Friday, July 27, 2012

Why There Won't Be A Minute Of Silence At The Olympics

I think everyone has it wrong. The reason the IOC doesn't want a minute of silence isn't because they are afraid of annoying Arab states - its because they are afraid of how the Arab athletes will react during the minute of silence. The IOC is afraid the athletes will begin talking/singing/walking out during the minute of silence - and that this will be interpreted as "supporting terror". Immediately people will start calling for those athletes to be thrown out of the Olympics.

How would the Olympics look if a large portion of the Arab athletes had to leave?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Another Opera Career Ruined By Swastika Tattoo

From NYTimes:

The Bayreuth Festival has a new Dutchman, this one presumably minus a swastika tattooed on his chest. The bass-baritone Samuel Youn will take over the title role in Wagner’s “Flying Dutchman,” which opens on Wednesday,news reports said. Mr. Youn is replacing Evgeny Nikitin, who withdrew from the performances over the weekend after German news media reported that he had acquired a swastika tattoo in his youth, when he played in a Russian heavy metal band. Images show another tattoo partially covering the swastika.
HT:  @Chashomans via @

I Think This Captures The Israeli Political Mood..

Spot Joins The Government!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Was The Kotel Ever Covered With Garbage?

My daughter came home from Gan today, and told a version of the following story:

Soon after the Turkish Sultan Salim had conquered Yerushalayim he looked out from the window of his residence near the area where the Beit Hamikdash once stood and observed a woman dumping garbage. She explained that this was the custom of the Christian community ever since the Romans destroyed the Holy Temple of the Jews but were unable to destroy the West Wall of the Temple Mount. By dumping garbage at this site for centuries they hoped to eliminate any memory of the sacred wall.
The Sultan dumped a fortune of coins on the rubbish pile and invited all the residents of the city to dig for them. For thirty days the money-hungry people dug for these coins until the Wall was revealed.

I rather dislike the story, especially the ending which has  a slightly antisemitic undertone. I spent some time googling, until I found what appears to be the source for the story. In the Book מדרש חדש on the Haggadah by Eliezer Nachman Poah (A memeber of a known family of publishers) published in Prezysm in  1892 (I found earlier printings of the book from 1641) the following story is told:

ומה שאמר מאשפות ירים אביון. נפה (נבא?) דוד ברוח הקודש מה שהיו עת??(עתידים) לעשות אומות העולם במרום בית המקדש. אשר שם כותל מערבי שלא זזה שכינה משם לעולם. וה כי הוגד לי שבימי המלך שולטאן סולימאן לא היה נודע מקום בית המקדש וצוה לחפש את ירושלים למצוא אותו. ויהי היום האיש הממונה על המלאכה הזאת אחרי שנתייאש מלחפש ולשאול. ראה אשה באה ובראשה סל מלא זבל וטנוף ויאמר לה: "מה זה בראשך", ותאמר "זבל" "ולהיכן את מוליכו?" אמרה למקום פלו'. אמר לה "מאיזה מקום את?" אמרה לו מבית לחם אמר לה ומבית לחם עד המקום הזה אין שום אשפה?. אמרה לו קבלה היא בידינו שכל מי שמוליך מעט זבל באותו מקום מצוה הוא עושה. אמר הממונה בעצמו הלא קבר הוא? ומה אנשיב רבי' להסיר הזבל מהמקום ההוא שמרוב היה נה?? לעפר התחתיתו. ויגל את מקום הקודש ויבא וייגד אל המלך יישמח מאד . ?? ? K?ב ולר?בנו (לכבסו?) הכותל במי שושנים ושם עשו בית תפלתם יער?? ה' ויחזיר לכונן אותו על מכונו. ויארה  בעינינו, ובשכיון שכינתו בתכו. ראו וררו עד היכן הגיעה רעת שונאינו. כי האשה הזאת ארמית היתה כאשר אמרה היא אל הממונה הכז'. וכל כונתם אינה אלא נטמא את הקדש ולטמאנו לען יסל? הוא ית' את השגחתו ממתו ח"ו, ולזה אמר דוד מאשפות ירים ?ביו? שהוא כמשמעו שעשו מקום הקדש אשפה ומשי ירים אביון:

I was happy to see that the ending where coins were thrown on the garbage heap does not 

appear in this earlier telling.  I also liked the addition of the Kotel being washed with Rose Water.

If anyone knows an earlier source for the story - or can decipher some of the worlds I couldn't quite make out, please let us know!

Jews of Germany - Come To Turkey (1454)

Letter of Rabbi Isaac Zarfati

I have heard of the afflictions, more bitter than death, that have befallen our brethern in Germany of the tyrannical laws, the compulsory baptisms and the banishments, which are of daily occurence. I am told that when they flee from one place a yet harder fate befalls them in another . .. on all sides I learn of anguish of soul and torment of body; of daily exactions levied by merciless oppressors. The clergy and the monks, false priests that they are, rise up against the unhappy people of God ... for this reason they hare made a law that every Jew found upon a Christian ship bound for the East shall be flung into the sea. Alas! How evil are the people of God in Germany entreated; how sad is their strength departed! They are driven hither and thither, and they are pursued even unto death... Brothers and teachers, friends and acquaintances! I, Isaac Zarfati, though I spring from a French stock, yet I was born in Germany, and sat there at the feet of my esteemed teachers. I proclaim to you that Turkey is a land wherein nothing is lacking, and where, if you will, allshallyet be well with you. The way to the Holy Land lies open to you through Turkey. Is it not betterfor you to live under Muslims than under Christians? Here every man dwell at peace under his own Dine and fig tree. Here you are allowed to wear the most precious garments. In Christiendom, on the contrary, you dare not even Denture to cloth your children in red or in blue, according to our taste, without exposing them to the insult or beaten black and blue, or kicked green and red, and therefore are ye condemned to go about meanly clad in sad colored raimtent . . . and now, seing an these things, O Israel, wherefore sleepest thou ? Arise! And lease this accursed land forever!

Bernard Lewis, "The Jews of Islam" pp. 135 - 136 (1984, Princeton University Press)
H.Graetz dates the letter approx. 1454.

Hat Tip: Turkish Jews via @dougpologe

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

US Maryland District Court Explains Blogs And Twitter

From United States v. Cassidy (D. Md. 2011)
Because this case involves First Amendment issues, terms that were in use by citizens when the Bill of Rights was drafted may help in understanding the legal context of Blogs and Twitter. Suppose that a Colonist erects a bulletin board in the front yard of his home to post announcements that might be of interest to others and other Colonists do the same. A Blog is like a bulletin board, except that it is erected in cyberspace rather than in one's front yard. If one Colonist wants to see what is on another's bulletin board, he would need to walk over to his neighbor's yard and look at what is posted, or hire someone else to do so. Now, one can inspect a neighbor's Blog by simply turning on a computer.
Twitter allows the bulletin board system to function so that what is posted on Colonist No. 1's bulletin board is automatically posted on Colonist No. 2's bulletin board for Colonist No. 2 to see. The automatic postings from one Colonist to another can be turned on or off by the owners of the bulletin boards, but there is no mandatory aspect of postings on one Colonist's bulletin board showing up on the other's. It is entirely up to the two Colonists whether their bulletin boards will be interconnected in such a manner.
I'm an Israeli lawyer, so I'm amused that "terms that were in use by citizens when the Bill of Rights was drafted" help to explain anything.

A Rabbinical Court Approved Concubine

According to Israel Hayom Rabbi Eliyahu Abergeil, head of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court has published the following answer in a new book:

"אישה שמסרבת או שאינה יכולה להביא ילדים לעולם, ולא מוכנה לתת גט לבעלה, מעכבת אותו מלבנות משפחה ולהמשיך את זרעו. במקרה שכזה הבעל רשאי לקחת לו פילגש ואין עם זה שום בעיה הלכתית. פסק ההלכה יסייע לאותם בעלים לקיים את מצוות המשכת זרעם גם במחיר של לקיחת פילגש על בסיס קבוע. אותה פילגש יכולה גם לגור יחד עם בני הזוג", 

A woman who refuses or can not have children, and refuses to give her husband a get (divorce- BoT), delays her husband from creating a family and continuing his bloodline. In such a case, the husband may take a Pilegesh (Concumbine - BoT) and there is no halachic problem with it. This Psak will assist those husbands to fulfill the mitzva of procreation even at the cost of having a regular Pilegsh. This Pilegesh can also live together with the couple."

It is important in cases like this to be careful about interpreting the text of the answer. There is nothing here that would normally allow a husband to cheat on his wife. There are two conditions that must be fulfilled:

a. A wife who can't or won't have children with her husband.
b. A wife that won't give her husband a divorce (get).

It is slightly unclear from this short piece whether this includes cases where the wife can't have children, but the husband doesn't want a divorce. I tend to think it does because of the last line where he writes that the Pilegesh could even live with the couple. This also seems likely because the newspaper article further quotes Rav Abergil as saying that he instructed a Rosh Yeshivah of "a large Jerusalem Yeshiva" to act as such. I'll admit, I'm dying to know which Rosh Yeshiva lives at home with his wife and his pilegesh!

The question which is harder to answer is why would Rav Abergil allow someone to have a Pilegesh rather than just force the wife to give him a divorce? 

See also this article in The Times Of Israel, which argues that:

This isn’t about concubines, but about marital freedom. Anyone who doesn’t believe spouses should be able to forcibly trap their partner in a marriage should support this ruling.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Iphone Pashkveil

I think they have made their point:

I am wondering however is the Iphone the cause of the problem or merely a symptom? in other words do the people publishing this Pashkevil think that the Iphone is itself the root of the evil, or merely that people who posses an Iphone are guaranteed to also be viewing porn etc?

The Blog עונג שבת who published the Pashkevil wondered- tongue in cheek-  whether the "etc" after the Iphone included Android devices, or merely differnt types of Iphones.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Who Do They Represent?

This flyer was distributed this shabbat across synagogues all over Israel. It is a direct attack on Naftali Bennet - one of the candidates to head the Bayit Hayehudi (Mafdal). There are a few interesting things about this flyer:

1. It is signed by the "Forum of graduates of Yeshivot Hesder, and the Mechinot" - a group no one has ever heard of. Who are they to claim to represent anyone?

2. The style of the attack is too reminiscent of Pashkevilim to speak to the Dati-Leumi public.

3. The last item of the attack - "Soldiers who wish to leave when a woman sing, should ask their commanders, and if they are refused, they should stay" (quoting Naftali Bennet) is a poor choice for attack. The position Bennet is quoted on, is not that uncommon. Attacking him on this issue places those who wrote the flyer on the extreme of the Dati-Leumi public.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rabbi Sacks - Antisemitism Using the Language of Human Rights

Rabbi Sacks on Europe's new antisemetism :

That is part of the problem but not all of it. I have argued for some years that an assault on Jewish life always needs justification by the highest source of authority in the culture at any given age. Throughout the Middle Ages the highest authority in Europe was the Church. Hence anti-Semitism took the form of Christian anti-Judaism.
In the post-enlightenment Europe of the 19th century the highest authority was no longer the Church. Instead it was science. Thus was born racial anti-Semitism, based on two disciplines regarded as science in their day: the "scientific study of race" and the Social Darwinism of Herbert Spencer and Ernst Haeckel. Today we know that both of these were pseudo-sciences, but in their day they were endorsed by some of the leading figures of the age.
Since Hiroshima and the Holocaust, science no longer holds its pristine place as the highest moral authority. Instead, that role is taken by human rights. It follows that any assault on Jewish life -- on Jews or Judaism or the Jewish state -- must be cast in the language of human rights. Hence the by-now routine accusation that Israel has committed the five cardinal sins against human rights: racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, attempted genocide and crimes against humanity. This is not because the people making these accusations seriously believe them -- some do, some don't. It is because this is the only form in which an assault on Jews can be stated today.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How isolated is B'nei Brak?

I found this tweet fairly interesting:

מסתבר שכולם רואים טלוויזיה בבני ברק, אני לא יכול לעבור פה ברחוב, קטע.

Worst Haredi Hasbara of The Day #3

Supposedly seen in Bnei-Brak:

The sign says:
"Let he who wanted to create a state be the one to die for it"

Sure. But if you still don't want a state, don't accept its money either. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Selling Life Insurance As Rockets Fall

Imagine you were living in Ashkelon - an Israeli city only a few kilometers from the Gaza strip. Now imagine that for the last few days rockets from Gaza have been landing in the surrounding Israeli cities. Would you suddenly be inclined to buy life insurance?

That is exactly what a friend of mine originally from Ashkelon was asked, when a few weeks ago he was called by an insurance company which stated that "due to the rockets in your area, we would like to interest you in buying health insurance".

At first the word "slimy" came to mind. However, I continued thinking - wouldn't I actually want life insurance if I was living in Ashkelon or Sderot? So why am I so against the insurance company offering it under those circumstances? Sure, they are trying to profit off a bad situation - but shouldn't we encourage people in war zones to buy life insurance?

My friend upon hearing the offer answered  "Where have you been for the last 10 years?" He then hanged up.

Friday, July 6, 2012

PHD Comic

Those of us writing our PhD know just how true this graph is..

See this and other PhD comics at PhD Comics

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What "MostlyKosher" is best known for..

Two weeks ago I was at the President's Conference in Jerusalem. For me one of the attractions was the special meetings that they had for bloggers - which for me was one of the few times I got to meet many bloggers with whom I interact anonymously on this blog.

Being an anonymous blogger, when I was socializing with other bloggers, I had to explain who I was, and what blog it was I write. I was somewhat amused when one of the bloggers (who actually quite often comments on this blog, and links to articles on it) responded by saying "Oh you are the Grape Juice Foreskin guy".

I love being appreciated.

Kosher L'Pesach Tombstone

2019 edit - see this update to the story. 

Washington Jewish Week reports:

כשר לפסח appears upside down at the top of the tombstone
by Harvey Leifert Special to WJWIt was the stuff of urban legend when I served at the American Embassy in Namibia two decades ago, but elders of the country's Jewish community insisted it was true: A tombstone once contained the words "kasher l'Pesach" (kosher for Passover) in Hebrew, but upside down. Could this really be true? How could it be true?
The Jewish community was small when I lived in Windhoek, and has dwindled since, but some Jews have always lived far from the capital, in small towns and on farms. One such person was Walter Galler, a resident of Swakopmund, then a small German port on the Atlantic, up the coast from the larger and better situated British port of Walvis Bay. We know little of Galler, who was born on Aug. 8, 1888, and died on Sept. 28, 1939.
Galler was married to a non-Jewish "colored," or mixed-race, woman, and when he died, the story goes, his widow arranged for a Jewish burial in the Swakopmund Cemetery, on the edge of the Namib Desert. Mrs. Galler then ordered a simple tombstone to mark her husband's grave, and she felt it must include an acknowledgement of his Jewish faith. She somehow knew that a Hebrew inscription was appropriate, but the only Hebrew text in her home was the certification "kasher l'Pesach," found, along with a Star of David, on the label of a bottle of wine.
Mrs. Galler apparently cut out the Hebrew words and star and handed them to the stone mason. He chiseled the letters into the tombstone, but, not knowing the Hebrew alphabet, he inscribed them upside down.
There the story might have ended, but decades later, word of a "kasher l'Pesach" tombstone in a far-off cemetery was circulating in Windhoek's Jewish community. Almost uniformly, from what I have heard, members praised Mrs. Galler for making an effort to recognize and respect her late husband's religion, regardless of the, er, unorthodox result. One day in the 1970s, however, a visiting rabbi from neighboring South Africa drove to Swakopmund and inspected the grave. He determined that the upside-down Hebrew inscription must go, and so it was done. The Star of David remains, now flanked by two blank rectangles.

I'm not sure I would have removed the inscription. Sure, it was somewhat humiliating, however it was the best his loving wife could manage.

Luckily for Mr. Galler, his wife did not have a bottle of the "foreskin free" grapejuice.  

Hat Tip : Bubba Metzia on Reddit/Judaism.

Worst Haredi Hasbara Of The Day #2

Yehudah Kotkas - a former Hebron Yeshivah student, tries to explain the Haredi position:

אין לי שום כוונה לנסות להשפיע על מי מהקוראים להאמין במעלת לימוד התורה, אני בסך הכול מנסה להעביר מעט מההווי של בני ישיבות. ראו זאת כעדות אופי לטובת הנאשם העומד למשפט פומבי. נסו לצלול לרגע אל עולמו של בן ישיבה: הוא צעיר, סביבו עולם תרבותי עתיר פיתויים. הוא מוותר על הטלוויזיה, על הקולנוע, על מין, על בילויים, ונכנס מרצונו לפנימייה שבה נסוב כל עולמו סביב התורה.
Rough Translation:
I have no intention to try and convince anyone of the value of Torah Study. All I am trying to do is to show a little of the lifestyle of the Yeshivot. Think of it as a testimony for their character, in a public trial. Try and imagine a second the life of the Yeshivah Boy: He's young, around him is a culture filled with temptations. He gives up TV, Cinema, Sex, parties and goes from his own will to a Yeshivah where his entire world revolves around Torah Study. 

Weird. I thought these boys were not having pre-marital sex because it was the Halacha - not because of yeshivah. It is also offensive that he seems to think that anyone not in Yeshivah is doing sex and TV all day. However, what makes it just as bad is the list of hardships these kids go through - no TV or CINEMA? wow lets let them out of the army!

It continues -

ני ישבתי אינספור פעמים עם חברים בישיבה ו"שברנו את הראש" לחשוב על פתרונות. השיחות תמיד נשמעו כך: אולי נצא לעבוד? לא, אם כן, נצטרך ללכת לצבא. אולי נצא לשירות אזרחי? לא, השירות הוא רק לבני 22 ומעלה. אולי נצא ללימודים אקדמיים? שוב חוזרת בעיית הצבא. אז אולי נתגייס לצבא? מה? אחרי ש"שרפנו" כמה שנים בשיבה נלך "לשרוף" עוד שלוש שנים!?

I sat untold numer of times with friends in the yeshiva and "Brainstormed" for answers. The conversations always went as follows: Maybe we should go to work? No, if we do we'd have to go to the army. Maybe we should go to civil service? no, civil service is only for 22 year olds. Maybe we should go have some academic studies? again the problem with having to do the army. So maybe we should go to the army? What? after we "wasted" some years in yeshivah, we should go "waste" more years in the army?  (emphasis added)

So basically the young haredim who feel they don't fit the Yeshivish life style, feel that the might as well continue in Yeshivah rather than "waste" years in the army as every other young Israeli has to. And this incomprehension is the root of the problem. They see the army as a choice - something that they are entitled not to do.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Previous Posts About Bilam

These are some posts from last year, about Bilam that you might have missed:

Would You Want Your Sons To Be Rabbis?

I'm neither a Rabbi, nor a Rabbi's son. Furthermore that statement has been true for as many generations of my family that I'm aware of.

In a recent blog post on Monomakhos  (highlighted in RealClearReligionGeorge Michalopulos, an Orthodox Christian layman, asked readers  whether or not they would want their sons to become Orthodox priests. Fr. John Peck, a well-known Orthodox priest, said he would not want his sons (Orthodox priests can marry) to follow in his footsteps. Another reader found that startling. Fr. Peck answered:

Joel, frankly, yes. I know how much suffering goes into the priesthood, often at the hands of fellow clergy and vicious parishioners. My sons have already endured a great deal of this. They’ve done their part – they do not need to feel obligated to follow daddy’s footsteps.
If they have a real calling, nothing will dissuade them. If not, they won’t have to worry about what I want them to do. ..
I do want to encourage young men who are discerning a vocation – not young men in general. As St. John Chrysostom puts it, the priesthood is forbidden to all women and most men. If a man has a vocation, I’m supportive. Ask the men in my parishes who are now clergy, or preparing for it. But they came in with their eyes wide open. In fact, I think it inspired them to know the reality up front.
In this case, I am speaking as a father, not a priest, and I’m allowed to have a father’s opinion on this

Some of the other responses on the blog show just how lonely and taxing a priests life can be, as he deals with both his congregation and the church. Following that post, Rod Dreher, writing in the The American Conservative, asked:

Anyway, what do you say? The priesthood (or ordained ministry, either within Christianity or another religion) as a vocation for your son, or daughter? Why or why not?

And so I ask those readers of this blog who are Rabbis or have ever seriously considered to be rabbis - Would you want your own children to be Rabbis? 

(answers can be anonymous)

Don't Play Rock-Paper-Scissors With A Robot

He'll always win.

The robot is fast enough to wait until you make your choice, and then choose the winning alternative - faster than your eye will notice that he only made a choice after you did.

Hat Tip: The Dish

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Picture That Sums Up Israel's Complexity

The sign reads:

A Warning To Cohenim (priests)
Please be warned, that the coffin of the Seventh Prime Minister (of Israel - BoT) 
Yitzhak Shamir
Will be placed at the Shagal Lounge inside the Knesset building
From 9:00  until 17:00
And this is to allow the public
to pass in front of the coffin and pay their final respects. 

Hat Tip: Life In Israel

Bibi's Big Gift To Mofaz

I'm not sure why the dominant line in the Israeli media is that Netanyahu's decision to dissolve the Plesner Commission is a blow to Mofaz and Kadima. I would have thought the exact opposite. If Mofaz leaves the coalition and elections are called, Mofaz can now legitimately(!) claim that he represents the value of equality - service for all Israelis.

 This is a huge gift to Mofaz who just a few months ago was seen as not really representing any great value.

Caption Competition...