Monday, October 31, 2011

Burqa update: Clearly Not Empowerment

Hadrei Haredim has the scoop on what is perhaps the most bizarre wedding to take place in Meah Shearim this year (and that is a hard title to win).

According to the report last Friday a young Haredi man who could not receive a Get (divorce), and therefore had to get the permission of 100 rabbis to remarry wed his new beloved in a private ceremony. However the ceremony was not closed and private just due to the unusual circumstances of the groom, it was also due to the fact that the girl he was marrying was a member of the Burqa cult.

This would be weird enough by itself, however the report also states that for the girl this was a double celebration - not only was she getting married, but this was the first time she was out of the house in a year and a half!

Enigmatically we are told that the grandfather of the Chatan is an unnamed yet famous Haredi rabbi, who is quoted as saying "Anyone who sees a woman in a Burqa should spit on her - she is part of the evil side (סיטרא אחרא).

Clearly this is a marriage made in heaven.
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

On Judaism and Beards

Slate has an interesting if ultimately lacking article on the religious significance of beards:
An Amish splinter group has gone on a crime spree, forcibly cutting the beards off of their rivals. Many religions, including Sikhism, Islam, and sects of Judaism, encourage or require their men to keep beards. Jesus Christ is often depicted with a beard. Why does God like facial hair so much?
Because it’s manly. Although beards appear repeatedly in religious texts, God never explicitly tells us why they’re so holy.


I was reminded of an article I randomly read of the late Chaim Bermant  z"l on his love of the beard:


I recently heard a broadcast by Mr John Sparrow, a former Warden of All Souls, which made me bristle. It was an attack on beards, the proliferation which he regards as a reversion to savagery. Mr Sparrow is a classical scholar and his aversion falls within the classical tradition

Haredi Men Selling Their Wives - A Pashkevil I'm Not Getting

Oneg Shabbat has this Pashkevil up - supposedly from Har Nof - that has me a little stumped:


The Pashkevil literally says "67 divorced and sold their wives and children in 2011 (Hebrew date) because of the Internet and non kosher media" the bottom line reads "They have gone mad may god help us".

The simple meaning would seem to be that the writer knows of 67 couples that got divorced because of the internet. However I highly doubt anyone could have such a statistic, nor do I understand why they use the word "Sold". I'm open to anyone offering an explanation.

The same blog (if you don't follow it you really should) has this lovely Haredi comic:


I especially liked how by picture three the kid already doesn't have any peot..

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Update: Schalit (shalit) and the Dollar Bill

A few days ago I wrote about the story of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Gilad Shalit:

According to the tale told a few weeks ago a local Habad Rabbi named Eliyahu Kenterman gave the mother of Gilad Shalit a dollar he had received many years ago from the Lubavitcher Rebbe z"l. Gilad Shalit's mother kept the dollar and carried it everywhere in her purse. On the day when Gilad was released (20th of tishrei) she happened to look at the dollar and saw that on the dollar was written "Tuesday the 20th of Tishrei - May you have success at all your ventures!".

Well seems the story is true. Ynet has this picture up of the miraculous dollar bill:



 Weirdly I can't see the supposed blessing on the dollar, but I think this is close enough to be considered a true story.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Steve Jobs Meets Moses

HatTip: Oneg Shabbat

The Lubavitcher Rebbe As Spiderman

I liked this quote recently posted by AIWAC:


“Miracle stories convert rabbis into poor imitations of Batman and Superman. At least those superheroes occasionally face challenges that demand courage and dedication. A rabbinic clapping of the hands takes neither.”
- Rabbi Yitzhak Blau, “Miracles And Morals: Choices In Educational Storytelling

It just so happened that a new miracle story is making its way through the web. It may even be true! According to the tale told a few weeks ago a local Habad Rabbi named Eliyahu Kenterman gave the mother of Gilad Shalit a dollar he had received many years ago from the Lubavitcher Rebbe z"l. Gilad Shalit's mother kept the dollar and carried it everywhere in her purse. On the day when Gilad was released (20th of tishrei) she happened to look at the dollar and saw that on the dollar was written "Tuesday the 20th of Tishrei - May you have success at all your ventures!".

I've no idea if this story is true or not. There are enough details in the story (i.e the name of the rabbi, and using a still living personality) that the story can be checked up upon - and i'm sure in the coming days someone will. However what I am certain in, is that these kind of stories do not create any real belief in God. 

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What Did Canaan Do?

יח  וַיִּהְיוּ בְנֵי-נֹחַ, הַיֹּצְאִים מִן-הַתֵּבָה--שֵׁם, וְחָם וָיָפֶת; וְחָם, הוּא אֲבִי כְנָעַן.
18 And the sons of Noah, that went forth from the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth; and Ham is the father of Canaan.
יט  שְׁלֹשָׁה אֵלֶּה, בְּנֵי-נֹחַ; וּמֵאֵלֶּה, נָפְצָה כָל-הָאָרֶץ.
19 These three were the sons of Noah, and of these was the whole earth overspread.
כ  וַיָּחֶל נֹחַ, אִישׁ הָאֲדָמָה; וַיִּטַּע, כָּרֶם.
20 And Noah the husbandman began, and planted a vineyard.
כא  וַיֵּשְׁתְּ מִן-הַיַּיִן, וַיִּשְׁכָּר; וַיִּתְגַּל, בְּתוֹךְ אָהֳלֹה.
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
כב  וַיַּרְא, חָם אֲבִי כְנַעַן, אֵת, עֶרְוַת אָבִיו; וַיַּגֵּד לִשְׁנֵי-אֶחָיו, בַּחוּץ.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
כג  וַיִּקַּח שֵׁם וָיֶפֶת אֶת-הַשִּׂמְלָה, וַיָּשִׂימוּ עַל-שְׁכֶם שְׁנֵיהֶם, וַיֵּלְכוּ אֲחֹרַנִּית, וַיְכַסּוּ אֵת עֶרְוַת אֲבִיהֶם; וּפְנֵיהֶם, אֲחֹרַנִּית, וְעֶרְוַת אֲבִיהֶם, לֹא רָאוּ.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.
כד  וַיִּיקֶץ נֹחַ, מִיֵּינוֹ; וַיֵּדַע, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לוֹ בְּנוֹ הַקָּטָן.
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his youngest son had done unto him.
כה  וַיֹּאמֶר, אָרוּר כְּנָעַן:  עֶבֶד עֲבָדִים, יִהְיֶה לְאֶחָיו.
25 And he said: Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
כו  וַיֹּאמֶר, בָּרוּךְ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי שֵׁם; וִיהִי כְנַעַן, עֶבֶד לָמוֹ.
26 And he said: Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be their servant.
כז  יַפְתְּ אֱלֹהִים לְיֶפֶת, וְיִשְׁכֹּן בְּאָהֳלֵי-שֵׁם; וִיהִי כְנַעַן, עֶבֶד לָמוֹ.
27 God enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be their servant.

There are a few major questions with these pesukim. The first – which may seem minor, but is of some importance, is why in pasuk 18 are we told that Ham (oink) was the father of Canaan. The second is what does seeing ערות אביו actually mean? Is it nakedness as the translation above would have it? Is that really so terrible a thing? The third question is why does Noah upon waking up choose to curse Canaan and not Ham? What did Canaan do?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Clever Democracy Ad

This ad is in Arabic - but you don't need it to understand what is going on. The person on the poster is former Tunisian dictator Ben Ali.



Hat tip: Michael Totten

Death Penalty for Terrorists

One of the interesting public reactions to the Shalit (Schalit) release has been a sudden public debate on the death penalty for terrorists. 

Advocates for the idea include ministers, rabbis and a plethora of Op-ed writers. What is interesting about the current writers is that they are not arguing for the moral "Just desserts" argument, but rather for a unique - lets kill them or they will end up being released argument. This is clearly a utilitarian argument - but surely one of the weakest you can make. I'm against the death penalty (as i'm fairly sure is Halacha) except for the most severe and extreme cases. However, I always find utilitarian arguments (i.e inherent danger or the need to set a deterrence) to be lacking. In this specific case, if you are worried about the terrorists being released by a future government, the correct response is either:

A. Grow a backbone, and stop releasing terrorists.
B. Push through legislation that will stop future releases.
C. Make some peace deal that will end the whole mess.

Any of the above would actually suffice - and all are far less extreme than jumping to option D - "Lets kill em all".   

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I like Genesis

I'm not ashamed to admit that I have favorites in my Torah reading. I'm always happy when we are back to reading Breishit (book of Genesis) - a book filled with stories, characters and just a touch of mythology. 

Breishit feels personal and warm. This is the part of the Torah where you really feel a connection with the characters, and where the story itself is strong enough to stand on its own even without the holiness ascribed to the bible. This isn't to say that the rest of the Torah is any less holy - however I think most of us can admit that after the middle of the book of Exodus it does become a little harder to read. Breishit is fun - lets enjoy it again while it lasts!


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Thursday, October 20, 2011

One More Bibi Picture

I thought this one was hilarious:


Update: This website is collecting them all. Some of the pictures are "Mostly" not kosher. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Some Gilad Shalit Humor

The Israeli website Mako collected some of the funnier humor from yesterday's release of Gilad Shalit. Some of it is in bad taste, ergo its a perfect fit for this website.

First of all some Tweets (translated):

@israelnonews: There is a special alert - The media may try to kidnapp Gilad.

 יוסי דהן: Don't those bastards understand that they are giving legitimacy for them to ask for a higher price next time? its great they released him after all the talks - but come on its only an Iphone 4s - not even a 5!

נדב רביב: "Gilad was diagnosed with malnutrition and lack of exposure to sunlight" - great the IDF doctors just realised that Gilad is Ashkenazic.

and I quite liked these series of Mems, making fun of Bibi's smile. Here is the original picture:

and this is what they did with it:


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Did God Ever Tell A Joke?

I just read a weird piece called Can God Take A Joke? Sadly the piece isn't about God's sense of humor, but rather about religious comedians. The title though did get me thinking whether there was a single instance of intentional humor in the bible. Namely, has God ever told a Joke?

Some quick Googling found this "The Straight Dope" post, which lists only one "joke" in the old testament:

(1) Wordplay. Told by the Lord that his 90-year-old wife Sarah will bear a son, Abraham laughs to himself. And what's more, continueth the Lord, obviously a little peeved at Abe's attitude, "you shall call his name Isaac," from Yitzak, "he laughed." Not a line that's going to kill them in Vegas, but I didn't claim these were going to score big on the laugh-o-meter.
Clearly this isn't actually a joke, but rather god disliking Abraham's (and I guess Sarah's too) attitude. For the first time I was struck that the name Yitzhak is actually somewhat rubbing Abraham's nose in his own misconduct.

The Bible does attribute Laughter to God a few times, for example:



יב  זֹמֵם רָשָׁע, לַצַּדִּיק;    וְחֹרֵק עָלָיו שִׁנָּיו.12 The wicked plotteth against the righteous, and gnasheth at him with his teeth.
יג  אֲדֹנָי יִשְׂחַק-לוֹ:    כִּי-רָאָה, כִּי-יָבֹא יוֹמוֹ.13 The Lord doth laugh at him; for He seeth that his day is coming.

(psalms 37:13)
However as far as I remember they are God laughing at men - and not really a show of humor. (See psalm 59:9, Psalm 2:4)

This question of whether there was ever a joke in the bible, seems to come up in the internet quite often (See, HereHere and Here) however it seems no one can actually find an intentional joke in the bible - beyond some puns. I've tried hard to think, and while I can think of the Talmud mentioning God laughing (נצחוני בני) I cannot remember a story where humor is ever attributed to God.

Fourteen Biblical Ways To Acquire A Wife

While looking in my previous post for jokes in the bible, I did come across this list which I found rather funny:

1. Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she's yours. (Deuteronomy 21:11-13)
2. Find a prostitute and marry her. (Hosea 1:1-3)
3. Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his flock. -Moses (Exodus 2:16-21)
4. Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal. -Boaz (Ruth 4:5-10)
5. Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife. -Benjaminites (Judges 21:19-25)
6. Have God create a wife for you while you sleep. Note: This will cost you. -Adam (Genesis 2:19-24)
7. Agree to work seven years in exchange for a woman's hand in marriage. Get tricked into marrying the wrong woman. Then work another seven years for the woman you wanted to marry in the first place. That's right. Fourteen years of hard labor for a wife. -Jacob (Genesis 29:15-30)
8. Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law's enemies and get his daughter for a wife. -David (I Samuel 18:27)
9. Even if no one is out there, just wander around a bit and you'll definitely find someone. (It's all relative, of course.) -Cain (Genesis 4:16-17)
10. Become the emperor of a huge nation and hold a beauty contest. -Xerxes or Ahasuerus (Esther 2:3-4)
11. When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, "I have seen a ... woman; now get her for me." If your parents question your decision, simply say, "Get her for me. She's the one for me." -Samson (Judges 14:1-3)
12. Kill any husband and take HIS wife (Prepare to lose four sons, though). -David (2 Samuel 11)
13. Wait for your brother to die. Take his widow. (It's not just a good idea; it's the law.) -Onan and Boaz (Deuteronomy or Leviticus, example in Ruth)
14. Don't be so picky. Make up for quality with quantity. -Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-3)

Srugim Season 3

The first episode of season 3 is now available online (legally!)..

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gilad Shalit Biblical Reference..

There is a nice biblical quote that seems especially relevant this morning:



יז  וַיַּעֲשׂוּ כָל-הַקָּהָל הַשָּׁבִים מִן-הַשְּׁבִי סֻכּוֹת, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ בַסֻּכּוֹת--כִּי לֹא-עָשׂוּ מִימֵי יֵשׁוּעַ בִּן-נוּן כֵּן בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, עַד הַיּוֹם הַהוּא; וַתְּהִי שִׂמְחָה, גְּדוֹלָה מְאֹד.17 And all the congregation of them that were come back out of the captivity made booths, and dwelt in the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.


(Nechamia chap 8:17)

"The Captivity" mentioned is the Babylonian exile.


I think most people would agree that there should at this moment be a great gladness - even if like myself you doubt that were you the Prime Minister you would have agreed to this deal. At this point in time let us be happy for Gilad and his family, who's long ordeal will finally come to a close. 


I take my hat off to Netanyahu for having the courage to make such a harsh decision. 


P.S
I did originally write quite a long piece about the Sukkot described in Nechamia, but then some googling showed me that "Parshablog" had already written about it - and wrote it better than I did. I recommend you read his posts.
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Monday, October 10, 2011

Rav Kook In Montreal

Just saw that the blog עם הספר has found some terrific pictures of Rav Kook's 1924 trip to America and Canada. This picture caught my eye, mostly because of having lived in Montreal. I think I recognize the building but I'm slightly suspicious of 10+ year memories, so I'll let some of my Canadian readers name the location.

This next picture of Rav Kook meeting the Mayor of New York is also surprising in both its clarity and by how out of place Rav Kook seems:

The Exploding Leviathan

One of the more enigmatic blessings we hear on Sukkot is "May G-d merit us to sit in a Sukkah made from the skin of the Leviathan."

Many people let modern Hebrew get the better of them and mistake Leviathan for "Whale". Happily fans of Greenpeace need not worry. Leviathan in biblical Hebrew would appear to be some kind of sea monster (see the whole of chapter 41 in Job).

Surfing the internet I did find this lovely picture of a Leviathan themed Sukkah on SukkahCity:


And for those of you still thinking of a Whale skin Sukka I was also reminded of this infamous video of the exploding whale:


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A Sukkah From An Elephant?

Festival Of The Bike

Last year I had quite a sad conversation with a non religious friend of mine. He was really quite upset, over the fact that his 3 year girl had come home from Kindergarten with a picture to colour in. The picture had the title of "Yom Kippur" and a picture of a girl on a bicycle.

In Israel for the "serious" non religious Yom Kippur is the festival of the bicycle. It is the one day of the year when kids can bike around the city without worrying about traffic. This has become very widespread - so much so that even in the 99% religious neighborhood I live in Jerusalem, I saw many many kids on Bicycles this week.

.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Debunking: The Real Life Jonah

Over Yom Kippur my wife and I were discussing the story of Jonah. Trying to refute the "It is impossible to live in the belly of a whale" argument, I told my wife that I remembered there being a real life Jonah of which I read about only a few years ago.

After Yom Kippur I did a little Googling. It was easy to track down the story I remembered reading - and to track down its debunking. The story as I remembered reading in one of its earlier versions:
The whaling ship Star of the East, was in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands, searching for whales, which were very scarce. One morning the lookout sighted a whale about three miles away on the starboard quarter. Two boats were manned. In a short time one of the boats was near enough to enable the harpooner to send a spear into the whale, which proved to be an exceedingly large one. With the shaft in his side, the animal sounded and then sped away, dragging the boat after him with terrible speed. He swam

Canada - Jewish Burqa Cult and Haredim In Israel

The Globe And Mail is reporting on a the deportation of two young Israeli women, who seem to be members of the Burqa cult. I'm not 100% convinced this is the infamous Beit Shemesh "Burqa Cult" Aka as the Jewish Taliban - mostly because to the best of my knowledge the Beit Shemesh cult does not have a rabbinic leader as this article suggests, nor have I previously heard the name "Lev Tahor". My own guess is that this is a separate though similar cult:



It is an enclave of ultra-Orthodoxy in the midst of the Laurentian mountains of Quebec, and its family practices have sparked an international tug-of-war with Israel.
Lev Tahor, a community of religious Jews on the edge of the forest north of Montreal, has carried on largely away from the glare of public scrutiny for years. Women and even little girls dress head to toe in chador-like veils and marry as young as the age of 16. Residents have limited contact with outsiders.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Nobel Peace Prize Awarded To A President Who Actually Did Something..

Wall Street Journal reports that:

"The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen for their work on women's rights."
"Ms. Johnson Sirleaf, 72, is a Harvard-trained economist who became Africa's first democratically elected female president in 2005."


I for one find it an interesting idea to give the Nobel Peace Prize to a president AFTER she/he has actually accomplished something worthy of the prize and not before. 
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Thursday, October 6, 2011

An unexplained Acronym

The Notrikon blog is asking for help to try and guess what the acronym on this kiddush cup might be. I've been staring at it for the last ten minutes and can't even guess any part of it. Anyone want to help?

IKululu

For those of us who have been to Israeli weddings (Mostly Sephradic) and wished that we too could have a grandmother make the Kululu sound at the wedding -


How Many Halachot In The Shulchan Aruch Are Specifically About Teshuvah?

Correct answer: Zero. There is no special halacha dedicated to teshuvah in the Shulchan Aruch. Maimondes on the other hand has a whole section "Hilchot Teshuvah".

Harav Zevin in "Hamoadim Be'halacha" says it nicely:

"מרובה מידת האגדה של התשובה ממידת ההלכה"

"Greater is the volume of Aggada (legend) about Teshuvah, then the volume of halacha."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sitting In The Dark

The Telegraph is reporting this great advance for British Jewry:

Britain is to get its first ‘hands-free’ pedestrian crossing – so that devout Jews do not have to break a religious law that prohibits them from using electricity or operating machinery on the Sabbath.

What is most interesting are the near 700 or so comments, which clearly misunderstand the "prohibition on using electricity" and help remind us what a peculiar religion we really are:

So in our dark, freezing cold winter months in the U.K, do they all sit in the dark and freeze on the Sabbath including babies, small children the elderly and infirm... never heard anything quite so crazy ever? Religion at it's very worst.

And one guy who clearly does get it:

f these folks were really determined to stick to the laws of their faith the could not use these new lights any way because - they are powered by electricity! The problem with so many of these radical, devout members of so many religions is they are always looking for an out to breaking their own religious laws. In this case a handful are looking for an out and a handout from the British public of millions of pounds so they can go out when they are restricted by their religion from doing so. If you want to be religious, great, but don't ask your fellow citizens to pay for it and if you are that religious quit trying to find a way to trick God's laws.
- helen, north west, 2/10/2011 17:49
Exactly what I was think Mark! Perhaps I am a bit thick. What I don't understand theses ancient laws were handed to moses thousands of years ago, long before electricity was harnessed and controlled. Did Moses know then that one day we are going to have electric gadgets? - Mark, Wirral, 02/10/2011 16:45

I don't understand this, surely the fact that they dont touch a button makes any difference? If I was waiting to cros a road and someone else pressed the button, when the man goes green I walk and I would count this as me using this 'electric device' regardless or not if I was the one to physically press the button. Just my opinion anyway.
- Nic, Cambridge, 2/10/2011 16:11
 

A Gnome in Miluim?

I guess this is what a Gnome in Miluim looks like..

Finding Sympathy For The Burqa Cult

A motherinisrael has posted about the Hardi fight against the Burqa cult. I recommend you read the entire post on her blog before you read further.

There is a clear undercurrent in her post - though one that is never openly stated.  Here is the full Pashkevil and translation as posted by "mum":



Help! Help! Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh are crying out about a new cult of cruel and vicious women, destructive of household harmony in many homes, and who endanger life and do not spare babies and children.

Israeli Mini Tornado

Well tornado might be a little bit of an exaggeration.