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

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gedolim of Yesterday and Today

One morning in the early 1980’s, I boarded the subway for an early morning ride into Manhattan’s Lower East Side. My destination target was a humble apartment which housed Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, one of the great luminaries of a previous generation. I was privileged to join him for Shacharis and speak with him afterwards.

Unfortunately, many people are procrastinators and never achieve many of their objectives because they put off for tomorrow what can be done today. I consider myself lucky that I spoke with many of the greats of yesteryear. I met, to name a few, Rav Gifter, Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, Rav Ruderman, Rav Hutner, Rabbi Avigdor Miller and Rav Shmuel Birnbaum Zichronom LeVracha. I even attended an event at 770 Eastern Parkway to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

When I wanted to travel to tour Eretz Yisrael one summer, my Rosh Yeshiva asked why I wanted to go. When I replied that I wanted to visit the Gedolim, he chided me by saying “Become a Gadol yourself!” In any event, I was able to have an audience with Rav Schach and Rav Gustman, but was unable to see the Steipler Rav, and had to settle for attending his Levaya.

Aside from procrastination, another reason why people don’t take the time to see today’s greats is because they feel they don’t measure up to previous generation leaders. By the time they realize their mistake it is too late. Consider this post a gentle reminder to go today.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Technology and the Dining Experience

I am not an expert in culinary endeavors, especially in those that involve being served by others, but I believe that technology can make the restaurant experience more palatable.

Why not equip each table with a computerized menu directly hooked up to the kitchen? The house could have a picture of each item displayed in all its glory, and you could then make your selections from your station. You could request rare or well done, you could request a clean fork, you could even put yourself in “busy mode” to keep the busboy from filling up your bread and water. Or, if you want a recommendation, you could request a humanoid to come and visit your table.

For those who may not want to invest in such significant expenditure, how about a simple “call bell” to let the waiter know that you are ready to order, you are ready for dessert, or you want the check?

The computer at your station will of course provide internet access, so that you can keep up with the latest news, find local attractions or even sneak a look at my blog. If you are unaccompanied, you could spend your time accessing Seforim on

It seems that as of late the new style in the restaurant business is to price the tip directly into the bill. This may have some merit, but it seems that the servers no longer have incentive to provide service. Perhaps this new found revenue should be used to implement this idea.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pre-State Israel in Color

Hat Tip Jewish Learning

Awesome footage. Enjoy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Personal Placard Placing Policy

Years ago, before the answering machine was invented, dinnertime was invariably interrupted by the sound of the ringing telephone. As technology advanced and created the automatic answering device, the telemarketing industry adjusted with the robotic dialing machine.

Finally, the US government implemented the National Do Not Call Registry, bringing back peace and tranquility to the American home.

But the marketers did not give up. They began to inundate homes, businesses and automobiles with flyers promoting their products.

Under a Qaulity of Life initiative, begun in the Rudolph Guiliani administration in New York City, and culminating with the Bloomberg administration, the legislature passed a law prohibiting placing advertisements anywhere a placard requests that one not do so.

Which brings me to Davening. Armed with laminated approbations and jingling coins, collectors have become more than an annoyance during Tefillah. In a recent Mishpacha essay, Rabbi Ron Eisenman of Passaic raised many of these issues and has instituted a policy that requests that Shluchim not enter his Shul during prayer.

I see both sides of this issue, as I don’t know what I would do if I was in dire straits, but it seems like the Tzibur’s needs take precedence.

There is no perfect solution. I’ve seen some people with little signs saying “I don’t talk during Davening”, or “Don’t tell me any Loshon Hora”. Perhaps the time has come to create personal placards saying in 3 languages “Please don't ask me for Tzedakkah during Tefillah”. Think how much revenue it would generate if some organization would send out a Tzedakkah letter with such a placard enclosed. They would certainly get my donation!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hat Tips II

Some time ago I posted on why one should say over something in the name of whom he heard it from...
ואמר ר"א אמר רבי חנינא כל האומר דבר בשם אומרו מביא גאולה לעולם שנאמר ותאמר אסתר למלך
בשם מרדכי
(Megillah 15A)

Now that I have had some more time to investigate this a little more carefully, I present the following.

Machzor Vitri: One should not be “Toleh” his Rebbe’s words as his own. Esther saying over the plot in the name of Mordechai started a chain of events which eventually resulted in the Geulah since Achashverosh then asked “What was done for Mordechai?”.

Derech Chaim: If a person is not even careful to say over who said something, you can be pretty certain that he is not careful to say over the saying correctly either.

Ruach Chaim: One is able to answer many questions by using the method “Leshitaso”…

Tiferes Yisrael: Of course one may not steal…but saying over in the Rebbe's name causes the Rebbe’s name to be mentioned for a Brocha…

It seems that many of the Meforshim learn that one should not steal. However, it is not really "stealing", as there is no tangible gain. That is precisely why this Memra is presented in Avos, which deals with Ethics.

The final comment is from the Medrash Shmuel. He says that "If someone steals someone else’s Torah, it prevents him from creating his own."

How Interesting! He is saying that less Torah will be learned if one can go and steal someone else's. But if I honor this saying and I need to say a Dvar Torah, I will then be forced to create my own. What a keen insight into plagiarism.

As the saying goes, "copying from one person is plagiarism, but copying from many is research"

I suppose the difference might be that even if you do copy, to copy from one person takes little effort, but copying from many sometimes takes years!
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