Friday, October 31, 2014

Ashura Ashira?

A guest post by Y. Bloch

So Ashura is next week, when Muslims fast to commemorate (at least according to Sunnis) the Splitting of the Sea. This is based on a tradition that Muhammad observed the Jews of Medinah fasting on this day and thought it was a good idea to memorialize the defeat of Pharaoh and salvation of the Israelites in this way. Now, Jews don't fast on the seventh day of Passover, when we commemorate the Split, nowadays. But the Talmud (Pesahim 68b) cites R. Eliezer's view that fasting is a viable option for holidays, and the prooftext is how the Torah talks about... the seventh day of Passover. Fascinating!

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Royals Third Base Coach Blew It

Look at the video attached below, and you will see Alex Gordon reach third base standing up before the ball even makes it to the cut-off man. @39 you can clearly see he is more than half-way to third base before the ball leaves the first outfielder's hand. While he's no speedster, Alex Gordon stole 12 bases this year. and he had the advantages of a big running start. To catch him the cut-off man (SS Brandon Crawford) has to make a perfect throw, under pressure, and a throw from the middle of the outfield is no lay-up. Then Buster Posey has to cleanly field the throw and hold on to the ball, while a 220 pound athlete bears down on him. Also not a layup. Meanwhile, all Gordon has to do is run in a straight line. The odds were heavily on his side. The third base coach should have sent him.

  • The ball reaches Crawfords hands in 13 seconds (see the video :04 - :017)
  • Gordon reaches third base in 11 seconds (see the video :51-1:02)

That means Gordon can be two seconds down the base path toward home BEFORE Crawford touches the ball! And remember it took him to 11 seconds to reach third only because he slowed down. Had he been running at full speed he could have been more than half way down the base path before the ball reached Crawford!

10/29/14: Alex Gordon rips a single to center, then takes third base on an error by Gregor Blanco

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Something for fans of the Baal Haturim

Here is a mike-dropping midrash from the early church fathers regarding Abraham's 318 servants.

Now, of course, we Torah true Jews who embrace one midrash to the exclusion of all others know that Abraham had just one servant, named Eliezer, and that this is indicated via gematriah. But as soon as I give you the boring background I will tell you what the early Christians found hidden in the number 318

*Boring Background*
  • In Greek, which also has a gematriah system, the letter tau, which looks like a T has a value of 300. 
  • The letter eta is eight, and the letter iota is ten.
  • Eta and iota are the first two letters of Jesus's name and a tau is shaped like a cross.
Now, listen to this first century drasha given in the Epistle of Barnabas:
For [the Scripture] saith, "And Abraham circumcised ten, and eight, and three hundred men of his household." What, then, was the knowledge given to him in this? Learn the eighteen first, and then the three hundred. The ten and the eight are thus denoted - Ten by I, and Eight by H. You have [the initials of the, name of] Jesus. And because the cross was to express the grace [of our redemption] by the letter T, he says also, "Three Hundred." He signifies, therefore, Jesus by two letters, and the cross by one. (Epistle of Barnabas 9.8)

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Pruz Quits!

Shorter Pruzansky: I'll be damned if I let a woman tell me what to do.
Be warned: Clicking this link subjects the reader to dozens of paragraphs which do nothing but describe the surpassing excellence of Rabbi Pruzansky... But eventually you'll reach his grumbling about women usurping what he imagines must always remain man's work.
After seven years as head of the Bet Din L’Giyur (the conversion court) in Bergen County, under the auspices of the Beth Din of America and the Gerus Protocol and Standards (GPS) adopted by the RCA...

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Noah family learns together

Here we go!! Ironclad proof that Shem was the oldest!!

But boo on the artist for depicting Noah as such a self-absorbed and inattentive father. Why is he ignoring little Yefes? Why doesn't little Ham get something to read? Maybe Noah wants to take some personal responsibility for raising one and only one Torah-true son? Oh, and who is little Ham's mother and why can't I find a Strom Thurmond joke when I need it?

Why won't the Israelis elect a grown-up?

I see. So a US official calls the Israeli Prime Minister a vulgar name, and its time to head for the mattresses. But when the US President gets insulted, over and over again, that's perfectly okay?

Before you guys start tearing your shirts and whining about disrespect, maybe take a glance in the mirror? If it didn't make you cry when Obama was called a socialist Muslim who hates Israel (all lies) it shouldn't make you cry when Netanyahu gets insulted.

If you thought it was OK for Bennet and Feiglin to insult US officials, including the president, and if you thought it was ok for Netanyahu to openly campaign for Romney, I don't see how you can respond to this attack on Netanyahu's character with an episode of the fainting spells.

Anyway, while the words the US official used were highly inappropriate, and should probably result in his dismissal, the point he made was spot on. Netanyahu is all bluster. He simply lacks the guts to do anything meaningful or historic in the manner of Rabin, Begin or Sharon.

Bottom line: What do you call someone who goes around the world crying that Iran is an existential threat to the Jewish people, but won't do anything about it when he obviously has the means at his disposal? Is there a word for that? Yes there is and the US official used it.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How dare the Times say something truthful and kind about Jews?

Pinhead Lippshitz of the Matzav is furious at the New York Times for letting people know that Lakewood supports and accommodates itinerant beggars. He appears to find this shameful. Also, for reasons known to himself alone, Pinhead thinks the article, an article that celebrates Jewish generosity in all its forms, makes Lakewood look backwards and provincial. I wonder if the aptly named Rich Roberts, a Lakewood multimillionaire who was prominently featured in the article, and identified as a supremely generous man, agrees with Pinhead's carping.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Socialism in action!!

Comrade Barak Howard Obama is now one step closer to implementing his socialist Muslim Atheist agenda!! Cutting food stamps!! That's what Karl Marx did! Right?

Dovbear's helpful parenting advice

1) Don't fight with your kid about hats, jackets or ties. If he doesn't want to wear them it should be no skin off your nose. He's representing himself not you and anyone who would judge or disqualify your kid based on what he wears to shul is not someone who should be allowed to control you (exception: If it's a school or camp rule, it's superficial, stupid and petty, but you have to support it)

2) Don't fight about hair either. These things don't become a big deal unless you turn them into big deals.

3) If your kid gets in trouble at school your job is to support, defend and advocate for your kid. In the long run your support is better for him and his future development than your ganging up with the school against him. If the kid is wrong and the school has him dead to rights you still have to find an honest way to be on his side. This may be a delicate and difficult dance at times, especially if your kid is a horror show, but home has to be a safe, supportive place. Let the school punish for school infractions. Don't let them make you the bad guy. (And attention school administrators: don't dump this on me; also don't create punishments like detention or Minyan bans that interfere with my schedule. My wife and I work largely to pay your fees. Respect our time)

4) Tell your kids the truth about minhag, midrash, and the rest. Teach the controversy. It won't confuse them. Not in the long run. Over simplifying things and letting kids believe that oversimplification is the final official answer only causes headaches later.

5) Don't use dessert as a reward or punishment and don't harass your kid into eating one more bite. If you want your kid to have a healthy relationship with food put good healthy food on the table and let the kid be guided by his natural hunger without any pushing, prodding, drama, or manipulation from you.

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The real beggars of Lakewood

A guest post by Shragi

Over Yom Tov, when the New York Times thought no one was looking, it ran an article titled The Beggars of Lakewood, but we dug it out of internet obscurity to bring it to you.

The beggars in the title are not local beggars, although they are mentioned in passing, rather the focus of the article are the meshulachim who come from overseas, primarily from Israel where the self-hating Jewish government is on a mission to keep Hareidim out of work.

The problem of poverty and how to deal with it is a very difficult one without a single cause and without any simple solutions, and I felt that the article painted a sympathetic and fairly accurate picture (except that Yiddish in not spoken prominently in Lakewood). I'm not sure though where the reporter got the idea that Lakewood is the first, and possibly the only, place that requires meshulachim to receive permission to collect with its borders; Baltimore does it, I believe Chicago does and Cleveland has discussed doing it, but probably due to politics it never came to be.

But then there was this line: "It would be a mistake to think that anyone in Lakewood idealizes begging. The injured scribe notwithstanding, door-to-door begging is generally for out-of-towners. So the local poor are supported by local charities, dozens of them." And the reporter goes on to list all the various gemachim and tzedakah organizations that locals rely on ending with this: "The specialization of the gemachs and other services is so thorough that no one ever feels as if he’s begging." Well, whether they feel that they're begging or not, they are nonetheless begging. And more glaringly; not a mention of government programs. Reading this article one would might get the idea that Lakewood is populated by a middle-class yeshivish crowd that distributes tzedakah in its spare time.

The author makes an astute point about the cost of receiving tzdakah in Lakewood: "The cost of admission to this world of generosity is privacy. Even the beggar’s application asks for the name of a home rabbi — and he will get a call, even back in Jerusalem. Lakewood is a town that defeats anonymity. For out-of-towners reduced to knocking on doors, the price of all this charity is, as everywhere else, uncomfortable exposure. For locals, there is an effort to preserve dignity — but even then, the system presumes that there’s always someone who can attest to the family’s dire need." And this lack of privacy goes even further than this. Before the big yomim tovim when they distribute food at an event called Moadim B'Simcha, people have to show up in person to receive the food. Granted that some people pay for it (a very reduced price) while others receive it free of charge, still, I've been to this food and paper goods handout and no one looks embarrassed to be there. The fact is that being on the tzedakah rolls is not embarrassing, especially if you're in kollel or are a rebbe, it's part of the lifestyle.

Finally, reading this article and feeling the ambivalence I usually feel when thinking about the intractable problem of poverty among Hareidim in Israel I was reminded of something I wrote last year.

For extra fun, and to see how the general population perceives all the chessed going on in Lakewood, check out the comments on the NYT article.

Friday, October 24, 2014

10 Years of Blogging

Ten years of blogging. Today I reached that milestone. You may find this hard to believe but when I started in October of 2004 I planned to wrap things up by January. Never, did I dream that I could sustain a writing project for more than a few months. Then came the first JIBs, a fun blog war or two, and I was hooked. Now, 10 years have passed. I've written nearly 10,000 posts, collected well over a million comments, and made countless friends and, unfortunately, enemies.

I'm not much of a memorist in part because I have an awful memory so I'll leave it to others to describe my contributions to the blogging world and the terrible harm I've done to Judaism (or vice versa).

Instead, let me just mark this day by thanking the readers and commenters who made blogging so addictive. Often you made me laugh, sometimes you made me scream, but almost always you taught me something new. I'm glad to have met almost all of you, even some of the trolls.

Perhaps I'll share more reflections over the next day or two. If you'd like to help things along and prod my memories with a question go right ahead.

Hey, throw something in the tip jar please!

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

In which I ask for some generous contributions

Right, so I need to put together some cash by the end of the month in order to cover a thing. This isn't an emergency. No one is sick, or in danger of losing a house or anything like that, so I don't want to cut ahead of anyone who might be worthy and legitimate, two things I certainly am not, but I do think it is okay to pass the hat from time to time.Street performers do it. How am I any different?

So, guys, if you've enjoyed my blogging shenanigans, and think its worth a shekel or two, please toss something into the begging bowl. With my big ten year anniversary coming up, the timing is right. Thanks

Just hit the link below.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I agree. God can do anything.

Objections to Noah's flood are being answered with "God can do anything" which is of course true -- God can do anything. But I don't think the people deploying this counterargument quite grasp all that God had to do in the particular case of Noah's flood. So here's a short list:

  1. Erase the worldwide evidence of the global flood 
  2. Replace it with evidence that strongly suggests no such flood occurred
  3. Allow for all the animals to happily coexist on a rather small boat. Miracles here include space for the birds, climate control for the walruses and polar bears, space for the dogs and horses to exercise, and some unimaginable system for containing the insects. Also needed is some kind of automated feeding system, as there wasn't enough man power on the boat to care for millions of animals, and a way of providing nourishment to the carnivores who require live prey. 
  4. Following the flod, the fish stocks need to be replaced. Even if you hold that the fish were able to survive, the fresh water species and the tropical species were certainly imperiled by a flood that covered the mountain tops.  When you bring back the wiped out fish, remember to provide lots of clues that some of these species, such a sharks, have been flourishing successfully for millions of years. 
  5. Post flood you need to help the clumsy animals, such as giraffes, off of mount Ararat, and you have to return the marsupials to Australia. Again you have to erase any evidence that marsupials ever lived in southern turkey while also creating and placing loads of evidence that marsupials evolved naturally and ended up in Australia as the continents separated millions of years ago. Oh,and you have to do the same thing with penguins, polar bears, timber wolves and all the other animals that "belong" to a certain part of the world. Evidence that they were once in Turkey needs to be erased, and all the evidence that they ended up where they are today via natural means has to be created and placed.
And I'm sure there's more I've forgotten.

So yes, God can do anything. Just realize that in order to salvage the flood story you need to be prepared to say He did quite a bit, and some of it apparently was done just to mislead us, which hardly sounds very God-like

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Where did the water come from? ‪#‎breishis‬

Let's remember that the first creation story imagines a universe made from water. On the second day, God creates a smooth dome, the raquia, to hold back some of the water; on the third day he rolls back the rest of the water to reveal dry land. Later, when He gets fed up with the creation and decides to flood it, all he does is open the gates of the heaven and allow the rolled back water to recover the previously revealed dry land ( נִבְקְעוּ֙ כָּֽל־מַעְיְנֹת֙ תְּהֹ֣ום רַבָּ֔ה וַאֲרֻבֹּ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם נִפְתָּֽחוּ׃). So again: Where does all the water come from?
This sketch, which shows how the Bible views the universe, sums up the problem. (and remember that until rather late "Judaism" thought the sun went under the land every night, where among other things, it warmed up the Tiberian hot springs)

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Big ten year anniversary coming up...

Any thoughts on how to celebrate it?

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Molester Rabbi Mad Libs

A guest post by Y. Bloch
Talking about sex crimes in an insular religious community is hard. That is why I offer you today a handy form for dealing with the latest rabbinical sex-criminal story. Just fill in the biographical and geographical details, and you're ready to go!

The Jewish community of __________ was shocked to learn today that respected local Rabbi __________ has been implicated in a sex crime.
"We're so shocked to hear this," said one community member. "And it's so totally unprecedented!"
Local police said they are investigating the allegations of __________, against Rabbi __________including putting his __________ on the __________ of unsuspecting community members who came to him for guidance and counseling.
"We're flabbergasted, gobsmacked and dumbfounded," said the head of the rabbinical council of __________. "There was no way any of us could have seen this coming. I mean, there were allegations of sexual and professional impropriety, and we gave them all the weight that we would any such accusations coming from women, children, non-Jews or non-religious Jews, all of whose testimony is deemed inadmissible by the Torah. Perhaps there had been some transgression of Jewish law, but certainly a man who violates what he spends his entire career exhorting others to follow would not dare commit a crime! I mean, in this case, he did, but did I mention how awestruck, dumbstruck and thunderstruck we are? And it's so totally unprecedented!"
However, some in the community cautioned against premature adjudication. "Let's not rush to judgment," said longtime supporter __________. "Let's wait until after arrest, indictment, trial, conviction, sentencing, appeal and the civil suit to discuss this issue. At that point, I will remind you that a) Rabbi __________ has paid his debt to society; b) no one really knows what went on behind closed doors except Rabbi __________, the complainant and any electronic recording devices present; c) you apparently haven't heard of the Jewish concept of repentance. Look, he once gave a sermon I really liked. Could such a man commit such a crime? It just doesn't add up. And it's so totally unprecedented!"
Others argued that the failure was systemic. "We must face the grim reality and an issue which haunts our community," opined one observer. "It's high time our schools, synagogues and communities face the real problem: insufficient Internet connectivity. Surely if Rabbi __________ had access streaming high-definition pornography, this heinous crime would never have been committed." Other likely culprits identified were bible criticism, leftist media, female rabbis and the gays.
Jewish leaders across the greater __________ area were particularly alarmed. "I am extremely concerned about what this means for our community," said __________. "Wait, what does he wear on his head? Well, that's not my style of headgear. I'm not surprised that a practitioner of that type of Judaism would do such a foul thing. Even though it's so totally unprecedented."
Rabbi __________ has been suspended while the investigation continues. While this community digests its shock, everyone agrees on one thing: there is absolutely nothing to be learnt from this experience.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Ways in which we know Kesher Israel is not an Agudah shul
  1. Their president is a woman
  2. The board behaved responsibly (1 and 2 might be connected)
  3. The sex crime involved adult women
Ma od?
And, I bet poor Rabbi Doctor Barry Freundel wishes he had affiliated haredi as it appears as if his own board of directors ratted him out -- and without doing the ragalayim ldovar dance beforehand.
For sure, Avi strongly disapproves.

Meanwhile Sarah Bronson wins the Internet
Although it must have been heart-wrenching for them, [Kesher Israel's Board] cared about their congregants' safety, dignity, and right to privacy more than they care about the synagogue's reputation or the reputation of Orthodox Judaism - as it should be. To me, this isn't a story about a rabbi behaving badly. This is a story about an Orthodox synagogue’s Board of Directors acting courageously. I applaud them for doing the right thing under very difficult circumstances.”
[Meanwhile in other news, the Novominsker Rebbe, Yaakov Perlow, the head of Agudath Israel, is continuing to insist that he can do nothing about Kolko, the child molester, because "this is a Flatbush matter, while he is a Boro Park Rabbi"]
The shocking charges that Rabbi Barry Freundel in Washington, D.C. videotaped women congregants in their most vulnerable moments are uniquely horrifying.

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