Monday, October 30, 2006

Gay Pride in Jerusalem?

Israeli Police and the Judiciary have cleared the way for the Gay Parade to take place in Jerusalem this year. Stormy debates have erupted in the Knesset, with religious MKs demanding the parade be called off, warning of an expected million protestors against the parade. The Left (big surprise there) is demanding that the Police allow the parade despite the deep pain it will cause all religions.

There are many approaches one could take when arguing this issue. One could argue from an Orthodox Jewish (or Christian or Muslim, for that matter) perspective, that homosexuality is a serious offense against God, and must certainly not be celebrated by anyone, least of all Jews in Jerusalem, God's chosen city. (Even in a secular or non-Jewish state, this agrument is supported by Chullin 92b.)

One could also argue from a security perspective, that parading homosexuality in Jerusalem's religious atmosphere is akin to shouting 'fire!' in a crowded room, and should not be protected as free speech. It's timing and placement is simply too inflammatory.

One could also point out that the event organizers deliberately chose Jerusalem to thumb their noses at tradition and religion. This is their way of saying, 'You cannot beat us. We will come into your sanctuary and lust in our orgies of what you consider sin, in your own bedroom, and there is nothing you can do about it!' Again, this should not be protected by free speech.

I just want to add my own little reason to outlaw this parade. What society allows the public display and support for so private and intimate an issue sexual relations? What sickness causes us to shed our last iota of modesty and shame, and parade about a lifstyle whose only real talking point is sex? Where do we get off allowing people to strut around in underwear, which, in any other city, would be grounds for arrest under the laws of indecent exposure? When did we lose our sensitivity?

Is Israel a beacon of light for the world, with the center of that light in Jerusalem? Or did the survivors of the Holocaust, and their children still, die at Givat Hatachmoshet, at Latrun, on the Golan Heights, on the Burma Road, for a drunken Mardi Gras with our backs to God?

The Talmud in Megilla (26a) states that Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people as an entity. It does not matter if we live there, or not, we must protest its abuse. Each of us are, for better or worse, part owners. What happens there is our collective responsibility.

Whether or not this parade takes place, will not change the resolve of those who work for the Geula. However, if we can stop this abomination, we may find ourselves closer to that dream.

To paraphrase the Prophet (Ezek. 8:16), some of our brothers come to this city, and they stand with their backs to God, and they bow to their own lust, with their backs to God. But we, we are God's, and we look to Him for redemption.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tosafot in 9th Grade

I recently began tutoring a 9th grader in Talmud. Why do Jewish day schools and high schools insist on teaching Tosafot before the students have any mastery over the language of the gemara? Shouldn't they have vocabulary lists (as they do in English Language classes), and be fluent in 'making a layning' before they tackle Rishonic commentators?

More Arabs Want to Leave Israel

According to this report, more Arabs than ever desire to emigrate from Israel, including Judah, Shomron and Gaza.

Instead of evicting Jews from their homes, the Israeli govenment should be offering financial incentives to Arabs to move out. According to the Israeli government's website, the Disengagement cost $2 billion. If a fraction of that money were offered to Arabs as an incentive to leave, I believe we could solve many issues easily and non-violently.

MK Elon re-suggested this at Ze'evi's memorial service in the Knesset. The idea of 'transfer' has been breached by the Disengagement. No one on the Left can any longer say that it is immoral to transfer a population (even against their will). Perhaps this is the silver lining of the Disengagement, and a turning point in Israel's political history.

I sure hope so.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Blog Banner

Thanks to DK Interactive Design, the multi-media firm that created the great banner for this blog. They are a great company, and they aim to please. I am really happy with their work.


Grammar Teaser

Over the High Holidays, and Sukkot, we had many oppritunities to say the word 'fokdenu', meaning 'remember us' or 'count us'. It appears in the Ya'aleh V'yavo prayer for festivals.

This word is vowelized with a kamatz katon under the 'p' in the Rinat Yisrael Siddur. This seems to be correct, because it is a kamatz on an unaccented syllable ending with a shwa. (Admittedly, this is one of the hardest rules in Hebrew grammar to pin down, and I would not be taken aback if it were broken.)

If so, then the shwa under the 'q' (kuf) is a shwa nach, as it is a shwa after a 't'nuah k'tanah'. This also seems to be bourne out by the Rinat Yisrael. Thus, the 'q' is the end of the syllable, and the 'd' (dalet) should have a dagesh, as a Bagad Kapat at the beginning of a syllable! Why does it not have this dagesh? (I would be less worried if the letter were a 'm' (mem), as I am aware that 'm' sometimes carries the expected dagesh, and sometimes lacks it.)

I have sent this question to my teacher, Dr Steiner, from YU. He is an expert in semitic languages. However, he has yet to reply to me. This is your chance, dear reader, to beat an expert to the punch. Any ideas?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Our House in Israel

We are building our house in Israel right now, and we have recently received some new photos of it. It is so exciting to see your ideas come to life, right out of your plans, into the physical structure! I decided to post some images, so you can all share in the excitement. Obviously, the house is months away from being done.

Front Door View
Here is our front door.

Future Stairwell
this will be our stairwell,

Future Kitchenand this will be the kitchen.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Letter

This letter is about Bnayah Rein, who was killed in Lebanon.

In it, the tremendous beauty and power of Jewish-settled Israel is described.

The land of Israel grabs at your soul. You just have to let it pull you...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Imitation Cheese

Disclaimer: As in all halachik discussions, what appears below is not meant as ruling, but as discussion only. Please discuss any practical applications with an orthodox rabbi.

This post is in honor and memory of my Rebbe in halacha, Rabbi Shemuel Kedar of Ofrah, זצ"ל. Rav Kedar passed away on Sunday, א' דחוה"מ סוכות. He taught me more than I can impart, in all aspects of life. I already miss him terribly.

Background information: It is not only forbidden to eat milk cooked with meat, but there is also a Torah prohibition to cook the two together. Human milk (female), however, is not considered chalavi (halachik milk that is forbidden to be cooked or eaten with meat). It is rather neutral (parve). Chicken and other fowl are considered meat fully, even though their categorization as such is of Rabbinic origin (see Chullin 116a for the whole story.) We will refer to meat of Torah origin as 'meat', and Rabbinic meat as 'fowl'. Animal milk products will be 'milk', while human milk will be 'human milk'.

The Rashba (ad loc) adds a restriction on cooking meat in human milk. He forbids this because of mar'is 'ayin, an impression of impropriety. One who sees the act may mistake it for cooking actual milk with meat. Within reason, we are careful that no incorrect conclusions be derived from our actions. The Rashba does not distinguish between Torah or Rabbinic prohibitions in his system of mar'is 'ayin.

The Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 87:3-4) quotes this Rashba. The Rama writes that people make 'milk' out of pressed almonds, and place it in fowl dishes. This is fine, because the fowl is only Rabbinically prohibited to be cooked in milk, and we are not concerned with mar'is 'ayin for Rabbinic prohibitions. However, if the dish is meat, then it would be problematic to cook in almond milk. Therefore, one must display almonds with the milk, so that it is clear to all that this milk is not real. In the same vein, although Rama forbids cooking human milk with meat, if that meat is fowl, it is not worrisome.

The Rama seems to agree with the Rashba. The Rama wrote Toras Chatas as a place to examine halacha in more detail. There, he sharply questions the logic of the Rashba. He says that mar'is 'ayin should only be considered where the Torah prohibition seemingly broken would be one that carries a punishment of Kares, excision from the soul of the Jewish Nation. Any less, should not be considered for mar'is 'ayin, and therefore, should be permitted. Therefore, meat in human or almond milk should be permitted.

The Kreisi Upleisi agrees that almond milk should be permitted completely, but for a different reason. He holds that mar'is 'ayin is only considered where the ingredients are true meat or milk, but permitted on halachik grounds. For example, human milk is obviously physically milk. It serves the same purpose and has similar ingredients as animal milk. The fact that it is parve is a halachik distinction, not a physical one. Therefore, mar'is 'ayin applies. However, pressed almond juice is certainly not real milk. The term is borrowed because the substance is white and viscuous like milk. In this case, no mar'is 'ayin should apply. (Red wine is not forbidden to be placed in a dish, just because it looks like blood.) Also, since it is generally known that almond milk looks like milk, but is parve, it would be permitted.

Shach rules against the Toras Chatas and Kreisi Upleisi, and holds that even almond milk in meat is forbidden, as ruled practically by the Rama. He also rules as the Rashba and Shulchan Aruch, that mar'is 'ayin applies to Rabbinic prohibitions as well as Torah.

Rav Ovadiah Yosef (יחווה דעת ג:נט) permits drinking non-dairy creamer in coffee after a meat meal, because eating milk after meat is only prohibited Rabbinically. However, those who hold like the Rama would be hard-pressed to find permission to eat parve margarine or milk with their meat meal.

Rav Kedar זצ"ל (in his שו"ת, p. 114-115) speculates to permit this even according to the Rama (he does not conclude leniently for certain). He uses the Kreisi's idea that the creamer or margarine is generally known to be parve, so there is no mar'is 'ayin. Also, he mentions the Pri Chadash, who placed a moratorium on creating new mar'is 'ayins that were not expressly forbidden by the generations of old. Even though he accepted the Rama's prohibition on almond milk and fowl, he would probably permit margarine or creamer, or even vegetarian meat, that is parve.

Again, the above is not meant as ruling, but as discussion only. Please discuss any practical applications with an orthodox rabbi.

Not Funny

DovBear has a post that exposes a casual anti-semitism in middle America. I don't think it's funny, but CousinOliver and Klypod do.

Here is my comment there:

"I think laughing about this is the most dangerous thing you can do. One laugh can dissipate a thousand warnings. That is what this video is: A warning.

Wake up and realize that the Holocaust can easily take place again. We know that there were Yiddish theater troupes that mocked Hitler and his Germans in 1937.

You don't joke about the redneck (or blue- or white-collar) antisemites. You place them in hospitals.

And, most of all, you move to Israel."

Friday, October 13, 2006

T'villath Kelim: The Halachik Sheretz

Disclaimer: As in all halachik discussions, what appears below is not meant as ruling, but as discussion only. Please discuss any practical applications with an orthodox rabbi.

When one buys a new utensil that will come in contact with prepared food from a gentile(see YD 120:1), we dip it in a mikva first. The Talmud Yerushalmi states as the reason, that 'the utensil is raised to the holiness of Israel'. If the utensil is 'pre-owned and used', it must first be halachikally 'cleansed' of the vestiges of prohibited taste that remain in the material of the vessel (hag'allah). The taste could come out in future cooking, and must be removed. Clearly, the preferred order is cleanse and then do tevillah. What if one dips it in the mikvah first, and then does hag'allah?

The Rashba (see him on Avodah Zara 75b) says that you must do tevillah again, after hag'allah. This is because doing tevillah first is tantamount to a person who is still holding an impure animal (sheretz) doing tevillah. How can it possibly work?!

The Riy, on the other hand, says that if one does the tevillah first, he may use the utensil for cold items immediately. This is because taste can only exit the vessel and enter the food when heat is applied. A utensil holding (most) cold things will not exude pent-up forbidden taste. The taste presents no danger. However, before using the vessel for hot foods, he must do hag'allah, but the tevillah from before will be sufficient, and no new tevillah is required.

The Shulchan Aruch, 121:2 mentions both opinions. The Shach (2:4) states that even according to the Rashba, if the owner had in mind to only use the utensil for cold items, the tevillah counts. If he later decides to use the utensil for hot foods, he will only do hag'allah, but the tevillah from before is still enough.

We see a difference in the way Rashba and Riy see taste in a vessel. The Rashba asks: What is the intended use of this utensil? If it is one that requires hag'allah, then no use is allowed until this is accomplished. Also, any tevillah done earlier is useless, because the taste, the sheretz, is present. On the other hand, the Riy holds that as long as there is some way for this vessel to be used immediately after tevillah, the taste is not considered a sheretz. Consequently, even with intention to use the utensil for hot foods, the taste does not impede the effectiveness of the tevillah. (See Tefillah L'moshe for a different reading of the Rashba.)

The Shach ends up trying to cover all bases by requiring a tevillah without a blessing after hag'allah. Pithchei Teshuva brings a source that holds that a blessing is required, ruling completely like the Rashba.

Again, the above is not meant as ruling, but as discussion only. Please discuss any practical applications with an orthodox rabbi.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Accident in NY: Terrorist Victory

The plane that hit a high-rise condominium building in NY yesterday was an accident. The nation breathes a collective sigh of relief. "It wasn't terrorists," and we are relieved.

But wait a minute. Was there one person who was not fearful for a while yesterday that perhaps this was the next 'big one'? I know I was. And then it dawned on me. This is the terrorists' victory! They have already accomplished part of their goals! Americans no longer feel safe in their own country.

The very fact that fighter planes were sent up to patrol the skies of the US as a precaution, shows how alert and fearful we must be. They have succeeded in instilling terror in our hearts.

It is up to us if this fear cripples the free nations of the world, or spurs them in their determination to eradicate this danger from the world. And as we continue to discuss the relative moral merits of denying constitutional rights to our sworn enemies, as we deliberate about 'torture' (believe me, nothing we do compares to what they do), we break our national spirit, and weaken our resolve.

Meanwhile, they become emboldened, and rogue nations rise up to add their threats to the fracas.

We can win this war. We just need to believe that we must, at all costs, win it. We must fight it as if our existence depends on it, for it does.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Aircraft Hits Building In NY

CNN is reporting that a small aircraft has hit a building on the Upper East Side, 72nd street.

Fighter planes have been scrambled to the skies of major US cities.

10/11? I hope not.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sukkoth on the Beach

I am staying in [city name removed for security reasons] for Sukkoth, and found myself walking to Shul on the beach. This city is not the most Jewish-friendly in the world, and I have heard mumblings of 'dirty Jew' before, from homeless people who melted into the crowd when I turned to confront them. However, this Sunday, I was walking with a group of children from the Shul, and quite the opposite happened. A homeless guy turned to us and called out in a loud, jolly (drunken?) voice, "Hey! You Jews! I always want to bless you guys, but you are already blessed! Just look at you! May the Lord bless you today and each and every day of your lives!"

I looked at him, smiled, and said, "May he bless you too!"

As we continued on our way to Shul, one of the boys reminded me that those who bless the children of Avraham are blessed, and those who curse us are cursed. I told the kids that we should never look down at a blessing we receive, just because of the looks of the person blessing us. 'אל תהי ברכת הדיוט קלה בעניך'. The Talmud instructs us (Brachot 7a) to never take a blessing, even that of a simpleton, lightly.

This episode raised my spirits. I still feel euphoric today. I hope that this itinerant philosopher was a messenger of God, and I pray that his blessing was God's way of telling His people, 'I have accepted your Yom Kippur. This year will be one that is truly blessed for you, as individuals and as a Nation.'

כן יהי רצון. So may it be His Will.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Existential Fear

Ynet reports that some reliable sources close to high-level decision makers in Israel (it is not very clear of whom they speak) are now murmuring fears for Israel's continued existance. Iran, Syria, Hezbullah and Hamas are arming and sabre-rattling, while in Israel, petty politics are, as usual, the order of business.

It is interesting that the government that promised a stronger Israel than ever after the Disengagement is, a year later, worried about her very existance. Olmert, Peretz, Chalutz, Rabbi Weiss, and all those who supported the Expulsion, thank you for securing us...

But, ignoring blame, I find this fear refreshing. Usually, we find our military and foreign policy experts full of ego and huberis over their abilities to protect and ensure Israel. They constantly fall into the trap of 'כחי ועוצם ידי', believing that it is we alone who protect our country, and ignoring the fact that it is God who protects us. Let us pray that this reality check wakes our citizenry up, and shakes the blinders off the eyes of our leaders. It is precisely by understanding our own inadequecies, and God's omnipotence, that we can place our faith in Him, and defend our nation to the best of our ability. When we are unsure of ourselves, we return to God.

Remember, the world, Israel included, was predicting our destruction in 1967. It is from the lowest point that we rise highest. May our fear bring about national repentance, and may we realize that our salvation comes from God. Only then can we truly go to battle with the name of Hashem on our lips.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Perfect Mitzvah?

I hear much about the הידור, the beautifying of the mitzvah of lulav and ethrog. Many people complain to me when I demonstrate a perceived lack of intensity or enthusiasm in choosing my ethrog. I generally like to make sure it is kosher, and then I look for about 15 minutes at the other lulavim and ethrogim. I choose the most aesthetically pleasing one I find there, pay the salesman, and say goodbye. I try not to spend too much time there.

I attempt to ensure that I do not act like some people there; I refrain from pushing, and I am polite to everyone. If I see another eyeing the ethrog in my hand, I offer it to him with a smile, and choose another one. I certainly don't pester the salesman with a myriad of questions as to the kashrut of one ethrog or another, and then after all that, ask him if I can take it to the local halachik authority. I am sure the seller has other customers to deal with besides me. I am almost positive that the local rabbi has better things to do with his precious little time at home (at 10:00 PM!) than to answer the door for the nth time to a man with a frown on his face and a citron in his hand.

I suppose each person has his own idea of הידור מצווה. Some people feel their mitzvah to be beautiful if they find themselves shaking a symmetrical ethrog and a perfect lulav. To me, the social exchanges and inter-personal behavior that accompany the purchase are the beautification of my mitzvah. When I wave my slightly off-center ethrog and imperfect lulav, whose purchase (I hope) hurt no feelings and was (I pray) a burden to no-one, I, for one, feel content.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Did you Daven for our Nation?

I am doing a little poll, and I am not sure how scientific it will be.

Did you daven for עם ישראל?

I know everyone, even those who are not fully observant, probably prayed for themselves, and family, and friends yesterday.

However, I am wondering how many of us actually took time out yesterday, however short, to pray for the nation of Israel? Even when the liturgy has prayers for the nation, it is usually as a collection of individuals. My question is, how many people took time to pray for the goals of redemption, peace, security, prosperity, spiritual enlightenment, etc., on a national level?

Please answer in the comments section, and we can tally up the votes.

Inspired by this.