Friday, May 30, 2014

Safrin spins R' Perlow's attack on us all

“Orthodoxy means not thinking--not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” 
― George Orwell

I'm trying to write a post mocking Avi Safrin's reality-bending defense of R' Yaakov Perlow's from-the-podium attack on 90 percent of the Jewish population, but nothing I come up with can top Avi's own words.
Here they are:
Rabbi Perlow did not disparage fellow Jews, but rather theologies that claim to be faithful to the Jewish religious tradition but are not,” he wrote in an email. “What he addressed were ideas and beliefs, not innocent Jews who may have been misled by the Zeitgeist and its blandishments.
“Anyone who knows Rabbi Perlow knows well that he has only love and concern for all Jews, no matter what misguided paths they may have been led, sadly, to take,” he added.
To remind you, this is R' Perlow addressing "ideas and beliefs" in a manner that demonstrates his "love and concern" for all Jews.
  • "They have ave disintegrated themselves, become oblivious, fallen into an abyss of intermarriage and assimilation"
  • “They have no future, they almost have no present.”
  • "They will be relegated to the dustbins of Jewish history"
  • "There’s a grave danger out there…outside New York City, that positions of leadership amongst Orthodox Jews is being taken over by people who have completely deviated from [the preservation of holiness.]”
  • “stand up and reject these new deviationists, cloaking themselves in the mantle of Orthodoxy.”

By the way, please be assured that when me and the other Korach bloggers mock Avi and the other Crosses for their bad arguments or their habitually pompous dispositions, we are only criticizing their "ideas and beliefs"; our remarks are rooted in nothing but "love and concern" for them all.
Mayor de Blasio was too distracted by well-wishers to listen when an Orthodox rabbi went on a tirade against reform and Conservative Judaism at a...

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Two cheers for Ashkenazi Food

The Jew-hating New York Times brings additional pain and suffering to the people of Abraham today, with a long article about the joys of Ashkenazi cooking. 

Many of the dishes are triefed up with bacon or frou-froued with strange vegetables, but on the whole this is a credible and affectionate account of Jewish cooking.
Jewish-American deli food is suddenly the rage, as younger cooks mix tradition and reinvention.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What to Wear? The Yeshiva Barbeque

We're deep into the dreaded dinner season. Night after night, it seems the wife and I are obligated to go and pay our respects at some rubber chicken fiesta. Boring food. Boring speech. Boring video.

So its a bit of a welcome change when the shul or yeshiva tries to mix things up by hosting a barbecue instead of a dinner. I applaud the effort, but the outdoor venue and casual vibe present a problem: What do you wear?

Dressing for a traditional dinner is easy: Dark suit, white shirt, dark tie. But you can't flash your rabbinical garb at a barbecue without looking ridiculous and because our fellow Jews have deeply traditional and close-minded ideas about clothing you can't wear shorts and a T-shirt either. Not if you wish to continue to be taken seriously by the event's hosts and sponsors. So what do you do? I see two possible options


  • Linen breaths
  • Its a suit, which (unfortunately) is what yeshiva types consider proper dress for every situation
  • It provides a jacket, which your yiras neighbors requires you to wear for davening 

  • Linen wrinkles
  • Light colors aren't frum and you often have to match them with non-white shirts which also aren't frum 
  • Do I want to get hot dog grease and mustard on my linen suit? (I don't actually own a linen suit)
Seersucker would be nice, but the only Orthodox Jews I know who are brave enough to wear seersucker have social problems.


  • Comfortable
  • Season and event appropriate
  • You can get it dirty
Bonus Pro
  • Match it with a jacket. If everyone else is in a jacket or suit, you're safe. If no one is, you can shelve the jacket and get double bonus points with the folks who (lets be honest) are judging you when you whip the jacket out for mincha or maariv.
  • A little too casual for a shul or yeshiva event?
  • What if everyone else dorks out and wears a dark suit?
Am I missing anything? What say you?

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Cartoon Jewish history

Shared by OrthoDiction:

Yep, that sure meets my definition of a holy man. He has secret life saving knowledge which he knows via magic, yet he only shares it with the guy who came by with a pidyon. This is a rebbe in klal yisroel!!

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why the traditionalists won't play ball

Do you want to know what RYA and Shafrin and the Crosses are defending? Do you want to hear their point of view presented succinctly, accurately and in the neighborhood idiom?

Do you want to understand the basis of their attacks on OO, heterodoxy, Modern Orthodoxy, Hechsher Tzedek, Mafdal, Chardal and every other style or sect?

Do you want to know why the Fink Summit, and its laudable but naive attempt to bring traditionalists together with everyone else, can't possibly work?

Its all right here in a comment left by someone called Magen Avraham. I've annotated the comment for clarity:
 "She writes as if our Talmud doesn't exist and is smarter than hashem himself!(1) She just in a whim knocks off the tanaaim amoraim the reshonim and thousands of years of tradition because she thinks let me repeat she thinks that maybe he rabinnical interpretations which BTW is hashems interpretation through a human vehicle (2) is incorrect but so far I haven't heard from her the more correct interpretation . its all a farce ppl that talk this way have personal agendas (3) simple as that."

(1) If you criticize their cherished interpretation its as if you're criticizing Hashem himself. They make no distinction between the will of God, and the particular interpretations they like best.

(2) See?

(3) And of course anyone who tries to make such a distinction, anyone who recognizes that the interpretations are by definition the flawed, limited product of human perception and tries to build a life or a Judaism based on that recognition has "an agenda" or is otherwise tainted, damaged, stained, and down with a mental illness as - please! - how could a normal, honest, fully-functioning human possibly think that way?

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The prayer the pope should have offered.

How cool would it have been had the Pope said this prayer at the security barrier:

Hey Lord, remember how we Catholics made every single Jew in the word an object of scorn and derision and regarded them as sheep led to slaughter to be killed, destroyed, beaten and humiliated as punishment for something a handful of Jews, in the distant past, may or may not have done? That sucked. It was wrong. Collective punishment is evil. Therefore, as we Catholics finally repent and atone for that horrible crime, we ask you to help the Israelis reach this understanding and seek to fight terrorism by fighting the terrorists, rather than by forcing an entire population of men, women and children who cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand to suffer for crimes they have not personally committed.

The forgoing is not a criticism of the barrier per se.

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Defending Dan's Deal

ICYMI, the Children's Place made what appears to be a pricing error on their web site, and after Dan Deals announced it, some pronounced Dan's behavior "disgusting."

That's cool, by me. You're allowed to think its "disgusting"  when someone capitalizes on a corporation's pricing mistake. But you run into problems when you try to speak about this from the vantage point of halacha.

See, here are some things that need to be taken into consideration before you go paskening that Dan is disgusting:
  1. Who says this is a pricing mistake?  Corporations do all sorts of things to attract attention and generate buzz. Slashing prices on a few items drives traffic to the website and gets people talking. 
  2. If it is a mistake the company may have forgiven the loss. They retain the right to cancel sales at their discretion. If they allow the sale to go through, you can assume they are honoring the price and accepting the loss.
  3. If it is a mistake and they aren't mochel, there still might not be a real loss. Making less then your wanted to make on a sale isn't a loss. Its an unrealized gain.
  4. A pricing error that causes a loss (as opposed to an unrealized gain)  is, technically, an aveida, a loss, and we have no halachic obligation to return an aveida to a corporation
Now, if your personal morality says different, kol hakovod.  Just don't make it about halacha. Make it about your own opinion.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Pope prays at two walls.

"This filthy hippie Pope needs to stop worrying about the poor and the peace and get back to bashing the gays"

-- Said or thought by every RWer, everywhere.

Yes, the Pope prayed at two walls, and RW Jews are predictably torn. On the one hand, they are OH SO HAPPY that Frank leaned on the kotel for a few minutes. On the other, they are OH MY GOD FURIOUS that he went to the separation barrier and said a few words there, too. 

Can we get a grip, please? The Pope isn't that important. Not to us, anyway. We're not made whole when he behaves in symbolic pro-Israel ways, and we're not damaged when he acknowledges the Palestinian claim that Jews aren't the only people in the universe who ever had a tough time. Frank is king of a dying empire, and the leader of a church that still isn't all that friendly to Jews or Judaism or humanity. No God I believe in is interested in what the Pope has to say at the Kotel and you guys on the right shouldn't attach so much significance to what he says or does at the barrier.

See, at the end of the day that's the problem. You dopes on the mainstream Orthodox Right have an irrational love affair going with the Vicar of Rome that isn't unlike your unrequited love affair with the Hasidic sects. You performed cartwheels of joy when JP2 glanced in our direction with something other than a sneer. You line up to pay homage to the rebbes without seeming to realize they preach contempt for you, your lifestyle, and your beliefs. For some reason, you think people who dress funny and make barbaric religious pronouncements deserve limitless respect and uncritical admiration and some of you (HI HARRY!) have made it your life long goal to get some love in return.

Well, wake up. The Pope thinks you're going to hell, and its his job to rescue you from eternal slavery in this world and the next by converting you to what is essentially a nonsense ideology, one that has a horrible record on human rights. Anything he does at either Wall needs to be understood in that context.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Anonymous responds to Rabbi Adlersteins article

FYI I know first hand dovbear is not anonymous. Azi 

Rabbi Adlerstein

I am not too concerned with what is written about the conference, I am more concerned about people knowing I was there. Everyone who attended agreed to keep my attendance confidential and I sincerely hope, for my families sake , that you continue to do so. I have read your article, and I am happy to report no mention of my name was made. Thank you!

It is true that many people who leave the Orthodox community are in pain, however many who leave the community do so not out of pain, but because they no longer wish to part of the hypocrisy. Your article seems to suggest that Orthodox Judaism is the only way a normal well balanced person should live his or her life, and if someone Chas ViSholom goes OTD they must be in pain or they never would have done so. It treats OTD like an STD, and turns it into an unwanted disease. OTD is not a disease, and many people lead a very productive fulfilling life, or would, if they weren't dealing with the vitriol and contempt from the orthodox community. Nowhere in the Torah does it say its a mitzvah to hate OTD people and treat their children like pawns and their relatives like a pariah. 

Changes need to be made in how the Orthodox community perceives the OTD community. People who are OTD are your own children, brothers, sisters, and best friends. They are not some foreign group who is trying to take away your home, rape your women, and tempt your children to do drugs. They are regular people who choose not to believe for various reasons in your religious beliefs. To be honest, people treat their non Jewish neighbors with respect, they very least that can be done is not to hurt, and ostracize the OTD community. 

The Orthodox community has a huge and well funded "Kiruv" operation which tries to find people who have never been Torah observant, and convince them to become "frum". It is mitzva to treat these people well, invite them into our homes, feed them, and be nice to them, all so that they see the light of yiddiskeit. Why not do the same for OTD people? Instead of hurting them, throwing their children out of schools, forcing their spouses to divorce them, the Orthodox community should be inviting them into our homes, be friendly to them, or at the very least, just leave them alone!

The Orthodox community should feel pained. They should be pained that they are hurting their brothers and sisters. They should be pained that they are doing next to nothing to help people who are abused and tortured by their own families and Rabbis. They should be outraged that there are people who are treated as subhumans, all in the name of "Daas Torah". 

It is unfortunate that only the OTD people at the meeting felt the pain. If the pain was felt as acutely by the On The Derech members of the group, we would already have made significant strides to rectify these hurtful issues.


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Some Early Cheesecake

Posted by Y. Bloch

Gott milk?

El Shaddai and the Gender of God

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Manipulative Lies from Lakewood

Saw this on Fink and Swim and nearly had a heart attack and died. Because yes, it still surprises me that people are shameless enough to do this, and that morons are stupid enough to believe it, and that our so-called leaders are too timid to stop it.

Click here to download the audio file >

Its a RoboCall alleged to have been heard in Lakewood, Ir HaTorah,  in which a cheerful sounding woman lies through her teeth.  She wants Lakewood women to cut their wigs, see, and since there are no good arguments for doing this she resorts to making crap up.

After the [conference on wig cutting] for several days there were no Hatzolah calls which is a historic record. [Cut your wing and] Hatzolah will have fewer calls and there will be fewer tragedies in Lakewood.

This is manipulative horse crap. Fink made a few calls and he has confirmed that there were in fact Hatzolah calls in Lakewood during the period under discussion. But its crucial to remember that even if the claim were true, correlation does not imply causation  During the period in question, I rubbed my tummy a few more times than usual. Perhaps that, not the tznius conference, had the alleged magical effect on Lakewood?

Next Steps

The liar on the phone invites curious parties to call 732 367 0370. Let's do it, and tell whoever answers how outraged we are at these manipulative lies.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My unwanted, unrequested two cents on the historic summit

I like Eliyahu Fink. I admire his optimism and his ability to see good in anything. Which is why I've been reluctant to say anything publicly about his "historic summit." But after reading Alderstein's new post on the Crosses, in which he described the conference, I found myself weakening. His attitude is simply revolting and his blind spots are legion. My small fisk follows.

I had not intended to write about the meeting a week ago Sunday between a group of Jews who left observance, and another group taken from the traditional community. 

Originally, the participants had all agreed to keep the meeting under wraps. Noise, self-congratulation in the press, grandstanding – these are proven ways of deep-sixing a new, delicate and complex venture. Somehow, the rules got changed, and the word is out. By now, there have been so many varied reports about the “summit” that I must add my voice to those who have already spoken.

Here is where I will ask why it is newsworthy that a group of people had a meeting. Meetings happens every day. The participants who have filed reports are acting as if the Pope sat down with the Ayatollah, but can we be honest for a moment? None of the participants are communal leaders in any sense. More importantly, they don't represent anyone. If lightening strikes and these meetings manage to help Alderstein and Safrin see that they are pompous prigs* with false, and even damaging ideas about both the religion and the universe who will that help other than Alderstein and Safrin? They don't speak for the other prigs, and the other prigs are under no obligation to obey them. Likewise the OTDers didn't appoint a representative to attend this conference and make decisions on their behalf.

Though I have an inchoate idea of what the goals of this conference might have been I fail to see how the participants at the meeting, given their standing and status, have any hope of realizing them. I see no way of extrapolating to the larger community any of what the participants personally experienced at this meeting

* prig: a self-righteously moralistic person who behaves as if superior to others.

It was the non-traditional group that requested the meeting, and it did not prove difficult to find traditional counterparts who were more than willing to participate. Rabbi Eliyahu Fink ably presided over putting the two groups together. The traditional delegates did not volunteer (nor could they, since no one knew about such a meeting), but were asked to join. The meeting was going to be small, confidential (so people could speak openly), and focused.

OTDers and traditionalists have been talking to each other forages  They talk to each other all the time. They chat at family events. For more then a decade they've interacted on web forums, on blogs, on Twitter and on Facebook. Many of those conversations are pointless, of course, but some are productive, with the participants gaining and learning from them. I've seen it happen. This Summit sounds like another one of those conversations. The fact that the participants who have gone public are representing this meeting as something new under the sun - they're even calling it a Summit! - instead of recognizing that it was just an ordinary interaction among relative nobodies seems like nothing but a function of their own egos.

I agreed to participate, even thought it meant hopping on a red-eye from the West Coast right after Shabbos.  Two objectives stood before me. Firstly, the OTD delegates were Jews in pain. (Aside: Several attendees expressed their dislike of the “OTD” label, and I can understand why. We are going to use it here because – as I pointed out at the meeting – its very ubiquity makes it unlikely that it can be erased as the descriptor of choice. Many in the yeshiva community object to the term “ultra-Orthodox,” but we similarly have no choice about using it.) People in pain need to share that pain with others, particularly when they feel that they have been previously silenced. I was aware enough of ways in which our community has made, and continues to make, great mistakes that may have contributed to their pain. As a member of the Torah community, I felt that we owed them the opportunity to be heard, and that taking the time to listen was the least I could do as a member of the community. Apportioning “blame” was a non-starter. Pain is pain. It should be ameliorated wherever it exists, period.

What did I say about ego? Here's the great, exalted Rabbi deigning to interrupt his busy schedule to fly cross country to sooth the pain of the poor lost sheep. Only, he's not going to do anything meaningful to address the sources of that pain. He says "taking the time to listen was the least I could do" but comments on his blog remain strictly moderated. So much for listening. His partnership with Menken and the Crosses endures and his columns will continue to appear alongside posts that prop up awful ideas and defend terrible people, with no word of protest or disagreement. The bashing of teenager girls who wear tefillin and heterodox Rabbis will continue. But at least the choshiva rov is available to pat heads and coo some kind words in private, behind closed doors at an event he's been promised no one will publicize.

Secondly, the traditional members perhaps stood more to gain than the no-longer-observant. Readers of Cross-Currents are not great consumers of whitewash.

Does Alderstein read Cross Currents? The blog is nothing but one big, giant, brush of whitewashing. Just standing here on one leg I can think of posts that whitewashed the following unsavory characters:
They generally insist on viewing reality in color, even when that includes somber shades of black.

And Cross Currents has been very helpful in abetting their viewing of reality by publishing science and evolution-denying posts.

In other words, they are aware – to some extent – of real problems and fault lines in our part of the universe.

Despite the ongoing efforts of Shafran, Alderstein and Menken to paper them over?


The meeting has been touted as running counter to the usual. I don’t see it that way. There is nothing particularly exceptional about Yidden listening to the pain of other human beings. If the meeting helped ease their pain, or gave them a modicum of hope for the future (hope means for different treatment to the children, relatives and friends they all have within the Torah community), it was successful, even if not particularly revolutionary. I hope that the premature attention directed to it will not cause the collapse of the process.

What process? Why is a process needed in order for jerks to stop being jerks? How does "premature attention" justify the continuation of errors?  If you know your community is doing something wrong - is causing unnecessary damage and pain!! -  and you have a forum for publicizing and correcting those errors, how dare you abdicate that responsibility? How dare you use "premature attention" as an excuse! How many blessings from how many gedolim do you need before you can stand up and do the right thing?

It would be counterproductive – and somewhat narcissistic – to report on the content.

So narcissism-seekers will have to be content with the account of your red-eye flight to the souls who longed for your healing touch

Let that happen later, when the process continues. 

Process. Again with the process. Just tell other people to stop being jerks. You don't need a process for that

For now, all I will say is that I learned much with my brain, and even more with my heart. 

Much of what you learned might have been discovered years ago had your blog employed a less draconiam commenting policy.

Some of us have some pretty nasty reactions to situations, and they are damaging and not what the Ribbono Shel Olam wants to see. 

You have no idea what the Ribbono Shel Olam wants to see. Prig.

I sensed that some on the other “side” learned a bit about the dynamics of the traditional world that they had not known while inside. To be sure, we were eleven blind people all encountering a huge elephant in the room, and meeting up with different parts of it. Some felt the sharpness of the tusks, while others were impressed or dismayed (depending on perspective) by a massive, immovable flank.

Even at this stage, it must be conceded that listening to pain can be painful. The anguish of others becomes your anguish. Listening to horror stories about the behavior of some individuals and some organized parts of the Orthodox world can depress you when you realize that you cannot jump out of your seat and say, “Impossible! Torah Jews never act this way!”

What are you going to do with this pain and anguish? How it will change the way you conduct yourself on your blog? ( I mention the blog because its where we see him) What have you learned from the meeting, from all that pain you shared? What new things have you taken on? What resolutions have you made?

Facing problems can be crushing. Many of us would like to believe that possessing a perfect Torah translates into living in a perfect community. 

Maybe you should ask yourself why the Jews are so less then perfect if their Torah is so infallible?

When we wake up to the reality of our imperfection, we can be shaken to the core. Each generation has its tests and challenges. It might very well be that our challenge is to confront our failings and – even before remedying them – resolving not to lose one iota of our conviction that there is no better way to live, despite the cognitive dissonance we experience. We stick with it because Torah is true, and you don’t abandon truth.

OK. I see you've learnt nothing and have made no resolutions. You're just going to "stick with it" because you, Alderstein of Los Angeles, know exactly what God wants to see, and until a moment or two ago you thought having a perfect Torah produced a perfect community and you're not quite ready to abandon that. You met some people and felt some pain, but you failed to do anything productive with it. Now as your article and ardor fizzle out, you're back where you started: Dead certain that you are right, and that your interpretations are flawless.

Yossi Bloch adds: (in the comments)

"It might very well be that our challenge is to confront our failings and – even before remedying them – resolving not to lose one iota of our conviction that there is no better way to live, despite the cognitive dissonance we experience."

That's the most shocking. Not surprising, but galling. Our primary challenge is not to remedy our failings (whatever that might mean), but to resolve that we are absolutely 100% right. So before we fix our failings, we should declare that we do not and could not possibly have any. Gadlus!
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Peek A jew: Kippa-wearing kid is poster boy for Verizon promotion

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rug Moment

BY Anonymous:

This past Sunday afternoon, I spent five hours at an undisclosed location with 10 of the most amazingly diverse, intelligent, thoughtful and sincere people. While many issues were discussed, the underlying reason for the meeting was to find a way to bridge the gap between Orthodox Judaism, and those who are no longer affiliated with the religion.

While it was reported by some to have consisted of just two groups, Rabbis and OTDs, there were in fact three. This third group was "Anonymous". 

Who is Anonymous? Who am I? 
  • I am your Neighbor with kids in your children's class.
  • I am one of the weekly sponsors of the Kiddush club.
  • I am the guy who buys you an Aliya on Yom Tov because no one else wants to bid.
  • I am the one who gives a "chaburah" every so often after davening.
  • I am your brother.
  • I was your chavrusah in Beis Medrosh.
  • I was your counselor in camp.
  • I learn Daf Yomi on the train in the morning.

I do not believe in God.

Belief is something you cannot prove, but believe me there are many people like myself in our community. Many people who choose to become OTD, do so at the expense of losing their friends, families, and social standing. There is an excessive amount of distrust, disgust, and even hatred towards people who choose to leave the fold. I and all of my fellow "Orthoprax" friends choose the best of both worlds. We look just like you, we act and dress like you, our kids go to the same yeshivas as yours, heck, they are the best kids in the class! But we are not frum. We love herring and kichel with single malt Scotch, chulent and overnight kugel, and even a geshamk shtikel Toirah at the shabbos table. We also check our emails (not befarhesia) on shabbos, don't put on tefillin, and eat cholov stam ;). We go to great lengths to make sure our kids do not bust us. We put our tallis and tefilin in a different location on the dining room table daily so that our kids think we went to shul after they went to school. We say "boruch Hashem", we daven for the amud on Shabbos, and we study gemoroh with them after school. 

We do all of the above for all of the following reasons: we know you love to hate people who are not frum, and we want to keep the status quo. We don't want our kids thrown out of yeshiva, we don't want to lose our jobs, we don't want you to pressure our spouses to divorce us, and most of all, we want to continue speaking loshon hora with you "Bain Gavra" in shul!

Why did I become an Atheist? I had my "Rug Moment"...

A rug moment is when something happens in your life which suddenly changes the way you think, and therefore who you are. Its like getting the proverbial rug pulled out from under you. For many people their rug can be an illness, change in financial status in either direction, death of a friend or family member, Jail, etc. 

I realized at that moment, right after my Rug was pulled out from under me, that the only reason I believed in Hashem was because I was born to a frum Jewish family and sent to a yeshiva. Had I been born to a Muslim family in Saudi Arabia, I would be waking up every morning and saying Modeh ani lifonecho Allah melech chai vekayom (in Islam you can say "Allah" before you wash negel vasser!). Other people have heir own moment of epiphany, however at the end of the day, the result is the same.

I am Anonymous, and I am not. I am myself, I am your neighbor, and chas vesholom I am you.



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Monday, May 19, 2014

What do the Lag B'omer Lovers really love?

For decades, we all thought that Abner Doubleday woke up one morning and invented baseball in Cooperstown, New York.  In honor of his achievement, we put the Hall of Fame there and until this day, millions make a pilgrimage to the sleepy, little town in upstate New York to honor and celebrate the game they love.

Only, now we know that Abner Doubleday didn't invent baseball. Now we know that the game developed contingently, over time, and uses rules borrowed from English games. Turns out, the old story abut Abner was 100 percent  false.

Does anyone among the mentally sane believe that acquiring this knowledge "sucked the joy" out of baseball? Has knowing the truth about its origin's "ruined" the game? Of course not. Yet, all over the Jewish World you find Lag B'omer lovers screaming that by telling the truth about the origins of the bonfire, or about Rashby's role in creating the Zohar, the rationalists have destroyed Lag B'omer.

All this tells me is that the Lag B'omer fans don't really love their game. They love the story. If they loved the game, they'd continue to enjoy it irrespective of how it developed. But for them the fun isn't in listening to music at a bonfire. For them the fun isn't it dancing. They don't love Lag Ba'omer. They love the phony story that surrounds it.

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Why does an injection need to be kosher?


May 14, 2014
Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) today announced that the Orthodox Union (OU)has granted kosher certification to ELELYSO™ (taliglucerase alfa) for injection, an enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) for the long-term treatment of adults with a confirmed diagnosis of Type 1 Gaucher disease. ELELYSO is the first prescription medication to be certified kosher by the OU, a milestone for the brand which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May 2012.”
I honestly cannot understand why an item that cannot be eaten or drunk and is not for use in food preparation, serving, or clean-up needs to have a hechsher (rabbinic seal certifying that it’s kosher). If someone would kindly explain this to me, I’d appreciate it.

I also can’t help wondering whether the decision to give a hechsher to an injectable medication is a slippery-slope decision. Will it now become the accepted procedure in some Orthodox communities to see only those health-care providers who are under rabbinical supervision?

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What should I do about heretical thoughts?


Rabbi Shais Taub runs an advice column in the Ami Magazine. Recently, a woman called "Desperate" wrote in to ask for his help combating the heretical thoughts that have almost taken over her life. Rabbi Taub's suggestions weren't very good, as the following Guest Post, submitted by Nuch a Chasid, argues.

Dear Desperate:

I have seen your letter to Rabbi Shais Taub in the Ami Magazine and his response. If you are happy with his answer, good for you. If you can take his advice and close your mind and eyes, you will avoid a lot of trouble. You won't have to divorce and fight for the right to be with your children. If, as I suspect, his answer didn't satisfy you, if his answer got you more desperate and frustrated, let me try to explain the underlying of his answer. As much as he tried to not to give you a real answer, he actually did. He gave you the answer he didn't want you to have.

You wrote to Rabbi Taub that you “have plagued by all sorts of thoughts about going off the derech and doing all sorts of aveiros.” It bothers you greatly. You are a respected kollel wife who is supporting her husband . . . [yet you are] fantasizing about an entirely different way of life.” You feel guilty for your children and husband, who is “a talmid chacham and a tzaddik,” about having those thoughts. And even though your mind knows the truth, you “have many questions about Hashem and about emunah.”  You became involved in social media where you found yourself “reading and seeing many inappropriate things,” and you feel bad about it. You then conclude by asking Rabbi Taub to help you stay “alive.”

In his answer Rabbi Taud sidestepped the issue. He basically told you to stop thinking, quoting from seferim and tzaddikem how bad those thoughts are.

Now think about it: Why did he tell you to stop thinking and didn’t advise you to discuss your questions with a competent rabbi? Why didn't he advise you to ask your kollel husband, who is a talmud chucham?

I'll tell you why.

Rabbi Taub knows that your husband, learned as he is, doesn't have the answers. He knows that your husband probably knows all about גברא and חפצא, how big a bug must be that it should be forbidden to eat, and what is considered a wall in a sukkah, but he can't answer basic emunah questions. Rabbi Taub knows that if you ask your husband, he'll tell you to go ask the likes of Rabbi Taub, the people who should know.

But the likes of Rabbi Taub will always try to avoid going into a theological discussion with the likes of you, people who are in the system, particularly not with a woman who’s ”main tafkid is running your home and raising your children.” They will always try telling those doubters to just stop thinking.

And for a good reason. Rabbi Taub knows that if he gets into an emunah discussion with you, he might give you satisfying answers. But he also knows that there is at least an equal chance that he won't succeed. And if he doesn’t, he knows that you will then make a logical conclusion that he doesn’t want you to reach. That's why, as a trained rabbi, he will rather tell you to stop thinking than tackle your questions. It is a win-win situation; there is a chance that you will take his advice and shove away your doubts, and even if you won’t, you still cannot conclude that it is all bullshit because you never discussed it with the people in the ‘know’.

But unintentionally he validated your doubts. Have you ever thought why it is that only repressive regimes, dictators, and religious fanatics are trying to shut down your thinking process and limit your information? Why China and Iran are trying to ban or limit Internet access while the USA and Great Britain are trying to expand it?

Why would a mathematician or scientist never tell you to stop thinking – to the contrary, they will embrace it – but rabbis and imams hate questions?

Why is Rabbi Taub so afraid with you being on social media? Why is it that orthodox rabbis and Khamenei have the same problem with people conversing with others? What is so wrong with information? Why is he so afraid that by spending time on social media you are “reshaping” your brain? Shouldn’t the fine Torah education you got be enough to counter those evil thoughts?

What I find most astonishing is that you told Rabbi Taub that you are supporting your husband so your husband can sit in kollel all day, as Rabbi Taub puts it, “refining his mind, turning it into more and more of a vessel of holiness,” yet Rabbi Taub doesn’t find it necessary to explain to you why you have to do that. You are a mother, you run your house and raise your children (it’s your tafkid), and you work your butt off to support you husband who is dedicating his days to a cause you, at best, have questions about. Don’t you deserve an answer why you are doing it all? Wouldn't it be nice if Rabbi Taub offered to explain it all? Aren’t you entitled to know why? Don’t you deserve a straight answer?

If you didn't realize it, Rabbi Taub actually understands that you are probably questioning the whole setup in your house, where you do everything while your husband is turning into a vessel of holiness. Rabbi Taub is even feeding you sleeping pills to stop you from chas v'shalom going down that route. He tells you that "women do not have an obligation to study Torah and thus cannot earn the same reward that men do." He then goes on to tell you that your tafkid is running your home and raising your children. In other words: Since you are the woman in the house and your Torah isn't as important as his, if at all, you should continue to by the mom in the house and support your husband who’s Torah is of real importance. But don’t you dare to ask why Torah is important at all.

His answer tells you all that you need to know!

Please do not stop thinking. Please continue to ask. Please question everything. You are a human being; it is what humans do.

Sincerely yours,
Someone who is in a similar situation
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

To the Sandcave!

A guest post by Y. Bloch
Today is Lag BaOmer, a minor holiday that, despite having an excellent theme song courtesy of Ren and Stimpy, has never gotten much respect. It is most closely associated with Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai (Rashbi), the 2nd-century Israeli sage who spent 13 years in a cave hiding from the imperial forces of Rome for an injudicious tweet.

R. Judah commenced by observing, "How fine are the works of this people! They have made markets, they have built bridges, they have erected baths." R. Jose was silent. R. Simeon b. Yohai answered and said, "All they made, they made for themselves: markets, to set harlots in them; baths, to rejuvenate themselves; bridges, to levy tolls for them." (Talmud, Shabbat 33b)

Rashbi started a trend of spelean hideouts for honing superpowers and training sidekicks.

Much is made of Rashbi's decade-long stay in the cave with his son, delving into the secrets of the Torah, while buried to their necks in sand and trying desperately to come up with new recipes for carob (this being the tree which miraculously sprang forth to sustain them). However, many ignore what happens once Rashbi finally comes to terms with his new carob- and silicon-free life. 
"Since a miracle has occurred," said he, "let me go and institute something..." Rab said: He instituted coinage for them. Samuel said: He instituted markets for them; R. Johanan said: He instituted baths for them. 

Rashbi, who decried those selfish and greedy Romans for their economic, social and health-care policies, suddenly finds himself putting them into practice. It seems that after all this time (and after enjoying the rejuvenating powers of a bathhouse for himself), he came to terms with modern life. Yes, those hedonistic hegemonists, the Romans, may have developed these institutions for their own benefit, but that should not invalidate them.

This, of course, is still a pressing issue. Some fundamentalists only want to look at the provenance of various innovations, and if a given item doesn't pass the purity test, it's unacceptable. Rashbi teaches us that at the end of the day, it does not matter where technology comes from, but what we do with it.

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Down with pedants

In what follows Steven Fry provides a stunning, and deeply appreciated response to grammar pedants.

With very little modification, I think his message might be successfully applied to RELIGIOUS PEDANTS as well. You know the kind. They are the ones who are forever making religious arguments against the style of your socks or the jaunt of your hat, or insisting that the congregation won't survive if tachnun is said on the wrong day, or threatening to resign their memberships if a chazan chooses the wrong tune for kidusha. They've already flooded your email box with reminders not to dare shave or take a haircut today before chatzos.

These people suck the joy out of religion and masquerade as pious when all they want is control over your life. They should be put on a boat together with the people Fry condemns in this video, cast off to sea, and left to starve.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Holiday Postponments

The holidays invented by Zionist Rabbis (Yom Hazicharon and Yom Haatzmaut) were postponed this year because everyone understands that a national Yom Hazicharon ceremony can't be produced on Saturday night without causing some Sabbath desecration.

In other news, the holiday invented by Hasidic Rabbis (Lag B'omer) falls on Sunday this year, and the national bonfire celebrations on Saturday night in Meron will also be impossible to prepare without causing some Sabbath desecration. At the very least,  police and soldiers need to be put into position. Has the holiday been postponed? Of course not! (The lighting of the bonfire has been delayed, but its unclear how that delay eliminates the Sabbath desecration.)

Fun Fact to Know and Tell: The Sages canceled a biblical obligation (blowing the shofar on the first day of Rosh Hashana) out of fear of Sabbath desecration! But heaven forfend that a bonfire ritual copied from gentiles to honor a hagiography be postponed! That's your Judaism 2014. Turn off your brain and just keep doing what the ancestors you personally cherish were believed to have done.

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J Crew bans NON ANONYMOUS comments.

Breaking: Yaakov Menklen doesn't work for J Crew.

We sort of knew this already, but now its perfectly obvious. The dead giveaway came with the announcement of the retailer's new commenting policy which expressly instructs us to comment without including our full names "or anything else that might identify you."

To be clear: J Crew has banned NON ANONYMOUS comments and ICYMI Yaakov is the universe's leading opponent of commenting anonymously. (He once yelled at someone called "Jonathan" for "commenting from behind a moniker.")

Does J Crew, a huge and wildly successful national retailer with an army of paid agencies and advisers know something that small-beans blogger Yaakov doesn't about how to generate provocative, entertaining, online discussions?

We're about to find out.
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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Noah's Zohar

Very late to this, but I think its always newsworthy when a religion writer, with a Hebrew name, gets basic bible wrong.

Here's Miriam Krule writing for Slate on March 28:

Zohar is not mentioned in the story of Noah.
And here's the bible, Genesis 6:16
צֹהַר תַּעֲשֶׂה לַתֵּבָה
Here full passage reads as follows:

The evil men have mined the land for “zohar.” This element looks like gold and has essentially magical powers—it’s used to make light and, later, for a sort of antediluvian pregnancy test. Zohar is not mentioned in the story of Noah, but the Hebrew word does appear later in the Old Testament in Ezekiel and Daniel and is commonly translated to refer to a light of some sort. 
Only, the Hebrew word also appears in the story itself, Genesis 6:16, where it is understood by the midrash as something used to make light. It seems patently obvious the filmmaker has in mind what Rashi calls "אבן טובה המאירה להם". For her to miss this - and worse to declare it an invention on the part of the producers - is inexcusable for a religion writer.

Better fact checkers, please!

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Castrillo Matajudío controversy

The name of the Spanish town is Castrillo Matajudíos — roughly, Little Hill Fort of Jew Killers — and the mayor who is trying to get it changed is experiencing push-back from traditionalists, conservatives, ancestor-worshipers and jack-donkeys.

Sorry if any of that was redundant.

Still more proof Obama hates Jews

Oh Noze! 

Here is MORE proof that Obama is a Jew hater and concentration camps are just around the corner. The RW lunatics in my shul and on Facebook were right, just as they are right about everything! Glen Beck I apologize for everything.  Now, excuse me while I reduce all my assets into a single diamond and arrange to have it hidden in my molars. 

The  S-curse is getting real people!!

Summer suiting for the Orthodox Jew

How do you stay comfortable while wearing a suit in hot summer weather?

Easy. You wear a suit made from linen or seersucker. Only I can't remember ever seeing a guy walk into shul wearing either of these lightweight fabrics. Have you?

My own "summer" suits are wool. Not heavy winter wool, but something light and unlined. It doesn't feel flimsy like linen and it doesn't hold wrinkles or moisture the way linen does.

Also, if we're going to be honest, I don't have the courage to wear linen into shul, let alone seersucker.

How about you?

Salute warmer weather with this classic seersucker suit! Perfect for a casual summer wedding or dinner at the boardwalk. Features notch lapel and flap pockets. Two-button. Side Vent. Polyester/Cotton.Reply w/ #AmazonCart...

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Friday, May 09, 2014

Hump Day

A guest post by Y. Bloch
This Saturday is hump day. No, the calendar has not been re-jiggered to redefine a week; the last people who did that ended up being sent to the guillotine.
I'm referring instead to the seven-week period of counting between Passover and Shavuot, Sefirat haOmer. For the first 24 days, we are closer to the Exodus; for the last 24 days, we are closer to the Giving of the Torah. But Day 25, the fourth day of the fourth week, is smack in the middle. This year, it's the Sabbath when we read Parashat Behar, the twenty-fifth chapter of Leviticus (OK, 25:1-26:2), which famously starts with the unique verse, "Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying."
The Kabbalists associated certain attributes with each day of the Omer, and the twenty-fifth is netzah of netzah. Netzah is the Kabbalistic trait associated with Moses, and the root has many meanings in Scripture, from victory to eternity to conductorship (orchestra, not train).
The connection of Behar to Sefirat haOmer is quite strong, as the former also revolves around a count of seven cycles of seven, in its case leading to the jubilee year. 49 is clearly an important number in the Torah and of the Torah.
It is thus not surprising that the Talmuds relate this verse to Moses' experience on Sinai (Psalms 12):
Lord's sayings are pure sayings, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over.
However, there is a difference between the approach of the Babylonian Talmud and the approach of the Jerusalem Talmud. The former states (Rosh Hashana 21b), citing Rab and Samuel:
Fifty gates of understanding were created in the world, and all were given to Moses save one, as it says, "Yet you have made him but little lower than God."
The latter (Sanhedrin 4:2) records:
Rabbi Yanai said: “If the Torah were given cut and dried, no one could withstand it! What is the reason? ‘LORD spoke to Moses.’ He said before Him: ‘Master of the World, tell me: what is the Halakha?’ He said to him: ‘Follow the majority' (Ex. 23:2)—if most vote for acquittal, he is innocent; if most vote for conviction, he is guilty. Indeed, the Torah may be expounded forty-nine ways to defile, and forty-nine ways to purify."
According to the BT, the number forty-nine represents a linear progression through successive gates, ultimately reflecting the limits of humanity. According to the JT, there are 49 sets of parallel approaches, allowing Halakha to respond (democratically) to the changing demands of society around it.
On this day, it behooves us to embrace the netzah of Torah--the battle, the timelessness, the symphony.

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