Wednesday, November 30, 2005

One People, Two Shulchan Aruchs

My friend remarked to me that he doesn't understand half the things his wife does. Their origins are a mystery, and definitely don't stem from halacha. In fact, there's many a story (some aprochrphyl, others not) of the wives of rabbonim kashering their kitchens after they went on a trip, leaving their husbands alone. In essence, there are two Shulchan Aruchs, one of which is ba'al peh[, ironic for the position of women not learning Torah sheba'al peh].

Based on what I perceive to be a stronger education for men (gemara being a good example), I'd like to think men aren't as guilty, though this isn't always so.

From the perspective of knowing the halacha, this isn't good. If you think cleaning for Pesach is spring cleaning, you miss out on what cleaning for Pesach is, not to mention the added hassle, headache, and family strife. But it does show a certain resolve that parents (and teacher) have in passing down traditions to their children, which is a good thing.

So what's the deal? Is this good? Can we really expect parents and rebbeim to accurately delineate the differences between halacha, minhag, and common practice? Should we care? We have enough trouble passing down the basics, why water it down even more with distinctions? And would there actually be much practical impact if they did?

Mezonos on Pita???

During conversation, an interesting tidbit about a friend came up. Their family minhag is *not* to wash for pita. They do wash for a laffa, and in Israel they wash for pita. But not in America. I found this to be a very strange minhag. It looks like bread and tastes like bread. Granted, it doesn't occupy the centerpiece of the meal. In falafel its used to hold everything together. Sort of like a wrap on a sandwich (which this friend likened to a cracker that doesn't need to be washed for).
Strange to me. What do you all think?

Divrei Moshe vs. Divrei Adam

[The] Radak on Bereishis 2:24 ("al ken ya'azov ish...") mentions that some view this as "Divrei Moshe" and not "Divrei Adam." He later brings down (under "vihayu libasar echad") that Adam HaRishon said it b'ruach hakodesh for bnei Noach.
Does anyone know which meforshim are of the opinion that this pasuk was divrei Moshe?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Halacha & Torture

How does halacha view torture? We can't torture animals, so perhaps kal vachomer people. On the other hand, what about "ticking time bombs"? How does pikuach nefesh apply, if it does?

Would it matter if it was physical or psychological? No beatings but yes sleep deprivation? Disorient but do not touch?

Any mekoros, thoughts, or views, are greatly appreciated.

Monday, November 28, 2005

R. Feldman and Misplaced Priorities

S., over at OnTheMainLine has reproduced a letter sent by R. Aharon Feldman to Moment magazine, where he claims that they misinterpreted and misrepresented his 8 page letter against the works of R. Slifkin.

I find this very troubling. When R. Feldman initially published his letter, much of the Orthodox world, especially in the blogosphere, commented on it. Many found the letter lacking, and his claim that he would address the questions in a future letter patronizing.

What happens? Nothing. After his initial letter, R. Feldman is silent. Through the uproar and attacks, refutations and shock, he's silent. But Moment Magazine writes about it and suddenly R. Feldman feels the need to respond?

Let me get this straight. When the issue is Conservative, Reform, Reconstruction, secular, humanist, and non-affiliated Jews, R. Feldman feels the need to respond, to make sure that he's not "misunderstood." Can't let Orthodoxy be seen in a bad light. But when Orthodox Jews question his article, when they struggle with their beliefs and their (our) leaders make ridiculous comments in response, then he's silent.

He doesn't owe a letter to Moment, he owes us. The views and concerns of his coreligionists don't matter, but a misunderstanding in a religiously neutral Jewish magazine does. He'll grant Moment an interview, but won't give us a moment to answer our concerns.

Misplaced priorities anyone?

Update: LamedZayin mentions the same idea here.

Drug Complaints

Just remember, that despite the high cost of some drugs, its better than the alternative, which is none at all. And even with the high price of some, even Merck is having problems.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

R. Nosson Kamenetsky

R. Nosson Kamenetsky, author of Making of a Godol, gave a shiur motzei shabbos on the closing of the Yeshiva in Volozhin. Included in the talk (its in English);
  • Material not included in Making of a Godol (original and "improved" editions)
  • Comment by R. Moshe Shternbuch relating the ban on MOAG to the works of R' Nosson Slifkin
  • When the next volume of MOAG will appear
  • Relationship between R. Hayyin Berlin and R. Hayyin Soloveitchik
  • Why the Russians wanted to close Volozhin
R. Kamenetsky is a great and entertaining speaker, I highly recommend listening to the shiur. The file, in MP3 and WAV, is about 30mb and can be found at:


Victor's Justice - Eichmann & Hussein

"There will be more charges filed against him, and more charges after that, if needed... he has committed tremendous crimes."

So says a Bush administration official, at least according to Drudge. But is this really news? Should we care? From the legal perspective, there's no reason why Hussein shouldn't be charged for all the crimes he committed. If the first results in a death sentance, filing more would be a waste of resources. And if he's innocent of these charges, so be it, there are others. If innocent of all, he should walk away, if not innocent of all, he should hang/be jailed, etc.

At the same time, there's a feeling that something is wrong, that the state is prosecuting until they get a conviction. Which they are, and in this case, what's the problem? And if it wasn't illegal at the time (Hussein made the laws), how could it be illegal now? On this last point, the Eichmann verdict is worth reading:
...The legislation with retrospective effect, here dealt with, has not created a new crime....and it cannot therefore be said that the person who commits the act of which the appellant is accused did not have a criminal intent...because he did not and could not know that the act he was doing was a criminal act. On the contrary, it stands to reason that he who has actually committed such an act knew that an act of this kind is a crime. [emphasis added]
Additionally, if you look at it as victor's justice, that a message is being sent, it becomes more clear. As Eric Posner mentioned in his Nuremberg post, and as I recounted here, these trials are to send a message. Such actions are not beyond justice. Will it matter? Would a dictator stop and wonder that he may be overthrown and thus should not commit these horrid acts? Probably not. But that's not the point.

Note: The full Eichmann verdict, including complete transcripts, is available here.

A thought

At the Israeli Day Parade, my yeshivish cousin goes over to the Neturei Karta and asks, laughingly, "Are you guys warm enough?"

God & The Internet

Over at Hirhurim, Gil has a post entitled "God on the Internet," about the article in First Things by the same name.
"On the Internet, those dissatisfied with what they find in their religious brick-and-mortar communities can simply retreat into a virtual world in which they are surrounded entirely by like-minded people."
Very true and very dangerous. Most people don't know about the VBM, the Tanach Study Center, 613, and the hundreds of various Torah sites. Unfortunately, teens, generally the most at risk, turn to sites like Frumteens (no link for him), which get plenty of publicity (relative to the rest). Don't forget all of the "Jewish" sounding sites. We get upset when Jews for Jesus come into our neighborhoods, dressed like frum Jews, and sell their wares. The Internet is no different. In attempting to find like minded individuals you run the risk of closing your mind, not having discussion. A teenager with questions who turns to Frumteens will never realize that there are other possibilities and better answers. Closing yourself off with like minded people can be dangerous.

Yes, people use the online world to find those like minded souls, with whom they can daven as well as speak. Unfortunately they can also use it to find those they can speak with who do not daven. Or those who seem like they're speaking but aren't. But hey, that's why we're here, to offer an alternative.

"Non-Jewish" Music

What constitues Jewish music?

Whenever this discussion is had, people throw around exclusive criteria. Authorship, composition, and performer, style and content are all mentioned as *THE* criteria for deciding what Jewish music is. The categorization has consequences, after all, some won't listen to non-Jewish music. So let us briefly examine some of the criteria offered, and then offer an explanation as to the definition of Jewish music.

Performer/Authorship/Writer: Music is classified as Jewish if the author or writer of the lyrics is Jewish. Anyone can quickly refute this, would you consider Israeli-pop music Jewish? Or Barabara Streisand? Not to mention that many performers don't write their own music. And many of the writers are Jewish, performed by non-Jews, yet we don't consider it Jewish. Additionally, does anyone consider Mendelsohn Jewish music? Or Kenny G? Jewish authorship is not the key.

Lyrics & Content: What if the words are taken from Tehillim, Gemara, or other Jewish sources? Not all Moshav, Blue Fringe or Avraham Fried songs are pesukim. Many people won't sing pesukim, but their music is no less Jewish. Is "For every season" Jewish? Koheles is definitely a Jewish sefer. And of course, I doubt any would consider a song by Creed, a Christian rock group, to be Jewish music, even if the song didn't mention their savior.

Surroundings: One of the arguments against Shlock Rock, Blue Fringe, Moshav, etc is that they sound too much like English pop music. But historically, Jewish music has always borrowed from the surrounding culture. Yiddin, usually performed at weddings, is originally a German song.

When looked at broadly, Jewish music doesn't consist of any category other than where it is performed and who it speaks to. There's no reason the Beatles or Billy Joel can't be considered Jewish if the message is correct. Likewise, Blue Fringe or Avraham Fried are not automatically "Jewish" music. Rav Yehuda Amital, Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Har Etzion once said that the only time he paskened like R. Nachman m'Breslav was on this issue, that music doesn't have tumah, regardless of its origin. Immediately after, he joked that if R. Nachman heard some modern pop music, he might change his mind.

So when someone says they don't listen to non-Jewish music, its really a cultural thing, music that hasn't made it into their subset of the community. It can't be placed into a category, and attempts to categorically defend it are useless. What it does mean is that both sides, those who do and those who don't listen to "non-Jewish" music, are missing the boat. One side is being pragmatic, defining it based on current cultural standards of what is accepted within the community. The other, while trying to couch it in absolute categorical terms, is really using it as a mask to attack a certain societal and cultural view. So what we have is both sides being ignorant or (worse) deceitful. Which makes it hard to have a discussion.

Israeli Government

Nearly 60 years old, Israel is now heading towards their 17th Knesset. Only one Israeli government has actually served out its full four year term. Under current law, the party with the most votes had first rights to create the governmnet, with the party head generally elected Prime Minister. That was changed for two elections so that the PM was elected through direct elections. Israel soon went back to the old system.

Now there's talk of change. Kadima, the new party headed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is thinking of reinstituting direct elections for Prime Minister. And get this, Knesset elections would be based on regions of the country, similar to America's House of Representatives. This could have very widely ranging reprecussions. No longer assured of a seat merely being on the party list, MKs would need to move all around the country, vying for seats in regional elections, forced to give back and deliver to those constituencies. What a radical idea.

Hat tip: Ha'aretz

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Godol Hador's Not Back - Again!

He definitely needs to find the equivalent of AA for bloggers...
Latest post here

Friday, November 25, 2005

But Seriously

But on a more serious note, Nasrallah said:
Our experience with the Israelis shows that if you want to regain detainees or prisoners ... you have to capture Israeli soldiers

Isn't this exactly what the Gemara meant when they said not to pay ransom for prisoners taken for ransom purposes?

Glad we got that settled

Hezbollah says has right and duty to abduct Israeli troops

...and we have the right to kill them.


Bret Stephens, of the Wall Street Journal, has a great piece on Ariel Sharon. Highly recommended reading.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


November 21st was the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Nuremberg trials. I've always been troubled by the idea that "following orders" is not an excuse. We place soldiers in an impossible situation. If they're wrong, and refuse, they go to jail. If they're right they may end up in jail anyway. Of course, by placing officers on notice that their men won't commit atrocities, we give them an extra reason to think about what they are ordering. Victor's justice and all that.

So what's with Nuremberg? What was the point of it? Robert Jackson, Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and chief US prosectuor made the following statement:

What makes this inquest significant is that these prisoners represent sinister influences that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have returned to dust. We will show them to be living symbols of racial hatreds, of terrorism and violence, and of the arrogance and cruelty of power. They are symbols of fierce nationalisms and of militarism, of intrigue and war-making which have embroiled Europe generation after generation, crushing its manhood, destroying its homes, and impoverishing its life. They have so identified themselves with the philosophies they conceived and with the forces they directed that any tenderness to them is a victory and an encouragement to all the evils which are attached to their names. Civilization can afford no compromise with the social forces which would gain renewed strength if we deal ambiguously or indecisively with the men in whom those forces now precariously survive.

Nuremberg wasn't "obeying orders is no excuse." Rather, it was to make an example for future generations.

Eric Posner, a professor at University of Chicago Law School has an interesting post on the Nuremberg trials and the rule of law. Don't be disturbed by the law aspect of it, there's very little legalese. Read it.

European East Jerusalem

That august body of European democracy, the constitutional-less European Union has criticized Israel's policies regarding East Jerusalem. From the Financial Times.

The European Union has severely criticised Israeli policies in east Jerusalem, saying they demonstrate a clear intention to consolidate Israel’s annexation of the Arab half of the city.

Of course, just as Israel promised to stop illegal construction, the palestinians promised to stop terrorism. Seems easier to tear down a few houses than it does to bring back hundreds of blown apart men, women, and children.

Of course, does anyone actually think Israel will give up East Jerusalem? That entails two questions, first, would the government actually make such a concession, and second, would the government be able to make it without losing a dozen no confidence votes within 24 hours. Thoughts?

Learning & Law School

Last summer I worked for a religious judge. During lulls, it wasn't uncommon to discuss how a case would have come out halachically. Coincidentally, all of the interns had a yeshiva background. Of course, every attorney would ask us interns which law school we went to, and whether we found it difficult. When the judge knew the attorney was religious, he would respond "These guys learned Gemara in yeshiva, and most of them still have chavrusas. For them law school is a piece of cake. R. Chaim is hard, law school isn't."

On that note, I'd like to point you, my readers, to Prima Impressionis, where Nephtuli is having a couple of good conversations:

1) R. Chaim vs. Judge Posner - What's harder, Gemara or law school?
2) Women and In-Depth Learning - Can women learn Gemara on a deep level

The latter is an oft talked about topic, but still a valuable discussion.

Congress, Hamas, and Elections

A resolution is currently working its way through the House of Representatives (H.Res.575), submitted by Congressmen Cantor, Menendez, Ros-Lehtinen, Berkley, McCaul (Texas), and Wexler, both Democrats and Republicans, which would overturn the Bush administration policy of allowing Hamas to participate in upcoming Palestinian elections.

After all of the justifications ("Whereas x, y, z"), the crux of the resolution:

Whereas the United States has a longstanding policy of not dealing or negotiating with terrorists: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
      (1) reaffirms its commitment to the safety and security of the democratic State of Israel;
      (2) asserts that terrorist organizations, such as Hamas , should not be permitted to participate in Palestinian elections until such organizations recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, cease incitement, condemn terrorism, and permanently disarm and dismantle their terrorist infrastructure;
      (3) calls on the Palestinian Authority President Abbas before the election to declare openly his intention to take action to dismantle the terrorist organizations;
      (4) asserts that the inclusion of Hamas, or any other terrorist group on the State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations, into the Palestinian governing structure will inevitably raise serious policy considerations for the United States, potentially undermining the continued ability of the United States to provide financial assistance and conduct normal relations with the Palestinian Authority; and
      (5) states its strong belief, as underlined in every recent Israeli/Palestinian peace agreement, that progress in the peace process requires sustained Palestinian effort to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, and that delay in confronting that principal obligation only emboldens the opponents of peace and threatens its realization.

As the Jerusalem Post points out:
Even if this resolution passes congress, it still does not have much practical significance, because foreign policy issues are determined by the administration, not by congress. Yet the fact that US lawmakers are threatening to curb financial assistance to the PA is noteworthy, because any authorization of foreign aid assistance needs to go through congress.
A similar resolution is going through the Senate. Unfortunately, both are simple resolutions, which means the bill is not presented to the President afterwards. A joint resolution is presented to the President for his signature, and has the power of law, just like a bill.

Hezbollah "escalation"

From Ha'aretz:
A Lebanese cabinet minister said yesterday that the bodies of the Hezbollah terrorists killed by the IDF " must be handed over in order to avoid an escalation...It is known that the resistance will try to secure the return of the bodies one way or another, and this usually ends up in negotiations to trade them for the bodies of Israeli soldiers or for prisoners."

In other words, if Israel doesn't hand over the bodies, Hezbollah will try to kidnap civilians and soldiers in order to trade for the bodies. Which is exactly what got their men killed in the first place...

In related news, US ambassador to the UN, the great John Bolton proposed a statement to the Security Counsel, which was later adopted. Having never reprimanded Hezbollah, the Security Counsel expressed concern over Hezbollah's acts of hatred and said "
were initiated by Hezbollah from the Lebanese side, and which quickly spread along the entire Blue Line." This may not seem like much, but let's remember how every suicide bombing, every terrorist attack and every murder is ultimately blamed on the Israelis, for not understanding the plight of their terrorist neighbors. (It is also good to see Bolton is able to work with others, contrary to the thoughts of many in the Senate).

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Reading a Ketubah

One of the more bittersweet moments of a wedding is the reading of the ketubah, essentially a marriage contract. For everyone in attendance, its a happy time. What's sad is how the ketubah is read.

Pauses and breaths are taken at the wrong places. Mumbled and jumbled words make you wonder what the chosson really agreed to, which is obviously different than what's being read. Let's not even mention obvious mispronunciations. Or the monotonous voice. Reading the ketubah has turned into a contest. Who can do it in the most boring manner, in as quick a time as possible. Double points for jumbling easy words without flushing from embarassment.

Read in ashkenazis, with commas and periods at appropriate places, along with vocal inflections and meaning, hearing the ketubah at last night's wedding (see here) was really a pleasure. Like a proper laining of Megillas Esther, a good reading of the ketubah is pleasing to the ear.

If we're going to read the ketubah out loud at the chupah, we should at least do it right. Then again, if it gets dubbed over on the video with standard wedding music, does it really matter?

1 Guy, 2 Girls & Seating

Just returned from a friend's chasana. Both the chosson and kallah are from a more yeshivish crowd. Separate seating was the norm except for our table, which comprised nearly 20 people from school and work. We sat together. On the ladies side.

We got the occasional look from passersby, 9 guys surrounded by 200 women is quite the spectacle. One person, a close friend of the couple, was explaining to her husband what the story was. He smiled and chuckled, and when I managed to catch his eye, I waved. He froze for a second and smiled back. 'Twas fun.

But that's not the point of this post. One of the girls at the table remarked that we had managed - without intending - to make sure that no guy was seated between two girls. Puzzled I asked why. She said that halachically a man is not allowed to sit between two women. Another friend (also female) confirmed. Never having heard this, I asked for its source. We eventually found the source to be a gemara in Horiyos 13b.

The Gemara there states a number of things which are "kashim l'limud". Included amongst them is passing between two women, and a woman passing between two men. It doesn't appear to be brought down lehalacha, and the list includes other things we do, such as reading gravestones. Nothing about sitting.

I'm at a loss as to why a Rebbe would tell his talmidot that it was ok to sit next to one man, but two is asur. I can understand them saying that its a gemara, even if they get it wrong, how many girls would go look it up (or guys for that matter). And if you say its a gemara and use it as a springboard for an hashkafic point, the gemara is soon forgotten.

Subway & Needles

Last week I found it very hard to do work on the subway. I took my seat, and soon noticed that the woman to my left was talking to herself. Not reading to herself, but talking. Then I noticed that she seemed to be incorporating bits and pieces of other people's conversations into her own (I guess it is a good way not to get bored).

Then she took out the knitting needles.

The rest of the ride was one eye on my book and one eye on her.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

OT: Markers & Tape

Off topic, but still funny...

A while back, Sony introduced copy protection on their CDs. It was soon learned that the protection could be defeated by drawing along the outside edge of the CD with a laundry marker.

Now, Sony has added XCP protection to their CDs (and been sued, but that's not for here). And guess what? This one can be defeated by putting tape onto the CD!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Halachic Regulation of Behavior

Should drugs be legal? What about prostitution? With regards to secular law, it surprises some to realize that law is used as a behavioral tool. If we can't stamp out prostitution, perhaps we should minimize it. We can do that by legalizing and regulating it. The same with drugs, instead of giving jail time, we should regulate their use, thus minimizing overall drug use.

This approach isn't without debate. A society that regulates prostitution, is a society that allows for prostitution. Minimizing it is a cop out, a compromise of ideals.

How does Halacha use the same tools? Or does it? Halacha forbids prostitution, and I can't see it being "regulated" so that it can be minimized. But what about loans for shemittah? Or workarounds for ribis? What are other examples where halacha imposes rules (takanos) to protect other rules, minimize those which aren't acceptable, or allows for workarounds to "further" societal goals?

Al-Zarqawi Dead?!

Let's hope so!
Story here

Daughters of Lot

Lot's daughters use their father to conceive. The names of the children (Amon & Moab) are hints to this. Some explain that the daughters thought there were no men left, after the destruction of Sdom, they were all that remained of the human race. As such, they took the required actions, reproducing via their father.

But that can't be the case. We are told that Tzo'ar is saved (see my post here), and that Lot (and his family presumably) stayed there. So they had to know the human race survived. Unless of course, Tzo'ar was only spared temporarily, destroyed after they left (I seem to recall hearing this somewhere).

A close reading of the pesukim bears this out as well. The pasuk doesn't say that no men were available for the human race, rather it states that no men were available to them.

Avraham and Tzo'ar

The story of Sdom has always been an interesting one. Today something hit me while reading the parsha:

Avraham davens to Hashem to save Sdom and its 4 neighbors. After successively smaller numbers of righteous individuals can't be found, Avraham goes back home. He wakes up the next morning and the entire area has been destroyed. Why he stopped when he did, whether his davening was for each city or all 5 as a whole, see the meforshim there.

Lot, on the other hand, is told to leave because the city is about to be destroyed. He asks that Tzo'ar be saved, so that he can take refuge there, saying "their measure [of sin] is not full." Meaning they either weren't bad, or the city was inhabited more recently. Either way, Tzo'ar is saved.

Avraham davens, nothing happens. Lot asks and the city/village is saved. Interesting, no? The pleas have different perspectives too, Avraham is worried about whether there are tzadikim (either for them or because that means the city isn't irredeemable). Lot asks because he needs a place to go temporarily, before leaving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

V'zos HaBracha

The parsha of V'zos HaBracha is never read on Shabbos. I find that to be a bit odd. I wonder if it is at all related to the question of the last 8-12 pesukim. AddeRabbi recently posted about this.
I wonder if it is related, but if it is, there are questions about other pesukim too (from traditional sources) such as ir miklat, and from last week, about az ba'aretz.

Lamedzayin pointed out to me that the real oddity is how some chumashim still mark off shishi and shevi'i...


Israeli Yeshiva Backlash

A relative of mine is a senior in high school, and is looking at yeshivas/seminaries for next year. Over the last few years, whenever the discussion of Israel came up, both parents commented how they don’t want their child to “flip out.”

Parents view flipping out as a rejection of their values. While true in many cases, it need not be so. Many yeshivas do an inadequate job of preparing children for when they return home, if they prepare them at all. Leave talmidim clueless, and when they come home they’ll be reactionary. The only way to “save” what they “built” over their year(s) in Israel is to reject everything that their parents embrace.

On the other hand, parents don’t keep an open mind, and view any change as a rejection. Interestingly, some parents can agree to disagree on other political or social issues. But when it comes to religion and their children, there’s only one way.

Has there been a backlash? Are parents beginning to push children into yeshivas that don’t have a “flip out” reputation?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Drug use in Israeli Yeshivas

Last (academic) year, the Jewish world was taken by storm with the arrest of a number of students spending their year studying. Arrested for drug related crimes, much discussion ensued (in blogs, on jewish mailing lists, in magazines) as to how broad the problem was and what could be done to prevent it.

Of course, after the initial bru-ha-ha, talk died down. People prefer gossip to action. And, of course, after a few weeks, the discussion just wouldn't generate the same number of hits and visits.

But my sources are telling me that at least one of the Yeshivas involved, Ohr Yerushalayim, whose students were involved in the dustup last year, has taken steps to combat drug use. While not accepted in previous years, this year they have become more forceful in enforcing some rules, as well as promulgating new ones, such as:

-No drinking
-No smoking (of any substance)

Kudos to OJ for doing this. But only if they're taking steps within the Yeshiva curriculum as well. Rules are nice, but they need to be backed up with education.

If anyone has more information on this, please let me know.

Removing Security Concerns

Ha'aretz is reporting that Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, the woman arrested in connection with the triple suicide bombing in Jordan a few days ago, is none other than the sister of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's former right hand man. (sarcasm: No link to Iraq of course).

Historically, people have been found out by family. Rishawi's brother had been killed by US forces in Fallujah. I guess Zarqawi was just trying to tie up loose ends, and provide for a nice family reunion.

Earth Revolves Around the Sun!

No, this is not a story from the National Enquirer, though it sure sounds like it.


Note to self: To get letters published make outrageous, outlandish statements. People may ridicule you, but at least you'll be published.

Hat tip: Krum

Disobeying Orders I - Nazis & the Lamed Hey

How should we treat soldiers who disobey orders? Should it matter if the order was "illegal" (not really sure how you can decide that in a war, where most "laws" are out the window and a different set of rules, unknown in peacetime, take effect).

That following orders is not an excuse became apparent during the Nuremberg trials. You would be hard pressed to find someone willing to state that the Nazis who shot Jews, who pushed them into gas chambers and crematoria, should not be jailed because they were following orders.

Killing civlians (however defined) is against the "rules of war." On the other hand, the Lamed Hey, upon being discovered by a civilian, refused to kill her. She sounded the alarm, and after a long battle, all 35 were killed. Would they be justified in having killed the woman? To save themselves, and possibly those in Gush Etzion? I submit that this is a much tougher question.

What do you think? I plan on developing this topic further, possible suggesting an alternative, if I can figure one out.

Elon Moreh, Hesder, and Civil Disobedience

Mofaz, on the advice of IDF Chief of Staff Halutz, is thinking of removing the Yeshiva in Elon Moreh from Hesder.

The Rosh Yeshiva there, Elyakim Levanon, openly called on his students to disobey orders during the Gaza Disnegagement. According to the article, a number of Givati soldiers, as well as some in the armored divisions, heeded his call and were subsequently jailed.

When in the military, you answer to one authority, your commander. While there is room for disagreement, that disagreement has to stop when action needs to be taken. To quote my cousin, who was asked during his Seargant's course whether he would remove settlers, "With tears in my heart I will do it." That's the required attitude. If a soldier decides to disobey an order it could mean his death and the death of his unit.

Yes, we all say illegal orders should not be followed. We'll take for granted that this is true, though I believe it places soldiers in impossible situations and isn't as simple as it sounds (more in a later post). That being said, if you disobey an order, even if you think its illegal, you should be willing to pay the consequences. In this case, it means either removal from Hesder or the firing of the Rosh Yeshiva.

Civil disobedience is a great thing. But civil disobedience means you serve the punishment as well. Else the sacrifice, which is what makes civil disobedience so meaningful, is worthless.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Those who can't do, go into politics

The NYT is running an interesting article on Johnny Lechner, 29, who has been a college student for 12 years. That's right, he made a career out of school (college and not grad school).

Upset that he's getting so much attention, Robin Kreibich commented:

"The guy's been a student for 12 years, and he's bragging about it?" said State Representative Robin G. Kreibich, chairman of the Assembly's Committee on Colleges and Universities. "I wonder how many kids can't get in because he's staying on so long."

The university denies a single student has been turned down because of Lechner. But let's do the math. 12 years in college translates into an extra 8 years, assuming he needed to spend 4 years there initially. So 8 years, 4 years per student, means 2 students may have been turned down because of Lechner.

Maybe Kreibich should go back to school.

Israel, Iraq, whatever

Al-Qaeda linked the bombings in Jordan yesterday, which killed at least 56 and wounded more than 100, to the US campaign in Iraq.

Yeah, and that's why they targeted hotels that are usually filled with Israelis.

An Israeli (Arab) was among those killed.

Fortunately, the reports that Israelis had been evacuated prior to the bombings turned out to be false, they were only escorted back to Israel after the bombings. I say fortunately because had only the Israeli (Jews) been evacuated due to the warning, it would have shown gross negligence on the part of the Jordianian security services. When there is a bomb threat, you evacuate everyone, not some.

Little White Lie

A friend of mine was pulled over and given a traffic ticket for running a stop sign. She plans on fighting the ticket, hoping that the officer won't show up, thereby leading to a dismissal of the ticket.

Guilty or not, there is nothing wrong with fighting a ticket. Begging for mercy from the judge or cop, striking a plea for reduced points, or hoping for an outright dismissal is part of the system. But outright lying?

Y'see, my friend plans on getting her boyfriend to come to court and testify, if needed, that she didn't run a stop sign. Of course, he'll mean the stop sign on the way to court, when everyone knows that the testimony is about the ticket. Forget kedoshim tihiyu, v'asisa hatov v'hayashar, tzedek umishpat, etc. Assume the parties aren't Jewish. What do you think of that?

Granted, its a little white lie. But a little white lie is worse. Important situation, lie is required, ok. Our default position should be telling the truth. If you're willing to lie for such a small thing, what value truth?

Not much.

And that's bad.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


I have a number of posts in the works, but felt that today, I would best be served by paying homage to Godol Hador and his blog. Today was his last post. Hopefully he'll keep the material up and blog once in a while.

Great job and thanks.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Off topic:
"It's been 11 days since two African-American teenagers were killed, electrocuted during a police chase, which prompted all of this."--CNN anchorman Carol Lin, Nov. 6

Obviously the US should lodge a formal complaint with the French over the electrocution of two African-Americans. American citizens should be free of...oh wait, they weren't American.

Perhaps African-Frenchmen next time?

This is just the self centered egotistical view that some think America has. Now we know where they get it from. CNN.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Line of the Day

Best line of the day goes to Bill Selliger, who commented at OntheMainLine
Who ever says the Chachamim used Greek names and words is an apikorus.

Election Day

Tomorrow is election day. Numerous propositions are on the ballot. In New York, justices of the Supreme Court (which is the lowest court of general jurisdiction) are elected to serve 14 year terms. I came across this article on Chatzpem about Justice David Schmidt, whose motto was "Elect a Mensch To the Bench!" and who is running for re-election tomorrow in Brooklyn.


Just told about a great google search:
Do a search on "French Military Victories" (without the quotes) and hit "I'm feeling lucky"

Then follow the link

Lose-Lose Situation

If France is at war with could anyone win?


The IDF conversion court has been having quite the year, with more conversions (primarily Russian olim) than ever. I wonder how far they go in discouraging them to convert, and how the halachic implications work out.

What History

History begins at birth. Operating under the mistaken impression that the world didn’t exist before we were born, we ignore history, thinking that every situation is really new when it may be similar to historical occurrences. Since things have *always* been “like this” we abhor change, automatically distrusting it, thinking its “evil.”

Scientific advances have always caused problems. Supplanting accepted ideas with new, radical ones leads people to re-examine ideas, and that always causes consternation. We (in Judaism) haven’t been immune. The Gemara outlines cures which don’t work (some claim nishtaneh hatevah, which is really accelerated evolution), and so we don’t listen to them.

But medical cures are old hat. We haven’t followed them for hundreds of years. When the Rambam said to use (his) modern science, was there equal opposition similar to what we see today vis a vis the Big Bang, Evolution, etc? In five hundred years will all Orthodox Jews accept evolution and look at our current machlokes with humor? Or will there be some new theory and they’ll look at our science like we look at the Rambam’s, also with humor.

Violence and Enlistment

The IDF will not allow the enlistment of settlement youths who attacked soldiers during the Disengagement from Gaza. It still bothers me that youths were attacking Israeli soldiers, who defend and die for them.

But is there violence at the protests for the separation fence? Some of the protesters are Israeli, but has there been any violence? Have youths attacked soldiers, and if so, can they enlist?

Parralelism Between Science and Dress

Thomas Sowell, author of “The Conflict of Visions,” discusses why views of people coalesce along certain lines. To give a (flawed) example, conservatives typically have the same views on a wide variety of issues, as do liberals. His book studies the reasons why these views line up.

There’s a similar parallelism at work here. Whether they admit it or not, enemies of evolution (in any of its forms) do believe in science. Creationists do too. They used the best doctors, take medications, and undergo medical tests. They’re Jews, not scientologists. The argument is really over which scientific theories are used, whether (in our view) they are outdated or are still viable alternatives.

Regardless of whether the view is arrived at through research or inertia, anti-evolutionists just believe that older scientific theories still hold weight. Similarly, its not that some don’t dress modern, its just that they dress modern from a different era, the 18th century.

This is obviously a (quick and) simplistic view. One of the reasons to dress differently is to be different. It provides an extra layer of protection, a reminder that you’re different. Some do that with hats, bekeshes, or yarmulkas, others with noserings and neon hair. R. Reinman discusses this point in “One People Two Worlds.”

Still interesting though.

Arrogance vs. Confidence

“Arrogance is thinking that you're always right and brilliant. Confidence is realizing that you're not always right, that you've got a lot more thinking to do, but that you nevertheless have interesting thoughtful observations to contribute to the discourse.”

-Daniel J. Solove


Just told about a great google search:
Do a search on "French Military Victories" (without the quotes) and hit "I'm feeling lucky"

Then follow the link

Vatican Defends Evolution - Rejects ID

A cardinal has states that Genesis and evolution jibe:,10117,17162341-13762,00.html

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Comic Relief

Oy. Where to begin...

ZooShoteh Emails Romach

ZooShoteh has posted an email purporting to be from R. Slifkin.

I'd like to disclose an email I got from ZooShoteh.

From: ZooShoteh (zooshoteh@[deleted].com)
Date: Sun, 06 November 2005 18:14:24
Subject: Your recent posts
MessageID: [deleted]


I understand that you've put up a number of posts attempting to debunk my posts regarding Slifkin. While we both know you're right, I'm doing this because I have a lot of free time on my hands and am attempting to slime and slander an otherwise seemingly honorable man.
I ask that you please cease your antics, and allow me to return to my job, spreading divisiveness in am yisroel.

Kol tuv,

The point? Anyone with computer experience (as in MS Word) knows how to fake emails. When ZooShoteh, who is full of baseless accusations, starts fabricating emails, well...draw your own conclusions.

Zoo (insert word)

Other blogs registered by ZooShoteh:


Of course, with the prefix "zoo," these are all pretty correct (and ironic)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Krum and Sources

Great and scary post by Krum.

The answer, of course, is to continue discussing ideas. As people become more comfortable and as more knowledgeable people open up blogs, the sources quotes will increase. Talmud Torah on Blogs, a crazy thought (or not so crazy).

As to the Slifkin backlash, as we discuss ideas, questions will be raised. Rabbonim will be forced to respond (R. Feldman being an example). While some letters will be found wanting, others won't. Eventually, the level on a whole will move up, and we'll begin using the sources that Krum worries we're missing out on.

The JBlogger Stereotype & Anonymity

We're so used to judging ideas based on the people expounding them that not knowing the people drives us insane. Just look at some of the arguments, both in real life and in the JBlogs, that a position can't be right because a kofer held the same way. We can't learn Ibn Ezra because of Spinoza. Ridiculous, those ad hominem attacks don't go to the argument, they go to the person. "All UO/MO/CO are X" is likewise an attack on the person, not on the idea.

With the exception of Gil at Hirhurim, Avraham Bronstein, and Menachem Butler, most JBlogs are anonymous. Even Gil began his blog anonymous, only revealing his identity later on. Naturally, when people want to remain anonymous, others seek to unveil them (lately with AddeRabbi and Godol). Human curiosity can be a great (or terrible) thing. And that's what makes us special.

We should recognize that by exposing identities of those who wish to remain anonymous, we may well destroy the very thing which makes us unique. While ad hominem and illogical attacks abound in the blogosphere, just as they do in real life, they are harder to perpetuate. The power of the unadultered idea, the logical argument, can easily vanquish the vapid rant.

Of course, we can prevent the possible damage. We can create a new stereotype, The JBlogger. Of all stripes and colors, hat or no hat, religious and not religious, the JBlogger discusses ideas. Yes, we rant and rave, but that is how we spend our blog leisure time. The ranting is our venting, what we do to relax. Our primary activity is the discussion of ideas, our opinions, and our commentary. The Jewish world needs people like that, who are willing to discuss ideas in an open forum, unafraid of the consequences. Eventually, the blogosphere will spill over into the real world. And then, if our identities are revealed, it won't make a difference.

Some of us may even drop the anonymity, like Gil.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


One of my complaints against ZooShoteh is that he calls people names indiscriminately. After some thinking about it, I feel I've done the same. So, I will no longer call him "Shoteh", but rather "ZooShoteh," the URL on his blog.

At least until I've finished reading it all.

Favorite Passuk

What's your favorite passuk in Tanach?


Firefox decided to crash and delete all of my bookmarks. Alas, they're all gone. Hundreds of them, including my favorite blogs. Just when I was thinking of backing up.

In other news, I now have a clean slate and get to start from scratch

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Private Kiddushin and Nisuin

A thought struck me tonight while attending a symposium on the abolition of civil marriage. While listening to a Jew and Protestant present articles on, respectively, the abolition of civil marriage and the "Judeo-Christian" approach, I realized that I don't really care, its a much smaller issue for me than I initially thought.

If I know of a couple, both of whom are religious Jews, and they tell me they got married, that's it. If they tell me they got a marriage license but the wedding is next week, I don't look at them as married (we don't need to get into the halachic issues with that, should, cs"v, the marriage not go through). So I realized, from that perspective, its really a much smaller issue. Not a new thought, or a surprising one, just that it suddenly hit me.

Good Riddance - Zoo Shoteh

I've been thinking of debunking the tirade of ZooShoteh ("Permission to Decieve"). He definitely makes for entertaining reading, so we'll see if I do. But, it may not be required. Why? I think the Shoteh has left the building.

In the span of an hour and twenty minutes, from 4:52pm to 6:10pm, the Shoteh managed to author 18 posts, garnering 6 comments, 2 from myself, 1 from LamedZayin and one from Gil Student, who is expecting a phone call on erev yom kippur for mechilah (Gil, don't wait by the phone). That's it. Nothing new, for a day. One would expect that such a...prolific..."writer" would have something to say, at least in response to the comments.

I know I may be jumping the gun, but Shoteh popped up and a day later disapeared. There has been no response to comments posted and no new posts. Hopefully he's truly gone.

Names for Children

Ha'aretz has a story on how a group of Rabbis in Israel have issued a list of names that parents should not call their children.

The names include Ariel (because of Sharon), Omri (his son and an evil biblical king), names ending or beginning with "el" among others. Katif and names of Gaza settlements are frowned upon because of the controversy they arouse.

The website,, is currently unavailable.

What's there to say? At least its not a psak, but appears to be just a recommendation....

ZooShoteh v'zu...

Just came across a "Permission to Deceive," located at

The blog appears to have an admirable goal, presenting the "other side" in the Slifkin Affair. As LamedZayin points out, there are few RW bloggers. While I don't know the author of Permission to Decieve, I wish him luck. But, after a quick persual, my enthusiasm has begun to wane.

The first posts on the blog make fun of Slifkin, calling him an idiot, moron and am haaretz. For someone attempting to have a discussion on an important topic, this is a good way to get traffic but a bad way to have the discussion. All the more so because he appears to be one of the few (if only) bloggers attempting to show the other side.

Not to mention some of the logical fallacies of his arguments. He quote Godol Hador and some of his (very) controversial views, to state that *these* are the views of Slifkin's progeny. The question then becomes whether Observer, the author, will read Ibn Ezra because of what Spinoza did with him, or read the Gemara because of the statements of a few rabbonim in Baba Basra about the writing of Tanach. Somehow I doubt it, which raises questions about POD's credibility. More to follow...

That the URL is zooshoteh makes it all the more ironic.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Who is worse?

A) Someone who is shomer shabbos, keeps kosher, and davens with a minyan 3x a day, but who also thinks its asur to read a newspaper, study a secular subject, or get a job?
B) Someone who is secular, doesn't keep kosher or do any of the above, but thinks its ok to read a newspaper, study secular subjects, and have a job? And I mean for this person to be just as superficial (philosophically) as the first one.

And why

What I meant to ask is, starting out as A), is it better to remain as A) or change to B)