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May 31, 2008

providing Olmert a graceful way out

There have been a number of political analysts over the past week who have come to similar analysis of the Olmert situation. That is, that Olmert knows his career is over, at least until he is proven innocent if that should ever happen, and he knows we are on the path to early elections. Olmert knows he has to go and it is a matter of days to a couple of weeks before new elections are officially declared. He is done and he knows it.

The thing is, the analysts say, is that he will nto kowtow to pressure and manhandling. he is looking for a graceful way out. He will not listen take threats from Barak, he will not threats from Shas, he will not take threats from fellow Kadima members, etc. He will not go out in any way that makes him look like he is giving in, or any way that makes him look guilty.

The suggestion that he is calling for primaries upon his return from this weeks trip to the US, is possibly that graceful exit.

I have another suggestion. Even better. This would provide him a graceful way out immediately.

Olmert should call a press conference tomorrow morning and announce this: His prostate cancer has been found to have slightly grown in recent weeks. He has been having some pain. he needs to take time off to deal with it, as he is having a difficult time functioning the way it is right now.

The media will go crazy for a bit and he will have left us.

You might suggest that such a use of a medical condition is extremely cynical and immoral, and you would be right. I would agree with that.

But Olmert has already used it on two seperate occassions.

He announced he had found a cancerous growth whenhe was at the height of one of his investigations. Most people think it was to gain sympathy.

The second time was recently when the police wanted him to clear some time for an interrogatiopn and he refused to saying he had absolutely no time. Suddenly, after a few months of our not hearing a word about his cancer, he had to have an urgent MRI to analyze the growth.

So Olmert has used it already twice for personal gain, so I see nothign wrong with him using it now as his ticket to a graceful exit.

May 30, 2008

Kever Yosef (video)

no time to write it up yet. For now, enjoy the video. Write-up will come later.

May 29, 2008

mehadrin buses and National Religious passivity

Rav Yuval Sherlo, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Hesder Yeshiva of Petach Tikva and a rising, though sometimes controversial, star in the National Religious Rabbinate weighed in with interesting thoughts on two topics.

  1. On the topic of the recent geirus controversy - Rav Sherlo wrote a column in which he lays the blame completely on the National Religious public.He wrote that because the National Religious leadership removed itself from the public leadership, by declaring in advance that it would sit in the opposition and not join the Olmert government, it removed itself from being in position to lead rabbinicly. The decision was legitimate, but it has ramifications. By staying in the opposition, it means that its Rabbis would lose out the appointments to the Chief Rabbinate and as city Rabbis. the Haredim win those positions now because their parties are in the right positions.
    Also, the National Religious Rabbinate never held a serious discussion to come up with Halachic methods, that are acceptable lechatchila, for conversions, converts and how to deal with them. What is considered "acceptance of mitzvos", how much follow up there must be, how much ibvestigation must be conducted to reveal deception, and the like. Because they have not determined their positions on these matters, the National Religious public should be looking inward and should blame themselves. Until they came up with their own halachically acceptable decisions and positions, they cannot spend their time blaming others [i.e. the Haredim].

    Rav Sherlo says that the National Religious should leave the Haredim alone, not lay blame at their feet for the situation, not complain about the Haredim. Rather, they should be working to fix the problem. They should be formulating positions and working on their own plans. When the time comes, he says, "We will return and will take the responsibility for those Torah issues, and that will strengthen the Israeli nation in the ways of halacha.

  2. Rav Sherlo was asked for a psak by a female correspondent how she hsould relate to the phenomenon of Mehadrin buses.
    She writes that the bus she takes to work is a mehadrin bus. It is not clear whether Egged has a right to make such a segregation, and the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the situation in the case pending before it. She writes that she personally has a problem with it. Her problem is two-fold:
    1. the idea of it is degrading to her and the extremism involved distrubs her.
    2. She is prone to motion sickness and sitting in the back, nearer to the engine, increases her discomfort.
    So she asks Rav Sherlo what his position on these buses is, does she have to respect the religious extremism of others and sit in the back even though it increases her discomfort, if the back of the bus is full but there are seats available in the front half - can she sit there, and is there a difference for a pregnant or older woman?
    Rav Sherlo responds that he belives there is great importance in keeping the public forum a place that is tzanua, not having immodest advertising signs up for example, and that we should live with tznius. But, Rav Sherlo writes, "I am against the mehadrin buses. These buses are mehadrin in shaming other people. in dealing with tznius in an immodest fashion, and more." Rav Sherlo continues that he thinks "that a person should not do it specifically, just to oppose it, and get on the bus in the front. One does not need to start a war over this, at this point. But if you are doing it not just to oppose - "Davka" - but for a purpose, such as your motion sickness, or when there are no available seats in the back, then you can sit wherever you want. And those who change things, they have the lower hand" .

And we have a winner!

In a very tight competition, today a winner was announced. Israel now has an official National Bird.

The Red Falcon, the Hoopoe, the Warbler, and the Hoplopterus Spinosus all ran a tough battle as finalists for the coveted title.

The competition ran for 6 months, and 155,00 Israelis took part in the voting and narrowing down the various rounds of competition.

And the winner is..... (drumroll please)... the Hoopoe (Doochifas in Hebrew)!!!!

I personally think the Turkey would have been a more fitting selection, but I was not on the panel... :-)

The miracle of the Torah world's resurgence

Rav Gershon Edelstein, one of the Rosh yeshivas of Ponevezsh Yeshiva, in a talk with avreichim and educators, said the following:

....The whole Torah world itself is an open miracle...

In the last 200 years, the Torah world has suffered tremendous troubles and difficulties from within and from without. People would shame those who learn Torah. That is the way it was in all generations: the enlightenment, with the heads of the Zionist movement in the Diaspora, and all the rest that chased those who learn Torah. They were successful in their battle and many Torah observant people abandoned the source of fresh water [i.e. the Torah]. All this was up until the post-holocaust era.

In the past 50 years, the Rosh Yeshivas re-established the Torah world, and the people began to respect those who learn Torah. the Torah world has thrived, despite the troubles and disturbances that have arisen due to the development of the western world. There are large Torah centers in places that there were never before, and the nation of Hashem is thirsty to hear the word of Hashem.
We need to give thanks every dayfor the miracles that we see how the Torah world survives despite all the difficulties, both spiritual and physical.

These are open miracles and we need to give thanks for them every single day.
(source: Mishpacha newspaper)

What will Barak do now?

When Ehud Barak said in his press conference that the demand for Olmert to remove himself is not immediate, as he understands Kadima needs time to figure out what to do and how to do it, what did he mean?

Barak clearly did not give a definative ultimatum. Was he saying they have time to work out the issue, and if they need that time, be it a few weeks or a month or two, they will have it, as long as they begin the process? Or did he mean he will wait a few months regardless of whether Kadima gets moving or not?

I wonder, because Ehud Olmert responded by saying he is not going anywhere.

So with Barak's demand being rejected, will Barak give Kadima a few months anyway, or will he now force elections because his leeway was only to give them time to work out the issues, but if they are not using it for that then there is nothing to wait for?

May 28, 2008

Quote of the Day (qotd)

Not everyone under investigation necessarily has to resign

-----PM Ehud Olmert

No, Mr. Olmert. Not everyone. But when the Prime Minister is suspected of such serious allegations, the people lose faith in him and in his ability to lead faithfully, so while "not everyone", the PM should...

Ehud Barak press conference (video)

This is the press conference just conducted by Ehud Barak. He demanded that the prime Minister remove himself from office, in any of the available forms.

He later was asked for a time-frame by which Labor would pull out if the PM has not by then removed himself, and he responded immediately but we understamd Kadima has its own issues. So he gave himself a lot of leeway.

Another question he refused to answer was why is this different than his pre-Winograd threat in which he demanded the PMs resignation and then backed down.

The state of Israeli politics

Members of the Labor Party are upset.

Ehud Barak went into serious consultations last night, post-Talansky. He had to figure out the best way to respond that would bring him the most benefit (or perhaps you prefer the least damage).

Who did Ehud Barak turn to? One would expect he would turn to the senior members of the Labor Party. Fellow ministers. The Chairman of the Labor Party. Others of simiar stature who could help work out a plan that would be both best for the party and best for Israel (as they see it).

That is what one would expect. Ehud Barak did not turn to these people. he turned to Reuven Adler. His PR man.

Reuven Adler has the reputation of being a PR genius. He was Ariel Sharon's right hand. Sharon did nothing without getting Adler's approval. Adler and Olmert did not get along, so after Sharon's demise and Olmert's ascension to power, Adler took on two new clients: Tzippi Livni and Ehud Barak.

Barak last night went to Reuven Adler, his publicist and PR guy, and asked him what he should do. They worked out a plan which Barak is going to announce in a press conference later today.

Now the headlines are showing that Labor members are furious at Barak for consulting with Adler and not with them.

This is the sorry state of Israeli politics right now - where senior people turn to marketing people to figure out political moves rather than to their cohorts and fellow ideaologists.

Then again, that is precisely how we got to this point. Sharon did this with mastery, and Olmert took it to a new level. Barak is just doing the same as them.

Headline of the Day (hotd)

Minister of Infrastructure Binyamin Ben Eliezer: Kadima must make some tough decisions.

------Ynet (Hebrew)

Ben Eliezer continued to say that Kadima must take responsibility and make some difficult decisions.

Yes, but because they are not, it also behooves Labor and Shas and other coalition partners ot get off their frightened heinys and take some responsibility as well and make their own tough decisions. Stop waiting for Kadima to move.

some voters are more important than others

Nobody can take any reasonable guess what is going to happen with the government. The MKs and ministers have shown no backbone and prefer to sit with unprecedented levels of corruption in government, and have so far refused to stand up to Olmert. So, as of right now, anything can happen.

One thing that is a concern with the possibility of upcoming elections, is the conflict between national and municipal elections. Municipal elections are scheduled, in many cities, for this coming November.

If general elections should be called soon, it would likely fall out around the same time. The Knesset has discussed this possibility and has suggested various options in how to deal with it. One option was to delay municipal elections by another year.

The Interior Minister and other senior officials in Kadima have suggested holding both sets of elections on the same day, if there would be a need for general elections.

This would seemingly be a benefit to democracy, as municipal elections generally get a much higher turnout than general elections. So if someone is going anyway to vote for his mayor and city council, perhaps the general election balloting would also receive the benefit of people who normally would not participate, participating.

It seems the Haredi political parties are very concerned about the above suggestion. It turns out that after the previous few elections, when the Haredi parties showed their growth and explained how they are getting more and more support, their own natural voter base is growing and they are gaining supporters among the general public - that was all deception and manipulation.

Mishpacha newspaper this past week had a little article on the topic.

It seems that in reality, the reason why the Haredi parties have grown in the past few elections is because the turnout in the general public has been decreasing, but the Haredi public turns out to vote en masse.

So they have not really grown, but they have acquired influence beyond their real numbers simply due to the apathy of the general public.

They are concerned that in such a situation, there would be a much higher turnout of the general public and that would decrease the level of Haredi influence back to being more proportional with their numbers.

The Haredi parties are concerned about this and have held meetings with various ministers and other parties to try to derail the above recommendation.

All this was written in the Mishpacha newspaper.

So it seems it is better to ensure that as many people as possible do not participate in the process, so that some can have more power.

May 27, 2008

the Obama Auschwitz connection (video)

Barack Obama, speaking on Memorial Day in Las Cruces, New Mexico, mentioned how his uncle was one of the troops to liberate Auschwitz.

Olmert makes me sick

One thing that particularly disturbs me about this whole Olmert corruption/investigation is this (aside from the actual charges and suspicions):

A couple of months ago, Ehud Olmert blasted Binyamin Netanyahu for what he considered excessive lavishness during his stay in London during the Second Lebanon War, which was funded (partially) by private donors.

Bibi was there on behalf of the government acting as the only PR voice and he did an amazing job. he gave interview after interview explaining why Israel was at war, and he was roundly praised for his efforts and for his success.

So he stayed in a luxurious hotel room while he did it and ate in an expensive restaurant. And part of it was paid for by his friends and part by himself.

Ehud Olmert, and his cronies, blasted Bibi for that relentlessly.

Now it turns out, assuming Talansky told the truth today in his testimony, that Olmert himself insisted on first class tickets, expensive restaurants and hotel rooms, high class cigars and pens, all at the expense of private people.

So what right did he have to blast Bibi about what he himself was doing?

a bit of irony in the Olmert scandal

Niqnaq pointed out this piece of irony he picked out of the Talkbacks on the Haaretz article reviewing the Olmert scandal and the testimony given today by Moshe (Morris) Talansky.

Talkback #9 writes, "Morris Talansky is the brother of Shoshana Talansky, best friend of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s wife Libby, from the 50s. Some say that if Olmert is brought down directly because of the brother of R. Kahane’s friend, it would see justice partially served, being that Olmert himself, as Likud lawyer, was directly responsible for having Kahane banned from the 1988 elections, because Likud were fearful that his Kach party was going to take 12 Knesset seats from them.."

If that ain't irony, I don't know what is...

movies in the army

NRG/Maariv reported that the commanders of the Nahal Haredi army unit have given orders, by direction of the Rabbonim, disallowing use of DVD players and mp4 players.

It seems that soldiers in the unit have been bring in these players with which to while away their free time.

the problem is that this unit is called "Nahal Haredi" for a reason. The unit is meant to be one that allows a Haredi person, who has decided it is time to leave Yeshiva and needs to fulfill his requirements to the army, to do so in an environment that is sensitive to his lifestyle. That means they have some shiurim, they have time for davening, they have no women on their base, they are provided glatt kosher food, and more.

Having movies all around the base can easily ne seen as being counter-productive to the idea of Nahal Haredi. if a Haredi yeshiva guy wants to join but sees that it might harm his lifestyle, he might decide against it. The Nahal Haredi wants to be as welcoming as possible, and that means creating a welcoming atmosphere for the intended crowd.

The Nahal Haredi accepts not just Haredi yeshiva students, but many from the national religious public as well. And from other groups, such as Carlebach types, Kahanist types, and more.

I don't know who was bringing in the DVDs and therefore I do not want to say it was this group or that group that was at fault. But it seems the problem might be that they accept guys from many different backgrounds, but they need to impose an atmosphere welcoming to one specific background.

Going to the army means following the army rules. You have to adapt yourself to the army lifestyle. When you join the army, you are no longer in yeshiva. The army is nice enough, accommodating enough (granted it is this way because it has its own objectives), to create a unit that is more in line with the needs of one community.

If you insist on joining that unit, follow the rules. If you want to watch DVDs, nobody in the army cares. Just do it in a different unit. This unit is meant to have an atmosphere for a different type of person.

the protest raging in RBS

The following "pashkevil" was distributed around the mailboxes of Bet Shemesh/RBS yesterday.

It kind of speaks for itself. The issue has been going on for about a week, but it seems the protests have not swayed anybody so they decided to raise the tone.

This family, the Levi family, has decided to install cellular antennas on the roof of their building. They are getting paid money by the cellular company to do so. The neighbors are concerned, rightly so, for their health. They have been holding protest vigils outside the Levi's home for the past few days, blowing shofar, saying tehillim, etc.

The Levi's have clearly not given in, and the protesters have now published this sign.
I blacked out the phone numbers but not the names, because while the names are already well known, I think publicizing the numbers and asking people to badger them was inappropriate.

A couple of thoughts:

There is no conclusive proof that cellular antennas cause sickness or other dangers. Their are studies that support both positions, but nothing conclusive has ever been proven, to the best of my knowledge.
That being the case, I fail to understand what right the neighbors have to protest the Levi's decision to install the antenna. (and I checked with my Rav to see if this position was correct and he told me this as well) If you feel you have a case, take them to beis Din, convince beis din that it is dangerous or against the rules and have an injunction forcing them to remove it. Without that, I fail to see how they have the right to do this. Protest, I guess that would be ok. They are concerned so they can try to sway the Levi's to being sensitive to their concerns. But to distribute inflammatory sings like this - to me it seems wrong.

Furthermore, why is it signed "Concerned and endangered neighbors of RBS A, B and Kirya Charedit"? The location is in RBS A by their house. What do the other neighborhoods have to do with it? Why do they call themselves "endangered"?

If the Levi family is moving to Modiin, maybe the solution has already been found. While they write that everyone else is afraid but they sleep peacefully because they are soon moving to Mosiin, maybe the new residents cna be swayed to remove the antenna. I am sure an agreement with an owner is not forced upon somebody who buys the aprtment from them. Convince the people buying the place, or moving in, to cancel the contract. In essence, this affects the lives of the Levi's as much as anybody else's, and they seem convinced that it does not present a danger. So their moving to Modiin seems to be irrelevant at best, and possibly even the solution to the problem.

It is ironic that these are the owners of Kidma, which is a center for the child's well-being. They provide services for children with various issues that need different types of therapies. While there might not be proof of the dangers, it can't be good for you. And perhaps people involved in such a business should be more sensitive to the anedotal evidence as well.

Lastly, it always bothers me seeing these protests against cellular antennas. Everybody walsk around carrying cell phones on their hips, in their pockets, talking on them all the time, etc. If they only carry one phone, they are unusual. Many carry two phones. People cannot be a moment without their cellphone. Yet they protest the antennas. And then when there is no antenna in the immediate area, and reception is weak, they complain about that. So everybody wants cellphones with great reception but no antennas.
If you want your cellphone, which anyway is probably more dangerous to your life than the antenna, deal with the antenna. You can't sit on both sides of the fence.

This chimney looks too narrow for Hannukah Harry

This (seen below) strange "chimney" recently went up in the neighborhood. I asked around a bit what it is and I was told that the generator is located on the premises of the shul beneath it, and neighbors had been complaining about the smell and noise of the generator as it was being released right near their windows. So the management of the generator, so I am told, installed this chimney which releases the exhaust at a point that is higher than any of the surrounding buildings and apartments. (this is based on what I was told. If you have more knowledge about the chimney and my information was incorrect, please let me know).

Here are 2 pictures of the "chimney" so you can have some perspective. The first is angled up, so the height of it compared to the building is noticeable, but might be considered deceptive because of the angle. So I took the second from a distance so you can see how it rises over the buildings around it.

The newspaper had a little piece yesterday about a court decision against the city of Bnei Brak.

The court decided against the city of BB and the mayor, and obligated them to pay the residents a sum of 150,000 NIS in damages, and to remove an electricity generator.

In Haredi cities/settlements, it has become common to install and operate a private generator for use on Shabbos, so there will be no need to use electricity from the electric company that may be desecrating the Shabbos in its procedures. The use of the generator is generally considered a stringency, but it has become fairly widespread in these communities and is considered by some to be necessary, and not just a stringency.

The court decided that while the electricity produced might be kosher, it does much harm in other areas; smoke, noise, radiation, electrocution, and unauthorized use of public property. Based on these concerns, the courts decided against the city of BB.

The court is referring to a generator that was put up without a license and without permission from the authorities. This has been fairly common, with the city often turning a blind eye and ignoring it so as not to make trouble for residents. After this court case, they might no longer be able to do that, and people installing and/or operating generators might very well need to actually get authorization and licensing to do so.

I have no idea if the one in RBS is a pirate generator or if it is authorized and licensed, but at least they listened to the complaints of the residents and did something to lessen the disturbance.

May 26, 2008

Chabad recognizes the Rebbe died

A bitter fight was just concluded in Netanya, with the local Chabad house coming out victorious.

The local Chabad house wanted the street name of "Max Nordau Street" to be changed to "Lubavitcher Rebbe Street".

The local residents were against the name change and fought it bitterly.

The local Chabad house won, as the mayor supported their petition.

The name change does not bother me, but I wonder if it could have been done in a better way without religious jews having to embitter the local secular/traditional residents. I mean, how important is a street name anyway that it is something that has to be fought over?

It seems strange for Chabad to get into such a fight with locals. Their whole success is based on good relations with the locals wherever they are. How are they going to ask people to put n tefillin and come for a glass of vodka when the neighbors now hate them?

But, regardless, they chose to fight for it and they won.

I guess one good thing that comes out of it is that at least one Chabad house recognizes that Rabbi Schneerson has died. After all, streets are not named after living people.

the inaccuracies of a translation

It is interesting to note how different news media translate the same Hebrew word to different English words, and how that can change the tone of the article.

Today PM Olmert said that only those who are "Hazui" can still believe in the concept of a "Greater Israel".

"Hazui" is a Hebrew word that seems difficult to translate precisely. My Babylon translation software comes up with no suggested translation for the word when I submit it for translation.

A sampling of how the various media outlets translated it:

Haaretz: those who hallucinate

Ynet : delusinoal fantisists

JPost: bizzare people

This goes to show you that translations need to be taken with a grain of salt. The words the translator uses have been selected not necessarily for their accuracy, rather to convey a certain message.

This is why the Septuagint was considered such a tragedy. Until then the Torah had not been translated, and by setting a precedent, it was opening a door for corruptible translations to be entered into our libraries.

Whenever possible - read from the original in the original language. Even if the translator had the best of intentions, it is prone to inaccuracies just because it is not always possible to get an exact translation.

The noose is tightening

You know the noose is tightening around Olmert's neck when all of the sudden you turn on the radio and hear, or open a newspaper and read, all these statements by ministers of Kadima about what the government has to do vis a vis Gaza, or the Golan or whatever else is under discussion, when until now the ministers kept quiet and let Olmert do whatever he wanted.

They are all trying to position themselves to be the most capable and best positioned for replacing Olmert. Just today i heard Sheetrit talking about how we cannot talk with Hamas and we have to attack in Gaza and every day passing is a day lost, etc. Where has he been until now? Sure once every couple of months we heard him say that eventually we will need to attack, but now all of the sudden he is speaking up about how important it is.

Mofaz and Dichter and the rest of them are all talking up against Olmert giving up the Golan, attacking in Gaza, etc.

They all feel the noose tightening around Olmert.

the only one to stay out of it is Tzippi Livni. I think it might be because she has nothing to say, and if she laid out her positions, she would be tossed by the voters. The analysts seem to think she is against primaries and wants to be chosen (by the Kadima ruling management), as the replacement, and that is why she stays quiet.

Coverboy of the IDF

I am not sure what this represents, if anything, but I just noticed that when you go to the IDF Hebrew website, they have a rotating banner at the top with various images of soldiers. The first image that displays is the one below, of a soldier in tallis and teffilin davening....

Yossi Sarid gives the Haredim legitimacy

I am using a 6 year old cellphone. People see me pull it out of my pocket and they think I am crazy. They see the broken keypad, the cracked face and they ask why I am still using such an old cellphone. They saw me replace the keypad and the panel for just a few shekels (bought over the internet from ebay UK because I could not find replacement parts anywhere else) and scream at me to get a new cellphone.

My response is that this phone works great. All I use it for is voice and a little bit of sms. I have no need to spend 1500 NIS, minimum, on a new phone. I don't want internet access on it anyway and for voice, my phone is great. So I spent a few shekels in replacement parts.

Yossi Sarid, former head of the left-wing and possibly anti-religious political party Meretz, wrote an article last week about how his wife was the first non-religious person, at least according to the sales rep at the Pelephone company, to purchase a "kosher cellphone".

To remind you, a kosher cell phone is an invention demanded by the Haredi public. The phone has access only to phone calls - no sms, no internet, no email - just voice. Basically nobody except a Haredi consumer has any reason to buy such a phone.

The catch is that there are some people who don't use any of the other services anyway, but they are not offered to purchase such a phone because it is designated for the Haredi community. These phones are cheaper, much cheaper as Mrs. Sarid saved over 1000nis by buying it. The only thing is that if you use it on Shabbos, you pay a very high per-minute fee.

So anyway, Sarid writes this article how the salesman offered her the cheapest phone and then she asked about this kosher phone she heard was cheaper. He would not sell it to her because she is not religious, but when she insisted he finally worked it out and she bought it, saving 1000NIS.

For a few days now, this has been the topic of discussion in the Haredi news world. All the Haredi papers wrote about it and the Haredi forums on the internet exploded on this topic. They seem to be taking great pride in the fact that Mrs. Sarid has purchased a kosher phone.

As if that gives the Haredi public, and the Haredi methodology, legitimacy. The fact that a secular Jew, a public figure no less, went out and bought a kosher phone, that means kosher phones are legitimate and even an ideal.

Now, why is legitimacy dependant on what the secular Jews think? The Haredi community, the Haredi culture, does not need to get its legitimacy from any outside sources. the Haredi society has much to offer and it has its own ideals it believes in. Granted it might not be perfect. Nothing is. Sure, there is room for improvement. But if Haredi society believes something and thereby creates a system around that belief, it, in my mind, does not need approval from outsiders in order to give it legitimacy.

And please stop getting so excited everytime a secular Jew says how Haredim are good or right about something. Especially if it is only being said indirectly, like by Mrs. Sarid who really only bought it because the price was cheap, not because she believes the regular phones are destructive.

how could he sign it if he was not there?

I have not written about the geirus controversy for two reasons:
  1. Many others have written about it, from either side of the table, and I had nothing new or better to say on it.
  2. I do not really know what to believe. Are the Rabbonim on the beis din really canceling all these conversions just because of politics and tryng to take away legitimacy from the National Religious community? It seems so ridiculous! They must be basing it on actual halachah, even if they are taking a more machmir stand than what others might deem prudent. But on the other hand, the allegations of how this whole thing went down seem so strong that it is hard to believe politics are not involved. I am no expert in the halachah, and I am not savvy to the political games being played in this situation, so I chose to stay out of it. The only thing I have now decided to do is point you to a post by Ben Chorin who has a shocking revelation of how things work in this system.

May 25, 2008

Haveil Havalim 167 is up

HH 167 is up at Frume Sarah's World.

Double Quote of the Day (qotd)

1. “I get stomach pains from the thought of returning the Golan,” [Halutz] said, “but in theory, Israel could get by without the Golan" --- former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz

MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said in response, “In theory and in practice, Israel can get by without Dan Halutz.”

2. Fearing Gaza rockets, IDF moves troops, civilian staff from Erez - IDF, newspapers, etc.

So they refuse to protect or evacuate Sderot and the surrounding villages, but they will evacuate the soldiers from the area..... I guess if they will not be protecting Sderot, there is no need for an army base full of soldiers....

(HatTip on Eldad's response: EK)

I believe in Jew (video) (music)

Last night was the Final round of this year's Eurovision contest. This is some European music contest in which Israel participates, because somehow we have convinced people that Israel is part of Europe.

I don't follow Eurovision, but in the past there have been a couple of times that I have. There have been some good, or at least decent, song entries by Israel in the contest over the years, including a couple of winners. The past few years, Israel has submitted some weird entries, including the famous transvestite Dana International, The strange group from Sderot called "Teapacks", and this years entry of a Yemenite singing like a feigeleh who was the winner of the Israeli version of American Idol.

This years song, sung by Boaz Maudah, was developed by the transvestite mentioned above, but performed by Maudah. Thinking it would help, I saw an article in the paper last week about an argument between designers about what costume he should wear. The final decision was the one you will see in the video. They thought that the display of his muscles would help his cause. I thought this was a singing contest, not a Mr. May contest. Whatever happened to improving one's singing abilities to win a singing contest!!??


Warning: For anyone who might still not be listening to music because of sefirah, these clips are not for you.
Anyway, here is Boaz Maudah, who took 9th place in the finals last night.

The winning entry can be seen here as well. The Russian contestant took the top prize. Along with him is a guy dancing on ice skates, and the singer rips open his shirt at the end. Maybe he won because the final phrase of his song is "I believe in Jew". (though I think he meant to say "you")

What a joke of a contest.

Too Much Sex in the City

Everybody must have already read about the upcoming opening of the movie Sex in the City, and how Jerusalem and Petach Tikva have banned the advertisements for it from being run in those respective cities.

I don't know why this movie is different than all other movies, but they are really making a big deal out of it. My wife told em they called the house the other day asking if we plan on goign to see it, if we have seen the ads, if we would take the kids, if we would take the kids if we got a discounted ticket, etc.

I don't remember getting phone calls promoting other movies, but the Sex in the City craze is getting to be a bit much.

May 22, 2008

Lag B'Omer: a silly holiday

The way we celebrate this holiday tonight, Lag B'Omer, is so silly and unusual. It has basically become an opportunity for kids who have pent up pyromania tendencies that are suppressed all year by the parents (read: us) to suddenly let loose and burn everything in sight.

Most people, myself included, don't even have any idea what it all means. Yeah, sure, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the Zohar, blah blah blah. So that means my 4 year old needed to bring wood today to her gan so they could make a bonfire? That means every 20 feet or so people need to make a separate bonfire 3 stories high and stand around watching it burn, mumbling a few words from a song that almost nobody knows what it means, not knowing what they are supposed to be doing?

All this developed within the last 10 years or so. Even in Israel. Forget America where there is no such thing as a bonfire. You would be arrested if you lit a bonfire on the sidewalk, or even in your backyard, if you were in America. I remember when I first came to Israel, there would be one or two neighborhood bonfires. Now, as I said, every second building makes their own, if not two or three, every shul makes one, every youth group makes one, in many places every class in every school makes their own, etc.

But, heck, this is the one holiday kids get to break loose and really enjoy, so I guess it can't be all that bad. They act responsible, building bonfires, managing, arrnaging other kids to help and delegating work. I guess there are positive aspects to it as well.

Here are a few images:

There are very few shopping carts in the supermarket because all the kids have them around the neighborhood for shlepping wood.

going for a refill

what a waste of good wood!

Mafdal (NRP) politicians are all Reform

NRG/Maariv is reporting that Eli Yishai, the Chairman of Shas and the Minister of Industry, said in an interview today about the conversion situation that "the Mafdal politicians will all end up being Reform jews. When we vote in the Knesset against the Reform, they [Mafdal] vote in favor of the Reform. 30, 60 years ago, they fought against the Reform. Today they don't. Many of their voters have switched to supporting us - they are looking for real Judaism."

It is one thing to argue about policy. It is another thing to have the chutzpah to say that you are authentic Judaism and another group, an orthodox group no less, is not.

Things to do

-----------------------------------referral post---------------------------------

Summer is fast approaching. Here are some things you might want to do...

Caliber3, a special anti-Terror training site in Gush Etzion, has opened their doors to the public. Now all of us wanna-bes can go and practice shooting and get anti-terror training and get that adrenaline rush we are always looking for...

Then there is the Israel Challenge. They will take you places and have you doing things that will give you a vacation you will never forget.

If you are looking for a place to buy, either because you are making aliya, or just looking for a new place, you might want to check out Nofei HaPark, or Park View. This is a new project of homes in Efrat offering you that close proximity to Jerusalem, while still living in the small town atmosphere...

If you have a son approaching army age and trying to decide whether to go to yeshiva, hesder, Mechina or army, you might want to check out this new Mechina. The Leadership Yeshiva Academy looks like they really put a lot of effort into developing a good system for a serious guy who wants a mechina program to learn for a year and prepare for the army.

---------------------------------------end of referral-------------------------------------------------------

Enjoying Tefilla (video)

I have never seen a chazzan have this much fun...

expect action tonight

The Badatz has been advertising warnings against various activites in meron that have been prevalent in previous years.

the way up to the kever Rashbi in Meron has become something similar to a carnival. Companies have stands offering their products, politicians have stands, social groups have stands, booksellers, computer software companies, Chabad, Breslav and many other groups. They put up stands on the mountain leading up to Rashbi. They sell items, they have video screens showing films of whatever they are offering, etc.

the authorities have been able to make some changes in recent years; they have made some of the roads leading up to Rashbi to be "mehadrin" in which some of those activites cannot happen, separate buses, separate sides of street, rules about what can be displayed and what kind of food sold,, etc.

The Badatz has warned that this year they will not put up with the video screens or with stalls selling anything but sifrei kodesh.

Here is one sample of a warning from the Badatz:They threaten violence against those who do not heed the warning, and they blame the potential victim saying you have been warned so do not complain afterwards about any loss of money and damage incurred.

Anyway, there are reports of specific threats and knowledge, both by organizers and by police, of the identities of those who are planning on making trouble with violence and attempting to damage others property tonight in meron.

Lo and behold, the three names that have been talked about as those who will be there are oour friendly neighborhood hooligans from RBS B. They have become more violent than their counterparts in yerushalayim and they are the ones expected by the national police to be perpetrating, or at least attempting to, violence tonight in Meron.

working his magic

Who would have thought that yesterday's surprise announcement about breakthrough talks with Syria would have worked their magic so fast??!!

Until now, for the past 2 weeks we have been inundated with reports how this investigation is the most serious and will almost definitely lead to a very fast indictment because of how much evidence they have collected.
Suddenly we get this surprise announcement on talks with Syria, and all of the sudden we have the above headlines of not enough evidence for an indictment.

May 21, 2008

these are negotiations?

So if the Syrian Foreign Minister is telling the truth, and Israel really did agree to a full withdrawal from the Golan already in the first day of official negotiations, what is there left to negotiate? Why have they not signed the deal and why has Israel not already pulled out of the Golan?

In what kind of negotiations do you agree to everything the other side wants at the beginning of the discussion?

Things that make you go hmmmm: happiness with no peace

I don't get how this works. It seems like a contradiction to me.

Today, Ynet is reporting that Israel has placed in the bottom four of 140 nations in a ranking of how peaceful the nation is. Israel placed right next to illustrious war torn countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq Sudan and Somalia.

Just the other day, Jameel mentioned a report from the Asia Times that did a study on happy countries, and they found that Israel was ranked as the happiest country, with a higher life expectancy than even Germany or the Netherlands!

How do those two categories fit together? The least peaceful, but the happiest. Doesn't make much sense.

The Chief Rabbis (IDF) explanation of his suppsed chillul shabbos

About a week ago the story broke that the Chief Rabbi of the IDF had supposedly desecrated the holiday of Pesach (the story actually said he desecrated the shabbos, but alert readers pointed out that the timing means it was really the holiday), and the Haredi press had written about it very critically demanding an explanation and his resignation, as they claimed there was no need for him to be there and therefore no need for him to get in the car.

For some reason, Rabbi Ronsky, the Chief Rabbi of the IDF, felt it necessary to try to clear his name and provide an explanation. Yesterday he sent a letter to various Rabbis of the IDF in which he provided an explanation for his actions.

He wrote, "The IDF rabbi is an an inseparable part from the fighting unit. Just as he puts himself in danger when he goes out with the unit to the front lines, so too if the unit has to be mobilized on Shabbos, the Rabbi must join the unit."

Ronsky compared the IDF Rabbi to the way the Torah describes the Kohein who was appointed to go out with the people to battle. He writes, "The Kohein would meet the soldiers before they went out to battle, and he would lift their spirits. He would then go out with them to the battle.
The main job of the Unit Rabbi is to raise the morale of the soldiers. Strengthening them in this way is an important job in ensuring their success in battle, for, as is known, assault before an enemy is not natural for a person, and definitely not for our young soldiers. Therefore a Rav who is integrated thoroughly with his unit, who participates and is present during their exercises and their operations, can help them overcome their distress and crises that are charachteristic in these situations."

"The soldier is comparable to a choleh she'yesh bo sakana - a sick man whose life is in danger. Such a person we even bring his family to his bed, because it can help his situation. We find that even Torah decrees would eb waived to bring his family in this situation. How much more so, in this situation, to strengthen the morale of the sodliers - something that will directly affect the success of the operation, that is of invaluable importance."

I guess his classification of the Rabbis role would be a point of debate, but at least he has a reasonable explanation (as I wrote before, that I did not doubt from the start). Even if others do not agree with his opinion, it is not necessarily their place to instruct him how to behave, when he is fully qualified to make such decisions.

May 20, 2008

is Yeshiva World for or against Rabbi Horowitz??

After the most recent snafu on Yeshiva World website, in which they initially reprinted a "Letter to the Editor" to the Mishpacha Magazine in which the author blasted Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz and then subsequently took down the whole post because the comments got extremely nasty (see this google cached page of the original post and comments..), I found the following page on Yeshiva World extremely amusing...
First they blast him, and then they run ads for him... I guess it is the advertising money that is more important than what they actually believe about him....

The latest email scam

Ever hear of the Nigerian email scam? If you have been using email anytime over the past 13 years or so, how could you not be familiar with it?

Jameel just forwarded to me the latest, most recent take-off of the Nigerian email scam.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ehud Olmert <pm@pmo.gov.il>
Date: Tue, May 20, 2008 at 5:20 PM
Subject: urgent
To: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

From: PM Ehud Olmert

Greetings from Jerusalem

Before I introduce myself, I wish to inform you that this letter is not a hoax mail and I urge you to treat it serious. We want to transfer to overseas account (30,000.000 NIS) Thirty million New Israeli Shekels from a prime Bank here in Israel. I want to ask you, if you are not capable to quietly look for reliable and honest person who will be capable and fit to provide either an existing bank account or to set up a new Bank a/c immediately to receive this money, even an empty a/c can serve to receive this money, as long as you will remain honest to me till the end for this important business trusting in you and believing in God that you will never let me down either now or in future.

I am PM Ehud Olmert, presently the Prime Minister of Israel. Potentially in the course of an audit next week, it will be discovered that I have a floating fund in an account opened in the bank in 1990, in which I regularly deposited envelopes full of cash. I discovered that with the audit next week, if I do not get this money out urgently it will be forfeited for nothing.

The official owner of this account is my wife Aliza, a great artist and a resident of Jerusalem, who unfortunately never had any art skills, and it shows it what she produces.

While we would have claimed that the deposits were for artwork, no one believes that any more, as who would actually by her crap. No other person knows about this account or anything concerning it - yet.

The total amount involved is Thirty million New Israeli Shekels only [30,000.000.00 NIS] and we wish to transfer this money into safe foreigners account abroad. But while I know many foreigners who give me money, I don't know any foreigner who will keep their mouth shut; I am only contacting you as a foreigner because this money cannot be approved to a local person here, but to a foreigner who has information about the account, which I shall give to you upon your positive response. I am revealing this to you with believe in God that you will never let me down in this business, you are the first and the only person that I am contacting for this business, so please reply urgently so that I will inform you the next step to take urgently.

At the conclusion of this business, you will be given 40% of the total amount, 50% will be for us while 10% will be for the expenses both parties may incurred during this transaction. PLEASE, TREAT THIS PROPOSAL AS TOP SECRET.

I look forward to your earliest reply

Best Regards,

PM Ehud Olmert

Jerusalem, Israel

(of course, Turban Tip to Jameel)

a haunted building in Bnei Brak

Mishpacha newspaper (Hebrew) this past week reported on an unusual situation in Bnei Brak that I thought you might find interesting.

It seems there is an apartment building in which five residents have contracted diseases from which they quickly died within the past year, the most recent being within the last week.

The residents, understandably, are extremely concerned and worried about their safety. They have not been able to figure out what might be causing it, so they have turned to various Rabbonim and Gedolim to try to obtain segulahs and forms of protection for the building.

Upon the advice of the Rabbonim, they have established a regular shiur in the building on the topic of shmiras ha'lashon, and they have performed some sort of ceremony as per instructions from some kabbalistic works. They also circled the building 7 times while blowing shofar, giving tzedaka and saying slichos.

Rav Gershon Edelstein told them that the way to stop the plague is by improving in one's good deeds. Rav Edelstein said, "All of Israel is repsonsible one for the other, and the righteous are punished for the sins of the generation. Today there are so many accidents and afflictions, people need to know that the first thing to do is to improve one's behavior and relations between people...."

The article did not specify what the contracted diseases were that these people were dieing from. I hope they looked for cellular antennas that are sometimes installed secretly in buildings. In RBS there was such an antenna installed by a cellphone company in a building a number of years ago and shortly after, three children from different families in the building contracted various forms of cancer.

The Badatz is Coming, and Why We Should Be Worried

A Guest Post by Anonymous Reader

Warning: The Badatz is Coming, and Why We Should Be Worried
As residents of R/BS, we are all fed up with the rising tide of violence and intimidation that has charaterized this town for the past 10 years.
Just this morning, new signs were put up, threatening another round of violence. This time, the excuse is that the iriya is enforcing the local by-laws, that require people to pay for hanging up signs on buildings: including tznius signs. Rather than pay the fee, they have decided to cause mayhem.
Not everyone is aware of the source of the extremism -- the arrival of people loyal to Edah Hacharedis. These young individuals, composed of Yerushalmi families of various affiliations, are even more radical than their parents.
What is important to emphasize is that this is not a small group of disaffected youth; the violence goes all the way up to the top, to the rabbis that incite and/or support the violence -- Rabbis Shia Rosenberger, Naftali Rottenberg, and Nosson Kopshitz.
This past summer, we witnessed an outbreak of violence, unprecedented in the history of Bet Shemesh. Not only were there the usually garbage burnings and graffiti, the Yerushalmim, supported by their Rabbis, burnt a forest, poured oil on a major thoroughfare, threw rocks at a bus, scattering glass shards on women and babies, and disrupted the lives of the residents of Bet Shemesh for nearly a month.
All the while, these criminals received support from their rabbis. When the three worst criminals were arrested (one of them, the son-in-law of the Burka lady), the rabbis of the Edah Hacharedis called a protest, attacking the "Zionist entity" for "abusing innocent charedim."
Make no mistake -- the rabbinic support is documented. As recent as two weeks ago, Rabbi Nosson Kopshitz personally went to the house of one of the criminals awaiting trial, in order to encourage him and show support.

Another example is the prohibition that the Badatz placed on having video screens in Meiron on Lag Baomer. The letter from the Badatz was accompanied by a warning from the Badatz's goons that they will break any video screens that are put up in violation of the Badatz's order.
The hooligans are opening up a Beis Din. Until now, at least, the rabbinic support was only based upon the local rabbis that the Edah Hacharedis has planted in nearly every neighborhood. With a Beis Din, the Edah Hacharedis will attempt to present itself as the binding authority for the Charedi and Dati communities of Bet Shemesh. This has been their modus operandi until now in Yerushalayim -- the Badatz thinks of itself as being in charge and exercises that authority.
The danger of the Badatz doesn't stop at support of violence -- it permeates every aspect of life. We have witnessed how Rabbi Nosson Kopshitz intervened, through a proxy, of course, to completely change the school Ko Tomar. With a Beis Din to back them up, the extremists will commit be able to interfere much more easily.
Again, the problem is not that the Badatz of the Edah Hacharedis is extremist; the problem is that it imposes that extremism on others.
The recent expose of the Burka cult shook up the Bet Shemesh community. If we don't want our city to look like Tehran or Ramallah, the first step will be awareness of the causes of extremism and the people -- and institutions -- that are feeding it. Without a doubt, enemy number one is the Badatz Edah Hacharedis.

what the heck is chai rottel anyway?

Can anybody explain the minhag/segulah of Lag B'Omer that is called "Chai Rottel"? I have never understood it.
Something about sponsoring drinks in Meron.

Is it good for the guy sponsoring? Good for the guy drinking? What is it based on? Any of the readers here know anything about it?

May 19, 2008

2 stories of greatness

(originally posted on DB)

I just saw two separate stories, both of which display amazing levels of morality, chessed and I guess a good upbringing. I want to share them with you.

1. An Egged bus driver on a Haredi line to Ashdod completed his route. As he was inspecting his bus, he found a plastic shopping back under a seat. He described it as "the type of bag one puts pita in at the bakery". He picked it up and looked inside. To his amazement he found it contained a lot of money. Upon counting it, he was shocked to find $40,000.

I don't know about you, but if I was carrying $40000 I would hold on to it, even if it was in a non-descript package. If I carry anything more than $200 I am constantly checking to make sure I have not lost it.

But some poor shnook lost a bag with $40,000.

I like to believe that if I found so much money I would make an effort to find the owner, but maybe I would only make a half-hearted effort. You never know until you are in the situation.

Anyways, the bus driver, right away contacted the Egged guy in charge of the Haredi sector of Ashdod. A little while later they found the owner of the money who provided simanim and claimed the money.

Egged is awarding the driver with some sort of honor and certificate because of his dedication and honesty.

It is nice to see such honesty in our cut-throat world.

2. The second story relates to the three yeshiva boys who were recently arrested in Japan for drug smuggling. I have not found the story too interesting, personally, and have therefore not paid too much attention to the details. My feeling is that when you commit a crime you take a risk of being caught. I am a bit ambivalent to their plight because they took a risk, they were caught and are now paying the price. They are not in jail unfairly, they are not in jail because of anti-semitism or for any other unrelated reason. They were smuggling drugs. I am, as I said, a bit ambivalent to their plight. But then again, I am not really that nice of a person.

Rav Chaim Weiss, on the other hand, is a very nice guy. Weiss is a Satmar Chassid from Antwerp. Weiss travels around the world, whenever he hears of a Jew stuck in a jail somewhere - any Jew regardless of his affiliation, or lack thereof, to Satmar or any other group - and does whatever he can to ease the fellows conditions and try to assist in obtaining his freedom.

Weiss claims to have been in every country in the world, in almost every prison in the world, to assist Jews who get in trouble. One story related is that a week before Pesach, Weiss simply disappeared. no word to anybody - friends, family, nobody. Nobody had any idea where he was.

Erev pesach he shows up at home with tens of Jewish children that he smuggled out of Iran, by renting, out of his own pocket, a KLM airplane, getting them to Pakistan and from there to Holland.

With these threw boys in Japan, he worked his contacts and put forth his efforts, and he was the first person to be allowed in to see them. he has helped improve their conditions.

Weiss often fasts days in a row, surviving only on water (and I guess adrenaline) and food he was able to bring from home, when possible, because he goes to places where no kosher food is available.

His life is dedicated to the mitzva of pidyon shvuyim - whether you or I think someone deserves the help or not matters not. he sees someone in trouble and he drops everything and goes to help. And he gets the job done because of his dedication to the cause.

Something to think about

Today is the 14th of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar.

That translates to Pesach Sheni.

Today is the day everybody whips out the leftover matza from Pesach and insists that even if you had had enough matza on Pesach and could not bear to look at another crumb until next year, you still have to eat some today.

Pesach Sheni is the day the Torah offers for those who were not able to bring the korban Pesach on regular Pesach due to being, at the time, in a state of impurity. The Torah offers a second chance a month later.

The idea that the torah offers a second chance is unusual, and I do not have an explanation. Why for this mitzva but not for others? If you have an explanation, please leave it int he comments or email me.

Anyways, many people are careful to eat matza today. They want to make sure everybody does, even if you ate matza on the first Pesach, and offer it to you. I ate matza today because some people brought matza to work and placed it strategically in the lunchroom so everyone could take some.

Technically, Pesach Sheni is really to give us an opportunity to bring the Korban pesach - an opportunity that was missed a month ago.

Right now, the obligation to bring the korban is a very heated debate, with many Rabbis weighing in that technically we are obligated today,as korban pesach does not require the beis hamikdash or the mizbeiach, and it is one of the few korbans that can be brought in a state of impurity (when most of Israel is impure). In reality we cannot bring it because we are not allowed to by the authorities.

Some groups make a big deal and try to get permission, try to apply pressure, etc. Most of us think those guys are kooks (even though I did register with them on the off chance that permission would be granted).

I wonder though - if we got permission to bring the korban, and let's say we even got permission from the government, and let's even say that we got permission from the Waqf, would we jump at the opportunity?

Is our lack of bringing the korban really because we cannot, as we claim? What would you do, really, if you had the opportunity today?

You don't have to answer this (but feel free, if you so desire, to in the comments section).

Just something to think about.

hanging signs against Shefa Shuk

The following email was sent out to the RBS email list...

If you've seen street posters around Ramat Bet Shemesh (perhaps Bet Shemesh, too?) bearing the Meretz party logo, lauding Shefa Shuk for being open on Shabbat, here's a tidbit that you may want to keep in mind:
The poster-hangers who were hanging those posters around the neighborhood late on Motzaei Shabbat Parshat Behar were two men dressed in genuine Chassidish-style garb, if my eyes didn't deceive me.
These same men were also hanging, in all the same locations, posters encouraging consumers to NOT buy at Shefa Shuk and to preserve kedushat Shabbat.

I am not saying you should buy in Shefa Shuk or that you should ban them. Do whatever you feel comfortable doing, ask your Rabbi, whatever. But when the battle takes on proportions where each or either side is using deception so you think the other side is fighting a battle for or against shabbos, be aware that not everything is so straightforward.

BTW, Mishpacha reported this week that by June 1 there would be a major decision on how to proceed with the Shefa situation.

Headline of the Day (hotd)

Prime Minister vs. the State of Israel

------------ many newspapers

as the PM appeals to the Supreme Court in an effort to avert the police investigation into his alleged bribery and corruption scandals...

Badatz in Bet Shemesh

The Badat"z has put out the following advertisement...

They are announcing the opening of a beis din under their auspices in Bet Shemesh this week. This is the first time they are opening an official beis din outside of their own "home town". They clearly see (Ramat) Bet Shemesh (B) as their future, as prices of housing in Jerusalem continues to climb and lack of available housing for young couples becomes more acute.

May 18, 2008

interview with Moshe Talansky (video)

This Channel 10 interview with Moshe (Morris) Talansky is a few days old, but I just saw it now...

Olmert doesn't follow his own moral code (video)

PM Ehud Olmert is under investigation for some serious bribery and crimes still not yet revealed because of a partial gag order. It looks like he is on the brink of being served an indictment. He refuses, so far, to suspend himself claiming the law does not require him to.

When former President Moshe Katzav was under investigation for possible sexual crimes against some women working for him, Ehud Olmert was one of those who very publicly took a stand and called on Katzav to resign despite no indictment having been served. As a matter of fact, until today, still no indictment has yet been served against Katzav (because of plea bargains).

Ehud Olmert insisted Katzav follow a moral code that he himself refuses to follow. Listen to PM Olmert demand Katzav's self-suspension:

In memory of a great Jew (video)

Today, 43 years ago, a Jewish hero was killed. Eli Cohen, the Israeli spy who infiltrated into the highest ranks, the upper echelons, of Syrian politics, was captured and sentenced to death. On May 18 1965, he was hanged in public. His bones have yet to be returned to Israel.

Cohen, due to the information he transferred to Israel, is credited with being largely responsible for the great victory on the Syrian front in the 1967 war.

Yehi Zichro Baruch, His memory should be a blessing.

Shmitta: Hetter Mechira: Halachic Revisionism

In today's day and age, where it is common to wash over opinions of the Rabbonim that do not jibe with the consensus, it was a bit of a surprise to read the following in the Mishpacha (Hebrew) magazine this week.

The Mishpacha interviewed a Haredi fellow who is the Director of Mossad HaRav Kook (the publishing company belonging to the Yeshiva, if I am not mistaken). This fellow related the following story:

When my father , Rav Yitzchak Rafael, the Minister of Religious Affairs, and the leader of the Mafdal, became Haredi and learned in Yeshivas Kol Torah, he decided he would not eat in his parents house. That year was a Shmitta year, and his parents bought fruit and vegetables that were from Hetter Mechira produce. His parents were very upset - will our own child not eat in our home because he does not trust our Kashrus? Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach paskened that he should continue to eat by his parents, even the hetter mechira produce, for shalom bayis. Rav Shlomo Zalman said, "In your own house, do what you want. In your parents house, continue eating."
The fact that Mishpacha ran this piece is surprising. Nowadays the trend is to black over such opinions. In todays discussion of Hetter Mechira, no balance is given with the option of Hetter Mechira being considered allowed, b'dieved, in a sha'as ha'd'chak, as Rav Shlomo Zalman allowed it. Nowadays, seforim printed explaining in great detail all the various halachos of shmitta and the rejection of hetter mechira - none of them mention that Rav Shlomo Zalman was willing to rely on it (even if only as a b'dieved). Nowadays, all we here is that it is assur, it is like treif, if you cook such produce you have to kasher your pot as if you cooked chicken and milk, etc.

And even among those who are willing to admit that Rav Shlomo Zalman allowed people to eat hetter mechira produce (at least in certain situations), they presume that nowadays he would never allow such a thing. Today's land sale is nowhere near as reliable as it used to be, they say. He would agree that it is completely assur. This is halachic revisionism.

The fact is that Rav Shlomo Zalman allowed the use of Hetter Mechira produce, and he lived not so long ago. It is not like claiming that of Rav Kook, who lived 100 years ago. Maybe you can get away with saying that he would never have said his hetter had he lived today. but Rav Shlomo Zalman lived just a few short years ago and he still supported it (at least b'dieved). His upcoming yahrtzeit is only the 13th. if anything, the quality of the sale today is much better halachically as all the issues regarding who really owns the land, how much of the land is sold, and all the other problematic issues are dealt with much more thoroughly in today's sale and not just ignored with a broad sale.

Nowadays, anybody who paskens differently than Rav Elyashiv is questioned and looked down upon.

So, I am not saying that one who does not rely on hetter Mechira should start relying on it (ask your Rav of course).

I am saying it was refreshing to see that the Mishpacha did not just wash over Rav Shlomo Zalman's opinion like many others do. It was refreshing to see that the posek ha'dor who passed away only a short while ago, had a different opinion, and there is nothing wrong with a machlokes. He held it was ok (b'dieved) and others held it is assur (even b'dieved). At least the other opinion has now been voiced in a mainstream Haredi publication (albeit in a small piece in a small interview on the last page of the magazine).

Haveil Havalim #166 by Ima

Ima on the Bima is hosting Haveil Havalim #166

Caption Contest (potd)

What caption would you put on this picture of George Bush and Mahmoud Abbas in Egypt?

May 17, 2008


3 Links:
  1. A Mother in Israel has the scoop on the latest womens cult Megirot.
  2. Shaul started a new blog called Free Thought promoting open-minded discussion. He even suggests being open to talk with Hamas. I guess he must be buddies with Jimmy Carter... :-)
  3. A Simple Jews thoughts on what it means to be "pro-Israel"..

May 16, 2008

Shmitta: Gogo'im

Gogo'im. Otherwise known as "Apricot Seeds".

As we begin making our way through the summer months, we now begin to find all sorts of fruits in the stores that are coming into season. That includes "mishmish", or Apricot.

Kids in Israel love apricots. Not because they love the fruit itself, which they do, but more so because of the pit inside. The apricot pit, known in Hebrew as Gogo, is removed from the apricot by the kids and then recycled into use.

the Gogo is collected by the hundreds and thousands. It is used in games, it is used to barter and to purchase things. We have all heard the stories about the kid who sold his bike to another kid for 10,000 Gogo'im!

So I am in the supermarket yesterday and see they have apricot. So I pack up a bag. Then I notice the sign says these apricots are Otzar Beis Din produce.

That of course means they have kedushas sheviis - holiness of shmitta, and have to be treated appropriately with care.

So that raises a dilemma. Are the kids allowed to play with the Gogo'im, or is that considered to be treating it with disrespect.

I considered the following options:
  • They are not holy (because they are not food, rather waste).
  • This is not considered disrespectful because this is considered a normal use.
  • They are holy and kids cannot play with them.
I asked my Rabbi what is the proper approach in dealing with the gogo'im. His response was that the kids can play with the gogo'im because they are not considered food and are therefore not holy. They just have to make sure their is no apricot residue on the pit.

So, let the games begin!

May 15, 2008

silly Israelis

Israelis are silly. They love American politicians who say a few words in Hebrew.
Bush just said Yom Haatzmaut Sameach" and the whole Knesset gave him a standing ovation.

And look - it even made the Breaking News on Haaretz.

But I must say, Bush is giving a great speech so far.

Olmert is having a hard time keeping his eyes open while Bush is speaking. Peres was already shown dozing off.

Now that Bush concluded his speech, I must say that he gave a more right wing speech than I have heard from even the most right wingers in Knesset. It is hard to believe, after all he said, that he really wants us to divide Jerusalem.

Natanyahu sucker punches Bush

I think Bibi just punched George Bush in the stomach. While coming to the end of a powerful speech in the Knesset while hosting George Bush, head of Opposition MK Benjamin Netanyahu said he has one more thing he has to talk about.

He went on to talk about the unity of Jerusalem and our connection to it. The Knesset broke out clapping a couple of times and George Bush puckered up his face.

Just happened a minute ago.

This man was Godly

"From when he was a little child he fought for everything holy", "Always guarded himself from ever seeing anything inappropriate", "never wasted a moment of time", "took care and assisted other people, whether at home or in kollel", "with his kids he was caring. he listened, he participated in their lives, he lifted their spirits, he taught them to understand and to listen, to daven, to love to fulfill every mitzva carefully in great detail. he took them to their ride for school, and he would be waiting for them when they came home" etc etc etc.

The above are excerpts from a recently distributed piece of tzedaka spam recently distributed.

The poor fellow died from some desease, leaving orphans and a widow with no financial support. The flyer goes through the whole spiel describing their situation.

Now, I don't doubt this guy was a great guy and a wonderful father, along with all the other people described in all the various flyers distributed all the time.

But why is it that these guys are always described as nearly being the perfect man? Do regular people, people with weaknesses and foibles, not die, or do they just not collect money for them? And even if this guy was really a great guy, was he really so perfect?

This just refers to the description of the subjects of these collections as practically the perfect person. I know I am far from perfect. Reading these flyers, and I rarely do, makes me think what they would write about me, chas v'shalom, if I was in that situation. Would they write how lazy I am and how much time I waste? Would they write about how I did not spend enough of my free time learning? How I did not spend enough time, quality time, with my kids?

How do they honestly come up with these godly descriptions of people?

This does not even refer to the ads for tzedaka that promise salvation for those who donate through them. That is a separate issue.

What does 40km include?

Defense officials are now saying that Hamas in Gaza is on the verge of obtaining rockets that will have a range of 40 kilometers. They expect them to be obtained and operational within 2 years.

If those are just numbers to you, that area includes cities such as Beer Sheva, Ashdod, and Kiryat Gat within the range of these rockets. And it actually puts Bet Shemesh just outside of the range, but Zaharya, a little moshav right on the southern doorstep of Bet Shemesh, is within range.

So on the one hand, that might mean all you southerners might want to move to bet Shemesh and keep pushing up our real estate prices, but on the other hand that means that the next stage will likely include Bet Shemesh, jerusalem, Rishon Lezion, Holon, and more. So nobody is safe.

here is a map where I measured out the 40km, for your visual enhancement.

May 14, 2008

President Bush arrives in Israel

This was recorded live from Bush's arrival in Israel and his grand welcome at the airport. I particularly enjoy watching the great detail and level of protocol involved.

I was surprised to see Rafi Eitan there to greet Bush, and Bush shook his hand, though he did not really pass words with Eitan as he did with almost all the other ministers.

The second video is of Bush's visit to Shimon Peres at the President's residence. To me it looked like he was not listening to a single word Peres said. The newscasters, at the end, focus on the image of the security detail cleaning every speck off the presidential limo. They are very amused at the level of detail.

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