Monday, March 29, 2010

Good Yom Tov

Too good to pass over.

Hat Tip: Gruntig.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Niskatnu Hadoros V'hashiurim

Elsewhere on the jblogosphere, it is being discussed whether the measurements of today were the same as those of yesteryear, or not.

Having lived in only one era, I have nothing to add to that conversation. But having lived in a time with Reb Moshe Feinstein, Reb Yaakov Kamenetzky, Rav Ruderman, Rav Hutner and the Steipler Rav, to name just a few, it is pretty clear to me that there is a precipitous decline in the generations.

In my youth, the park benches were filled with older men playing chess, checkers and backgammon. Although the former require more cerebral activity than the latter, the mind is nevertheless engaged.

Today, those same park benches are filled with their progeny. Regrettably, card games and dominoes have replaced games of intellect with games of chance. The next generation will not even go to the park, they will sit at home with their Ipods and play electronic Swing, Slide and Seesaw.

At least the Ipods will have all the students' Seforim also installed. Otherwise, I don't know how the Rebbes will be able to compete with the advances of the Electronic Age.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

!חזק חזק ונתחזק

What was begun in 2004, is now complete in 2010. A masterpiece.

Whereas Artscroll may recite Chazak now for completing the publishing of it, the rest of us will need to wait until we finish learning it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


There is some discussion on the Jblogs whether one can be "Maspid" former Jbloggers, being that it is Chodesh Nissan.

It is with mixed feelings, then, that I mourn the passing of one of the more opinionated Jblogs. On the one hand, there was a strong Chareidi pride which emanated from his writings, but on the other hand, there was little tolerance for those who had differing opinions.

I am taking the liberty of the Heter that speaking of the "dead" does not constitute Loshon Hora.

While the Chareidi voice has been the johnny-come-lately of the Jblogs, they are slowly emerging as a voice to be reckoned with. It is a pity that the Yeshiva World frowns so much on blogging, maybe rightfully so, but theirs is a message that deserves to be disseminated. It is my opinion that the Agudah should hire a full-time blogger to spread their Hashkofo. Especially nowadays, when the JO is defunct and everyone else's message is available electronically.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Location, Location, Location

Pesach shopping has provoked me to visit the Midwood section of Brooklyn. The corner of Avenue L and Coney Island Avenue, once the home to an automobile mechanic and a motorcycle showroom, now boasts a behemoth of kosher shopping in the form of the Pomegranate. A block away, the former Keyfood establishment now sells only kosher, in the form of Glatt Mart.

Some time ago the jblogsphere was all abuzz when a wig store opened across the street from a Brooklyn Yeshiva and posted what they considered to be alluring pictures in their storefront window. While I don’t want to rehash that conversation, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the wig store has relocated to a more commercial location, two blocks north.

Truth be told, the same pictures that stood out inappropriately on a block with seven Shuls, now fit in comfortably on a block with similar establishments. I wish both the Yeshiva and the wig store success in all their future endeavors.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chakirah, Jblogs and Chess

Back in my Yeshiva days, it was always a challenge to see both sides of an issue. My innate sense of right and wrong, black and white, always picked the one side of an argument that was most amicable with my world-view. Rare was the time that I was truly able to see both sides of the issue.

There have been some rumblings as of late as to whether Chareidi news web sites should remove their commenting feature. On the one hand, they offer the community a way to voice their concerns and they increase revenue for site owners who can charge per hit. On the other hand, they are unfortunately very difficult to control with regard to slanderous speech.

I am happy to report that the main objective of running this blog was an experiment to see if a Jblog can actually run free from Loshon Hora. So far we have been successful.

This snippet of a chess position comes from an actual game played some 70 years ago. White moves north and the pawn at B7 can Queen. However, the ingenious player realized that Queening will not help, as Black will simply capture the Queen. Quoting from the rule book, that a player may promote to any piece (other than a King), White chose to underpromote to a Black Knight! Check Mate!

The judges ruled that he was correct, but quickly changed the rule going forward that one may only promote to a piece of his own color.

Now for the Chakirah. Suppose we have the following position (before the rule change) and it is given that it is Black’s move and he has never moved his King. Can Black castle?

The astute reader will realize that the only possible move for White was a pawn from A7 or B7 promoting to a Black Rook at A8. The rules of castling are pretty clear. One may castle if the King, and the Rook towards which it is castling with, has not moved. So has this Rook “moved” or not? Please respond in the comments.

Hat Tip: Prof. Ray Smullyan

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Proliferation of Seforim – Good or Bad?

Not that long ago, before the nuclear and Seforim proliferation age, there was a dearth of available texts in the Yeshivos. Rare was the Baal Habos who owned his own Shas. Bochurim needed to wait on line, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning to peruse the only dog-eared copy of Ketzos or Rashba that their yeshiva owned.

And this was in a time when printing was rampant. Take it back a few hundred years, before the printing press, and it was even more difficult to obtain the classic Talmudic texts and commentaries.

Fast forward to our era, when every Bar Mitzvah boy owns a Shas, we need to reflect on whether we are better off now or then.

One advantage to scarcity, is a stronger appreciation when you finally obtain the object. Memorization is more easily accomplished when required by necessity. Our generation is sorely lacking this skill.

Another related phenomenon that I’ve noticed in the past few years is the exponential growth of the photography industry. Standard film has become virtually nonexistent due to digital photography. While this has certainly made photo taking cheaper, the sad side effect is that although more and more photographs are being taken, less and less actually make it to a physical hard copy. I pity the person who stores all his memories on his hard drive, only to suffer the consequences of a hard drive crash.

My second grade Rebbe gave me a Tehillim as a prize for an ENTIRE year of effort. I cherished that little Tehillim, taking it wherever I went and tried to memorize portions of it. Today, such a gift would be meaningless. Every Chasunah or Bar Mitzvah participant receives an equivalent, if not nicer gift.

I might have 40,000 Seforim available on my hard drive, yet the Bochur of yesteryear probably learned more with only 100 Seforim at his disposal.

Newer editions of Seforim are produced every year. Better fonts, more footnotes, critical footnotes, square letters instead of Rashi script - so many improvements, but I somehow believe that the Yegiah of sweating it out with a Rashba from a bygone era, mistakes and all, is more conducive to productive learning.
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