Saturday, September 29, 2012

Males and Tzniut (Modesty)

I was recently told of a policy in an Israeli religious high-school, where the male teachers are not allowed to ever remark to a girl student about a lack of modesty - clothing or otherwise. I'm not sure what the rationale behind this excellent policy is, but I assume it is a combination of all three:

a. The very act of commenting on Tznius by a male to a female is somewhat not Tzniusdic.
b. Its none of the men's business.
c. In matters of clothing etc, girls are more likely to respond to female teachers than males.

The conversation then progressed to asking whether this policy should be adopted in all of the Dati-Leumi public - let the argument be among women and not men criticizing women. I'm not sure I would go quite as far as that, men clearly are part of the Tznius story, however the spirit of the idea - and specifically that commenting on another person's Tznius is by itself a non Tzniudic act - should certainly be more prominent message. .

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Burn The IPHONE!!!!!!!

No no, I'm not a crazed Android fan, I'm just following Harav Kanievsky's new Psak:

The box reads:

The ruling of Harav Kanievsky Shelita
In answer to a question posed by a businessman who owns an Iphone
which is crucial for his business, our rabbi instrutcted that:
You may not own it, and he must burn it, and it is forbidden to
Sell it to a non Jew, similar to the instruction forbidding selling a weapon to a non Jew.

Some points of interest -
  •  This was published on the front page, to the left of the title of Yated Ne'eman - a leading Haredi paper.
  • The comparison to selling a weapon to a non Jew is really interesting. You may not sell a weapon to a non Jew, so that they may not use it against Jews. I can only assume that you may not sell the Iphone to a non Jew, as he may sell it to another Jew.
  • "Iphone" is apparently being used as a name for all smart phones. 
  • And amusingly..this was published in The Marker in Israel. Clearly, at least one of  the commentators at the bottom did not understand what a כלי זיין is. (the term is rabbinic Hebrew for weapon, but in modern Hebrew sounds too much like a part of the male anatomy).

Oneg Shabbat has a great post on this topic, including some other Iphone Chumras. I especially liked this picture:

This is a picture of a reciept with the added text at the bottom - "1944 years since the destruction of the temple, and if you keep using the Iphone you will postpone building it anew".

Rabbi Sacks - Richard Dawkins Debate About Religion Vs. Science

Some highlights:

- Rabbi Sacks defending the parting of the red sea as literal, but admitting the story of Adam and Eve is a parable. "reading the bible literally is heresy" (roughly at 17:00-19:30)

- Rabbi Sacks explaining the Jewish Atheist - Christian Atheist divide and accusing Richard Dawkins of an Antisemitic reading of the bible (22:00 - 24:30). Also explained further as an answer to a follow up audiance question at (47:15)

- Rabbi Sacks makes a very weak comparison of bringing up a child into a specific religion, and being taught English (26:00)

- Richard Dawkins stating that "there is far more in common between a liberal enlightened Jew or a liberal enlightened Atheist today, morally speaking, than between either of us and someone two hundred years ago" (33:30)

- Rabbis Sacks agreeing you don't have to be religious to be moral.

- Richard Dawkins answering the question of what things he and the Chief Rabbi have in common "We are both very nice people" (39:30)

- Rabbi Sacks "If Salman Rushdie had  been Jewish we would have welcomed him as absaloutly standard member of the Jewish community". (46:00)

My Suggestion For Marie Le Pen

French far right leader Marine Le Pen has confirmed her call to outlaw Jewish skullcaps and Muslim veils in all public places on Saturday, a day after her statement regarding a ban on all religious symbols triggered widespread controversy in the country.
When asked, on Friday, if a ban would include the Jewish yarmulke, the leader of the far-right National Front (FN) party said: "Obviously if we ban the veil, we would ban the kippa in public places."
However, Mrs Le Pen has put her suggestion into proportion:

Regarding her call for a ban on Jewish skullcaps, the far-right leader said that she was "asking our Jewish compatriots to make this small effort, this little sacrifice probably” for the sake of equality. “I’m sure a big part of them are ready to make that little sacrifice,” she said. 
To be perfectly honest, it must be pointed out that Mrs Le Pen was not going far enough. Those Veils and Skullcaps, are only the tip of the iceberg of religious symbols we should remove from the French public sphere. In the bible we find that the first clothes were created by God:

כא  וַיַּעַשׂ יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים לְאָדָם וּלְאִשְׁתּוֹ, כָּתְנוֹת עוֹר--וַיַּלְבִּשֵׁם.  {פ}21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them. {P}

The bible is also filled with other commandments about what we can and can not wear. As such, all clothes at some level must be considered religious symbols. Luckily, the french are not known for their modesty (Modesty may also be considered a religious symbol), and I'm sure that the French will not be overly stressed about the removal of all clothes from the religious sphere.  

There is however one major drawback to this suggestion. Ridding all people in France of clothes will bring another prominent religious symbol - at least on Jewish and some Muslim MALES into display... 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Collection on Free Speech

A collection of some of the better responses to the Movie/Cartoon that incited violent protests across the Middle-East this week:

Common Sense
 “My common sense tells me that whoever doesn’t want to look for it, won’t find it. The public that’s offended simply shouldn’t watch it.”
- Israeli Judge Miriam Mizrahi rejecting an interim request to force Google to block the video in Israel.  

Straight Thinking
 And it led me to this thought:Charlie Hebdo‘s editors are actually less fearful of extremist Muslims than most mainstream media is. If anything, the editors are not irrationally fearful but irrationally lacking in fear.
Eugene Volokh
Tough Questions
  Republicans who are currently defending "Sam Bacile" aka Nakoula Basselley Nakoula and (correctly) proclaiming that offense is no basis for censorship ought to explain why their party platform still urges a flag-burning ban. 

The right to ridicule religion almost defines a free society. That right can never be surrendered. And you know what? Once it is established (or - as we now must say about the right to ridicule Islam - re-established), almost nobody will want to use it. Blasphemy remains interesting only so long as it retains the power to enrage. The way to deprive blasphemy of its power is not to ban it, but to disregard it. Until that happens, however, Western governments must not allow themselves to be conscripted into acting as the local censorship police for the Egyptian state. 
- David Frum 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Jewish Atheist or Christian Atheist?

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, recently debated well known Scientist and prominant Atheist Richard Dawkins at the BBC's RE:Think festival. During the debate Rabbi Sacks referred to a section of the Richard Dawkin's book which described "the God of the Old Testament" as a "vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser" as well as "misogynist", "homophobic", "racist", "pestilential" and "infanticidal". Rabbi Sacks described this as "profoundly anti-semitic" and later explained:

 Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said that Dawkins had misunderstood sections of the Hebrew Bible, which are also part of the Christian Old Testament, because he was a "Christian atheist" rather than a "Jewish atheist".
It meant that Dawkins read the Old Testament in an "adversarial way," he said, something that was "Christian" because the faith's New Testament was believed to have "gone one better".

I recommend you watch the video, which sadly I can't embed. Rabbi Sacks clarified a little:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Philo of Alexandria on the "Festival of Trumpets"

Philo of Alexandria (20BC-50AD) was a Jewish philosopher, whose writings were largely lost to mainstream Judaism. Part of the reason I find him so interesting is that he had first hand knoweldge of the temple. Here is his description of Rosh Hashana - The Eight Festival of the Year:
XXXI. (188) Immediately after comes the festival of the sacred moon; in which it is the custom to play the trumpet in the temple at the same moment that the sacrifices are offered. From which practice this is called the true feast of trumpets, and there are two reasons for it, one peculiar to the nation, and the other common to all mankind. Peculiar to the nation, as being a commemoration of that most marvellous, wonderful, and miraculous event that took place when the holy oracles of the law were given; (189) for then the voice of a trumpet sounded from heaven, which it is natural to suppose reached to the very extremities of the universe, so that so wondrous a sound attracted all who were present, making them consider, as it is probable, that such mighty events were signs betokening some great things to be accomplished. (190) And what more great or more beneficial thing could come to men than laws affecting the whole race? And what was common to all mankind was this: the trumpet is the instrument of war, sounding both when commanding the charge and the retreat. ... There is also another kind of war, ordained of God, when nature is at variance with itself, its different parts attacking one another. (191) And by both these kinds of war the things on earth are injured. They are injured by the enemies, by the cutting down of trees, and by conflagrations; and also by natural injuries, such as droughts, heavy rains, lightning from heaven, snow and cold; the usual harmony of the seasons of the year being transformed into a want of all concord. (192) On this account it is that the law has given this festival the name of a warlike instrument, in order to show the proper gratitude to God as the giver of peace, who has abolished all seditions in cities, and in all parts of the universe, and has produced plenty and prosperity, not allowing a single spark that could tend to the destruction of the crops to be kindled into flame.

Though in this text Philo does not mention any concept of "New Year" he does make a passing reference to it elsewhere. Weirdly, his universal interpretation for the Shofar ("Trumpets" which is how the Pentatauch translates it) is negative. We hear the trumpets - a sound of war - to give thanks to G-d for giving peace.

Spiderman Vs. Kippaman

From the Times of Israel:

Marvel’s Spidey sense for copyright violations has stretched all the way to Jerusalem to ensnare a popular kippa maker in its web of lawsuits.
The comics publisher swung into action recently over the sale of products, notably skullcaps, featuring Spider-Man.
The company is suing the well-known Kippa Man shop for NIS 100,000 ($25,274) in damages because it sells a range of kippas featuring the red and blue superhero’s costume design and image, Maariv reported on Thursday.

A kippa is perhaps the most obvious sign of religious affiliation. As such one wonders how all those little boys (and hip American men) walking around with their Spiderman Kippot are now feeling, discovering that their head is adorned with an ongoing copyright violation?

Given how widespread copyright violations are in Israel, I'm intrigued by why Marvel chose the tiny little store "Kippa Man" as their target.Though undoubtedly the best Kippah shop in Jerusalem (Full disclosure: I'm writing this with a "Kippa Man" Kippa on my head, though sadly without any superhero decoration) "Kippa Man" is two tiny stores that are little more than holes in the wall.

Monday, September 10, 2012

1938 Quote of the Day

In 1938, shortly after philosopher Martin Buber, formerly of the University of Frankfurt, came to Israel to teach at Hebrew University, a reporter asked how his Hebrew was. He replied: "Good, but not good enough to be obscure in."

Quoted in "The Post-Self-Destructivism of Judith Butler."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

On Comparing Israel Policy To Nazism

BERLET: It seems that people who think of themselves as anti-racist and of some sort of progressive political bent have a hard time recognizing antisemitism, even if they recognize antisemitic statements they have a hard time seeing it in the same context of a broader global anti-racist struggle. Why do you think that is?
HIRSH: I think people are very good at recognizing some kinds of antisemitism. If it wears a Nazi uniform they understand it, if it’s right-wing they understand it, if it’s some sort of very simple worldview of racism and anti-racism. If it comes from the left and it comes from people who are anti-racist, then there’s often much more difficulty in recognizing and understanding what’s going on. There [are] many reasons for that.
One is that we think of antisemitism as being Nazism. Nazism was actually an unusual form of antisemitism; it was very clear, it allowed no exceptions; it allowed no escape for Jews. Most forms of antisemitism haven’t been like that., Christian antisemitism allowed people to convert to Christianity and therefore make themselves clean; also political antisemitism allowed Jews to put themselves on the right side of history. One of things we shouldn’t get too hung up on is the idea that antisemites are all like Adolph Hitler, because they’re not.

Professor Zimmerman demonstrates:

Rather, the heart of the matter is this: both cases, in 1938 and in 2012, involve heartlessness as to the fate of refugees. In both cases the refugees are stigmatized as "vermin" or "infiltrators." Both cases involve hairsplitting over the extent to which the lives of the refugees themselves are in danger. In October 1938, as now, the threat was not to the lives of German Jews but rather to their economic existence. It was only a few days later, after a member of one of the refugee families assassinated a German diplomat, that the resulting pogrom known as Kristallnacht took place, proving that there was indeed a danger to their lives.
One transgression leads to another. Germany and Poland could treat the unfortunate Jews who found themselves on the border in this manner because they had realized only a few months earlier, at the Evian Conference dealing with international aid to Jewish refugees from Germany, that other countries were indifferent to their fate. Hitler himself learned this lesson very well. Three months after the events of Zbaszyn he taunted the world: "If you care about the Jews so much, why are you not fighting over who will take them in?" Because he knew the answer, he pledged in that speech that the Jews would be destroyed in the next war.
 Can Israeli behavior toward refugees on the Egyptian border be accepted, given the memory of 1938 etched into our consciousness? In 2012, this the matriculation exam in history for Israelis. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rachel Corrie, Political Tourist - Modern Crusader

Lee Smith explains:

Groups like the International Solidarity Movement, then, act as a sort of tour agency for a particular kind of Western adventurer, searching for a level of raw political engagement and ideological commitment that simply doesn’t exist in the United States. The obvious advantage that Israel offers is that, compared to the rest of the Middle East, it is relatively safe. Corrie herself implicitly acknowledged this fact when she walked into the middle of a war zone to mount a protest. No sensible person could similarly assume the mercies of, say, the Syrian regime were he to walk into the middle of that war zone to complain of government atrocities.
Branden O'neill adds:

Corrie’s cheerleaders – which includes actor Alan Rickman, who turned her writings into a hit play – seem unaware of how much their sanctification of Corrie echoes the old crusading Christian desire to save foreigners from wickedness. Corrie is treated as a uniquely good Westerner whose sole motivation was to “save” Palestinians, especially Palestinian children, from what Corrie herself described as Israel’s attempt to “erase” them. So one writer praises Corrie’s purity of soul, the fact that she eschewed “having a good time experimenting with drugs, booze and sex”, and even turned her back on her “Ivy League University”, in the name of travelling thousands of miles and “giving her life to save Palestinian homes and families”. Here, Corrie is turned into a kind of Christ-like figure, rejecting the shallow joys of Western privilege in favour of venturing into the desert to “give her life” for others.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

On the Israel "Jungle" - Leopards in Israel

IDF cameras spot a tiger Leopard, wolf and some wild boars in Israel:

I was under the mistaken impression that there were no longer tigers leopards in Israel. However a quick search found this news piece [Hebrew]:

*edited to reflect my discovery that נמר is a leopard and not a tiger.

On The "Emunah" Jingle

The jingle above for Emunah (a Dati-Leumi women's movement) has been playing on the radio for the last few weeks. I'll admit that I really like it - though probably for all the wrong reasons. The music of the jingle is quite simply -old fashioned. For some reason the "old fashioned" nature of the jingle conveys very well the picture of Emunah as nice charming grandmothers. 

The Polish "Lucky Jew" Statuettes

I spotted this little statue on the desk of a co-worker. When I inquired to its origin he told me that he bought it in Poland, where they are sold as "lucky charms". In fact there are three types - the rabbi with a Talit, the Jew holding a coin, and this particular one the "Talmudist". They are each a charm for luck, wealth and wisdom respectively.

A search online revealed that they are known as "Zydki" - Jordie Gerson explains:

Today, Jewish figurines are as likely to be shaped by nostalgia as stereotypes. Some--like the ones I saw that October afternoon--still sport oversized noses and hold moneybags, but they are now mixed in with more marketable figurines that romanticize Poland's Jewish past.

Which may, ultimately, reflect the status of Judaism in contemporary Poland. Today, Jews and Poland's Jewish past are treated with a mixture of animus and nostalgia, awe and hostility, and the Holocaust tourism that helps support the Polish economy is both resented and revered. Like Jewish figurines, the real Jews who fill hotel rooms in Krakow and Warsaw occupy a place in the Polish imagination that straddles the line between actuality and fantasy, memory and the desire to forget.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Harav Motti Elon Remains An Unresolved Issue

During Shabbat I noticed that my neighborhood in Jerusalem was covered with flyers for upcoming weekly shiurim by Harav Motti Elon - former RZ star, and currently being charged with sexual misconduct. Even more surprising the same leaflets advertising his speeches were in some of the weekly Torah Pamphlets that are handed out in Shul. I can understand Harav Elon's own students and supporters trying to send a message by advertising his classes. However, I would have expected respectable RZ publications not to run such ads.

Harav Elon deserves to be considered "innocent until proven guilty". On the other hand, someone facing such allegations can not be serving as a spiritual mentor. Harav Elon can wait until the court hands down its verdict     before trying to reclaim his position as the RZ first Hassidic Master (אדמור)

Overheard At Shul..

This week's parsha כי תצא (should you go to war) should really be changed to כשתצא (When you go to war).