Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Well, it wasn't "brave Muslim warriors."  Apparently, it was just five Muslim girls on her soccer team, who had been mocking and belittling her for some time, but only felt they needed to dry gulch the girl when she stood up for herself, like Belgium wasn't a Muslim country, under Shari'a, and nonMuslims still had some actual rights.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Wow.  Been since September.


Amazingly, this is only being noticed in Jewish media. In Belgium, 5 Moroccan teens beat a 13-year old Jewish girl, screaming Dirty Jew & Go Back To Your Country. Yes, 5 five 5 BRAVE MUSLIM WARRIORS dry gulched a single Jewish girl, 5 immigrants told a native to leave. Are we getting this yet? Anyone remember a few years back when 5 Afghanis threw rocks through an NYC laundromat's plate glass window at a pregnant Hasidic woman? Did anyone else notice the Jewish woman sliced open in Flatbush a week ago (11/15) by someone who jumped into an escape van after the murder?


Jordan radicalizing. Egypt's military council warning it will not accept an election that threatens the military's privileges. Lebanon shot four katyushas into the galil overnight. Oh, then there are Pakistan and Iran. How deep a hole should I dig?

Soooo.... Isfahan nuclear plant blows up... And BooBoo Nuttenyahoo seems to think that the PLO should be buried in baksheesh for NOT calling death and destruction down on its "peace partner" after its failed end run around statehood at the UN... And a NJ guy was just arrested in Cali for concluding a custody visit by ejecting his two year old daughter off a bridge IN HER CHILD SAFETY SEAT... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, finally I understand Sigd. It celebrates the reacceptance of the Torah under Ezra haSofer. Sort of a reverse Tisha b'Av. It was actually last Shabbat (the 29th of, as CCTV put it "Chesh-wan"), but happy Sigd anyway!


Did TARP and TOO BIG TO FAIL make you angry? No? Hear about the $7.7 TRILLION the Fed apparently secretly gave to banks at 0.01% so they could buy federal reserve notes at about 3%... yes, the fed gave the banks free money it didn't have... in the trillions... and then the same banks lent that money back, making billions. What is the sound of 330 million people puking?

PotUS has adopted a new campaign catchphrase: "Change Is". In the name of Sweet Fanny Adams and all that is good and holy, could you spare it, guy? That's the best you could do? Compare to FDR, who DIDN'T say, "Fear Isn't", JFK who didn't say, "Go Do Something", LBJ's Great Society at least painted a picture. Really? Two lousy words that say NOTHING? Change is what? Good? Bad? Coming? Necessary? Full of cheese?

Hizb'allah is blaming their recent work accident on Zahal. Too bad it's probably not true. Katyushas into Israel FROM Lebanon OUGHT to be answered. But the most likely chain of events involve someone misreading the persian translation of the Chinese directions on a box of detonators.


The Newt is making the standard noises about moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem again. Understand: It will NEVER happen. Besides the facts that it would be expensive (& we are trillions past broke), & that there is no really suitable place for it, & that it would piss off every country from France to Malaysia, once done it could NEVER BE USED AS A CAMPAIGN PROMISE AGAIN. Think of this as one more cynical attempt at manipulating us to focus ANYWHERE but on what a jerk he really is. The Qimoy and Matsu of 2011, version 1.1.

Just saw a great bit of slang. I've been using terms like Yechupetz and Yennemsville and ’in the middle of great, vast, freaking nowhere’, but apparently "Sof haOlam, Smolah" סוף העולם, שמאלה means the same thing.

Look at the news from Egypt. The electoral news. The Moslem Brotherhood, which is moderate like cheesecake is low calorie, will likely get a majority, and a MORE extreme party will likely get another 10-15%. A 60-70% coalition of the people who have been blowing up the natural gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan about once a month. Hooray for the democratic fallout of the Arab Spring.

Our Buddy Leon Panetta wants Israel to make some unilateral concessions, the only unilateral moves the Arabs find acceptable, to lure the Arabs back to the negotiating tables, where Israel can be more conveniently pressured to make further concessions to the Arabs for the sake of a peace that includes constant bombardment BY the Arabs. He says Israel needs this. Actually, he is confused. PotUS needs something he can point to and call a success before the election, and he doesn't care who pays for it, or how badly it explodes, as long as the explosion comes after he gets that 2nd term, and it isn't right next to him. And the alternative is a guy named Newt. No, Potter fans, not "Scamander".

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten years later

I was reading R. Adin Steinsaltz' comments regarding what happened ten years ago.  I have great respect for him as a scholar.  I think he is a great man.

September 11, 2001, I was working out at Gold's Gym on Muddy Branch Road.  My daughter was in preschool at a local synagogue.  My wife was taking a Metro train under the Pentagon.  Suddenly everyone was watching tv rather than exercising.  Then there was a scream from the kiddie room.  There was a very nice Afghan woman running the place.  She had fled her homeland with four kids after her husband was killed forhis apparently intolerable western habits, like shaving and letting his wife go around without a hijab.  Her daughter, at the time a Marine corporal, worked at the Pentagon.  Fortunately, but frighteningly at the time, she had gotten a day off, and left her phone off the hook so she could sleep in.  Her mother, who couldn't contact her, was of course frantic.  I spent two hours comforting her, worried as I was myself.  At the time, one could not contact anyone on the Metro with a cell phone, you see.  I hugged both my daughter and my wife a little tighter than they might have liked that day.

I have not thought that America was different, in the sense of invulnerable.  I have followed the news since, as a small child, I watched Peter Jennings, and Ted Koppel cover Viet Nam in bush jackets.  I paid attention.

I had expected 9/11, or something very much like it, and said so, and was repeatedly described as insane, paranoid, alarmist.  I had anticipated such an event since the 1976 Entebbe rescue, and again when the Arabs who call themselves "Palestinians" (I have friends who are, or were, "Palestinians", Jews born in Eretz Yisrael under the British mandate, so called specifically to deny them those "legitimate national aspirations" that Arabs use the term to assert for themselves.) asserted their level of civilization with the suicide bombing Intifada in 1987, and twice as much after the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.  It must be understood that Muslims essentially feel they are entitled to harm kaffir (US), and are entitled by the natural functioning of the universe to succeed in attacking kaffir.  If they attack us, and FAIL, they feel entitled and obligated to seek REVENGE for our not being harmed as much as they had hoped.  When the towers did not fall, and we imprisoned some of the people responsible, I knew they, or their fellows would try again.

Today, we see that organizations are still sending people to strike the West in the teeth, but that individuals also spontaneously decide to do the same.  Al Qaeda apparently sent a cell of either American or American documented terrorists to carbomb either New York or Washington over the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and G-d willing we got the real guys, not the distraction. Recall, though, that a Muslim IT-guy decided to car bomb Times Square not all that long ago because his career wasn't what he'd hoped.  

We are heading into a time where we need a prophet more than a scholar, a time when Glen Beck will be seen retroactively as the voice of sanity.  I'm not calling him a prophet.  All I mean is, we don't seem to ever actually learn from our mistakes and act on that knowledge.  In 2001, the EMS people had the same problems at the towers they had in 1993.  Last Thursday, there was a huge blackout across Arizona, California, and parts of Mexico caused by a cascade resulting from the replacement of a single component, a capacitor in a voltage controlling unit.  Similar outages have occurred over the last twenty years.  The question always asked is not what do we need to do, but why didn't the systems in place work. We need to shift to the active voice.

Friday, September 2, 2011

051211 Lag B'Omer

Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day counting from Pesach (Yitsiat Mitzrayim, Leaving Egypt) to Shavuot (Matan Torah, Receiving the Torah) is coming up May 22. The Rabbis tell us it is the day the plague among R. Akiva's students lifted, leaving 24,000 dead for lack of midot. This doesn't explain the bonfires or the bows and arrows. Historians tell us the "plague" was a couple of Roman legions. Lag B'Omer commemorates the Bar Kochva rebellion, 132-135 ce, which established the last independent Jewish state in Eretz Israel for 1,813 years. The bonfires were for the dead. The Romans were real good at making inconvenient people dead. It was the third Jewish war against Roman suzerainty (67-70 ce, Masada, 115-117 ce, Kitos). Nobody rebelled against Romans like us.

Random Torah Thoughts

PaLaG. PaRaD. BaDaL. QaDaSh. ChaLaQ. ChaTzaH. Why do we need 6 verbs for "separate"? QaDaSh means set aside for a particular, holy, purpose. BaDaL seems to mean a dichotomous division. ChaTzaH, which means to bisect, as an arrow (Chetz) does a bow (Qeshet). ChaLaQ, which seems to mean divided evenly in more than two parts. PaLaG appears to indicate a natural division, as in Palgei Mayim. But I'm still trying to figure out why we need PaRaD, what specific shade of meaning it represents.

I've long said that 10 Shvatim (tribes) weren't "lost", that a) it was 9.5, (the Levi'im were in the North/Yisrael & the South/Yehudah), & b) the Shvatim weren't lost, the Tanakh tells us were they went, assimilated, intermarried, disappeared into the background demographic.  When the Bavlim conquered Yehudah, the new exiles found no Jews to greet them.  What did I miss?  Reuven, Gad, & 1/2 of Menasseh were living across the Yarden, & the Levi'im also had cities in Gilad.  It was actually either 9 (there ARE still Levi'im), or 9 2/3 (MOST of the Levi'im were lost) tribes.

Now that I have "reactivated" my original facebook account under my actual name, I am my own friend, and show up as other people's mutual friend. I feel like Lot, sort of, who was twice his own father in law.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Perfectly Possible Miracles

The shabbat before the 9th of Av is called Shabbat Hazon.  It is named for the first word of the haftarah, the first chapter of Isaiah, Chazon (vision) of Yishayahu/Isaiah.  The last Lubavitcher Rebbe, ztz"l, put it that we ought not to consider this shabbat a mournful day.  First of all, mourning is inappropriate for shabbat, and second he felt it should be a day of motivation towards a more positive future.  I wonder whether his idea might stem from a frequent Jewish practice.  We frequently diminish the joy of a positive occasion, removing a drop of wine as we recite each plague at the Pesach seder, there is a fast of the first born before Pesach and of Esther before Purim.  I am inclined to see the Rebbe's slant on Shabbat Chazon as seeking the same sort of balance by taking from the full cup of bitterness tisha b'av represents.

I learned an interesting lesson recently regarding Rashi's commentary.  When he says he is explaining according to the plain meaning of the text ("Pshat"), Rashi frequently seems to me to involve some imaginative story.  For example, he says at one point that Sarah was rewarded with renewed youth and breasts swollen with milk, and she suckled all the children that came to Isaac's weaning.  I took this to be fairly fanciful.  Does anyone else remember the Chinese policewoman during the last big earthquake there, who left her baby with her mom, and found nursing about a dozen babies, saving their lives by the way, was the most effective emergency aid she could render.  In other words, there's no reason Sarah couldn't have done the same.  Silly me.

Crippling Self-Interest

I don't know how many times I've started reading the Torah, and gotten up to Joseph  in Breishit or the Mishkan in Shmot before bogging down and starting over some time later.  For the first time since my daughter was born, this Summer I've read the Torah in the original up to Balak in Bamidbar.  

We've read bits of the parsha at many Shabbat breakfasts for years, and we've read Balak specifically several times.  Somehow, the stories of Sihon, the Amorite king of Cheshbon, and Og, the king of Bashan, which immediately precede it submerged in my mind.  Reading them first, suddenly Balak's desperation to acquire Bilam's services makes total sense.

Moshe sends messengers to Sihon, saying Israel has no interest in his lands or resources, will keep on the highway, but can we please cross his land?  The same message is sent to Og of Bashan.  The response in both cases is not only negative, but hostile.  Both gather all the force they can and come out to attack Israel.  Both of them and their forces are annihilated, leaving no remnant, not even the frequent "and I alone remain to tell thee" guy.  Their lands are conquered.

Now comes the Balak story.  Apparently, he intends to deny Israel passage (Couldn't they just go through the territory they just conquered?), and intends to fight us, or expects us to initiate hostilities with him.  He knows that Sihon and Og paid a hefty price for trusting to the valor of their soldiery.  He therefore turns to a prophet, not an Israelite one, but a prophet of the Israelite G-d.

Balak doesn't get that this G-d is not one of the concocted, carved Elilim.  When Bilam says he can only do what H" permits, Balak clearly interprets it as a negotiating position.  He sends a second delegation, larger and more impressive than the first, to fetch Bilam.  He asks, when Bilam arrives, why he didn't want to come, since Balak surely would reward him well, as if that was the only important consideration.  

Balak's "hired" prophet, however displays his integrity and indeed three times says the words H" puts in his mouth.  The first time, when Bilam, amid great pop and sacrificing, blesses Israel, Balak just won't give up, just can't get that there are nonmaterial considerations at play.  He takes Bilam up on a second hill, and a third, where Bilam utters words we say every morning to this day, "Mah tovu ohaleicha Yaakov", How good your tents are, Yaakov, your dwellings, Israel.

The inability or unwillingness to see any perspective but one's own self interest can be crippling.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fill your hand, pardner

Years ago, when I read Black Elk Speaks, I was struck by how often he used "rubbed out" to mean "killed".  I learned later that Black Elk's son, who translated, was fascinated by 1920s gangster fiction.  I was reminded of this reading about the consecration of Aharon and his sons.  A Hebrew expression meaning literally "fill their hands" is used repeatedly.  In cowboy parlance, it means, "draw one's pistol", but here it means consecrate, make fit for service as priests.  It seems to come from the manner of separating the grain offering/minchah:  The priest/kohen takes all the frankincense/levonah and a handful of the fine grain mixed with oil/solet b'lulah b'shemen to burn on the altar/mizbe'akh.  The rest is eaten by the kohanim.

I also find it interesting that there is a separate verb for to serve, to minister (l'sharet) to and to act as priests (l'kahen).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why do Jews put stones on grave markers?

My guess, they are cheap, almost universally available, and (here's the actual Jewish angle) incapable of accepting ritual impurity (tumah).  They are inherently pure, from a Jewish legal/religious (halachic) perspective, and thus perfect for placing on the memorial of those of whom we say, zichrono,ah livracha, may his/her memory be a blessing, referring I think to those Biblical figures of whom H" said, all the peoples will be blessed in you.

Another thought:  Many cultures put some of their native soil in or on a grave in a foreign country.  This could be a vestigial version of that.

Haftarot: Familiar, but how familiar?

We all know we read a portion of the Torah (Teaching, Instruction), the first five books of the Tanakh ("Bible") every Shabbat, and that each is accompanied by a Haftarah, a reading from the Nevi'im (Prophets), the second section.  There are also Haftarot for special occasions.  One the readings comes from three books.  The Haftarah for VaYelekh, near the end of Devarim (Deuteronomy), comes from Hoshea, Mikhah, and Yoel.  Altogether, there are sixty-four prophetic readings in the course of the year, excluding major holidays.  Are the readings evenly spread throughout the Nevi'im, or do a few books dominate the list?

Out of those sixty-four, twenty-eight, slightly less than half, come almost evenly from just two books:  fifteen from Yeshia (Isaiah) and thirteen from Melachim (Kings).

Shmuel (Samuel), Yeremiah (Jeremiah), Yechezkel (Ezekiel) each have five to ten readings drawn from them.

Yehoshua (Joshua), Shoftim (Judges), Hoshea (Hosea), Michah, and Malakhi are the sources for two to four readings.

Yoel (Joel), Amos, and Zechariah each provide one reading.

All the historical books of the "Primary Chronicle" are represented, but Shmuel prodominates.  All three major literary prophets are well represented, but Yeshiah gives as many as Yeremiah and Yechezkel combined, more than any other individual book.  Six of the twelve minor prophets are included, but only Hoshea provides more than two Haftarot.

As we approach Rosh haShana

The shofar or ram's horn has been used to call Jews together at least since the Exodus from Egypt (Yetziat Mizrayim).  Today it is played in the synagogue on weekdays after morning services (Shacharit) throughout the month of Elul, culminating on Rosh haShanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) in the month of Tishrei.  In the Jewish tradition, this represents the forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai betreen the incident of the Golden Calf (Egel haZahav) and the gift of the second set of tablets (Sh'nei Luchot haBrit) containing the Ten Commandments (Aseret haDibrot).

There are four "notes" played in various patterns throughout the High Holiday services.  T'ki'ah ia a long, uninterrupted blast.  Sh'varim (broken) is three short blasts.  T'ruah is approximately nine very short toots.  T'ki'ah g'dolah is basically a T'ki'ah held for as long as one has breath.

Playing a shofar requires practice.  It is very similar to playing a trumpet, or any brass instrument, except that the mouthpiece is not as easy to use.  Basically, one presses one's lips together and forces breath out through them, producing the sort of vibration we all remember from kindergarten.  Holding the shofar against one's vibrating lips produces the clarion, inchoate call we all know so well.

But here's the catch:  Each shofar is unique, and most are not deliberately worked into a nice, symmetrical, trumpet-like mouth piece.  The only way to get one to work is to hold it up to one's mouth and try and try and TRY……. until that sound starts coming out.  

B'hatzlachah!  (Best of luck!)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oil spots, garbage dumping, divorce.


Two stories just screamed at me from the Israeli press this morning.  Perhaps I should say, they made me feel like screaming

It wasn't that the German government is apparently willing to subsidize a sixth Dolphin class nuclear missile capable submarine.  Two were delivered a decade ago.  Two are still under construction.  The navy says it doesn't NEED a sixth submarine, but Ehud Barak knows better.

It wasn't that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, is visiting Israel for the last time in that capacity, or that several Republican congressmen are planning a visit to Yehudah and Shomron communities.  Peaceful visitors are all welcome.

It was the war of attrition being waged with oil and garbage.

Outside of Ofra, "someone" seems to have gotten the idea of oiling the road on a descent.  The way it was put, "the accidents that do not fail to happen are reported in the local paper, and nowhere else."  Brilliant!  One teenager with a pint of used motor oil on a dark night can make a road impassable for days, until it is cleaned, and then he can do it again the next night!  

Oil spots on the road

Apparently, the Temple Mount is not the only place for which some people have no respect.  No, history is not alone, nature is also on their "who cares?" list.

The Waqf dug out huge quantities of of archaeologically sensitive material, no permit, no notice, from under the Dome of the Rock, and dumped it in a ravine.  Remember that, it speaks to pattern.  If you are a fan of The Naked Archaeologist, you know that it took a prominent Israeli scholar, Gabi Barkai, five years to get permission to examine the contents of the midden.   

More recently, "someone" has been dumping toxic garbage in nature areas.  Ah, for America, where they are just growing marijuana in the National Parks!  

Garbage dumping, not a huge problem?  But it's such a simple, easy, cheap way to make an area unsafe, unhealthy, unpleasant, and once the Jews leave because the government doesn't clean it up or punish the culprits, guess who moves in?  

Simultaneously, the government is legalizing bedouin encroachment in the Negev.

Oil spots, indiscriminate excavation, indiscriminate dumping, "settling" (squatting) all over the place.  Anyone else see a pattern?



Two horrible rabbi stories recently.  All you see on the crawl is two horrible rabbi stories.  But they're so different, if you just know a few details.  Both are divorce stories.

In one, the rabbi of a prominent New York orthodox synogogue is in the middle of what appears to be a nasty divorce.  His wife has revealed that the man has been consorting with prostitutes.  On Shabbat.  Ewww.

In the other, a rabbi and his wife apparently kidnapped and threatened a man with bodily harm because he was holding his wife captive, an Aguna, "chained" woman, a so-called grass widow.  They were attempting to get him to agree to allow her to remarry.

This ought to have been solved long ago, and in fact it was, but modern batei din (Jewish courts) are reticent to apply any pressure to some guy who wants this sort of revenge on his ex-wife.  One guy sat in an Israeli jail for years.  He was happy as a clam:  plenty of exercise, plenty of sleep, three squares a day, unlimitted time to study.  Ultraorthodox heaven.  That he was destroying his wife and children's lives didn't seem to bother him.

But anyway, two rabbis in the news.  Both sound horrible on the crawl. They're NOT both "bad rabbi" stories, though.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

052211 General Knowledge Bible Quiz

The answers follow the questions

1) How many books are there in the Hebrew Bible/Tanach?
2) What is the difference between the Torah & the Hebrew Bible/Tanach?
3) What are the 3 divisions of the Hebrew Bible/Tanach?
4) Name all the books of the Torah.
5) Who is the traditional author of the Torah?
6) In what book does Moshe first appear?
7) In what book does Moshe LAST appear?
8) Why is Moshe not allowed into Eretz Yisrael?
9) Who takes over from Moshe?
10) Name 4 Judges/Shoftim, other than Samson/Shimshon or Deborah.
11) Name the 3 major literary prophets.
12) Name 6 of the 12 minor prophets.
13) Other than the Psalms/Tehillim, name 4 books from the Writings/Ketuvim division of the Hebrew Bible/Tanach.
14) Name the 6 biblical books, other than the Torah, which are read in their entirety in the synagogue each year.
15) Which books of the Hebrew Bible/Tanach are usually divided into 2 sections?
16) How many books of the Hebrew Bible/Tanach are named after men?
17) How many books of the Hebrew Bible/Tanach are named after women?
18) Of what books is King Solomon/Shlomo haMelech the traditional author?
19) How many dreams are mentioned in the story of Joseph?
20) How many kings ruled over all 12 tribes of the people of Israel?
21) What is the latest event mentioned in the Hebrew Bible/Tanach?
22) What does the word "Torah" mean?
23) In what book does Saul appear?
24) In what book does David appear?
25) In what book does Solomon appear?
26) In what book does Elijah appear?
27) What was the largest tribe?
28) What was the smallest tribe?
29) To which tribe did Saul belong?
30) To which tribe did David belong?
31) Who was David's great grandmother?
32) What is the modern term for tirosh/"new" wine?
33) How were the Shvatim/Tribes camped around the Ohel Moed/Tent of Meeting?
34) Who built the first Miqdash/Temple?
35) Who built the second?
36) What distinguishes the Olah from any other sort of sacrifice?
37) What did Daniel, Nehemiah, & Joseph all have in common?
38) Who is the traditional author of the Primary Chronicle (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings), & Lamentations?
39) Who is the traditional author of Tehillim/Psalms?
40) Who is the traditional author of Shir haShirim/Song of Songs, Mishlei/Proverbs, & Kohelet/Ecclesiastes?
1) 24 or 39. The minor prophets can be counted as 1 or 12, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, & Ezra/Nehemiah as either 1 or 2 each.
2) The Torah comprises the first five books, the first major division, of the Tanach.
3) Torah, Nevi'im/Prophets, Ketuvim/Writings.
4) Genesis/Breishit, Exodus/Shmot, Leviticus/Vayikra, Numbers/Bamidbar, Deuteronomy/Devarim.
5) Moshe/Moses.
6) Exodus/Shmot.
7) Deuteronomy/Devarim.
8) He strikes a rock H" tells him to talk to to get water.
9) Yehoshua ben Nun.
10) Othniel ben Kenaz, Ehud ben Gera, Shamgar ben Anath, Gidon (Yerubaal) ben Joash the Abiezrite, Abimelech ben Jerubbaal, Tola ben Puah ben Dodo, Yair haGiladi, Yiftach haGileadi, Ibzan of Beth-lehem, Elon the Zebulunite, Abdon ben Hillel the Pirathonite, Samson ben Manoah haDani of Zorah.
11) Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel.
12) Amos, Habakkuk, Haggai, Hosea, Joel, Jonah, Malachi, Nahum, Micah, Obadiah, Zechariah, Zephaniah.
13) Proverbs/Mishlei, Job, 5 Megilot/Scrolls (Esther, Ruth, Ecclesiastes/Kohelet, Lamentations/Eichah, Song of songs/Shir haShirim), Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles/Divrei haYamim.
14) 5 Megilot/Scrolls (Esther, Ruth, Ecclesiastes/Kohelet, Lamentations/Eichah, Song of Songs/Shir haShirim), Jonah.
15) Samuel, Kings/Melachim, Chronicles/Divrei haYamim.
16) 22, counting Samuel Bet. Joshua, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Habakkuk, Haggai, Hosea, Joel, Jonah, Malachi, Nahum, Micah, Obadiah, Zechariah, Zephaniah, Job, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel. 23, if you count Kohelet/Esslesiastes.
17) 2. Ruth & Esther.
18) Proverbs/Mishlei, Song of Songs/Shir haShirim, Ecclesiastes/Kohelet.
19) 6. 2 of his, 2 of Pharaoh's, the Baker's, & the Butler's.
20) 3. Saul, David, Solomon.
21) Permission by Cyrus of Persia for the Exiles to return to Israel from Babylonia.
22) Teaching or instruction.
23) 1 Samuel 9.
24) 1 Samuel 16.
25) 2 Samuel 12.
26) 1 Kings 17.
27) Judah
28) Benjamin
29) Benjamin
30) Judah
31) Ruth
32) Grape Juice
33) Three tribes to each cardinal direction, Numbers 2:10-31.
34) Solomon
35) The SECOND was actually built following the Shivat Tziyon/Return to Zion (Jerusalem) permitted under the Persians, c. 539 b.c.e., and was massively expanded by the Roman appointed, ethnically Edomite king Herod, early in the first century c.e.
36) It is burned entire, not eaten.
37) High level government jobs
38) Jeremiah &/or his disciple/secretary Baruch ben Nuriah
39) David
40) Solomon

Friday, May 20, 2011

052111 What 1967 borders?

The thing to say about the President's speech is, these are NOT the 1967 lines to which Mr. Obama is referring.  The 1967 borders include Retzuat Aza (the Gaza Strip), Yehudah, Shomron (the "West Bank"), Ramot haGolan (the Golan Heights, and the Sinai.  Yes, the Gaza and Sinai that are now Judenrein (except for a few tourist spots in Sinai, the Egyptians like free money as well as anyone), and the "West Bank" where the OTHER Palestinian Authority (the one that is NOT Hamas, as though Fatah was such a deal) has autonomy and heavily armed "police". 

He is referring to the 1949 armistice lines.  The 1948 war was precipitated by a concerted Arab refusal to accept a SECOND partition.  The first partition involved the British unilaterally amputating 80% of "Palestine", the League of Nations mandate for a Jewish homeland, to give to Abdullah, one of the fugitive princes of Hejaz ejected from the newly "Saudi" Arabia.  The same British created another country, Iraq, for his brother, Feisal.  When the Israelis inconveniently refused to die en masse, the Arabs refused to talk peace, but only agreed to an armistice:  an armistice which saw wholesale Jordanian sniping in Jerusalem, Egyptian generated "fedayeen" raids from the cesspools of Gaza, and Syrian shelling of farms and children from the Golan Heights for the next nineteen years.

Since territorial compromise is such a good idea, try asking the President how he feels about giving New Mexico back to Old Mexico.
No, Hilda, I mean peace is not achievable by giving.  It is not giving "back" at all, because there never WAS a "Palestine", nor was there ever an actual "Palestinian" people distinguishable from other south Syrian muslim Arabs, nor did most of the people from whom today's putative "Palestinians" descend live in the area of Israel before Jews started coming back in numbers big enough to have something worth stealing.Besides, giving hasn't worked real well.  In exchange for the Sinai, there has been a very cold "peace" with Egypt, but they have cut off diplomatic ties (and now natural gas, even though it screws Jordan as well as Israel) many times, and now the man who put Sadat's assassins in jail is in custody, but the assassins are free.  There is not peace in any sense anyone would recognize with Jordan, but the "West Bank" wasn't part of the 80% of the mandate the British stole for Abdullah's fief.  "Palestinians" have control of Gaza and autonomy in most of the "West Bank".  How peaceful are things in Sderot?  How many times can the same thing not work before intelligent people understand the Einstein quote about insanity being doing the same thing again and expecting different results?

Golda Meir said we would have peace when the Arabs loved their children more than they hated us.  It will take that kind of major cultural shift in the muslim world.

032611 Response to a Dvar Torah on Shmini

I highly recommend it.  He also delivers it as a video on the same page.

I was honored today to attend the bar mitzvah of one Jonathan, son of friends Marsha and Doug, a young man I've known literally from the womb.  He did a fine job leading elements of the services and reading his Torah portion and his Haftarah.  His parsha was Shmini, which means "eighth".

Following extensive instruction on the construction of the Mishkan, and the account of the actual construction, in Exodus, Leviticus opens with instructions on how to get the place up and running.  There are seven days of preparation and ritual, the same time it took to create the world, rest included, the same length of time a wedding was celebrated in the time of the patriarchs.  On the eighth day, as a boy is brought into the Abrahamic covenant, the Kohanim officiate for the first time as fully installed, fully consecrated priests.

Moses and Aaron, at the end of chapter 9, make a sacrifice, go into the tent, come out, bless the people, and Divine fire consumes the offering, to the delight of the crowd.  The very next thing that happens is that Aaron's sons, Nadav and Avihu, ignite strange fire, and Divine fire consumes them.  

The Chief Rabbi of England, Lord Sacks, another Jonathan, delivered a learned and fascinating Dvar Torah on this week's Parsha, in which he discusses the incident of Aharon's sons offering strange fire.  He compares the spontaneity of this incident with that of Moshe in shattering the first Luchot haBrit, the tablets containing the Ten Commandments.  He points out that the requirements of Kohanim, priests, and of Prophets, Nevi'im, are different.  Prophets deliver a different message each time the Divine Spirit flows through them.  Conversely, Priests are given explicit instructions, and are expected to follow them implicitly.  This, he says, is why Orthodox Judaism has prescribed prayer: it is the offering we make in place of the prescribed sacrifices, which are impossible in the absence of a functioning Mikdash, Temple, on Har haBayit in Jerusalem.  While what he says is true, it seems to me that he ignored the most important difference between the incidents:  motivation, in Hebrew Kavanah.

When Nadav and Avihu sinned, they offered strange, Zar in Hebrew, fire.  The fire is called Zar, strange, and this is clarified by the phrase "asher lo tzivah otam", "which He had not commanded them".  Strange, not in the sense of odd, which would be Meshuneh, but in the sense of foreign.  They acted, as newly installed priests inside the Mishkan, the portable Temple, out of personal, one might say selfish, motives.  They misused holy objects and holy materials in a holy place. Was it just to enjoy their role as priests, or did they offer fire to foreign G-ds?  I don't know.  Their INTENTION was not to fulfill their mandated function.  The fire they placed in their pans was not commanded.

Moshe descended the slopes of Sinai, and saw the people, very Nadav and Avihu like, cavorting and disporting and partying up a storm about an idol that, I suspect, was not an Egyptian deity, but the preJewish Semitic Bull Hadad (http://doctor.claudemariottini.com/2010/09/hadad-moabite-god.html).  Moshe saw his people reverting to preAbrahamic practices, and out of fury over their sin, expressing his own intense dedication to G-d, he smashed the tablets before them.  This is why Rashi praises the action in his last commentary on the Torah.

It is the intention of the act, dedication or disobedience, that determines its acceptability, not its spontaneity.

040511 Dear Jewish parents.

040511 Dear Jewish parents. Version 1

Dear Jewish parents:

We bring our children to school to have them learn things we consider valuable.

We entrust the public schools with their secular education, and in many ways, they do a creditable job.

Most of us bring our children to synagogue Hebrew schools, which come under many names, to have them learn about our culture.

Almost throughout the United States, the Hebrew school has been reduced to two days per week.

This can only be adequate for even the most basic acculturation if there is considerable support at home.  It is vital that there be an additional period of extended study, and at least two short periods of practice, per week.

I have taught in Hebrew school classrooms for two decades.  I must tell you, I have rarely seen this happen.

The reasons are various.  Professionals lead busy, stressful lives.  We wish the best, all the best, we can provide for our children.  This often includes music, dance, modern languages, advanced tutoring, athletics, etc.  These, activities compete, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, our culture must compete with all of these other valuable, beneficial activities and opportunities.  There is of course the difficulty that many parents have not really made regular or rigorous study of Jewish topics a personal practice since their own b’nai mitzvah.

It often happens that students are absent from numerous class sessions because of an athletic season.  This is, of course, not only detrimental to the individual child, but to the whole class, as such children almost never make time to compensate for the missed work.  Rather, most such students require review and recapitulation during every class they do attend.

I have to tell you, the best you can hope for from the sort of program most synagogues offer, as hard as everyone involved works to maximize its quality, impact, and value, is a child with a tenuous grasp of a limitted number of prayers, who, with extensive coaching, will be able to do a creditable job at a bar or bat mitzvah.

If that is what you want, you are not alone.  A great many Jews over the last two and a half centuries have found this sufficient, preferring to think of themselves as citizens, or liberals, or professionals first, and Jews a fairly distant second, if that. 

If you would like your child to have any familiarity with the classic texts of our culture and our own, indigenous, organic language as more than a grinding exercise, to have the pride and strength of identification such knowledge affords, I beg you to consider this:

Graduating highschool in most places requires two years of mathematics, science, language, English, and American history and social science.  A year of one period in a public school is more than three times as many instructional periods as a Hebrew school year.  The year is longer, there are fewer holidays, and there are five, not two, not three, five periods per week.  The minimum highschool graduation requirement in any important (major) secular subject, which few of us would consider a full education, is the equivalent of more than six years of Hebrew school.

Hebrew school, from third to seventh grade, is thus the temporal equivalent of  a year and two-thirds in two subjects.  Additionally, due to the short year and required holidays, much time is lost in review and recapitulation.

I would honestly estimate the whole of Hebrew school to amount to about the equivalent of the morning portion of secular first grade.  Because it is spread over such a long period of time, it is dificult for the children to see or enjoy the satisfaction of any real progress, which also detracts from the value, impact, and enjoyment of the process.

If we want our children to have more, both parents and children need to invest more time.

This does not need to be burdensome, but it does need to be regular.

I suggest that those parents who want more go to their school administrators and request either additional or alternative programs with a minimum of three weekly sessions.  These programs should focus on the text of the Bible, especially the Chumash (Torah and Haftarot) and Tehillim (Psalms), because so much of both the Siddur (prayerbook), and modern Hebrew are derived from it, and modern Hebrew.  I think it would be a distinct improvement if, rather than dividing the class day in half, it was composed of three periods, two Hebrew (modern and Biblical), and one discussing holidays and history.  This, of course, would require a fair facility with the Hebrew language of every teacher.

The most critical element, though is that of the home.  The parents must actively indicate and model the importance of acculturation through some amount of study and practice.

These new programs could be family oriented, or the parents could have separate classes.  University trained intellectuals don’t require anywhere near as much instruction or support as elementary and middleschool students.  Either way, however, regular study at home with the children is crucial.

I would also like to say that cutting the school year so very short, leaving more than a quarter of the year until the next class sesson, is one of the worst ideas in education.  Almost none of us, I fancy, really requires our children to reap our fields, the original reason for a months long Summer vacation.  I am not being sarcastic.  The idea of sending all the children home for two months dates from the beginning of public education, when America was still largely an agrarian economy.

There are numerous options for Summer education.  It could be a continuation of the regular year.  It could be a separate program.  It could be several short programs.  The last appeals to me because many people take vacations, but few are gone all Summer, and many children go to camp, but again, few go for the entire Summer.  A class or two a week in June, July, or August reading a book of the Bible not studied during the regular program (such as Ruth, or Esther, or Song of Songs) or modern Hebrew literature, or listening to Hebrew folk songs and then studying the lyrics, would greatly decrease the negative effect of the exceedingly long break.


Israel shoots at terrorists.  They shoot an antitank missile at a school bus.  Israel targets the shooters.  This is what the world means by a "cycle" of violence.  The basis is the Muslim idea that if they are attacked, or even if they attack and a successful defense is mounted, they have to "avenge" the "insult" to their "honor".  So every Israeli strike DOES bring more violence.  But Israeli inaction is interpreted as weakness, and brings more violence.  In Muslim terms, the only option is to strike them so hard they decide they CAN'T fight, right now.  The best that can be hoped for is a stalemate, with their response postponed until they think they can get away with it again. Every 7-9 years, there has to be a war, massive destruction, mounds of dead Arabs.  It's horrible, but it's the truth.  The alternative, as all groups say "Palestine" will be Judenrein, is to either accept another 6,000,000, or forcibly move every Jew in Israel to England, France, the U.S., Australia, and a few other countries.  You can guess how well that would go over, both in Israel, and in the countries that refused Jewish refugees before, during, and in some cases even after the Holocaust. Also, such a "victory" would, much as I dislike the term, massively embolden the new rulers of the former Tel Aviv, not discourage further outrages.  If they don't have the Jews to shoot at any more, who's next?  Those Saudi "Princes" we depend on?  Or the West directly?

Monday, May 9, 2011

050911 Yom haZikaron

Yesterday was Yom haZikaron, Israeli Memorial Day. 42,000+ soldiers/sailors/airmen/etc. have died in the struggle to establish the state & since then. 164 since last Yom haZikaron, not including the victims of Arab terror, almost 1,500 during the "peace process", nor Gilad Shalit, may he remain alive & be returned.

Tonight is Yom haAtzmaut, celebrating the founding of the modern State of Israel, which our ancestors prayed would come "speedily & in our days" for 1,800 years. What good fortune it is to live in days in which we have Israeli politicians about whom to complain! A happy holiday to everyone!

הערב יתחיל יום העצמאות, חג הקמת המדינה היהודית, על מה שהתפללו עמנו ’בקרוב ובימינו’ כל כך הרבה שנים. 
 חג שמח לכולנו, ולכל חברינו. גיבור גדול אמר שטוב למות בעד ארצנו, אבל יותר טוב לחיות בימים במה שיש מקום אחד בעולם המשוגע הזה במה שאחינו (ואחיותינו) עומדים על רגליכם על ארצכם, ובמה שיש מדינאים יהודים על מה להתלונן

Sunday, May 1, 2011

050111 Stupid Israelis.

So, I wake up and check my mail and faceschnook, and "I Love Hebrew" has posted that today is International Workers' Day.  This is what is wrong with Israel and Israelis. Today is Yom haShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. From "I love Hebrew", THAT is the important commemoration. And Thursday is the Second Day of Rosh Chodesh Iyyar, not Cinco de Mayo, because you aren't getting much support from the U.S. Chicano population, are you? If you don't respect your OWN culture and history, noone else will. If you don't have one, there's no reason to keep the language alive. And let us remember how much respect the Workers' State had for the actual workers: The May Day parade of 1986 took place in Kiev RIGHT UNDER THE PLUME.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Today, in the news, I saw, with sorrow, but not with surprise, which also saddens me, that an Italian pro-Palestinian "activist" was found hanged in an empty apartment in Gaza.  He had been kidnapped by a splinter group whose leaders had been imprisoned by Hamas.  This group tried to pressure Hamas into releasing them by killing someone who came to Gaza to support them.  Does anything more need to be said about this hideous culture of death?

The splinters began back in the sixties, and continue to this day.  Every few years, some group of "students" decides that the group a few years older than them has gone soft, or was never radical enough, and they drive the process deeper and deeper into the abyss.  Fatah, Fatah Hawks, Force 17, Tanzim, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Hamas.  PFLP, PFLP-GC.  Hamas, which in Arabic means "zeal", but in Hebrew means "violence".  And now this.  There has NEVER been a group that splintered off because it thought rationality, compromise, coexistence were good ideas.  Does anything more need to be said about this hideous culture of death?

It is six years since Gilad Shalit was kidnapped.  When was the last Jewish captive returned alive?  Does anyone believe Gilad will be the first?  That we shall ever see Ron Arad?  Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, Zvi Feldman?  Whenever there is a trade, the Israelis bring people, and the other side denies all knowledge of the mutilated corpses they intend to return, because the Jews will give more on the off chance there might be ONE alive.  Does anything more need to be said about this hideous culture of death?

Just as a side note:  Hamas apparently is saying it is Israel's fault a bunch of Arabs in Judenrein Gaza kidnapped and murdered an Italian do-gooder.  Does anything more need to be said about this hideous culture of death?