Monday, June 30, 2008

a ruling from the son of R' Yakov Emden

Chacham Tzvi, the son of R. Yakov Emden, ruled that Jews who do not reside in the land of Israel and stay there even temporarily should keep 1 day of a holiday. I heard that Chabad follow this psak.

Early Passover notes

a discussion on kneidlach is in Mishno Beruroh, Shaarey Teshuvoh 453 results in a ruling: the eating of Shmuro Matzoh is not yehuroh (a religious showoff).

there in MB 461, and also in Emeq Tzadikim, R. Yakov Emden, ob"m, reproached someone for abstaining from sugar and coffee because Toiroh commands us with vsamachtoh b'chagechoh (you should enjoy your holidays).

Thursday, June 26, 2008


In our Toiroh, Vayiqroh 19:11, we are taught about the grape shapes. A cluster that has no shoulder and no definite pendant, goes to the poor (as further discussed in Peoh 7:3).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rainbow-colored Tzitzis are OK

Menachos 38a - only one string has to be t'cheiles, d'oraisso--the rest can be any color!!!
According to Hillel, only 3 string tzitsis are sufficient; our tzitzis are 8 stranded because we poiskin according to B. Shammai--we use 4 strings.

Good idea to check a new grave

According to Shulchan Oruch Y. D. 394:3, a grave must be checked for signs of life for three days following the burial.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

R. Moshe Feinstein Saves Jews From Crying In Vain

It's WWII (the war, not the Web Ware Information Index). Prez F. D. Roosevelt dies. The entire USofA is in tears, the prezz who saved the land from the Depression, and was so gentlemanly to the common good, is dead.

Jewish communities naturally felt the grief, to the point that R. Feinstein's community declared a giant helped for the Prezz. The Rov heard that its hazan is preparing a teary dirge, the one that bewails a loss of an average poor Jew. The Rov asked the hazan and the rabbinical authority to do one thing. He asked them to at least refrain from using "Kadosh", Holy, in the dirge for the Prezz, the same person that cheated on his wife, DID NOT save the Jews, ignored and shut the doors to the rabbis' delegation coming to draw the attention to the extermination of European Jewry and SENT away the ship St. Louis.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Respect thy forefathers' accent

Sure, it feels good to speak Israeli Hebrew. To read Maqor Rishon, or Maqor Chayyim. To pronounce Tav without a dagesh as Tav. To go from L'hoidois to L'hodot. Maybe it feels better to daven the local Sephardi pronunciation as well.

Sure, all other languages are not holy and mundane. We are living in Geula (not Geula the part of Jerusalem).
Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the author of the modern Hebrew grammar, was so happy to be here that he, paradoxically, severely beat his family members when they slipped and spoke a word of Yiddish!

The pronunciation is not worth family violence here. There is no holiness in changing one's accent just to comply with the politically correct trends.

The straight and honest holocho menayseh is that ashkenoizim must keep their pronunciation. The saintly and revered, the Israeli R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach said so, V'olehu Lo Ibul, Part 1, Opinion 44.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Bar Mitzvoh Unison

Shulchan Oruch.-O.H. 141:2 Mogen Avrohom forbids more than one person to recite brochos simultaneously outloud, in order to ensure that every word of the brocho is heard clearly.

In one fo the rare rulings, R. Moshe Feinstein also ruled that two Bar Mitzvoh boys cannot read the maftir and haftoroh sections in unison (Igrois Moishe, O.H. I-102).

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Small Tallis not worn on Shabbos.

According to Menachos 43a, in R. Tam and Rosh, only garments worn during daytime need tzitzis.

At the Chofetz Chayim Yeshiva (during R. Y. Fogelman's years), they did not wear the small tallis when they went out on Shabbass, for fear of being oiver on carrying!


Unrelated question: Why is there no Rosh and Rif to Kiddushin?
In Masechet Suko we find out that R. Uzziel learned so intensively that birds flying overhead burned up.
The pedantic terutz would examine the possibility if the great rabbi was responsible for the birds that were killed.


and a releated story:

The Rabbi of Zurich always valued Torah learning as well as his students learning time. When he realized that his taxi was travelling too slow for him to arrive at the lesson in time, he jumped out of the cab and got killed.

Someone later raised a question whether it the rabbi paid the taxi driver.


R. Kalmanovich, who saved the Mir yeshiva by moving it to the US. One day he had to finalize a grant from a rich man, and for that he went down to a beach in Miami, and succeeded in securing the financial aid.

Later they asked him whether it was OK to go among the semi-naked women. He answered. "Di fenster doygen." The most beautiful translation - "all worries fly out the window."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

he beat his kid for speaking mama loshn

Eliezer Ben‑Yehuda must have snapped during his years at the Dennenberg (shouldn't this be the Novardok?) yeshiva and became a fanatic of Hebrew. According to Wikipedia, he once reprimanded his wife, after he caught her singing a Russian lullaby to their child.

It might be an underreporting. He used to beat his child for speaking Yiddish, the world's gentlest and most sentimental language.

After all, R. Shlomo Zalman Oyerbach, ob'm, ruled that one should not change the pronunciation and mama loshn of his father, (Part 1, Question 44, the R. Guttel's question, in ועילהו לא יבול)

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Shabtai Tzvi legacy

We all almost automatically say Boruch Hu boruch Shmoy (when hearing the first part of a brocho). This is a rarely discussed minhag. We are supposed to learn and understand every minhag that we follow. Yiddishkeit is a faith based on thinking.

Jews in Europe had one good reason for not responding this to brochos they heard.

Beside the fact that this expression is never mentioned in Gemoro, and Rosh mentions this by a way of learning that if someone is being yotzey on a brocho, responding Boruch Hu is a problematic interruption of the brocho .

Turns out that in Makor Boruch (Toroh Tmimoh, R. Epshtein of Pinsk, lehavdil, the shtetl of Shimon Peres), that the fanatics of the Shabtai Tzvi movement loved to say Boruch Hu Boruch Shmo because its full gematria is equal to the gematria of his name, 814.

Whoever is bothered by this fact is naturally free from the obligation to keep saying the response to blessings.

As Mesillas Yoshorim teaches in the Cleanliness chapter that one should be free of dubious practices.

Friday, May 30, 2008

What is an epicorus?

A kosher cow has 2 simanim. According to Oruch Hashulkhan YD 135.
Shmuel says he saw a shisua (siamese? ) cow, which cannot live more than a year, according to Rav. Shmuel assured that the shisua cow lived for more than 14 months.

Tora Tmima, in Re'e, ignoring Shmuel, says, "we (or he) are not sure what we're seeing"

Toro Tmima is a great authority, but anyone else who says that THEY did not know what that means is a good candidate for an epicorus.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Baal Shetov's roommate

I heard this story and I may not be relating the beginning and the finish accurately.

Bal Shemtov was once asked who he wanted to have for a roommate. He thought it was a good question, and said he would have an answer later.

On his journey he met a man while staying at an inn. The man was unusually content and very erliche (in Yiddish). Bal Shemtov asked him why he was so content. The man related his story:

Long time ago the man came across a Jewish slave girl from Turkey. He promptly redeemed her, performing the Toiro mitzvoh, with all the money he had. His son saw her and fell in love with her, and they got engaged, a yur mit a mitwoch(Yiddish), a year with a Wednesday.

The wedding day finally arrived. The father was making rounds around his guests and spotted a man off to the side, crying. The father asked the man why he cried, instead of enjoying the food and dancing.

The crying man said that he was meant to marry the girl, and had been looking for the girl all the way from Turkey, and now he found her and it is too late.

The father immediately went to his son and told him the man's story. The son understood the situation, and right away took off his choson's kittel, found the Turkish Jew, and put it on him. They went ahead with the wedding, by marrying the girl to her betrothed from Turkey.

The son eventually was blessed with another kalloh, and he and his father came into a better financial situation, and have been content ever since.

Bal Shemtov immediately realized that this was the man that anyone should be proud to have for a roommate.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jew-Gentile irony in Budapest

This is an excerpt from R. Goldreich's life. His family was living in Nazi-occupied Budapest secretly, while hiding their Jewish identities. His uncle lived a bunch of floor up from R. Goldreich's apartment.

Once his uncle decided to go down to drop in on his brother. As he was walking down the stairs, he saw a group of Hungarian Nazis enter the courtyard and go up the stairwell. He froze and pretended to start smoking a cigarette while looking the other way. Frozen with fear on the inside, he look away, while the Nazis went up the stairwell and knocked on a neighbor's door.

The Nazis screamed at him pulling him out, accusing him of being a Jew. The neighbor, a Gentile Hungarian, screamed and panicked assuring them that he was not Jewish. They dragged him down, manhandling him, into the courtyard, and suddenly executed him.

After leaving him right there on the ground, they screamed for the entire courtyard to hear, "Now you can sleep soundly, this courtyard is free of Jews."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

3 points on Chazon Ish

  • What is known about the kiddush cup is that R. Dessler married the granddaughter of R. Salanter, and her kiddush cup was less than the size required by Chazon Ish.

  • Chazon Ish asked his first shayla about the Land of Israel and Terumos and Maasros from R. Kook
  • Chazon Ish is the source of the ruling that electricity is boyneh.

Time to snuff the rooster, and other halachos

An interesting thought in the concept Kol Hyoter knitel domi - Yoreh Deoh -If chicken had 3 legs, then the same strength going to the 3 legs would result in each leg getting less than one of a pair of legs. That was almost 2,000 years ago - the sages had the right idea about physiology and physics.

More on chicken: we do not abide by things superstitious or omens, but the thought of the Law allows for people to be free from nagging phenomena. According to Yoreh Deoh 179:3, if a rooster has made weird noises, then it is OK to shochet it and keep the event quiet.

more on parrots

On the subject of parrots: in a previous post a parrot brought a couple closer to Judaism by mystifying them with blessings. The news today is about a parrot that got lost and told his finders the address:

TOKYO - When Yosuke the parrot flew out of his cage and got lost, he did exactly what he had been taught — recite his name and address to a stranger willing to help.

Police rescued the African grey parrot two weeks ago from a neighbor's roof in the city of Nagareyama, near Tokyo. After spending a night at the station, he was transferred to a nearby veterinary hospital while police searched for clues, local policeman Shinjiro Uemura said.

He kept mum with the cops, but began chatting after a few days with the vet.

"I'm Mr. Yosuke Nakamura," the bird told the veterinarian, according to Uemura. The parrot also provided his full home address, down to the street number, and even entertained the hospital staff by singing songs.

"We checked the address, and what do you know, a Nakamura family really lived there. So we told them we've found Yosuke," Uemura said.

The Nakamura family told police they had been teaching the bird its name and address for about two years.

But Yosuke apparently wasn't keen on opening up to police officials.

"I tried to be friendly and talked to him, but he completely ignored me," Uemura said.

The Jordanian-Israeli Kafkaesque Chaos

Raeeda, a college graduate, could not find decent employment in Jordan. Using her savings she did what many other Jordanians and the West Bank Arabs do – sneak into Israel for social benefits and free medical care. Using her tourist visa, given freely to Jordanians, she made her way to Tel Aviv’s sprawling Dan suburban region. There she stayed at cheap hotels and worked cleaning houses and stairwells.

Just as she calculated, in a matter of two moths of all work, cheap food and no wasting money on fun, she built up respectable savings. She rented a room in a nice apartment that she shared with legal foreign workers from Romania, Philippines, and Nigeria. One of the workers started taking Raeeda along on jobs to clean luxury penthouses in Tel Aviv’s Ramat Aviv neighborhood.

Eventually her financial situation has improved. She could afford to buy an entertainment center, quality cookware, winter clothes, evening language courses at the Gotham City-like Central Bus Station, and, most importantly, an expensive, six-month extended stay visitor’s visa.

While cleaning one of these penthouses, she had to throw away a pile of junk mail in which she found a collection of CDs. She rescued the CDs. Among the standard fare of mediocre Israeli pop songs, there was a CD produced by Amnon Itzhak, an Israeli charismatic leader specializing in returning the lost back to the Judaism. The CD contained a lecture on basic values of Judaism and character development.

It made sense to the educated Raeeda, and soon she started attending a women's circle at her neighborhood synagogue. The unsuspecting women, convinced by her classic, genuine Semitic speaking style, and impressed with her polished manners, readily accepted Raeeda.

The women soon persuaded the single Raeeda to think about getting married. She agreed to a series of blind dates, one of which eventually made her fall in love and proposed marriage. She confessed to the man that she was an Arab, and is working illegally in Israel. That turned out to be no obstacle, and she quickly became a happy wife.

Meanwhile, the government had instituted a policy under which Raeeda was denied citizenship to which, she assumed, she was entitled having married an Israeli. The act of applying for the citizenship itself had triggered the bureaucratic machine to terminate her comfortable status as a visitor and to order her to leave the country.

Just as she and her husband started an appeal process, they realized they were expecting a baby.

Meanwhile, she started attending classes for potential converts into Judaism. Being very spiritual and studious helped her pass the stringent oral test, known for being administered by the pedantic Ashkenazi rabbis. She proudly joined the women’s league at the synagogue. One woman’s husband, a lawyer, realizing that Raeeda was entitled to an unconditional citizenship, started legal papers on her behalf. In another couple of weeks she gave birth to a boy.

The clouds hung on the threshold. A mere month after the birth of their baby, Raeeda’s husband was killed in one of the terrorist bombings in Tel Aviv. Raeeda was still a visitor and a widow. According to the socialist policies of the Israeli government, regardless of her religious status as a Jew, she was still regarded as an Arab, and, as in all matters Arab, must be taken care of by Arab social workers.

To complicate the hardship, the government, then just having gotten rid itself of the religious factions, informed her that despite her religious status she must leave Israel, or be deported to Jordan.

The social workers assigned to her case informed her that her baby was considered to be Arab, and, since she had no income, the baby could be handed over to an Arab foster parents.

While still grieving for her husband, she had to open the door to the prospective foster parents with the social workers in tow. Pointedly speaking Arabic, the hopeful foster parents informed everyone of their impatience for the paperwork to go through and to receive the baby so that they “could raise him as a shaheed, who by sacrificing his life would atone for the transgression she committed by marrying a Jew.”

Raeeda promptly picked up and left the city to settle in an undisclosed location where she was helped by the religious community to assume a new identity. The social workers, the foster parents and the Arab media meanwhile have launched a search for the woman, and, most importantly, for her Arab son.

Eventually, the crusade to reclaim the boy to the Arab fold became cynical when it received direction from the administrator of a prominent Arabic school that is famous for having among its alumni the Jordanian youth who blew himself up in Jerusalem's Sbarro pizza shop.

The whereabouts of Raeeda and her son are unknown; the anti-religious Israeli government is still functioning along its usual Orwellian guidelines while looking over its shoulder at the anti-Israeli Arab members of its own Knesset; the Arab world has since spun stories accusing Israel of trading in Arab babies; and the latest news, according to News, is that the Kafkaesque authorities have given Raeeda the long-awaited Israeli citizenship though they are still bent on taking away her son.

by permission from a Tefillon blog

Monday, May 19, 2008

Jordan Comeback No.1

There is this Jewish woman that made aliya from Jordan. The most unusual aliyah.

Over 20 years ago her mom met an Arab man from Gaza. They got married and went to live in Israel proper. Soon after marriage the State of Israel found out that the man had been associating with terrorists and their charities. Israel expelled him.

They had a daughter who they raised a s a devout Muslim. She used to sneak out at night just to catch the night prayers in the back of men's only Islamic shul. She was on the way to becoming a mother to a Jihad warrior.

Something happened. In her early twenties, just like in the Polish comeback story, she accidentally found out that her mother is really Jewish. Nobody had a clue that this girl (young woman already) had a change of direction in her idealistic pursuits.

She personally told me that she all of a sudden felt complete (the way Islam is supposed to make one feel, hence the name). She felt that she was Jewish, and she had to be back in Israel.

She already had a business degree, and according to her plan that nobody suspected, got a job at the Jordanian Embassy in Israel commercial section as a secretary. As soon as she got put up at the embassy, she went to the Western Wall, and still dressed as an Arab, asked for directions to the actual location. "Jews go here, and Arabs go there," she was told, and immediately felt the pangs of being torn from her own heritage.

Back at the embassy she prepared her essential bags, and waited for an opportune moment. In no time at all she found herself at the Ministry of Absorption, and then at a local synagogue's office, where they told her that she needed no conversion or special classes to be a Jew. She was directed to a women's course in the Sorotzkin neighborhood, where she learned the laws pertaining to Jewish women and Jewish ethics.

Soon after that she went on dates, and after a reasonable time of picking her future husband, got married. By the time she had her second child, I got to know her husband, and they introduced me to my future wife, and everyone lived happily thereafter.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Taz 's sense of humor gets him married

The Bach and Taz, the great poskim of Shulkhan Oruch, learned together when Bach's daughter passed through the room they were studying.

The Bach said, as he looked at his daughter, "Zee is shein vee die levonoh" (She is as beautiful as the moon) so the Taz
said, "Ess is shoin tzeit tzu mekadesh zain die levonoh" (It's already time to be mekadesh [just as one would sanctify a bride-my note] the moon)

Very soon afterwards Taz did marry the daughter, and the rest is the very well known history.

On another occasion, Taz came over to study with Bach, and saw Bach's wife dusting a respectable number of silverware (The Bach had a silverware pawnbroker business). Taz said, "Dusting off avkas ribis?"
["the dust of interest", i.e., the moneys accrued, deniable but indirectly related to the prohibited taking of interest]

Not to be out done in quick wit, the Bach's wife reparteed, "Speaking avkas loshon horo?"
["the dust of slander", information indirectly related to outright slander]

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Polish comeback

The story of my friend M. from Machon Meir is one of the few inspiring stories that I use to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

His parents were orphaned at the start of the WWII, and taken in by Catholic church, where they were raised, educated in the relative life of plenty and peace. They grew up as gentiles and devout Christians. When my friend M. was born they logically dedicated him to be a poster boy for Vatican. Which he did grew up to be - blond, tall, typically Polish Catholic intellectual.

As he enjoyed the company of leading cardinals, academic monks and other secular Polish intelligentsia, he started to be inquisitive. Encouraged to question the origins of faith, my friend M. corresponded with heads of leading monasteries and prominent leaders at the Vatican. Eventually, when he was 19 or 20, he deduced that there were spiritual inconsistencies in his family life and background. Innocently, he asked simple but hard questions, - isn't it true, he and his parents are not usual Poles? What happened to the Jews of Poland? What did we Poles do to them during the war? Where are the Jews now? and the rest of why, what , and when questions.

His parents were cool and self-composed, and told him the truth. They were Jewish.

My friend M. got the shock of his life, and, he told me, filled in the blanks so he did not to ask any further. He knew what to do. He tore the cross off his neck, and threw it away, along with his liturgical accessories he wore during Catholic services.

After that, he did need to be alone, though. He said he cried for hours, out of something that felt like anger, and then out of happiness. Eventually he came out of his room and said to his parents that this was the happiest day of his life,

Having never been told, or having never a clue of his being Jewish, he emphatically stressed to me that he always, deep down suspected that he was a Jew, but thought it was a fleeting fantasy caused by religious learning.

Soon aftet the revelation, he contacted the local Jewish community, and, having found the miserable Warsaw synagogue, was told he was better off going to Israel and study Torah.

He got in touch with the Aliyah office and in no time he was on the blue-tailed plane flying to his own land, where he entered Machon Meir, which he soon finished, and started going out on dates. He said he hated being blond, Polish, and hoped he married a woman who would produce him Jewish-looking, dark-haired children.

He did get married, and I haven't seen his kids to see if his wishes got fulfilled in this respect too. Last time I heard he lived happily in the enemy squatter-occupied Jewish land apportioned to the tribe of Ephraim, in the town of Maaleh Levonah.

Good shabbos.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Itzik's sad miracle

(Nazis barreling through Europe encounter Gypsies. The man on the right - isn't that Jack Sparrow, a.k.a. Johnny Depp, from Pirates of Caribbean?)

I know Itzik from my days at Machon Meir, where he came to Shacharis and the Casdens, he and I did our work right after the 18 Blessings. Slightly Parkinsonian, his face weathered by the desert sun, it is hard to ignore him. He related to me his story once at a Friday night dinner at Tikvah Aldoobi's, peace be upon her (this is THE woman who refused the Rabin's order to shoot at Altalena).

Itzik's family got caught in the German-occupied Poland with only one asset: a kind acquaintance in all the right places that had arranged false ID papers made for the entire family. They lived as secret Jews in or around Warsaw. His mom worked as a menial labor or cleaning woman, and his father found steady work, resulting in the family eking out an existence somewhat above the level of survival. They lived like this almost to the end of the war, when the Nazis started to suffer defeats on the Russian front, and their anger turned ever more insane towards Polish gentiles.

One evening Itzik's father did not come home. Days passed by, his father was nowhere to be found. Itzik was desperate, and retraced his father's usual route homeward, looking for his father, asking people on the street, and for weeks on end, being utterly desperate, forgetting all fear of being found out and calling his father out loud in Yiddish, to no avail.

Time crawled on, and eventually Nazis in the chaos of defeat, snapped back at everyone who got in their way. They did snatch Itzik off the street, and outright accusing him of being a Jew, sent him to a concentration camp. I don't remember which camp that was, but after having spent there only a week or so, according to Itzik, the camp suddenly got an order to empty out and march westward.

Itzik remembers the endless march of death, when Nazis shot whoever they wanted to vent their vengeance on, or whoever appeared as straggling behind the rest of the prisoners. Itzik does not remember how many days they marched, but he remembers that suddenly a motorcycle with a sidecar drove up to him and a Nazi officer asked him in German adapted to Yiddish, "Hey, boy, what would you like most of all right now? Just ask."

Itzik already got used to the cruel and lethal mind games the Germans played on the inmates, and he felt like it's the end, and said, having in mind heavens, "I want to go home."

The Nazi officer said, "You can go now," and told his motorcyclist to speed away.

Itzik was sure that he was about to be machine-gunned, like he saw other Jews after being stopped by the officer. He stood waiting for death, and realized that the march has left him, that it was deathly quiet, that he was all alone on the wet dirt road. He was too much in shock to move, so he waited on, for some sort of an order. It got dark, and Itzik felt that it was already the dead of night, and he was freezing cold.

Then he realized that the officer was heaven sent to save him, and felt that it was OK to move. He spent nights sleeping in burned out farms, and eventually made his way home. There his mom was obviously overjoyed to see him, having been told by witnesses of his being snatched away. Eventually his mom commanded him to speak to the Jewish Agency, about going to Palestine, where his paternal uncle lived. Itzik left Poland, escaping the approaching Russian military by a matter of hours.

Itzik arrived in Haifa, remembering how traumatized and cruel children survivors that arrived with him were in all aspects of life: playing soccer, having meals, settling down for the night. Eventually finding his uncle, Itzik was invited to a simple weekday dinner. After the meal and minimal conversation, his uncle asked him, "Do you have anything left from your father?"

Itzik sad with sadness,"Just this belt that I am wearing, and nothing else."

His uncle told him, "Give it over, come on." Itzik complied, thinking that his uncle wanted to look it over, to recollect memories of their youth.

His uncle, however, told him that Itzik should go. It was obvious that his uncle was keeping the belt. Itzik got the most painful shock that equalled the shock of losing his father and living through the concentration camp and the death march. He never felt warmth ever again in the Israeli society. His mother eventually came to Israel, and she was his only consolation.

Eventually Itzik got some sort of hold on his life, and got an M. D. in Psychology, and worked in the field till retirement. He did not know exactly how to raise his children, he is divorced after years of dysfunctional family life, and his two sons don't know how to relate to him or each other.

He is also distant. Andrew Casden (see his art) was able to talk to him once, other than my conversation during which he related to me his story. I saw him at the Kanfey Nesharim bus stop, by the Angel's Bakery, and he did not want to tell me how he was doing.He did not look well. Itzhak ben Adam HaKohen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Chaim Kaplan's ghetto diary

Having written the diary until he perished in a concentration camp, this teacher makes observations of Jewish mentality or psyche that has not changed even now.

He notes a phenomenon that is true in this Israeli reality: a mediocre semi-educated noisemaker dazzles rich sponsors into showering him with money (in the ghetto!), while a learned scholar starves.

Israel is like a ghetto:
- we are surrounded by neighbors - like Nazis and non-German antisemites,

-the system is controlled by the elite functionaries and government cronies - just like the Judenrat in the ghetto, serving the external interests and exploiting its constituency

-the system taxes heavily the general population for upkeep of the government functions that do not serve people, just like the Judenrat

-the police and the military do more to control its own people, rather to help them, i.e., expel settlers, arrest dissidents, etc - just like the Judenrat police
(in the diary he is thinking along these lines - he imagines that the newly instituted Judenrat police is probably like the Jewish police in Tel Aviv, except, probably more compassionate that gentiles)

-the business mentality that overprices the lowest quality services, goods and foods thrives in Israel, just like in the ghetto,
---and many more instances of parallelism, besides interesting observations. Great diary!!!

available in this edition at Amazon

These are Talmud highlights to look up

Interesting topics to look up in Gemoro:

Curse and rains after the destruction of the Temple - Baba Basra 25b
Good and bad signs in lighting -Brachos 59a, Taanis 8b
Preference to Hebrew and Greek over Aramaic -Baba Basra 83a
How a man and his wife can have 5 kids of different lineages -Yevamos 99a
Grades of gold created by God -Yuma 44b
about Tannaim thats et up Tamid and Yuma -Yuma 14b
Reasons for the order of Nashim -Nozir 2a, Sota 2a
Honey, sweet harmful to preganant woman -BabaQama 85a
Foods that stop production of mother's milk -Ktubos 60b
Foods that sap strength during the childbearing -Eiruvim 28a
Importance of bread and salt -Kiddushin 62a
R. Yossi's regulations for women in markets and bathroom -Sanhedrin 19a
Prohibition for many families to live together -Rashi in Sanhedrin 86a
Age limit for sleeping in same bed with mother or daughter -Kidushin 81b
Talking to women may lead to empty promises -Nedarim 20a
"אל תרבה בגנות משום מעשה שהיה" -Pesachim 113a
The source of the yichud concept -Kidushin 80b
Yichud with these women equals bestiality -Kidushin 81b
Regarding maids -Kritos 10b

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

heavenly furniture

This story comes from Ashdod.

An inti-religious, (a self-avowed enemy of Judaism) man lived on top of a furniture store owned by a religious Jew. The store always had show furniture out on the sidewalk, under the man's second floor (Israeli first floor) windows. The sight and the noise always bothered the man. He tried suing the store owner in a civil court, but he did not have enough grounds to start the legal action. Someone suggested that he take the owner to a religious court, since it could be surprisingly more common sense and binding.

He succeeded in taking the store owner to a religious court (Beis Din), and after some deliberation, the Beis Din decided that the store owner had the right to keep putting his furniture out on the sidewalk. Disgusted with the rabbis and the religion, the man spend months fuming and in anger over the religious court, religious people, and the store.

Once he was coming from work and noticed a crowd of people gathered on the sidewalk, right under his window. Getting angry, he thought of yelling at the crowd, when he noticed an ambulance pull away. He asked the people what happened. They told him that a little child (the man's toddler that apparently has just learned to climb) from the apartment above has crawled up on the window ledge and fell off, right onto a large sofa.

The man immediately realized that decisions of Beis Din are divinely inspired, and became religious, which he is to this day, and nobody can even guess that in such a model of religious observance there once was a broiling enemy of Judaism. He leads prayers, and learns Gemoro and Holochoh everyday, and has become the most pleasant person to be around.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lion's Roar

Just to make sure I don't forget the stories of the famous Shaagas Aryeh:

  1. He went into a self-imposed golus, and while visiting Frankfurt on Main, heard the Friday night speech at a shul. Totally disagreeing with the rabbi and the content of the speech, Shaagas Aryeh said out loud, "hevel vShtuss,"
    to which the rabbi responded, "this is obviously spoken by an Am Haaretz."
    Shaagas Aryeh rebuffed, with the Mamzer Talmud Chochom koidem Kohen Am Haaretz (Horaios 13). The rabbi was surprised with the comeback and admitted to being mistaken, and invited Shaagas Arye to eat at his table.

  2. Shaagas Aryeh once came to a town and spoke nothing but criticism of the town's Jewish community, its practices and wrongdoings. Exercising the right to reject or even expel a rabbi, the community led and escorted Shaagas Aryeh ot the outskirts of the town. There, Shaagas Aryeh stopped and turned around, saying," What a nice town it is!"
    The town elders told him, "But this is the first time you have something positive to say about our town, isn't it?"
    Shaagas Aryeh reparteed, "Yes, now that you are not in it!"

  3. Shaagas Aryeh came to another town, where the community asked honored him with the request to write for them the List of Rules, a Takanon. Shaagas wrote the Ten Commandments.
    "Your honor, you have written takanons that are very specific and address each communities situation. Why did you write the Ten Coomandments for us?"
    "Because you really need it."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Chazon Ish and shmitta FYI

Calatrava update - the bridge is still not fixed

Shook prices shekel/kg, any Badatz-grade:

apples 6-7
cheapest tomatoes 2
celery, parsley, lettuce - combination of any three for 12 shekel
tomatoes - 12

a belated post - when the shmitta started, the price gap was incredible. Non-observant produce cost 508 times cheaper.As G-d would have it, the good things don't last long. There was a strange frost throughout the land, and the cheap produce became on par with the shmitta-observance grade food.

Did you know that:

R. Dessler married the granddaughter of R. Salanter, and her kiddush cup was less than the Chazon Ish minimum.

Chazon Ishasked his first shayla about Eretz Isroel, Trumos and Maasros from R. Kook.

R. Y. Chaim Zonnenfeld traveled together with R. Kook to kibbutz settlements teaching Shmiras Shabbos.

Chazon Ish ruled that electricity has the din of Boneh.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Calatrava, Rabbi Feinstein's chochmah etc.

This is a pictorial comment on the Burkha Lady here


The Calatrava Bridge, according to the recent news on the radio, has produced cracks in its risque pylon, and is being repaired. No wonder it looks too interesting to be structurally sound.
(see the bridge as it was 1 months ago, little has changed)
Being true to the real intent of Jewish Law, R. Kamenetzky and R. Moshe Feinstein always reported even smallest givfts on their 1040 tax forms.

This story is from Noideh B'Yehudo, I call it the Tzaddik story, which can also be found in R. Ettinger's (Oruch HaNer) Binyan Tzion Tshuvos (QandA):

A very religious, and who turns out to be ferfrumt (overly religious) tzaddik-looking man comes to be a guest at an important man's house. All day long he reads tehillim, davens profiundly, etc.

Suddenly the man had to go on a trip, and in spite of the yichud laws, the tzaddik came to the man's wife and informed her of her being chosen for a divine mission to bring on the moshiach. The Tzaddik caused the wife to commit adultery with him, and as a parting shot, informs her that the heaven will put a box of gold in the cellar of her house.


The more thigns change, the more they stay the same, don't they?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

interesting facts and opinions

Rambam's opinion is that talmud tora should be free of charge. We poskin, however, to compensate a teacher "for keeping time open."
Rabbeinu Yona in a cooment to Pirkey Avos said that Tora must come with Avoda.
R. Gifter of Telz was seriously against talking to the dead concurrently with tefila at a cemetery.
R. Moshe Feinstein ztz"l ruled that X-Mas stamps are OK to use and handle.
Sara Shneuer, a seamstress from Krakow, founded the Beis Yakov girls' school system almost hundred years ago.

I learned these on Iyar 2, 23 April, 2000

Monday, April 14, 2008

A priest and eight women; bar mitzvah unison and Yiddish accent

According to the great R. Meir Hakoheyn, a talmid of the great R. Meir of Rothenburg, in his Hagahos Maymonios, it is said that:

"If a city is all Kohanim, with no Yisroyel there, then it follows the holocho logic to deduce that a Kohen gets the first two aliyos to Toroh, and the rest should be read by women."
( see Mishne Toroh, Hilchos Tefiloh, 12:19)


Shulchan Oruch.-O.H. 141:2 Magen Avrohom forbids more than one person to recite blessings simultaneously, in order to ensure that every word of the brocho is heard clearly.

In one fo his rare rulings, R. Moshe Feinstein also ruled that two Bar Mitzvoh boys cannot read the maftir and haftoroh sections in unison (Igrois Moishe, O.H. I-102).


Sure, it feels good to speak Israeli Hebrew. To read Maqor Rishon, or Maqor Chayyim. To pronounceSav without a dagesh as Tav. To go from L'hoidois to L'hodot. Maybe it feels better to daven the local Sephardi pronunciation as well.

Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the authority of the modern Hebrew grammar, was so happy to be here that he, paradoxically, severely beat his family members when they slipped and spoke a word of Yiddish!

No support for family violence here, though. There can be no law that can make the holy Yiddish, the language of Golus, which still rules ever so painfully, the language of the great Be'er Hagolah, the Vilna Gaon, and Chofetz Chaim, a taboo.

The straight and honest halachah advises ashkenoizim to remain within their pronunciation. The saintly and revered, the Israel-loving R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach who loved Israel, too, ruled so, in V'olehu Lo Ibul, Part 1, Opinion 44.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rabbinic authority

Come to think of it, R. Yakov Emden was fighting the influence of the Eybeshitzer Rebbe. The famous Shaagas Aryeh, from Vilno, went wandering through European towns, exercising the power of speech that Shulchan Aruch gives to anyone who is learned in Torah. In one city, he listened to a rabbi's Fri. night speech, commenting "hevel vshtuss," prompting the speaker to call Shaagas Aryeh an am haaretz. Shaagas Aryeh replied with the Mishna that says that an am haaretz precedes a kohen; the head of the community admitted that Shaagas Aryeh is great enough to dine at his house. Visiting another city, Shaagas Aryeh was so critical of the city's minhagim and halacho practice that the community exercised the right to ask him to leave. They escorted him to the city's limits, as befitting a talmud chacham's stature. He turned around, looked at the city, and said that the city was great to visit. The heads of the community told him that this was the first nice comment they heard from him. Shaagas Aryeh answered that the city was good, because the they, the heads of the community, were no longer in it.

It's exciting to learn what cool, democratic(?) liberties are granted by Shulchan Aruch.
(in resposne to a friend sending
Rabbinic authority Berel Wein, THE JERUSALEM POST, Mar. 14, 2007)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Real rabbis please stand up

A more ethics-oriented answer to the fanaticism (The anti-whig, The Beit Shemesh Burka: Extreme Tznius (modesty) phenomena would (and should) be based on Jewish ethics teachings. They are mostly ignored by the stricture-obsessed amateurs. They ignorance is exacerbated by the lack of continuous contact with a real rabbi. Most amateurs satisfy their spiritual needs through listening to rhetorical, moving speeches by rabbis who are not really teaching Jewish ethics to families members. Most of Jewish inspirational philosophies and lectures gravitate towards preaching-to-the-choir topics like critique or admiration of the Israeli government, disdain for the Diaspora, and loose-ended, interpret-for-yourself quotes from Talmud.

Chofetz Chaim, R. Moshe Feinstein, R. Grodzinsky, R. Shlomo Zalman Oyerbach, R. Neuwirth, the real gdoilim, have always taught ethics over externalities. Hazon Ish, so frequently stereotyped as the source of strict rulings, was in reality a real practicing ben toyra. During his early years in the Land of Israel he did not look as stereotypically religious as the rest of the locals, who actually asked him if he learned at all. (He answered in our most beloved mama loshn language , "Ven Ich hob tzeit, lern sich," "When I have time, I learn.")

The solutions, however, would never come from Jewish leaders, columnists, media darlings and rabbis who use the terminology of "pulpit", "sermon". etc. The solution is sticking to the close, organic, classic reltionship of rabbis and their immediate surroundings, and steering away from the new and fashionable lecture circuits, rabbinical radio shows, adn political rallies spiced with provoking thoughts from Talmud.

(in response to a friend's sending me To tell or not to tell, that is the question
Mar. 30, 2008)

It's the season for Orthodox scandal. From New York to
Jerusalem, from Beit Shemesh to Melbourne, shocking
tales of adultery and child abuse, infidelity and
incest within the Jewish world are making front-page
headlines. The latest incidents - a well-known cantor
caught in the act of adultery; a mother of eight
beating her two youngest to the point of
hospitalization, with no recovery predicted for the
toddler; a mother of 12, practicer and preacher of an
extreme form of female modesty, allegedly whipping and
humiliating her children, several of whom admitted to
incestuous relationships; the principal of a
prestigious Orthodox Melbourne school dismissed for
sexual molestation - remind us once again that the
Orthodox community is not immune to the plagues of the
larger one.

Is it right and proper - constructive or destructive -
to air this dirty linen in public, to name names, to
splash the story for all to see?...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Temple honesty

Regarding whether we are serious or are we just pretending, voting for Obama, or we really want the Temple back, in '08:
I was a teenager when I came to the US from one of the last shtetls in Ukraine. My family was easily attracted to a magnificent Reform shul nearby. I was the one that had to ask several cloying questions - why do they wear scarves instead of tallis? why do they say strange things instead Jewish-related passages?

The answer was that because the Jews who long ago came from the utter poverty in Eastern Europe have become free to take control of their own lives to live in a great country, and we can modernize our beliefs accordingly. If I didn't like it at that shul, we could try a Temple not far away, because it may provide additional element of fun, by dedicating each week to honoring each of many nations of the world. Why, I asked? We Jews need to learn to appreciate other people.

Somehow I found myself in a Conservative shul. I remember a rabbi's, or a community director's speech during a Yom Kippur service, after a series of funny jokes: "And now we must be really grateful for this opportunity to sit here, together, free of fears and worries, enjoying this pelasant atmosphere, and maybe we can just devote a moment to contemplate on those who are really fasting today, because they don't have anything to eat. THIS IS the REAL YOM KIPPUR!"

That was the last straw. After college, after having even exposed there to the supermarket-like circus of ideologies, which included all variations of Christianity, New Age and Jewish Reconstructionism, Humanism and Neo-Neoisms, I still kept the memories of the soundbites from my Reform and Conservative experiences. Naturally, I steered myself to an Orthodox shul. Tehre I realized how dishonest I would have been to my late grandparents, who prayed for the Moshiach, and for the real Temple, had I graduated from a pathetic shtibl-shul of unpainted wood, to an airy edifice of concrete and stained glass, and to empower myself to edit the ultimate object of my grandparents' prayers.

Through communist prosecutions, accusations of being fanatical parasites, they kept on believing. I had no right to let the sensation of having become an enlightened, successful Jew, to actually disobey the commandments we have kept for thousands and so years.

We are the ones who are serious, who do not snicker behind our boss's back at his seemingly funny commands, and we proudly keep transmitting the words, the ideas, and practices we were asked for our boss. My and your grandparents told us about Abraham, where he might have thought about G-d's most incredible, challenging, inhuman to our gentle, modern senses request - to sacrifice your own son. He, being intellectually honest, believed - seriously, without fooling himself, and really wanted to obey his Boss. He built his own altar. And that is why we believe that we will do whatever he asked us. Through thick and thin, with eyes wide open, we know that there is no overriding authority above him. Yes, we will build our own altar.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Proud to be an Ashkenozi

I have my own terutz for eating kitniyot. But, the pro-eating argument in the decision is still significantly connected to the concept of projecting a message, "to show that you're from Israel." It sounds antiquated, or unpopular, but there is no halachic task upon us to "show" that we are from a certain locale.

The only "show" task we have is to dress differently so as to look differently from gentiles. Maybe another task is to look decent, and not ostentatious. I can't think of other tasks like that.

But the rationale of appearing as someone from Israel, besides reminding me of Machon Meir mentality, reminds me of Reform synagogue, unfortunately. I remember when my dad and I drove around on Shabbos looking for a shul, the only one we found easily was a huge building of a reform shul. Therewe saw a lot of strange things. So when my dad and I asked the people why the tallis were small, why they prayed like Christians, why they prayed in English ("you're Jewish, right?"), why the women sat with men, why the American flag, why A, B, C, they answered that to know, to show that this is modern times, we are in USA and the religion must reflect the surroundings.

So the answer to the Kitniyot decision is that they are too sure that kitniyot-eating is specific to Israel. Most of Israeli population now, unfortunately, is eating a mixture of chametz with token matza. Religious Sephardim are eating kitniyot. But the Machon Meir thought gets caught up in assumption that Sephardim are the Israeli-specific thing.

The way we can examine Yemenite and Ashkenazi culture, we can also strongly suggest that Ashkenazim and Teymanim are probably from the same region of Israel, prior to the Destruction of the Temple, and why should we Ashkenazim suddenly mix our identities? Protecting the minhagim of the family, clan, and place of roginin is a very serious concept in Halachah. When discussing the Teymanim people usually go gaga and say "how cute" the Teymani minhagim are. Nobody suggest that they change their minhagim. So by the same token, why should Ashkenazim? At Machonn Meir they didn't see the conenction of this logic, " mah kesher?"

Another strong reason for abstaining from kitniyot is the way it is written is Shulchan Aruch, sif 453. Rama reminds that many authorities tried to literally cancel the minhag, but "nichshalu", as I understand, they "ran into problems," if not "failed," andrealized that the authority of the rabbis that insituted the abstention has been ever so wise.

My own terutz, which is also connected to appearance, to eat kitniyot, is that many arrogant shkenazim offhandedly say that because Sephardim eat kitniyot, "they eat chametz. " Since we are concerned with "maaris ayin," and we don't go into McDonald's to drink a cup of water, we don't eat fish blood (though it's permitted) -- so that a Jew, arrogant, judgmental, uninformed, or whatever - will not come to a wrong conclusion.
I think we should eat kitniyot to erase the possibility of creating such a false impression about a group of Jews. As long as the kitniyot have a Badatz rating, which they can easily have.

I have seen though, sunflower seeds, corn, shelled peanuts, being leniently and arbitrarily consumed, wherein I personally thought of these foods having been kept from before Pesach by the person.

I spoke to a guy from a kibbutz up north and he said that corn, sunflower seeds, and things that grow above ground are harvested by the same combine that harvests wheat. They just change the front attachment. He strongly believes in abstaining from kitniyot. He reminded me that as far as canola, which is grown in Canada and US, since on fields it is often rotated with wheat and rye, for purposes of enriching the soil as well, it is enough for one stalk of stray wheat to render an acre of canola crop unfit for Pesach.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Humorous Review Israeli Dating Ads

These are actual Personal Ads from Israeli newspapers:

Shmuel Gabbai, 36.
I take out the Torah Saturday morning. Would like to
take you out Saturday night.
Please write POB 81.

Couch potato latke in search of the right applesauce.
Let's try it for 8 days.
Who knows?
POB 43

Divorced Jewish man seeks partner to attend shul,
light shabbos candles, celebrate holidays, build
Sukkah together, attend brisses, bar mitzvahs -
Religion not important.
POB 658

Orthodox woman with get, seeks man who got get or can
get get.
Get it?
I'll show you mine
if you show me yours.
POB 72.

Sincere rabbinical student, 27, enjoys Yom Kippur,
Tisha B'av, Taanis Esther, Tzom Gedalia,
Asarah B'Teves, Shiva Asar b'Tammuz.
Seeks companion for living life in the 'fast' lane.
POB 90.

Yeshiva bochur, Torah scholar, long beard, payos.
Seeks same in woman.
POB 43.

Nice Jewish guy, 38.
No skeletons.
No baggage.
No personality.
POB 76

Female graduate student, studying kaballah, Zohar,
exorcism of dybbuks, seeks mensch.
No weirdos, please.
POB 56.

Jewish businessman, 49, manufactures Sabbath candles,
Chanukah candles, havdallah candles,
Yahrzeit candles. Seeks non-smoker.
POB 787.

I am a sensitive Jewish prince whom you can open your
heart to, share your innermost thoughts and deepest
secrets. Confide in me. I'll understand your
insecurities. No fatties, please
POB 86.

Jewish male, 34, very successful, smart, independent,
self-made, looking for girl whose father will hire me.
POB 22.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Religious Parrot

I heard this famous story directly from the friend of the couple. I don't remember anymore where it took place, but I heard it in Suburban Detroit.

A frum family had a well-trained, smart parrot. But one day the parrot actually escaped. Some time later, it turns out, the parrot landed in a totally different community, on a porch of a Jewish couple who were borderline assimilated, very successful, New Age, liberal, and they attended a Reconstructionist or Humanist Temple on some Yom Kippur occasions.

The couple felt responsible to find the owners of the parrot and posted posters and other announcements, to no success. Meanwhile several weeks have passed, and they noticed that the parrot spoke strange language in addition to the regular English expressions that parrots know to repeat. The couple realized that investigating into the parrot's language skills might help them find its owners.

Some of the their friends did not have any idea of the language. One friend did recognize that the mysterious expressions contained Hebrew, but not the kind he understood. The couple made recordings of the parrot, and turned to the help of all the Reform, Conservative rabbis, and other academics, and soon were told that the parrot was saying blessings, standard greetings, basic Talmudic expressions, and kiddush of Ashkenazic Jews. The couple did notice that the parrot spoke in this mode on weekends, on Friday nights, and whenever they had candle-lit dinner. The couple narrowed down their search and put up posters in a religious neighborhood nearby, eventually getting the attention of the parrot's owners.

The couple was fascinated by the bird, and the frum owners' gratitude. The couple wanted to know what were the events that the bird was used to. They were invited to a Shabbat. While witnessing the family's shabbos, the couple identified the blessings, the kiddush, and the expressions; they intellectually appreciated the lifestyle, and soon realized that they were interested in the spiritual beauty of it all. Starting with the superficial, aesthetic Shabbos observance, they became more observant, and soon became totally religious, and now they are leaders in a frum shul, and nobody even suspects that they were baaley teshuva. And all because of a parrot.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

on non-Google DIY thinking

Though right about Google, they thought they had the answers from a Jewish egomaniac some 2,000 years ago.

What I have learned from my rabbis is that according to Dvorim 30: 1-12 and on, we are told that a Jew has Torah on the tip of his tongue, and he needs to use this tip-of-the tongue educated intuition to practically use Torah and Holocho. Shulkhon Oruch is for evry one of us to try and at least kn ow instinctively, versus going to a favorite rabbi-magician-mekubal to tell us in a dramatically Biblical way. The same verses say, "it's not high above heavens, or beyond the sea", and in the same spirit, far away, or in the mountains. I have been taught that we must think and analyze Torah and Holocho on our feet.

There is a cocnept of hassidus, which is separate from Hasidut (as a spiritual, charismatic movement). Hassidus is a type of religious behavior that is overly demonstrative, excessive, and/or based on unnecessarily and arbitrarily-sought out strictness. It also includes fanatical pilgrimage and visits to great rabbis, living or dead, often to ask them for easily explainable halochic clarification, or to receive a personal advice. Most of these activities are actually willingly divulged. Again, in line with what I have said in the above paragraph, a Jew who is in touch with holocho, and his rabbi, and reads (regularly) to learn will not find himself doing this Hassidus, and have more free time for that learning, and working out relationships with people in his everyday life - a boss, an employee, students, an grumpy neighbor, a business partner.

In the Shmonay Esrey blessings havdolo we also invoke our ability to distinguish between different degrees of holiness, i.e., an inspiration, a source, a mishnah, a sugya, a rishon, an acharon, a holocho. At the risk of sounding trite, I would say that we are smarter than we think.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ethics, Rhetorics and Exponents

Within the damp, dusty and peeling walls there is a breath of the inspiring air:

Moishe F. is a source of inspiration for me. Moishe hereinbelow poses for a well-travelled, worn-out, and dropped into the dust of the Judean Desert point-and-shoot film camera, with fellow scions of Eastern Europe, Yuri, a dedicated high school teacher, and Itzik, a Toro genius and iluy, who belonged in the Mir or the Hebron Yeshiva.

And this is where many a boraissa and and holocho was scrutinized and expounded and glanced and glossed and unfathomed. Yoav, center, and Daniel Lev, behind him have succeeded in absorbing both the the learning and the ethics from Sinai, I must proudly say:

Sure, the Boraissa from Ketubos is correct, so is another statement that whoever takes 3 steps upon the Holy Land is a Tzaddik, and on and on. One simple thing is important to keep in mind is that we don't poskin by individual excerpts from Gemoro. We have the Great Gemoro Authority comprising of the 3 Torah greats (Rif, Ron, Rambam) that voiced their opinions in no uncertain terms, and the Great Codifier and that is who we go with. Shulkhan Oruch never issues a psak against anyone who seems to fall into an intuitively deduced wrong side with either of the dramatic passages from Gemoro.

Statmenets like these are used nowadays out of context, and, sadly, as a gruesome , or dramatic, at best, rhetoric. Rhetoric is an effective, persuasive form of speech, but most of the time it is incorrect, often intellectually dishonest. It persuades people to nod along.

Tha is, until someone come up with a question. The rhetorically dramatic passages from Gemoro rule over the silent and easily impressed, but they need to know the Ultimate Source of Facts, the Toro, which, significantly different from the arbitrarily judgmental thrust of the rhetorical passages, never uses the Holy Land as an atonement for a rapist, a murderer, an adulterer, a killer, a witch and a warlock, a false prophet, a practicing homosexual - they all are judged, in black and white, in easy-to-read verses, and the Holy Land is never even mildly mentioned as a saving atonement. On the contrary, Toro never recognizes or compromises with these sinners, and explicitly says that nothing of their sort should be found in the land, and in many cases, killed (suffocated), burned (fed molten lead), or stoned (pushed off a cliff unto jagged rocks).

As a silent countercharge to the users of the Boraissos, we would never issue a damning , iddol-worshiiping accusiastion against the Toro Gedoilim who lived outside the Holy Land and yet their decisions serve as the ultimate holocho - rabbis Moshe Feinstein, Chofetz Chaim, Ben Ish Hai, Rashash, Palazzi, Chido. The great posek that did live here, R. Shloimo Zalman Oyerbach, never issued a negative psak regarding of the Diaspora residents. R. Eliashiv, has never done that, either.

They issued psak that dealt with the practical side of Toro. That is what Toro is about. However, the Great Kiryat Moishe University of Rhetorical Hashkofos, whose proud graduates are you and I, seems to de-emphasize the essence of learning, of the relating to one of the hardest things to do - to relate to a fellow Jew on the street, at workplace, in the cafeteria of the University, and in many other small but very important scenarios. The University, though not alone in this, lets the everyday Israeli mentality influence the course of the arbitrary interpretation of the rhetorical hashkofo.

Ignoring my personal experiences that puzzled me there, where crude, arrogant, and even disdainful attitude towards search for better observance ("you don't need to study all that marriage mitzvo details all day long, that's for haredim"), where the beautiful, and equally important statement of utmost rhetorical strength - "Darkey Noam", Toro's Ways are pleasant (who can argue against this?)- are ignored, and the young men discovering themselves in Toro do not grow in pleasant ways, but deepen their scowling, glowering stares, and loud, pushing mannerisms. I would rather use, and always use the example and the experience of a fellow Israeli who was the only example a successful, total self-improvement work at the yeshiva, to the point where he had realized that he does not belong there, and now he lives near me, an exemplary Hassidishe man, a true, Gentle Man, or Mensch of a Jewish gentleman, who impresses me with his patience and common sense in relating to everyday curve balls that life throws at us. I do not have to prompt him to remind me how great it feels to learn Toro without quotes from Toro made of muddled rhetoric.

Sad it is, when the mantras of walking and living on the Holy Land go to the cerebellum of a hyper-idealistic man, and all other ethics go down the drain. No wonder Toro does not recommned women to wear Tzitsis, or men to wear tefillin all day. It is not for some magical reason, but to prevent yihuro. It is one thing for the Diaspora to behave unethically, but it is a glaring, screeching Hillul Hashem for a Holy Land Walking Yihuro specialist to badmouth, backstab and humiliate his fellow coworkers, cheat his employees, and exploit his yarmulko as a passport to get to even higher state of yihuro at his synagogue.

Right now the challenge is not the Jews in Diaspora, the challenge is being nice to them when they come to the Shuk and move slowly in the way of the locals. Remember, the Toiro is about NOT pushing and shoving and glowering and scowling. Gemoro brings another wide-ranging, powerful statement - whoever gets angry is as if worships idols. What other Boraissas do we need?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ariel Ben Yakov and Jerusalem

I have had a picture of my friend's CD cover. In Jerusalem his name is Ariel Ben Yakov. I can't tell what it says - "Jew Lost in Exile" ? He learned at the Diaspora Yeshiva, had some rough time adjusting to the Jerusalem scene, and then I lost track of him. I hope he is married and doing great now.

I found some more pics on my PC. This one was taken right after Purim. The workers seems to be going up and down and getting into the top welding deck. No changes are visible though.

this is one is one of really mysterious sites in Jerusalem. Nobody has any info on this little cemetery right in front of the Egged headquarters, next to the former temporary bus station that is now a paid parking lot (see further below)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mad Max, Kassam, Calatrava, and Purim

I this post:

CALATRAVA BRIDGE, not necessarily in that order.

I found a picture from the Machon Meir's Chanuka '97 or 98 trip to Mitzpeh Ramon. This guy stood out. I met Mad Max when Andrew Casden and I were exploring a small oasis in the middle of the arid desolation of the crater, or caldera, as some scientists call it, this guy on a motorcross bike barreled onto the scene and warned us not to break any vegetation or disturb rocks. I immediately counter-questioned him regarding the impact of his terrain-plowing bike. He was an open-minded type and soon we got into an amicable conversation. He is formelry from Lithuania, and now he is a park ranger. I told him is a pure Mad Max. He said, sure, he often gets mad at arrogant people tearing up vegetation, digging for rare rocks, scaring wildlife, endangering themselves with rattlesnakes, scorpions, and littering.

You remember Rabbi Uriel? I have just found out from Shalom (in the picture below) that the rabbi has died some time ago. I think his last name was Horowitz, and that is how it appears on the Halachoh Beruroh Talmud's list of editors. The rabbi learned with everyone, be it the basics of Judaism with complete beginners and converts, or high-level Gemoro studies with other rabbis. I started to learned Yoreh Deoh a month or two up to Pesach of the year 2000.

Anyway, this Purim I took my family to our friends in Sorotzkin neighborhood, and while trasnfering buses (NN. 23 to 2) surveyed the interestingly scary Calatrava bridge. The welding decks are still marking the joints of the pylon sections. Some wires still look sagging. They are still working on something as you can see in the 7 pictures below.

Purim joy:

And this is a jeep from Sderot. Towards the back of the roof note one of many Kassam rockets that have fallen on the town.

And the celebrations in Sorotzkin.

See you soon?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Adam's Waterfall, Bus Passes

This drawing was given to me by Adam Teitelbaum, from Texas, who came through Machon Meir. Soon I will post scans of group pictures from that era.

That was an interesting era. Amitai, Andrew Casden, Rabbi Kenny Cohen, Menachem Listman.
They are all in the pics to come.

Also that was the time I could not fathom the concept, or think of Jerusalem monthly bus passes. Eventually I got married and matured to start buying them. This was the period when I actually scanned them.

So many security features. So much money.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Art by Casden/Reason to Keep Chalav Israel

A lot has happened since the last post. The Calatrava bridge has had most of its strings strung. There was a terrorist attack on the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva. I have just remembered that I wanted to post some of my friends art. This one is by Leib (Andrew) Casden, given to me on the occasion of my wedding.

And these are the CAsden brothers, with the city of Shkhem in the background below.

And on a totally different subject: this is the reason to keep Chalav Israel(Cholov Isroel). The follwoing pictures are from an industrial milk farm where cows had a hatch installed leading into the last stomach, ino roder to speed up their digestion and produce more milk. The hatch also helps with cleaning the stomach to make digestion more efficient, see below.This renders a cow non-kosher with regards to both mill and meat.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Jerusalem Snow '08

This is the second morning of waking up to snow in Jerusalem. No work, no transportation, no hot water from solar batteries, since they are blanketed with the chilling snow blanket, which counteracts even the heating with the built-in electrical element.

The lonely snowman, with buttons of what could be Pri-Gat juice bottles, surrounded with police barriers never used and left over from the Bush visit, note the Release Pollard campaign stickers:

Here is the picture of the aquarium from a previous post on this pretty morning:

And walking onto the Herzl Avenue, one can see the Yad Sarah headquarters on the left,

to the right of the traffic light post is the intentionally bent pylon for the supposedly to be famous Calatrava bridge (to carry the entirely impractical light rail trains) still together with an idle crane,
closer to the foreground, immediately to the left of the traffic light pole is the abstract sculpture, a gift from some city, the sculpture used to sit quarter of a mile away on top of Mt. Herzl,
and further to the right in the background is the former Hilton Plaza, now Crowne Plaza, or a variant on the name.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Secret election campaigns in Jerusalem

A casual walk along the Herzl Avenue yields intriguing discoveries of what must be a shadow, alternative, anarchistic even(?) movements roiling amidst the tempestuous political scene of Jerusalem, the city divided and to be divided by any influential politician, and along any imaginable opinion lines. We are not talking about Kadima, Mafdal, Likud, Hadash, UTJ, Labor, United Arab Front, the Organization To Kill Zionist Entity, Fateh, Hamas, Hizbullah, PFLP, The Al-Aqsah Martyrs.

Since the shadow-anarchist-underground movements seem to avoid standard commercial methods of advertizing, they seem to resort to the ubiquitous graffiti ( more here), especially on concrete blocks that the city likes to use to hold up utility poles (since it saves them man-hours needed to drill, dig and fill for the poles). These are just samples:

Along the same avenue, the list of contractors for the Jerusalem's Light Rail transformer station by the Shaarey Zedek Hospital is printed up as a mixture of political and commercial advertizing, unsurpassed exponent of political cronyism and bid rigging(? - when common sense suggests a trolley bus system, a few street cars serving along the only thoroughfare is a far cry from moving public through traffic jams):

Keep in touch for the impending results of our election campaign research.