Friday, May 13, 2016

Mixed Messages


Earlier today, the Yeshiva World published an article praising a Bas Yakov grad, who is also the wife of a Kollel member, for being named valedictorian of a Rutgers graduate school. Now the post is gone, but you can read the cache here

Why was it removed? Did YWN consult with Das Torah and decide it was immodest to congratulate a woman? Did they discover that becoming a valedictorian of a secular graduate school is pretty much the opposite of what BY students are told to do? Why are they proud of her for going against the instructions of her teachers? Or is that why the article was deleted? So confusing!

Anyway here's the article, with some small comment.

Lakewood Kollel Wife Makes Valedictorian of Rutger’s Graduate School
[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times]

Rutger’s [SIC] is an academic powerhouse with an international reputation.

ROFL

It one of the best public research universities in the US and its graduate and doctoral programs are top –ranked – [SIC] alongside Harvard and Yale.

ROFLMAO

Mrs. Chedva Blumenkrantz, nee Farkas, a Kollel wife whose husband studies in Beis Medrash Gavoah of Lakewood, was chosen as valedictorian of Rutger’s Pharmaceutical program. She is a graduate of Machon Sarah TAG High School in Far Rockaway, one of the leading bais Yaakovs in the country.

The author is employed by this school and should have disclosed that - especially if he was going to claim his employer is one of the leading schools in the country (ROFL)

She is also an alumnus of BJJ, under the auspices [SIC] of Rebbitzen David. Her husband, the grandson of Rabbi Avrohom Blumenkranz z”l acclaimed author of the Pesach Guide, is an alumnus of Brisk in Yerushalayim, a Talmid of Rav Avrohom Yehoshua Soloveitchik.

Rutger’s Pharmaceutical offers a world-class faculty of scientists. Faculty members include a member of the National Academy of Sciences, principal investigators of federally funded research projects, patent holders, national medical journal editors and advisory board members, and winners of prestigious national research awards.

This is virtually word for word lifted from the school's website, which should have also been disclosed

“We are very very proud of Chedva, [SIC] she personifies the student that we aim to develop, both in limudei kodesh, limudei chol, and Yiras Shamayim, may she continue to always make a Kiddush hashem,” remarked Mrs. Miriam Tropper, assistant principal of Machon Sara TAG High School, in Far Rockaway.

The fact that this woman signs the author's pay checks should have been disclosed.

Mrs. Blumenkrantz’s academic excellence is reflective of the superior education that Bais Yaakov schools provide across the nation.

1) ROFL
2) And the construction of this sentence is reflective of what...
3) A skilled propagandist would have put that sentence in a quote, rather than allowing it to transform a news article into an editorial.



Thursday, May 12, 2016

My Yom Haatzmaut Message

I am a Zionist in the same way that I am a Ranger fan.

Most of the time I'm not too interested in how the team is doing. I don't follow the team on Twitter, or get involved in the day-to-day story-lines, but the history of the team interests me and when something exciting is happening in the here and now I pay close attention. If the Rangers win the Cup, I'll be happy. If they get swept, I'll be embarrassed. In either case, I'll enjoy the camaraderie and support and friendship of other Ranger fans, even if they are far more passionate about the team than I am. I'm glad to say they almost always accept me in turn.

However.... while I love being around hardcore Ranger fans, in general, and count many of them among my own family members, there is one breed of Ranger fan I wish would disappear. I consider this type of fan a discredit to the community and I find their negativity wearying and a blight on everything that is good and fun and exhilarating about supporting a team. I am speaking of the Ranger fans who are inclined to turn two blind eyes to every mistake the team makes or to accuse the media, the ref and the fans of other teams of being partners in some huge anti-Ranger conspiracy that leaves our perfect, flawless team with no choice but to violate the rules of the game. I am also speaking of the rare Ranger fan who considers me a traitor to the Ranger cause because I don't attend every game or because I also pledge allegiance to the football Giants and make time for non-sport activities. Also insufferable are the Ranger fans who have chosen to attend every game in every city, and think that their choice, and the so-called sacrifices it entails, affords them an elevated status in relation to the rest of us and entitles them to special regard. These are the types of Ranger fans I want nothing to do with, and I hope you remember that I am speaking allegorically.


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Modern tales of our gedolim

When Levi Yitzhak of Bardichev met this man, the saint lifted his eyes heavenwards to proclaim: 'See how wonderful Jews are. Even while choosing tattoos they wear tefillin.'






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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cross Currents is the universe's defining authority on holiness


It is is beyond R Safran, beyond me, and beyond anyone I know who has seriously studied Torah that a holy blog like Cross Currents should force its readers to look at a nude statue of a gender-ambiguous cherub while reading a post on holiness.

(I'm worried the reference won't be understood, so let me explain that this is a parody of the post's last paragraph. The image below is what they chose to accompany the post. We have no clear indication as to what the figure's hands are doing but the Cross Current Rabbis are against it.)

More later maybe

Rabbi Safran’s important piece stimulated a flood of comments and responses, the vast majority as of yet unpublished. Most fall into a few discrete categories, and might best be dealt with en masse. Here is a brief attempt to cover a good deal of…
CROSS-CURRENTS.COM


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Let's improve Yom Hazikaron


I'm fine with the idea behind Yom HaZikaron but I think there are some design flaws in how it's commemorated.

PROBLEM #1: The rituals are all about Jews in a country that is 25% gentile

CHALLENGE #1: Design a Yom HaZikaron ritual that includes all Israeli citizens.

PROBLEM #2: Religious Jews complain that the day is marked with rites such as the siren and the reading of names that are not Jewish in character and origin.

CHALLENGE #2: Design a national Yom HaZikaron ritual that is fully and completely based on precedents found in classic Orthodox Jewish sources.


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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

In which I fisk that dumb Cross Currents masturbation post

Shorter Cross Currents
Those pro masturbation JOFA sluts need to stop bothering that nice Rabbi Pruzansky

Think I'm joking? Find it hard to believe that a Very Serious Blog such as Cross Currents would see the subject of female masturbation as an opportunity to attack JOFA and provide additional support for a rape apologist? Read it yourself.

The first thing we see is a note, in which the editors let us know that they intend to publish some dirty words for the express purpose of saving yiddishkeit. They had no choice, see? Preserving the mesorah demands it! NO OTHER WORDS WOULD DO!

Unfortunately, and to my great disappointment, the article contains no vulgarities -- all we get are words like "masturbation" and "vibrator."Y awn. But hey, now that you know such words have magical mesorah preserving abilities, please be sure to use them all the time.

[Editors’ Note: The piece that follows contains frank and graphic language, the kind that those faithful to derech Yisrael sava and kedushas Yisrael avoid using without euphemism, and then only in private. Nonetheless, there are times when dramatic means are necessitated to meet a challenge to mesorah. Readers are forewarned that the essay that follows is not for children, and indeed, not for many adults. We are mispallel for the day that Hashem will repair the pirtzos of Klal Yisrael.]

After the warning, the article begins with a rather bland, not very scholarly dvar torah. Be holy, blah blah, because the verse says "be holy" and its written in the present tense so you have to be holy all the time. An orangutan with access to a Stone Chumash could have done a better job.

As Jews, we are powerfully aware that the past is never just the past. The lessons, the struggles and even the victories of past ages are ours to relive in one generation after the other. In the Haggadah, we read, “You shall tell your child on that day, it is because of this that the Lord did for me when I left Egypt.” The reading is forever in the present tense, in my life. I am not to tell my child what the Lord did for the Hebrew slaves at the time of the Exodus. No, I tell what the Lord did for me.

The reading is forever in the present tense because its addressing the actual generation that actually left Egypt. You know. Context.

God’s freeing us from bondage is constant in all our lives.

At this point, I felt certain the dirty-words warning related to an S&M theme. Don't get excited spankos. Not happening.

So too, when God commands us to “be holy” it is clearly not a directive only to the generation in the Sinai. It is a command to all of us, for all time.

Like, um, every other commandment? Failing to see what the chidush is. Also, failing to see why we needed to go through Egyptian bondage in order to get here. Unless, you know, kink.

Each age and generation makes specific demands on those who live it. Ours is no different. While every generation confronted salaciousness and sexuality, what other generation has had to wrestle with the ever-present Internet? What other generation has had to endure a constant barrage of pornographic images rain down on it from billboards, television screens, movie theaters, radios, and concert halls?

Who can tell me where I can find this magic radio? The one I own doesn't provide images. Also, the poor dear! He keeps wandering into porno theaters and ordering smutty PayPerView and buying tickets to dirty stage shows and tuning his magic radio to the naughty sports station! Why doesn't he open a sefer instead?

The images, language, and messages benumb us. We become calloused. We become inured.

Sure, if like the writer, you spend all your time searching for pornographic billboards and radio programs you're going to eventually get a little jaded.

Happily, us ordinary folks aren't busy looking for it with every waking breath. And if you're not actively seeking it out, porn can be pretty hard to find. I've been online today for several hours, and not one salacious website has spontaneously appeared on my screen.

In doing so, we make the mistake of also becoming accepting of this pornographic tsunami. Oh, of course not “accepting” in the sense of thinking any of this is good. But we become accepting in that we simply allow it to continue in our world, viewing it as the necessary backdrop of our lives.

In doing so, we fail to take account of the damage it does to us and, more importantly, our children.

How does this generation protect itself from this onslaught?

We'll pause to note that no real evidence of any onslaught has been provided.

God’s call for us to be holy is an eternal call. It is as immediate a call today for us as it was to the Hebrews in the desert of Sinai. Holiness must be protected in order to preserve its spiritual essence. While it must be hidden and protected, our teaching is clear that creation is good. We are not to remove ourselves from the world. We must function in the world. We must engage the world.

If we are to be holy, that must mean that holiness also needs to function in the world.

But, in a very deep sense, it can never be of the world.

Those who try to compromise holiness, to fail to see the eternality of the command, do lasting damage to themselves and to the Jewish people. There is no place where the challenge of kedusha is more at risk than when it comes to sexual behavior.

There is no more self-serving 

Heh. Self serving

or hurtful excuse for the lack of kedusha than the excuse that it is “for mental health”. That is, for sexual health. Imagine, rationalizing deviant behavior, countering Torah teaching, for a positive reason! The world has been turned upside down!

This is where the article fails in fundamental way. Rather then provide us with any sources that confirm that female masturbation is forbidden by Jewish law the writer simply declares it deviant. And rather than provide any arguments in support of those sources, he chooses to just shriek about it. While our writer may have abdicated his obligation to persuade or convince, he does perform an admirable imitation of the preacher's wife from The Simpsons.

The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance has taken hold of God’s divine declaration and rendered it a nullity. By aggressively championing sexual behavior – not just knowledge that a wife might use to benefit the sanctity and joy of marriage – JOFA stands opposed to the call to kedoshim tiheyu.

If Cross Currents wasn't wearing a hard-on for JOFA they might have written that sentence any number of different ways. For example:

  • The Haredi Community of Jerusalem has taken hold of God’s divine declaration and rendered it a nullity. By rioting in the street and assaulting Jewish policeman the HCoJ stands opposed to the call to kedoshim tiheyu
  • The Satmar Community of Kirya Joel has taken hold of God’s divine declaration and rendered it a nullity. By coddeling and protecting pedeophiles the SCoKJ stands opposed to the call to kedoshim tiheyu.

But Cross Currents doesn't write this way. Smashing liberalism is their one and only reason for existence. A bearded phony who behaves obscenely has nothing to fear from the self-appointed mesorah guardians at Cross Currents.

As reported in Lilith.org by Susan Schneider, JOFA is committed to “explicit and liberating sex education.” Interesting that sex education would be considered “liberating” when it was God’s liberation of the Children of Israel from Egypt to led to the command for us to be holy.

Have we fallen so far?

Yes, our ability to use words correctly, and in a variety of semantic senses is just one more example of our moral decline! Down with deviant synonyms! Take your slutty homonyms backs to Gomorrah, you gutter dwelling pervert!

In the article, Ms. Schneider writes, “Bat Sheva Marcus, a sex educator, has a new tool for enlightening not just the Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox women who are the base of her clinical practice, but the rest of the human race as well. She is the lively and genial — and often funny — co-host and resident sexuality expert for a new podcast series, ‘The Joy of Text,’ a forum for rabbinic and psychological perspectives on sexual behavior, from masturbation before (and during) marriage, to the use of sex toys, to whether fantasy can be a religiously approved aspect of sexual behavior. One such podcast which was recorded live at LimmudNY recently featured Marcus in conversation with Miryam Kabakov, author of the lesbian anthology “Keep Your Wives Away from Them: Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Desires”. In another segment, Marcus and her co-host, Rabbi Dov Linzer, answered a listener’s question about whether it’s permissible to “talk dirty.” Earlier episodes discussed premarital condom use and “sneaking out to the mikveh.”

Our writer seems to taking an awfully close look at JOFA's dark sexual underbelly. He's read their articles, and heard more than a few of their filthiest podcasts. I'm sure all this is being done for the article plus research and/or preserving the Mesorah, so let's applaud the little eager beaver's selfless, and possibly self-abusing, dedication.

I have quoted here verbatim because I don’t know that I could have found words to come close to capture how disturbing this all is.

Yes, you're bad with words. Which is why your article is basically one long whine, with no arguments or sources. About the only details you provide relate to the content of the scores of sexually descriptive podcasts you've been hearing.

Bat Sheva Marcus is, after all, a woman whose doctoral dissertation in human sexuality was on women and vibrator use!

Good heavens! In Donald Trump's America!

She takes great pride in telling high school students in Jewish day schools to intimately examine their bodies in a mirror and telling them to find the most pleasurable way to masturbate!

Oh My God! Note, I am not saying OMG because I think its terrible for a woman to teach other women about women things. I am saying OMG because I can't believe the moron who wrote this article thinks writing a sensationalist sentences passes for an argument. Again and again he begs the question (in the old fashioned sense) by simply asserting what he's should instead be demonstrating. We're more than half-way done and he still can't be bothered to give us even a single reason to oppose female masturbation. He just don't like it, and he can't believe people are talking about it for non-mesorah saving purposes.

Could anyone stand not before a mirror but before any of our rabbis and sages – let alone God – and convincingly explain how these animalistic teachings conform with kedoshim tiheyu?

Maybe not. Maybe yes. But that's not the point. You're against it. Tell us why. Don't skip that part!

Ramban teaches us that the concept of holiness is not limited to the observance of any particular category of commandments. To be holy is not to adhere only to the letter of the law but to embrace the fullness of holiness. In the words of our Sages, not only by refraining from what is expressively forbidden but from too much of what is permitted! How could JOFA answer that admonition?

By pointing at all the fat stomachs and all the big Jewish houses. In short, we are a self-indulgent people. We're gluttonous and greedy, and no one Rabbinic blinks. Why don't we say a few angry words about those bad habits before penning a complaint about female lust.

But is this screed really about female lust? ? The lack of sources suggest an agenda, as does the gratuitous mention of JOFA. Then, right at the end, we have this:

On whose book shelf of good and sacred books would “The Joy of Text” reside? Not on the shelves of those who would answer God’s call to holiness. Not to those who would heed JOFA’s vicious attacks and condemnations of a New Jersey Orthodox rabbi for openly speaking out about lifestyles that have the potential to lead all to what is decidedly not holy.

Yup. It seems this whole thing was about Pruz. JOFA took a shot at him, so here comes the Pruz brigade doing anything it can to throw some mud at people who have rightly and correctly criticized him for being a rape apologist. Terrible work guys. If you hadn't shown your hand at the end we never would have caught on to your real purpose.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Cross Currents hates women: Proof

Cross Currents wants to know how female masturbation can be reconciled with the idea of holiness. And the social media picture they are using shows a man blowing a shofar.

I am so happy that I am not making this up!

But in seriousness, I hope you see this for what it is. The pasty old men who run Cross Currents can't countenance the idea of female agency in any shape or form. Let a woman who identifies as Orthodox suggest she has power over anything - including her own body - and they react with these terrible blog articles.




A single standard applies. Not just for one time, but for all time. It is not for the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) or anyone else to redefine that standard, for the standard was put in place from the beginning. “You shall be holy for I, the…
CROSS-CURRENTS.COM



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Oh, Yom Haatzmaut is such a festive time in Israel!

Dear Chasid,

Beloved Chasid, if you touch this flag you'll get a broken leg.






In 1000 years some egghead academic will see this sign and say, "Clearly the writer is equating his holiday with the Festivals (regel) and announcing his intent to violate the sanctity of those days, unless respect is accorded to the state his flag represents
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Friday, May 06, 2016

Trump is the gift that keep giving



The Original Tweet



The Response




The Spin
(Poor, sad, stupid, trapped, pathetic Reince)




The Discovery

(Look what's on his desk!!)



A Joke



Thursday, May 05, 2016

A modest dilemma


Hey, Jewish women. Do you realize that Trump is promising to deport your maids? Yeesh. There's a dilemma. Do you vote for the harridan who one time kissed an Arab lady or for the tough macho man who is going to make you mop your own floors?

In the image that follows we can see that that some of our Jewish mothers and sisters are entirely unprepared for what's coming....


If this poor sad creature is bummed out on humanity merely because her neighbor offered her maid a better job how in the world is she going to deal after the Trump-cops come calling with their deportation wagons?

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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Blogging the Book of Daniel #2


Here's the next entry in Blogging the Book of Daniel, a series I am attempting as I work through Daniel with Alter's "Strong As Death Is Love" at my side.

In the opening chapters of Daniel, Kasdim appear twice. The first time, they are listed among the palace magicians and other practitioners of occult arts.

ויאמר המלך לקרא לחרטמים ולאשפים ולמכשפים ולכשדים להגיד למלך חלמתיו ויבאו ויעמדו לפני המלך׃

According to Alter, these are not people who were ethnically Kasdim. What's happened is the word Kasdim has shifted semantically. Because Kasdim was once a place where magic and astrology were widely practiced, the word "Kasdim" itself came to identify anyone who practiced those arts. 

Later in the book, (after the language has shifted to Aramaic) the Kasdim are the villains who enforce King Neb's pro-idolatry laws and get Daniel's three friends, Chananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, tossed into a furnace for refusing to bow down to a large idol.

כל־קבל דנה בה־זמנא קרבו גברין כשדאין ואכלו קרציהון די יהודיא׃
at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews.

Who else do you know who was tossed into a furnace for refusing to worship an idol? Why father Abraham, of course. And where did this happen? In Ur Kasdim, of course.

In a famous post, dating to 2011, I gathered from an entry in TPJ (echoed in PDrE) that the legend of Abraham in the blazing furnace was originally derived from a misreading (or perhaps a hyper-literal reading) of Genesis 15:7, which can be construed as:

"I am the LORD, who brought you out of the Fire [=א֣וּר] of the Chaldeans"

The passages in Daniel shed some additional light on the subject, suggesting that Abraham's furnace story was inspired by the story of Chananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 

To someone with knowledge of the Daniel story, Genesis 15:7 seems to clearly say that Abraham, too, was rescued from a furnace prepared by the Kasdim for those who refused to worship idols.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Blogging the Book of Daniel #1

Click her to learn more about this new book

I am reading through the Book of Daniel with Alter's "Strong As Death Is Love" and after three chapters, I have the following thoughts:

(1) Nebuchadnezzar, in this book, is like a character in a bad 80s sitcom. Chapter 1 ends, and he believes in God but when Chapter 2 starts he's back to being a mean polytheist. At the end of Chapter 2 Nebuchadnezzar recognizes God again, but at the beginning of Chapter 3 he is once again worshiping idols. All the growth he has acquired as has been forgotten and like Mr. Burns he seems to have also forgotten his previous adventures with the story's main characters.

(2) In a famous Midrash we are told that Pharaoh knew that Joseph's dream interpretation was true because Joseph knew the contents of the dream without having heard them first from Pharaoh. In the second chapter of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar (strange as it seems) has his own crazy dream and while the Daniel story has many clear allusions and parallels to the Joseph story there is also this crazy demand from the king:

Tell me the dream now! Then I’ll know you can explain its meaning to me.

The Midrash writers had to have this episode in mind when they decided the same exact thing happened between Pharaoh and Joseph, no?

More as I continue to work my way through the book....

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Monday, May 02, 2016

Jewish American Genealogy - 2

by @azigra

When my great great grandmother Chana Payes died at age 44 (a widow) she left her family without the money to afford her a proper grave and tombstone. She died in Mount Sinai Hospital on August 2, 1895 and was buried in the hospital's own burial society at Cypress Hills Cemetery (CHC) in Brooklyn. (I wrote about her previously on DovBear here.)

Mt Sinai Hospital, NYC 1893
Cypress Hills is an area on the Brooklyn-Queens border which has many Jewish cemeteries as well as a non-Jewish cemetery simply called Cyprus Hills Cemetery. I spent years going from cemetery to cemetery trying to locate her grave, assuming all along that the lazy individual who filled in the death certificate wrote Cypress Hills meaning the area not the cemetery. I recently sent letters to each of the offices and finally received a response that she was located at CHC.

According to the Mount Sinai Archives: 

"Initially plots to bury indigent patients were donated to the Hospital by Jewish congregations and benevolent societies. In June 1878, land was acquired in Cypress Hills Cemetery for Mount Sinai through the efforts of Samuel M. Schafer, Esq. There were 110 lots, measuring 20 x 20. Most of the 20th century correspondence relates to the management and upkeep of the cemetery plots."


The hospital placed simple gravestones at the head of each plot stating only the grave number and name. It seems that later on (some) families, when they could afford one, came back and placed fuller horizontal tombstones on top of the the graves.


Most of the hospital's stones are illegible after years of weather beating against the slate engravings and only a few of the fuller tombstones are uncovered enough to be read. Many of them have sunk leaving only a few words or letters visible and presumably there are many many more completely covered by dirt and grass.

The cemetery office doesn't have a plot map with names or records detailing who was interred in which grave. Mount Sinai's archive provided me with a society map but this too has no names on it.

I am hoping her children managed to purchase a proper stone for her later on and it is just buried under an inch or two of dirt. 

I suppose it doesn't matter that I wont be able to find the exact location of her grave but after years of searching it was a bit disappointing to get so close and yet not completely. 

I wonder if it would be a nice thing for me to put up a tombstone somewhere in the area stating that within this area is buried Chana Rifka bas Yitzchok Nessanel, if it would be a matter of kavod hames, or whether it isnt necessary. 

I recently emailed J*wishgen.org letting them know about this completely forgotten about Jewish burial society in the middle of NY offering to volunteer to somehow record what info is available, but they rejected my proposal. 

Here's a Torah True Proof that Yom Haatzmaut is minHashamayim*


We're not quite done with Pesach here...

The letters ATBASH are an acronym for the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet: AT = aleph/tav BASH = bes/shin.
ATBASH is also a way of predicting when Jewish holidays will fall, based on Passover. It works like this:
The first day of Passover (alef) and Tisha B'av (tav) always fall on the same day of the week.
The second day of Passover (bes) is always on the same day of the week as the following Shavuot (shin)
The third day of Passover (gimmel) comes out on the same day of the week as Rosh Hashana (resh)
With me so far?
Ok! The fourth day of Passover (daled) always falls on the same day of the week as Simchas Torah. This connection is a bit of a stretch, but daled corresponds to kuf, which is the first letter of the word Kriah "reading." Simchat Torah, of course, is when the reading cycle begins again.
Now it gets a little better
The fifth day of Passover (hay) corresponds to the day of the week in which Yom Kippur falls. Yom Kippur is a Tzom, which is how we tie in the letter tzaddi.
Day six (vav) and Purim (pay) are always on the same day of the week
And, guess what? Day seven (zayin) and Yom Haazamaut (ayin) correspond, as well. As with everything described so far, the seventh day of Passover and Yom Haatzmaut also occur on the same day of the week
--
* I don't think Yom Haatzmaut is minHashmaytim. Also I don't think Torah True Proofs really "prove" anything.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

The worst thing the Times ever did.


Back in 2003 the New York Times committed its single most serious offense against Jews and Jewish culture by suggesting that sweet matzo brei is acceptable. Thirteen years later, and I'm not fully over it. Read the offending article here: http://www.nytimes.com/…/nostalgia-the-secret-ingredient-of…


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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Seder Wrap Up 2016


Nu? What Time Did you Finish?

What follows continues my longstanding tradition of documenting all that was odd, interesting or otherwise noteworthy about my seders. As always, you are invited to use the comments to tell us what made your seders memorable.

2009
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015

Time Finished: I admit that I approached the Seder this year with both Dread and Concern as we were feasting with people who had stated a desire to finish everything before halachic midnight. Not just the aphikomin. Everything. As those of you who have been here since 2009 certainly remember, my ideal Seder is a long, relaxed conversation. I don't like sermons, and will block you with my body if you're older than nine and try to come to the table with any books other than a hagadah, but snippets I adore. I love it when everyone, regardless of station, age or education, spends the evening adding his or her two bits as we slowly make our way through the liturgical text. But could this be accomplished with a deadline hanging over our head? Probably not, but in the end it didn't matter as the other guests and I prevailed upon the host to relax a bit. We got to the aphikomin around halachic midnight and finished on both nights at around 2 p.m on both nights.

Food: While we guests were able to convince Mr. Host to relax his rules, Mrs. Host did not preview her menu, giving us no opportunity to offer advice or corrections. As a result, we saw matzo concoctions at every meal. Why do people feel the need to add matzo to otherwise perfectly good dishes? Matzo with cauliflower is no improvement over roast cauliflower. If matzah kugel was a winner it, like matzo balls, would be on the table year round. Also, Mrs. Host, like many people, cooks in advance and freezes her food; however, unlike many people she freezes vegetables(!) and fruit(!) and while I can vouch for the fact that she is an expert at freezing food, she hasn't quite mastered unfreezing yet.

Terrific Torah: Apparently Exodus 13:8 works as a summary/memory aid for the entire hagadah. I don't remember the details, but each section of the hagadah relatedsto a piece of the verse. From the beginning to the end of the Four Sons is "והגדת לבנך"; the part that starts "From Rosh Chodesh you are able" corresponds to "ביום ההוא" and so on. This was credited to the Malbim. And while I usually consider such games to be to cute by half, I liked this one.

If this was all that had happened it would have been enough: Another guest  let me know that James Kugel is now publishing a weekly parsha sheet. You can find it on his new website, where you can also subscribe to receive it by email. While I have often joked about putting my Parsha Notes on the pamphlet table at our local shuls, I can actually see myself doing it with the Kugel Page. It's written with the wry tone for which Kugel is justifiably favorite, and he's true to his training as a world class critic and scholar of rabbinics, but its all harmless. I don't mean to suggest there is something insidious about this project. Kugel is a brand name, who isn't pretending to be anything other than the believing, Orthodox Jewish, bible critic, quasi heretic that he is. He's not trying to fool anyone. But at the same time the few examples I consulted look like ordinary divrei Torah that - unlike ordinary divrei Torah - manage to tell the truth without (and this is key) offending - or even overtly challenging - mainstream Jewish beliefs. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Is eating Charoset a religious obligation?

Is eating Charoset a religious obligation? Our Rabbis were unsure. Some say we eat Charoset for secular reasons, others say the reasons are religious.

ON THE SECULAR SIDE:
Rav Ammi, who says Charoset is an antidote for "kappa" which is either a worm or a poison common to vegetables, or a type of indigestion caused by vegetables.

ON THE RELIGIOUS SIDE
R' Eliever ben Zadok
R. Levi, who says we eat it to remind ourselves of the "apple" tree alluded to in Songs 8:5. The idea is that women defied the Egyptian decree by continuing to give birth "beneath the apple trees."
R. Jonanan , who says we eat it to remember the mud, used to make bricks

So, R. Levi sees charoset and remembers the heroism of Jewish women; R. Jochanan looks as the same stuff and recalls how our ancestors suffered.

Can you imagine the same thing happening with ketchup?

R. Levi said: In memory of the blood of circumcision; R. Johanan said: In memory of the blood of the plagues.

Or with duck sauce?

R. Levi said: In memory of how thin we were [=דק] ; R. Johanan said: In memory of the horses that perished in the Red Sea [=סוס]


Expanded version of this post with sources from 2012 found here

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