Sunday, October 19, 2014

Molester Rabbi Mad Libs


A guest post by Y. Bloch
Talking about sex crimes in an insular religious community is hard. That is why I offer you today a handy form for dealing with the latest rabbinical sex-criminal story. Just fill in the biographical and geographical details, and you're ready to go!

The Jewish community of __________ was shocked to learn today that respected local Rabbi __________ has been implicated in a sex crime.
"We're so shocked to hear this," said one community member. "And it's so totally unprecedented!"
Local police said they are investigating the allegations of __________, against Rabbi __________including putting his __________ on the __________ of unsuspecting community members who came to him for guidance and counseling.
"We're flabbergasted, gobsmacked and dumbfounded," said the head of the rabbinical council of __________. "There was no way any of us could have seen this coming. I mean, there were allegations of sexual and professional impropriety, and we gave them all the weight that we would any such accusations coming from women, children, non-Jews or non-religious Jews, all of whose testimony is deemed inadmissible by the Torah. Perhaps there had been some transgression of Jewish law, but certainly a man who violates what he spends his entire career exhorting others to follow would not dare commit a crime! I mean, in this case, he did, but did I mention how awestruck, dumbstruck and thunderstruck we are? And it's so totally unprecedented!"
However, some in the community cautioned against premature adjudication. "Let's not rush to judgment," said longtime supporter __________. "Let's wait until after arrest, indictment, trial, conviction, sentencing, appeal and the civil suit to discuss this issue. At that point, I will remind you that a) Rabbi __________ has paid his debt to society; b) no one really knows what went on behind closed doors except Rabbi __________, the complainant and any electronic recording devices present; c) you apparently haven't heard of the Jewish concept of repentance. Look, he once gave a sermon I really liked. Could such a man commit such a crime? It just doesn't add up. And it's so totally unprecedented!"
Others argued that the failure was systemic. "We must face the grim reality and an issue which haunts our community," opined one observer. "It's high time our schools, synagogues and communities face the real problem: insufficient Internet connectivity. Surely if Rabbi __________ had access streaming high-definition pornography, this heinous crime would never have been committed." Other likely culprits identified were bible criticism, leftist media, female rabbis and the gays.
Jewish leaders across the greater __________ area were particularly alarmed. "I am extremely concerned about what this means for our community," said __________. "Wait, what does he wear on his head? Well, that's not my style of headgear. I'm not surprised that a practitioner of that type of Judaism would do such a foul thing. Even though it's so totally unprecedented."
Rabbi __________ has been suspended while the investigation continues. While this community digests its shock, everyone agrees on one thing: there is absolutely nothing to be learnt from this experience.
 
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Freundel!

Ways in which we know Kesher Israel is not an Agudah shul
  1. Their president is a woman
  2. The board behaved responsibly (1 and 2 might be connected)
  3. The sex crime involved adult women
Ma od?
And, I bet poor Rabbi Doctor Barry Freundel wishes he had affiliated haredi as it appears as if his own board of directors ratted him out -- and without doing the ragalayim ldovar dance beforehand.
For sure, Avi strongly disapproves.

Meanwhile Sarah Bronson wins the Internet
Although it must have been heart-wrenching for them, [Kesher Israel's Board] cared about their congregants' safety, dignity, and right to privacy more than they care about the synagogue's reputation or the reputation of Orthodox Judaism - as it should be. To me, this isn't a story about a rabbi behaving badly. This is a story about an Orthodox synagogue’s Board of Directors acting courageously. I applaud them for doing the right thing under very difficult circumstances.”
[Meanwhile in other news, the Novominsker Rebbe, Yaakov Perlow, the head of Agudath Israel, is continuing to insist that he can do nothing about Kolko, the child molester, because "this is a Flatbush matter, while he is a Boro Park Rabbi"]
The shocking charges that Rabbi Barry Freundel in Washington, D.C. videotaped women congregants in their most vulnerable moments are uniquely horrifying.
HAARETZ.COM


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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lulav envy


Why doesn't this pathologically insecure fellow get a sports car like a normal guy?  

Ancestor Excellence


Regarding the article below someone wrote: This desert rat MK should remember that while our ancestors were building Temples of gold on this mountain thousands of years ago, his were uncivilised nomads burying their children alive and shovelling camel crap in the Arabian gulf.

Ok, its racist, sure, but I'm more offended by the bad fact: His ancestors were also building temples of gold, and ours were also Arab nomads. We share ancestors, see?  A  DNA study by Almut  Nebel found genetic evidence that "part, or perhaps the majority" of Muslim Palestinians descend from "local inhabitants, mainly Christians and Jews, who had converted after the Islamic conquest in the seventh century AD"

---
This desert rat MK should remember that while our ancestors were building Temples of gold on this mountain thousands of years ago, his were uncivilised nomads burying their children alive and shovelling camel crap in the Arabian gulf.
As tensions escalate over holy site, Jewish MK calls for exclusive Israeli sovereignty over mountain
TIMESOFISRAEL.COM



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Hey Avi what about the people?


In his ludicrous article about how global warming protesters remind him of anti Semitic mobs, Avi Safran celebrates the polar bears who, thanks to warmer weather, now have lots of geese to eat. See he crows. Every Ying has a Yang. The earth can care for itself.

But what selfish Safran isn't seeing is that even if he's right that global warming may not be a danger to the long term health of the planet, it most certainly is a danger to people - like those who live in coastal areas.

We can also use some of that pesky empirical evidence to demonstrate that higher temperatures are making floods, fires and droughts more frequent and severe. Again, the planet may be able to withstand this, but the people affected by the floods, fires and droughts can't. Extreme heat waves caused by climate change kill tens of thousands of people each year and diseases once limited to the tropics are finding hospitable conditions in regions that were once too cold to support them.

So, yes, the earth might be able to take care of itself, but that doesn't necessarily bode well for the people living on it.

Related: Climate Change Harms Human Health

 
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Monday, October 13, 2014

Avi vs the green people


Our friend Fred MacDowell says the new Avi contains "16 kinds of crazy"

I can only find four. Can you help?

http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2014/10/11/misplaced-zeal/

Craziness aside, I think we have to accept a few things. Avi is paid to represent Flatbush-style and Hasidic style Judaism. Both styles of Judaism are all about conspicuous consumerism. Think McMansions, fat guts, ginormous lichters, thick fur hats, weddings for 500, and shabbos dinners that would satisfy a medium sized army. 

These people just aren't going to coexist with dirty hippies who want to make things greener.
The powerful swell of voices on Broadway, thirteen stories below Agudath Israel’s offices, did more than disturb my concentration. A thou
CROSS-CURRENTS.COM

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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

God and Sukkot


Have you noticed that Sukkot is the holiday in which we ascribe to God characteristics and personality traits we would find despicable in human beings?

He evaluates us based on the quality of the fruit we're toting around? He wants to hear us scream for rain at the end of the holiday? But if He makes it rain at the start of the holiday it's because He's feeling petulant about our previous behavior? Marching around in a parade with our vegetables give him pleasure? He decides if he likes us or not based on how vigorously we shake a twig?

I would not want to hang out with a human being who exhibited such shallow behavior, yet that's the deity I'm supposed to worship?

Note: I am aware that this mode of thinking is leftover from the days when feudal lords ruled the world, and dancing around their temper was the only way to get through the day. We had to simper and grovel, and they were often petulant, short-tempered and unreasonable. And we tend to think about God the same way we think about flesh and blood leaders. But today such behaviors are unacceptable in an authority figure. Tony Soprano has been replaced by Ronald Reagan. We respond to leaders who are fair, charismatic, selfless, rational and predictable. So how can we update the way we think about God and Sukkot to reflect this new mode of thinking?

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Monday, October 06, 2014

RYA says its okay to disregard daas torah


Shorter RYA:

I am fully in favor of daas torah except when I am not fully in favor of daas torah.

He continues: [Dass Torah] does not mean:

• Relying on their opinion in matters of general culture or science, particularly when one has strong, well-founded opinions himself.

DB: We, by which I mean the educated world, have not just well-founded opinions, but unimpeachable evidence when it comes to things like evolution, Noah's flood, the fact that homosexuality is not a choice, the deterministic qualities of race, and much more. Is he really giving us his written permission to break with the Torah world on these things?

There is no contradiction. Anyone who finds one has targeted a straw man. I have had the benefit of association with three generations of
CROSS-CURRENTS.COM


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DovBear's Helpful Tips for High Holiday Cantors

DovBear's Helpful Tips for High Holiday Cantors

1 - Keep it moving. We want to sing, we want to pray, we want to finish on time. We're not there for a concert. You can show off at Kol Nidrei and a few other moments, but that's it.
2 - If the tune is overly familiar don't use it, unless its your synagogue's official, expected melody for a particular part of the service.
3 - If the tune has any secular connotation don't use it.
4 - Err on the side of tradition. Use a traditional tune, before some bouncy shiny shoe thing. We do not want to sing timeless poetry to the Jewish equivalent of a top 40 hit.
5 -THREE things remove the evil decree. Not two. Be sure to say uTeshuva, uTefilah, uTzedaka, not u'teshuva, utefillahutzedaka.
6 - Hebrew words, generally, are accented on the last syllable. Please get this right. Please. When you mispronounce every single word in Kee Anu Amecha my head fills with thoughts that are not appropriate for Yom Kippur.
7 - Let us answer kaddish. Save the tune for AFTER yehay shmay rabba Related: Let us hear Hayom Tevarchaynu etc so we can say omein!
8 - Eh LO ah slichot, not EloHA slichot.
9 - I don't know why you slap the table to let us know you're done with Hineni. Its not necessary. Either say the blessing in an audible tone or just start kaddish
10 - We don't have to sing every single stitch of Imru Laylokim, or Vchol Maamim or the other long piyutim. Its okay if we just sing the first few and the last few.

Note: This is a compilation of errors noted over several years. I've never met one chazan guilty of all of these things, and the men who led the services I attended this year were quite excellent


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Sunday, October 05, 2014

How'd it go? Yom Kippur 2014 run down


Pesicha for Neillah: 4k
Highest appeal pledge: 8k
Length of break 90 minutes
Lateness of shofar: 6 minutes

Best crowd participation: Solachti
Best Chazan performance: Kol nidrei

Worst Chazan decision: hayom. We have an excellent traditional tune. Why use a Shiney shoe melody?

Number of people who owned up to using caffeine suppositories:2
Post Kol nidre bathroom line: formidable
Flavor of the snuff: menthol

Sermons: pre appeal introduction and a pre Neillah exhortation. Both short and quality.

Top high holiday piyutim
  • Labrit Hebet, the pizmon for Maariv. As explained by chief rabbi Saks it's thrilling in its audacity. (and let ArtScroll be criticized for providing an incorrect, neutering translation)
  • Unetana tokef, the musaf siluk. Its origin story may be bogus but it's still a masterpiece
  • Bmozei Menucha, the pizmon for the first night of slichot.
  • The other three Maariv slichot. All four are jewels.
  • Every mechaye that seems to take for granted that Issac was killed during the akeida and brought back to life.
  • Elah ezkira
  • Amitz koach
  • Melech Elyon. Chief rabbi Saks tells me half the piyut is ignored today. In the back of his machzor the entire thing is presented, with all the mortal king insults included. Wow. 
  • Al Yisroel. 
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Friday, October 03, 2014

Gmar Chatima Tova, guys

Some things to chew on....

In 1934 Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers skipped a World Series game that coincided with Yom Kippur, a holiday no one in America knew about prior to the mass influx of refugees after World War II. A syndicated poet (the "people's poet" Eddie Guest) congratulated him with the following ditty:

SPEAKING OF GREENBERG
by Edgar A. Guest, 1934

The Irish didn’t like it when they heard of Greenberg’s fame
For they thought a good first baseman should possess an Irish name;
And the Murphy’s and Mulrooney’s said they never dreamed they’d see
A Jewish boy from Bronxville out where Casey used to be.
In the early days of April not a Dugan tipped his hat
Or prayed to see a “double” when Hank Greenberg came to bat.

In July the Irish wondered where he’d ever learned to play.
“He makes me think of Casey!” Old Man Murphy Dared to say;
And with fifty-seven doubles and a score of homers made
The respect they had for Greenberg was being openly displayed.
But on the Jewish New Year when Hank Greenberg came to bat
And made two home runs off pitcher Rhodes-they cheered like mad for that.

Came Yom Kippur-holy fast day world wide over to the Jew-
And Hank Greenberg to his teaching and the old tradition true
Spent the day among his people and he didn’t come to play.
Said Murphy to Mulrooney, “We shall lose the game today!”
We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat,
But he’s true to his religion-and I honor him for that!”

One fan responded with the following barb, "Rosh Hashanah comes every year but the Tigers haven't won the pennant since 1909."

(Greenberg played on Rosh Hashana that year but sat out the Yom Kippur game)


From the New Yorker, in 1928, back before the holy Hungarians got here, in the days when no one cared about the Jewish God or religion and the water alongside Ellis Island was thick with the tefillin new Jewish immigrants had thrown away.


Finally a throw-away reference to Yom Kippur in Babbit, a great book everyone should read. The main character, not a Jew, is on a train gabbing with a group of men described as "The Best Fellows You''ll Ever Meet - Real Good Mixers," and the "knife-edge man in a green velour hat" is telling about the time he asked a Chicago hotel clerk for a room with a bath: "You'd a thought I'd sold him a second, or asked him to work on Yom Kippur," is how the knife-edge man describes the clerk's dismay.

Babbit was published in 1922. How its author, Sinclair Lewis, knew about Yom Kippur at that early date eons before the holy shabbos-keeping Jews arrived following the war and brought Judaism to these shores is anyone's guess.
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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Music for the holiday


Take a poll, and I bet you'll find most people agree that the music is the best part of the YN davening. When we speak of a meaningful or spiritual Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur, what we usually mean is that the chazan did a good job with the song selection and that the crowd participated in a manner we found enjoyable. Conversely, when we complain that the service felt flat, we usually mean that the chazan chose lousy tunes or that the congregation took the day off.

Previously, I thought this was all well and good. Now I think its something of an indictment of our generation. Now all our singing seems like a defense mechanism, because when we're humming along with the chazan we're not reading the prayer-poems or letting their words touch our hearts and minds. Those who sit studying while the rest of us pray are hiding from the piyutim in the same way. And, yes, I know the piyutim were originally written to be sung, or chanted, but not antiphonally in the style of the modern shteeble. An 11th century Jew would not have oi-boy-boyed a melody while the reader sang; he'd have sung along. (‪#‎irony‬ singing along is now called "modern")

On the other hand, my theory is that the piyutim were originally written to make the services more enjoyable, that is they originally served a secular purpose. In ye days of old members of all faiths and creeds seemed to have honestly enjoyed reading and reciting long, elaborate poems. Both Catholic and Muslim piyutim exist, and they share important characteristics with our poems. So allowing the piyutim to continue to entertain us may not be such a terrible idea. Just know that once upon a time, the ideas contained in the poem, as well as the skill and talent that went into its composition, seem to have been as much a part of the entertainment package as the melody.


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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How do songs sweep the globe? (Not why - HOW?)


How did the Modzitz Ein Kitzva sweep the globe and become the de facto tune used by everyone in the world for the conclusion of Unetana Tokef? OK, if I am being honest I've not spent the YN in more than seven places. Hardly the whole world. Yet the Modzitz is used in all seven places.

When I was a kid, our parents used other tunes. I don't remember any of them. But I remember when the old men who ran our place hired a guest YN chazen who came with the Modvitz tune. It was hugely popular. A big hit right from the beginning. Even after the guest YN chazan got cashiered we forced his replacement to use it. On new guy's first day, he tried to start another tune, and the gabbai actually went over and straightened him out, humming the Modvitz and bouncing his hand up and down in time with the melody.

When I got married, the tune was alredy waiting for me in my father-in-law's shteeble and in the agudah he switched to a few years later. Later, when I moved to my own neighborhood, the Modzitz tune preceded me, and it beat me to my next destination as well. How does a tune take over the world? The why part is easy -- its catchy and fun, but how does it spread from one congregation to another, when people generally daven in the same shul, with the same chazan year after year. Ask the same question about the Kol Nidrei or Neilah nusach, too, I guess. What are the mechanics of their conquests?





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Thursday, September 18, 2014

What makes right?

Individuals may get caught up in their own ideas of right and wrong. But society, as a whole, will always change the idea of "right" when it needs to be changed to keep society functioning.

Look at Catholic divorce. Lots of Catholics continue to think its "wrong" or immoral or whatever but everyone knows society functions better when women and men aren't trapped in bad marriages. So society's idea of "right" in the case of divorce changed to accommodate that.

Or consider racial segregation. You would probably oppose the legalization of racial segregation, as would I, and we'd call you a hero. We'd laud your opposition. But if society really functioned better with legal racial segregation society would eventually make it "right" despite your objections.

Look at Thomas More. Heroic, noble, sainted Thomas More who gave himself up for execution because he thought what King Henry wanted to do was immoral, wrong, and sinful. We remember him as a hero, though today no one has any serious problem with what Henry wanted to do. (I mean the divorces and the rejection of Rome's authority, not the wife executions which old Thomas More also thought were OK) In the story, More is the hero, but in reality we acknowledge that Henry's idea was better.

Back to racial segregation. If it turns out that racial segregation is objectively good, with facts and outcomes which bare that out, one of two things will happen: You will die fighting it, or you will switch sides. Because if racial segregation turns out to be objectively good for society, society will find a way to make it "right."

Which, by the way, is exactly what's behind the change in attitude in the case of gay marriage Society has realized that society functions better when people, irrespective of gender, have more freedom and are able to form long term, monogamous, intimate relationships and the remaining opponents of homosexual marriage are going to die fighting it or they will recant their objections and switch sides.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Facts, not morality


I think God revealed a legal code to us on Mount Sinai, but others disagree. So let's leave aside that question for the moment and discuss what happened next. Irrespective of the origins of the legal code, men have been using their limited, fallible, and subjective intellects to interpret it for well over 2000 years. At one point, they read the law in a way that permitted slavery and plural marriages; later they imposed new imperatives on the law and decided that neither practice could continue. At one point, they read the law in a way that outlawed interest and required us to forgive debts every 7 years; later they imposed other imperatives on the law and now we charge interest and debts are not remitted during shmitta.

What happened? The convenient explanation is that morality changed so the law had to change with it. Unfortunately, the word "moral" isn't a very good one. When we say that "slavery is morally wrong" do we mean that God disapproves of it or that we, the citizens of this time and place, are against it. Do we mean that slavery is always wrong, or that its only wrong when people say that its wrong?

My proposed solution is to abandon the use of the word "moral" and instead speak in terms of facts.

Its a fact that society works better - people are happier, healthier and wealthier - after slavery is outlawed. At first, human beings did not understand this, just as they didn't understand that drinking sewage water was a health hazard. But in the fullness of time, men came to realize that society could reasonably expect to enjoy better outcomes if slavery was outlawed.

We can say the same about the economic changes our Sages made. In the fullness of time, after enough data had been collected, they came to realize that society would function more successfully if debts could be collected after shmitta and if Jews could charge each other interest. So the changes had to be made. Not because "morality shifted" but because we acquired new facts and a new understanding about what makes a society more successful.

Doesn't God knows what makes a society most successful? Yes, he does. But we have to figure it out on our own. We have to stumble and lurch towards the truth. And during that process of discovery, we tend to read things in light of our existing prejudices. Once, it seemed crystal-clear that the book of Genesis described a recent creation, and a geocentric universe. Now, we know that neither of those proposals are true and we read and interpret the creation story in light of those new, correct facts. Our morality didn't change; the correct facts merely became known to us making the old readings untenable.

We can approach the slavery and economic passages the same way. Once it seemed crystal clear that the Torah wanted society to be organized around kings, slavery and debt remittance every seven years. But now that the facts tell us that people are much better off when those policies are not followed, we have found new ways to interpret those passages. The original error was not God's, but ours. We are the ones who misread the book. We are the ones who interpreted the laws in light of our own incomplete knowledge. Now that we know more, and our facts are better, the passages must be re-examined in light, not of new morality but new facts.

Whether our modern sages choose to lead - as in the case of pruzbal or heter ishka - or follow -as in the case of the Internet which was verboten until we all realized that internet usage was essential to living in the 21st century - this process of reinterpretation in light of new facts continues.



ILLUSTRATION - The Pruzbul update

1 - Pruzbul is not in the torah
2 - I t was established at the end of the bayis sheni era
3- It was established because the sages could see that the original system was flawed. People were not making loans immidiately before the shmita year, which was detrimental to the health and well being of the poor and to general economic growth
4 - So, in light of those new facts, the system was changed. Gods original idea - or more correctly our old understanding of God's original idea - was overruled in light of the new facts.


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Jews at the Palace


Today's New York Times has nice article on a British Palace Guard who might get fined for breaking decorum as he marched back and forth in front of Buckingham Palace. 

I examined the video depiction of his crime on YouTube and immediately afterwards this ultimate, awesome peek-a-Jew video was suggested by the robots who control You Tube. Check it out!. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Responding to the 8200 unit


As you may have heard 200 former soldiers and officers from the 8200 unit published a letter saying they were “ashamed” of their fellow servicemen who recently published a letter of their own, in which they criticized Israel and repudiated their service.

I'd like to post their entire letter, just as I posted the original letter, but can't seem to find a copy of it online.


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