Thursday, August 31, 2006

i am a bear.: Israel Overkill

A thread on which I am having a back-and-forth about Israel if you want to see it:
i am a bear.: Israel Overkill

Friday, August 25, 2006


(I am not using my own computer to write this and I don't have hebrew support, i.e., DavkaWriter, so I must improvise)

This parasha is really a diamond in the rough. It has everything. I am not going to go into the Snakes on a Plane (though I saw it yesterday and really enjoyed it; maybe too late for Philo's tastes, but at least I went to go see it) diatribe because I already went into for Parashat Vaetchanen. It features the job description and criteria for certain important professions. Judges, Kings, and Priests are defined here, the former two possibly for the first time in this detail (judges are mentioned in Parashat Yitro in context of Moses and the creation of the position). "Justice, Justice shalt thou pursue" it is said of the judge. Don't take bribes but on the other hand don't favor the poor (or anyone for that matter), be equitable and just, be unbiased. This is a great basis for the legal profession that I think needs to be refreshed in certain jurists, juror, and esquirial minds. Also, the possibility of capital punishment, even here in the Written Torah, kal vachomer in the Oral Law, is already fraught with limits, setting up the rarity of the action. The Torah, like the modern state of Israel, though capital punishment *technically* exists, the limits placed upon it make it nearly impossible. In the Talmud, a Sanhedrin (court of at least 23 people, the minimum amount of people to be able to adjudicate a capital case) that executes only one person in 70 years is considered a "bloody sanhedrin". Likewise, the Modern State of Israel has only executed one person, Adolf Eichmann, and that was because of his major role in the Holocaust and implementing the Final Solution. Likewise, as you will see next week (I think next week, the famous account of the ben sorer u'moreh, the rebellious child, the talmud says has never happened and never will. That is a pretty tall fence around the Torah...

The king is a fun position because he is not allowed to have too many horses or too many wives, in that order. The king has to have copies of the Torah on him at all times, and must be a native-born Jew (see Article II of the US Constitution if you think this is unfair to converts; this having been said, it seems that Jews-by-choice tend to have a closer connection to Judaism than most Jews-by-birth, as you can see on my synagogue's website of an excellent program that took place on Shavuot celebrating the most famous Jewish convert, Ruth. Indeed, she is actually the great-grandmother of the Davidic line, so there's obviously not an "all-Jewish pedigree" required for the Job.)

I would love to give a Harry Potter Dvar Torah this week, but it says that witches and sorcerers and those who cast spells shouldn't be allowed to live, so whoops, Harry goes down with Voldemort. Idolothyous offering of children is also forbidden, particularly the idolothytes to Molech (I love getting Erin's Weird and Wonderful Word of the Day from OED...)

To continue the story last week about the false prophet versus the true prophet, there is an issue of identifying the true prophet. If his supernatural signs come true then you can listen to him, and God will call him to account. The issue I brought up in the Talmud class regarding Elijah I discussed last week is that though Elijah had miraculous evidence to support his suspension of the rules, christians maintain that Jesus performed miracles and Muslims believe this a quality of Muhammad. This then becomes an issue. Judaism has seen false messiahs, Shabtai Tzvi is one of the most famous examples. His first act as so-called Messiah was to abolish the fast of Tisha B'Av, which has been fortold to be changed from mourning to a Yom Tov in the Messianic Age, therefore this is the first thing that went. And yet he, like Jesus and Muhammad, almost had a major religion after him, but then he wussed out and converted to Islam when threatened with death. Even after his death, Frankists remained who believe that this other guy, Jacob Frank, is the reincarnation of Tzvi and the messiah. So my answer is an ambiguous "you don't know". Even in something like this is demanded a leap of faith, which is what religion is.

Finally, a very important part of this Torah portion is regarding conscription and the regulation of the Army. It's extremely moral and you aren't penalized for backing out. The Kohen Gadol of War (believe me, there's one) would address the troops and bring up their spirits. You have to realize that in Pre-Temple Times and as seen in "Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark" (one of my favorite movies and I taught a class on it) the Ark of the Covenant was brought in to battle, and was a symbol of God and His Heavenly Host fighting for us. The heads of the army then gave the option of anyone who had just built a new house (but hadn't yet moved in), or just planted a vineyard (but not yet harvested), anyone betrothed but not yet married, these and even people of cowardly complexion were allowed to back out of the army with no penalty. The Torah even demands that they are given an equal share of the booty.

And even more finally, we always seek the path of non-physical combat, always offering the enemy to surrender. Also we are never to cut down fruit trees when we conquer a city (with the exception of Jerusalem where there cannot be trees on the Temple Mount because pagans worship them. When the Temple is rebuilt (bimheira b'yameinu) the trees on there will have to go.) and "Bal Tashchit", the phrase given here, becomes applied to not wasting in a broader sense, establishing Judaism as the first ecological religion. Recycling is a very Jewish concept and many have used Bal Tashchit to advocate for Organ Donation and Stem-Cell Research, in conjunction of the mitzvot of Pikuach Nefesh (saving lives) and Rofeh Tirfeh (healing).

Oh and there's the fun little ending about breaking the neck of a cow in a non-irrigated wadi if there is an unsolved murder equidistant between two cities, but I'll allow you to read that part unassisted.

Shabbat Shalom, Ketivah V'Chatima Tova, Chodesh Tov*,

*(notice the order, tadir v'eino tadir)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Parting of Pluto

My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nachos. It seems we need to change one of the most famous mnemonics ever. We were very close last week to it being redefined to "My Very Eager Mother Certainly Just Served Us Nine Pizzas Catered Ubiquitously". That's just ridiculous. But now third graders can no longer make the joke that there's a planet named after Mickey Mouse's dog (I certainly made that joke, probably in first grade; that's how awesome I am). This is the first major change to the number of planets since 1930. I think an even number of planets is unnatural and goes against the status quo, but that's just me.

Fare thee well, Pluto, o most eccentric and the greatest of the discredited celestial bodies. Begone from the pantheon of planets.

DVAR TORAH: Rosh Chodesh Elul

כתיבה וחתימה טובה
As of writing this-time in Los Angeles (though it is dark when I press the Submit Button), it is still the 29th day of the month of Menachem Av, the penultimate day of the month and also Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul (Av has 30 days). A very important event in Jewish history happened today. Less famous than trip number one and trip number three, this marked the end of Moses second consecutive 40-day trip to Heaven, the first ending the 17th of Tammuz, the third on the 10th of Tishri, Yom Kippur. It was today on the 29th of Av that Moses received the promise from God that the people would be forgiven for the sin of the Golden Calf on the 16th and 17th of Tammuz. I believe it is also the day that the Thirteen Attributes were revealed to Moses as well as the Glory of God (where God passed before Moses and Moses saw God's back), though it could have been on Yom Kippur that the latter events happened.

That being said, we now enter the most intense part of the year, Elul, the Chodesh HaRachamim, the month of mercy and the month of repentance. More changes are assigned to the daily services in this month than any other. The Shofar is sounded every morning of the month besides Shabbat and the eve of Rosh Hashannah, An additional service, Selichot, a penitential service, is recited daily, beginning on the first of the month by Sephardic Jews and the Saturday night before Rosh Hashannah (or if Rosh Hashannah begins on a Monday or Tuesday, two Saturday nights before) and is continued daily, besides the Sabbath and the Two Days of Rosh Hashannah until and including Yom Kippur, recited at what some would ironically consider "ungodly hours". It so happens that this year Rosh Hashannah falls on Shabbat, the same day of the week that it would have fallen during the creation story. Selichot begins this year for my fellow Ashkenazic Jews on Yom Rishon (as it always does), the 25th of Elul, which matches up to the very first day of Creation; anyway, enough on that tangent. A penitential psalm, #27 to be precise, is added to the conclusion of all Morning and Evening services until the Hoshannah Rabbah, the seventh day of Sukkot. You even have to change the letterhead; very pious Jews will add "Ketivah V'Chatimah Tovah", loosely "may you be written and sealed for good" to the top of letters, referring to their wishes for a positive verdict in the Book of Life.

Elul has the astrological sign of Virgo, the virgin. We begin to be clad in virgin white and the Kittel is worn during the first night of Selichot. Fair Israel is trying to return to a state of innocence and purity, which are quintessential in the virgin. Elul has been used as an acronym, אלול could stand for אני לדודי ודודי לי, "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine", a direct quote from The Song of Songs and a central quote in the Jewish Wedding ceremony. Our fates are intertwined, and all of the confessions we do during this season are done in the plural. אשמנו, בגדנו... על חטא שחטאנו ... אבינו מלכנו חטאנו... All of these have the נו ending (not in the impatient Israeli nu?! but in the verb-ending) "WE have sinned" the Vidui confession, in the form of Ashamnu, Al Chet, and even Avinu Malkeinu are exclusively first person Plural. Though we may not have all committed these particular sins, all of Israel is responsible for one another. A further Elul acronym along these lines is איש לראהו ומתנות לאביונים, coming from the Scroll of Esther, "[gifts] of a man to his fellow and and gifts to the poor", implying not only responsibility for the people we know and consider friends and collegues, but also those who are destitute, to help them in this all-important time of year.

We also need to realize that we need each other and we seek out forgiveness from our fellows. As the Song of Songs is also an allegory for the relationship between Israel and God, the month is also an opportunity for us to get closer to God. During selichot we invoke the Thirteen Attributes of God which, according to their context in the Torah, are to be recited in times of great distress when God's assistance is needed.

I had always also seen the month of Elul as the beginning of God's annual Coronation that takes place on Rosh Hashannah, the King begins to ascend to his Throne of Mercy to sit in Judgment. The beginning of this month is perfectly synced to the Torah portion Shoftim (which I will comment on soon) where first mention is made of a Jewish King. In a number of places in our prayers, we will shortly change certain names of God, such as El (a generic name of God), to Melech (which means king). Interestingly, and as I commented at the Synagogue last week, both were originally names of Canaanite deities. El and Melech (later revocalized to Molech, containing the vowels of Boshet, shameful thing).

I can't end it on that kind of a note (though I was tempted to). The ימים נוראים, the Days of Awe are arguably (WTF^^?!) my favorite time of year. The many many melodies we use during this season are those which I obsess over (and fill my iPod) year round. Though the extras get annoying at times (especially losing precious homework and sleep time by doing nightly selichot) it is entirely worth it. The daily blasts of the shofar serve as a reminder today of the Awesomeness of the Season, just as the daily shofar blasts beginning on Rosh Chodesh Elul in the Desert reminded the Israelites that Moses had ascended to heaven for the third time to get our sins atoned. The blast served as a reminder that Moses and God have not abandoned us, remember that we are approaching the days that our fate is decided and that we need to work on improving ourselves. As my great grandfather wrote, "Give heed to the sound of the shofar!"

Chodesh Tov and Ketiva V'Chatima Tova. May we be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for Good.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Above and beyond the duty of a Mashgiach

Tonight I had another party. After the lightsticks, glowsticks, or whatever you would like to call it were thrown to the party guests I got an urgent request from the door to the kitchen from the party planner. We needed to get an emergency eye-wash as a kid has just gotten lightstick juice in his eye. New to this position and asking the head waiter if any such thing existed (they were currently serving dinner, which I took as a "no"), I decided to take action myself. Now I am not totally sure the composition of a lightstick, but as someone who, a decade ago, was among people getting lightstick all over ourselves and being told that it was non-toxic, I decided to reassure the child who was sitting in the foyer. I told him to flush the eye with water, told him it was non-toxic, asked him to close the other, non-lightsticked eye and tell me how many fingers I was holding up (4) and also noted that both of his eyes were normal white. I told him to keep flushing the eye with water and that it probably has the same pains and problems as getting shampoo in your eye. The kid asked me if I was a doctor. No, but I play one on TV. In a million years, when I get my docorate in Bible or something, I am going to legitimately say that I am a doctor, much like Dr. Laura says she's a doctor (acutally has a PhD in physiology, a study of tissue.)

I had dinner with said party planner, a delightful young christian woman, after dinner was served to the guests. Now I mention this but not to worry, no date with me until there is a date with the Mikvah. We were talking about Kashrut, Judaism, and almost the entire time. I just like a good conversation. Plus Starlite's food is good. Stuffed chicken. mmmm....

I'm exhausted for ironically working all of shabbos (not actually melacha what I was doing (I'm quite surprised that melacha actually links to an article on wikipedia). A Gut Voch!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Blue about Blue Laws

Written in scarlet crayon before bedtime

There is something which has been bugging me for the past couple of years (and I actually probably have written about before… I at least contributed to the Wikipedia entry on this topic) which I would like a fellow PoliSci or Law person to help me out on, particularly one who lives or studies in a Puritan (aka: New England) state. These states, as well as many in the Bible Belt have something known as Blue Laws, which are laws which prohibit certain acts on Sundays, “the Lord’s Day” (which, if you realize my religion from the regular content of my blog, you posit I might dispute the definition of the first day of the week as such, which may come into play as my raison d’etat for my crusade (again, based on my religion, an ironic term)). At its influential height, most work was prohibited in the colonies on the Christian Sabbath, the penalty probably being either a couple of shillings or death by hanging (the former being the penalty at fair old Kings College according to research for the most practically useless class I took at Columbia (actually, Barnard) called “A Social History of Columbia University” (no offense to Professor McCaughey, I really enjoyed the class, but I don’t see a use for it out of the Columbiana Archive or in trivia circles regarding the chronicles of our fine alma mater). Sundaes, according to the docent at the now defunct World of Coca-Cola museum in Las Vegas (though I hear there is still one in the Coke Capital, Atlanta), were invented due to the fact that soft drinks (soda) was forbidden on Sundays during Prohibition because, with liquor being illegal 24/7/365.2422, they had to make something specially illegal on the Sabbath.

Nowadays these states only have laws prohibiting sale of alcohol on Sundays, New York for example has the prohibition on Sunday mornings. I don’t think they put you into the stocks but there is probably a fine or threat on your liquor license.

My question: is this constitutional? Am I, as a non-Christian, allowed to sell liquor (assuming I have a liquor license and a bodega) on the day after my Sabbath on a day known in my tradition and in Israel as the first day of the work week? It’s Super Bowl Sunday or any other important football game I want to watch with friends and I forgot to buy the booze during the week. Can’t I buy a keg in the morning so I have time to put the turducken into the oven?

My first exposure to Blue Laws came in the cult classic movie, PCU (which reminds me: SNAKES ON A mother-f’n PLANE! TODAY!) and even then I thought that there’s something wrong with these laws, mostly because it caused pain on the protagonist characters, wrong as their intentions may have been, you still root for them.

I hope this provokes some discussion (not PCU, but the other stuff) on this last bastion of puritanical punishment for a seemingly arbitrary violation of Sabbath law (In Judaism, alcohol is a very important part of the Sabbath. 3-plus kiddushes over wine (Manischewitz, by the way, became very popular during prohibition and more people went to church (for Manischewitz which apparently is the most popular wine in the world due to the eucharist (Jewish blood apparently demands Jewish wine)) for the only legal source of booze in the country), and just go to any Chabad House for Shabbat Dinner and join in one of their many l’chayims. Obviously you can’t buy alcohol on the Shabbat, but it is so vital to the modern Shabbat experience.

In modern Christianity, in which it seems that all manner of work is down on Sunday even by the religious (correct me if I am wrong, but I see people in Harlem go from church to shops on 125th Street), this prohibition of the sale of alcohol seems to be token and arbitrary and remains in my mind a blatant violation of the First Amendment and separation of Church and State.

What do you think?


If last week’s Torah portion was ideal for Yom Haatzmaut, then this week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, is ideal for Yom Yerushalayim, the day we liberated Jerusalem from the Jordan during the Six Day War. The Torah portion ambiguously refers to the singular place which God shall choose. It defines the things which we must bring or what must be offered on the Altar. Once this place is established, then the bamot, the high places, are to be discontinued and destroyed. Once we defeat the Canaanites and settle in this land, forevermore the place that God chooses, the place which he later identified through David his anointed servant we know as Yerushalayim, Jerusalem. Once Solomon his son built the Temple, at no other place were we allowed to offer sacrifice to this day. Therefore, logically, something other than sacrifice had to replace it after the destruction of the Temple, and as I mentioned when I discussed the development of the Amidah a week or two ago (It may have been one of the things I wrote a week before I should have),

This torah portion is packed with Mitzvot that should be logical to us (as opposed to the Chukim, whose reasons can only be comprehended by God), some are review (as the Book of Deuteronomy which is Greek for “Second Telling”, is usually) and some are new: including agricultural laws, including those of tithing, the Oneness of God and his role as the only thing (for lack of a better term) to worship, certain laws of Kashrut, ignoring false prophets or those who entice you to worship others and the actual penalty for spreading false prophesy or heresy, and various laws of the pilgrimage festivals. Famously the first line of chapter 13 states, “be careful to observe only that which I enjoin upon you: neither add to it nor take away from it”. It is this, I believe what caused sects such as the Karaites to remove themselves from mainstream Judaism, denying Rabbinic texts with the sole acceptance of either the Torah or the entire Tanach. Indeed, Rabbinic Judaism, that which a vast majority of Jews have been a part of in the past two millennia since the Destruction of the Second Temple (the tailend of which we were known as Pharisees) has also made the claim that they weren't adding or subtracting, but rather interpreting the Torah, the crowns of the letters, so to speak. A midrash from the Talmud illustrates this which I will quote here and I suggest you read the article I found on the topic from which I copied the Talmudic quote:

Rav Judah said in the name of Rav, When Moses ascended on high he found the Holy One of Blessing, engaged in affixing coronets to the letters. [6] Said Moses, "Lord of the Universe, Who stays your hand?" He answered, "There will arise a man, at the end of many generations, Akiba b. Joseph by name, who will expound upon each tittle heaps and heaps of laws." "Lord of the Universe," said Moses; "permit me to see him." He replied, "Turn around." Moses went and sat down behind eight rows [and listened to the discourses upon the law]. Not being able to follow their arguments he was ill at ease, but when they came to a certain subject and the disciples said to the master "Whence do you know it?" and the latter replied "It is a law given to Moses at Sinai" he was comforted. Thereupon he returned to the Holy One of Blessing, and said, "Lord of the Universe, you have such a man and you give the Torah by me!" He replied, "Be silent, for such is my decree." Then said Moses, "Lord of the Universe, you have shown me his To rah, show me his reward." "Turn around," said He; and Moses turned around and saw them weighing out his flesh at the market-stalls. "Lord of the Universe," cried Moses, "such Torah, and such a reward!" He replied, "Be silent, for such is my decree." [7]

My final thought on this week's parasha is regarding the false prophets. We studied, in one of my Talmud classes, that we are to listen to a true prophet, "migdar milta shani" that a true prophet in cases of national emergency, can override certain Torah laws. In fact, the Torah law that this prophet temporarilly cancelled is within this Torah portion. Actually, so is the law that one cannot add or subtract from Mitzvot. So three of them come into play from this very torah portion. In Masechet Yevamot, we read about the account in, I believe, the First Book of Kings, where Elijah the prophet has a standoff with evil queen Jezabel and the Priests of Baal on Mount Carmel in the recently bombed port city of Haifa. In order to show that God was the only God and the only One to whom we may sacrifice (or in the past 2,000 years, the only One to whom we may direct our prayers), he ordered two altars be erected on the mount, one dedicated to Baal and one to Hashem. Whichever altar became ignited by heavenly fire would be proclaimed as the true God. Elijah even gave the Priests of Baal a head start and they were unable to do anything for an hour. Elijah said a simple prayer to Hashem and a heavenly fire ignited the altar. I should mention that the altar in Solomon's Temple was also ignited by heavenly flames. This possibly suggests heavenly sanction for this act of erecting a bamah in the high places, especially considering tha the Second Temple was in existence at the time. Migdar Milta Shani...

That's it, Shabbat Shalom,

V'Nomar Amen: A Dodgers Update

But Nomar and God couldn't (or chose not to) save the Dodgers yesterday on a rare Wednesday day game, the second game I've been to this season. It is strange, almost all Dodger games I have ever been to have been Dodger losses. That is, unless my cousin Charles comes with us, in which case they win. Charles has never been to a Dodger game in which they lose. I don't think I've heard "I Love LA" by Randy Newman, the traditional victory song for Los Angeles sport home games without Charles present (away games I have been to the Dodgers have lost as well). I have also been to the only two rain-outs at Dodger Stadium in the past 25 years, if that tells you of the luck which I bring to Chavez Ravine without my cousin. Thankfully most of the games I attend are with my cousin. If the Dodgers give my cousin free season tickets, they would never lose. The McCourts should think about that.

So their second streak is shattered by the Florida Marlins (that'll teach me for putting up a condescending away message yesterday). However, if the Dodgers are going to win 7 out of 8 games or 17 out of 19 games for the rest of the season, They're gonna easily win the Championship. in 5 games, dropping only one game (or less) (assuming that my statistics stay constant, which they probably won't). So the Dodgers drop one to the Marlins, leaving them at 64-57, still 3 games ahead of their nearest divisional competitor, and 6 games ahead of last place in the closest division in baseball (NL West). So the Dodgers should enjoy their day off and tomorrow we take on the Giants of San Francisco. But, like Goliath, these Giants are going down! Meanwhile, I'm going to keep checking out dodgerblues.

The ultimate triumph for the Dodgers came in the form of the Dodgers being mentioned today as Stephen Colbert's buzz
Today's buzz... is the Los Angeles Dodgers... They're so hot, Dodger fans are staying for up to six innings before leaving to beat traffic.
I left yesterday at the bottom of the sixth. It was just too painful to stay as they were almost, and ended up, being beaten by double digits.

In other news, I think I am going to be one of the heads of a taskforce and thinktank to figure out how to get more young adults to come to the synagogue. Does anyone have any suggestions they think I should bring to the table. I'm already bringing the Kol Zimrah idea, that we have a monthly extra-crunchy Carlebach service (as opposed to regular) (isn't that a more popular flavor at KFC, at least I liked it better in my non-Kosher days long ago).

There is currently a petition with some 40,000 signators petitioning the UN to demand that Israel get reparations paid to them for the damage caused by Hizbullah. I doubt that this will make any difference in the blatantly anti-Semitic agenda of the world body, but please take 5 seconds out of your day to say that you support Israel and demand that the UN recognizes our innocence in this matter with this token task. In case you haven't noticed, this entire paragraph is a link. Click somewhere on it and make your voice heard.

D'var Torah later or tomorrow...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

War: Part II... already?

Less than 20 hours after the Ceasefire, UN Security Council Resolution 1701 went into effect, FoxNews reports that Hizbullah has launched at least 10 rockets or mortars at Israeli troops in Southern Lebanon. Does this mean that Hot War is going to continue? So far Hisbullah has not released the two kidnapped soldiers and is apparently still fighting. They are holding open-air parades and fireworks are going up over Beirut. Perhaps the Katyushas were fired at Southern Lebanon to make the world think that it was Israel that launched them, but the fact remains that they were Katyushas and they were launched at the IDF. I don't imagine Olmert trying to Wag the Dog or to make some Canadian Bacon. 'tain't Kosher.

Last night I attended a going away party for someone I've known my entire life. Most people present were what I would consider pundits, a bunch of politcal scientists like myself (as in possessing at least a Bachelor's Degree in PoliSci). I made odds that Hizbullah would restart the war within the first 24 hours with odds of 2-to-1. Was right on that one. My gamble that despite Hizbullah restarting it, Israel would be blamed is 5-to-4. I also bet (not real bets or terms, by the way) that there would be a No Confidence vote for PM Olmert, and that Shas would leave the Coalition, Bibi Netanyahu would be the new PM in a realigned Coalition. This is a popular War, a very popular war, and though I don't know any polls that indicate the feeling of the Israelis regarding the government or their feelings on the handling of the war, but with the many Israelis I know, all of them have personal connections to the IDF and to people that serve and fight in it. Everybody fights and nobody wants the Tzahal to be placed in harm's way. We have not done all that we can do short of nukes. We do have a lot more conventional weaponry and technology that for some reason or another (ahem, world opinion, ahem) we aren't using. The world is going to be against us any way. If you see Palestinians throwing rocks at us, it is only because they don't have RPGs (the grenades, not Dungeons and Dragons. Had they had them, I'm pretty sure they would indiscriminitely fire them at our children. Sitting idly by is not an option here. Hizbullah and Iran perpetually say that they will not stop until the Jews are in the Sea. They don't recognize our right to exist, in clear violation of the UDHR. It is the most translated treaty in world history, though I might note that on Wikipedia, there is no Farsi translation of the article (maybe that should tell us something...)

Speaking of my constant referring to Israel in the first person plural, I am not alone: The Editor-In-Chief of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles probably put it best in his editorial in this past week's newspaper:

Who Is A Jew?

by Rob Eshman, Editor-in-Chief

If you're not Mel Gibson, who correctly guessed that the Malibu sheriff's deputy arresting him at 2 a.m. was, in fact, Jewish -- what are the odds? -- you might want a foolproof tip to discern who's a Jew.

Here's a hint: the first-person plural. Start up a discussion of the war in Lebanon. If the person you're speaking with eventually starts saying things like, "What can we do?" or "Why should we accept a cease-fire?" even though that person is not Israeli, that says it all.

For a great many of us, there is an instant and easy identification with the Jewish state. They are not they, they are we. The heat of battle forges them into us. Whether we've spent much time there, whether we have blood relatives there, we feel ourselves as one, we are they.

At its worst, this intensity of identification can betray an arrogant cowardice. It is one thing to feel -- to know -- that your fate is intertwined with that of another country, 7,570 miles away. It's another to speak as if you or your loved ones will pay the price as quickly for your beliefs. Some Diaspora Jews, goes the saying, are always willing to fight to the last Israeli.

At its best, the fusing of our identities makes all of us stronger. We know who's doing the actual fighting and bleeding and dying. We are well aware who is spending Friday at the bomb shelter and who at The Grove. But with a sense of humility and proportion intact, we do all we can: following the news intently, helping however possible, standing up for Israel whenever necessary.

The Passover haggadah speaks of four sons -- the wise, the wicked, the simple and the innocent. The moment we turn on CNN and settle back into the sofa, we become one of them. As images of the war fill the screen, do we distance ourselves from them by asking: "Who are those people?" Do we stare blankly at the screen, confounded by the ping-pong of punditry and the powerful images cooked up for us, then shrug and flip to "Iron Chef"? Do we leave TV news behind and search for deeper answers? Or do we see ourselves in those flames?

To be fair, at different times in our lives, at different moments, we may be all those sons. The fire in every thinking Jew -- American, Israeli, Persian or Byelorussian -- heats up, cools down, flares up again. For a rare handful of us it burns bright and constant.

You can have criticisms of how Israel is handling the war -- thinking you know better is an integral aspect of Jewish identity -- but there can be no doubt this is a war Israel didn't seek, and must win.

These thoughts struck me as I read how, earlier this week, more than 1,500 gathered for a memorial service in Bucks County, Pa., for Michael Levin. I didn't know him, but the day he was killed fighting for Israel in Lebanon, I heard. He was the son of a colleague's best friend. The connection was hardly close, but it felt immediate.

Levin was 22. He moved to Israel after high school, entered the Nativ College Leadership Program in Israel, and then went to Kibbutz Yavne Ulpan to become more fluent in Hebrew. After receiving special permission to enter the Israel Defense Forces so soon after making aliyah, he became a paratrooper.

"He knew who he was, what he wanted and where he was headed," his father Mark Levin said at the memorial service.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Levin had been deployed to southern Lebanon and was searching a building for Hezbollah terrorists in when it was struck by an antitank shell.

Levin's death reverberated from Israel to Philly to Los Angeles. It wasn't just that he was a great kid who became an outstanding young man. It was also that he acted on his yearning to make they one with us. He threw his lot in with Israel in the most real way possible, in the most honest way.

Part of Levin's Jewish identity was forged at camp. He grew up spending summer at Camp Ramah in the Poconos, where he made lifelong friends.

Last week, just after Tisha B'Av, the fast day of mourning, drew to a close, some 20 staff members gathered in the library at Camp Ramah in Ojai. A candle glowed in front the room, a picture Levin beside it.

Israeli counselors JJ Jonah and Marshall Lestz, who knew Levin in Israel, led a small memorial service in his memory. Rabbi Daniel Greyber, executive director of Camp Ramah in California, read an e-mail sent to him by his cousin, Smadar Cohen, who also knew Mike well.

"I'll remember him as so many things: as a wonderful friend, as a guy who was always there for me," Cohen wrote, "a funny, sweet, brave boy who died for something he believed in with all his heart."

For Greyber, Levin's death had a meaning deeper than the headlines and the evening news.

"I hope you feel in this one death," he wrote to friends, "the cost being paid so dearly by so many -- so many young men and women in their youth who have to fight, so many children and mothers and fathers and relatives waking and sleeping in fear for their loved ones, so many families in bomb shelters -- the cost being paid so that, in the words of 'HaTikvah', we can 'be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.'

May we tie our fate to theirs."

Yes. May we tie our fate to theirs.

In other news, I went up to Visitors Day yesterday at Camp Ramah in California. It was great to go back and see everyone and many of my former campers asked me to come back and to be their Rosh and they my Madors. Uh, we'll see...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

What was Olmert thinking?!

I am at a loss for words as to what just happened, that Premier Ehud Olmert has said he will support the current draft of the ceasefire. With polls indicating that over 90% of the Israeli populace support the War (which means that there may be a scathing No Confidence Vote coming up in the Knesset as many members of the Coalition, along with the Opposition support the continuation of this war until we fulfill our objectives), I am surprised that Olmert capitulated to this highly one-sided UN resolution (the UN having not done anything effective since it partitioned western Palestine in 1947). I don't know how to take this. There may be more than meets the eye. I cannot see Olmert conceding defeat, which is how Hisbullah will see this (Egypt sees our ending the Yom Kippur war as a sign of their victory). The fact is that history will indicate that Israel has never lost a war. I don't think this will be an exception. This may be a clever ploy by Israel to say to Hisbullah, "well, we checked off on this, your move". I don't think Hisbullah will accept it. I don't think anything without EXPLICIT Chapter 7 language can be considered a viable option for Israel. I see implicit reference to it, though that may not be the case. The fact that it even mentions the Shebaa Farms (which, along with the Golan Heights is a vital land to hold onto for security purposes and so that Lebanon and Syria don't try to shut off our only fresh water source again (the main cause of the Six Day War)) leads me to continue to believe that the United Nations is no longer an effective and unbiased organization, but rather a puppet to the arab bloc. Kofi Annan is a vassal to radical Muslim terrorists. Kofi, even if you did co-author a book called "Confronting Anti-Semitism" with Elie Wiesel, it doesn't not make you an anti-Semite. I think you need to confont your OWN anti-semitism and come to terms with the fact that you hate Jews and Israel.
It is my belief that if it weren't for the veto-power held by the United States on the Security Council, the Muslims would have a Caliphate right now stretching from England to China.
Olmert did not in fact make a decision speaking for Israel, but must present it to his cabinet on Sunday, recommending they accept it. I would be surprised even if dovish Minister of Defence (SIC, they use British spelling norms) and Labour (ditto) party head-honcho Amir Peretz accepted this one. Regardless of what happens here, UNIFIL will continue to be completely useless sitting ducks, Hisbullah will claim victory, and people will call this Israel's Vietnam (or perhaps refer to it as Israel's War on Terror (but in a diminutive and condescending sense). I don't think this will actually be a true statement thought. Perhaps both sides underestimated each other. Hamas and Hisbullah definitely didn't expect us to respond to their attacks and kidnappings as we did. I don't know if we realized the distance capability of Hisbullah's missiles. It is going to cost all sides billions of dollars, new shekels, and Lebanese pounds (why can't they have an interesting name for their currency?) to rebuild. I hope the world realizes that we have made an attempt to target terrorists, not innocent civilians, while Hisbullah and Hamas have sought out to murder civilians. We're certainly going to keep a closer eye on Iran and Syria and I see a major conflict with them in the very near future.

For now, let's sit back and see what happens. Israel will not fail.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Venetian Blinds, Blinded by Venice beauties, Venezuela is blind

After we had Venetian Blinds put up at the beach house (that’s all I got on the Blinds, I took a walk in my flip-flops to Santa Monica, a long walk from here in the Marina, and goes through the famous and infamous Venice Beach. As you will see from picture you find here and in my facebook, it is weirdsville. I think the quintessential picture of Venice is one I took of The Shul on the Beach right next to Sexetera (is maybe the drink Sex on the Beach a result of the unholy merger of Shul on the Beach and Sexetera?) You have a considerable amount of Judaism and Judaica in this area for some reason. There are people selling only Judaica posters at one stand I saw. There is a Jewish senior center next to a bicycle shop and tattoo shop. Moses jewelers sounds Jewish, is named after the ultimate Jew and is a JEWlery shop. There are also a lot of henna shops, I would go out on a limb and say a full 1/3 to ½ of all shops on the Venice Boardwalk (not actually on a boardwalk) are henna shops, henna having been used for centuries in Yemenite Mizrachi Jewish ceremonies (and remains as such on

Now for the political commentary. I decided to call this “Venezuela is blind” because I wanted to introduce the Mid-east crisis with a third “Vene/i* Blind” alliteration (Philos and grammar buffs: is there another term for such repetitions?) So the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez (not to be confused with worker’s rights hero Cesar Chavez) has declared his allegiance to Iran. It has removed its embassy from Israel and after Chavez compared the Jews with the Nazis (at least he admits the Holocaust actually happened). With the apparent decline of Cuba, I think that Venezuela will become the local arch-rival, with Iran as its backer. Though I fear that the CIS (Russia) is going to turn heel again (kayfabe wrestling reference), I don’t think will be nearly as major a threat as it was when it was a Superpower. But Chavez is a psycho, and don’t let him fool you, he really is a psycho, to paraphrase the Marx Bros.

Look, we’ve never had world support for Israel. The world is full of anti-Semites who are completely dependant on OPEC for Texas Tea (oil, that is for those of you unfamiliar with The Beverly Hillbillies). Whether one causes the other, I don’t know, but both seem to be true. If you have to get buddy-buddy with the Arab countries to get oil then you have to take a stand against the Jews. Blood may be thicker than water, but oil is thicker than blood (it’s true, check this out for yourselves at home, kids). So since we don’t have support anyway, let’s stop pussyfooting around and actually show some force. What is this about disproportionate response. If Mexico kidnapped some of our border patrol from San Ysidro and Encinitas or military from Camp Pendleton, you’d better believe that we would stop at nothing to get them back as well as making sure that this never happened again. Why is it when we hit a civilian, which is rare compared to the terrorists that we kill or capture, that the world yells at us? Hizbullah and Hamas make it their objective to hit Israeli civilians, and only apologize if they hit Arabs. The New York Times quoted Hassan Nasrallah, may his name and memory be blotted out, as saying that the Jews should go back to their former countries and then under a Palestine that spans all the land that is currently Israel, equal rights will be given to Muslims, Christians and Jews (my own conjecture is this is under Shariia Law and Dhimmi statuses, and I thought the Jews all went back to the homeland. Their homeland and their land of origin, before we were so rudely taken out of it, is Israel, so taking Nasrallah at his word, the return to our homeland(s) would cause all of the Jews living in the Diaspora to make Aliyah to Israel, rather than the Jews of Israel making Yeridah to the lands to which they were tossed around for so many millennia. We recognize that these evils exist an we seek to disarm them. They don’t even recognize our existence on paper.

Like Hitler יש"ו)) in the 1930s, we have seemed to think that through appeasement and land we could secure peace with an unpleasable (THINK OF A BETTER WORD) enemy. Then-Prime Minister of England, Neville Chamberlain (CHECK IF IT WASN’T WINSTON CHURCHILL) said “we will see peace in our times”. Wrong. You can’t appease the Nazis, they won’t stop until they’ve taken over everything. It is my firm belief that the Palestinian Authrority, Hamas, Hisbullah, Al Aqsa, Islamic Jihad, Iran, Syria, and other terrorist groups will not stop until the, God-forbid, complete destruction of Israel. They are using the places we have pulled out of to use to launch attacks at us and start a war.

Look at what we do to rescue just one of our children, something many of them cannot understand. They willfully send their children to kill themselves. We got involved with a war to save just a few of our Paisanos, as our elders taught, He who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the whole entire world. And yet a lying tongue of deceit is a deadly weapon. See this flash from Aish HaTorah regarding the faking of photographs by Lebanese.

And I think any sort of land for peace in the near future is not going to happen, with the possible exception of withdrawing from southern Lebanon once the international force is in place. As the Dry Bones comic so wryly pointed out, it is from places which we handed them on a silver platter that they have attacked us. Imagine if they, God-forbid, took the West Bank from us! They could strike ANYWHERE! No, peace is dead, long live the peace.

“We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us” -Golda Meir

Lamentations 3: 46 All our enemies have opened their mouth wide against us. 47 Terror and the pit are come upon us, desolation and destruction. 48 Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water, for the breach of the daughter of my people. {S} 49 Mine eye is poured out, and ceaseth not, without any intermission, 50 Till the LORD look forth, and behold from heaven. 51 Mine eye affected my soul, because of all the daughters of my city. {S} 52 They have chased me sore like a bird, that are mine enemies without cause. 53 They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and have cast stones upon me. 54 Waters flowed over my head; I said: 'I am cut off.' {S} 55 I called upon Thy name, O LORD, Out of the lowest dungeon. 56 Thou heardest my voice; hide not Thine ear at my sighing, at my cry. 57 Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon Thee; Thou saidst: 'Fear not.' {S} 58 O Lord, Thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; Thou hast redeemed my life. 59 O LORD, Thou hast seen my wrong; judge Thou my cause. 60 Thou hast seen all their vengeance and all their devices against me. {S} 61 Thou hast heard their taunt, O LORD, and all their devices against me; 62 The lips of those that rose up against me, and their muttering against me all the day. 63 Behold Thou their sitting down, and their rising up; I am their song. {S} 64 Thou wilt render unto them a recompense, O LORD, according to the work of their hands. 65 Thou wilt give them hardness of heart, Thy curse unto them. 66 Thou wilt pursue them in anger, and destroy them from under the heavens of the LORD. {P}


Note: in my exhuberance, I accidentially wrote about Birkat HaMazon (though did not print it) last week, as part of my D’var Torah on Vaetchanen. For more details on that boo-boo, check out that D’var Torah.

On to Birkat. Birkat Hamazon, for those not in the know (note to the reader: if you don’t know what birkat Hamazon is, I thank you for reading my Divrei Torah and hope you are understanding them, but that might be an issue for people who do know what it is… Sometimes even I don’t know what I’m talking about…) is formally known in English as Grace After Meals. I believe, and correct me if I’m wrong if there are any gentiles reading, that Christians say some sort of grace that is somewhat spontaneous before the meal thanking God for His bounty of which you are about to partake. In Judaism, prayer is largely formalized. Though things like the Amidah (officially the central prayer (actually a compilation of anywhere from 7 to 20 (or 26) prayers, depending on the day and the service… see the wikipedia article for further information), canonized for about 2,000 years have been . We are not to add or subtract from the mitzvoth. However, the Rabbis saw that things in the Torah may be hinting at things, rather than being literal sometimes. For example, “don’t cook a kid in its mother’s milk”, recorded three times in the Torah, became practiced as three separate mitzvot of not mixing milk and meat. The Rabbis glean hints from the Torah and the rest of the Bible (Old Testament only; Like Godfather III, Jews never liked the sequel (oh snap)). After the destruction of the Second Temple, outside which sacrifices, then our only source of daily services, was forbidden, the Rabbis determined that prayer would replace the korbanot. As every great Tannaitic (Mishnah-era; 200 BCE – 200 CE) Rabbi does, they found sources from the Scriptures to back them up. They determined that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the three Patriarchs, had respectively invented a service. Through various biblical sources, they derived that Abraham (who arose early in the morning and went to the place that God ), Isaac (who stood out in the field in the afternoon), and Jacob. I’m surprised that this bit of important information from the Talmud hasn’t made it onto the Wikipedia article. I must change that. There is another Talmudic theory that they correspond to the daily offerings, Shacharit and Mincha are for the morning and twilight Tamid offerings, Maariv is when they let the forbidden fat burn on the altar, and musaf is the additional sacrifice of special days.

Okay, on to Birkat HaMazon. Yes, we pray before we eat or drink anything, but these prayers tend to be very short. They also all are fixed and they vary depending on what we happen to be eating. What we eat also determines what sort of benediction we say following our consumption of the item or items in question. In Judaism, bread trumps all. Bread is the staff of life and in an agrarian culture, harvesting the grains and the process of making them into bread is the most important thing for survival, with the possible exception of water (which incidentially has its closing blessing as only 25 words, it’s opening 9, same as with meat and most other foods that aren’t fruit, vegetables, or grain.) , as “man cannot live on bread alone” (which is in next week’s parasha; I guess not everything is in this one…) Bread is a great source for simple carbohydrates and an important part of giving energy. People didn’t care about the Atkins and South Beach diets until very recently, and bread was the center of everyone’s diet.

The opening prayer for mamash bread is ten words (which makes it a minyan-counting favorite as you are forbidden to actually count people with numbers as one would count cattle. Some people in high school morbidly preferred the Ten Plagues as the quorum-counting mnemonic). The prayer for bread, as the highest form of edibles also acts as a blanket for all other food or drink eaten at the same meal. The Grace After Meals is considerably longer and has special editions for Shabbat, holidays, and other special situations. This is also the only food related prayer that changes with the amount of Bar Mitzvahed people present (ie: Jews above the age of 13 (12 for girls if you are into the whole egalitarian thing)), getting slightly longer with 3 people, one word added when a minyan of 10, and according to the Mishnah, another word added with 100, and a freakin’ novel added when there are 1,000. 10,000 will get you the length of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Okay, fine, what’s the source for this monstrously long prayer?
Actually, I accidentially did the wrong Torah portion by mistake. Oops. That’s actually in Ekev, next week’s parasha.

Okay, so that was from my mistake last week which is actually part of this week’s parasha. I want to comment on a little more that I didn’t get to when I realized my mistake. The reason for Bentchen (often mispronounced and mistaken as Benching) is because of the goodness of the land that God has given you. If you’ve ever eaten Israeli produce, you see that it is good. I was eating persimmons and passionfruit all the time. However, this section also gives a pecking-order to the “seven species” those seven types of produce that are considered, in ancient Israel, to be the produce for which Israel was famous: “a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey”. The final thing mentioned, honey, is actually date honey, not bee honey. The world famous Israeli Dates, it has been pointed out to me by a tour guide in Beit Shean a couple of months ago, disappeared from Israel under the neglect of the inhabitants. A few decades ago, someone smuggled dates out of Iraq and planted them in Israel, and with the amazing patience of chalutzim that included David Ben-Gurion, we have caused the Negev desert to flourish more than any other desert in the world, in desert and volcanic soil we have caused irrigation and the greatest produce in the world to grow, not just the things that normally grow in a desert, but even our oranges are famous.

“You shall eat, and you shall be satisfied, and you shall bless”. I don’t usually use any commentaries in order to write my divrei torah, and this is no exception. I therefore go out on a limb when I point out the fact that there is an etnachta (looks like a wishbone , the most powerful pause we have in trope besides the verse-ending Sof Pasuk, on the word “v’savata”, and therefore it could be rendered, You shall eat to satisfaction and THEN you shall bless God for the good land which he gave you. It is a requirement that when you eat, you eat to satiation, because when you are good and full, you are grateful. This is not to say it is an option whether to bentch or not when you aren’t full, but it is ideal to be full (this is also the point which you are supposed to eat the Afikomen at the end of the Passover meal).

There are four main benedictions in the Birkat HaMazon. I shall call them Mazon (sustenance), Aretz (land), Binyan Yerushalayim (building Jerusalem), and HaTov V’Hameytiv (the Good One who bestows good). Like the three daily services, these prayers each have some sort of historical significance, relating to the contemporary thing to be thankful for. Moses wrote the first one because God sustained the people with food. (The bracha on Manna, by the way, is HaMotzi Lechem Min HaShamayim: who draws bread out of the sky). Joshua, who was the first to inherit the land, wrote Al HaAretz V’Al HaMazon. Kings David and Solomon, who made Jerusalem the capital and built the Temple there, respectively, wrote the prayer about the building of Jerusalem. Normally one does not say amen to their own blessing, but an amen was placed here as a marker to indicate that the Birkat HaMazon usually ended here

The Birkat HaMazon apparently remained this way for 1000 years. It took a tragedy to change it. We all probably know what transpired at Masada, hundreds of Jews took their lives in the Herodian desert fortress rather than fall into the hands of the Romans. The people of Beitar (near Jerusalem), led by Bar Kochba, heroically fought to their deaths (an event identified with Tisha B’Av) . The evil Romans didn’t even allow the Jews to bury their dead. After many years and Rabban Gamliel giving all of his money to the Romans to make them change their minds, the Romans finally gave, on Tu B’av by the way, permission to bury the dead of Beitar. Rabban Gamliel praised God as HaTov, the Good One. However, miracle of miracles, when they approached the bodies that scientifically should have been in a late decaying and putrid stage, were miraculously whole and undisturbed. Hameytiv, the One who bestows good. Thus this became the fourth bracha in the Birkat HaMazon, another example of the goodness with which God bestows unto us. This prayer, composed by Rabban Gamliel, is also recited when one hears especially good news. The Birkat HaMazon officially ends here, but the Harachamans that follow are to show some extra thanks to God.

The beginning of this Torah Portion happens to be the Torah Reading chosen for Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, which has taken on a sort of religious significance, especially within the state of Israel (which I commented on this past Independence Day) along with Sabbath-length Psukei D’Zimra, Full Hallel both at night and in the morning, and a Torah portion and Haftarah. I present what I believe is the reading from the JPS English Edition of the Bible from 1917, which predates Yom Haatzmaut (you can download for free this version of the bible by going to

Deuteronomy 7:12 And it shall come to pass, because ye hearken to these ordinances, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep with thee the covenant and the mercy which He swore unto thy fathers, 13 and He will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee; He will also bless the fruit of thy body and the fruit of thy land, thy corn and thy wine and thine oil, the increase of thy kine and the young of thy flock, in the land which He swore unto thy fathers to give thee. 14 Thou shalt be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle. 15 And the LORD will take away from thee all sickness; and He will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee, but will lay them upon all them that hate thee. 16 And thou shalt consume all the peoples that the LORD thy God shall deliver unto thee; thine eye shall not pity them; neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee. {S} 17 If thou shalt say in thy heart: 'These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them?' 18 thou shalt not be afraid of them; thou shalt well remember what the LORD thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt: 19 the great trials which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, whereby the LORD thy God brought thee out; so shall the LORD thy God do unto all the peoples of whom thou art afraid. 20 Moreover the LORD thy God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and they that hide themselves, perish from before thee. 21 Thou shalt not be affrighted at them; for the LORD thy God is in the midst of thee, a God great and awful. 22 And the LORD thy God will cast out those nations before thee by little and little; thou mayest not consume them quickly, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee. 23 But the LORD thy God shall deliver them up before thee, and shall discomfit them with a great discomfiture, until they be destroyed. 24 And He shall deliver their kings into thy hand, and thou shalt make their name to perish from under heaven; there shall no man be able to stand against thee, until thou have destroyed them. 25 The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire; thou shalt not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein; for it is an abomination to the LORD thy God. 26 And thou shalt not bring an abomination into thy house, and be accursed like unto it; thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a devoted thing. {P}
8:1 All the commandment which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore unto your fathers. 2 And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, that He might afflict thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no. 3 And He afflicted thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every thing that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. 4 Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years. 5 And thou shalt consider in thy heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee. 6 And thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in His ways, and to fear Him. 7 For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, springing forth in valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey; 9 a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass. 10 And thou shalt eat and be satisfied, and bless the LORD thy God for the good land which He hath given thee. 11 Beware lest thou forget the LORD thy God, in not keeping His commandments, and His ordinances, and His statutes, which I command thee this day; 12 lest when thou hast eaten and art satisfied, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; 13 and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; 14 then thy heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, who brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; 15 who led thee through the great and dreadful wilderness, wherein were serpents, fiery serpents, and scorpions, and thirsty ground where was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; 16 who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that He might afflict thee, and that He might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; 17 and thou say in thy heart: 'My power and the might of my hand hath gotten me this wealth.' 18 But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God, for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore unto thy fathers, as it is this day. {P}

Perhaps cryptic, it tells us the ease and supernatural power with which we defeat those who were squatting on our land, just like in Biblical times in Canaan.

22 And the LORD thy God will cast out those nations before thee by little and little; thou mayest not consume them quickly, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.
23 But the LORD thy God shall deliver them up before thee, and shall discomfit them with a great discomfiture, until they be destroyed.

Wait, it says that it’s not going to be easy, and we shouldn’t do it too quickly. But wait, while it took four hundred years to defeat the Ancient Canaanite kingdoms, we won the Six Day War in only seven days (kidding, six, duh) and the Yom Kippur War (which for some strange reason Egypt Celebrates as Victory Day) in only 20 days, soundly defeating those who sought to destroy us in such a little amount of time and increasing the borders of our land in the process. Could it be that we are on even better terms with God now. “Thou mayest not consume them quickly, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee?” Are our miraculously speedy victories the cause of the uncontrollable size of the stray cat population in Israel? (to this day cats are the only things that scare me in Israel. Not terrorism, not the mafia, not even walking on the sidewalk (you can get hit by CARS on the sidewalk!). You walk back from wherever at night and they jump out of the bushes, plus their plight makes me sad, though you never see mice or rats in Israel because the cats do such a good job of eradicating them). “Kol HaOlam Kulo Gesher Tzar Meod (Gesher Tzar Meod, Gesher Tzar Me-o-o-o-od), V’HaIkar Lo L’Fached Klal”. The whole entire world is a very narrow bridge, but the most important thing is to not be afraid, reads one of the most famous Zmirot done in the tradition of the Conservative Movement (I’ve learned this same song in Japanese, by the way). God shall fight for us, God the Lord of Hosts. Even after these thousands of years of getting persecuted, robbed, expelled, and murdered, we have never lost our faith in God. Just as I have mentioned when something good happens to us, whenever anything bad has happened to us, we thank God for being “Dayan HaEmet”, “the True Judge” and now God has finally found in our favor and we have returned to the Good Land, the Land flowing with Milk and [Date] Honey. We need to stay the course and have faith in God and in his Political agents on Earth, the government of the State of Israel, and in His earthly army, the Israel Defense Forces. May we continue to receive and appreciate God’s blessings, vanquish evil, and be satisfied in the good land which God has bestowed upon us.

I will follow shortly with a commentary on the War.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

NEW CELL PHONE # & Zach's Back

I have a new cell phone number because I was sickc and tired of all the wrong numbers so now I have to distribute my new number to family and friends. If you are one of those people who think you are worthy of my number, IM me, message me, or something. If you can call me, then you possibly already have the number...

My brother Zach came back from Israel two nights ago after six weeks on the Ramah Seminar program. I saw a number of my former campers who gave me a huge group hug and then asked me to be their Rosh next summer, they my Madors. Um, maybe. In addition my former gumpsh (sp?) partner was also on that trip.

What is with the Dodgers (57-55)? They lose 13 out of 14 and now they've won 10 in a row! Talk about a rally, now they are 1 1/2 out of first place in the NL West, behind the Padres (58-53). Currently the Dodgers tie the lead for the Wild Card with the Cincinnati Reds, but it won't matter because if this streak keeps up and the Dodgers are playing like they're playing, it will be division, pennant, world series championship!

I am currently watching The 40-Year-Old Virgin for the first time. It features Encino quite prominently, and the places I pass on my almost daily walk when I'm staying in the Valley. I'm going to continue watching, so I am going to end here.

I found some old things looking back at my DeadJournal and LiveJournal: Old quizzes abound and are probably quite out of date (Knowledge is pre-Tapas Lounge Am Caf. At least I think so, I haven't gone there since they 'gentrified'. The smoking lounge has not been the smoking lounge since 2002.:
How List College are you?
How Columbia University are you?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Marx Brothers and the Bomb

Did you know that Zeppo Marx, one of the Marx Brothers was one of many Jews (or what the Nazis considered a Jew)(Albert Einstein (so Jewish that he was asked to be the President of freakin' Israel!), Enrico Fermi (wife was Jewish), Niels Bohr (Jewish mother)etc..) who had a role in the United States' nuclear program. However insignificant it may seem, he invented the clamp that held and released the Atomic Bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. That's awesome. What would happen if, say, one of Carrot Top's props was used in a Hydrogen Bomb?

A Marman clamp is a type of heavy-duty band clamp: this allows two flat cylindrical interfaces to be simply clamped together with a ring clamp. Also sometimes known as a "Marman ring".
A common use for Marman clamps is their use as a quick-disconnect connector in wide-diameter fuel lines. Another example is their use in space vehicles, for example on the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer on the Cassini orbiter.
The Marman clamp was invented by Herbert Marx, better known by his stage name of Zeppo Marx as one of the Marx Brothers. It was manufactured by his company Marman Products. At the time it was designed to secure cargo during transport. The U.S. Military used it to transport the atomic bombs used at the end of the Second World War.
Marman clamps are found in almost every modern moving vehicle.


Tu B’Av is on Tuesday sunset to Wednesday sunset.

ח אָמַר רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל, לֹא הָיוּ יָמִים טוֹבִים לְיִשְׂרָאֵל כַּחֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר בְּאָב וּכְיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים, שֶׁבָּהֶן בְּנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם יוֹצְאוֹת בִּכְלֵי לָבָן שְׁאוּלִין, שֶׁלֹּא לְבַיֵּשׁ אֶת מִי שֶׁאֵין לוֹ. כָּל הַכֵּלִים טְעוּנִין טְבִילָה. וּבְנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם יוֹצְאוֹת וְחוֹלוֹת בַּכְּרָמִים. וּמֶה הָיוּ אוֹמְרוֹת, בָּחוּר, שָׂא נָא עֵינֶיךָ וּרְאֵה, מָה אַתָּה בוֹרֵר לָךְ. אַל תִּתֵּן עֵינֶיךָ בַּנּוֹי, תֵּן עֵינֶיךָ בַּמִּשְׁפָּחָה. (משלי לא) שֶׁקֶר הַחֵן וְהֶבֶל הַיֹּפִי, אִשָּׁה יִרְאַת יְיָ הִיא תִתְהַלָּל. וְאוֹמֵר, תְּנוּ לָהּ מִפְּרִי יָדֶיהָ, וִיהַלְלוּהָ בַּשְּׁעָרִים מַעֲשֶׂיהָ. וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר, (שיר השירים ג) צְאֶינָה וּרְאֶינָה בְּנוֹת צִיּוֹן בַּמֶּלֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה בַּעֲטָרָה שֶׁעִטְּרָה לּוֹ אִמּוֹ בְּיוֹם חֲתֻנָּתוֹ וּבְיוֹם שִׂמְחַת לִבּוֹ. בְּיוֹם חֲתֻנָּתוֹ, זוֹ מַתַּן תּוֹרָה. וּבְיוֹם שִׂמְחַת לִבּוֹ, זֶה בִּנְיַן בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, שֶׁיִּבָּנֶה בִּמְהֵרָה בְיָמֵינוּ. אָמֵן:

The Rashbag, Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel said that there were no greater days (or Yom Tovs) for Israel than the 15th of Av or Yom Kippur. Ok, what? Yom Kippur, many incorrectly assume, and I believe with valid reason, is the most somber day of the year. I think people misconstrue the original purpose of the day. Judaism does not contain the kind of Confession that, say, a Catholic would be able to perform, go to a Priest, confess your sins and perform some sort of penance by saying certain words or giving charity. As you will see from my Divrei Torah soon as we approach the Season of Repentance, the God of Israel demands of His people that they approach a person they have wronged in order to make amends and secure their forgiveness ("בין אדם לחברו") . Only this can do it, Yom Kippur will not forgive such sins, but the season definitely gives the hint that you should be seeking to reconcile with your fellow. Yom Kippur was created by God, whose reasons I am unable to fathom, but will attempt to anyway, in order that we have a way to know when we have been forgiven by God for sins we have committed against Him ("בין אדם למקום"). Because we do not have a literal direct line to God, that we know what he’s thinking, he set up this day, Yom Kippur, to forgive our sins we have sinned against Him if and only if we are sincere in our desire to discontinue sinning. Obviously we will sin again, we are human, but God understands that limitation and as long as our intentions are pure, this day gives those who were written in the Book of the In Between (those who were not immediately on Rosh Hashannah inscribed in the Book of Life (for those who are wholly righteous) or the Book of Death (for those who are wholly wicked). These three books need to be contracted to two, and anyone in the middle book, which is the vast majority of us, will be moved and sealed in one of the two extreme books by the end of Neilah of Yom Kippur, having had 10 Days of Repentance to try to get our friends to forgive us to tip the scales in our favor.

Speaking of scales, The Jewish Calendar seems very compatible with the zodiac. Libra, being scales, is the Mazal (astrological sign) for Tishrei, the month of weighing judgment. Elul is Virgo the virgin, a month of purifying ourselves. You can really find anything with any month and I used to have a great book that discussed each month and astrology; I need to find it.

The middle of the lunar month, when the moon is maleh (full) seems to be the most popularly positive time of the month in Judaism. There are many Jewish holidays that occur in the middle of the month: Sukkot (begins 15 Tishrei), Tu Bishvat (15 Shevat), Purim (14 Adar, 15 Adar in Shushan/Jerusalem/some other places), Passover (begins 15 Nisan). The only week of the month that is not affected by the negativeness of the Three Weeks is the time leading to the full moon from a waxing gibbous.

In some other cultures, such as paganism and Wiccan cultures, the full moon is considered to be a bad time and allows the proliferation of werewolves and other bad things (I’m very articulate right now…). However, like the number 13, things that may be considered a bad thing in other religions are especially auspicious in Judaism, the number 13 is not twelve witches plus the devil, but is instead the Attributes of God. The middle of the month, where there is the most moon-light,

Argh!!! So stop blabbing on about werewolves and tell me about these freakin’ holidays already!!!

Whoa, patience, buddy… Tu B’Av, besides being a minor holiday which celebrated the end of the deaths of the Jews during the 40 year Exodus (This is long so I am going to remove unnecessary words:
40 years in desert, sinners dig graves on 9 Av for punishment of listening to 10 spies, when wake up many not wake up b/c dead. In 40th year, noone die. They think wrong date. Dig again next night. No dead. Next night etc… on 15th of month, full moon. Know punishement over. People relieved. Og hungry.)
It is also the day that the olives being growing, they begin filling with oil, as the ancients assumed.
As you may be able to glean from the Mishnah, the final one of Taanit which I present above, this day, along with Yom Kippur, the unmarried maidens would go out into the fields in borrowed white clothing (so all would be on the same playing field and the wealthy would not have an advantage) and they would dance together for the men who would then choose their wives (I like this system, it makes dating so much easier). The men are quoted something from Solomon’s book of Proverbs: look not for beauty but for family. They are told to raise their eyes and pick a bride (did you ever see that scene from the Ten Commandments where Moses is asked to select one of Jethro’s 6 younger daughters, and Sefora is not there but tending sheep? I think it is like that.) Think of it as a combination Valentines Day and Sadie Hawkins Day. It relates this to the book of Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) where Solomon is seeking out his beloved in the sacred orchard. This is probably the least known of the biblical holidays (okay, Yom Nicanor…) and its only significance today is that we do not say any penitential prayers on it, such as Tachanun (take a look at the first entry on this list...) and are supposed to conduct ourselves in a more festive airs to borrow the type of language you might see in the Ezras Torah Luach. There is really only one real reminder of these two ancient practices. You would think that Yom Kippur, on which is forbidden sexual relations, would not have such associations. My own opinion, studying the Mishnayot of Yoma, that the Yom Kippur of the Second Temple times was very different than most of the practices we perform today. We derive the mitzvah to fast and abstain from other things from the verse in Leviticus that says “on this day you shall afflict your souls”. I feel that the high priest, who was responsible for securing atonement for himself and his family, the rest of the Kohanim, and all of Israel, in that order, was the only one who not only abstained from food, but also from sleep on Yom Kippur. If memory serves me correctly, the Mishnah does not discuss the practices of the rest of the Jews, only specifies that he must fast, and that for the belief that eating leads to a more likely ‘spilling of the seed’. So after all the things described in Yoma, which we recite in some form today as the Avodah service part of Musaf in the morning of Yom Kippur were probably completed by early afternoon, and people went home and it says in both Yoma and the Avodah that with his work complete and the red fillet turning white, he made a party for his friends at his house. I think this means that the day is over and allows the young people the rest of the day off from work (because even in the bible work is forbidden on the day, matching men and women, however, is even permitted on Shabbat which is even more holy and restrictive (well, just in the penalty for breaking it, capital punishment over heavenly excision) and as a certain group of Sophomores in the Joint Program know “u’l’shadech habanot!’ is permitted on the Holy Sabbath, a fortiori, on Yom Kippur.). The remnant of this is in the strange Torah portion we read at Mincha of Yom Kippur. It comes from the same portion as the morning’s reading, Acharei Mot, but whereas the morning came with instructions to the High Priest as to the procedure on how to perform the unique sacrifices and stage directions of the Day of Atonement, the afternoon’s reading is about arayot, forbidden sexual relationships. As in modernity with the prohibition of sex on Yom Kippur, It is my opinion that this is a wink to ancient times when there were no happier days than Yom Kippur and Tu B’Av
As the penultimate verse of the book of Lamentation exclaims:
“Hashiveinu Hashem Alecha V’Nashuva, Chadeish Yameinu KKedem” Return us, Lord, and we will return, renew our days to the days of old. And the end of the Mishna we’ve been studying: “the day of gladness in the heart, that is the rebuilt Temple, may it be rebuilt speedily in our days, amen!”

Saturday, August 05, 2006

DVAR TORAH: Va'etchanen/Shabbat Nachamu

Wow, this Torah Portion has everything: The Shema (the central affirmation of faith), the Ten Commandments Version 2.0 (which, BTW, I’m leyning at shul this week), the basis for Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals), Major portions of the Torah Service for Ashkenazic (V’atem Hadbikim LaShem…) and Sephardic (Ata Hareita LaDaat) and the Aleynu (the prayer that ends every service and performs a central role during the High Holidays). But there’s one thing it doesn’t have: SNAKES ON A PLANE!

Sorry I couldn’t resist the SoaP ad, and have honestly had (does this count as an alliteration? the second ‘h’ is silent…) this introduction for this week’s dvar torah in my mind for a couple of weeks, thinking it perfect for the torah portion which has everything… you know, except for snakes on a plane. Well, the haftarah for Tisha B’Av morning yesterday in Jeremiah 8:17 (JPS 1917 translation) “For, behold, I will send serpents, basilisks, among you, which will not be charmed; yet shalt cometh from the heavens nestled on the wings of great iron eagles and they shalt bite and smite you, at the arrival of the man of Cush, saith the LORD.*”

*Okay, most of the verse is real, but I kind of completely made up the second half. You might want to look it up for real...

What to talk about… There is so much in here. TOO much. The shema? Nah. The slight and not-so-slight differences in the two versions of the Ten Commandments? Boring. The fact that trying to pass off fragments as questions? Don’t press your luck. Hmm. I think I’ll go with Birkat HaMazon** (and perhaps prayer in general). Just note that this Torah portion is a treasure trove from which millions of Divrei Torah can be extracted and I may milk this one for years. Some other parshiot might be a one time deal, seeing as I’ve blabbed on about them ad nauseam (but also ad maiorem Dei gloriam and ad vitam aeternam (ooklay emthay upay… but that’s a different latin)).

**actually, my mistake, Birkat HaMazon is NOT in this week’s Torah portion, and I actually already wrote it as a considerably-lengthed D’var Torah, which will appear, God-willing, next week. I’m not going to delete the above

Alright so actually, I guess I have to go with something else, because it has become painfully obvious, as made clear in my doubly-asterisked comment, that everything is NOT in Vaetchanen, particularly Birkat HaMazon. Fine. The Shema it is.

Whereas the Amidah is officially the central prayer of Judaism, the Shema is by far the most famous, why even Tao Tan knows it! (Tao is an honorary Jew, and apparently was converted by a beit din of three Orthodox Jews when they were all drunk. I don’t think it was official because it would have been painfully-obvious (emphasis on painful) because Conversion of males to Judaism requires a bris. Also, beit din’s can’t convene at night, nor can they be drunk. And I don’t know if an EC (East Campus) shower stall counts for a mikvah (now I’m just assuming…))

The Shema in its short form is likely the first Jewish thing that Jewish children are taught. By the time I learned to talk somewhat coherently, my parents had me say it nightly before bed. It is the affirmation of God’s oneness, and even its translation, punctuation, pronounciation, and interpretation is disputed.

I consider it my favorite Haiku (though one of my Rabbis disputes its status as a haiku)
She-ma Yis-ra-el
A-do-nai E-lo-hey-nu
A-do-nai E-chad.
5-7-5! why doesn’t he think it’s a haiku?

The most common translation is Hear O Israel, the Lord [is] our God, the Lord is One. Catholics apparently place commas elsewhere after each reference to a name of God. take the three references to a name of God (Adonai, Eloheinu, Adonai: Echad). Apparently they think it is kind of counting. Three is One: the Trinity. Once again***, my Christian friend will have to confirm this for me

***once again? Actually the first example of my call to my Christian friends is in the Dvar Torah I’m actually postponing until next week

The greater Shema is composed of three paragraphs. The first paragraph is found here, known as Shema and V’ahavta. Next week we have V’haya im Shemoa, and a couple of weeks ago we read the final paragraph, “Vayomer” (which I wrote a d’var torah about back then)

In the ten commandments which we read a version of this week, we are not commanded to love our parents. We are commanded to honor them, yes, but not necessarily to love them. (If my parents are reading, I don’t mean it, I’m just stating a fact of Jewish law). The Shema states that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. This is something very powerful that involves emotions.

The source of what to do with the Shema is within the Shema itself. Say it when you wake up, say it when you lie down. It is one of the first things we say in morning services, immediately after the Birkot HaShachar, and is the last thing we say at night, while lying in bed . Just in case it doesn’t mean it literally, we also say it in its full version (all three paragraphs) during the Shacharit (Morning) and Maariv (Evening) services, but not during the Mincha (Afternoon) service. It contains the instruction to put up a mezuzah on our doorposts and on our gates, and we do so, putting inside it a parchment of these paragraphs. In fact, a house is not supposed to be officially inhabited by Jews until the mezuzah is put up on, at the very least, the front door, and is usually the main event at a Jew’s house-warming party. It is the number one sign that the person living in the house is Jewish (lack of Christmas Lights is only seasonal). To put up a mezuzah not only comes from this and the Vehaya Im Shemoa sources, but there is also an example of Jews putting something on their doorposts to identify them as Jews: The blood of the pascal lamb on the eve of Passover in Egypt identified the Jews houses for the Angel of Death (or God) to pass-over their houses (hence the name) and only smite the firstborn of the houses without blood, the Egyptians. The mezuzah invokes God’s protection on a house. We are to instruct our children. This is emblematic for the responsibility to teach your children the Torah. However, that usually gets taken care of by Hebrew school or Day School. The Shema itself, is usually taught, for conscious or subconscious reasons, by the parents, thus fulfilling this mitzvah. We are to wear it as a sign upon our hand and as a diadem upon our heads, the source for Phylacteries, which contain the first two paragraphs of the Shema and two other paragraphs containing similar instructions for frontlets and the like. Tfillin is apparently a manifestation of glory and is as a king’s crown. The Jewish King used to wear tfillin all the time, according to the Talmud. God too wears Tfillin. It obviously does not say “Hear O Israel the Lord our God the Lord is One”, but rather another verse. “Who is like Your nation Israel, a unique people in the world?”. Actually now that I think about it, there is an instance that these two verses are sort of combined. It says in the Shabbat Afternoon Amidah: "אתה אחד ושמך אחד ומי כעמך ישראל גוי אחד בארץ"
You are One and Your Name is One, and who is like Your nation Israel, a unique people in the world?” Whoa!

I spoke in my Tisha B’Av D’var Torah about three cases of martyrdom in order to Sanctify God’s Name. In Judaism we have a tradition that there were 10 great sages who were martyred at the hands of the Romans in public executions, each with different forms of brutality (there were obviously more, but these ten crept their way into the Yom Kippur liturgy (Eleh Ezkerah). One of the greatest rabbis of all time, Rabbi Akiba, who was raked with iron combs to death, was killed at the time. The same Rabbi, along with a couple of others, is famous for having a Passover Seder in B’nei Brak that went so long that his students had to come in and notify the Rabbis that it was time to say the Morning Shema. The Shema is also the very first thing discussed in both the Mishnah and both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds, "מאמתי קורין את שמע בערבית?" “Until when can we say the evening Shema?”. We have died for the Oneness of God. We have never been a missionizing people, and I think the proof can be seen here. We try to convince the oneness of God to the People of Israel. Here O Israel! Not the world! And in regards to things that relate to the holiday we observed/celebrated (depending on the arrival of the messiah) yesterday, it was necessary for Moses and later the other prophets to convince Israel before anyone else of the oneness of God. And as we see from other famous examples I discussed at the beginning of the Dvar Torah. The beginning of the Sephardic Torah Service and the one used by Ashkenazic Jews on Simchat Torah (Ata Hareita LaDaat): “Unto thee it was shown, that thou mightiest know that the LORD, He is God; there is none else beside Him.”. The Ten Commandments: duh. Wow, I need to wrap this up... And as we read in the Aleynu, “He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else”. The end of the second part, which is not in this week’s Torah portion, but Zechariah 14:9: “And the LORD shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall the LORD be One, and His Name One”. The end of days is a striving for the unity of God. This gets into Kabbalah. And I’m going to stay out of Kabballah, ‘cause the new age version weirds me out. That’s it. Shabbat Shalom. Oh. It’s also Shabbat Nachamu. Well, sing the Safam song, I’m not writing anything else. I'm outie.

This is my 120th email. 120 is a number of what we strive for in Judaism, as it is the age that Moses died. Check out the wikipedia article on the number 120.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Gush Katif remembered -- 1st anniversary of the exile

I begin to write this on the Afternoon of Tisha B’Av, using verses from the Bible to back me up, as I often do, and the verses I use are all somehow permitted on Tisha B’Av. My away message on the 10th of Av last year, the day that the expulsions began in Gush Katif was
"נחלתנו נהפכה לזרים בתינו לנכרים", "our land-inheritance was turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners". This comes from the book of Lamentations 5:2, which we chanted last night. This is Tisha B’Av all over again. “שפכי כמים לבך נכח פני א-דני”, as Jacob Taber’s away message read today, “‘pour out your heart like water before the face of the lord’ eicha 2:19”. The wailing that we do for certain things is so much stronger when it is recent. For most Jews, I would say that Yom HaShoah V’Hag’vurah, Holocaust Memorial Day is more meaningful and powerful than Tisha B’Av. I’m not going to look the following up because of a combination of tiredness from the fast and the fact that I technically cannot look things up yet, but, somewhere in the Talmud, either in BT Ketubot or Yevamot (because I remember it was with Professor Judith Hauptman that I studied this quote and the courses I took with her featured these mesachtot) there is a story (duh…). This particular story features a Jew jogging with a Gentile. The Gentile cannot seem to keep up with a Jew, so he yells out “hey, Jew, your Temple has been destroyed”. The Jew slows down lets out a great sigh then and keeps going. When they got to their destination and the Gentile finally caught up, he asked why the Jew hadn’t stopped and broken down. Though, as a Talmudic-era aphorism states, a sigh breaks down half the human body (or something like that), however, as the Jew said, this only applies to fresh bad news. Old news won’t have the same effect. I wasn’t alive during the Destruction of the Temples, nor was I alive during the Holocaust. Because I have family members and friends who either died or survived the latter, I have a close personal connection to the Shoah. One of the most touching and emotional moments in my life, therefore, was when I was walking to the Ministry of the Interior in Jerusalem on Yom HaShoah and the sirens went off. The only sounds were the wails of the air-raid sirens and the wails of everyone standing at attention.

Last year on 17 Tammuz, the Rosh Tefillah at Ramah Poconos was addressing the members of what I dubbed the Break-Fast Club (see my Dvar Torah on Tisha B’Av after mincha as we were waiting for three stars so we could do Maariv and then break the fast. He was telling us about when he was a camper and his counselors woke his bunk up at three in the morning one time and told the kids that Jerusalem and Tel Aviv had been bombed and they destroyed the Western Wall and that the Israeli Army had been defeated. The campers reactions, obviously, were insane amounts of crying and various other emotions that are unable to be held back by even the most held-back individuals. This turned out to be an effective peulah, though slightly twisted, to help the kids understand what it would have been like to be someone with Ezekiel in Babylonia when they heard that Jerusalem had been destroyed and its remnant was on their way to join them in Bavel. In comparison, you never see campers crying on Tisha B’Av over the destruction of the Temples, referred to as the lowest and saddest event in Jewish history (though persecution of the Jews has grown much worse since that point in 70 CE when most of the Jews were exiled from the land and the Diaspora experience of the Jews might stand to be an even lower and sadder experience, particularly the Crusades and the Holocaust).

And so, the tragedy of the Disengagement from Gush Katif is the fresh wound. It is our Tisha B’Av and on the lists of catastrophes that befell the Jewish people on the saddest day of the year, we now have yet another event to add, another exile on the anniversary of numerous other exiles (besides the two from Israel we were expelled from England (1290) and Spain (1492), as well as all of the other atrocities which we experienced in this single saddest day ever. There could have been no more appropriate a day than Tisha B’Av, therefore, to write this. I include various videos that are also appropriate to watch on Tisha B’Av and moved me to tears.

Hitnakut, singing girls N'vei Dekalim

this one moved me to tears when it's homograph (sorry, that's a word I probably haven't used since we had it on a spelling test in First Grade) occurred, when they tear their clothing. I am heart-broken to this day.

Nafshi - Clip about Gush Katif Explusion

A the end of the video (about 3:45 into it) you see people carrying off a giant menorah, an adornment of their synagogue. I immediately thought of the relief from the Arch of Titus which showed the Romans carrying off the Golden Menorah along with other Temple vessels when they sacked Jerusalem. I include pictures of both at the top of the entry. Also, is anyone disturbed by the colorful teddy bear hanging from a noose?

Cohen Family Explusion

More personal, this is the expulsion of a family from their home.

Anti-disengagement from Gush-Katif video

All of these soldiers refuse to evict fellow Jews. This video also features the destruction of the Tomb of Joseph -- Joseph Joseph -- in 2000 (4 minutes into this video. It was at this point, where they destroyed one of the holiest sites in Judaism, after carrying his bones back with us from Egypt where they were for hundreds of years and carrying them through the desert for forty years to bury him in the land of Canaan, fulfilling a promise we made to him found at the end of the Book of Genesis, and now after 3,500 years they destroyed his grave and his bones which we carried near the Ark of the Covenant, that I realized there could never be peace, they didn't care about us nor our religion. Other videos on YouTube show them finding "creative" ways to get rid of our Synagogues in Gush Katif once they took over, such as burning them down or blowing them up.