Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Shana Tova to all

Shana Tova to all my readers,

May the comming year be a year of health, happiness, Yirat Shamayim, and Peace for all klal Yisrael and the entire world.

See ya'll in 5772

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ethics Question of the Day

The following question was posted today in the Ethics Column of the New York Times:

My husband and son took a New York-to-Milwaukee flight that was supposed to leave Friday at 11:29 a.m. The flight boarded after 4 and didn’t leave the gate until 4:40, and a half-hour later the pilot announced it would be another hour until takeoff. At that point a devout Jewish family, worried about violating the Sabbath, asked to get off. Going back to the gate cost the plane its place in line for takeoff, and the flight was eventually canceled. Was the airline right to grant that request? M. W.,NORWALK, CONN.

Before looking at the response from the NY Time’s resident Ethicist, consider some of the following points:

  • Is it reasonable for an Orthodox Jew to book a ticket on a short flight leaving late Friday morning in the Summer (the flight took place in August).
  • If there is a 4 hour delay before boarding, is it reasonable for a passenger to refuse to board and demand that their luggage be removed from the plane, which could would cause further delays to other passengers.
  • If you end up on a plane close to Shabbat, is it reasonable to ask the crew if you can get off. If so, If the crew is unable to accommodate your request, how much of a “fuss should you make?
  • What are the Halachic implications of being stuck on a plane when Shabbat comes in? Could you deplane? If there is a hotel in the airport terminal, or within walking distance, could you check into it? What about issues of Tchum Shabbat, could you leave the terminal on Shabbat?

Now, go and take a look at the answer in the NY Times, take a look at the comments, and draw your own conclusions.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Taranto Does it Again

One of my favourite columnists is James Taranto who writes the conservative-leaning humorous “Best of the Web Today”, published by the Wall Street Journal.

Below is his take on the Palestinian Statehood bid, I couldn’t have said it better.


You Do Have to Live Like a Refugee
How seriously should one take the Palestinian Authority's request for the U.N. to grant statehood without peace with Israel? Not very, we'd say, especially after reading this piece in the Daily Star of Beirut, Lebanon:

Palestinian refugees will not become citizens of a new Palestinian state, according to Palestine's ambassador to Lebanon.
From behind a desk topped by a miniature model of Palestine's hoped-for blue United Nations chair, Ambassador Abdullah Abdullah spoke to The Daily Star Wednesday about Palestine's upcoming bid for U.N. statehood.
The ambassador unequivocally says that Palestinian refugees would not become citizens of the sought for U.N.-recognized Palestinian state, an issue that has been much discussed. "They are Palestinians, that's their identity," he says. "But . . . they are not automatically citizens."
This would not only apply to refugees in countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Jordan or the other 132 countries where Abdullah says Palestinians reside. Abdullah said that "even Palestinian refugees who are living in [refugee camps] inside the [Palestinian] state, they are still refugees. They will not be considered citizens."

In other words, the statehood drive is a fraud. Its purpose is not to resolve the conflict but to keep it alive. Why does America continue giving money to these hucksters?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Do You Support Peace in the Middle East.

A few weeks after I wrote to the New Zealand Minister of Foreign affairs about the Durban III conference, New Zealand decided to boycott the conference.

In the coming days it looks like the Palestinians are going to go ahead with the bid for statehood at the UN.  A while ago I blogged about my thoughts on a Palestinian State. My opinion hasn’t changed, although if i get a chance I may follow up with additional thoughts.

In the mean time, here is a letter that I just sent to the New Zealand Minister of Foreign affairs:

To: murray.mccully@parliament.govt.nz
CC: nzmissionny@earthlink.net
Subject: Palestinian Statehood Bid


Hon Murray McCully

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Dear Minister,

As the minister is aware, the Palestinian Authority has threatened to renege on its obligations under the Oslo Accords and attempt to bypass peace negotiations with Israel by asking the United Nations General assembly to recognize an independent Palestinian State.

A growing number of Western Democracies including Australia, Canada, and the United States have publically opposed this move in the firm belief that the only way to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians is through direct negotiations, not unilateral actions.

Recent history has shown us that when one side takes unilateral actions or refuses to negotiate, the result has been an increase in violence. This was the case in 2001 when Yasser Arafat cut off negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Barak which was followed by a violent wave of terrorism that lasted years and costs thousands of lives. Similarly, when Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip without a negotiated agreement, the result was an influx of thousands of missiles fired at Israeli towns bordering the Gaza Strip.

As a New Zealander currently living in Israel, I sincerely hope that New Zealand will join Australia and other democracies and take a stand for negotiated peace and oppose the resolution on Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.

We all dream and pray for the day when Israelis and Palestinians can live side-by-side in peace, however if the Western Democracies are unable to stand up against one-sided actions that jeopardize any chance of negotiations, I fear that the dream of Palestinians and Israelis living peacefully together will remain a distant dream.

Yours sincerely,


Michael Sedley
Modi’in, Israel

Friday, September 16, 2011

Parshat Ki Tavo - Who Knows Eleven

The weeks Parsha, Ki Tavo includes the ceremony of Blessing and Curses that took place on Har Eival and Har Grazim. Six tribes went up Har Grizim (the Mountain of blessings), the other six went up Har Eival (the Mountain of curses) and parts of the tribe of levy stood in the middle reciting blessings in one direction and curses in the other and after each blessing or curse the nation replied Amen (one of the few uses of the word “Amen” in the Torah)

The list of curses seems to be a strange collection of prohibitions, not to create an idol, not to move a property marker, not to curse your parents, various sexual sins,

Many Rishonim point out that the connection between these prohibitions is that they are all done in private, hidden (בסתר).

Kli Yakar points out that the language of the blessings is active but the curses are written in the passive voice:

11. And Moses commanded the people on that day, saying,  

יא. וַיְצַו מֹשֶׁה אֶת הָעָם בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר:

12. When you cross the Jordan, the following shall stand upon Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin.  

יב. אֵלֶּה יַעַמְדוּ לְבָרֵךְ אֶת הָעָם עַל הַר גְּרִזִים בְּעָבְרְכֶם אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן שִׁמְעוֹן וְלֵוִי וִיהוּדָה וְיִשָּׂשכָר וְיוֹסֵף וּבִנְיָמִן:

13. And the following shall stand upon Mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naftali.  

יג. וְאֵלֶּה יַעַמְדוּ עַל הַקְּלָלָה בְּהַר עֵיבָל רְאוּבֵן גָּד וְאָשֵׁר וּזְבוּלֻן דָּן וְנַפְתָּלִי:

Kli Yakar says that this passiveness gives the impression that G-d isn’t there; that these curses happen by themselves. When we commit sins in private, HaShem hides himself, a state known has הסתר פנים it is this hiddenness of G-d’s Presence that gives the appearance of curses or evil in the world.

The Kli Yakar also notes that there are 11 curses (other meforshim count 12, but the Kli Yakar doesn’t count the last general statement).

Eleven is an unusual number in Judaism. Twelve we know represents the complete nation, the 12 tribes.

Thirteen can represent the Attributes of G-d or the 12 tribes with the addition of Levy. This is actually 2 manifestations of the same idea; when we add Levy to the nation, Levy who “escorted” (מלווה) the mishkan or the Divine Presence (physically in the Dessert, or spiritually in later generations when Levy served as teachers), we bring G-d’s Attributes into the nation; we become as one with G-d.

If Thirteen equals the 12 tribes plus the Divine Presence, it makes sense that Eleven is the Twelve tribes, without the Divine Presence. When we commit sins in secret, we are in fact banishing the Divine spark that exists amongst us.

11 are also the stars in Joseph’s dream. It was this dream that lead to the hatred of the brothers against Joseph, which lead to the attempt to kill Joseph and our eventual descent into exile.

I.e., Eleven is not only the exclusion of the Divine Spark through sins in private, it also leads to Sinat Chinam and Exile.

As Rosh Hashana approaches, may we all manage to perfect our actions so that we act the same in private as we do in public, and thus restore the Divine Presence amongst us and bring an end to this Sinat Chinam and bring the Redemption.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Words to Live By

Saw this image in an email today, I’m reposting here with no additional comment (other than to say the Princess Bride was possibly the best movie ever made)


Monday, September 5, 2011

People who live in glass houses

As I from time-to-time need to remind my kids, you should never throw stones. it is dangerous and can even be potential lethal.

Sometimes the “first” intifada is described as “non-violent” as it consisted largely of stone throwing (or stone shooting from a slingshot). Far from being non-violent, this type of attack can cause death or injury, especially if you fire the stone at a car which could cause the driver to loose control of the vehicle.

Well if you’re wondering what the correct response is to assault with a potentially deadly rock, take a look at the following article from the Associate Press.

Boy Throwing Rocks Hit By Crossbow

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- San Diego police say a 16-year-old boy throwing rocks at a sport utility vehicle was struck by a crossbow arrow fired by a passenger.

Police say the shirtless boy and a friend were throwing rocks at a black Toyota RAV4 in the Linda Vista neighborhood Monday afternoon when a passenger fired a crossbow out the window.

The boy was shot in the right side and was taken to a hospital. The San Diego Union-Tribune says his injuries are not life-threatening.

His name wasn't released.

Nobody has been arrested.

Anyone know where you can by a decent crossbow in Israel?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Have you contacted you MP yet

If there are any readers out there who are citizens of countries that are still planning to attend the “Durban III” hate-fest at the UN on September 22, I would strongly recommend that you write to your MP or Foreign Minister and question why your government is attending.

Below is the letter that I just sent to the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs. Bli Neder, if I receive a response I’ll post it on this blog.

Countries that have pulled out so far include the Czech Republic, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Austria, Israel, Canada, and the United States.

If you are a citizen of a country not in the above list, NOW is the time to write to your government.

To: murray.mccully@parliament.govt.nz
Subject: Durban III Conference


Hon Murray McCully
Minister of Foreign Affairs


Dear Minister,

As a New Zealand citizen currently living in Israel, I find it distressing that New Zealand is still part of a shrinking number of Western Democracies that are attending the “Durban III” conference at the United Nations later this month.

As the minister is no doubt aware, the original Durban conference that took place a few days before the September 11 terrorist attacks, was slated to be a conference against Racism and intolerance, but in fact turned out to be an openly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate-fest.

That a respected body like the United Nations could allow such a conference to take place shows that anti-Semitism is still an acceptable form of racism in many parts of the world.

That New Zealand has not yet publically distanced itself from the conference is an embarrassment to all New Zealanders who believe in equality and civil rights for all.

I sincerely hope that the New Zealand government will follow the lead of Australia, Canada, the United States and many European nations, boycott the conference, and show the world that New Zealand does not regard anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism to be an acceptable practice.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Sedley


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jerusalem, Palestina

A few blogs (The Muqata and DovBear) have posts on the following wedding invitation which lists the location of the wedding as ירושלם תובב”א פלשתינא (Jerusalem, May it be built speedily, Palestine)

Needless to say, there has not been a “Jerusalem, Palestine” since the end of the British Mandate.


In addition to the location, there are a few strange things about this wedding invitation:

  • The time is 7:00 on a Friday afternoon with the time zone listed as “7.00 לשא”י” or “2:00 אירופית”
    I have no idea what time that is supposed to mean, לשא”י probably stands for “לשעון ארץ ישראל” (Eretz Yisrael time), as opposed to “Zionist Daylight Saving time” It is quite common for people in Mea Sharim to not change their clocks for Daylight Saving time, so it most likely means 6:00 PM Israel time (IDT), but I have no idea what “2.00 European Time” would correspond to; 6 PM IDT is 3 PM GMT, but as far as I can tell, there is no place in Europe that would be 2 PM when it is 6 PM here in Israel.

  • Shabbat comes in this week in Jerusalem at 6:27, so if they do mean 6:00 PM Israel time, that is less than half an hour before Shabbat. If the wedding was 7:00 Israel time, that is a few minutes after Shkiya when it would be forbidden to get married under normal circumstances (I know that there is a Rama where he discusses a wedding that he performed after Shkiya on Erev Shabbat, but that was far from a normal circumstance)

  • The wedding is to be held in the home of the bride’s parents in Mea Sharim. Given the small size of homes in Mea Sharim, I assume that it will be a very small wedding.

  • An erev Shabbat wedding is not as strange as it seems, at one time it was very common to get married on Erev Shabbat, particularly in Jerusalem where people didn’t have money for lavish weddings. This way the 2 families could eat Sudat Shabbat together which would also be the Sudat Mitzva for the wedding.

However what is not mentioned on the invitation is the ages of the Chatan and Kala.

The Kala is the Granddaughter of Moshe Hirsch, the former leader of Neturei Karta (until his death last year), she was apparently 17 when she got engaged last year and is now 18 (or maybe even 19)

What is more worrying is the Chatan who was 15 last year when he got engaged. Below is a video from his Irusin (engagement). He looks like a scared Bar Mitzva kid with a Shtreimel, not a young man ready to take on the responsibilities of marriage.

Video hat tip: Gruting