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."