Chol Ha-Mo'ed Advice and some People Watching

In Israel, the Jews are the Goyim and the entire country is flooded with vacationing families during Chol Ha-Mo'ed. Over the year, I've developed some strategies for avoiding the major crowds, though it is somewhat impossible. The main two strategies are a) go to places that are only accessible by car, and b) go to places that cost money. Each of these criteria limits the popularity of sites. A third strategy is - stay relatively close to home. Traffic can become a nightmare.

Today we went to the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens, aka the Jerusalem Zoo. We saw some amazing elephants (pilei plo'im!), some really nasty ties, some meerkats, and some shababnikim (Mir-cats).

By far the most amazing exhibit was the moron exhibit. It was incredible to see so many morons in their natural habitat. I saw one moron get stuck trying to pass a stroller through a revolving door. Another particularly talented moron threw an orange at a lion - and actually hit it. There were several examples of moron-spawn encroaching on the territory of the other zoo animals.

This was indeed in direct violation of a) above. My arm was twisted.


Reviews and Recommendations in Brief

I would like to take this opportunity to briefly review a few interesting new things that have crossed my path:

1) The Royal Table by Rabbi Norman Lamm. I have not read this haggadah cover-to-cover, but the parts that I've read offer well-articulated essay or sermon-type insights into the haggadah. Themes that recur are the sense of Jewish majesty and the tenuous nature of Jewish history in general. As can be expected, Rabbi Lamm's soaring rhetoric evidences an affinity for employing alliteration (for example, on p. 136, in a single paragraph, you have 'Persian potentate points' and people, perhaps paranoid'; on p. 73, the manna is a 'greater gift', a 'heavenly handout', a 'prettily packaged present', and a 'divine dole'). I did not find his insights to be particularly novel, but they are certainly edifying, stimulating, and eminently readable.

2) An interesting new site (full disclosure - I was involved in the Hebrew editing and translating of the site): Mikvah Calendar. Although I'm not a 'consumer' of the service that this site provides, having seen what they do in detail I find that it provides something unique and useful. It's utility is not merely for the mathematically impaired - the service sends out regular reminders about bedikot etc., can be tailored to various minhagim, and takes geography into account. Worth checking out.

3) Long-time reader Isaac recently launched a new website, mi.yodeya.com, which is a sort of Jewish answers.com. It's interesting and has great potential to be both informative and 'talmudic' in its discussion format.

Enjoy and Chag Sameach!


A Tale of Two Aarons: Part II

I noted a while ago that Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and Rav Aharon Feldman were actually classmates at TA in Baltimore in the early 1940s, in Rav Bobrovsky's shiur. I heard that tidbit (amongst many, many others) from Rav Yosef Blau.

Rav Lichtenstein notes this connection in a review of Rav Feldman's recent work, The Eye of the Storm: A Calm View of Raging Issues. Rav Lichtenstein criticizes what he perceives to be the angry tone (hardly a 'calm view') of the work, as well as the tendency to view certain ubiquitous phenomena in the Jewish world (such as Zionism) as zero-sum endeavors. He acknowledges that Rav Feldman gives his community a particularly articulate voice, but wishes that the differences that divide two people whose backgrounds and values are so similar would not be so great as to preclude 'mutual fruition'. In a touching coda, R. Lichtenstein recalls that he and R. Feldman were in R. Bobrovsky's shiur together, and that the Feldman boys invited young Aaron Lichtenstein to go sledding with them in Druid Hill Park. R. Lichtenstein asks rhetorically, "Can we ever go sledding again?"


A Memorable Purim Seudah/ Metallica in Israel

My brother-in-law spared me of having to write about the excellent Purim Seudah that we shared yesterday. I merely posted some of my memories (Purim Rabbah, a horse named Maimonides, and Chinese lulavim) in his comments, to round out the picture.

For those who wish to sing "Arur Ha-gever", the tune sounds like this (I actually know the guy in the video), but the words come from here. I pointed out at the time that setting Jer. 17:5 to music is actually quite Maimonidean, since, in his responsum about standing for the Decalogue, the Rambam criticizes differentiating between biblical verses in terms of authority (OK, it's a stretch, but I was not thinking so clearly at the time). My costume was not terribly Spanish, though.

One last matter. Metallica is playing in Israel on Saturday night, May 22, about 15 minutes after Shabbat. I'm considering taking the family to a nearly hotel for Shabbat so that I can get to the concert right afterward. Tickets go on sale this Motza"sh. If anyone's interested in organizing a "Metallica Shabbaton" with us, let me know.