Monday, December 29, 2008

The Fiskie Award

Little Green Footballs is taking nominations for this year's Fiskie Award.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, it is a lifetime achievement award for the person or group that most personifies the spirit of the “useful idiot.”

Previous winners are:

Jimmy Carter
Rachel Corrie
Cindy Sheehan
Michael Moore
Kofi Annan
Keith Olbermann

This year, I don't think that there can be any doubt - it must go to (self-proclaimed) "Rabbi" Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta, or the entire organization.

Surely the photo-ops of Weiss embracing terrorist supporters has done more damage to the cause of common sense than almost anything any other terror its supporting individuals have done.

Definitely qualifies as a useful idiot par excellence.

What Type of Hossid was Moshe Rabbeinu?

There is a lot going on in the world right now, but plenty of people blogging about Gaza (the war that started a few years ago, but Ehud Barak came late to the party).
If you need a dose of war updates, stop by the Muqata.

I have something MUCH more important to settle - I stumbled upon this video which addresses the most important of questions - what type of Jew was Moshe Rabeinu.

You can watch the video for yourself, but if you're in a hurry the logic is as follows:

First we must establish whether Moshe was a Chossid or a Misnagged (evidently the possibility that he was a a Sfardi or a Temani, or plain old Poshiter Yid isn't not even worth consideration).

Well - clearly he was a Chossid - how could you even THINK otherwise (the alternative is too frightening to even contemplate)?

So now that we've clearly established that he was a Chossid, the only question is what type of chossid was he?

Well, we know that Moshe was 10 Amot tall, and the Mishkan was 10 Amot tall - and clearly he wouldn't have wanted a hat taller than the Mishkan, so he must have warn a hat which is flat on top of his head - and who wears a flat hat? Satmar (and a few Breslevers).

So there you have it Moshe was a Satmar - don't believe me - here's the proof:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Public Figures with skeletons in the closest

There is an old joke:

Dear Abby
I have always wanted to have my family history traced, but I can't afford to spend a lot of money to do it. Any suggestions? - Sam

Dear Sam
Yes. Run for public office.

Well apparently the concept of public figures being scrutinized for skeletons in the closet is not a new concept.

Yesterday's Daf said that we can assume that anyone who worked as a Gabai Tzdaka has no problems with his "yichus" (which in this case really means that he is a Kosher Jew). The assumption is that if his grandfather was a Mamzer, the information would have come out when he came round to collect money, i.e. the media would scrutinize him as a public figure:

מסכת קידושין דף עו, ב
וגבאי צדקה משיאים:
מאי טעמא כיון דמנצו בהדי אינשי דאמר מר ממשכנים על הצדקה ואפילו בערב שבת ואם איתא דאיכא אית ליה קלא
Kiddushin 76B
Or collectors of Tzedakah (don't have to be checked for lineage):
This is because they quarrel with people. We may take securities for money that people must give to Tzedakah, even on Erev Shabbos; If there were any lineage problems, they would be known.

I guess that the more things change, the more they stay the same....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rain Rain (please don't) go away

Just got the following announcement from the Rabbanut in Modi'in:

הודעה מהרב לאו , רב העיר מודיעין:
הציבור מתבקש להוסיף את התפילה לעצירת גשמים "ועננו בורא עולם",
בברכת "שמע קולנו" שבשמונה עשרה. בתקווה כי במהרה לא נצטרך לבקש בקשה זו

Announcement from Rabbi Lau, Chief Rabbi of Modi'in:
The public is requested to add the prayer for times of drought "V'ananu Borei Olam" in the "Shema Koleinu" bracha in the Shmona Esrei. With the hope that we will soon no longer need to add this request.
For those unfamiliar with the "V'aneinu Borei Olam" addition, it is found in the back of many siddurim, or in Shacharit under "Shema Koleinu".

For those using a siddur from Chutz L'aretz that does not contain this Tfilla, the Nussach is as follows:
תפלה לעצירת הגשמים בשומע תפלה:
וַעֲנֵנוּ בּורֵא עולָם בְּמִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים, בּוחֵר בְּעַמּו יִשרָאל לְהודִיעַ גָּדְלו וְהַדְרַת כְּבודו, שׁומֵעַ תְּפִלָּה תֵּן טַל וּמָטָר עַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, וְתַשבִּיעַ אֶת הָעולָם כֻּלּו מִטּוּבֶךָ, וּמַלֵּא יָדֵינוּ מִבִּרְכותֶיךָ וּמֵעשֶׁר מַתְּנַת יָדֶךָ, שְׁמור וְהַצֵל שָׁנָה זו מִכָּל דָּבָר רָע, וּמִכָּל מִינֵי מַשְׁחִית, וּמִכָּל מִינֵי פֻּרְעָנִיּות, וַעֲשה לָהּ תִּקְוָה וְאַחֲרִית שָׁלום, חוּס וְרַחֵם עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל תְּבוּאָתֵנוּ וּפֵרותֵינוּ, וּבָרְכֵנוּ בְּגִשְׁמֵי בְרָכָה וְנִזְכֶּה לְחַיִּים וָשׁובַע וְשָׁלום, כַּשָׁנִים הַטּובות, וְהָסֵר מִמֶּנּוּ דֶּבֶר וְחֶרֶב וְרָעָב, וְחַיָּה רָעָה וּשְׁבִי וּבִזָה, וְיֵצֶר הָרָע וְחָלָיִים רָעִים וְקָשִׁים, וּמְאורָעות רָעיִם וְקָשִׁים, וּגְזור עָלֵינוּ גְּזֵרות טובות מִלְּפָנֶיךָ, וְיִגּלּוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ עַל מִדּותֶיךָ, וְתִתְנַהֵג עִם בָּנֶיךָ בְּמִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים, וְקַבֵּל בְּרַחֲמִים וּבְרָצון אֶת תְּפִלָּתֵנוּ:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Why are the Biggest Lunatics Jews

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs finally did something right - they Denied entry to Richard Falk. Who was coming as a representative of the UN Human Rights Council.

Evidently it takes a very type of stupidity to get a job for the UN Human Rights Council. Mr Falk is not only highly critical of Israel, comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, but is also a 9-11 "Troofer" and was also a supporter of Ayatollah Khomeini (may he rest in pieces).

Sounds like just the right person to work for the United Nations, after all you wouldn't want the crackpot dictators that control the UN to employ people that have even a minimal moral compass or common sense.

Among his recent quotes:
"Such a policy of collective punishment initiated by Israel to punish Gazans for political developments within the Gaza Strip constitutes a continuing flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law."

There you have it - what business is it of Israel to punish Gaza for internal political developments like lobbying dozens of missiles against our towns. I mean surely missiles are covered as part of free speech and for Israel to discourage it is a gross violation of human rights.

Ohh - BTW, did I mention that Mr Falk claims to be Jewish, which figures - the lunatic fringe is filled with Jews.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Does this year seem to be dragging on longer than usual

2008 has been quite a year, between economic meltdowns, political scandals, and generally more excitement than we wanted. Well the bad news that this year is longer than most, even longer than most leap years - in fact it's the longest year since 1992.
Yup, you guessed it - the official World Timekeepers are adding a Leap second to the year, making December 31st a second longer than ordinary days.
Don't forget to adjust your watch.

Wait a second: 2008 gets extended by timekeepers
Source: AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — With a brutal economic slowdown, 2008 may feel as if it will never end. Now the world's timekeepers are making it even longer by adding a leap second to the last day of the year.

Along with the economy, the Earth itself is slowing down, requiring timekeepers to add an extra second to their atomic clocks to keep in sync with Earth's slightly slowing rotation. So an extra second will be tacked on to Dec. 31 after 6:59:59 p.m. and before 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

That extra second will make 2008 — already long with an extra day on Feb. 29 — the longest year since 1992.

The decision to add an extra second was made by an international consortium of timekeepers, whose American arm announced it Monday. World commerce and digital technology depend on accurate to-the-second timekeeping, said Geoff Chester, spokesman for the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, responsible for one-third of the world's atomic clocks.

Most cellular phone providers and computer operating systems check with the world's atomic clocks and update their time to add the leap second automatically, he said.

The world started adding leap seconds in 1972, sometimes twice a year. This is first leap second since Dec. 31, 2005. This is the fourth year to have a leap day and a leap second.

At the Naval Observatory they have a party at 6:59:60 p.m.

"We watch the clock and make sure nothing breaks," Chester said. "It's an early New Year's celebration." A brief one.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Viewing History at a Personal Leval

I've had very few opportunities to meet famous or historical characters, but the few times that I have met people who have a public image, I've found the personal impression very different from the image you see in the media.

What about the monsters of History? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to know a monster like Hitler not as a Historical personality, but as a Human being? Does it even make sense to think of someone like Hitler as a Human being with human characteristics.

Recently the Daily Mail had an article about Rosa Mitterer, who was a maid to Hitler in the 1930s and remembers him not as a monster out of history, but rather as a "charming" employer.

I found the article fascinating, here are some highlights:

... for one woman, the name Adolf Hitler evokes a smile not a shudder.
She is Rosa Mitterer, who worked as a maid for the Fuhrer at his mountain retreat in Bavaria in the 1930s.

And her verdict on her former master: 'He was a charming man, someone who was only ever nice to me, a great boss to work for. You can say what you like, but he was a good man to us.'

Rosa's remembrances of life at the court of the tyrant make gripping reading. She saw leading Nazis come and go. Himmler, the evil party secretary; Bormann, whom she described as a 'dirty pig'; and the club-footed, sexually-obsessed propaganda minister Goebbels.

Rosa went into Hitler's service at the age of 15 in 1932 when she was Rosa Krautenbacher. Her sister Anni had worked as a cook at Hitler's Berchtesgaden retreat since the late 1920s.

'She said he needed a housemaid and I would fit the bill,' Rosa recalled. 'I remember so clearly the first day I spoke to him in the kitchen. I said I was Anni's sister and that made him smile, because Anni was his favourite. I only ever knew Hitler as a kindly man who was good to me.'


Recalling her first direct request from her master, she said she was drying some porcelain cups when he came down the stairs.

'Hello,' he said softly. 'Sorry to trouble you, but could you make me some coffee and bring some gingerbread biscuits to my study?'

Coming into such close proximity to Hitler made her feel faint, she said, but she soon became accustomed to life at Berghof.


'That he had ordered such terrible things, I just couldn't believe it,' she said. 'Even now, I prefer to remember the charming facets of his personality.'

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Moishale Holtzberg is Smiling again

One more video - no further comments necessary....

Chabad - Again

Since the tragedy in Mumbai last week, I've deliberately put out of my mind any crazy offshoots from Chabad, however I just saw this song written in tribute to the Kedoshim of Mumbai, and his chorus really bothered me:
Chorus: Oh Rebbe Show me, tell me why
Your Shluchim, so given over needed to die.
Their blood Our wounds heal and mend
Please Rebbe, make it end.
Is it just me, or dos it really sound like this guy is davening to the Rebbe.
Maybe Chabad don't have to travel all the way to India to see examples of Avoda Zara.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ya'akov's Tnai

I've always been bothered by the Tnai that Ya'akov makes at the beginning of last week's parsha (Vayetze).
Right after the famous dream with the ladder, Ya'akov makes the following "Deal" with G-d:

בראשית כח כ-כ"א
וַיִּדַּר יַעֲקֹב נֶדֶר לֵאמֹר אִם יִהְיֶה אֱלֹהִים עִמָּדִי וּשְׁמָרַנִי בַּדֶּרֶךְ הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי הוֹלֵךְ וְנָתַן לִי לֶחֶם לֶאֱכֹל וּבֶגֶד לִלְבֹּשׁ. וְשַׁבְתִּי בְשָׁלוֹם אֶל בֵּית אָבִי וְהָיָה יְהוָה לִי לֵאלֹהִים

Jacob made a vow. 'If God will be with me,' he said, 'if He will protect me on the journey that I am taking, if He gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear,
and if I return in peace to my father's house, then I will dedicate myself totally to God.

To me this Tnai always sounded very superficial, similar to "If G-d helps me find a parking spot then I'll got to shul on Shabbat", or "I'll wear Tefilin every day if G-d helps me get this job".

This attitude seems beneath Ya'akov Aveinu, surely his commitment to HaShem is unconditional. What does he mean "IF God will protect me" - and what if he doesn't, does Ya'akov imply that he would be less committed to serving G-d?

I think a partial answer can be found in yesterday's Daf - Kiddushin 61A

דף סא, א משנה ר' מאיר אומר כל תנאי שאינו כתנאי בני גד ובני ראובן אינו תנאי שנאמר (במדבר לב) ויאמר אליהם אם יעברו בני גד ובני ראובן וכתיב ואם לא יעברו חלוצים רבי חנינא בן גמליאל אומר צריך הדבר לאומרו שאלמלא כן יש במשמע שאפי' בארץ כנען לא ינחלו:

Rabbi Meir says that any Tnai that isn't like the Tnai of Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven isn't a Tnai....

Rabbi Meir's opinion is that a Tnai is only valid if you make a "Double Tnai" - e.g., "I will do X if you will do Y; If you do NOT do Y, I will not do X".
Without the second half, Rabbi Meir holds that it is not a Tnai, in effect what you are saying is "I will do X if you will do Y, however if you do NOT do Y, I may do X anyway"

Now Ya'akov's commitment makes sense according to Rabbi Meir - Ya'akov is asking / praying that HaShem will watch over him during this difficult stage in his life, and he is reminding himself and G-d that he is committed to serving HaShem, however he never made a "Double Tnai" - if HaShem does NOT fulfil that which is asked of him, it does not imply that Ya'akov will be any less of an Eved HaShem.


The Klausenberger Rebbe's prediction

Several blogs and news sites, including Life in Israel are talking about a Statement that the Klausenberger Rebbe made in 1982.

Apparently in the middle of a shiur, he interrupted himself and said the following:

העניין של פרסום אלוקות בעולם הוא לא רק עבור יהודים אלא גם בשביל גויים שרואים יהודי שמתפלל ועובד את ה', ויהיה יהודי יחיד שיסע להודו ובמקום זה יש מליונים עובד ע"ז והוא יגלה אלוקות והוא יהרג שם וכל האומה הזה ידברו עליו והוא מקדש שם שמים שעל ידו יתגלה למליוני אנשים שיש ה' בעולם
The issue of publicizing G-d in the world is not only for the Jews, but also for gentiles that see a Jew pray and serve G-d. It will happen that a single Jew will travel to India and in that place there are millions who worship false gods and he will reveal G-dliness, and he will be killed there and all the nation will speak of it and he will sanctify G-d's Name and through him will be revealed to millions that there is a G-d in the world.

If you want to hear a recording of the speech, it is available here in Yiddish.

Now, I don't speak Yiddish and it is possible that the above quote is not accurate, but if this what he said, it is very chilling.
I don't believe that there is still prophesy in the World, and don't pretend to understand what the quote means, but if you listen to interviews that Rabbi Holtzberg gave over recent years where he describes his encounters with his Hindu neighbours and how central idol worship was to many of them, the quote is strangely prophetic.

Follow Up
Apparently the Hebrew translation above (which I used for my English translation) is not accurate - here is the original Yiddish, if anyone wants to translate it to English 9or Hebrew), please leave a comment:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

To G~d, Jerusalem

If you ever wondered what happens to letters addressed to: G-d, Jersualem?
Well now you know.... This just in from AP

Letters to God' delivered to Western Wall
1 hr 6 mins ago

JERUSALEM – Israeli postal authorities have delivered hundreds of "letters to God" from across the world to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

A popular Jewish custom holds that prayers will be answered by God if they are written and placed in the 2,000-year-old retaining wall of the ancient Jewish Temple. Every year Israeli officials bring letters addressed to the wall or to God and stuff them into the cracks between the stones in the wall.

The site's chief rabbi carried a cardboard box Tuesday marked "Letters to God" and containing letters in a variety of languages, including English, Russian, French and Spanish.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz says prayers of people all over the world "ascend through this holy place." He says he hopes God grants all of the requests.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Fiddler on the Roof

Rafi over at Life in Israel recently posted Fiddler in the Roof in Korean, worth taking a look.

There was also a Japanese version going round the Internet recently -just shows that Shalom Alechem's stories really have global appeal. Also worth taking a look.

But of course the ultimate interpretation of Fiddler on the Roof was Alister Cookie (Monster) in Monsterpiece Theatre - definitely worth clicking on the link.

And for those who like Tradition - here is Topol singing Tradition the way your bobby would have appreciated:

a question for all those feminist, atheist secular Jews

If you're a feminist, atheist secular Jew, living in an apartment in New York, and while in the lobby on Shabbat you see the guest of a Shomer Shabbat tenant of the same building trying to get into the building.

The person claims that as he is Shomer Shabbat he is unable to buzz the intercom and asks that you let him in. Do you:

A - say "why certainly", always a pleasure to help someone out", and then open the door.
B - explain that for security reasons you are not allowed to open the door for strangers, but if he could give some identifying information (e.g., a few details about the tenant that he is visiting) you would be happy to open the door.
C - explain that there is a hard and fast rule against letting people into the building, but offer to go to the apartment of the tenant that he is visiting so that he can come down and open the door.
D - write a letter to the Advice Column of a newspaper, pointing out how disgusted you are about those primitive non-feminist, non-atheist, non-secular intolerant individuals.

If you answered "D", you would be correct - take a look at this unbelievable letter sent to Salon. (And if you find the letter ridiculous, follow the link to look at the even more ridiculous answer).


Dear Cary,

I live in a doorman-less building. A Sabbath observer [an observant Orthodox Jew] recently moved in and invites friends to visit on the Sabbath; however, because of Sabbath rules regarding the use of machines, they won't use the phone or the building security system. They wait in the vestibule until someone lets them in.

I never admit strangers, but they are persistent. One stuck his foot into the doorjamb as I tried to enter, and pushed past me, as I was trying to explain to him that he would have to get permission from a resident to let him in.

Recently, there was an armed robbery nearby and I'm concerned about our security. My senile landlord is religious and I'm afraid that if I complain, my rent will go sky-high at the next lease renewal. As a feminist, an atheist and a secular Jew, my irritation about the security issue is increased by my disgust with their religious practices. I'm considering sending an anonymous note to this tenant, suggesting they find a more secure way of admitting Sabbath guests, but my fury is interfering with drafting a civil or constructive note.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Yosef Mokir Shabbat

One of my kids' favorite stories is Ysef Mokir Shabbat, the well known story from, based on the Gemara, Brachot 119.

If you aren't familiar with the story, there is an illustrated version here.
The story was also made into a song by Avraham Fried.

The story is basically about a poor man who spent a lot of energy and money each week preparing for Shabbat, and HaShem rewarded him with a fish containing a precious diamond.

If the story sounds a little far-fetched, take a look at this incident that was reported by AP

The one that didn't get away yields long-lost ring

Wed Dec 3, 9:37 pm ET

BUNA, Texas – The one that didn't get away held an unlikely surprise for a Texas man. The blue-stoned class ring of Joe Richardson, engraved with his name, turned up inside an 8-pound bass 21 years after he lost it while fishing on Lake Sam Rayburn.

"My first reaction was — you gotta be kidding," he said Wednesday.

The fisherman who discovered the tarnished ring inside his catch contacted Richardson on Nov. 28 in Buna, about 100 miles northeast of Houston, after tracking him down with help from the Internet.

His fisherman hero asked to remain anonymous.

Richardson, 41, said he lost the ring about two weeks after his 1987 graduation from Universal Technical Institute in Houston. His mom had bought it for about $200 and wasn't pleased when it went missing.

As a mechanic, Richardson said he doesn't wear jewelry so he tucked the undamaged ring away.

"I have not cleaned it," he said. "I told my wife I don't want to clean it."


Information assist from KFDM-TV:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A child crys out for his parents - but no one answers

By now we have all heard or seen accounts of Little Moshe Holtzberg calling our for his Ima during the memorial service in Mumbai yesterday.

There is no way to watch this footage without crying.....

I heard Rav Yisrael Meir Lau on the radio this morning - he reminded us that it's not just little Moishele standing in shul crying out for his parents, it is each and every one of us.

Aba, Tatty, Papa, Daddy where are You? Your children are in shul calling out to you, please now is the time to answer our call and pick us up and give us the embrace that we so dearly need.

As we say during Musaf on Rosh Hashana:

הַיּום הֲרַת עולָם, הַיּום יַעֲמִיד בַּמִּשְׁפָּט כָּל יְצוּרֵי עולָמִים, אִם כְּבָנִים אִם כַּעֲבָדִים, אִם כְּבָנִים רַחֲמֵנוּ כְּרַחֵם אָב עַל בָּנִים, וְאִם כַּעֲבָדִים עֵינֵינוּ לְךָ תְלוּיות עַד שֶׁתְּחָנֵּנוּ וְתוצִיא כָאור מִשְׁפָּטֵנוּ אָיום קָדושׁ

Today the world was made, and today we stand in judgement, all creatures of the World, whether as children or as servants. If we are Your children, have mercy on us as a father has mercy on His son ...