Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Lost Golden Age Of One Day Rosh Hashana

Biblically Rosh Hashana is a one day festival. However as everybody knows - Rosh Hashana is celebrated for two days. Chabad has this clear explanation:

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Eruvin 3:9) notes that our two-day cel­ebration of Rosh Hashanah is an enactment of the early Prophets, who established it for the following reason. During the period of the Prophets, the sanctification of the months was dependent upon hearing the testimony of witnesses who had seen the new moon. On the evening following the twenty-ninth day of Elul, the court would sanctify the day as the first of Tishrei based on the possibility that witnesses might come that day and testify that they had seen the new moon, retroactively establishing Rosh Hashanah on that day. If the witnesses did indeed appear, then that day would be sanctified and the following day would be a regular day - the second of Tishrei. However, if witnesses did not appear, then the following day would be Rosh Hashanah and retroactively, the previous evening - which the court had sanctified - would turn out to be a regular weekday. So that people would not treat the first day lightly, since its sanctified or weekday status was dependent upon the appearance of witnesses during the course of the day, the early Prophets ordained that Rosh Hashanah be celebrated as a two­day holiday - with the prohibition of work, the sounding of the shofar, and the order of prayer being observed on both days.

However was the Two Day Rosh Hashana really so accepted in Israel?

 We find this testimony in a letter from Rav Nissim Gaon to Rav Hai Gaon:

ואמר אדוננו כי בני ארץ ישראל תופסין ראש השנה שני ימים ואנו רואין עד עתה אין תופסין אלא יום אחד.Our master said that the people of Eretz Yisrael Keep two days, however we see until today that they keep only one. 

Rav Hai Gaon answered that their the residents of Israel were in error and were not following their ancestor's custom.

Another testimony of the custom of keeping only one day of Rosh Hashana in Israel is found in the comments on the Rif of  Ba'al Hamaor on Tractate Beytza (פ"א) from the 12th century:

"בדורות הללו מאחר שהותקן סדר העיבור ע"פ המנהג שנהוג בידינו הרי חזרה כל א"י להיות כבית הוועד שאין להם ספק בקדושת היום ואינן חייבין לשמור כי אם יום אחד בין בר"ה בין בשאר ימים טובים, וכן נהגו לעשות בא"י כל הדורות שהיו לפנינו, עד עתה חדשים מקרוב באו לשם מחכמי פרובינציאה והנהיגום לעשות שני ימים טובים בר"ה על פי הלכות הרי"ף".In past generations since the leap year was determined by the minhag we have (i.e a calculation) all of Israel  returned to be like Beit Havad that has no doubt about the sanctity of the day and don't have to keep but one day, both on Rosh Hashana and other festivals, and so they acted in the land of Israel all the generations before us, until recently there arrived there rabbis from provence and instituted that they should keep two days on Rosh Hashana as it is written in the Rif. 

Ba'al Hamor explains that in Israel once the Calendar was no longer set by witnesses - and hence there was no longer any fear that necessitated two days - the people reverted to keeping only one day of Rosh Hashana. However when the students of the RIF arrived in Israel - they managed to root out this custom, and enforced a two day observance.

Palestein Jstreet - Colbert and Stewart on Palestine at the UN

And for another angle - Colbert hosts Jstreet president Ben Ami - "I found him on Jdate"


Thursday, September 22, 2011

But Not Gone!

We are now deep into the ominous month of "September" of which we have been so long warned. Today is the day when the Palestinians are supposed to submit their request for statehood to the UN - and as of yet the skies have not fallen.

However it is early in the morning, and I am reminded of this passage from Plutarch - telling the story of how the seer warned Cesar about the ides of march:

6 and when the day had come and Caesar was on his way to the senate-house, he greeted the seer with a jest and said: "Well, the Ides of March are come," and the seer said to him softly: "Ay, they are come, but they are not gone." 

or in the more famous Shakespearean version:

CAESAR[to the Soothsayer] The ides of March are come.Soothsayer : Ay, Caesar; but not gone.

Israelis In The Diaspora

Continuing on the post "Israel seems determined to offend diaspora Jews",  in the comment section (and after effective social pressure) an article by P.Shaviv  - "The challenge of attracting Israelis to our day schools" was posted, one that is worth its own thread.

After introducing the fact that  Jewish schools in the diaspora have a hard time attracting the large Israeli community, the author summarizes the reasons he has found them giving:

  1. The majority-minority issue: Israelis are used to living as a Jewish majority. They have no concept of what it is to live as a minority, or the effort or “investment” needed to preserve identity and culture. (“We don’t need Jewish schools; we speak Ivrit at home, and that’s enough.”)
  2. Israeli vs. Jewish: They see their identity as national, and not in any way religious. Diaspora Jewish education is almost entirely designed to relate to Jewishness as fundamentally—although not exclusively—religious. In multicultural Toronto, some Israeli parents are far more comfortable seeing their children as the “Israel contingent” in

Noam Chomsky On BDS - Not What You Expect

I was quite surprised by this interview of normally virulent Israel critic Noam Chomsky. In the interview he calls the BDS movement hypocritical (well, because America is worse) and admits that some of them are just antisemitic.

BDS is hypocritical to the high heavens. Anything that targets Israel alone can be attacked as antisemitism and "unfortunately this is with justice". It harms the "whole movement"  It harms the Palestinians and this is so obvious it is probably intentional. It is a gift to the Israeli hardliners and their American supporters. "You may as well just join AIPAC and be done with it".

Though not against BDS per say, he claims that much of it is understood as just going after someone that is easy - and not going after principals - and hence is a hypocritical position. He also claims that the BDS movement isn't really the call of the Palestinians - just groups claiming to represent them. Of course the end of the interview is mr. Chomsky advising how to get better results at isolating Israel so I guess you should probably stop watching halfway.

HT: Webdiary

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Israel Seems Determined To Offend Diaspora Jews

This is an official video from Israel's immigration (Klita) ministry, aimed at encouraging Israelis abroad to come back to Israel. The video shows a grandfather asking his granddaughter (who lives abroad) if she knows what "Hag" (festival) it is - and instead of answering Hanukkah she answers Christmas.

Is Israel really claiming that all those who live abroad are destined to not know the difference between Hanukkah and Christmas? One can't help but wonder if this video was intended to offend all the diaspora communities - especially those who spend a fortune on Jewish education that is probably at a much higher level then a non religious (and some religious) school in Israel.

I expect a somewhat smarter campaign from Israel - one that is not offensive, and that does not sink to silly stereotypes.

Breslov Dating Site

Every community needs its own dating site. Even Ghosts. That is why I wasn't surprised to see a dating site aimed at Breslov Hasidim - I was slightly more surprised at the names of the new members:

Calling yourself Rebbe Nachman at a Breslov dating site, is like calling yourself Captain Kirk at a Trekky convention. You simple are not going to be noticed. Additionally the person seems to be female- so the name is slightly misleading. I was however amused that she wrote for her financial status "Baruch Hashem". Clearly a true Breslov.  As to why a dating site is asking people on their financial situation..

HT: Oneg Shabbat.

Another Arab Rabbi?

Oneg Shabbat, spotted this delightful translation:

Who wouldn't want a Haskama from an Arab?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rav Goren's Shofar

Arguabley the most famous Shofar of the Modern Era - The Shofar that Harav Goren blew when the Kotel was liberated in 1967 is now on display at a new exhibit in The Bible Land Museum in Jerusalem.

Looking at this picture for the first time in a long while, one thing that strikes me is how small his shofar is. For some reason I would have expected a fancy long shofar to be used for such a historic occasion.

The Beginning of Morality?

My little three year old was unwell this week. We had to give her a disgusting sugary medicine that she completely refused to take. To bribe her into taking her medicine I offered that were she to take the medicine she would get some chocolate. I discovered that this deal worked - but only if the choclate were held up while she was drinking the medicine.

Initially I was worried that this is not a good educational experience. It is clear to me that I have now set up a dangerous precedent, that I'm going to have to live with. However my mind was quickly changed as I remembered a discussion I once had with Professor Shalom Rosenberg - an Israeli philosopher who is surely worth his own post.

Professor Rosenberg claimed that the very first moral lesson parents teach their children - is potty training. It is often the first act that children are taught to consistently do - and one that clearly differnetiates between right and wrong.

He completed his view by stating that Rav Kook being a mystic saw the begnining of  moral education at the moment of conception. The parents intentions at the time are imprinted onto the child's soul.  I don't know what his source for this is, but if anyone is aware of it, please do share.

As such I realized that my little girl has actually shown some moral character. She was able to accept a short term hardship, for a future reward. It must be my excellent potty training.

Sidenote: I apologize for slow blogging which is due to my utter exhaustion from my cute little newborn.  I wish other bloggers a similar fate!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Great Lulav Ban

Arutz Sheva reports:

The ritual ‘Lulav’ is purchased as part of the ‘four species’ used on Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. The main source of Lulavim has been from the Egyptian city of El-Arish, but the Egyptians have announced that there will be no imports this year, which could raise prices on locally grown specimens.Israelis purchase some 500,000 lulavim every year.High quality lulavim come primarily from Kibbutz Tirat Zvi anyway, so those who spend extra for better lulavim have nothing to worry about.

 Arutz Sheva's grasp of economics is somewhat amusing - since if the cheap lulavim are going to get more expensive, so will the expensive ones.

However the main point seems to be that Egypt is really only hurting themselves. To the best of my knoweldge there is very little you can do with a lulav outside of sell it to god fearing Jews. In effect the Lulav created a market where there was none - and was a special boon to date farmers. By blocking it Egypt has mainly denied their own farmers the only available market. I'm sure some other mediterranian country will be more then happy to ship Israel those bizarre and useless branches.   

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

At A Kiddush Club Near You?

This picture from the 1950's would seem to be a Kiddush Club's dream. Though I can't imagine drinking my shabbos whisky in this manner, I do appreciate the concept.

Let There Be Singing In The IDF!

There has been a minor storm in the teacup that is Israel regarding women singing in the IDF. Weirdly there is little that is new in this story. It seems that every few years, some religious soldiers make a fuss of women singing, storm out of the concert hall or ceremony and receive their 15 minutes of news fame.

This time however, the issue has managed to create some surprises. Harav Cherlow has published an article instructing his students not to leave during army ceremonies where female soldiers are a-singing. His explanation is noteworthy  (and I highly recommend you read the whole answer) for being based on the acceptance of the reality that currently the army isn't religious. He takes it as a given that in the non religious community women singing is an intrigal part of ceremonies (and not something that they do just to annoy the religious). Secondly, he explains that when you are deciding halacha for the community as a whole, you must go to the baseline halacha - and not the most strict interprentation that you might ascribe to in private. Due to the need for cohesion in the army - he reaches the conclusion that the individual soldier should rely on those who allow the hearing of women in public (it is a pleasure that comes to him against his wishes).

The bigger surprise though - was that Harav Aviner seems to have followed a similar line of logic, and reached the same conclusion.

More on the Sandwhich

I'm sitting and watching the Israeli version of Masterchef, and I'm happy to hear that Israeli chef Haim Cohen has weighed in on my debate whether Hillel was the creator of the Sandwich (He thinks he was).

Of course almost nothing in the Israeli Masterchef is ever kosher. Sigh.

New Book On Rosh Hashanah

The following book is the first from a series of new books on the Hagim, to be released from Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yediot Seforim. It deals with Rosh Hashnah in general, in prayers, piutim and of course the shofar.

A list of the articles can be found here.

I haven't read this book yet, but the last Har Etzion book on Rosh Hashana was an impressive collection of articles, that generations of "Gushnickim" grew up on. The list of articles in this book look interesting, and judging by the authors, the book should be a great read.

There is a special evening about the book in Beit Knessed Ramban on the 25.9.11. Details here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Youngest Yeshivah Boy

My sister in law (Tal Raphael) made this shirt for her younger brother who just started his Yeshivah career. This might be a little too Israeli for everyone to get as the book it is satirising is an Israeli children's classic, so I apologise to everyone else. Of course this blog isn't above potty humor.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sleep vs Defining Moment of History

 On 9.11.01 I was a young paratrooper in Bethlem, guarding Rachel's Tomb. The day was hot, and I had just finished a long 8 hour shift of guard duty in the scorching sun. Knowing that 8 hours hence I would be on duty again, I wanted little other then to eat and sleep. Unfortunately for me, every day there was a mandatory base meeting, where the officers would brief the soldiers on base protocol. Barely awake I sat and listened to a speech I had heard so many times before. Suddenly in the middle of the meeting, the officer's beeper beeped - the officer stopped and started at his beeper, then looking up he turned to me (as the only non Israeli in the unit) and asked "What are the Twin Towers?"

We were lucky that on base we had a TV, which we rushed to watch. After an hour or so, and after having explained numerous times to people on the base what exactly the WTC was, I finally made it to bed.

 The historicity of the moment was not lost on me, however for one tired paratrooper in the struggle between viewing history unfold, and a tired soldier wanting his sleep, sleep won.

They Don't Write Like This Anymore II

This short letter by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) is short, sweet and without pretense. They just don't write like this anymore..

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of The Mark Twain House & Museum

Hartford, Nov. 27/88
Livy Darling, I am grateful — gratefuler than ever before — that you were born, & that your love is mine & our two lives woven & welded together!

Hat tip: The lovely "Letters of Note" blog.
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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jacob Loved Rachel

18 And Jacob loved Rachel; and he said: 'I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.'
Following on my last post, I remembered this story from Yeshivah. I suspect that anyone who met Harav Mordechai Breuer knows that he wasn't the nicest of people. He had a habit of being quite mean to his students. However I remember being genuinly surprised when teaching Genesis and reaching the Pasuk And Jacob Loved Rachel - Harav Breuer stopped the lesson, and started telling us how anyone who tries to explain this pasuk is simply missing the point. Love needs no explanation. He then continued to tell stories of rabbis in love for the next hour or so. Sadly enough I stopped summarizing the lesson - a mistake of youth I greatly regret.  
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The Value Of Simple Life

14. Rabbi Dosa ben Hyrcanus said: Sleeping away the morning, drinking at noonday, childish playing and sitting in the meetinghouses of the unlearned remove a man from this world.
Pirkai Avot chapter 3:14.
There is an interesting discussion which has started by a post on AIWAC " Does Modern Orthodoxy Not Believe In Fun?" The article is the second part of a post defending watching TV. Its gist is that there are some things in life, which we do not for any great educational or moral reason - but just for fun.

"“Edutainment”, then, is a flawed answer to a true need. We need better ways of handling play, not forcing “seriousness” down our students’ throats 100 or even 90% of the time. Rather than seeing it as either a sworn enemy or a tolerated pest, we would do well to study and understand play as a natural phenomenon of life. Sometimes people really do need to shut off their brains, overheated from 24 hours and 7 days a week’s worth of “mission, mission, mission”. Sometimes Shabbat really does need to be an actual day of rest."

The art of not justiyfing your fun with some educational pretense is hard to muster. Even in this short quote above we find AIWAC trying to give  a short justification - "People really do need to shut off their brains". I am willing to declare that there are some things I do just because I enjoy them - and not for any benefit whatever. This clarity is often lacking. It is all too easy for us to try and justify those things we love with flimsy reasoning, when in truth our liking them is all the justification that we need. This is obviously not true for things with genuine downsides - excessive alcoholism, smoking, sleeping all day etc. However there are many things which are in their essence harmless. That is why I've never yet understood the Mishnah quoted at the beginning of this post.

(Well perhaps the childish playing)

Worth A Read 8.9.11

Blogging is slow of late, probably due to the new Baby! 

·         Palmer vs Goldstone: Lessons Learned – Note the authors.
·         A question about Genocide. And in a similar manner Holo vs Holo.
·         An Update on OROT Girl school – Some Haredim finally get involved.
·         An update on an earlier post – seems the Haredi man who died after not giving a GET (divorce), just died in a normal, no rabbi involved manner. 

Also try this link..its just fun. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

God Cursed?

This week's parasha has a fascinating commandment. The following pasuk deals with what to do with a person who is put to death, and hanged:

כג  לֹא-תָלִין נִבְלָתוֹ עַל-הָעֵץ, כִּי-קָבוֹר תִּקְבְּרֶנּוּ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא--כִּי-קִלְלַת אֱלֹקים, תָּלוּי; וְלֹא תְטַמֵּא, אֶת-אַדְמָתְךָ, אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה.  {ס}23 his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt surely bury him the same day; for he that is hanged is a reproach unto God; that thou defile not thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. {S}

 "קללת אלוקים"  is difficult to translate. קללת comes from the hebrew word for curse - and so the phrase can be inerprented in differnt ways - cursing god, or god being cursed, or in the manner it was translated above. Rashbam has an explanation I've always liked, though it is far from any pshat:

כי קללת אלוקים תלוי, כשרואין בני אדם את התלוי רגילין לקלל את הדיינין או קרובים של הרוג או שאר בני אדם לפי שפעמים על עבירה מועטת הוא נהרג כמו מקושש והקב"ה אמר אלוקים לא תקלל, לפי שרגילין בני אדם לקללם.
When people  see the hanged they will often curse the judges or the relatives of the killed or those he left behind, because sometimes a person is killed for a minor sin like "the Gatherer", and god said not to cancel the judges because people often curse them.

Elohim in hebrew can mean as well as deity, simple human judges - a sign of the high esteem at which they are held. Rashbam's explanation is that the person must not be left hanged, because it is human nature to curse the judges who have ordered to kill a man - especially when he was killed for a minor event. 

Killing the Husband

A few days ago Kikar hashabat was abuzz with a story of a man dying. To be more specific the man died after being warned by a dayan that he must give his wife a get (divorce paper) otherwise "justice will be done from above".

This story mirrors a famous story told about Harav Eiger - where supposedly he told a man that there are two ways for his wife to be free - either with a get or by his death. The man supposedly laughed, turned around and promptly died. This is of course told as a great "miracle" story - and not as to how a rabbi scared a man into having a heart attack.

I've been looking into the origin of the Rav Eiger story, but have not managed to find it. However all my instincts tell me this one isn't a myth, so I'm going to ask for some reader help with this one.

The Knesset Cat

Hungry? NRG as this lovely story, of a dead cat found at the bottom of a large pot at the Knesset Cafeteria. Originally I was going to write how this story reminds me of a Yeshivah myth where on a shabbat morning after feasting on the beloved chulent a dead cat was discovered at the bottom of the chulent pot in Yeshivat Kerem Be'yavneh. However someone else beat me to that myth. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Kikar Hashabat Are Clearly Liberals..

A few months ago the media had a field day when Hillary Clinton was digitally removed from the "Bin-Laden Killing" picture. I would have thought that Haredi publications would get the hint - and clearly they did. This picture was published at Kikar Hashabat today:

Clearly this is a great improvement. One can't help but wonder why they even bothered to put up a picture.

Update: After reading this post, I think they might really be liberals.

My Own Suggestion For Orot

The Orot girl school in Beit Shemesh is still making headlines, as Haredim tried to block the girls leaving the school. I think this quote from a Beit Shemesh Council member sums up my feelings quite nicely:

"We are talking about a group of scardy-cats who know how to scream at little girls in first-grade and harass them. Such mighty people. When the police came they ran away like rabbits.... " (Ht: LifeinIsrael)

Here is my suggestion. Why doesn't Beit-Shemesh council just open a police station next door? they might as well. This way the girls will be safe, and the Haredi community can enjoy the pleasure of mass Hilul Shabbat and female police officers walking the street. It seems like a logical move, since I doubt that these punks are going to behave any better in the coming years. 

And for those I'm not serious. 

Is Bachmann Jewish? Nope.

From NY Post:

Funny, she doesn't look Jewish.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is facing a new challenge: He's having trouble raising money from some Jewish donors who mistakenly believe one of his opponents, Michele Bachmann, is Jewish.
Some Jewish donors are telling fund-raisers for Romney, a Mormon, that while they like him, they'd rather open their wallets for the "Jewish candidate," who they don't realize is actually a Lutheran, The Post has learned.
"It's a real problem," one Romney fund-raiser said. "We're working very hard in the Jewish community because of Obama's Israel problem. This was surprising."

The sad thing is that if you are interested enough to be donating to politics, you really should not be that ignorant.

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Friday, September 2, 2011

They Don't Write Like This Anymore

The always excellent Israeli blog "Oneg Shabbat" has posted this letter from David Remez - Minister of Education in the early fifties to children:

I can't make out all the words, but I'm someone in the comments will. The letter reads:

Redeeming (גאולים?) Boys and Girls,
Get this blessing from the Israeli Gov't.
Learn well. Learn (למדו?) Nicely,
 Tomorrow is yours!
Build a nation, Build a Country

Remez Minister of Education and Culture.

The beauty of this letter is its simplicity. I can't imagine anyone today writing to kids "Build a nation, Build a country".


I love the beginning of this post at Lawfare blog:

The UN Vindicates Israel

No, that’s not an Onion headline–nor is today April 1. Nor is it entirely true.

this is of course a reference to the Palmer Report. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Unnecessary Hekshers Blog!

A blog that recently started has one of the best names and dedicated subject that I've seen for a long long time - Unnecessary Hekshers.  This is one topic that always manages to irritate me. The need to get a heksher for every item is nothing less then mass paranoia, and is indicative of the religious public's abandonment of self. I recommend that his next post be about the Heksherim given to toilet paper.

I was also amused by "Unnecessary Hekshers" speculating about my own little blog:

"As I am sure you can guess, this blog [i.e Mostly Kosher] has no hekhsher of any rabbinical authority. If you ask if it's okay to read it*, you'd likely receive a response of "it's not recommended". Which means "it's probably okay, but, you know, politics".

Funnily enough only about a week ago, a family member of mine who is a well known Jblogger in her own right, commented that she is still waiting for the "Mostly" part of my blog's name.  

The Palmer Report and Common Sense.

A few months ago Opinio Juris - one of the most respected blogs on international law, had a huge discussion on the legality of the Israeli blockade. The main argument was whether the conflict between Israel and Hamas can be seen as a conflict between states (and hence a blockade is legal), or whether Gaza Strip was not a state - and hence a blockade was illegal.

In the Palmer report, leaked by the NYT, there is this single sentence in reference to this legal dilemma:

The Panel notes in this regard that the uncertain legal status of Gaza under international law cannot mean that Israel has no right to self-defence against armed attacks directed toward its territory.

Common sense will ever triumph legal arguments.