Monday, December 05, 2016

Happiest day ever!


Thus ends the great Haredi war against social media. Agudah loses again! Happiest day ever!

Other wars the Rabbis have lost -
  • Keeping the Oral Torah Oral
  • Hanuka 
  • Mysticism
  • Hasidut
  • Upshurin
  • Messianism
  • TV
  • Internet

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Yeshiva guy says over a vort

Here's a classic bit of nonsense that relates to Parshat Toldos.
When it was new, this vid provoked a great disturbance in the Jewish blogosphere, with attacks and defenses coming from all corners.

Naturally, I hold that I wrote the best defense which can be found here:…/avos-and-mitzvos-fisking-hirh…

Its a long read, but it also explains the proper way to understand this video, and makes the case that it is perfectly in keeping with rabbinic tradition.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Shafrin supports BAnnon

Shorter Avi Shafrin: When the lame-stream media is less than nice to Jews you can count on me to personally lead the attack; Bannon, on the other hand, is a good man, you liberal crybabies. Why oh why won't you read his fine conservative website charitably?

The sobbing of some political liberals, including, of course, many Jews, that ensued after the presidential election results were tallied has turned into wild wailing with the appointment of Stephen Bannon as senior counselor to the president-elect. Those observers were shocked enough back in August, when Mr. Bannon, the executive chairman of the politically conservative Breitbart News, was put in charge of Donald Trump’s campaign. Now, though, mouths are foaming.
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Bad Hasbarah

That footnote provides a valuable lesson in hakores hatov /snark

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Explain this Thanksgiving thinking

The local school for blackhat boys was open on Thursday, Thanksgiving, until 1 pm, and closed on Friday. This confuses us. 

To our mind, there are four intellectually conherent positions a Jewish school could take on Thanksgiving. 

Intellectually Coherent Position #1: Thanksgiving is not our holiday, and should be ignored. If this is the local school's view why close on Thursday afternoon and Friday? 

Intellectually Coherent Position #2: Thanksgiving is not our holiday, but concerns us because its observance interrupts the study of Torah. If this is the local school's view why not close for half of Friday, too? Is Thursday's Torah study more valuable than Friday's Torah study? 

Intellectually Coherent Position #3: Thanksgiving it not our holiday, but we recognize the value of families enjoying time together. If this is the local school's view why not close for Thursday morning, too? 

Intellectually Coherent Position #4: Thanksgiving is our holiday (we're American after all) and its observation is a civic celebration is which we should take part. If this is the local school's view, why not close for the whole day, and open on Friday

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Pence Wasn't Offended

I'm heartened by the fact that Pence, at least, behaved like a normal politician after he was booed at the theater and addressed from the stage. Instead of exaggerating the offense and turning the moment into yet another stupid battle in the culture war, Pence denied he was offended.

Unfortunately, Trump was neither mature nor civil in his reaction, insisting on Twitter the vice president elect had been humiliated and that the cast and crew of Hamilton owed him an apology. Why did he do this? Speculations include:
  1.  He's a thin-skinned crybaby
  2.  He'd prefer that we talk about Hamilton instead of:
  •  The Trump University fraud case he settled
  •  The popular vote he lost
  • The transition he is mismanaging
Your guesses?

Trump is "preparing to be the president of all of the people of the United States of America."

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Donald Trump totally cool with gay marriage

It gives me special glee to share with you that your next president supports gay marriage. Not because I support gay marriage, too, (though I do) but because so many super Orthodox Jews told me that I was required to vote for Trump because he was certain to block the gay agenda. Well, ha ha. Jokes on you.

Trump will perhaps become the most LGBT-friendly Republican president in history.

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Rabbi Abraham Gordimer is a sucker

Here is Rabbi Abraham Gordimer confessing he was conned by the new grifter-in-chief. Because DONALD TRUMP will protect religious right and traditional values. DONALD TRUMP.

PS: Trump: I’ll be ‘neutral’ on Israel and Palestine.

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I married a Jew.

What does a rational and reasonable anti-Semite sound like? Now there is a question worth asking in the age of Trump! In this article from 1939 (!), a Hitler-sympathizing German American calmly and politely explains why her Jewish American husband is wrong about almost everything.

Wonder how this happy couple ended up, once Hitler's intentions became impossible to wink at?

Here's a taste:
Of course we eventually come to Hitler, Ben and I. In the eyes of Ben, as in the eyes of all his people, Hitler stands for the Jewish equivalent of the Antichrist—a little, strutting monster whose sole purpose and pleasure in life is to flog, imprison, impoverish, humiliate, and plague Israel. Few history books trace the path of persecutions against the Jews as they have occurred throughout the ages. They have occurred in ancient Rome, Poland, Russia, Spain, England, and France, usually whenever Jewry becomes too numerous and too powerful, whenever it becomes, in the eyes of Gentiles, a threat, potential or actual, to Gentile supremacy. I try to tell Ben that Hitler is merely writing another page in a history that will continue so long as the status quo between Jews and Gentiles remains—a status that only the willing shoulders of both protagonists can remove. 
But it is hard for Ben to take the long view. He looks upon Hitler as something malignantly unique, and it is no use trying to tell him that a hundred years hence the world will no more call Hitler a swine for expelling the Jews than it does Edward I of England, who did the same thing in the thirteenth century—an expulsion that remained in strict effect until the time of Cromwell, because a hundred years hence another country will be having its Jewish problem

"'Mother,' I said quietly, 'remember the greatest Man who ever lived was a Jew – Jesus.' That held her for a minute. 'Yes,' she murmured, 'it is the great paradox.'"

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Don't blame the Democrats

A guest post by Johanna Granoff Cohen that you should read now.

This is my second sleepless night due to the election. I'm sure that I'm working at far less than full capacity, and will be until I can sleep again.

I'm well aware that in these situations, one has to recognize the risk of poor judgment and be careful not to do anything foolish. 

Really, the ideal thing is to quietly wait it out until it passes.

So of course I thought it was a good time to post.

I have a number of Trump supporters among friends and family.

I get that they voted for Trump despite his racism and misogyny, not because of them.

They had other reasons to hope he would be the best president for us, and while I disagree vehemently with them on that, I'm okay with it.

I get that many Trump supporters are like my friends and family members.

Others are genuinely interested in the ugliness that Trump has advertised during his campaign.

I'm not okay with that.

But I also get that racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia are big, complex, long-standing evils and it will take work and time to lessen their power to make people fear and hate.

Want to know what's making me sick with sadness and helpless anger tonight?

Of course you do, that's why you're still reading this over-long, overshare-y post.

I have quite a few Facebook friends who are dedicated conservatives, people whom I genuinely like and respect even though they are coming from a very different place politically. And I thought they felt the same way about me.

But today many of them took the opportunity, in this moment when we liberals are feeling like our heart has been ripped from us and replaced with anxiety, to post about how liberals are to blame for the anger in this country, how we have been arrogant and elite and out of touch with blue collar America.

Many of these people don't like Trump either, mind you. Yet they post with a certain spiteful glee -- ha, those liberals, they thought they were so smart, well now they're getting their comeuppance.
They are unable to resist relishing our confusion and misery, *even though they have liberal friends who are reading those posts.*

And that just kills me.

It's the unkindness of it.

The utter lack of compassion.

Decent and intelligent people acting with a mean-spiritedness that I find more shocking than Trump's victory itself.

I have friends who voted for Trump.

I have friends with very different beliefs than I have.

That's fine with me.

But the friends who chose to be cruel today?

This changes how I see them.

Because we can have different political views, different agendas, different values and priorities -- but kindness has to come before any of that. I thought we all understood that.

I am sick over this.
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Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Trump optimism thread.

OK let's conclude day one of the Trump era with some optimism. Reasons for hope include:
  • Zero chance any wall is going to be built, leading to widespread disillusionment for the xenophobes
  • Military still, for the moment, in hands of competent professionals.
  • Obama did none of the evil things everyone on the right said he would do. Precedent?
  • Some Republican Congressmen might have character, backbones and a sense of decency. Maybe. I mean its not 100% impossible.
  • He's old, overweight and already showing signs of befuddlement.
  • He's never promised to do anything bad to those Jewish white people who haven't already pissed him off in some way.
  • That lunatic he put in charge of the EPA this afternoon may, at any moment, decide to respect actual science.
OK.... yeah... agreed. This is weak beer. What are your silver linings?

Friday, November 04, 2016

What would Rabbi Avigdor Miller do about Trump?

As a Toyra Tree Jee, this letter is very confusing. On the one hand the Rav says to avoid candidates like Trump who have the support of Nazis, scum and other deplorables. On the other hand he says we should only vote for candidates who pledge to appoint close-minded and ignorant judges who intend to use the constitution to impose a backwards and regressive morality on the country. What do I do?

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Thursday, November 03, 2016

Misplaced priorities

New person I hate: Shmuel Rabinowitz, Administrator of the Western Wall and chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation

After the rioting at the kotel yesterday morning, he said: “due to deep trembling for the [possible] harm to the many Torah scrolls that were brought along” he had instructed the orderlies at the site not to clash with the demonstrators.

Meaning he'd have been happy to break heads if the Torahs hadn't been present. Why no deep trembling for the [possible] harm to human beings, you shmuck?
Eventually several Torah scrolls made it into the women’s section for Women of the Wall’s monthly service, while a pluralist prayer service was conducted in the upper plaza of the site.
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Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Breaking: HOAX supports FRAUD!

So many offensive things in this one little article, but I think the most offensive item is this:

"The head of a major Jerusalem cheder, or religious elementary school, “came to vote today,” Zell said. “He told me he had decided to vote, and explained to his students why he did so — because of the values of the Republican Party, belief in the Creator of the world and family values."
  1. Trump and family values? Really?
  2. Republicans and family values? Really? Sure, they are the party of family values, unless your family happens to be one of the following: poor, unemployed,non-white, uninsured, inner city, rural, single parent, disabled, atheist or democrat.
  3. And let's not spend any more time talking about family value icons like Trump and Gingrich and Giuliani who remain part stalwarts

Citing an unnamed Haredi mystic, Marc Zell says Trump campaign staffers were ‘amazed’ at the news
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Monday, October 31, 2016

Trump supporters are dumb

I was accosted this weekend by someone who told me that it was up to us, as Orthodox Jews, to put Trump in the White House because he'll stop the gay agenda. My top objections:
  1. Trump is an immoral, hedonist, vulgarian. He's not likely to be anti-gay.
  2. The president has no actual power to enact anti gay legislation. That's Congress's job.
  3. The rise of Christianity does more to affect and influence our lives than gay marriage. We hear more about Jesus and Christianity than we do about sodomy. In fact, when was the last time you saw an act of sodomy? Meanwhile, it can be hard to walk down the street without being bombarded by Christian images and messages.So why are you eager to shut down homosexuality but content to let Jesus flourish?
  4. You're a pot-smoking tax cheat, you hypocritical moron.
What did I leave out?

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

God is mean to us on Sukkot (in our imagination, anyway)

Have you noticed that Sukkot is the holiday in which we ascribe to God characteristics and personality traits we would find despicable in human beings?

He evaluates us based on the quality of the fruit we're toting around? He wants to hear us scream for rain at the end of the holiday? But if He makes it rain at the start of the holiday it's because He's feeling petulant about our previous behavior? Marching around in a parade with our vegetables give him pleasure? He decides if he likes us or not based on how vigorously we shake a twig?

I would not want to hang out with a human being who exhibited such shallow behavior, yet that's the deity I'm supposed to worship?

Note: I am aware that this mode of thinking is leftover from the days when feudal lords ruled the world, and dancing around their temper was the only way to get through the day. We had to simper and grovel, and they were often petulant, short-tempered and unreasonable. And we tend to think about God the same way we think about flesh and blood leaders. But today such behaviors are unacceptable in an authority figure. Tony Soprano has been replaced by Ronald Reagan. We respond to leaders who are fair, charismatic, selfless, rational and predictable. So how can we update the way we think about God and Sukkot to reflect this new mode of thinking?

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Yom Kippur: Mar + Matok

I'm the crazy person who really likes the Yom Kippur davening.  If the chazan and congregation are on their games, the result can be perfectly amazing. On a great Yom Kippur, the service will make me think and feel, while it elevates my emotions and leaves me spent. The afterglow is real.

In fact,  I'm so crazy, that I'd rather spend less time on  Viduy and Avinu Malkaynu and more time on the piyuttim. I like to read them and, when the chazzan is doing his job, I like to sing them, too. 

No claims about how any of this effects God and my din, however. I can only say what it does to me.

However, not everything about Yom Kippur is peaches and creme. 

Here are my Opposite of Top Yom Kippur moments:

1) Selling aliyot. I will never understand why "we need the money" is allowed to serve as an excuse to turn a place of prayer into a marketplace on one of the holiest days of the year. It fails as an excuse, because a) many of the places that sell honors don't actually "need money" and b) you could also prostitute the rabbi's wife, or put Nascar signs on the Aron for money. Point is some lines we don't cross, and it's weird to me that this isn't one of them.

2) The ArtScroll encouraged idea that "[The piyutim are] infinitely more than inspired poetry." See, "infinitely more than poetry" is NewSpeak, a way of hiding the frightening fact that it really IS poetry, and that our community, for all it's jive about being "authentic" is failing our fathers, and making a mistake by not teaching our young people to write and appreciate poetry.

3) The appeal after Kol Nidray. See #1

4) People who complain about how boring shul is, or spend the day reading or learning. Will you please kwicherbellyachin'? Please? This attitude, I've found, is more common in shtiebles, and its usually the people who identify themselves as "very frum" who think its holier to learn when the rest fo us are praying

5) Chazzanim who use new tunes for the piyutim. Call me an unreconstructed traditionalist, but I don't want to sing Maaseh Elokim to the latest Shwekcy hit. And though I recognize that some of the more "traditional" tunes were likely Russian drinking songs before we appropriated them, that isn't what they mean to me.

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