. He did not even wait one day before letting everyone know what his goals and objectives are going to be as President. He has no intention of being a figurehead and simply greeting basketball champions and sumo wrestlers. he has every intention of being a political President.

Kol Hakavod.

HH #50000 is up

Yid With Lid is hosting this week's edition of Haveil Havalim. That would be edition number 50,000. Yeah, you read that right. Go over to HH to see how we jumped from 124 to 50,000....

a breath of fresh air

My Rosh Yeshiva from my yeshiva days was a fairly eccentric fellow. That is pretty common among these "iluy" types, that they are kind of quirky.

His main quirk was that he cared about nothing else aside from getting the right pshat with clarity in the gemara.

Nothing else mattered.

He did not care about appearances. He did not care about what people thought. He wanted to learn, to teach, to get the true pshat, and that the boys should learn. That's it.

Any time he tried to change something in the yeshiva for appearance sake (e.g.. to make it more "yeshivish"), it was always because other people pressured him to do so. They would tell him if he wants a better caliber boy, he has to do x, y or z. A different rebbe would say if he wanted to attract boys from yeshiva x he had to implement y or they would not come. A mashgiach would say they had to change q so the yeshiva would have a better name. Sometimes he became convinced of it and followed the advice, and sometimes not.

One thing I remember clearly was how he would run for the bus. At the time the yeshiva was in a different neighborhood than the one he lived in. He would travel to and from by city bus. That's right - you could often see this big-time rosh yeshiva sitting on an Egged bus muttering to himself (he was always learning).

The most interesting thing was to see him run for the bus. If he was caught up in something and only realized at the last minute that his bus was coming, he would just pick up and run. I think he would have give Car Lewis a run for his money! You would see him dash out towards the bus stop with his frock tails flying behind him as he waved to the bus driver to wait for him..

Eventually some people told him it was not respectable and made the yeshiva look bad and they insisted he take taxis rather than the city bus. He held off or a long time because he saw no reason for it, as the bus was just fine. But others insisted that it is not respectable for such a important rosh yeshiva to be on the bus. He gave in and took taxis or got rides, but he could still sometimes be seen getting on the bus.

Why do I recall this now?

I just read about how Rav Wosner is planning a trip to Switzerland. When one of his supporters heard that he will be travelling, he approached Rav Wosner and offered to arrange for him a private plane, all expenses paid. He felt it was not appropriate for the great Rav Wosner to be travelling like the common man on a regular flight.

Rav Wosner first accepted, but after a few days he contacted his benefactor and rejected the offer. he said I am just like any other Rav and I do not need any special travel arrangements. I can travel like everybody else.

That is a breath of fresh air to me. We have gotten so used to treating our rabbonim like chassidishe rebbes that we lose perspective. In the chassidishe world and the sephardic world it is common. Their supporters pay big money to be able to sponsor something for the Rav/Rebbe/Chacham.

I just read about the Satmar Rebbe will be going somewhere (do not remember where) and anybody who wants to sit with him will have to donate some astronomical sum, something like $50,000. The sephardic Rabbonim all drive the top luxury cars, which are sponsored by supporters.

I know of a sephardi shul where the Rav decided to open up a new shul. he went to collect to build a building. He raised a million dollars for the building in one fundraising trip. The only problem was he had nobody to daven in the shul. He built a large building very quickly, not completed but built enough to use, and one can see often people outside the shul looking to shlep someone in to help complete the minyan. But he has his big building.

It is something cultural in these communities. The litvishe community however always eschewed that style. The litvishe community always looked for simplicity. Torah was the main thing and everything else was minor.

Yet as time goes on, the litvishe community has begun treating its rabbonim like chassidishe rebbes. A Rav needs to take a trip and he gets a private plane!! Certainly the trips can be difficult and, especially for an elderly Rav, anything to help ease the discomfort can make a big difference. But it always made me uncomfortable to see the change in the way the Rabbonim were treated and how they allowed themselves to be treated like that.

To read that Rav Wosner decided such a luxury was unnecessary and wasteful, as he can travel like everybody else, is a breath of fresh air.

Jul 13, 2007

didn't you ever want to do this?

I remember in yeshiva there was always a legend of this having happened. Did it ever actually happen? I do not know. You will find lots of people who will say there classmate did it, but I think it might be a bit of an urban legend.

We used to get fines in yeshiva for infractions. if we came late too many times to davening, it would be a $5 fine. if late to learning seder, maybe a $7 fine. Going to sleep past curfew was worth $10.(I made those numbers up, I do not really remember the real amounts).

So legend always had it that there was a guy who was fined often for various infractions, and his fines were building up to a significant amount. he got fined once for something he thought he did not deserve (he probably was not given the benefit of the doubt after so many infractions) that when he went to pay his fine, he paid it in pennies, greatly annoying the Rebbe.

Is the above story true? I do not know. I always believed it, but as I got older I got more skeptical about it...

Well, now the story happened. In real life. In living color..

Some students were getting upset at the long, slow lines in Mc Donalds, and the low quality food served there (they could have just gone to a different restaurant, but I guess there reaction was more interesting!).

They decided to get revenge. Eventually the project just became a way of fighting off the boredom. They decided they would collect enough 5 and 10 agura coins (1.5 to 2 cents) to buy about 600 shekels (about $150) worth of food.

It took some time but they did it. They went in to Mickey Dees and ordered 600 NIS worth of food. When the cashier rang it up, they called in their friends with the bags of coins and they dumped out all the coins on the counter. The branch had to have some of the other employees help count the change, messing up the whole branch for the rest of the day.

The problem with the Israeli government

Remember MK Yoram Marciano? Yeah, the MK from Labor who a couple of months ago was investigated for being part of a brawl in a bar in which he punched a securioty guard while he was drunk. Yeah, that guy.

Today, Marciano was pulled over while by traffic police. What was his violation? He was shaving while driving. It seems this is punishable by a fine of up to 500 NIS and six points on the license. Instead of arguing a bit with the cops, like most people would, and then accepting the fine or getting off with a slap on the wrist, he took it personally.

Marciano called Knesset security to try to have them make the police leave him alone. He then tried to snatch the citation forms and, allegedly, fled the scene (he denies fleeing, though he later admitted to driving while shaving).

Not only that, but now Marciano has told the police, "You can't fine an MK for shaving while driving". And why not? The law does not apply to MKs?

It also turns out that Marciano has 70 traffic violations on his record. Obstructing the work of a police officer is a criminal offense.

Come on. Be a big boy. If I, or most other people, get pulled over for a traffic violation, we take what's coming. Maybe we try to make excuses and weasel out of the ticket, but nobody is going to actually fight with the cop. And anyway, what was he thinking, that he would fight with the cop about this and the story would not get out?

The Members of Knesset think they are above the law. They are the lawmakers, but those laws only need be applied to the general public, not to them. So, we have a reasonable percentage of public servants who; are involved in fraud, beating up security guards, possible rape, sexual harrassment, possible bribery, influence peddling, traffic violations, obstruction of police duties, and more.

The dismissal of the law by the people in government filters down to society. When people see the leaders acting as if the law does not apply to them, it makes it easier for other people to ignore the laws and dismiss them as irrelevant as well.

Jul 12, 2007

abandoning our soldiers

The Second Lebanon War began exactly one year ago today. Two soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad regev, were kidnapped on the northern border by Hezbollah operatives. They covered their bases with a distraction by shooting some missiles into Israel. During the mission to kidnap these soldiers, they also killed three other soldiers.

Israel responded with airstrikes, and eventually a limited ground invasion. The soldiers have not, as of yet, been recovered. They are still in captivity, along with Gilad Shalit in Gaza, and the soldiers of the '80s - Tzvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz, Zacharya Baumel, Ron Arad and Guy Hever who disappeared in August of 1997.

Are we doing enough to obtain the release of the captive soldiers? Until they are home, the answer has to be "no". We cannot say we are doing all we can until we achieve success.

It has to be the goal and discipline of every army and government to protect the soldiers they send out to battle. To not abandon them. In October 2000, when Joseph's Tomb was overrun by PA militants, Ehud Barak, then Prime Minister, pulled the troops out of the area, instead of defending it. In the process, he abandoned one Israeli soldier (Druze I think) in the tomb and decided not to go back to extract him. The result was a lynching of the soldier, which led to his brutal death.

The world was not outraged. The world does not care when a Jew is brutally murdered. The world does not care when an Israeli is brutally murdered. Nobody will defend us and nobody will protect us. Nobody will be outraged on our behalf. That is our job, with Hashems help, because nobody will do it for us.

We abandoned our soldier then, but we must learn our lesson from it. We have to be vigilant in defending our people, our land and our heritage.

Our government is in the process of making more concessions to Abu Mazen on the hope that it will strengthen him against his opponents in Hamas. We have been strengthening Abu Mazen for years already and we have never gotten anything in return, except for grief.

We need to be less concerned about who is strong on the PA side, and more concerned about strengthening ourselves and protecting ourselves. The soldiers need to know that we will not rest until they are all safe. they need to know they go out to fight to protect us, but we will do whatever we can to keep them safe and get them home safely from missions.

And we cannot abandon our soldiers. We have to remember them - in our thoughts, in our prayers, in our deeds.

I have noticed that in many shuls there are signs requesting people pray for the three missing soldiers - Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit - for their safety, health and quick return to their people.

These signs are abandoning our soldiers. There are no signs about the other missing soldiers. Are there suddenly only three missing soldiers? Were the other five returned to Israel? Were they declared dead and brought to a Jewish funeral? Did I miss that day?

We are missing eight soldiers. Yes, the loss of the most recent three is more acute, because of its freshness and the pain of the subsequent war. But that gives us no right to abandon any of the other soldiers.

We must do all we can to obtain the release of all the soldiers, and bring them back home.

Jul 11, 2007

lots of 5s - Only in Israel

Most people have some sort of favorite number. Mine is 23 because of all the great sportsmen who played on Chicago teams who wore jersey #23, specifically Ryne Sandberg (and of course Michael Jordan and others, but Ryno was the sports idol I really grew up with).

In Israel, many people consider the number 5 to be their lucky number. 5 is represented by the symbol of the "hamsa". The hamsa, very popular in sephardic culture (any sephardim out there reading this should feel free to correct me if I explain something incorrectly), is an ancient talisman protect from "ayin hara" - the evil eye. It is symbolic of the open hand of God. Hamsa in Hebrew/Arabic/Aramaic means 5 and is sometimes associated with the 5 books of the Torah.
Somebody just showed me their babies identity card number. The Israeli identity card consists of an id number that is 9 digits long and one is assigned it either at birth or upon making aliya. So this person, who recently had a baby, showed me her child's identity card number. The child's number had five of its digits being the number 5.

How did she get that number? She went to have the baby and she has a relative who is a midwife in the hospital. Every hospital is alloted a certain number of identity numbers every day for babies that will be born that day. When she went in to have her baby, her relative said here is the list of id numbers we can give out today - is there any specific one that catches your eye?

She looked through the pile of papers and saw the one with 5 number 5s. She right away took it.

Protexia can even get you a better id number!

watch Israel Baseball game

The Israel Baseball League had the recent game between the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox and the Tel Aviv Lightning broadcast on Arutz 5 Sport. They have uploaded the broadcast to their website and you can watch that game (not live obviously). It is, so far, the only game that has been broadcast after opening day.
Go to the site and click on the left side where the link says July 8th: Bet Shemesh vs. Tel Aviv


Whew... it is not just in RBS that these things happen. We are the same as the rest of the crazy world...

mazel tov!!

Go wish DafNotes a mazel tov! Avromi is celebrating his one year blogaversary!

And while you are there, check out some of his great notes, stories and discussions relevant to the day's daf yomi.

living like a Jew

We are now deep into the period knows as "The Three Weeks". A full week has passed. This period of time is meant to be one of mourning over the destruction of the Temples, and also of the various Jewish communities throughout history. It is a time of introspection and self-analysis.

It is difficult to arouse such feelings, in today's day and age. We, for the most part, have little understanding of what life was like with the Temples, and therefore it is difficult to arouse the appropriate levels of "mourning" and consideration. It was a long time ago, we never experienced it, it is very difficult to honestly mourn.

That is why, I think, that the mourning is barely visible on most people. Sure, we keep the customs associated with the time period - we do not listen to music, no weddings, no buying new clothes, etc.. but the actual mourning is missing.

There is one aspect that one will now begin to notice while walking the streets of Israel. That would be: no haircuts or shaving.

All of the sudden, everyone here looks like Bruce Willis. Everyone has the 5 o' clock shadow. Soon everyone will have the short, messy beards. One of the customs of the Three Weeks is no haircuts and shaving.

From what I remember in the US, most people use the excuse of "parnassah" to allow themselves to shave and get haircuts (it is a valid excuse and I am not criticizing it). Meaning, it is detrimental to their earning a livelihood, as it is inappropriate to show up to work, among the non-jews, looking "disheveled" because of not shaving. It is not acceptable, and many shave for that reason.

In Israel, a Jew can live like a Jew is supposed to, if he so desires, and the parnassah excuse is used much less frequently. One can work in the most secular of offices in Israel and does not have to shave. He can follow the Jewish customs and not be concerned about such repercussions.

Just walk down the street and see how suddenly everyone is sporting short beards, which will soon be longer. It is considered acceptable and legitimate to keep your religious practices, and one need not fear any external forces.

Only in Israel. Another reason to live in Israel - a person can live like a Jew.

Jul 10, 2007

quote of the day (qotd)

"We are strange, we Israelis. We're sad even when we win at war," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in an interview published Tuesday by the Italian newspaper, Corriere Della Sera.

2 points:
  1. Olmert is still the only person to think we conclusively won the war last summer. He seems to be smoking something powerful.
  2. Wasn't Olmert the one who, prior to the last elections, promised us as his main campaign promise, that "Israel would be a fun place to live" and that Kadima would be the party to make that happen? Does that mean he admits failure in his main goal?

protocol of the "sign meeting"

Following is the official protocol from the meeting in the Bet Shemesh Municpality regrading the removal of the signs under discussion.

My translation:
June 11, 2007
Present: it lists the names of the various city councilman present and the various "adminstratzia" such as spokesperson, chairman, Legal council, etc. The meeting was chaired by Rav Yitzchak Alon, city councilman, who is responsible for business registration.

To this meeting all the city councilpeople were invited to discuss policy regarding hanging of signs usinfg the facing of homes and businesses. There is currently a request from the residents of Nahal Nitzanim street to approve the signs that are hanging in the adjacent shopping area.

After discussion, the following decisions have been arrived at unanimously:
  1. We see great importance the need to improve the public order and aesthetic appearance of the buildings and the business zone. Walls cannot be turned into message boards.
  2. Therefore, signs will not be permitted to be hung nor messages on walls of houses or stores (aside from store signs that have been requested for them permits via the city engineer - as it accustomed currently)
  3. A committee will be formed that will formulate rules and criteria for signage. The committee will also decide regarding specific requests that will be transferred from the supervisors office that have specific issues.
  4. In the current situation under discussion we recommend as an exception to approve two signs with the following conditions:
    • The two signs will be a reasonable size and located in a place that will be coordinated with the city engineer
    • the placement of the signs will be done in agreement with the property owners that approve/request the hanging of the signs on shared property.
    • So as to avoid damage to the sensitivities of the public, it was decided the text of the signs should be: "You are requested to come dressed in appropriate dress that does not harm the sensitivities of the local residents". Any change to the text of the signs must be via an approval of the committee that will be established.
    • Hanging of signs will require payment of a licensing fee, as is the law.
5. We call on all involved to remain patient and respectful and decry any use of and form of violence.

a past-time of the past

I was going through Quicken software last night, while working on our family budget. I noticed something, that I thought was, strange.

We had an expense of purchasing books and I was trying to find a category to put it into. They had categories for "Cable TV", "Internet", Computers", and "Recreation". They did not have any category for "Books".

Doesn't anybody read books anymore? Is it all computers and tv and no more books?

Jul 9, 2007

having your cake and eating it too

No, this is not another post about the boring topic of the bakers strike from baking bread. Nor is it going to tell you about how the bakers are threatening to never bake basic bread again. It seems that after 5 days of not baking basic bread, they have found that their profits are up tremendously, and sales are not down, but most people are buying more expensive, and more profitable, bread. They see no reason to bake the cheaper, less profitable basic bread, and there is no law forcing them to do so. The poor who rely on the basic bread as a staple and cannot afford the more expensive breads now have Eli Yishai and Ehud Olmert to thank for not finding a solution.

But I will not tell you all that.

This is a post on the topic of the recent brouhaha that took place in RBS, more so in RBS B. You know the one - the one that made the news in a horribly written and factually incorrect article. It was also the subject of a number of blog posts over the past few days.

To summarize briefly for those of you who might not have followed the story:
RBS B is a neighborhood in Bet Shemesh that is almost completely populated by the chareidi public. A very high percentage of the residents of RBS B are not just charedi, but the type that belong to extremist sects such as Toldos Aharon, Satmar, Neturei Karta.
RBS A is a more mixed neighborhood. The charedi population has grown and the NR population has been shrinking, as they move out to "greener pastures". I would estimate that the charedi population in RBS A comprises about 65-70 percent of the population with NR comprising about 30-35%, and throw in a few completely secular people and you have RBS A.
Even the charedi community of RBS A can be broken down further. There are a few "extremists". Many are just people who fall into no other category - anglo immigrants who associate with the charedi society.

The charedim had put up signs in the shopping centers in RBS B and RBS A. These signs were large and very public stating that the neighborhood is charedi and people coming into shop must adhere to the local "dress code" and dress modestly. These signs were up for a long time, after they were initially put up among some fighting between the various groups.

Last week, the city municipality sent in workers to remove the signs, in accordance with the law. In RBS A it was a small amount of work with only a token demonstration against the removal of the signs. A few people got pushed around by the police a bit and the signs were removed.

They went to the more militant RBS B and removed the signs. The locals rioted, throwing bricks into the road and burning garbage and throwing it in the streets. A few people got their heads bashed in after confronting the riot police. This continued for some time, with the road being open and shut sporadically over the next few days as people would continue rioting in the streets. It has gotten so sporadic that before people drive through that neighborhood (it is an arterial road connecting RBS A with Bet Shemesh) they post to the local email list asking if the road is open to traffic or closed to traffic! A business on the edge of RBS B has volunteered to be a local traffic advisory and whenever they see from their windows that traffic is stopped, they would post it to the email list!

Anyways, a lot of the complaints of the charedi public is that the city came in and, unprovoked, removed the signs that had been there for a few years, disturbing nobody while actually, they say, actually influencing people to dress more appropriately when coming to the neighborhood to shop. The city took unilateral action for the sole purpose of provoking a fight, because the mayor, they say, is afraid of the "charedi takeover" of the city, as the charedi population in Bet Shemesh is nearing, or possibly has already even surpassed, the 50% mark. They say, the mayor is trying to remove the signs because it gives an atmosphere of being charedi and chases away the secular public, which is what he does not want.

A local council member posted the following information to theBet Shemesh local email list.:

First, the hanging of any sign in a public place is illegal and subject the "hanger" to a fine. This being said the city is often lenient with regard to a "for sale" sign on an apartment and various election banners not glued to walls. The reasoning being that these are innocuous or as in the case of elections they are part of the atmosphere.

When certain individuals took upon themselves to hang signs in the commercial areas of RBS they were approached by the city inspectors and asked to remove these signs. The owners of the stores had nothing to do with the notices and told the city to take them down. Later the city received a request to discuss the issue.

Rav Yitzchak Alon the Chen representative on the city council called a meeting of all the religious parties in the city to discuss the issue. The result of this meeting was that all parties agreed that the signs must come down as they serve to degrade the quality of the neighbourhood. (I can send this protocol to all who are interested)

In order to placate those who felt a need for the signs, a compromise was achieved. Two signs would be hung with the following text, "Please wear appropriate clothing that does not offend the local residents". In addition a two week stay was given to enable those who hung the signs to remove them without fines.

When the two weeks ended the Iryah came to take down the signs and the fun began. The city inspectors were carrying out policy from a unanimous concensus.

According to this, the move to remove the signs was not unilateral, nor was it spontaneous. The signs are not just a disturbance to some, but are actually illegal. Granted, they have been there for a couple of years already, but the city claims it has all along been receiving requests to remove them. They say that even many charedim are against the presence of the signs, as, they feel, it makes them look bad. Whether they have received such requests or not I do not know. I know many are against the presence of the signs, but only in the case of a fight to put them up. Once they are up, I do not think too many would request taking them down.

So, the religious parties, including the charedi parties, participated in the meeting to decide what to do about the signs. They all, including the charedi parties, agreed to remove the signs in two weeks and to allow a compromise sign with different, less militant, wording.

Many of the rioters will not care about the above fact. Many of them are from the extremist groups. These people are anti-State and many of them do not vote nor do they accept the authority of the Zionist regime. The charedi parties, in essence, do not represent them just as no other party does.

What is disturbing is the trend of accepting what these extremists say as the true definition of charedi belief. Nobody wants to look less religious, so if they fight against what they deem to be immodesty, no charedi can fight against them because they will be perceived as supporting immodesty. De facto you have the average charedi people adopting the extremist stance, unwittingly.

So, not only do the extremists fight the city in this decision, but one can see the charedi politicians themselves also on the street arguing with the city workers who are removing signs and with the police. They go out on the street and protest against the city decision which they were part of. Your average citizen does not know that his representative voted in favor of the municvipal decision to remove the signs, so we have a situation in which they vote in favor bcause they feel it is the right decision, but then they protest because they sense the people on the street want to see protest.

So either:
1. the charedi reps in municipal government do not know what they are doing and vote blindly without thinking what their position should be on any given issue. or
2. they intentionally play both sides of the court - they vote for what they want but then give the people what they think they want and nobody knows any better.

Either way, the charedi public needs better leadership and direction. It would be nice to see the public not accept the stance of the extremists as basic charedi opinion, but actually form their own opinions of what the correct path should be on any given issue.

child molester caught!

Anybody know anything about this guy? The chase for ordained orthodox Rabbi and child psychologist Alan Horowitz came to a conclusion yesterday. He had been arrested in India in May and was finally brought back to US soil yesterday. He had been convicted for 34 counts of child molestation in New York and Maryland.

Some of the stories you might have missed

The refugees from Africa are complaining. They want better accommodations and treatment. I would say to stop kvetching because no other country cares and no other country will take them in. Now, Israel is looking for ways to get rid of them. When other countries criticize us that we need to keep them for humanitarian reasons, I would suggest we check how many African refugees those other countries have taken in.

The IDF now works for the zoo.

There is still no basic bread in the stores. The bakeries are standing strong in their refusal to bake bread as long as the government refuses to allow them to raise the prices. The government has yet to find a solution, and today is the fifth day in a row that there is no basic bread in the stores. One can find fancy breads in the stores. Good thing I am trying to cut down on my intake of breads anyway...

Olmert and Barak are sparring with each other. Barak is threatening to vote against the budget cuts being proposed. Olmert is upset at him for playing both sides of the court. Barak is showing himself to be very wily and astute politically and is gaining support, for himself and for Labor, despite his not having done anything significant yet since he returned to the Defense Ministry. He is simply giving off an impression of professionalism and people are forgetting his role in the weakness of the northern border...

Arkady Gaydamak has announced the formation of his spanking new political party. This was a long expected move, after many of his philanthropic activities recently were determined to be a lead up of good press in anticipation of his forming such a party. The new party is being called Social Justice. He is hoping to cash in big on his philanthropy and win a lot of seats in the next government elections. At the same time, he claims to personally have no designs (yet) for the Knesset, as he still intends on running for mayor of Jerusalem.

Silvan Shalom is threatening to drop out of the Likud primaries race unless Bibi gives in to his wishes to delay them until after the High Holidays. It does not really matter because no matter how much time you give Silvan Shalom to prepare he has no chance of defeating Bibi for the leadership of the Likud. Silvan Shalom is a nobody who is married to a famous journalist. he has nothing on Bibi. The only problem is that by his dropping out, it makes the primaries look like a farce and Bibi does not want that. They will probably end up compromising on some date in the middle. As of now, if Shalom comes through and actually drops out of the race, that would pit Bibi against Feiglin, who would remain the sole opponent in the race. Feiglin would likely lose, but his standing and support have been moving up and gaining ground in the Likud and he might put forth a decent showing. He has said that, in contrast to previous elections, this time he would field candidates for Knesset seats, and not just run for leadership of the Likud and the PM position.

The State Prosecutor's Office is calling for a decision by the Attorney general regarding one of the investigations into Olmert's nefarious activities. The Attorney General will have to announce whether top open a formal investigation into Olmert's purchase of the home on Cremieux Street. To remind you, he purchased it well below market value and then helped the builder, using his connections, to get all sorts of permits. A formal investigation would complicate matters for Olmert and make working difficult. it is a good thing Olmert already reminded us a few months ago that he just shows up to work. To remind you - this is only one of the investigations pending into Olmert's activities.

And, most important of all, the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox have finally been handed their first loss of the season by the Tel Aviv Lightning. They lost the game 3-1. The Blue Sox remain atop the standings in the Israel Baseball League with a record of 9-1.

Jul 8, 2007

Great ebay opportunity!!

This is supposedly a picture of the BMW that belonged to Rav Ovadia Yosef until last week. It is on sale on ebay. Starting bid is $110,000. I have no idea how to verify that this car really belonged to Rav Ovadia Yosef.
Drive Safely!!

HH #124 is up

Malachi is hosting Haveil Havalim #124. Head on over to check it out...

This man sleeps soundly

Mr. Mikhail Kalashnikov is the inventor of the "popular among terrorists" machine gun - the AK-47, a.k.a the Kalshnikov (named after Mr. Kalashnikov).

According to an interview he gave to CBC News, Mr. Kalashnikov sleeps soundly. He blames the fact that his invention has killed so many thousands of people on the politicians who cannot agree on peaceful resolutions to their problems.

According to AK-47 lore, Kalashnikov conceived of the design while laying wounded in a hospital ward near the end of the Second World War. He drafted plans in a child's notebook to make a lightweight gun that was also powerful and simple to fire.

Kalashnikov acknowledged that seeing his creation in the hands of criminals and gangsters around the world saddens him, but he said he originally concocted the AK-47 to support a worthy cause.

Hey - at least he sleeps soundly.

Only in America

There is a common type of posting that elicits excitement and interest among readers. That woudl be the "Only in Israel" post. Today I offer you the "Only in America" post. Actually, it is not really "only in America" but is more like "not in Israel".

Ever fly El Al (or probably most other airlines)? Ever get stuck sitting in a bad seat?

You know the type:
  • the seat near the bathrooms.. that seat sitter has to suffer much of the flight with bad odors, crowds of people waiting for the bathroom, if it is a flight with a lot of religious people maybe the davening is happening right next to him, etc.
  • the seat near a bunch of kids - they make a lot of noise, get antsy, fight at any of numerous times during the flight, spill their food, etc.
  • seat near the front of each section called the bulkhead. This might be the worst of all the bad seats as you have to contend with nursing mothers, babies crying in the middle of the night waking everyone around them up, baby toys all over the place, dirty and smelly diapers, and lots of other disturbances as harried parents try to find ways to keep the little ones occupied and entertained for, what seems to them to be, the longest day in the history of the world.
Ever consider suing the airline if you were assigned a seat in one of those "danger zones"?

Well, somebody did. Somebody sued El Al for exactly that.

A guy flying to Berlin on El Al checked in requesting a window seat, far from the bathrooms and from the noisy areas.

He ended up being seated right in the bulkhead section - yep, next to all those screaming babies. He had a very uncomfortable flight, and decided to sue.

The airline responded that they guarantee no specific seats and seating is based on the ticket purchased.

The courts ruled that the airline is not at fault. The judge said that the defendant has no right to claim that the airline should not fly the children or to place them only in a designated area far away from other adults. The judge also said that not every discomfort or dissatisfaction with a service is worthy of a day in court, while every person has a right to seek compensation in court, others have a right not to be disturbed by unnecessary and frivolous lawsuits.

The judge rejected his claim against El Al and required him to pay the airline 750 NIS for court costs.

Had this person sued in the US, there is a better chance he might have gotten some sort of compensation. In the US there is a culture of suing for the slightest discomfort, and what the Israeli judge called a frivolous lawsuit, may very well be a winner in the US. Think back to the person who spilled a hot cup of coffee on herself while driving and sued because the coffee was too hot. And won.

I wonder though, had he won the case in Israel, would I have been able to sue after traveling with my kids and being seated near them?

So the courts said that these types of lawsuits are still not going to be happening in Israel anytime soon, despite people trying to bring that culture to Israel.

Jul 6, 2007

Let them eat cake!

You might want to consider making challah this week for shabbos instead of relying on buying challah...

The major bakeries went on strike today. Not really a strike, though. After all, they opened the bakeries and produced bread and baked goods. They were striking from baking a specific product.

The price of basic bread is regulated in Israel. Fancy breads are not, and bakeries can charge whatever price they think people will pay for whole wheat bread, pumpernickly, Italian, whatever. Basic bread prices are regulated.

The bakeries claim the price of flour has gone up 12% recently and they can no longer afford to bake basic bread at the current price. They have requested that the government approve a price hike for basic bread.

The government, led by Eli Yishai as Minister of Inudustry and Trade with PM Olmert's agreement, said no. The price cannot be raised because too many poor people rely on bread as their staple food and cannot afford it at the new prices.

The bakeries said that it is not their job to subsidize the poor. They are a business and need to make profit. If the government can't continue to subsidize the price of bread, or increase the subsidy to the poor so they can afford the higher bread prices, they will simply stop making bread. They cannot afford to take such a loss on this product. They claim it would bankrupt them after two weeks.

The government said no and the bakeries said no. Today there was no basic bread in the stores. Tomorrow, they are saying, unless a solution is quickly reachd, there will not be basic challahs in the store. There will be more expensive challahs, but not the basic ones.

The Olmert government cannot even be relied on anymore to provide bread for its citizens. How can we rely on him to provide security?

Well, there is always cake.

Quote of the Day (qotd)

What's so great about baseball in Israel?

You get to hear something like this:

Mike Hochman is a player for the Ra'anana Express. The team is playing pretty poorly and is having a tough time winning a game. Mike said to the press, "Losing is very frustrating for the club and we are doing everything in our power to overcome this drought, from extra-batting practice to extra-Kotel davening."

And at the same time, I have to cheer out for the home team. The Bet Shemesh Blue Sox are still unbeaten. They are leading the league with an 8-0 record...

Jul 5, 2007

How I almost blew myself up once

This post has been inspired by Jacob Da Jew's post on the topic.

I remember we used to buy all these illegal fireworks. One year my brother and I bought a few things and it included, for the first time ever, a quarter stick of dynamite.

We went to the park during the night, so it was pretty empty. The park is a big one with a few large residential buildings of condominiums on the other end.

We found an empty garbage can, one of those metal circular types. We were pretty nervous about this dynamite, not knowing what it could do. We lit it and threw it in the can.

After a few moments nothing happened. Of course, as kids do, we did what nobody should ever do. We went to look at why it did not go off. We stick our heads into the can. Sure enough the fuse was still burning and was nearing the end.

We ran, but we were still pretty close to the can when it finally went off. I remember being lifted into the air and being thrown to the side with all the wind being knocked out of me. It looked to us like the building at the other side of the park were shaking, but that, thinking back, was probably just a kids imagination after the excitement and shock.

We picked ourselves up and drove off as fast as we could!! We were afraid we would be in so much trouble!

I wonder if any of my brothers remember that one...and if they remember the story the same way as I do..

Jul 4, 2007

I gave EO too much credit

It looks like a I gave Ehud Olmert too much credit.

When Finance Minister Hirschson came under serious investigation for all sorts of allegations, I predicted that Ehud Olmert would appoint Meir Sheetrit as the next Finance Minister.

While I do not like Meir Sheetrit, and I recently read an article somewhere showing that every position he has ever received in government has been under threat and duress (i.e. he always threatened (either openly or was just considered a threat) to make trouble for the ruling power unless he was appointed to his various positions), he does have the best qualifications to be the person running the Finance Ministry, of all the possible candidates.

I figured Olmert would appoint him, both because he is capable and qualified for the position, with experience and an agenda, but also because, as a political rival, this might keep Sheetrit quiet for a while, providing Olmert with the quiet he wants.

I was wrong.

Today Olmert appointed Minister Roni Bar-On to head the Finance Ministry. Bar-On has no finance experience - he was a criminal lawyer before he went into politics. He is simply being appointed to this position because he is a crony of Olmert's - he has been Olmert's main "yes-man" since Olmert became Prime Minister.

So we now have a Finance Minister running the show, who has the job simply because he is Olmert's friend. Not because of any qualifications. I would have thought Olmert would be more professional about this appointment considering all the problems he has had, with the criminal issues, with his friends criminal issues, and the political and military issues that are all threatening to bring him down. Even more than that is now he likely upset Sheetrit who has always seen himself as the most qualified for the Finance Minister job, along with the Prime Minister job, and will probably now heat up his challenging Olmert for leadership of Kadima.

Jul 3, 2007

I wonder if I am a kohein

Today is the 17th of Tammuz. Today is a fast day commemorating some calamitous events in our collective history.

The events include; the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem in the Second Temple by the Romans (led by Titus the General), in the First Temple this was the day the Kohanim stopped offering the daily sacrifice of the Tamid due to a shortage of sheep because of the siege around Jerusalem, in the First Temple this is the day Menashe placed an idol on the Temple Court and in the Second Temple this is the day Apostumos (another Roman general) placed an idol in the Temple Court along with publicly burning a Torah scroll, the first set of tablets were broken on this day when Moshe came down from Mt. Sinai and saw the people reveling around the Golden Calf, along with other later events attributed to this day..

Being that the events surrounding the day, and the period of the Three Weeks which begin today concluding with the 9th of Av which was the actual destruction of the Temples, are Temple related, I felt it appropriate to mention an upcoming event.

In mid-July there will be, what promises to be, a fascinating conference.

You remember reading in the news a few years ago about how they discovered a DNA type that is specific to kohanim and levvim? They would swipe the inside of the cheek, get a DNA sample to test, and then find out whether or not you were really a member of the kohanic or levite tribe (I do not know if there is any halachic reliance on such a test).. It was big news at the time.

Anyway, those guys have taken it a step further. They formed an organization called the the Cohen-Levi Family Heritage. Their goal is to "promote identity and knowledge among kohanim the world over".

If you check out their website, there is a ton of fascinating information abot kohanim, their history, what their jobs were, etc.

Now they have put together the first ever Kohen - Levi conference which will take place in Jerusalem (makes sense) in mid-July.

Aside from what looks to be like a great lineup of lectures, presentations and workshops (hmmm I wonder what a workshop includes - will they practice offering sacrifices?), they also have a full schedule of interesting tours around historical sites relevant to the Temples and the kohanim/leviim.

I think the conference is even free (see the website and call the contact information for exact details of what prices are and what is or is not included), though you can be a sponsor if you so desire.

I wonder if they will be offering DNA swabs for attendees. Maybe I am really a kohen!

Jul 2, 2007

Picture of the Day - pre 17 Tammuz (potd)

translation: No entry for dogs or policemen, or Egged buses #'s 417 and 418.

Background: Today, the city municipality decided it was time to remove signs it deemedto be illegal. Many stores have [been pressured to] put up signs declaring the neighborhood as chareidi and people coming to shop in the neighborhood should dress accordingly...

These signs were fairly large and no store had received a license to put them up. The Irya has let it slide for some time, but recently decided to remove them. Today was that day.

In RBS A they removed the signs with only slight altercations. After about 15 minutes the whole show was over (so I am told).

In RBS B there were riots, and they have been going no into the night. The residents have been fighting with the police, and blocking the roads, and throwing bricks at cars and buses, and overturning garbage cans, etc...

the reference on the above sign to not letting Egged in is a long standing fight the residents have with Egged regarding Mehadrin buses. I never really understood that fight. First they were upset that Egged did not provide them with a mehadrin bus line. Then when Egged converted the 418 line to mehadrin, the residents were upset that Egged did provide a mehadrin line because it put the local macher running a private line out of business. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

There are lots more pictures out there, some of which can be seen here..

basketball in a shul

The Iryat Bet Shemesh recently publicized the upcoming (tonight actually) "Tournament Finals in the Shul Basketball League". The mayor and certain other members of the city municipality would be attending the final game.

I am not sure exactly what the sign said. I did not see the actual sign. I do know that there is no Shul League. There is, however, a tournament that has recently been running of teams based on shuls. It is not a league that operates all the time. Someone put together a torunament and the easiest way to do so is to base teams on shuls. So it is something like an inter-shul tournament.

The games are played in the municipal sports center and a number of shuls fielded teams, though in most situations the shul had nothing to do with the teams, rather somebody in each participating shul put together a team of people whow ere in the shul. No shul Rabbi was involved and no shul gabbai was involved (unless they were among the ones playing for their shul).. The shul aspect of it was just a way of breaking into teams.

Anyways, the local Charedi rag, "Chadash" printed a critical article in this past Friday's edition. They wrote the article without looking into the situation. All they did was see the sign put out by the Irya and print their own article. They did not speak to the organizers of the tournament, nor to any participants.

The Chadash editor writes (with my translation), " What is clear is a the slight to the holiness of shuls and all that the shul as a minor temple is meant to symbolize... We must protest their bringing the secular into the holy, and not only that but they take pride in it in public and publicize it..

The shul, which our ancestors gave their lives to protect its holiness and its standing, it cannot be allowed to bring into it foreign and evil winds. A shul is dedicated for Torah, prayer, and service of Hashem. Basketball and sport have enough of their own fields and locations...."

They clearly did not speak to anybody involved in the league/tournament. It is simply a series of games, with teams broken down based on shul affiliation. Games are not played in the shuls. They are played in one specific basketball court and nobody is harming the standing of any of the shuls involved. Again, no shul is involved. It is just a number of people from shuls playing ball together.

They are, supposedly, journalists. One would think a simple phone call to check the situation would not be beyond the scope of writing the article.

Jul 1, 2007

new criteria for "Who is a Jew": chulent

The Mishpacha (Hebrew) newspaper had a fairly shocking story this week. You will not believe it to be true..

I will translate it here to English. If you wish to see the original, bluke scanned it and commented on it.

In a baal teshuva yeshiva there was a student who has been learning there for the past 2 years, who came from a country with a mass aliya. This student has "strengthened himself" [i.e. become religious] and has been keeping all of the mitzvos. Over a recent shabbos he was a guest at the home of one of the married kollel students.

The avreich realized the student despised the chulent and could not even taste a little bit of it. He remembered the words of the Rishonim, that someone who does not eat hot food on shabbos [day] needs to be investigated to see whether he might be a heretic (source: the Baal HaMaor).
In addition, he realized that the student did not shuckle/sway when he prayed, and this too is brought down (in the Zohar) as being a custom of Jews.

Since he realized that this student came from a neglected country {i.e. ostensibly Eastern European, but it does not specify] , he connected the dots and decided that according to halacha this student was likely not a Jew.
Attempts to investigate the background of the student revealed nothing conclusive, so the avreich, at the behest of the student, approached Rav Elyashiv with the situation and asked what to do.

Rav Elyashiv answered that the student must go through a conversion as a stringency [because of the chance he might not be jewish]. However any wine he might have handled is not to be considered "yayin nesech" [wine handled by a non Jew which may not be imbibed by a Jew], as the student behaved like a Jew and considered himself a Jew the whole time, and it is only a "safek" that he might not be a Jew [so the issue of yayin nesech does not apply].

As I said, you would not believe it. So now we are deciding whether or not a person is Jewish by whether or not he likes chulent and whether or not he shuckles during shmoneh esrei.

Soon we might have measurements for how much of a sway is called a sway. The meikil opinion will say something like a sway of 7 centimeters is ok and the most machmir opinion will say probably a minimum sway of 11 centimeters.

And then there will be a debate what is called chulent. What if you make your chulent without barley? And if you use chicken instead of beef?

I took out my shulchan aruch and looked up the halacha. At the end of Siman 257 the Rama mentions the issue quoted from the Baal Hamaor in the story. He says that one who does not eat "chamin" - hot foods, but this word is used in modern day Hebrew to mean chulent, one is suspect of being an apikorus.

According to the commentaries and the explanations, the issue is not if one does like hot food/chulent. Rather, it is if one refuses to eat it becaus ehe is of the opinion that one is not allowed to heat up food on shabbos, using the method we consider permitted. The heretics held to the literal meaning of verses and decided that one could not heat up food at all on shabbos, while we are of the opinion that there are certain methods in which heating up food is allowed. One who refuses to eat hot foods on shabbos is suspect of being a heretic.

And before I continue, let me just say before some people jump down my throat, that I am sure Rav Elyashiv knows that section of shulchan aruch at least as well as me, if not 500 times better (though one does not need to be the gadol hador to quote a siman in shulchan aruch).

The halacha does not say one has to eat chulent. It talks about hot foods. Had they offered this student hot soup maybe he would have accepted. Had they offered hot shnitzel maybe he would have devoured it. According to the reported story, they offered him a food that he did not like.

As a matter of fact, and this might solidify my standing in the minds of some of you, we often in the summer shabboses do not have chulent. I have not made chulent for three weeks in a row now. It is just too hot for chulent in my opinion. Does that mean we might not be Jewish? Does it matter that we have hot soup for lunch? (hot soup is better than chulent because, even though it is hot, it is a lighter meal.)

As well, it does not say that one who does not eat hot food might be a gentile. It says he might be an apikorus. An apikorus is generally a Jew. A Jew does not need to go through conversion when he becomes religious.

It is possible that this student, who clearly grew up non-religious in a completely non-religious and even ostensibly a non-Jewish environment, did not like chulent because he did not grow up with it culturally.
So all of the sudden he is exposed to a new food he has never seen before, and chulent by any description is not a pretty food, he is turned off by it and refuses to eat it, and his Jewishness is suspect?

As well, maybe that avreich just made a horrible chulent!! I wonder if they tried to serve him different chulent recipes and he had to reject each one before they decided he was not a Jew. Or did he just not like this one chulent and that was enough to seal the deal?

As well, there are many people who do not sway when davening. Many German Jews do not. Bluke reports that Rav Moshe Feinstein was famous for not swaying when he davened.

These are ridiculous criteria to use to decide whether or not someone is Jewish.

That being said, my only conclusion can be that the newspaper got the story wrong. Completely wrong, I mean. Not just the "inaccurate details wrong" as in all newspaper articles, but completely wrong.

They must have been missing a major detail. There must have been another reason to suspect his background. I do not believe Rav Elyashiv bases geirus on someones like or dislike of chulent.

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