New Job

I started my new job yesterday. I’ll be working for a Rabbinic organization in Israel called Tzohar, which you can read about in English here. I will serve as Director of Development, with a specific focus on overseas development, PR, and marketing the Tzohar ‘brand’. It will entail a good amount of travel to the USA, including a trip before Rosh Hashana. I might be in your neighborhood.

The coolest thing about this job is that I basically blogged my way into it. A reader of this blog (I’m not sure if he minds being named, so I’ll play it cautious, but you know who you are, and Mazal Tov on the new addition. Sorry I won’t be able to participate in the festivities ;) made the shidduch between me and Tzohar.

Some might call this luck, others siyata dishmaya. For me, it vindicates the time I invest in blogging (when the doubts inevitably creep up). Surely, that doesn’t preclude siyata dishmaya, but, as my father is fond of saying, quoting Knute Rockne’s response to an offensive lineman who questioned the efficacy of pre-game prayers, “Sure prayers help, but only if you block your man!”

Mezhinka Tantz

This past Sunday, my youngest sister became the last of my siblings to wed. As has become common, my siblings and I danced around my parents until they symbolically shooed us away with symbolic brooms. Though this custom seems to have been pretty limited in scope until relatively recently, I find it to be very beautiful, emotional, and fraught with meaning. The more siblings, the more intense the experience. If there's only a kid or two, it seems pretty cheap. I'm one of five, so it's more of an event.

For the occasion, I had a T-shirt made for my parents. I liked the idea, and if anyone else wants to use it, please let me know (especially for commercial purposes). The back of the shirt provided some details of the last wedding bracketed by the statement "Get out and stay out!". Here's the front. It's an ADDeRabbi original:


Renewal of Semicha

As is fairly well-known, the Rambam was of the opinion that there is a way to renew the ancient practice of semicha, whereby master would appoint student to perpetuate the Jewish legal tradition. This method, which derives its authority from Moshe himself, was interrupted at some point in late antiquity. Rambam, in Hilchot Sahedrin chapter 4, suggests a self-consciously radical thing, that it’s possible to jump-start the process:

נראין לי הדברים שאם הסכימו כל החכמים שבארץ ישראל למנות דיינים ולסמוך אותם הרי אלו סמוכים ויש להן לדון דיני קנסות ויש להן לסמוך לאחרים, אם כן למה היו החכמים מצטערין על הסמיכה כדי שלא יבטלו דיני קנסות מישראל, לפי שישראל מפוזרין ואי אפשר שיסכימו כולן ואם היה שם סמוך מפי סמוך אינו צריך דעת כולן אלא דן דיני קנסות לכל שהרי נסמך מפי בית דין, והדבר צריך הכרע.
I think that if all of the Sages in the Land of Israel agree to appoint judges and authorize them they are authorized (semuchim) and they may judge punitive cases and also may authorize others. If so, why were our Sages pained over the [lack of] semicha/authority, which would cause punitive law to be forgotten in Israel? Because Israel are scattered and it’s impossible to achieve consensus, and if there would be a samuch from a samuch there need not be a consensus, rather, he may judge punitive cases for all since he was authorized by the court, and this matter requires a decision.

The history of this statement is a fascinating one. There have been attempts to renew the semicha, based on this passage in the Rambam (and its parallel in his commentary on the Mishna) in the 16th, 20th, and 21st centuries. The first produced a major controversy between Mahar”I Berab in Tzefat and R’ Levi ibn Habib (Ralba”ch) in Jerusalem. Ralba”ch recorded the literature of the controversy in a very long and boring treatise called ‘Kuntress Ha-Semicha’ of all things. In the 20th century, there were those, especially R’ Maimon, who saw the establishment of the State of Israel as an opportunity to renew the Sanhedrin, and there is a group today that believes that they have renewed the Snahedrin.

I’m more interested in a different aspect of this issue, which is generally overlooked: What thought process led the Rambam to suggest something so unprecedented? Why did he think that this would work?

The Rambam, from what he writes and how he structures his writing in the few several chapters of Hilchot Sanhedrin, sees Semicha as the mechanism by which the mitzvah to appointed judges was carried out. This mitzvah appears at the very beginning of the parsha we just read, and is a central mitzvah to the establishment of a sovereign Israel. The Rambam, unlike other Rishonim, holds that this mitzvah only applies in Israel. The judicial system mandated by these verses is part of the very fabric of the civilization that the Torah articulates throughout the Book of Devarim.

This mitzvah is not a personal one, but a ‘national’ one. The original mechanism, however, was consolidated in the hands of a select few. Rambam is saying that the breakdown of the ancient mode of appointing judges in no way minimizes the obligation that we, as a nation, have to create a judicial system. For the Rambam, it’s completely inconceivable that a national obligation as central as creating an authoritative court system would be relegated to dead-letter status for what’s essentially a technical reason, namely, the failure of the mechanism by which judges are selected. Given that it’s a national mitzvah, if the nation as a whole can express its will, then the same function as semicha will have been served. The fact that it’s only the ‘chakhamim’ and not ‘everyone’ who participates in the expression of the will of the nation as a whole should surprise neither those who are familiar with the Rambam’s thinking nor those who are familiar with the Greek political tradition.

Quick Update

Still no Internet access at home, so I'm doing a quick chap arayn at my parents house.
Hope to remedy that soon (got ADSL, still haven't gotten around to finding an ISP).
Bought a fridge.
Lift arrived, and I need to get the stuff from the port.
Going back and forth about the car. The norm (Toyota, Mazda, etc.) or the Daihatsu with the FlexFuel option -less of a known entity, but easier on my conscience.
Looks like I've got a job. Believe it or not, it actually cam about as the direct result of one of this blog's readers. More details to follow.
I wrote a piece on last week's Parsha on the Rambam's position regarding the renewal of the Sanhedrin, but I haven't gotten a chance to post it yet. Stay tuned.
Kids start school next week. YAY!
I've decided to keep the 10 shek piece as a souvenir and to make sure it doesn't happen again; I've already nailed another counterfeit and made the guy take it back.
I pulled a guy over to tell him his kid isn't wearing a seat belt.

Stay tuned.


Losing Sleep

For some reason clearly not rooted in human intuition, the brooms and mops are completely mixed together with the shoe polish at the supermarket I’m learning to love. Some woman was standing there, staring at the shoe polish, trying to figure something out. She asked me if I knew where the red shoe polish was. I explained that I didn’t work there, and then helped her locate a store employee, who was no more helpful. But I overheard her tell the fellow that she needs red shoe polish for her son who is in the army.

I figured, red isn’t red, but cordovan. I found that color, which from the outside looked nothing like red, opened it and spread a tiny bit on my fingers to show her that the color was reddish. She looked at it and said that it’s the exact color of her son’s boots. I asked if he’s a paratrooper, who are known for their reddish boots. She didn’t know. Only knew that he’s in a combat unit.

With the area cleared, I could find the sponja heads and dustpans. Before taking leave, however, the woman thanked me for taking the time to help her. I replied that it’s the least that I could do for the mother of a chayal.

So here I sit, at 1 am, still a bit jet-lagging and with kids who didn’t go to sleep till after 11pm because they are, too. Over the next few days, we’ll become fully adjusted to the clocks, and we’ll get good nights of sleep.

But that woman, every night that her boy is on active duty, will not have a good night’s sleep. She’ll worry herself sick. And so you’re damn straight that I’m going to help her find the cordovan shoe polish.

Wealth as Proof of Divine Grace? Reading Bava Batra 8a

Suggesting that monetary wealth is ‘proof’ that one has found Divine favor seems to run counter to all of the ‘Hashkafic’ literature that we’re accustomed to. However, I remember from learning Bava Batra (the beginning, the sugyot pertaining to tzedakah), that there’s a definite voice, associated with R’ Yehuda Ha-Nasi of all people, which seems to regards poverty, at least for the unlettered masses, as part of the natural order of things, and to disturb that order is to ‘play God’ in an unwarranted fashion. A good example, from Bava Basra 8a:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת בבא בתרא דף ח עמוד א

רבי פתח אוצרות בשני בצורת, אמר: יכנסו בעלי מקרא, בעלי משנה, בעלי גמרא, בעלי הלכה, בעלי הגדה, אבל עמי הארץ אל יכנסו. דחק רבי יונתן בן עמרם ונכנס, אמר לו: רבי, פרנסני! אמר לו: בני, קרית? אמר לו: לאו. שנית? א"ל: לאו. אם כן, במה אפרנסך? [א"ל:] פרנסני ככלב וכעורב, פרנסיה. בתר דנפק, יתיב רבי וקא מצטער ואמר: אוי לי שנתתי פתי לעם הארץ! אמר לפניו ר' שמעון בר רבי: שמא יונתן בן עמרם תלמידך הוא, שאינו רוצה ליהנות מכבוד תורה מימיו? בדקו ואשכח, אמר רבי: יכנסו הכל. רבי לטעמיה, דאמר רבי: אין פורענות בא לעולם אלא בשביל עמי הארץ. כההוא דמי כלילא דשדו אטבריא, אתו לקמיה דרבי ואמרו ליה: ליתבו רבנן בהדן, אמר להו: לא. אמרו ליה: ערוקינן, [א"ל:] ערוקו. עקרו פלגיהון, דליוה פלגא. אתו הנהו פלגא קמי דרבי, א"ל: ליתבו רבנן בהדן, אמרו להו: לא. ערוקינן, ערוקו. ערקו כולהו, פש ההוא כובס, שדיוה אכובס. ערק כובס, פקע כלילא. א"ר: ראיתם, שאין פורענות בא לעולם אלא בשביל עמי הארץ.

Rabbi (i.e., R’ Yehuda Ha-Nasi) opened his storehouses in years of hardship. He said: Masters of the Scriptures, the Mishna, the Gemara, the Halakhah, and the Aggadda may enter; amei ha-aretz (the ignorant masses) may not enter. R’ Yonatan b. Amram pushed his way in and said, “Rabbi! Feed me!” He [Rabbi] replied, “My son, have you mastered Scripture?” He said, “No”. “Studied Mishna?” He said, “No”. “If so, how can I feed you?” He replied, “Feed me like a dog or raven”. He fed him. After he left, Rabbi was distraught, saying “Woe is me that I gave bread to an ignoramus”. R’ Shimon, Rabbi’s son, said before him, “Perhaps it was your student Yonatan b. Amram, who never wished to derive benefit from the Torah’s honor.” The checked and found it to be the case. Rabbi said, “Let everyone in.”

And Rabbi is consistent, for Rabbi said that misfortune enters the world only because of the ignorant, like the time that a crown tax was levied upon Tiberias. They came before Rabbi and said, “Let the Rabbis sit with us” (i.e., let them pay part of this tax, even though they’re normally exempt from taxes). He said, “No”. They said, “We’ll flee!”. He said, “Flee!”. Half fled, and half the tax was lifted. That half came before Rabbi and said to him, “Let the Rabbis sit with us”. He said, “No”. “We’ll flee!” “Flee!” They all fled, leaving one launderer. The entire tax was levied upon the launderer. He fled, and the tax was lifted. Rabbi said, “See! Misfortune is only because of the ignorant”.

It’s worth noting that even at the end of the first story, Rabbi hasn’t fundamentally altered his position. Rather, he’s afraid that he’ll miss a ‘diamond in the rough’.

I recalled this Gemara when reading the following discussion on pages 151-153 of Seth Schwartz’s Imperialism and Jewish Society: 200 BCE to 640 CE:

The following is the epitaph of a retired low-ranking officer…

Here I lie, Amandus, who has partaken of every luxury, who has lived, godlike [isotheos], a great number of years, honorably having the rank of decurion in the army, having virtue which lives even after death. Who has enjoyed as many luxuries among men as I? Who is so beloved of his native city? I, who am always well-known among many men, whom the native city longs for, [T]i[berias?], that is, which bore me…

Perhaps this is an idiosyncratic expression of a religious value not foreign to ancient moralists, Greek, Roman, or Jewish – a theodicy of good fortune (in Max Weber’s formulation), the conviction that the fortunate ipso facto enjoy divine favor. Perhaps Amandus thought that it was precisely his enjoyment of luxury that had made his life isotheos…Surely the display and celebration of wealth, the sharing of it with friends, clients, and the city, and the attribution to it of religious significance were essential parts of the ideological fabric of the Greco-Roman city. And it is in such a cultural nexus that the sentiments, both commonplace and unusual, that Amandus had carved on his sarcophagus belong…

It was really Schwartz’s analysis that caught my eye. When I first read the inscription, I thought of Ozymandias, not Rabbeinu Ha-Kadosh. Any comments from the chokrim (Menachem Mendel, Hagahot, gisi ke-achi)?

Let the Hazing Begin, and a Tough Dilemma

I went to Ace Hardware at the Yishperu Center in Modi’in yesterday. Amongst the change was a 10 NIS coin. Went to Mega next door. Tried to pay with the 10 NIS coin. Was informed that it’s counterfeit. Went back to Ace to get a different one. They wouldn’t switch it back (no proof that I got it from them, despite the fact that I had a receipt and the saleslady remembered me). Jerks. It’s Home Center for me from here on.

The question is what to do with the coin. I see three options that I can justify ethically:
  1. Destroy it

  2. Give it to tzedakah

  3. Try to spend it every time I go to Ace (which probably won’t be often).

I’m inclined toward #3, and I’ll keep in handy in the meantime, to make sure it never happens again.


ADDeRebbetzin in the MSM

The ADDeRebbetzin is quoted in this article. And for the record, I was not 'in tow'; I was trying to find our 2 strollers. The subsequent ceremony, by the way, didn't do much to stop the frazzling. I didn't get out of the airport until 1:15pm, when the flight landed at 8am. Note to NBN - the three simultaneous flights is a cute PR stunt but a logistical nightmare.

I'm blogging from my parents' home in Chashmonaim. We're still phoneless and internet-less. Hope to remedy that soon (along with being fridgeless, carless, washing-machine-less, etc.).

Biggest surprise so far - my first supermarket experience. It was at Rami Levy's at Tzomet Shilat. After I realized that the narrowness of the aisles means that people have to maneuver other people's carts, I was fine. And I believe that I actually paid less than I would have in the States for the same products.

My first truly wacky Israeli experience came on Thursday night. My sister married a fellow from a moshav (agricultural community) on Thursday night. They were brought into the dancing seated on a decorated tractor (can't describe; hopefully, I'll upload a pic or 2). I had never seen that before, though apparently it's standard at Kibbutz weddings.

The first American product that I missed was, believe it or not, gefilte fish. The Israeli stuff more resembles kishke.


The Promise of עקב

Last year, I had a couple of Ekev-related posts which I really liked a lot. This year, I gave a lot of thought to the promise recorded in the first section of the parsha (from 7:12 through 8:20), and I think that there’s a very powerful subtext, especially for someone making Aliyah tomorrow (as I am).

The word עקב appears only 5 times in all of Chumash as a subordinating conjunction. It’s difficult to translate because it employs a metaphor, though I’d translate is as ‘on the heels of…’ which captures the sense of immediacy, the sense of consequence, and the relationship for the Hebrew word for ‘heel’.

There are several commonalities between each instance of the term:
  • In EVERY occasion, the consequence is predicated as a reward for having hearkened (or not hearkened) to the word of God (the root שמע appears each time)

  • In EVERY instance, the promise of children is reiterated.

  • EVERY instance is related to God’s covenant with the Patriarchs.

  • In 4 of the 5 occasions, the ‘consequence’ introduced by the term ‘ekev’ is inheriting the Land of Israel. The exception is Bereishit 22:18, at the end of the Akeida. However, according to the Rashbam (which I translated and commented upon here, on MY z”l), the entire episode may have been a test of Avraham’s` relationship to the land.

It seems to be a term used specifically to refer to the original covenant between God and Abraham (in our parsha, the brit is explicitly invoked). The Torah itself is an expression of this very covenant. Throughout the Torah, the most consistent consequences for obedience are possession of the land for ourselves and our posterity, and the land yielding its fruits to us.

In the book of Devarim, there are a number of recapitulations of the consequences for obedience and disobedience in the Land of Israel (R’ Elchanan Samet counts 12); each one is subtly different. The unique character of the one at the beginning of Ekev is in the fact that it’s also a restatement of Brit Avot. But there’s more.

The second verse of the Parsha, in addition to invoking the Land of Israel as the locus of the fulfillment of God’s covenant, restates the very first bracha to man: Be fruitful and multiply. Throughout the book of Bereshit, this bracha is reiterated whenever God establishes or re-establishes His Covenant. This is straight through until Ve-Yechi, where Yaakov takes the birth of Ephraim and Menashe as the ultimate fulfillment of the promise that God made to him during his second visit to Beit-El (check it out; you’ll never read Va-Yechi the same). In essence, Bereishit charts the course of this bracha from Adam through Yaakov, after which it becomes the blessing of a whole family, not just an individual (note the Torah’s description of Israel’s increase at the beginning of Shemot).

In this way, the consequences of obedience and disobedience, material prosperity and exile, respectively, by Israel in its Land is perfectly parallel to the state of Adam in the Garden of Eden. Exile from Israel is mythically rooted in man’s expulsion from the garden, his rejection from God’s Presence. Conversely, to live by God’s covenant in Israel is not only to become fully ‘Jewish’ (as I told CNN), but it’s also to realize the fullness of one’s humanity.

It’s worth noting that the opening of the parsha refers specifically to obeying Mishpatim – the laws that govern interpersonal relations. Adding Rashi to the mix, as I wrote last year, yields an awesome insight – that the fullness of our humanity is realized through the ‘little things’ of our interactions with other humans, and that’s the challenge of our life in Israel.

My question from last year – who cares if there are infertile male animals? – simply falls away if this bracha is part of a larger restatement of ‘Peru U-revu’. It’s about an explosion of boundless fertility. Again, see the beginning of Shemot for parallels. [Agav`, I believe that this is the idea behind the Midrashim of ‘Shisha be-keres echad’, ve-acamo”l].

Finally, to reinforce the idea that the consequences of obedience and disobedience of Ekev are rooted in the challenge issued to Adam in Eden, look at the first time that the root עקב is used in the Torah. It’s in the sentencing of the Snake, in the aftermath of Adam’s fall.

Joining the Ranks of Israeli Bloggers

By the time I post this, I’ll be an Israeli blogger, full fledged. I’m typing somewhere over Europe or the Mediterranean, with Raphi sleeping to my right and Ruchama sitting to my left, not wanting to sleep.

On this flight alone, my kids have picked up 2 new grandmothers. I was sitting and holding Z, who was whining. The woman directly in front of me turns around. I expect her to say (can you give him a pacifier or something?’, but no, she says ‘Just let me know when it’s my turn to hold him. A few minutes later, another volunteer to baby-sit. Reminds me why I’m doing this. Of course, as the ADDeRebbetzin points out, the flipside is that random people tell you why you’re raising your kids the wrong way. It just means that they care (

There’s a rumor that Olmert will be speaking at our arrival ceremony, since three flights, from London, New York, and Toronto, are arriving simultaneously, setting a new record for Western Olim on a single day (a manufactured record, no doubt, but good publicity, which, let’s face it, is what NBN is really all about). When we took off, he was still Prime Minister. I wonder if he still is. I suspect that I’ll be participating in Israeli democracy pretty soon. I doubt this government can survive la debacle.

Modi’in will be the new home of the ADDeMishpocha, and I hope that the Judean foothills and the Ayalon Valley, which my home overlooks, can provide as much inspiration as the incredible range of characters and opportunities that good ‘ol CP provided. And I don’t mean musing about Israeli politics. As much fun as it is, and as completely tempting, I really hope to get back to the bread and butter of this blog, Torah and Jewish philosophy.

[12 hours later]
I’m in my new Modi’in home, sparsely furnished but air conditioned and mine. It was a very long day.  The three-planes-at-once idea was great PR but was a tremendous inconvenience to the Olim, for a variety of reasons. Whatever. I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I’ll post this and a belated Dvar Torah on Ekev from my parents’ home tonight. Looking forward to getting into routine.


Beware of Icebergs

Ever since the Titanic, the dangers of icebergs are well-known. The danger is one of appearances; that which appears above the surface seems innocuous enough, but in truth, is only a fraction of the whole which one is about to confront.

It is because of this that the iceberg has become a metaphor for anything which lies mostly hidden from view, beneath the surface. For example, the psychoanalytic model of the mind views consciousness as the fraction that appears above the surface, and the subconscious as the majority which lurks beneath.

Another example is one that I’m fond of from Yeshiva days. Every once in a while, there will be a Tosafot which begins at the bottom of an Amud Aleph and goes for a few lines until the end of the page. Since it’s rare for a Tosafot to extend from one page to the next, you think it’s a short Tosafot, but then BAM, you turn the page and the thing is a monster, covering the entire next page. That’s an Iceberg Tosafos.

Now, at a later stage in life, I’ve chanced upon yet another type of ‘iceberg’. Parents are responsible for maintaining their kids’ hygiene. That includes noses. So whenever the kids’ noses look stuffed, it’s my job to clean it out. If what needs cleaning is already sticking out of the nose a bit, then I’ll just as often use my fingers to pull it free. Every once in a while, it looks like just a bit of dry mucus that needs to be removed, but when you start tugging, it turns out to be the mother lode. Ive begun calling those ‘iceberg boogers’. The ADDeRebbetzin is not amused.


Mah Yafis?

Check out this article that was on the Metula News Agency (which I've never heard of). Is this for real, or is this guy singing the Arabic version of 'Mah Yafis'?


A Tu B'Av Night's Dream

I don’t want to restate everything that Ari wrote in his excellent post, but I think he missed some crucial elements in explaining its origins.

The Jewish Calendar year, like several others, is based upon three independent variables: the sun, the moon, and the vegetative cycle. Holidays will generally be located in reference to at least two, if not all, of these variables. Additionally, there is a trend toward ‘shoehorning’ lunar phenomena into solar ones, if for nothing but convention.

For example, Pesach begins at the full-moon – a lunar phenomenon, after the vernal equinox – a solar phenomenon, and if it had been determined that the rains had ended and the barley harvest ready to begin – a vegetative phenomenon (though linked to the solar year).

The solar year is punctuated by two major phenomena, subdivided into four, and then eight days which are naturally predisposed to being holidays. The first two are the solstices, the equinoxes are the midpoints between the solstices and also identifiable in their own right, and the four midpoints between the solstices and equinoxes. Most major ancient holidays are based on these subdivisions; it’s not an invention of modern Wiccans and neo-Pagans.

It is convenient to use these solar phenomena and holidays to mark the beginning, middle, or end of a (generally vegetative) season. Thus, in the Gregorian Calendar, we use the equinoxes and solstices to mark the beginning of each season. In other calendar systems, they were used to mark the midpoint of a season. Thus, as is familiar from Shakespeare and Tolkien, the ‘Midsummer’ holiday actually takes place at the time of the summer solstice, on or around June 21. The Chinese and Japanese calendars follow this type of system as well. In those systems, the midpoints between the solstices and equinoxes are the dates upon which the seasons begin or end.

In the Jewish Calendar, since months are lunar, no dates ever exactly correspond to solar phenomena on a consistent basis. Nevertheless, a lunar date can roughly correspond to a solar phenomenon. Thus, the four seasons (tekufot) are named for the months during which they generally begin – Tishrei, Tevet, Nissan, and Tammuz. In a two-season year, such as the one that the Mishnah uses (the ‘rainy’ season and the ‘sunny’ season), those seasons would start at the equinoxes and reach their midpoints at the solstices. The Biblical festivals are, without exception, determined by the occurrence of the equinoxes.

Another aspect of ancient lunar or lunisolar calendars is the tendency to have holidays at full moons. There’s light, it’s easy to identify, and the moon rises as the sun sets. Also, if the month begins with the moon’s first appearance, it allows for the timing of the holiday to be announced, as there was generally some uncertainty associated with the timing of the moon’s first appearance. That’s why Rosh Hashana, the lone Biblical holiday which is indeterminate even after the day begins, is observed for two days everywhere.

In the standard Jewish calendar, therefore, there are four ‘yemei tekufah’ – equinoxes and solstices – which VERY ROUGHLY correspond to the first days of the month of Tishrei, Tevet, Nissan, and Tammuz. Of those dates, three of the four are commemorated as significant dates (the First of Tevet always corresponds with Chanukah; see also Avodah Zarah 2a, which describes the origins of Saturnalia. 1 Nissan is the beginning of the year in most Biblical accountings, and see Mishna Rosh Hashana 1:1). Furthermore, Pesach and Sukkot are also rooted in the turning of the season around the time of the equinoxes, but begin at the full moon.

There also are four ‘midseason’ dates, each of which occurs on a full moon (since they lie 1.5 months after the beginning of the season). They are: 15 Cheshvan, 15 Shevat, 15 Iyar, and 15 Av. Once again, three of the four are significant dates on the Jewish calendar (15th of Iyar is ‘Pesach Sheni’). The 15th of Shevat is recognized as the midpoint of the winter, much as Groundhog’s Day is recognized as such in America. The 15th of Av would be recognized as the midpoint of the summer, or ‘Midsummer Day’ when the season begins at the equinox. The Celtic festival of Lammas or Lughnasadh corresponds to Tu B’Av. In the Mediterranean, it would have been linked to something related to agricultural cycles, in this case, the beginning of the grape-harvest.

Since the Jewish Calendar is so rooted in the Land of Israel (which we tend to lose sight of outside of the Land), as is the very religious rhythm of the Torah, and since there are natural ‘highlights’ in this rhythm, it’s important to keep those elements in clear vision when trying to understand those holidays.


Greatest Fears: What CNN Didn’t Show You

The clip was about 107 seconds of over an hour of footage. That’s how it works. There was one bit of conversation that I was hoping would make it, though.
They asked both Pesh and I, separately, ‘What’s your greatest fear about moving to Israel?’
I answered, “Iranian nukes”.
Pesh answered, “My kids getting lice”.

PETA: Hizballah Must Take Every Precaution to Avoid Innocent Animal Deaths


For balance, they criticized the Israeli military for exposing non-combatant llamas to the dangers of a warzone.

They failed t
o acknowledge that the killing of all of those chickens and cows made many Nahariya-area dogs very happy.


Corporate Synergy and CNN’s Credibility

Amongst the headaches that must be resolved during this final week before Aliyah is the cancellation of my cellphone account. For whatever reason, I am (unjustly, I believe) subject to a $150 early termination fee of my Sprint PCS account. They informed me that they would waive the fee if I could demonstrate proof that I’m moving overseas. I’ve got all sorts of papers, in Hebrew and English, that basically provide a ton of circumstantial evidence that I’m moving, and was going to try to bring it all to a local Sprint Store to try to see if they’d accept it.
Today, though, I thought I’d try a different tactic. I called Customer Service, and asked the representative to check out the clip on CNN.com. That was all they needed to waive the fee.
While I was happy that it saved me $150, it leaves me very nervous about the natural trust that people place in the larger mainstream media outlets. I wonder what would have happened if it would have been a Reuters interview.

Adam U-Vehema Toshia Hashem

This is really funny. I must say, using llamas really does sound like a brilliant strategy. It's like having camels that can climb mountains. I wonder if the guy who came up with the idea concluded his proposal by saying "Llama lo?" (oy! Bad Rabbi! Bad Rabbi!)

Anyhow, as soon as I heard about it (from the Rabbi of Yenem's Velt), I wondered if PETA would say something. This guy beat me to it. The money line is this:
The llamas, like most Israelis, descend from regions outside of the Middle East.
Funny. Simplistic, but funny.

I've been thinking a lot about the humanitarian crises, namely, the fact that residents of Nothern Israel and Southern Lebanon, together numbering probably about a million people, have been forced to leave their homes. I hear a lot from the Israeli side about people opening their homes, giving their phone numbers on the radio, etc. I don't see the same on the other side. Donations, yes. International aid, yes. But not a society banding together to take care of its own in an hour of crisis. Is this my imagination, or is there something to this?

I mean, I'm clearly biased, right? In fact, I came across these websites, from which you can donate to help the displaced Lebanese, and was shocked that none of the reccomended donation amounts were a multiple of $18 (ok, fine, 90 is a multiple)! I also saw that you can donate in someone's memory. How's this, I pledge to donate $440 (that's the gematria of meit - 'dead', and a helluva lot more than the measly $18 that correspond to 'chai') in memory of Sheik Hassan Nassralah (I can't say yemach shemo if I plan to memorialize him, can I?) provided that I get the opportunity to make good on this pledge before the end of Israel's offensive.

Some Comments on the CNN Clip

I first heard about the clip via a phone call from Greg, who had received a phone call from Bill Selliger, who also left this info in a comment. It must have been within minutes.

The piece was filmed last Sunday, during the 9 Days, which is why I look like a werewolf. So then why was the ADDeRebbetzin filmed in the laundry room? A) because CNN wanted to stage it that way ( they could have entitled the piece ‘June Cleaver Makes Aliyah’), and B) kids’ clothing. I actually asked a shayla whether or not I should at least trim the beard before the interview, and was told that I shouldn’t. I felt too invested to make that decision myself.

Also within a few minutes of when the clip was posted, I received the following two bizarre emails:

This one is from an idiot. Feel free to answer him on my behalf. I sure won’t waste my time with a response:

Dear Rabbi F-

I see that you are moving to Israel.

I am 50 and I have seen the parties in the Middle Eastkill each other over and over. Most of these folks are religous. In fact, most would be termed fanatic.

In the US, there seems to be an underlying assumption that Israel has the right to exist. I have read and reread the history of the area, and it seems the best conclusion is this:

Jews were virtually non-existent in the area from 700 to 1880 with the exception of about 300 years in 4 communities. Even in Zionist sources (rather than legitimate academic resources, like say an encyclopedia), I doubt much case of a case can be made that there were more than a handful of Jews, certianly nothing approaching a majority. Even the Israeli Embassy website doesn't seem to push the matter much in its telling history.

The maps prepared by the British at the time show Jews comprised 6% of the population in 1900.

As far as I can see, a reading of history says you were once inhabitants of the area, but were at all times outnumbered by significant numgers throught the area.

Why on earth do you think you are entitled to the land? Do have any reason beyond religous fanaticism that suggest you must be there or have a right to be there?

Other than the fact that you believe you are "God's chose people" which granted, would give one religous license to do anything and kill anyone, do you have any source at all (except for one sided zionistic stuff) or any logical reasoning that suggest its OK for Jews to have not merely immigrated to Israel, but to have taken over land that clearly was not theirs and stolen it to create a country? What is it? I'd sure like to know.



This next one is of a totally different nature. I don’t intend to fulfill too many of the prophecies that concern him, and the Ten Tribes ain’t comin’ back, and, well, you can pretty much guess what I think of this stuff. But I’m obviously a bit more sympathetic to him, as he is to me, and so I won’t post his email address and full name:

Dear Rabbi F,

I saw your story on TV and wanted to contact you to send you some things to consider as you leave to move to Israel.

I believe God is drawing you there for a purpose. This current conflict is helpig to set the stage for the world to enter the Revelation period John foresaw in Revelation. We are within view of many of the prophecies of the Bible being fulfilled as foretold by the prophets of the Old T, Christ, and the writers of the New Testament.

I have been given the blueprint in detail and know exactly what is coming and about when.

If you care to read some of the things I have I guarantee you will NOT read all of it in a book. It isn't there for most of the Christian theologians do NOT have the right picture of the events to occur to bring the Messiah and Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ back to earth to peform the things for Israel that were predicted hundreds of years ago and to the saints both Jew and Gentile.

You have a wonderful young family. You are going to Israel to be led of God to prepare for the building of the third temple, the emergence of the lost 10 tribes of Israel, and the eventual evacuation of chosen Israelites to the USA of the ALL Israelites who become the manchild spoken of in the Book of Revelation.

I hope you are moving to Jerusalem for that city is the focus of most of the prophecies of the Old T and the Book of Revelation and it is going to take a special work to save the remnant out of slaughter before the Messiah returns.

Many will be slaughtered.

I have much to say to you if you care to read and hear what God has revelaed to me about Israel and the USA as the world marches toward the consummation of ALL things.

God Bless and His Eyes watch over you and your family and protect you and them from all evil and harm.


Former Minister


Hitting the Mainstream Media

Yes, that was a clip of the ADDeMishpocha that you saw on cnn.com, rankling second in popularity to a video of a woman who saved her dog from an otter.
And I'd challenge anyone to do better than 'controlled chaos' with the kids home from school, a newborn, and within a few days of a move.
Too bad they couldn't post a link to the blog.

Having Fun While Giving a Dvar Torah

I spoke during shaleshudis today, at the out-of-town shul where a close friend is Rabbi. I spoke about the contradiction between Zachor and Shamor which this week's parsha presents. I advanced the notion that there's an underlying unity by citing the drasha from the Gemara in Brachot that 'kol she-yeshno be-shmirah, yeshno be-zekhira' and then added that based on this drasha, the Shulchan Arukh rules that a woman may make kiddush for a man. I couldn't see everyone, but I got a report that one mechanech almost jumped out of his chair. I couldn't resist. I enjoy stirring the pot too much.


God's Website

I just got Jewish junkmail announcing a service provided by Tzetel.com which allows one to send a prayer to be deposited in the Western Wall. My readers probably have a pretty good idea of what I think about this type of fetishism. However, it does shed light on a hypothetical question that I've often wondered about:
If God had a website, what would its suffix be?

A person's answer would shed light on his or her theology. For example, a .gov would betray theocratic leanings. I can imagine that a Catholic would expect to find God at a .gov.it address. A proselytizing system would probably be a .com, if not a .biz, as would any 'commercial' theology - the type you find on billboards. I prefer to think of God's website as a .edu, but there's no .edu.il, and .ac.il doesn't mean the same thing.


An Observation on Saying ‘I Love You’

There are two times that the ADDeRebbetzin says ‘I love you’ to me:
  1. When she’s about to criticize me

  2. When she just made fun of me

Something tells me that my experience is pretty similar to that on many, many gentlemen out there.

Tisha B’av Google Meme

I was surprised to find that I got a lot of hits on Tisha B’av. When I looked to see where they were coming from, I saw that many found my blog via Google searches, like for the following terms:
     j j schachter video
     sample kinot
     Rabbi J. J. Schachter
     jj schachter kinot
     kinot holocaust
     rabbi schachter kinot
     english kinnah gush

Tisha B’Av Wrap-Up

With Aliyah less than 2 weeks away, there’s a lot going on that made it hard to get into the mood of Tisha B’Av. Right now, I’m actually homeless and unemployed. Well, homeless only in the sense that we’re between homes for the next two weeks. But the unemployed part is for real.
Anyhow, a few things that came up over Tisha B’Av, here in Yenem’s Velt (not far from Yehupitz), where we’ll be with our good friends, the local Rabbi and his family, through Shabbos:
  • Regarding the Kinot about Pinui Azzah, I can’t imagine that this will be a lasting phenomenon. The fact that the events occurred so close to Tisha B’Av put it on everyone’s mind last year and this year. Some people will continue to say them, but it won’t ‘make it’ in the mainstream.

  • On the same topic, I got a chance to look at some of the Kinot for Pinui Azzah, and some of them had some truly classic lines. For example, one says, “כף הטרקטור תלויה ועומדת, מונפת מעל לשומרון”. Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh! Somebody call the Academia Le-lashon Ivrit! Let me state, in no uncertain terms, that the word ‘tractor’ has no business in a Kinah. Another Kinah is more of a manifesto than a lament. It includes lines like
היהודים – והמתיוונים;ציונות המאמינה – והציונות האפיקורסית
היא תברר: מי לה', ומי לסטרא אחרא? מי שומר ברית, ומי מחלל ברית
If you don’t understand those lines, then consider yourself better off. I’m not sure what he means by the whole bit about violating the covenant. As far as I know, pro-disengagement circles are not practicing epispasm (look it up).
  • One of my kids stepped on, and broke, my glasses this morning. So before shul this morning, my host ran out and picked up some Krazy glue (I couldn’t drive). Later, the glue must have fallen out of my pocket, and Raphi, the 2-year-old, found it, had gotten the lid off, and was moving it toward his mouth before our host noticed, pulled it away, and made sure that all of my son’s digits were still distinct. I thought ‘tidbak leshoni le-chiki in lo ezkereichi’, which I thought was a darn funny Tisha B’av joke.

  • Something I’m not proud of, I missed mincha today. The ADDeRebbetzin was nursing and fasting, a nasty combination, and needed help getting the kids to sleep. I got Raphi to sleep, went to get my tefillin, and noticed that it was one minute after sunset. I don’t regret what I did, but should have had the foresight to daven earlier. Anyhow, the sensation that there’s just nothing I can do is a very strange one. I did a tashlumin for mincha, but there’s nothing to make up not wearing tefillin for a day. Very disconcerting.


A Flood of New Kinot

At least 11 Kinot have been composed regarding the evacuation of Gush Katif. They’re all accessible here (hat tip to Shalom Berger of LookJED for the link). During Tisha B’av, I’ll probably sit down with them and ‘learn’ them, looking at how they were composed, what elements of the narrative they emphasize, what sources they work off, etc. Should be depressing.

Also depressing is the fact that some dude named Yitzchak Rom has taken credit for my composition, here and here. I’ve notified the katif.net people, but I haven’t figured out how to navigate Hyde Park. If anyone has facility there, please help me correct this.

Other than mine, the only other Kinah that ‘footnotes’ its sources is the one by R' Hillel Applebaum. I wonder if he is related to Dr. David and Nava Applebaum, Hashem Yinkom Damam.

I expect that a number of shuls will include some of these kinot this year. I wonder if it will last much longer than that. The Jewish people have tended to be very selective about which calamities are lamented in kinot. Right now, the wounds are fresh and, to a great degree, still open and festering. We'll see what history will pasken.