Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Fun: I Guess If You Really Like Your Locusts

Ourasanah collaborated with KitchenAid to develop the Lepsis, a small, decorative unit that can rest on a kitchen counter. The unit addresses the question of how to produce large amounts of protein without devoting more land space to the cultivation of insects, and it was just announced as a finalist in the INDEX awards. According to Ourasanah, 80 percent of the world population already eats insects, and introducing edible bugs to rapidly-expanding urban populations could significantly reduce the impact of meat production on the environment.
The Lepsis is a vessel that can be used to grow insects for food. The product consists of four individual units that are each designed to breed, grow, harvest and kill grasshoppers, and they combine to form a decorative kitchen product. “In order to move toward a sustainable future, we must do away with our culinary hangups and redefine the paradigm of food,” explains Ourasanah. Even though growing and eating insects is pretty repulsive to many people in the developed world, an attractive product like the Lepsis could help people to warm to the idea. (source)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Newly Discovered Mosaics In Galilee Show Stunning Portrayal of Samson

Photo by Jim Haberman
This beautiful mosaic was found in excavations of the Late Roman (fifth century) synagogue at Huqoq, an ancient Jewish village in Israel’s Lower Galilee,

The Mosaic is described as:

"Last summer, a mosaic showing Samson and the foxes (as related in the Bible’s Judges 15:4) was discovered in the synagogue’s east aisle. This summer, another mosaic was found that shows Samson carrying the gate of Gaza on his shoulders (Judges 16:3). Adjacent to Samson are riders with horses, apparently representing Philistines.Although he is not described as such in the Hebrew Bible, Samson is depicted as a giant in both scenes, reflecting later Jewish traditions that developed about the biblical judge and hero."

Hat Tip: @findneedles

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Future of Haredim?

This was a picture of the day over at Life in Israel:

This is clearly the future, and one can only hope that this becomes a more common sight!  Of course the soldier is breaking a few IDF dress rules, but we will let it slide just this once.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Israeli Postal Office Uses Sexual Harassment Ad

I was really happy to hear today that MK Eliza Levi has condemned the Postal Authority for this disgusting ad. The ad seems to show a woman enjoying her sexual harassment..

On twitter Gldmeir pointed out the woman isn't being sexually harassed..she's turning a robbery into a sexual incident. He has a point. I agree that the woman seems to be the instigator rather than the victim (perhaps she's sexually harassing the poor robber?). Regardless the Ad is disgusting.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Worst Habadnick Hasbara of the Day

From the JTA:

SYDNEY (JTA) – A former senior Chabad leader in Sydney suggested that some of the Jewish victims of alleged child sex abuse in Australia may have consented.

Best Palestinian Gov't Account?

Picture of the entire Twitter account of just-resigned Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. Clearly he got a lot done.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Deep Down He's Superficial

From Chief Rabbi Sacks:

A significant area of intellectual discourse — the human condition sub specie aeternitatis — has been dumbed down to the level of a school debating society. Does it matter? Should we not simply accept that just as there are some people who are tone deaf and others who have no sense of humour, so there are some who simply do not understand what is going on in the Book of Psalms, who lack a sense of transcendence or the miracle of being, who fail to understand what it might be to see human life as a drama of love and forgiveness or be moved to pray in penitence or thanksgiving? Some people get religion; others don’t. Why not leave it at that?
Fair enough, perhaps. But not, I submit, for readers of The Spectator, because religion has social, cultural and political consequences, and you cannot expect the foundations of western civilisation to crumble and leave the rest of the building intact. That is what the greatest of all atheists, Nietzsche, understood with terrifying clarity and what his -latter-day successors fail to grasp at all....
...Richard Dawkins, whom I respect, partly understands this. He has said often that Darwinism is a science, not an ethic. Turn natural selection into a code of conduct and you get disaster. But if asked where we get our morality from, if not from science or religion, the new atheists start to stammer. They tend to argue that ethics is obvious, which it isn’t, or natural, which it manifestly isn’t either, and end up vaguely hinting that this isn’t their problem. Let someone else worry about it...
...The new barbarians are the fundamentalists who seek to impose a single truth on a plural world. Though many of them claim to be religious, they are actually devotees of the will to power. Defeating them will take the strongest possible defence of freedom, and strong societies are always moral societies. That does not mean that they need be religious. It is just that, in the words of historian Will Durant, ‘There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.’ 

The title of this post is taken from Sack's opening line "I love the remark made by one Oxford don about another: ‘On the surface, he’s profound, but deep down, he’s superficial.’ I think some people would use that line to criticize Rabbi Sacks. Rabbi Sacks is of course using a very broad brush in painting European religiosity in such a positive light. (See Dov Bear). Nor have atheists been sticking their ethical head in the sand, quite as broadly as Rabbi Sacks claims. (see Why Evoloution is true). Furthermore it remains more than a little untested whether  religious moderation is really enough of an animus to combat the religious "barbarians". As someone once told me all the pathos is to be found in the extremes. 

p.s - on a sidenote, I'd be happy if someone can explain the connection between  the cartoon The Spectator added and Rabbi Sack's piece. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Balak Parsha Sources

Some of my previous writing on parashat Balak:

And Who Isn't A Rabbi?

At the Haredi website Kikar Hashabat, they have the following poll:

Notice which candidate isn't considered a rabbi?

Hat-Tip: Srugim

There Is Nothing Left To Say - Metzger

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yonah Metzger was questioned under caution by police on Thursday, for suspicions he was involved in bribery, fraud,  money laundering, and breach of trust. 

Metzger is one of several suspects in the investigation that national fraud unit made public on Thursday. 

As part of the investigation, on Thursday officers went to the house and office of the rabbi, and confiscated documents, computers, and other materials they believe may be linked to the allegations. 
There is really nothing much to add, other then it is time to send Rav Metzger home.  Rav Metzger was elected ten years ago as a non impressive, non charismatic - not much of anything - sock puppet of Rav Elyashiv. He has managed to brilliantly fail to fulfill even those low expectations.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Who is "Torani"/ Hardalnick?

I wrote in the past about the increasing use of the term "Torani"  to rebrand the term "Hardal" (חרדי דתי לאומי). In the ten months that have passed since I wrote that post, the rebranding has more or less become a done deal.  As I wrote in my previous post:

However, if Hardal was offensive to "Hardalnickim" the new term they are using "Torani" (Literally "those of the Torah") is even more offensive for those of us who consider ourselves true Religious Zionists. Torani implies that the rest of us are somehow less religious than they are  - that somehow they are closer to the Torah. 

This past weekend, Harav Eliezer Melamed was quoted as saying that the Hardalnick education system was superior to the Dati-Leumi one, because it had a much lower rate of people who became non-religious. In the article he gave the following definition of who is "Torani":

"אני מעדיף את ההגדרה הציבור התורני (על פני ההגדרה החרד"לי). הציבור התורני מכיל את כל מי שקובע עיתים לתורה באופן משמעותי, והוא לומד על מנת ללמוד לשמור ולעשות, או לכל הפחות מצהיר שהוא מחוייב לשולחן ערוך, ציבור זה בדרך כלל לא מסתפק בשליחת ילדיו לבית הספר ממ"ד, אלא מפנה אותם לבית ספר תורני או דואג שיוסיפו וילמדו תורה מעבר למה שהם לומדים במסגרת בית הספר ממ"ד. בדרך כלל הציבור התורני חי בקהילות תורניות יותר. אמנם יש לא מעטים שחיים בקרב הציבור הרחב, תוך הקפדה אישית על קביעות עיתים לתורה".
Roughly translated:

I prefer the term Torani (as opposed to Hardalnick). The Torani public includes all of those who set substantial time for Torah learning, and learns inorder to keep and act, or at the very least declared that he is committed to the Shulhan Aruch. This public ususally is not content with sending his children to religious-state schools, but sends them to a Torani school or makes sure they learn Torah beyond what they are taught in the Religious-state school. Normally the Torani public lives in more Torani communities, even though there are not too-few who do live in the wider community...

And there you have it. This is how the Hardal community sees all non Hardal Dati-Leumi. We don't learn torah, we don't have a commitment to Halacha...

Kamtza Meet Bar-Kamtza

Rav Ovadia Yosef stated last night that Rav Stav is an 'unworthy candidate" who "is dangerous to Judaism, the Torah and the rabbinate," and that "His friends from the Mafdal, his party have testified before me - that this man is dangerous to Judaism, to the Torah! How can I stay silent". 

Some points:

  • The word "friends" is being used very very liberally. 
  • When the Religious-Zionists loose the race to the Chief-Rabbinate (and if there is any justice in the world, they will), I think some of us would like to know who these friends were.
  • Kamtza, meet Bar-Kamtza.
And some of the reactions:

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Is Superman "Christian"?

I've (yet) to see the new Superman movie, but I did spot this blog post on CNN:

Baltimore, Maryland (CNN) - As the new Superman movie takes flight this weekend, filmmakers are hoping the Man of Steel lands not only in theaters, but also in pulpits.
Warner Bros. Studios is aggressively marketing "Man of Steel" to Christian pastors, inviting them to early screenings, creating Father’s Day discussion guides and producing special film trailers that focus on the faith-friendly angles of the movie.
The movie studio even asked a theologian to provide sermon notes for pastors who want to preach about Superman on Sunday. Titled “Jesus: The Original Superhero,” the notes run nine pages.
“How might the story of Superman awaken our passion for the greatest hero who ever lived and died and rose again?” the sermon notes ask.
I suggest you read the entire post, where some of the Christian allegory in the movie is explained. Here is a small sample:

The movie focuses on the origins of Superman, who was sent from the planet Krypton as an infant to save his species.
He is raised by surrogate parents who help him grapple with his special powers, even though they don’t fully understand the source of his extraordinary abilities.
When he turns 33, Superman must willingly sacrifice himself to save the human race. 
 Of course the Miami Herald argues for Superman's Jewish roots:

Much as the baby prophet was floated in a reed basket by a mother desperate to spare him from an Egyptian Pharaoh’s death warrant, so moments before Kal-El’s planet blew up, his doomed parents tucked him into a spaceship that rocketed him to the safety of Earth. Both babies were rescued by non-Jews and raised in foreign cultures — Kal-El by Kansas farmers named Kent — and all the adoptive parents quickly learned how exceptional their foundlings were. The narratives of Krypton’s birth and death borrowed the language of Genesis. Kal-El’s escape to Earth was the story of Exodus.
Clues mounted from there. The three legs of the Superman myth — truth, justice and the American way — are straight out of the Mishnah. “The world,” it reads, “endures on three things: justice, truth and peace.” The explosion of Krypton conjures up images from the mystical Kabbalah where the divine vessel was shattered, and Jews were called on to perform tikkun haolam by repairing the vessel and the world.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Rav Stav Question In A Single Sentence

I think I can now phrase the Rav Stav debate in a single sentence:

Is the Chief Rabbi meant to be the Chief Rabbi of the Rabbis, or the Chief Rabbi of the nation?

Understanding the Levitating Trick

This video from "America's Got Talent" is making the rounds:

The trick of course revolves around the cane:

Mr. "Special Head" must have something anchoring the cane hidden under the rug.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

More On The Opinions Against Rav Stav

Rav Tzair posted some of the opinions being used by the religious opposition to Rav Stav. I've posted a brief summary of the main thrust of the arguments, though I now regret having not kept their various analogies in my summary. Rav Tzair's original post has generated quite a few insightful comments. Two intriguing ideas I found in the comments (but I've taken them a bit further):

  • The Hardalnick rabbis are trying hard to force their theological conceptions of a hierarchy of holiness onto the real world. They are possessed by a metaphysical understanding of how "Israel" and the process of "redemption" is meant to unfold. they are unwilling to accept any  compromise of their metaphysics. In this specific case, they believe that the hierarchy of holiness is that the Rabanut is meant to be the spiritual leader of Israel, raising Israel ever higher. The influence however is meant to be a fairly one way process. The rabanut will guard the true word of God, which will slowly spread to the entire nation.  In their eyes, Rav Stav represents the "bending" of the lofty Rabanut to the whims of the nation. Stav represents the opposite process, whereby the nation influances the Holy of Holies - the halacha. 

  • The second idea is that the Hardalnick rabbis see themselves (and Har Hamor specifically) as the natural leaders of the Dati-Leumi community. Since the Rabbanut was created by Rav Kook, in has for them a mystical leadership role. The appointment of Rav Stav to chief rabbi is interpreted by the Hardalnicks as the public rejection of their leadership.  

The Opinions Against Rav Stav

I'm going to do everyone a favor and just present a quick summary. On the positive side, I'm happy to see that at least those opposing Rav Stav are now attempting to give some explanation:

Rav Aviner - Those who criticize the Rabbanut are Apikorsim.I think this shouldn't be read literally, but more along the lines that you can't wish to head the Rabbanut, if you are basing your candidacy on how terrible it is.

Rav Ariel Bareli - Rav Stav doesn't accept Rabbinic Authority - proof: he didn't abandon his campaign in favor of Rav Ariel. Rav Bareli also seems to think that Tzhoar as a whole has adopted a method of paskening Halacha that is too independent of the "Talmeidei Hachamim".

Rav Avraham Yeshua Tzuckerman - If I understood correctly, (which I admit I always find it difficult to read the "Kav" Yeshivot writings)  the ideological objection is that  Rav Stav is too eager to please the community at large. This goes against the natural role of the rabbi as a leader of the community, and not as one that is led by the community. Rav Tzuckerman uses various midrashim (including Korach) to talk of the proper duty of the leader to lead and against the argument that the entire community is equally holy.

Rav Micha Levi - Two arguments. The first is similar to Rav Tzuckerman, that Rav Stav is too eager to please the different communities, and is in practice bending halacha to please them. I think the tone of the argument is slightly softer that Rav Tzuckerman - Rav Stav is even compared to Aharon (as opposed to Korach), but the bottom line is the same. A second argument is that too many local rabbis oppose Rav Stav, which would make it impossible for him to lead them.

Hat tip: @RavTzair

Oh Satmar...If Only You Had A Sense of Humor

From Algmeiner:

The Satmar Chasidic movement held a massive rally this weekend in Manhattan to protest the Israeli government’s efforts to draft yeshiva students into the military. Some estimates had attendance at an impressive 30,000.
In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, home to a large Charedi population, organizers placed posters around the neighborhood to promote the rally. But one set of posters was rapidly removed according to a community source who spoke anonymously to The Algemeiner, for fear of damaging his business with the community, because the poster’s rallying cry accidentally contravened the Satmar movement’s official line.
“Shall your brothers go into battle while you remain here?” the poster screamed in large red print, encouraging Charedim in New York to take to the streets in support of the struggle faced by their brothers in Israel. Taken from the bible, the words are spoken by Moses as he chastises the tribes of Reuben and Gad both of which propose settling in Transjordan rather than Israel, and imply that they do not wish to take up arms for the conquest of Israel...
The source noted that this biblical phrase wherein Moses commands the tribes who wish to opt out of military service to in fact take up arms for Israel, would appear to promote IDF enlistment rather than reject it. The source said that the posters were on “every street pole” but that the Charedim in the area seemed to wise up soon after, as they were taken down not too long after the error was spotted.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

One of the Most Embarrassing Divrei Torah

MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid) was invited by Galei Tzahahl Radio station to give their weekly 2-3 minute talk on this week Parasha (weekly portion of the torah) - which happened to be Korach. After speaking for a minute or two on how she was embarrassed that neither she nor any of her immediate associates have any idea what the Parasha is about she gave the following interpretation:

תחושה הזאת שאני לא מספיק "משהו", הביאה אותי ללמוד, לקרוא, ולחקור את פרשת השבוע. פרשת קורח. ואני יכולה להציע לכם פרשנויות רבות ומקוריות, מורכבות, או אקטואליות לפרשה, אבל הן לא יהיו שלי. אני לקחתי מקורח משהו אחר: קורח היה שותף להרגשה שלי, שהעם לא יודע מספיק על יהדות, אבל זה לא הופך אותו ללא ראוי. לא הופך אותו ללא מנהיג. הוא יצא למרד כנגד משה ואהרן תחת האמירה החזקה שכל העדה כולה מוקדשים, ואין סיבה שזה יתנשא על קהל. 
ובכן, אני לא בקיאה בפרשת השבוע, ורוב חבריי לא, אבל זה לא הופך אותי לפחות, פחות משהו. לא פחו
יהודיה, לא פחות ראויה להנהיג את העם הזה. שבוע טוב. 
Roughly translated:

The feeling that I'm not enough "in it", brought me to study, read and investigate the Parasha. Parashat Korach. And I can offer you many original and complex, as well as actual interpretations for the Parasha, but they wouldn't be mine. I walked away from Korach with something different: Korach and I share the feeling that the nation doesn't know enough about Judaism but that doesn't make him unworthy. Doesn't make him not a leader. He opened a rebellion against Moses and Aharon, under the strong saying that the entire congregation is holy, and there is no reason that he [Moses] should be above the congregation. 

So I'm not well read in the Parasha, and neither are my friends. But that doesn't make me less, less worthy. Not less Jewish, not less worthy to lead the nation. Good Week.  

Yesh Atid as  has some of the best current minds on creating a new Israeli identity  based on a mixture of Jewish learning and secular values. . It is unclear whetherMK Kol simply has no idea how the story of Korach ended, or whether she simply rejects the idea that someone can be found unworthy (by god). However, to come and declare that you wish to be like Korach, without at least explaining some of the differences between you is simply put- embarrassing. I expected better from members of Yesh Atid.


It appears I'm way behind on this one. Adi Kol published this "correction/apology" on Facebook - in which she clarifies that: A. She does actually know the ending of the Korach story. B. She is equally aware that Korach is considered "bad". C. Her position was merely that one can't determine someone's Jewishness" merely based on a lack of knowledge.  I suggest you read the whole post, as its somewhat hard to understand her point.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cartoon Midrash - Educating Young Minds

A few months ago I wrote a short commentary on a similar educational cartoon. Today I saw that on Reddit, someone linked between my commentary on the previous cartoon and this picture.

There are two opposing ways of understanding this cartoon. Is the teacher taking away the natural gifts of her students and imposing on them her own worldview? or is the wise teacher taking the children's childish thoughts and patiently reshaping them to a more mature worldview?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Jewish Approach to Life Coaching

In recent years life-coaching has become more and more popular. As opposed to psychology, the process of life-coaching is very focused on specific goals or problems. People who turn to life-coaching are not seeking help for serious emotional or psychological problems, but rather help in achieving their own personal goals in life – making a critical decision, romantic hardships or difficulties in their professional life. One of the great advantages of life-coaching is the relatively short process. A typical training session consists of only 10 meeting or phone calls. The life-coach and the client together plan how to achieve those goals through both practical measures and through personal growth. Much like a typical "coach", a life-coach accompanies the client in the process of achieving those goals, helping him stay focused and overcome setbacks and challenges. Typically, a coach will often set the client specific tasks to accomplish between the meetings, that are geared towards achieving his larger goals.

Jewish Life-Coaching (Known in Hebrew as Kavanah) is an Israeli sub school of life-coaching that was developed nearly a decade ago my Mati Wexler. Jewish life coaching combines the basic tools of classical life-coaching with deeper lessons gained from the greats of Jewish thought. Many of the techniques and terminology that is used in the process are based on various insights that originate from Hassidut – ranging from the Talmudic insights to Hassidic doctrines of the soul. However, the Jewish emphasis is not confined to simply restating coaching in religious language. 

My wife Shira is an aspiring life-coacher, who is completing her training as a Jewish life-coacher.  As well as studying Jewish life-coaching she is also a qualified life-coacher from the Open University-Tut Communications (Alon Gal) and combines the best of both methods.  

If you are interested in experiencing a session of Jewish life-coaching (in Hebrew) - the first session is free -  or have further questions, call Shira at 0528345620 or via email

Please also feel free to pass this along to anyone who you think might appreciate some life-coaching. 

Sivan Rahav-Meir "Taking The Worst From Both Worlds"

As always the erudite and humorous Sivan Rahav-Meir gets it exactly right:

בחזרה לרבנות. אם הציונות הדתית רואה עצמה בדרך 
כלל כגשר בין העולמות, פה היא מצליחה לקחת את הרע 
משניהם: מהעולם החילוני נלמדו הקמפיינים, תקציבי 
הפרסום, הספינים והלוביסטים, ומהעולם החרדי נלקחו 
ההדלפות מחצרות הרבנים והבחישות מאחורי הגלימות. 
התוצאה — בלגן.
Back to the Rabbanut. If the Religious Zionist movement normally sees itself as a bridge between the two worlds, in this instance it manages to take the worst from both: From the non religious they learned "Campaigning", Public Relation budgets, and the use of spin doctors, from the Haredi world they took the news leaks from Rabbinic courts and the back room deal making. The result - one big mess.  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Oh "Olam Katan" has been Punked..

The poem above was published in the very popular Shabbat leaflet "Olam Katan". The poem is titled "Talks of Holiness". However as someone on the Facebook group "דוסים מצייצים" points out, if you take the first letter from every line...