Monday, July 24, 2006

Hezbollah Rocket Update

First we heard that Israel had destroyed over half of Hezbollah's rockets (5000-6,500)
Then we heard the number was closer to a third (3,300 - 4,500)
Now we hear that its over 2,000 - approximately 20%

Using the latest number, along with the 2200+ fired at Israel, Hezbollah has used or lost between 33-40% of their rocket supplies.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Hat tip: Ezzie

Pictures from the funeral of Yonatan Hadassi
Powerful movie on suicide bombing

And, courtesy of Gil, a copy of the picture from Drudge, a soldier, in tallis and tefillin, davening with an artillery piece in the background.

Good Shabbos.

[Update: Courtesy of AddeRabbi]

Eruv Psychosis No More

Oh well, it seems is down. Serves the guy right. I sent him an email asking a couple of questions, which he did not reply to. (S)He did reply to a friend of mine, and if I can get permission I'll post the discussion.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Washington Heights Eruv - Again

A blog dedicated to the eruv, and attacking those who were involved in its construction.

Perhaps someone will volunteer to rip this one apart too? While words like "ruffian laity" and "baryonim" are not exactly indicative of someone interested in discourse, such insanity must sometimes be refuted.

[Update: See Jeremy Ginsburg, who ripped apart the previous email. Some of his posts on the subject, I, II)]

Monday, July 17, 2006


Chalk this one up to being very tired...
The "Drum" light on my laser printer just started blinking. The drum usually needs to be changed every 20,000 pages (as opposed to the toner cartridge which gets changed every 5-6,000). My drum has about 1,900 pages left on it as it begins its third year of life (I print much more than the average law student, but even I'm shocked of the 10k page/yr average).

Here's the fun part:
New Drum: $152
The toner cartridge that comes with a new printer: $60 (on this printer at least)
Brand new printer: $200 (expensive because of duplexing. I can't stand printing on one side of the page)

Gotta love it.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Morning After

No one has addressed the question of "What Next?" Before anyone claims that its premature to ask, let me explain why that day is closer than it appears.

Canada, which first supported Israel, has now suffered the deaths of five [update: eight] of its citizens due to an Israeli air strike on Tyre. Regardless of whether the dead were carrying guns, funneling money, or just tourists, it will be hard politically for Canada to give Israel the backing it has until now. As airstrikes continue, the likelihood of other citizens, including Americans, being killed will increase, and will put pressure on others to blame Israel and call for restraint, despite the reality that the deaths are Hezbollah's fault.

Even if Canada and other countries stand fast, as they should, the next stage will be here pretty quickly. Hezbollah had an estimated 10-13,000 rockets. Hundreds of those, though less than a thousand, have been fired at Israel. Presumably the IAF has destroyed many more. As time progresses, those launching the rockets will be killed, patterns of launch will emerge, and Israels ability to detect and prevent rocket launches should rise. Those who coordinate the firings will slip up, be identified and eliminated. Hiding spots in Southern Lebanon will be neutralized.

With no ability to resupply, air, sea, and land cut off from foreign countries, Hezbollah will soon run out of rockets, or the means to launch them continuously. The situation will "normalize." Note that this makes it even more likely that Iran is using Hezbollah as a smoke screen. Its scary to think that Iran is willing to sacrifice Hezbollah, but why shouldn't they? Once they have nukes, the puppets aren't needed.

As a byproduct of success, once Hezbollah's infrastructure has been damaged and missile stores depleted, the world will pressure Israel to stop bombing. So either way, soon Israel will stop. With or without the soldiers returned. Lebanon can only take so much before its a no mans land filled with burned out wreckage.

Everyone wants to focus on today. Its where the action is, its fast paced and adrenaline filled. But it paralyzes us. There's no need to think, or no ability, when you're bombarded on all sides with the same news, over and over. The names change, the number killed change, but the story is the same. There are a hundred stories on every missile strike but not one asking the important question "What happens tomorrow?"

Neturei Karts and Minyanim II

Last week I asked whether or not you would daven at a minyan where there were only 10 men, one of which was a member of the Neturei Karta. I happend across the Neturei Karta article on Wikipedia, where they list some of the Orthdox Jewish organizations which condemned the NK for holding a prayer vigil for Yasser Arafat as he lay dying in France.

The group included: Anshei Sfard; Satmar; Bobov; Emunas Yisroel; Ger; Belz; Bnei Yehuda, Nitra; Vizhnitz; Munkacz; Vien; Klausenberg; Torah Vodaas; Novominsk; Torah Temimah; Chasam Sofer; Kiryas Joel - Monroe; Puppa; Young Israel of Brooklyn; Cong. Shomrei Shabbos; United Lubavitch Organizations of Crown Heights; Kamenitz; Agudath Israel 14th Avenue; United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg; Boro Park Jewish Council; Debrecin; US Friends of the Eda Haredit; Lakewood Yeshiva.

And what did they say? (emphasis added)

Their joining in vigils and 'prayers' for the arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat [may his name be blotted out] with Jew-haters of all manner, is an outrage that we cannot ignore and will not forgive. We again demand that rabbis and community leaders of all communities ensure that members of this group are refused entry to all houses of prayer. These nefarious associates of Jewry's enemies have unfortunately again succeeded in their crazed hunger for publicity and are being depicted in local and international media — outfitted in their religious attire — bewailing the impending demise of a mass-murderer — side-by-side with Palestinian Jew-haters. The shame and embarrassment to decent religious Jews worldwide is unbearable.


We repeat: this contemptible and minuscule gang of traitors to Judaism, were decades ago barred from our Synagogues and communities. Their refusal to abide by the pronouncements of religious and lay leaders of our communities has made them persona non grata.

Guess that answers my question.

Zealots and Incentives

Pinchas is the paradigmatic zealot. As someone else pointed out (the link escapes me), Chazal don't really like zealots. So what is a zealot? Why should a zealot like Pinchas get such a great reward? We frown on vigilantism, indeed an orderly society can only exist if people obey the law, and that includes how the law metes out punishment. Maybe that's why Chazal don't really like zealots.

A zealot operates outside of the law. Law is imperfect and has trade offs. In American law, if you lose your case in court, you have a certain amount of time to appeal. If you don't appeal, the judgment is final and you're out of luck, even if you have new evidence (I'm discussing civil trials). Likewise in halacha, after beis din convicts someone for murder, the witnesses can't turn around and say "We lied. Don't kill him," even if they were lying and are now telling the truth. Society has tradeoffs, and though law tries to fit as best as possible, at the edges inconsistencies remain.

In fact, according to Roget's Thesaurus, a synonym for zealot is "visionary" or "dreamer." Noticing the injustice, the visionary seeks to correct it. When that's not possible by acting within the law, and when the issue is important enough, the zealot goes outside.

With that we can understand why the zealot deserves such a great reward. The zealot takes the ultimate risk when acting - there's no net, no one to back him up. If he's wrong, he'll be ridiculed at best, killed at worst, and history will not treat him kindly. There's a huge downside, which can only be matched by a large upside. We need zealots, and so, we reward them greatly.
But too many zealots are bad as well. Luckily, the average person examines the downside and not the potential reward. So the number of zealots is mitigated, first not everyone has the vision or desire, and those on the border may not want to risk the enormous downside of their actions.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Lebanon: "Hezbollah's Grave Tactical Mistake"

From YNet:

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Senior told CNN television that "Hizbullah made a grave tactical mistake" when it decided to kidnap Israeli soldiers, adding that the group didn't make the decision on its own.

Seniora said Israel's military operation is an opportunity for the international community to solve the problem of Palestinian refugees which has existed since 1948. (Ynet)

Apparently there's a nice split within Lebanon. Hezbollah on one side and at least some members of the government on the other. Recall that the Lebanese ambassador to the United States said that he supported a prisoner swap, and was promptly recalled by Lebanon. Maybe this is the opening we've been waiting for, the one that can be used to disarm Hezbollah and have the soldiers returned.

Comment of the Day

S. in response to Harry Maryles:

Harry (regarding the Vatican):
"But don't write them off. They have been remarkably positive in their relationships with the Jewish people ever since Vatican II which has lterally turned 2000 years of Church animosity and hatred of Jews on its head."

I see it as scraps. I'm not a dog. The Protestants don't give a damn about the Vatican and didn't need Vatican II to begin to unlearn historical bigotry. It was very nice of the Vatican to visit the second half of the 20th century in the second half of the 20th century. I'm not particularly grateful for it. They haven't put themselves in the black yet.

Noticeably Quiet...

are the Neturei Karta.

Break Fast Meme

I was tagged with a meme by CWY, what did I break my fast on? Before responding, I just want to state something - I think all bloggers should continue with their normal blogging, in addition to what they're blogging about regarding Israel.

Anyway -

I broke my fast on pizza and potato borekas. I broke with the usual family tradition of orange cake.

I'll tag David and LamedZayin

Thank you Canada, ah, the French

The glorious French President, Jacques Chirac, had this to say earlier today:
One can ask oneself whether there isn't a sort of desire to destroy Lebanon. I find, honestly, like most Europeans, that the reactions are completely disproportionate.
I guess one could also ask if there isn't a sort of desire to destroy Israel. Luckily, we don't ask such questions of Hamas and Hezbollah. Apparently Chirac missed the part where Israel, and the UN, said they want Hezbollah disarmed. I wonder, does France sit on the Security Council? Did they have a hand in passing that resolution calling for Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah? But not all hope is lost, Chirac gave a balanced view. Regarding Hezbollah he said: "These people are totally irresponsible." Thanks for clearing that up.

Canada however, joins the small but growing list of Israel Defenders.
"But Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, speaking on Thursday night, described the campaign of bombing and rocket attacks on power stations, bridges, roads and militant bases as a measured response resting on the right of self-defense"

Hat Tip: Reuters

Thank you Senator, Take a Hike Vatican

Senator McCain told CNN this morning that Israel's response was not disproportionate. Israel's response is similar to what the US would have done. Hat Tip: JPost
(trying to find the CNN transcript).

I for one will be sending Senator McCain a thank you email for his support. You can do so as well by filling out the form located at:

In other news, our Roman Catholic friends chastised Israel today. "[T]he Holy See deplores right now the attack on Lebanon, a free and sovereign nation, and assures its closeness to these people who already have suffered so much to defend their independence." and ""The right of defence on the part of a state does not exempt it from its responsibility to respect international law, particularly regarding the safeguarding of civilian populations." Both of the above come courtesy of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

The Vatican, like many other countries, ignores a major issue - what would Israel (or another country) need to do in order to act responsibly? Israel has dropped leaflets in Beirut, warning those near Hezbollah centers to get out. Should Israel invade, forcibly remove everyone, do their bombings, and escort everyone home? Assuming they could do that without being attacked for "forcible population transfers."

So, let's hear it? What should Israel do? How many missiles can Israel launch per rocket from Hezbollah? Nu? I'm waiting...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Dating & Ethics

Here's the scenario: A couple has been officially dating for a while, none of that "I didn't know we were exclusive" stuff. A while later, she decides to go on a date with a third party, just to see how she feels about the relationship. (I'm using the girl as an example because guys are usually the ones to ask girls out, the importance of which will be shown shortly). The clincher? She doesn't tell her boyfriend or the guy she's using for the one date.


Assuming you believe that she can do this, without telling her boyfriend, I find it very troubling. Essentially she's going out on a date with a guy under false pretenses. On some level she's really stealing his time and money. With no hope of anything coming out of it. The date is to see how she feels about her relationship with her boyfriend, not to begin a relationship with someone new.

But what if he asks her out? Even so, he's assuming she is single. If the girl was married and some guy asked her out, would it be ok to say yes just because he asked? Far from it. By agreeing to go out, she intentionally misleads the guy into thinking she's available (this is why I used a girl as the example, it seems easier to understand that a guy asking out a girl is projecting that he's single and available than a girl who is going out on a date).

I know of people who have done this, and I just think its wrong. If you're having problems with your relationship or have questions, deal with them in a mature way. Its rather egotistical to think that your time, needs, and questions are important enough as to justify wasting someone else's time. Not to mention lying to them.

Surely people will advance other justifications, that its been done before is probably the most common. Just because something has been done before and will be done in the future doesn't make it morally or ethically correct. It just means you're abdicating your responsibility to think to whatever society deems correct. Do you really want to do that?

The New York Times at it Again

Leave it to the New York Times to selectively print news. In their latest article, they detail the:

-Destruction of Lebanese infrastructure
-The miles of lines that await those who wish to cross the border to Syria,
-The tourists who are stuck due to the Israeli blockade.
-Interview a man who claims his cousin was killed during a bombing.
-The $4b loss Israel will cause Lebanon because of lost tourism

On the Israeli side:
-Government spokesmen, including Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz
-Information on the 120 Katyusha's launched into Israel
-No interview with the family of the woman killed in Nahariya
-No interview with the families of any wounded
-No interview with anyone at all, just publicly released statements.
-No interview or information on tourists watching rockets rain from the sky
-No talk of the billions of dollars Israel stands to lose from rocket attacks across the country

Makes me wonder if Steven Erlander, who contributed to the article from Jerusalem, actually got off his tuchis to do some journalism today. Or if he just used Google news. Hassan Fattah, who wrote from Beirut, definitely did a great job.

Criticism Begins

"Greece expresses its serious concern and is intensely troubled," Antonaros said.

"It is vital, to stop the (situation) worsening, Hizbullah must immediately release the soldiers taken hostage," he said. "At the same time, Greece calls on the government of Israel to avoid the use of excessive and pointless force which cannot provide a solution to the problem."

Hear that Israel? Don't attack Hezbollah, don't target their weapons or militants, even when they send rockets into cities to purposefully attack civilians.

How they can say that with a straight face is beyond me


It should not come as a surprise that Hezbollah attacked Israel yesterday. The attack, even if it was unsuccessful, would have accomplished numerous goals for Hezbollah. Hezbollah showed solidarity with the Palestinians, something which helps their public image. Additionally, if Hamas was about to release Shalit, this gave a breather, not to mention a possible loosening of pressure that Hamas was facing. Last, and perhaps most important, Hamas threatened to overtake Hezbollah as "the" people fighting Israel. Hezbollah has been quiet, Jihad and Hamas have not. They needed some publicity. And now they have it.

And so the war has begun. What started yesterday with the killing of 8 soldiers and capture of two others continued today with a barrage of Katyusha rockets, which killed at least one and injured a dozen more. More rockets are sure to follow.

But now the scenario is different. When Fatah controlled the PA and Hezbollah was just a militia group, the governments had plausible deniability. Hamas and Hezbollah could be castigated publicly while approbated privately. But no more.

You could have argued that Lebanon couldn't control Hezbollah, that the PA couldn't control Hamas. But that argument doesn't work now. Its not a different faction attacking Israel, its the government. Of the Palestinians. Of the Lebanese.

Imagine a lone gunman comes over the Canadian border, shoots up a school and is killed or escapes. Surely you can argue that its not the fault of the Canadian government. Now imagine a hundred tanks come flowing over the border. Tanks of the Canadian army. With Canadian generals, and maybe a government official or two. Is it anything but an act of war?

We now have the governments of the Palestinians and the Lebanese actively attacking Israel. Remember Hezbollah is part of the government now, just like Hamas. They aren't just bad mouthing, not only inciting. Granted, the Lebanese recalled their ambassador to the US, presumably because of his public statement that he supports a prisoner exchange. His words were telling - "They have prisoners. *We* have prisoners." Not Hezbollah. Not a militia. We, the government. The government Hezbollah is part of.

So when the Lebanese cry, we should tell their government to reign in their forces. The forces loyal to the members of their parliament. Assuming Israel lets their government live.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Right to Die

Abraham Cherrix, 16, has cancer, Hodgkin's disease to be exact. Last year he had chemotherapy, which left him weak. But his cancer has returned. Instead of going back for more chemo, Abraham went to Mexico to try an alternative treatment, a sugar free, organic diet and visits to a Mexican clinic. The tumor in his chest has since grown.

The state is trying to force him into chemotherapy, which his (American) doctors advocate. The family wants to allow him his alternative treatment. The parents may lose custody of Abraham, who has told the judge he doesn't want to go through chemo again.

The family's lawyer makes the usual argument, though he's wrong:
"I don't think any family in the commonwealth would be comfortable with the fact that a social worker with no medical training could make a medical decision for their child...It's an assault on the American family."
So if his doctor, who has medical training, said he should have chemo, that wouldn't be an assault on the American family? Do these doctors in Mexico have medical training? Or are they just running a clinic based on holistic approaches?

If an assault, it would be an assault on the American family regardless of whether doctors or social workers decided he should go for chemo. That the state is interfering in the parent's decision (the child, a minor, really doesn't have much say) would be the assault.

But I'm willing to bet most people think this isn't a bad move. Should parents who want their child to have a protein-less diet be allowed to starve a baby to death? Should parents be allowed not to vaccinate their children? We recognize the state can get involved, especially when it comes to children.

Oh, and does the family have any medical training? Just because they love Andrew and have watched him grow up doesn't mean they are any more competant to make medical decisions. In fact, I'd say they're less competant. At least the social worker deals with this on a daily basis with many people. Andrew's family has dealt with him, and that's it.

2 more

It will be interesting to see how the world reacts to the two soldiers recently captured by Hezbollah. According to the "international community" the Palestinians have at least some justification, Israel is occupying Palestinian land. But according to the same community, including the UN, Israel isn't on any Lebanese land. Shebaa farms, which Hezbollah claims is Lebanese, is really Syrian, even according to the UN...

United States:
"Hezbollah's action undermines regional stability and goes against the interests of both the Israeli and Lebanese people" -Condoleeze Rice

Irresponsible new escalation" and urged their unconditional release. -Foreign Ministry spokesman Jens Ploetner

We condemn this morning's infiltration and rocket attacks by Hezbollah on northern Israel," said a statement by Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells. "We are particularly concerned by reports that Israeli soldiers may have been kidnapped or killed"

"I understand the anger of the Israelis," Koizumi said in joint press conference after his talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "But I hope you will not seek an eye for an eye and keep in mind the importance of peace." --Japan's Prime Minister (I guess we'll see if they launch a pre-emptive strike on North Korea)

"I condemn the rocket strikes this morning on the town of Kiryat Shmona. I also condemn the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers and I ask for their immediate and unconditional release" --French Foreign Minister

The French added some stuff about a "cycle of violence" where "civilians" would be the "first casualties." The usual drivel. But we'll see how they change their statements over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Screwed Up Children & Adults

If you took the time to analyze your friends, you'd probably realize that not all of them are really thought out. Some just go with the flow. Friends watch TV, so they watch. Same with concerts or school (some say that law school is where people go when they don't know what else to do and want to push off life for three more years) and with religion, personal relationships. Others are very well thought out. They know what they do and why. They might be cool and calculating, impersonal or just be hard to approach. Some advocate "tough love" and others become all lovey dovey.

My theory is that people who are screwed up are more likely to be well thought out that your average run of the mill person. A child who grows up in a normal household, two parents, nothing exciting, goes to yeshiva his or her entire life, followed by college, never really faces any pressure to think things through (at least until the Israel Flip Out occurs). After all, if your biggest crisis is which toy you're getting for Chanukah you don't have much reason to mature.

But, if parents are divorced, or God forbid deceased, or a sibling or close friend died, it forces the child to deal with different, and difficult, realities. How do you balance spending time with parents who despise each other, and fight or bad mouth each other in front of you? Or, due to problems at home you grew up going to schools where you stayed as a boarder at some total stranger's house, a new stranger every few years.

When you're forced to compete, you improve. Likewise, when you're forced to confront difficult scenarios you have two choices; either become a hermit or become mature. Children from "stable" homes with "normal" childhoods don't face the same issues as others, at least not until Israel or college. So they end up being better thought out than others, or at least get a headstart. The same troubled children are also more likely to be screwed up, but that's for another day.

Eventually the gap narrows. Israel and college are probably great equalizers. But I'm willing to bet that the initial difficulties leave imprints on the messed-up child's development which even adulthood has trouble erasing. Look at the number of abused children that go onto become child abusers themselves. Or troubled children who have problems socially as adults. I don't know of any studies one way or the other, but it seems to make sense to me.

Quick Poll

You're at a minyan where there are only 10 men. One of the 10 is a member of the Neturei Karta. Do you stay and daven? Or do you walk out? For convenience sake, we'll say he's a prominent member, and not someone just born into it who knows nothing else.

I had this discussion with David a few months back, but never posted on it.

Do you stay or do you go

Being a Lefty

I'm left handed. The few things I do with my right hand include throwing a frisbee and using scissors. Righties, take a scissor and try cutting with your left hand. You can't, not to mention it hurts a lot.

When I was a child, my mother bought me left handed scissors (which I still have) and a left handed ruler. She bought them in a store at the World Trade Center. The latter had the inches and centimeters going from left to right instead of right to left, and broke. More of a gag gift than anything else. I've been trying to find a replacement but haven't been able to. But the scissors, those were great. Imagine using scissors with your left hand! No pain. And the scissors cut! But of course, due to conditioning, I would still use them with my right hand about half the time. My desk at home had the drawers built into the left side, not the right.

Being left handed in a right handed world isn't always easy. Your computer mouse is probably molded for your right hand. Power tools, right handed. Reading whatever is on your coffee mug? Only if you use your right hand. Small things, like the remote control for my speakers - if you hold it with your left hand, your palm covers the "mute" button. The location on the right side is empty. No, I haven't accidentally muted my speakers. Yet.

Left handed people are said to be smarter and are visual learners. I've heard that they're better at math but not art from some and art but not math from others. I'm a visual guy. I love flowcharts, picturing arguments in my head, and graphs.

Not sure if we are smarter, but I do remember reading that left handed people aren't smarter, but are more varied. Take 100 right handed and 100 left handed people. The right handed ones will have 10 geniouses, 10 idiots and 80 average. Lefties...20 geniouses, 20 idiots and 60 average. Maybe that explains the higher rates of learning disabilities. Bored in elementary school I taught myself to read and write in mirror image. Not a problem at all. When a right handed student sees a right handed teacher writing on the board, he can copy the teacher. The left handed student has to mirror the teacher.

Forget about writing. Southpaws are known to have horrible penmanship. In elementary school no one would write on the back of the page. What happend? Left handed students would only be able to write with their hands coming up against the binding. For those that know me, check out my hand position when I write. One time my elementary school assistant principal was "inspecting" our notebooks. He asked if my notebook was really mine, since the notes seemed to be taken with two different handwritings. Having gotten sick of my hand bumping up against the notebook spirals, I switched hand position. In high school I switched to notebooks with the spirals on top and haven't gone back. Saved me lots of pain.

Not to mention smearing your work as your hand passed over it. Sort of like what you righties do in Hebrew. And in english, left handed people have to push their pens, while right handed people pull, another minor but annoying difference when you spend hours writing. Maybe that's why I do everything on computer. I've been using computers for 17 years and though its harder to make graphs and charts, I much prefer it to writing.

What's the point of this post? I don't really have one. Just some thoughts on being left handed in a right handed world. Please add your experiences in the comments, I need to get to sleep.

Try this one at home

All my fellow bloggers, gather close. Copy this post word for word and paste it into your own blog account. Then try to spellcheck it. Tell me which words's spellcheck doesn't recognize. And when this spreads around the blogosphere, remember the hat tip.

[Note: Very funny]

Monday, July 10, 2006

Soccer Ball Terrorists

The IAF killed three Palestinians, between the ages of 17-20, in an airstrike today. According to Ha'aretz, sources claim that the teenagers were playing soccer when missiles were launched. Here's the kicker, the kids were playing soccer near some Qassam launchers that had been set up in the yard.

At worst, this is a case of an actual misfire, where the missile struck far from the rocket launcher. Or, launching in civilian areas is a case of using human shields. Regrettable that they died. But according to JPost's article, the four (one was injured and not killed) were there to extract the launch team. Here's some advice to you soccer players in Gaza. If you see someone launching Qassam rockets near you, go the other way.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Frum Criminals?

One of my rebbeim in Israel would often say that a murderer is not Orthodox. That guy on the front page of the paper, arrested for stealing or embezzlement? Not frum, hat or srugie notwithstanding. Sure, he davens next to you in shul, his kids are a year ahead of yours in the same school, he may even have semicha. But frum? Nope.

The idea made sense to me at the time, but soon I began to question it. Finally, yesterday, in a conversation with Miriam, I realized that it doesn't make sense.

Man sins, he errs. If man was perfect he'd be God, and since there's only one God, man is out of luck.

Can you really tell me that someone who committed a murder isn't frum? Anyone that sins isn't Orthodox? If that's true, I challenge you to show me a single person that is Orthodox or frum. Doesn't go to minyan? Or learn? Isn't shomer negiah? Charging your neighbor interest? Loshon hara? Did I leave anyone out?

So then what is Orthodoxy? Not a simple arithmetic formula. Constants like dress, geographic location, and political leanings fall away, they're not central, like constants when you take derivatives in calculus. Its closer to beliefs than actions. Believing in one God (or at least not acting on a belief of no God), committing to torah and mitzvos, even if you have some that you're ignorant of, negligent in, dismissive of, or just succumb to.

Maybe there's a deeper understanding of what that rebbe said, whether he intended it or not. The guy on the front page is Orthodox. But he's also an example of what can happen if you decide not to improve yourself. A reminder. A midrash.

But its still not a very satisfying answer to the question.


If you still haven't figured out where the name for this blog came from, go back and look at the end of yesterday's Torah reading.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Paying for Gilad's Release?

"I know that releasing prisoners was up for discussion as a gesture before the incident, so there's no reason it shouldn't be up for discussion after the incident, as well, for the sake of releasing a soldier who was sent to the battlefront by the state."
"At the end of the day, it will be necessary to pay a price for Gilad's release. I don't understand why the government is delaying negotiating for him"

The above quotes (via JPost) are from Noam Shalit, father of Gilad, who is still being held captive by terrorists.

The above quotes also show why parents and family, often the most emotionally involved, should not be making these decisions. And luckily, in this case, are not. Who is Noam Shalit to decide how many prisoners his son is worth?

Prior prisoner releases may have resulted in Gilad's capture. Hamas knew that Israel would negotiate, or at least thought they did. Who is Noam Shalit to decide that those injured and killed by the released terrorists are worth Gilad's life? Will Noam Shalit show up at the hospital or at a funeral, telling a mother that it was worth her daughter being killed by a released terrorist so that his son will live?

Additionally, Shalit doesn't seem to understand that not negotiating is a negotiating tactic. Hamas wanted 1,000 prisoners for information on Gilad. No one has been released, yet we've heard that Gilad was treated by a doctor. The Jerusalem Post is reporting that Hamas now demands the release of 130 terrorists. That's a large step down from 1,000. They might even release him if Israel agrees to a gradual *plan* for prisoner releases.

I know the Shalit family is under a lot of pressure, and my prayers are with them and Gilad. Noam obviously wants his son released, and anyone should be able to understand the great strides he'll take to secure that outcome. We all want Gilad released and returned. But at the end of the day, it may be necessary *not* to pay a price for Gilad's release.

Lawyers - Why We Need Them

A few months ago, AddeRabbi asked what benefit lawyers give to society. Why do we need them? It seems you can't go anywhere without seeing their influence, from warning labels on cigarettes to buying a home to signing up for a new credit cards, the lawyer is inescapable. Have you ever been to a courthouse? Worked at one? I did, last summer. Let me tell you, its an experience. Not a day passed without a car accident case where the injured party had "soft tissue injuries" and just enough range of motion loss to bring the case (Allstate insurance has stopped settling these cases and instead brings them to trial, knowing that in the short term it is more expensive, but will stop frivolous claims. Though I have no hard data, Allstate appears to win most of these cases, and some personal injury lawyers no longer take Allstate cases).

Second you have lawyers, thick as flies, the same ones day in and out (on a recent visit to the judge I worked for last summer a number of the flies said hello and asked where I've been, whether I was working or still a student), who just hang around the courthouse running from case to case, a half dozen per day.

Truth is, and this may shock you, lawyers are tightly regulated. Conviction of a felony results in automatic disbarment. Not only that - get disbarred in one state and other states may follow suit automatically. Unlike doctors, who can lose a medical license in one state only to kill patients in another, lawyers have no such recourse. And pity the lawyer who lies to his clients, or even misleads, as to why the disbarment occured. Want to get re-admitted? Fat chance.

Yet lawyers still have a bad name. It doesn't help that many politicians are lawyers, or that lawyers defend child molesters, rapists and murderers. Not to mention the odd lawyer who absconds with escrow money belonging to the client. And the ones that take out ads on TV, you know, in case 25 years ago you didn' get the exact doctor you wanted for your child's birth. A great sight which chronicles these types of cases is - take a visit.

So why keep them around?

The truth is we need lawyers because *we* don't trust each other. I don't trust you to keep your word, so I hire a lawyer to make sure the contract is iron-clad. John is selling his house to Mike, and tells Mike that the heating system works perfectly. Comes winter and the system doesn't work at all. John denies ever telling Mike it worked. Mike should have checked it out. So? Lawyers. Contracts. Red tape. Court. Don't believe me? Next time you buy a house or sign a contract, tell the other side you've decided to get rid of the lawyers. No legalese no nothing. Just a handshake. And, if you have any disputes, any problems, you'll sit down over a cup of coffee and figure it out. Heck, you'll even sign an agreement stating it. Think you'll
get anywhere? Why not?

Its not an indictment. American law (and to an extent halacha as well) has an adversarial system. With both sides advocating their view points, (after all, can I really know what's in your best interest, the tradeoffs you're willing to make? competing with each other, the judge/jury can figure out what really happend, at least in theory. Everyone looks out for their own best
interest, presents their own story, and the truth emerges.

Lawyers make an easy target. There are so many of them. I'm only suing John Q. but lawyers are everywhere. If I lose the case, my lawyer wasn't good (stupid lawyers). If I win and don't recover enough, same thing. But if I win, that means my opponent lost. He hates his lawyer for being stupid and he hates my lawyer for lying to win, since my opponent has every confidence in his story. You'll always have an upset party, and invariably lawyers they'll be upset with. We won't even get into contingency fee actions, where the attorney shells out thousands (or more) of dollars on the off chance that his client might win and thus be able to reimburse him.

That's not to say the system is perfect, far from it. But the bad lawyers get all the publicity. They're our scapegoats. But lawyers are the oil that lets society run. They cut across every area, help negotiate every dispute. Lawyers are the go betweens, the negotiators, the people who understand what obligations you have to your fellow man and why.

That's why we need them. Think society is bad now? Get rid of the lawyers and judges (they're lawyers too) and we'll see how long you last.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Nephtuli's Wedding

I just got back from Nephtuli's wedding to Shifra Bronstein. It was a great wedding, saw a number of people I hadn't seen in a while. A number of bloggers were in attendance as well, including Nephtuli (of course), Josh Goldman, CWY (his role in the bowling over of Nephtuli is unclear), and of course, he who needs no introduction.

So, just wanted to say mazal tov to Nephtuli and Shifra, along with all the usual words. And to Miriam, who set them up.

One of a Kind

In this post, Orthonomics links to an article by R. Yakov Horowitz. Its a great article, one which everyone who gives tzedaka should read.
Then it hit me. He's the same guy who spoke up against the riots in Boro Park a few months back. In fact, he was one of the few.

I haven't read his other articles, or his book. But you can be sure I've put them on my list to do. If he's as good in those as he has been on the two issues above you can bet that I've found a new place to send tzedaka to (when I get out of school).

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Women in Shul

A man brought two of his children to shul for Mincha, the older one 2 1/2 or so. The younger one behaved, but the older one did not. I'm all for bringing children to shul, provided they don't misbehave. Having grown up in a neighborhood where I was one of the youngest children (the place no longer has a Jewish community) I appreciate, perhaps more than most, what having small children in shul can do to the atmosphere.

After a couple of minutes of misbehaving, the father took the child outside to the lobby and placed him in his stroller before returning to shul. That's when the child started screaming. Nice set of lungs on the kid too. The wailing didn't stop, and though slightly muted, was easily heard through the thick wooden doors that are the shul entrance.

A short while later (remember, this is mincha, so everything is short) another man in the shul heard the child screaming. He didn't know why. So what did he do? He walked over to the ezras nashim (the shul is set up with the men in front and women in back, the man was sitting in the last row) and said "There's a child screaming outside, I'm not sure why. Could you go over and take a look. I don't know who he belongs to, but maybe you could go look."

First I thought he was speaking to his wife. But he wasn't. All three women put down their siddurim, walked out and checked on the kid. The father, who saw them leaving, followed, and presumably explained the situation, for the women were back in their seats within a minute, the child still yelling.

I wasn't sure what to think. On the one hand, he cared enough to get someone to check on the baby. But, he didn't do it himself. He went to the women. Something about that just doesn't sit right with me. After all, they didn't come to shul at mincha to babysit someone else's child. Or to have some strange man ask them to check on a third person's child.