Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Maccabeats, Purity and Persumei Nisah

By now I'm sure most of my viewers have seen the Maccabeats YouTube video. I was delighted to see that Orthodox boys can compete with the best of them, particularly in the YouTube realm.

It is very appropos that the video that went viral was produced Lekovod Chanukah, where Pirsumei Nisah is the ideal. Quite ironic that the group is named Maccabeats, with strong Chanukah connotations.

Beating the "Greeks" at their own game makes me feel proud as a Jew.

As for ferreting out the "add ons" that accompany a YouTube screening, I was made aware of a website viewpure which enables one to view only the requested video without the adjoining distractions. Again, this is most relevant to Chanukah, where the oil rises to the top and the dregs are removed from the equation.

Maccabeats pure link

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dan Lekaf Zechus II

The People Speak/Kid Speak series is part of the more interesting literature that has been published over the past decade. Author Rabbi Chaim Walder has a popular radio program in Israel where callers can discuss notable events in their personal lives. Additionally, many write to Rabbi Walder and share various personal anecdotes. Stories which share a beneficial message are then shared with the public.

In the most recent volume, People Speak IV, there is a very poignant story which is appropos to Jbloggers. Someone in the blogging/news arena is about to publish a story which would implicate some Yeshiva Bochurim who foolishly endangered themselves and others. At the last minute, he gets a call from a frantic editor who realizes that he is related to the perpetrators and wants to kill the story.

Our protaganist is then faced with the difficult decision as to whether to publish or retract. He sadly realizes that if it were HIS relatives, he would not want to publish the story.

This brings to mind Hillel's great dictum, built on the "Love your neighbor" principle from the Torah: "What is hateful to you, don't do to others."

This then should be the criteria to ask ones self before posting on the internet. If it were about my relatives, would I still publish the story? Unfortunately, many just fire off the story and then ask questions later.

Dan Lekaf Zechus I

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Jewish Observer {JO} Revivication Redux

I've blogged several times in the past regarding reviving the Jewish Observer.

I was gratified to see page 22 of this week's Yated (December 23 - Mikeitz) where Rabbi Avrohom Birnbaum dedicated a full page to this noble endeavor. It seems like this topic has resurfaced during one of the sessions at the recent Agudah convention. Perhaps now the movement to bring back the JO will gain some steam. See excerpts from the article below:

That is why the closing of the JO has been such a tragic mistake, both for Klal Yisroel and Agudas Yisroel. For lack of a better moshol, I am reminded of a story that is told about a person on a boat in a stormy sea…the captain determines that the first thing that must be done is to lighten the load. He asks passengers to throw overboard anything expendable. One Jew rises, takes his tefillin and throws it over. A pious Jew observes him and says, “How can you throw over your tefillin?! Your tefillin is perhaps the only thing that can save you now!”… How then can it [Agudah] throw overboard its “tefillin,” its ideological tool, the entire zechus kiyum of Agudas Yisroel? Even if it means that the JO will never be financially successful, is it not warranted to take funds from other programs that are not critical to what they are and redirect them to ideology? After all, today’s young people are starving to find meaning, to find ideology, and be shown that there is something more important than the bottom line.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ami, Mishpacha, Binah, Zman, Olomeinu and the JO

Another new Jewish magazine has launched. Ami will join Mishpacha, Binah and Zman and many others which have sprouted up in recent memory.

I recall the days of yesteryear when the Yeshiva community didn’t have Jewish weeklies. There was Olomeinu for children and the Jewish Observer O"H for adults, both of which were published monthly.

While the proliferation of Jewish content periodicals is remarkable, there is a sad aspect to this glut of reading material.

Each edition of Olomeinu and JO was fought over and devoured until it was dog-eared , committed to memory and then saved. Today’s reading material is read and then discarded. One can pick up the same issue several weeks later and scarcely remember reading the articles.

The reason why the Talmudic greats of the previous era were able to memorize the Rashba, Ketzos and Nesivos etc. was primarily because there was a shortage of Seforim, hence each Sefer was precious. You committed the Sefer to memory because you never knew if you would have access to it the next time you needed it.

With the advent of Bar-Ilan, Otzar HaSeforim and Hebrewbooks.org databases, more and more source material will be available, but less and less of it will stick in our minds. The psychological idea that the text is always available whenever we need it, coupled by the fact that we don’t need to remember where anything is – the search engines will find it for us – is my lament.

Yet the bright side is that hopefully one day the JO and Olomeinu will be added to these digital libraries. Then I will be in bookworm Heaven.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hebrew Manuscripts Dot Org

The fine people at Hebrewbooks.org have now started sharing Hebrew Manuscripts online. Available over here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Jewish Music Radio Comes of Age

In my early years, I recall once hearing a Yiddish song on the radio as I flipped through the various stations. I was quite surprised to discover that the Jewish minority was large enough to procure programming time on the public airwaves. As I matured, I was able to enjoy Jewish music on Art Raymond of WEVD and also Dov Shurin. Eventually Nachum Segal became King of Jewish music radio and became the standard EmCee at Jewish concerts.

Yet as large as these audiences grew, there still was no full-time Jewish music radio option. One could listen a few hours in the morning, sometimes a few hours at night, but there was nothing in between. I once entertained the notion to solicit sponsorship for 24x6 Jewish music programming. I thought that perhaps this would sway the youth not to get hooked onto rock-n-roll. One of the arguments I would encounter when I asked friends why they listened to R-n-R was that there wasn’t anything Jewish readily available.

But as JM proliferated in the 80’s and 90’s, there was now plenty of source material to support a full-time radio station. As the great Abie Rotenberg once noted…”a new tape comes out every week”. Even though other radio personalities, such as Country Yossi and others found their niche, even in our day there is not a dedicated Jewish music station.

Yet the age of the internet has enabled the world of “Internet Radio”. Almost all music stations now boast a presence on the world wide web; where their music is now available 24x7. The cost to maintain such a site is now totally within reason, and several websites have appeared with Jewish themed music being streamed to one’s computer.

However, for the Yeshivishe consumer, most programming was still wanting, as several of these sites play songs sung by women, or other content that the Yeshiva World finds offensive. This issue has now been rectified by several websites now offering streaming Jewish music 24x6. One can now play the radio at work or at home and enjoy the wide variety of "oldies" along with the new talented singers. Kudos to the pioneers who have brought us this service.

Redacted 5:42 PM November 14

Monday, November 8, 2010

It Takes a Village

One of the more informative blogs I have been privileged to read over the years is the Michtavim blog, hosted by Menachem Butler, one of the pioneers of Jewish blogging. This blog reads like a “Tzafnas Paneach” – in that Menachem’s writing reminds me of the Seforim written by the Rogatchover Gaon, where every word (or Roshei Taivos) is a virtual treatise unto itself.

Menachem is a Jewish History buff, and a walking library of all theses relating to Jewish themes. But perhaps what I appreciate the most is that I don’t recall ever seeing any Loshon Hora therein.

His most recent post highlights a fabulous online museum hosted by Professor Shnayer Leiman. An intriguing Stamp Collection featuring noted rabbis is a philatelist’s delight. Take the online tour available here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Discovering Design High Above

In a previous post Discovering Design Deep Down, we discussed several scientific "proofs" which have gone "poof". Scientists believed that life could not exist without the sun's energy, yet recently life was discovered on the ocean floor. Science believed in a Static/Steady State world, yet now they believe in the Big Bang.

In a recent post on the Seforim Blog, I was amazed to see following words penned by an academic:

Later, in Gen. 22:17, he is told that his descendants will be as numerous as the sand and as the stars in the heaven. Centuries ago I think many people must have wondered about this verse. They could understand the promise that his descendants would be like the sand since the sand is so numerous it can’t be counted. Yet how is this comparable to the stars, since anyone can look up at the sky and see that there aren’t that many stars at all? Thus, pre-modern man should have been troubled since the two parts of the verse don’t correspond, even though they are supposed to. It is only with the invention of telescopes that people could see that the two parts of this verse, the sand and the stars, are really saying the same thing. Scientists now believe that the amount of stars runs into the sextillions and that there are more stars than grains of sand on the earth!

What amazes me is that the rationalists of yesteryear would look at the traditionalists as being overly fundamentalist in insisting that there are a myriad of stars because of the implication from the scriptures. Yet today everyone would agree that the stars are too numerous to count.

This gives me pause every time I see an academic insist that Chazal were mistaken about one thing or another.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chilean Miners Herald Moshiach

A recent article by Rabbi Avi Shafran pointed out that one of the lessons we should learn from the Chilean Mine incident is how appreciative we should be every morning, as each of us emerges from our death-like slumber. In fact, this is the reason why we say Modeh Ani.

I once descended into the bowels of the earth, in the abandoned Lackawanna Mine, which now functions as a tourist destination. There is a certain amount of nervousness as the mine car slowly descends. One can really appreciate the daylight and warmth of the sun as one emerges several hours later. Two months of this treatment is almost unimaginable.

What awed me was the super human intervention of peoples from all over the world in the race against time to save the miners. I was amazed that there were over 1 billion people who actually watched the proceedings simultaneously. My faith in humanity was restored, as previously the only time 1 billion ever gather to watch the same event is unfortunately found in insignificant sports matches.

This figure is even more astounding, considering that there are only 2 billion people in the world that are wired to the internet. Assuming that there are approximately 7 billion humans on the planet, that means that one out of seven people were tuned in.

I’ve posted elsewhere about the advent of Moshiach. This is just one more omen that the days of Moshiach are creeping up on us. Years ago, our rabbis told us that when Moshiach arrives, his coming will be a worldwide event, with everyone knowing about it simultaneously. In my opinion, we are at least 1/7th of the way there.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

County Yossi and the Shteeble Hoppers Ride Again

I wanted to write a review of the new album from Country Yossi immediately after the release, but common sense cautioned me to hold off until I listened many times, making for a more accurate assessment.

The album opens with “Oh Yankel”, a parody of Oh Carol. It is very amusing, and boasts a catchy tune; yet it gives strong Mussar to those who Plopple in Shul. Certainly worthy of becoming a classic.

“I am a Flower” is a beautiful melody with meaningful lyrics. One of my favorite songs on this album.

“Bashert” is timely.

“Boro Park” is a remake of the pop classic “Kokomo”. Hilarious lyrics ( which Country Yossi has become famous for) accompanied with a lively beat are sure to make this song a hit.

The “Myrtle Twig” and “Ilan, Ilan” are bound to popularize these famous stories from Talmudic lore.

“Seven Little Angels” is a powerful, haunting tune that depicts the beauty of Shabbos candles. Another song describes the serenity of fathers and their children as they go to Shul at the onset of Shabbos.

“Pessy Dena” is sure to be a hit among fans who can relate to the shortage of good cleaning help come Pesach time.

Other songs describe Klall Yisrael, Am Yisrael and Olam Haba. The entire album is much heavier on Jewish themes than previous albums, which perhaps shows a maturity of it’s songwriter.

My favorite composition is the riveting song about Moshiach. This haunting melody is one that can be listened to over and over, then continues to play over and over in one’s mind. Fabulous.

The album concludes with the powerful “Poseach”, sung by Yehuda Turner.

As usual, all new albums must grow on the listener, but this particular recording needs no growing pains, as the seedlings have been festering for 20 years. A most welcome addition to any music collection.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Today is my blog's birthday. One year ago, I embarked on a mission to test the idea that a LH free blog was possible. As I look back on the past year, I am happy to report that it was a success. One of the positive outgrowths of maintaining this blog was the constant feeling for the need to be creative, to post on interesting topics that will either help the reader or engage their intellect. I feel success in this endeavor.

One topic that has been visited frequently on this blog is the concept of the "YouTube Generation". When I was younger, going to musical concerts and watching television was something that was experienced infrequently in my household. I never watched Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan lecture on national television, never saw the Megama Duo perform their hit song "Zaidy", and never saw super-human feats performed outside of the circus. Yet nowadays, all this and a whole lot more are available by a simple click of the mouse. The lesson we must learn from this is how valuable our time is, now that so much content is available.

My first post discussed how technology had enlightened us as to how some time-honored traditional beliefs are being strengthened. In the era before computers, it was unimaginable as to how all of our actions will be recorded for posterity, to be watched and judged after our time on this earth is up. We could not understand how Moshiach's arrival could be viewed world-wide simultaneously. Yet for the new generation, these concepts are as simple as pie, perhaps heralding his arrival.

Another topic we discussed was the power of the bloggers. Ironically enough, some abused individuals now have a voice, a cheap way of making themselves heard, but unfortunately some are using that voice to abuse others.

I've posted many times regarding the wonderful Hebrewbooks.org website. Several years ago one individual set out to save some Seforim from obscurity, and has parlayed his idea that all Seforim should be freely available to the public into a 43,000 and growing daily virtual library. My hat is off to him and his sponsors.

We've discussed the future of learning, how technology has made huge advances and how it will ease future study habits. Having all Seforim available literally on one's virtual Shtender will allow more time for study and let time invested in finding the source material.

We've discussed harnessing the power of the blog as a cheap alternative to expensive school/camp info-lines. We've discussed using small placards (akin to the Do Not Call Registry) to ward off unwanted solicitations during Davening. At this point I'd like to expand that idea to supporting a new initiative to have drivers affix an anti-flyer decal on their automobiles to prevent unwanted advertisements being placed on their windshields.

We've discussed some books of the past and the present. Among them, The Prime Ministers, Rabbi Moshe Sherer, Terror in Black September, The Precious Pears/The Call of the Shofar, All for the Boss, Tales out of Shul and Vintage Wein. We've discussed some singers of yesteryear along with their songs. Primarily Carlebach, Country Yossi, Diaspora Yeshiva Band, Safam and the Megama Duo, amongst others.

Several videos have been shared, among them Rabbi Avigdor Miller discussing the miracle of the apple, old films of Eretz Yisrael, caution films on the danger of drinking, smoking and hanging out with bad company. We even posted on the national anthem of the Jewish People and reviewed the Yankel film.

We've discussed Hat Tips twice and Wisdom of the Rabbis twice. We even eulogized some former Jbloggers.

I am proud of my commenters and my failed attempt to rejuvenate the Jewish Observer. I am proud of my 11,000 plus hits, my "Alphabet Series" and my over 100 posts. I am gratified to see that other blogs have sprouted up which also strive to be LH free. Wishing a worthwhile year of Jblogging to all my readers.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hebrew Books in the Digital Age II

Readers of this blog know that I am enthusiastic about the Hebrewbooks.org website. I’ve written about the Internet and the future of learning, when one day the printed book will be a relic of the past.

One concern I’ve been worried about is how we can avoid forgeries that are bound to proliferate. To print a sefer, one must extend a significant amount of cost and effort, thus forgeries are not so prevalent in our time, but in the digital age, Photoshop and some good editing skills will make forgeries easier to accomplish and harder to identify, allowing anyone with an agenda to immediately find company in the Sefer of his choosing.

This has been demonstrated quite vividly by Mississippi Fred’s Robinson Crusoe post.

With relative ease, OTML has cleverly displayed a true

and not-so-true

version of a Sefer. I suppose that just as we have seen the proliferation of computer crime and consequently computer fraud detection detectives, so too, as online learning expands, hopefully we will find foolproof ways of ensuring that our Seforim have not been tampered with. In the mean time, hold on to your hard copies.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Quick Query/Question Quest

The Post Hoshana Rabba post.

I've often wondered why everyone feels the need to purchase their own set of five Aravos for the Hoshana Rabba rite. Why can't one simply Qlap his neighbor's Aravos five times on the floor? An Esrog/Lulav set is somewhat different in that one gets much more use out of them during Hallel, Hoshanas etc.

I've come across a recent Feldheim publication by Chayim Adess The Four Minim: A Pictorial Illustrated Guide, which contains some Quotes that may shed some light on this Quonnundrum.

According to Tanya Rabbasi [#86] "After Davening, each person carries home his Aravos and places them at the head of his bed to show his great love of the Mitzvah. This is the appropriate practice."

The Rama in Shulchan Aruch [664:9] writes: "The Qustom is to keep Aravos from HR until Erev Pesach and then use them for firewood for baking Matzos. Thus what was once used for a Mitzvah, will again be used for a Mitzvah."

HaGahos Maimoneous states that "the Rivak followed the Qustom of reusing the Aravos from SuQQos as Quills for writing a Sefer Torah, or as firewood for burning Qometz on Erev Pesach."

Finally, the Menoras HaMaor [3rd Candle 4:6:7] writes "The Aravos used on HR are a Segulah for protection during one's travels. Their effectiveness depends upon the righteousness of one's deeds and the purity of his intentions, He who trusts in Hashem will rest in his shade."

So my thoughts are that in order that one have Aravos to place at bedside, or use as firewood for baking Matzoh, or use a Quill to write a Sefer Torah, or use as firewood for burning Qometz or take on his travels, he should purchase his own set. Yet my thoughts wandered further that since most people don't follow any of these practices, one can simply gather the remains of another's Hoshanas for all these purposes. Of course, there is more sentimental value to use one's own object for these various Mitzvah's/Sequlos. And since the cost is relatively cheap, I suppose one should continue to purchase their own Quota of Aravos.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Xtraordinary Xuberant Xtravaganza Xtended

The post Yom Kippur post

The September 15 Family First edition of the Mishpacha Magazine featured a poignant story written by Michal Eisikowitz about Rebbetzen Zehava Braunstein’s (A”H) first Yom Kippur Davening in a Yeshiva setting.

It’s remarkable how her first Xperience mirrored my own. Coming from a small Shul to a Yeshiva is quite a culture shock. She finished her Xtended Shmona Esrei, thinking she was the last one to finish, when in reality she was one of the first.

But what really Xasperated her was the fact that the time for fasting had Xpired, yet the Xplosive Neilah continued on for quite some time. And when the Tefilah finally completed, the Yeshiva burst out in song, led by the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yitzchak Hutner. Later, her husband Xplained to her that all the while the gates of Heaven are open, we beseech and plea, as we can yet Xcel, but once the gates close, we must have Bitachon that HaKadosh Baruch Hu has Xcepted our entreaties.

And if that’s the case, who wouldn’t sing? Who wouldn’t Xult?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Zissin Zogger Zingt Zmiros

Why did I title this Zingt and Zogt? Primarily because the song here is more or less chanted, not particularly "sung". [Also, I needed to post on the letter "Z" for my alphabet series]

One of the pleasures of older age is the joy of reminiscing on the music you were raised with. If one views my sidebar, there are quite a few Jewish music blogs linked - primarily for that reason.

As I went through elementary school, and was not yet conversant in Hebrew, the highlight of Davening was recognizing the various Pesukim that had been rendered to song. Rosh Chodesh was particularly appreciated, as much of Hallel's prose has been set to music by various singers, most noticeably, Shlomo Carlebach.

Anyone who has had to memorize portions of Tanach, such as Birkas Yaakov, Shiras Devorah and the like, knows that setting the text to song will alleviate much of the difficulty in memorization.

This past Shabbos, known as Shabbos Shuva, I heard one Rav extoll the virtue of a national anthem. Yes, the Jewish People have a national anthem, it is HAAZINU! This is the song that G-d told Moshe to teach to the nation.

Interestingly enough, I chanced upon this music video which aims to put the words of Haazinu to song. As mentioned above, it may not be so catchy, but it is a start. Anyone out there who can put the entire text to a popular tune will merit much Zechus.

Lawless Lyncher Lemrick Limerick

Pictured above Yankel Rosenbaum HYD

Nineteen years after he knifed a Hasidic student to death in the notorious Crown Heights race riots, Lemrick Nelson was stabbed in the head with an ice pick in Manhattan on Sunday...

Lemrick Nelson

There was a young man from Crown Heights
Who gravitated naturally to fights
Acquitted by Man
G-d had a different plan
and now others have violated HIS civil rights

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

NewYear Noise Noticeably Negligible

I once overheard some nurses marveling at the Jewish People, how on Rosh HaShana they are all in their synagogues praying, whereas the secular New Year is marked by drunkenness and gunshot wounds.

Whereas this post is more worthy of the Havdalah Blog, I dedicate this post to him and wish him a full Techiyas HaMeisim and A Kesiva VaChasima Tova to all my loyal readers.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Obedient Orthodox Official Orates (Yehuda Avner - The Prime Ministers)

One of the most fascinating epics in our time is the story of the rebirth of the State of Israel. Few are aware of the various competing Jewish armies that sprouted in Palestine prior to 1948, with the goal of removing the British Empire from ruling; thereby establishing the Modern Israel.

Most noteworthy in that long list of Freedom Fighters was Menachem Begin. In his books White Nights (about his time spent in Soviet Labor Camp) and The Revolt, he discusses his ideology and the narrative that led to that momentous event in 1948.

Fast forward to 2010, when one of Israel’s long-time statesmen has finally published his memoirs. Yehuda Avner moved to Palestine in 1947 and has had the ear of 4 of Israel’s Prime Ministers. His 700 page book is an eye opener as he takes us behind the scenes and sheds light on many of the most intimate decisions that have been made. The additional fact that Yehuda is a religious Jew makes the narrative all the more compelling. Mishpacha has featured a fine interview this past week. Also see his publisher and hear Yehuda on the radioNachum Segal Interview.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Venomous Vitriol Vaporates Veterans


Some of you may have noticed that my blogroll changes from time to time with newcomers added and veterans vaporized.

This past few weeks was a sad time in the J-Blogosphere as several character assassinations were perpetrated. While in the past I was more liberal in my selection of who graced that list, In these days of reflection I have decided to be vigilant and remove some virtual LH violators.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Touched Ten Thousand Times


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kindly Keep Kollel Kosher

I’ve been away for some time, but I present the following snippet from the Jewish Star …


…What really irked me this week was when a father wrote to the court that his wife, my client, was violating his religious freedom by forcing him to leave Kollel and seek employment in order to pay his child support obligations…

Now it may be true that not everyone today in Kollel belongs there, and the system is probably not sustainable, but the argument that Kollel should be only for the gifted few is somewhat flawed. There is no comparison in religiosity between someone who only attended Sunday Hebrew school and one who attended a day school full time. There is a difference between one who attended day school and one who continues through high school. There is a difference between one who merely attends high school and not a Beis Medrash program, and finally one can not compare a family built on a foundation of Kollel and a family whose father only attended Beis Medrash.

When a young woman agrees to live the life of a Kollel wife in agreement with her husband, why should a separation force the Kollel man to go to work? If he was in medical school, wouldn’t the judge understand that he should finish his schooling rather than go to work to support his paternal obligations?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Join JO (JewishObserver) Journal Juvenation

In February of this year, I put up two posts waxing nostalgic of the pre-internet days when the Jewish Observer was the magazine of choice in Orthodox homes. Nowadays we have so much variety regarding Orthodox themed periodicals, yet none come close to the clarity espoused by the JO. The current assortment of reading material consists primarily of current events and Who is Who in the Jewish world, yet Hashkafic articles, written by the leadership of the Yeshiva World is sorely lacking.

My dear blogging Chaver, Rav Yosef Gavriel Bechofer, has staunchly taken up the gauntlet in reviving this noble publication. I ask that my readers join his google group in the effort to bring this revival to fruition.

As mentioned in the past, if the reason for ceasing publication was truly monetary in nature, then I put forth the suggestion that the magazine be published electronically, saving the cost of paper and transport.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Eruv Envelops Entire Environment (Woodridge, New York)

I was gratified to see a news release recently reporting on the completion of the Woodridge, NY Eruv. This is very positive news for the inhabitants and would be inhabitants of this little town in Sullivan County.

The town of Woodridge boasts the century old Congregation Ohave Shalom synagogue which is known to sport a Minyan 3 times daily throughout the year. This beautiful Shul with stain-glassed windows and wall and ceiling murals has been led for better than a Yovel by Rabbi Goodman, and for the past several years by Rabbi Grossman.

Recently, many changes have been made to strengthen religious life in the area. The Mechitza was upgraded, the Mikvah was renovated, a small Kollel was begun and now the Eruv. A full service grocery runs year round and the Pizza store has been relocated to a newer facility after a devastating fire. There are even plans that a full time Yeshiva will be housed in the towns’ environs.

One idea that I believe has merit would be to form a Yissachar/Zevulun house partnership between summer-home owners and Kollel Fellows. The KF will babysit the Upstate residence for 10 months of the year, living rent free. The KF will then relocate during the summer months to the vacated homes of their partners in Brooklyn. This is a win/win situation whereby everyone benefits.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Safam’s Songs Suddenly Surface

Way back in the day, I was introduced to the music of Safam. It was their beautiful melodies that hooked me.

Recently I discovered that their music has finally been uploaded to YouTube. Not only are the melodies heart-warming, but the lyrics are very uplifting. While the band members may not be fully observant, their music conveys a strong cultural tie to the land of Israel and other Jewish themes.

World of our Fathers depicts the story of an immigrant family chasing the American Dream. Leaving Mother Russia tells the story of the Russian Refusenik Anatoly (Natan) Sharansky. Natan was incarcerated from 1977-1986 in a Siberian Labor Camp before an international group secured his freedom. Natan went on to serve in the Israeli Knesset in several capacities.

When Natan heard the song that was dedicated to his struggle and written in his honor, in the days before Glasnost and Perestroika, his reaction was somewhat to the effect of “Mother Russia? Why Mother Russia? No mother would treat her children this way.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Self Obituary for Bray


It is my sad duty to offer a few words in memoriam of the late paragon of Havdalah, Reb Chaim, AKA the Bray of the Fundamentalist, Alav HaShalom.

Reb Chaim was a voice of reason, a beacon whose light shone brilliantly on the dark underworld of the Jblogosphere. Very few individuals were willing to sully their own Neshama by debating the skeptics, yet Reb Chaim relentlessly persevered and debated them on their own turf, even entering the Bear’s Den to rescue the souls who were floundering in the digital arena.

Reb Chaim gave of himself, day and night to delineate the difference between Yisroel and the Nations. No one in recent memory has dedicated so much effort in defining this separation. Reb Chaim will be sorely missed.

Reb Chaim: We have heard your bray. I am sorry that you had to be reincarnated as a donkey, but the year-long punishment that heaven has decreed upon you is now over. I hope in your next blog life you will be given the audience you deserve.

ומחה ה אלוקים דמעה מעל כל פנים

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Restoring Rabbis Ruined Reputations

Blogs are a double-edged sword. They have successfully fought the abuse of power, but they also have the potential to become the abusive power themselves.

These were my thoughts when I read about some recent lawsuits that have targeted bloggers. It seems that the anonymity of blogging has allowed certain individuals the forum for revenging their gripes from years gone by. Finally, some of the maligned have taken their cases to the courts to seek monetary damages and restore their reputations.

I recall Raymond Donovan, the U.S. Secretary of Labor during the Reagan Administration, who upon acquittal of spurious charges famously stated "Which office do I go to get my reputation back?"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Milestones II

Milestones I

SoMeOnE pointed out that I am halfway through the alphabet in the quad letter series:

A, B1, B2, C, D, F, G, H, I, L, M, P, W, Y

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Yippee! Yossi Yields Yarns!

Country Yossi is the rare individual who can make one laugh so hard, and also cry so hard simultaneously (on the same recording).

It has been 20 years now since the last release of the Country Yossi Shteeble Hopper series. I am gratified to see that a new CD is scheduled for release very soon.

I can still recall the very first release “Wanted”, all those years ago which featured the classics such as The Cholent Song, and Big Bad Moish.

"Strike Again" then followed with Nebich of the Shteeble and Oh, My Yerushalayim. Then came “Still on the Loose” with Tick Tock and 7 Little Kids. “Captured” featured The Deaf Man in the Shteeble and the Phantom of the Shteeble. “Break Out” contained The Tiny Old Shteeble and The Ballad of Fetteh Shmeel.

“These I Remember” featured Sing, Zaydie, Sing, along with some earlier hits from the Ohr Chodosh years.

And now after all these years comes the latest offering “Ride Again”. According to thejewishinsights.com here is an initial preview:

Twenty years in the making, this 14 song collection is truly the magnum opus of the legendary Yossi Toiv/Heshy Walfish collaboration! It features many unique, original compositions, ranging from Gemarah Agadata and Midrashim set to music (Rav Shmuel and the Myrtle twig, Elan Elan, I Am The Flower) to hilarious parodies of such Pop classics as Soldier Boy (Shabbos Goy), Oh Carol (Oh Yankel) and Kokomo (Boro Park) {You’ll plotz when you hear this one!}. And as an added bonus track, child prodigy Yehuda Turner belts out a CY original Poseiach Es Yudecha that will blow you away! Look for an Aug 1st release of this much anticipated album.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wise Wizards Weave Worlds – Wisdom of the Rabbi III

We have discussed the Wisdom of the Rabbi on this blog over here and here. Another great Chiddush I heard from one of my mentors is the very definition of the word Chiddush. A Chiddush, said my Rebbe, is something that you kick yourself that you didn’t think of it yourself.

The world does not seem to understand the tenacity in which the Chareidim protect the honor of grave sites. The Europeans have laws allowing for removal of any grave aged 75 years or more. Those who believe in no after-life are much more likely to be uncaring about grave preservation. They also primarily opt for cremation.

Knowing that Hashem works with his miracles through nature, It is just quite possible that Techiyas Hameisim will be performed through some means of DNA cloning. Perhaps that is a reason why we must be so careful with burial and preservation of cemeteries.

From Wikipedia:
Cloning may become a viable tool for reviving extinct species. In January 2009, scientists from the Centre of Food Technology and Research of Aragon, in Zaragoza, northern Spain announced the cloning of the Pyrenean ibex, a form of wild mountain goat, which was officially declared extinct in 2000. Using DNA from skin samples kept in liquid nitrogen the scientists managed to clone the Ibex from domestic goat egg-cells. The newborn ibex died shortly after birth due to physical defects in its lungs. However, it is the first time an extinct animal has been cloned, and may open doors for saving endangered and newly extinct species by resurrecting them from frozen tissue. It has also renewed interest in the possibility that in the future it will be possible to reproduce long-dead species such as woolly mammoths and even dinosaurs.

As for those who lost their life in airplane disasters or WWW II furnaces, I have no answer. Please offer yours in the comments section.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Brooklyn’s Best Build Bridges (Baseball - Hatzoloh vs. NYPD)

On Tuesday, July 6, MCU Park at Coney Island hosted the annual Hatzoloh vs. NYPD summer baseball classic. While I am not a fan of spectator sports, this contest was an exception for a variety of reasons.

Whereas following a sports team for an entire season leads to much batallah, a single game for entertainment purposes is certainly within the realm of reason, just as one would spend time going to a circus or a museum. Also, the proceeds of the game were to benefit Hatzoloh and the police fund which assists families who have had their breadwinner taken from them while on active duty.

The ballgame was played under a beautiful blue sky, as the sea breeze cooled off an unusually hot day. The Star Spangled Banner was sung by a Chazzan, and the contest was underway.

Now batting … Moishe, now batting … Avromi, now batting … Yitzi… there was a certain amount of pride engendered as the beard sporting, peyos flying, tzitzis wearing, pot-bellied over-the-hill team-members stepped up to the plate. Very quickly we learned that these medical volunteers were able to hold their own against NYPD’s Finest.

There were no assigned seats. Some sections were marked for various organizations, yet all felt comfortable sitting among the opposition’s fans. All were there for the same purpose; to enjoy a night out with family while supporting some good causes. There was a strong feeling of camaraderie.

Bringing together Jews of all persuasions and Police of all types goes a long way into healing stereotypical prejudices. Perhaps the officers will not be so quick to write a summons for a Hatzoloh member on his way to perform his duty, perhaps the Hatzoloh volunteer will recognize the difficulty of performing one of NY’s toughest jobs, when they engage one another as “people”, fighting for the same cause.

The officiating was sterling, the errors unfortunate, as the Hatzoloh team pounded out six runs to the mere two of their opponents. Highlights of the event included the NYPD chopper buzzing the field and Chazzan and choir’s rendition of “God Bless America”.

Kudos to the organizers and organizations that brought this Kiddush Hashem to Brooklyn.

Updated 7/8/2010 with video courtesy of gruntig

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Help Heal Homework Hazards

Another school year has ended and the camp season has commenced. Children can now play after dinner, with nary a thought of whether their homework assignments have been completed.

Homework has pros and cons, as many a principal and parent body can attest to. Teachers claim it refreshes the class lessons and allows parents to follow their child’s progress, while parents and certainly their children do not necessarily see this intrusion in the same light.

Yet for some reason, homework is here to stay. Being that is the case, why not alleviate some of the issues with homework by harnessing the power of the BLOG? Many a child often times does not know what is for homework, copies down the page number incorrectly, or purposely hides the assignments from the parents.

My suggestion then would be for teachers to post the homework of the day, term papers, book reports etc. on a school blog. Parents could also be given the option to “Go Green” and sign up for “paperless” notices. This would save the school much time and effort, not to mention postage to have the parent body informed of school trips, vacation days, immunization notices, etc.

Finally, this would alleviate the need for busy and costly info lines in the event of a snow day, as posted about over here .

Monday, June 28, 2010

Google Gleans Global Gossip

Elsewhere on the internet, subpoenas abound whereby a lawyer endeavors to uncover the identity of a blogger. Whereas some people still believe that anonymity is assured on the internet, the fact of the matter is that it just isn’t so.

The Mishna is Avos 2:1 cautions: “Know what is above you…an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and all your actions are written in a book…”.

Whereas the primary interpretation refers to the King of all Kings as the inscriber, modern technology has shifted that focus, and nowadays it just may be that it is the subject himself who is doing the writing.

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and all the social networking sites comprise a new reality in living. There may soon come a day when every human being will as a matter of course transcribe his life, his hope and his aspirations daily on his website.

These posting will serve to prosecute or defend, at the end of days, when the King of all Kings commences the mother of all trials.

See also this post

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Aish Admonishes America’s Addiction

If you want to read about Surreptitious Ships (floating flotillas), Sickening Sentences (Rabbi Rubashkin), Segregated Schools (Emmanuel establishment), Severe Slicks (BP bungle) or Sea-Salmon (anisakis antics), you came to the wrong place. But if you want LH free Short Snippets on contemporary Jewish life, thanks for Saying So.

Some time ago we discussed fanatical fandom link1 and link2. I was somewhat mystified at the time to understand the addictive attraction of Sports Shows and how they control our lives. Below is an excellent link that perhaps Sheds Some light on this Spectator Sport. Enjoy.


Money Quote:

"Of course I knew that the emotional investment I was making in every victory or defeat wasn’t real. If I stopped to pinch myself I would, naturally, realize that some total stranger named Gary or Jose or Carlos hitting a ball, 2 7/8 inches in diameter, over a fence 345 feet away was not of any cosmic or personal significance. But there is something enjoyable about pretending to care about something that, in truth, is pointless. It is the essence of every great motion picture and every novel. It helps us to safely touch feelings that long to be experienced without the fear of exposing them to authentic suffering."

Updated 10:15 PM 6/22/10

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Legitimate Links Labeled LoshonHora?

Way back, when the idea of a Loshon Hora free blog was just that, I deliberated whether upon opening I should link other blogs or not. While it is a relatively simple task to keep this blog Loshon Hora free, the only way I could influence other blogs to follow suit would be by example.

Yet the other day, of all people, “Korach the Blogger” challenged me for allowing links to blogs that have a more lackadaisical interpretation of these laws.

I am no expert on Loshon Hora, but I believe the concept of Apei Telasa would apply here. Once something is published on the internet, the great web crawlers and archive blogs make it impossible to retract and it will become known anyway.

I can’t ask my Rabbi, as I’d like to keep my anonymity, but if anyone feels comfortable enough to ask their Rav, please do so and post their response in the comments section.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Discovering Design Deep Down

It is refreshing to see that some scientific “truths” are proven to be falsehoods. The Torah speaks of creation, yet for millennia scientists believed in the Steady State theory. Only in our century has the “Big Bang” become accepted in scientific circles. Scientists also believed that there could be no life without the sun, yet in 1977, life on the ocean floor was discovered, as seen below:


In 1977 scientists discovered that at the deepest parts of the ocean, which people had long imagined to be dark, cold, and lifeless, was a strange environment teeming with life.

Marine geologist Robert Ballard (b. 1942) and a team of oceanographers and marine geochemists and geologists, took the deep sea submersible Alvin to the Galápagos Rift near the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Their expedition was to look for hydrothermal activity like that found at Yellowstone National Park. Geysers or hot springs of some kind were predicted at the Rift based on the relatively new plate tectonic theory. Remote sensors showed temperature changes and the presence of large clam shells that looked promising. A crew took Alvin down to 2,500 meters below the surface where they were gratified to find what they had been looking for -- and more. The water near the bottom shimmered with the difference in hot and cold, as very hot water spewed out of vents into the 3-degree Centigrade ocean water. A dusting of white lay around the vents, and in some places, had accumulated so high as to look like chimneys on the sea floor, smoking with hot, mineral-rich water. As the water cooled, material that was dissolved in it solidified and settled out.

The crew was happy to have found what they were looking for, but stunned by what else was there: life! Immediately surrounding the hot vents and chimneys were thriving communities of strange species such as giant clams, eyeless shrimp, and colorful tube worms. But no sunlight. How this food chain began was a mystery. It was apparent that the life there was completely dependent upon the vents since only the remains of dead organisms surrounded inactive vents. Scientists collected water from the vents and later found sulfide-eating bacteria, similar to those found in land-based hot springs. These were the initial food source for the larger creatures. The sulfide was in the minerally water coming from the vents, and it was suspected that the heat of the earth itself served as the primary energy source.

Other scientists returned to these life-filled vents and also found similar ones in the Atlantic. Ironically, the original team had included no biologists, since they were looking into theoretical and practical geologic questions. For example, mining interests wanted to know where there might be mineral deposits in the oceans. Deep-ocean study has since been carried out mostly by biologists, whose detailed findings have suggested that life on the young, volatile planet earth may well have started at the bottom of the ocean.

While indecency can be filtered from one’s internet experience, ideas that are antithetical to Torah are much more difficult to avoid. Even Korach has emerged from his aperture to spout his nonsense. Perhaps this underground energy is sourced in all the hot air that he has been spewing for the past 3000 years.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Internet Information Is Inconclusive

Zacharnu Es HaDagah...

…We remember the fish that we ate in Mitzrayim free of charge… A few short weeks ago we read this passage in Parshas BeHaaloscha, just as the fish controversy was raging on the internet. Rashi quotes from the Sifrei that “free of charge” can not be literal, because it is not logical to think that the Jewish People would be given fish to eat for free when the Egyptians had just instituted that they must now secure their own straw. {What I don’t understand is that perhaps fish were so plentiful that they did not amount to a large expense. Also, the Mitzriyim must have realized that the slaves could not work if they had no food. Yet that would not prevent the Egyptians from increasing their slaves’ workload.}

The internet is changing the way Pesak is rendered. The fish controversy seems to be the first major issue where Rabbonim have used the internet to debate the issue via "internet teshuva". Poskim must now realize that their Pesak will be scrutinized by many multitudes and mistakes in lomdus/scholarship will be quickly disseminated. Additionally, we have the “global village” concept to contend with, where Poskim are now Paskening for areas outside their local sphere.

Perhaps one day our children will say “Zacharnu when it was permissible to eat fish”. Just as some of us remember when candy was eaten without a hechsher (by reading the ingredients). There was a time when fruits and vegetables were the most kosher food available. What could be possibly wrong with milk or water?

It is quite ironic to think that one day, by weddings, while everyone will be eating fish, the caterers will offer meat portions for those chashuvim that are makpid on the anisakis worm. As one fellow asked another, “What is the Heter to Assur fish”?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bob Beats Back Blogs

The age of the blog is here. Blogs have accomplished much in their relatively short existence. The push button publishing aspect of blogging allows anyone and everyone to get out their message in an inexpensive way and reach tens, hundreds, thousands, even millions of readers.

While the blog is demonized in Frum circles, nevertheless the recent race for public office in Lakewood caused many new blogs to sprout up in honor of the election. Several years ago, one blog that was created to follow the social goings on of one particular Yeshiva evolved into a major Frum news blog.

Years ago it was the Rav of the Shul who was in the know on all major issues. Nowadays, that same Rav is far behind his congregants on the latest news unless he has an internet connection. The recent Fish controversy has highlighted the fact that the BLOG is a new force to be reckoned with, as the Poskim are now posting their Teshuvos directly on the internet.

As powerful as the blog might be, they still do not totally rule, as the Bob Singer victory yesterday showed. Anti-Child-Abuse advocates have scored many victories in removing molesters from our midst, yet they still have failed in having the laws changed.

All in all, the biggest victory the blogs have won is the deterrent factor. The insular community which was able to hush up wrongdoings will no longer be able to do so. Public exposure will hopefully keep potential perpetrators on the straight path.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Checkmate Challenges Chess Champions

Chess problems are more often than not futuristic, that is, one must analyze a given position to determine how soon Black or White can win or draw. Yet rare is the position that one must engage in retrograde analysis, using deduction and logical reasoning to determine the past history of a game.

Perhaps the most difficult chess problem I’ve ever seen of that genre is depicted above. Given that the game was played with legal moves only, the quest is to figure out that which piece resides at square h4. There is only one of the 12 missing pieces which can sit on this square. Yes, there is enough information to figure it out.

Chess players are known to look for the minutest advantage to score a victory; on or off the board. In one match (pun not intended), one player withdrew a cigarette from his breast pocket and placed it gingerly on the table. When the opponent protested that smoking was against the rules, the first player said that he was not smoking. The opponent challenged the referee saying that in chess, it is not necessarily what you are doing, but rather the threat of what you might do. The umpire agreed.

In another tournament, a neophyte touched a rook pawn to start the game. Before she placed it on the new square, she changed her mind and decided to move the king pawn. The opponent challenged her saying that once she touched the rook pawn, she must move it, while she claimed that the game hadn’t started yet. Ingenuitively (no, there is no such word), she switched her rook pawn and king pawn claiming that she was still setting up the pieces and then proceeded to move the piece she had touched!

Intelligence has always been a hallmark of chess players. Many great chess players of world championship caliber were/are Jewish. This week’s Mishpacha magazine features GrandMasters Boris Gulko and Leonid (Aryeh) Yudasin as some current examples of this phenomenon. They join a long list of Jewish greats who played the game. Aron Nimzowitsch, Akiva Rubinstein and Samuel Reshevsky are more examples. Additionally, these three all attended Yeshivos.

The great Chess Championship of 1972 which pitted Boris Spassky against Robert (Bobby) Fischer brought great pride to the United States in that they were finally able to beat the Soviets. Both Spassky and Fischer were born from Jewish mothers.
In fact, better than half of the World Chess Champions in the modern era were Jewish.

Updated 6/13/2010

Chess I

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mourning Meaningful Missed Memories

What will become of all the memories -
Are they to scatter with the dust in the breeze?

So begins the chorus to the mournful melody composed by Abie Rotenberg.

One of my favorite childhood memories was occupying myself on long Shabbos afternoons either reading the Jewish Observer, playing board games, or leafing through the family photography albums.

Years ago, when film was necessary to take pictures, each picture was costly. Kodak used silver in the film making process, and hence photography was a sport for those with means.

In today’s digital era, picture taking has become a lost art. Everyone and anyone can host a little gadget in their pocket, that not only snaps still-lifes, but can even record movement. These same pictures and videos can then be instantly transported around the world, for all to see. As I’ve said before, although past generations may have wondered how the entire world will know of Moshiach's arrival simultaneously, our generation can easily grasp this concept.

Yet the sad trend that I’ve noticed in my family and therefore I assume it exists by others also, is that now that we are flooded with photographs, we rarely make the effort to transform the digital into hard-copy. To confound the problem, those who have all their pictures stored on their computer risk losing everything if their hard drive crashes.

One childhood friend told me that his mother said if there were ever a fire in his house, after making sure her children were safe, the first thing she would save would be her photo albums. How true. All else is replaceable.

Please take this moment to ensure that you have a backup plan. Periodically backup your files to disk or an online backup service. Also, make sure to print a few pictures every month to ensure lasting memories for Shabbos and the coming generations.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Frum Fear Flag Flying

This week's Yated features the following letter that opens the Readers Write column:

I am writing this letter to the Yated in the hopes of bringing the following issue to the attention of the frum public across the United States and possibly receiving some feedback.

As a frum Flatbush resident living in a neighborhood with goyim, I have noticed that as Memorial Day approaches, just about every non-Jewish or non-frum home proudly displays an American Flag. I also noticed that not a single frum home displays a flag. I recently overheard two of my non-Jewish neighbors discussing this phenomenon in a most negative manner. These are middle-aged neighborly types who have been fine neighbors to us over the years.

I am wondering why our community does not display the flag. We all benefit from this medinah shel chessed. It would seem to me that we should pay homage to the men and women who gave their lives to defend the freedom we all cherish. I would submit that our failure to display the flag may very well be creating a major chillul Hashem. Additionally, it gives our detractors another (valid?) reason to gripe.

I recall that after 9/11, the gedolim urged everyone to display the flag, and many, including the most yeshivishe homes, did. I am wondering why this is not something that is urged on an annual basis.

For the record, I am a yeshivishe baal habayis and, thus far, in accordance with the norms of our community , do not display the flag. I am wondering what the rabbonim and gedolim hold regarding this matter. I would greatly appreciate if you would publish this letter to generate some discussion of this issue in your choshuveh forum. I thank you in advance.

A concerned Yeshivishe Citizen

There is not much that I can add, other than to say that I've wondered myself the same thing many times. Perhaps it is a vestige from our earlier Galus travails and travels that has made us harbor ill will towards the central government. But in this medinah shel chessed, maybe it is time to change this attitude.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller, was one Rabbi from the Yeshiva community who recognized this issue. As seen from the following passage :

On the 4th of July, we have an opportunity to express our appreciation for the affluence and freedom we have received and achieved in this great country. A leading American Torah authority, who set a lot of the direction as to the attitudes of Torah Jewry in this country, was Rabbi Avigdor Miller ob"m. Rabbi Miller was well known for carrying an American flag as he marched in the 4th of July parades of New York with great pride and joy…

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Agudah, Internet and K9

We have discussed in the past the necessity for the Agudah to maintain a web presence. In modern times, when the internet is the medium of choice with which to disseminate one’s message, the steadfast refusal to embrace today’s technology will unfortunately relegate Agudah membership to the older age bracket.

As the younger generation comes to grips with I-pods and I-pads, Twitter and Facebook, Blackberrys and Treos, the older folk must learn to channel the new technology to further their goals.

When printing was invented in the 15th century, most of the first customers were Jews. When newspapers proliferated in the 19th century, the Yeshiva communities quickly created their own to counter the Maskilic publications. When the telephone was invented, it was only a matter of time before Dial-A-Daf was created. Even the automobile can be used for good and bad. What is it about the internet that requires a blanket Issur?

Primarily, the answer seems to be the indecency which abounds on the internet. The Agudah has railed against that, but also against blogs many of which undermine rabbinical authority.

Whereas people laughed when Agudah banded together all those years ago to outlaw television, nevertheless they were remarkably successful. However, the internet differs with TV in one major aspect. While TV is mostly viewed as an entertainment tool, the internet is rapidly becoming a necessary life tool.

The answer then seems to be a filter. A simple download of an internet filter can have one protected in a matter of minutes. Although no filter is fool-proof, the inconvenience of attempting to bypass the filter should serve as a valid deterrent. One of the better free products is the K9 Web Protection filter offered by Blue Coat. This product allows the novice to easily configure the filter to meet their particular needs.

The Agudah can then launch their website with their online version of the JO, their Mincha Minyan map and all of their programs. All they need to do is issue a disclaimer, somewhat akin to the music industry saying “This website may only be accessed by those who have a filter installed".

Inspired by: Hirhurim
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