Monday, June 26, 2006

Hollywood Stars Game at Dodger Stadium

Last night was the 48th Annual Hollywood Stars softball game at Dodger Stadium. It was also the first game I've been to this season and the first time I've been to the remodeled stadium (it's beautiful)
Jonny and Jen played in it. Jonny has been doing this for at least a decade, and Jen kind of just hung out with us on the warning track next to third base. Jonny actually won MVP for getting two "out of the park" home runs and doing better fielding than anyone else out there in his shortstop position. His team won 10-3.
from the Dodgers front page today, Jonny and Jen with Nomar and his wife, Mia Hamm

Here's an article from the Major League Baseball official website

LOS ANGELES -- Think about a company softball game, except the company is the entertainment industry and some very well-known names are taking part. Well, that's what happened at Dodger Stadium on Saturday at the 48th annual Hollywood Stars game.

The annual event started before the Dodgers came to Los Angeles in 1958. Celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole would take part in a yearly baseball game at the old Gilmore Field on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles, home of the original Hollywood Stars of the old Pacific Coast League. The celebrities moved the game to the Los Angeles Coliseum when the Dodgers came to town and then to Dodger Stadium when it opened its doors in 1962.

Over the years some of the biggest names in entertainment -- including Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Kevin Costner, Billy Crystal, Walter Matthau, Keanu Reeves, Jack Lemmon, Dean Martin and many others -- have lived out their fantasy of playing on a big-league field.

"I thought it was still a hardball game until I got here today; it's now softball," said actor Corbin Bernsen, who starred in the "Major League" films and is currently on the soap opera "General Hospital."

"Back in the original days it was hardball and it was serious hardball with guys like Billy Crystal and Tony Danza really going at it. But I remember a few years ago, when I was on 'L.A. Law' and I played in the game and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played first base and they came out with a 6-foot bat for him to use and you knew they weren't taking this game as seriously as they used to."

In 2004, the Dodgers switched the game from baseball to softball so female celebrities could play instead of serving as "bat girls" as they had previously.

"It's just fun to be out here and meet new people and everyone is just talking about having fun," said soccer legend Mia Hamm, who is also married to Dodgers first baseman Nomar Garciaparra. "People who have played in this game before have told me how much fun it is. I think we all just want to out there, have some fun, not make a fool of ourselves and not get hurt."

Hamm held her own, lining out to left in the first inning. Hamm then roped a clean single to left in the third and was called out at first base on a controversial call at first base by umpire Charley Steiner that ended the game. Replays would later show she was safe, but to no avail.

There are plenty of actors and athletes taking part, but politicians get into the act, too. In this year's game, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took part and had a great time.

"I'm a better politician who wants to be a ballplayer," said Villaraigosa, who is in his first term as mayor. "I didn't play much baseball growing up, I mainly played football and ran track, so I may struggle out there a little."

The mayor got on base in the first inning and seemed to enjoy just being on the field.

Other celebrities, like the mayor, just loved taking part.

"As a baseball fan you can't beat being on a big-league field," said James Denton, one of the stars of the ABC drama "Desperate Housewives."

"It's just great being at Dodger Stadium; coming out here and taking a few cuts. It's softball, which is obviously a whole different deal, but when they offer you this chance, you don't say no.

"I'm missing the All-Star Game in Pittsburgh this year because we go back to work on July 10th with the show and the game is July 11th, so this may be the only game I may play in this year."

Denton held his own with a clean double to left in the fourth inning.

The game had two award-winning managers -- Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen managing the White Team and Academy Award-winner Lou Gossett Jr. managing the Blue Team.

Paced by two booming home runs off the bat of the game's Most Valuable Player, Jonathan Silverman, the White Team easily beat the Blue Team, 10-3.

No matter what the score was, the game had a happy ending. And what did you expect? This is Hollywood.

LOS ANGELES -- Television and film stars, along with some current and former Dodgers, will be on hand for the 48th annual Hollywood Stars Game. The game will be played Saturday, June 24 at 5:15 p.m. before the Dodgers take on the Pittsburgh Pirates at 7:10 p.m.

Since 2004 when the game was changed to softball from baseball, an auxiliary outfield fence was added to offer greater opportunity for home runs. Fans are also invited to sit on Dodger Stadium's outfield grass and warning track to get a better glimpse of their favorite Hollywood luminaries.

The roster of stars scheduled to appear in the game includes:

James Denton ("Desperate Housewives")
Jonathan Silverman (film and TV)
Jen Finnigan ("Close to Home")
Jimmy Kimmel ("Jimmy Kimmel Live")
Sarah Silverman ("School of Rock")
Matt Gallant (host of "American Inventor")
Brooke Burke (host of CBS's "Rockstar")
Adam Carolla ("The Adam Carolla Show")
Brian White ("Family Stone")
Carlos Mencia ("Mind of Mencia")
Shane Powers ("Survivor Exile Island")
Mario Lopez (film and TV)
Kendra Wilkinson ("Girls Next Door")
James Van Der Beek ("Dawson's Creek")
Michael Clarke Duncan ("Sin City")
Corbin Bernsen ("Psych")
Wolfgang Bodison ("Akeelah and the Bee")
Tony Potts ("Access Hollywood")
Mia Hamm (USA Women's Soccer)
Antonio Villaraigosa (Mayor of Los Angeles)
Michael Rosenbaum ("Smallville")
Scott Patterson ("Gilmore Girls")
Larry Joe Campbell ("According to Jim")
Dave Annable ("Brothers and Sisters")
Louis Gossett Jr. - coach (film and TV)
Tony Todd ("Little Big League")
Ron Cey (former Dodger)
Bret Saberhagen (former Cy Young Award Winner)

Nico from Latino 96.3 will emcee the event. The Dodger Stadium parking lot and turnstiles will open early for the event at 4:45 p.m.

Equipment for the game will be provided by Rawlings, Mizuno and Majestic. Proceeds from the auction of autographed, game-worn player uniforms and memorabilia will benefit the Dodgers Dream Foundation.

I should mention that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa got booed at the stadium. Having been out of town for quite a while and not knowing what the Mayor or even the Governator are up to, but I don't think Dodger fans are going to be voting for the incumbent the next time around. As for the catcher who tagged-out the heroic mayor who tried to steal home, I fear that three summons for Jury Duty may be coming his way soon.

"Last year I went deep off Odalis Perez, but then again, who hasn't? Just kidding, Odalis, it was a joke." --Jonny on the local TV news, one of the funniest things I have ever heard

We went up to a luxury box for the Dodgers vs Pittsburg Pirates game that followed, a game that ended as a Dodgers victory, a 7-0 shutout. In there I chatted it up with Playboy bunnies and taught Carlos Mencia's kids to play 8-ball and then got pranked by Bob the former warm-up guy for The Single Guy. Dodgers are 39-35, 1st Place in NL West and are about to leave the San Diego Padres in the dust 1 game behind assuming that the Dodgers win the game they are currently winning and the Padres lose the game they are currently losing. Seventh inning stretch is over and I now return to the game. Vin Scully\ just talked about last night's celebrity game. Back to Dodgers Baseball...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

DVAR TORAH: Shlach Lecha

No scribal oddities this week, only the arguably most damning story in the Torah and one of the most famous paragraphs. The Torah portion begins "Shlach Lecha", send for yourself men to spy out the land. This is not for God's sake, but for Moses and the people's. God knows the land and obviously the Lord of Hosts (see the previous Dvar Torah) can easily conquer is. Why does God then send out scouts? Because although God is Omnicient, He has granted free will within His world and therefore it is incumbent upon the people to make their own decision. And so twelve men, one from each tribe, toured the land (which comes from the hebrew word לתור, la-tour, to tour or to spy)
The emblem of Israel's Ministry of Tourism of two men bearing a huge cluster of gigantic grapes on a pole comes from this weeks Torah portion where the spies bring back this enlarged sample of the bountiful produce of the land from Eshkol

It ends up being a disaster. Twelve spies are sent out, including a guy named Hoshea Bin Nun from the tribe of Ephrayim and Caleb Ben Yephuneh of the tribe of Judah. Joshua (Hoshea Bin Nun) is remarkable because moses blesses him and renames him, adding a yud to his name and calling him Yehoshua. Caleb is interesting because of a legend ascribed to him. I noticed this strange grammatical procession last year and I investigated (some of my campers can back me up on my discovery as I blurted it out in the Library after cholent lunch). Bamidbar 13:22: יעלו בנגב ויבא עד־חברון, literally "they went up to the Negev and he came to Hebron". The midrash, as I researched, is that only one, Caleb, went up to Hebron. He prayed at the Cave of Machpelah, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and asked them to invoke God's help because of the negative report the other spies wanted to bring. Indeed they returned and said the land was great and the produce better than anywhere in the world (I agree with that, by the way). There were no conflicts here. However ten of the spies said that the people were too powerful. They called them Nephilim, and said that "we were as grasshoppers in our own eyes, so we were in their eyes". They just called them antedilluvian progeny of angels and humans, giants. Caleb and Joshua, both inspired by God (Caleb by his visit to the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Joshua to the addition of a letter from God's Name to his own) said that with God's help we can conquer it. Well, the people listened to the 10 negative spies. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. This was much worse than the Sin of the Golden Calf because this directly countered the purpose for the exodus and not only denounced the providence of God but also His primacy and his unimpeachable strength. God decreed that all males above the age of 20 were to die. According to Midrash this evening where everyone cried was Tisha B'Av. God decided that because they are weeping for no reason this night, God would give them a reason to wail this night every year and therefore this is the day where the greatest tragedies have befallen our people. I don't have to mention the Destruction of both Temples, the Razing, the fall of Beitar, the Massacre at Worms, the Inquisition, or World War I which led to the Holocaust, but I should mention the least known but initial tragedy that occurred on this day. God in His mercy decreed that every year in the desert all the men would dig graves on the evening of the 9th of Av and they would sleep in them. When they awoke, 15,000 men did not. Every year for 39 years this many men died in their graves that night. The fortieth year they did it again but nobody died. They thought that maybe they did the wrong night. They slept in their graves again and still nobody died. They repeated this every night until the 15th of the month, the night that they saw the full moon. They then realized that the punishment was over, and this is one of of the reasons that according to Rabbi Akiba that this day of Tu B'Av is one of the two happiest days of the year.

I don't want to end this one on a bad note (well happiest day of the year isn't "bad" but still...), so I want to talk about the Maftir. We have here a very famous paragraph which we also recite twice daily as the third paragraph of the Shema. In it we are told to take fringes and place them on all four-cornered garments. Why we don't put them on towels, blankets, or ponchos, I don't know, but in an age where square clothing (not speaking metaphorically) is not common, we wear a tallit (and a tallit kattan). This may be the source of people tying a string around their finger to remind them to do something, because these tzitzit strings are to remind us to perform the mitzvot. Pirkei Avot 4:2 says that a mitzvah leads to another mitzvah and I think that this is the quintessential mitzvah that leads to others. However a mitzvah within this mitzvah is to have a thread of techelet within these fringes. During talmudic times the Chilazon, the animal from which the blue dye was derived either went extinct or was forgotten and what they could have had was too expensive. A while back, however, the animal turned out not to be extinct but well hidden. There is controversy over what type of animal it is. Ironically all the suspected animals are non-kosher; am I really allowed to kiss my tzitzit? Whatever mine is made out of, it is the cheapest kind. Yes, the day before I left Israel, I went to buy techelet. It is coming back in vogue. I think the techelet really did something for me, because the radiant blue on the pristine white really calls attention to itself (especially because there are now blue stains all over the place now) and makes me think, possibly about performing mitzvot.

Note to self: do mitzvot. I took pictures this morning of my tallit gadol with techelet I wanted to take it last night, but I can't do such things if it is too dark to see the difference between blue and white strings of the tallit, the first mitzvah of the Talmud

A wikipedia article on Tzitzit can be found here and this same article contains information about the resurgence of techelet.

Speaking of Blue and white, I'm going to the Dodger game tomorrow night. Hooray!

Shabbat Shalom,

Saturday, June 17, 2006

DVAR TORAH: B'halotecha

Within this portion are some of the most famous lines in the Torah. The bookends to the Torah service, that which begins it: ויהי בנסע הארן ויאמר משה קומה ה' ויפצו איביך וינסו משנאיך מפניך and that which ends it: ובנחה יאמר שובה ה' רבבות אלפי ישראל. However, these lines, found in Bamidbar/Numbers 10:35-36 have bookends of their own. They appear as inverted nuns
I created an image of an inverted nun and took liberties with it such as turning it upside down with its crown on the bottom and a flourish on the top, which I plan on doing should I decide to write a Torah scroll. Compare this to my normal nun.

I may have subconsciously called them bookends because they are literally book-ends. According to the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 115b, this scribal oddity is there for a reason and that this mystery of the Torah could be that either this is a completely separate book of the torah, making these two lines book two of Numbers and that which follows book three, making seven total books of the Torah as opposed to the accepted numbering of five or that this was put out of place. The latter calls in to question the perfection of the torah, but this may be one of those things, similar to the dots above some of the letters of the Torah scroll which may just be one of those Teyku issues, that which will be answered by Elijah the Tishbite in the time of the Messiah.

Notwithstanding the issue of their placement and their surrounding inverted nuns, these two verses themselves cause me a bit of confusion with their translation. Many like to translate it as "when the Ark was lifted", but it could also be "when the Ark travelled". This passive versus active has come into my mind as an issue of what is the reason that we stand when the Torah is lifted today for Hagba. I have argued that it is not that the Torah is no longer at rest, but that there is a person lifting the Torah and we stand for them. They could be fidgiting with the Torah while seated but once they have begun to stand even with the Torah secure on their right bosom, we stand.

The other verse, which said that when it rested, [Moses] said: שובה ה' רבבות אלפי ישראל. Not only is the construction a little strange, but what is Rivevot Alfei Yisrael. JPS translates it as "unto the ten thousands of the families of Israel". Christian versions such as the King James give it as "the many thousands of Israel". First of all, this appears to refer to fighters, in which it wouldn't be in the thousands (אלף) nor the tens of thousands (רבבה), but 600,000 able-bodied men aged 20 and up. Taking Rivevot Alfei as 10000 x 1000 would equal 10 million. However, I feel that the awkward construction refers to putting it to a mathematical power, and as I can't think math right now, it is either 10000 to the 1000 power or 1000^10000. I typed both in to my old scientific calculator and both returned an overflow. It's bigger than a googol or a googolplex! I have heard this referred to as God's celestial army. Why is God known as ה' צבקותAdonai Tzvaot? Notice that I didn't spell Tzvaot correctly in the Hebrew because, like the Tetragrammaton which I changed the spelling of, Tzvaot is also an Ineffable Name of God which is not supposed to be spelled out. It is always translated as the Lord of Hosts. What does this mean? God is the Chief Maître d'? No, a host is an army. The Hosts refer to God's Heavenly Army. God is the Commander in Chief of the Heavenly Army. If my assumption is correct, then there are 1000^10000 or 10000^1000 beings that are members of this army. This calls in to question why little Israel has never lost a war. Many modern siddurim have special "Al HaNisim" prayers for Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim, attributing it to God that we won these victories against all odds. Our tiny infant (double-meaning here) armed forces were able to singlehandedly defeat seven established nations. Perhaps it was not singlehanded and perhaps we had another army watching our back (and I'm not talking about America). Yep. Thousands of Tens of thousand (Or Thousands of Myriads as some siddurim are wont to translate (why did I just say "wont"?))...

Regardless of the reasoning, the Rabbis who composed our services treasured these two verses and used them as the scriptural verses that are the beginning and end of all services in which we centralize the Torah itself. So whether you lift up the torah and say חזק חזק ונתחזק a couple of times tomorrow (nobody actually does that...) or just note the oddity of those nuns, realize the importance and mystery of these verses.

And if you're in Israel, this doesn't apply to you. Instead enjoy reading about the worst mistake the Jews ever made, the sin of the Ten Spies in parashat Shlach Lecha which we Diasporites will discuss next week.

Shabbat Shalom,


Saturday, June 10, 2006


Will the Priests please raise their hands?

Finally we arrive at the Parasha of Naso, which, for the past two weeks we have been reading as the Monday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoon reading. In the diaspora anyway. They are already on Behalotecha in Israel because they had a normal shabbat last week fter the one day Yom Tov, while we were celebrating Yom Tov Sheni in the Galut.

Anyway, though I have no sources in front of me, I believe this is the longest Parasha in the Torah. Notwithstanding, in my opinion the most important part of the parasha is 15 words long and is the most interesting scribal oddity in the Book of Numbers until we get to the inverted nuns in next week's portion. I am referring to the Priestly Blessing. Thus shall the sons of Aaron, the Priests bless the people Israel: May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and be gracious to you, may the Lord make his countanence upon you and give you Peace. This is loose and from memory and in my own translation. I believe it is the conclusion of Chapter 6. Through this is established an eternal caste system which lifts the Levitical Priests above the nation of Israel. This act, which I had not experienced in my lifetime until a week after 9/11 on Rosh Hashannah 5762 was a daily occurrence in Jerusalem, and twice on days with fasts or musaf. If I was there on Yom Kippur, I would get it four times. The Priests channel God's Blessing unto the people in a strange ritual, known as duchanen. Mr. Spock in Star Trek, or more accurately the actor who portrayed him, Leonard Nimoy, is a Kohen, and created the Vulcan salute, the hand signal and the phrase "Live long and prosper" as an homage to his kahuna. Just a random, I don't think this guy was ever on the Enterprise; they flew on Shabbos
um, I don't think this guy was ever on the Enterprise; they flew on Shabbos

It is interesting that the be-all-end-all blessing that we want God to bless us with is peace. Shalom, peace, is the last word of the Amidah, the central prayer in Judaism, and is the last word in almost every religious service, as the last word in the Mourners Kaddish, the Rabbis Kaddish, and the Full Kaddish, and the Great Kaddish. It is obviously the ultimate goal, then, for us to be blessed with peace. So may we be blessed.

Shabbat Shalom,

PS (Post Shabbbos): I neglected to mention that the scribal oddity here is that within the Torah scroll itself, the three blessings look something like the following


if you were to hold your hand in the shape of the Priestly/Vulcan hand-gesture, you would have hte space in between your ring and middle fingers showing the inner texts. Try it, but I don't actually advocate touching the Torah scroll as it causes tuma (and it's disrespectful, to boot), but look in a Tikkun.

Aww, there's so much I want to talk about from this parasha, the Sotah (God allowing the erasure of His Name in order to protect the family), the Nazir (someone who wants to become closer to God and therefore must abstain from things, but is actually sinning for doing this), the Original Chanukkah (on the twelfth day of Chanukkah my true prince gave to me, 5 golden shovels!). All this, you may have to wait for next year, or the year after that... mwa ha ha...

Federal Employee for a day

On Tuesday I performed my civic duty and, using my American Policial Science Bachelor's Degree from Columbia University, I became an Election Clerk in the Los Angeles Primary. It was actually a very interesting experience and many that I worked with, including my inspector and the full-time election employees thought I should do this as a full-time job. Though this was my first time doing this, my methods made election day go smoother in my precinct. This was a really good experience and it felt very good to be a viablke part of the democratic process. Perhaps I will do it again.

Why must Gagne make me fret so? Our star closer's arm was inflamed yesterday. Is he going on the DL again after only two games back? Well, I will keep updated with my source for Dodgers news (especially the bad news) from

I've watched more Law & Order, Law & Order SVU, Law & Order Criminal Intent, and even Law & Order Trial by Jury episodes this weeks than there are hours in the week. Law & Order is my anti-drug!

I just thought of an invention. The dog mezuzah! You can put a mezuzah into a doggy door that they would lick every time they go through. You can put a flavor of something that dogs like to lick. Another dog's posterior might not be so respectful in which to scent a holy parchment. Well, the Bark Mitzvah caught on, right? why not this? Racing horses are not recommended to have them on sugar cubes in starting gates or the Jewish horses will always come in last, like that joke about the Israeli slalom guy. I can tell it later if you want.

I'm going to proceed with my weekly dvar torah, so I will end this entry for now.

G'Shabbos mate,

Monday, June 05, 2006


Seven weeks after our flight from Egypt, we received the Torah (according to the Torah anyway). We didn’t receive our Torah in a great hall of a palace or in the innermost portions of a temple, we received it in a barren wilderness on a rocky mountain, not even a high rocky mountain, but the lowest mound in the desert. This did not stop the experience from being truly supernal and supernatural and the most amazing miracle of all, direct contact between the mortal and the Immortal. How this divine communion came about was nothing short of amazing. Even disregarding midrash for a moment, the pshat of the Torah itself presents the natural process being slightly interrupted. The entire nation saw great noises, the thunder and the sounds from the shofar. This is like seeing musical notes coming out of musical instruments in cartoons but real (some scholars dispute this too…). They also heard lightning. Nature was being unwoven. When God said the first word of the Ten Utterances (because Ten Commandments is a bad translation; there are at least 613 Commandments) “ANOCHI!” “I AM…” everyones’ souls ran away. I realize that I wrote everything I am writing here in my Dvar Torah on Parashat Yitro in February so I will stop with this portion of the dvar torah.

Shavuot is not only known as Zman Matan Torateynu, the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah, but also Chag HaKatzir, the Festival of the Ingathering Harvest. It is at this time of year that the barley grain which we had been counting with for 49 days since the second day of pesach was finally harvested. Another part of Shavuot is the events of the harvest-time a couple hundred years after the revelation at Sinai. This is the story of Ruth. Rabbi Feinstein gave a sermon at the Tikkun on the first night of Shavuot regarding the book of Ruth and Jews-By-Choice which I would like to partially incorporate in my comments She is tied to this holiday because this is when the real turn of events came around, it was during the festival of the ingathering, that is, the actual festival where the men had completed the harvest and were now celebrating, according to my Rabbi, with barley by eating bread and drinking beer (which is made from barley hops). Ruth, following the instruction of her mother in law, basically rapes Boaz in his drunken passed-out state. And it is from this we get the Royal Line and will get the Messiah. This I knew. What I never noticed before is the moniker that is attached to her once she leaves Moab. Once she enters the land of Israel she is known as and self-identifies as Ruth the Moabite. Only Boaz sees her simply as Ruth, without that detestable marker, the modern equivalent being called a shiksa or sheygetz. Even as Ruth says that she is a Moabite, Boaz sees past this and sees a foreign woman as equal.

Rabbi Hoffman and I had a long discussion on Thursday night about the agenda here. We discussed biblical criticism and the {A/a}uthorship of Deuteronomy in which the laws that a Moabite and a Bastard “cannot enter the Congregation of the Lord for ten generations” (Deuteronomy 23). As most biblical critics put the book of Deuteronomy at the time of Josiah, this is surprising as this disqualifies both King David (who is the 10th Generation of Perez, as seen in the genealogy at the conclusion of the Book of Ruth, Perez being the mamzer son of Judah and his daughter in law Tamar in the 38th chapter of Genesis. Another descendant of Perez is a woman by the name of Elisheba, the daughter of Aminadab and the sister of Nachshon, prince of Judah during the exodus. She is not only a mamzeret, but also according to Exodus 6:23 she marries Aaron, the high priest who must marry someone pure. What is going on here? I discussed these issues when I delivered a Dvar Torah on Parashat Ki Tetze on the first Shabbat of the school year at Seudah Shlishit this past year. I didn't know the answer then nor did we figure out the answer now. However, my thought was that it showed that if bastards like the entire Royal and Priestly lines (pardon my French) could achieve greatness then the sky is the limit for us (the sky is the limit, because nobody can become God…).

The program regarding Jews-By-Choice program which the synagogue put on during the tikkun was very appropriate and well done. Your people are my people, your God is my God. This is a major life-altering decision that all of these converts made and places them alongside the ranks of not only Ruth, but of the first-ever Jew-By-Choice, Abraham, who left his homeland and his father’s house to go with God. So too this is the lot of those who chose Judaism. I was at Sinai, I never had to make a choice. These people had to completely change their lives and suffer the slings and arrows of friends and family angry at them for making such a choice. The thirteenth bracha of the amidah, Rabbi Schulweis points out, talks not only about God blessing the righteous, the pious, the elders, the learned, and the righteous converts, along with us. May we all together be blessed.