Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What is Shovavim?

Over the past month, anyone living in any Jewish neighborhood or anyone who reads any Jewish paper has seen ads for Shovavim shiurim and programs. Every year when I see this I always wonder what exactly is this. This year I remembered to ask around to see if I get a few answers. When I asked people, most people did not know. The people that did know all said the same thing. Shovavim is the acronym for the Parshas starting with Shemos. No one knew anything more than that. I emailed A Simple Jew and he replied sending me a link to this answer. I am still looking for more explanations if anyone has any. I also find it strange that groups would put out all these advertisements and many people are not even familiar with what Shovavim is.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Why Jews Don't Belong In Politics

For the first time on my blog, I am going to discuss politics. The only reason why I am going to talk about politics is because I feel this certain issue involves all Jews no matter what their affiliation and it also can relate to many of the discussions on my blog.
For those of you who live in New York, on the cover of today's New York Post as well as many of the other papers has Sheldon Silver on the cover. Why was Sheldon Silver on the cover? Because of a decision him and all the rest of the politicians in Albany made to defy the new Governor Elliot Spitzer. Sheldon Silver is an orthodox Jew who lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and is the Speaker of the State Assembly which is one of the most powerful positions any politician in New York can have. Elliot Spitzer is Jewish as well just not Orthodox. I am not familiar with what his affiliation is so I will not say anything I am not familiar with.
The first problem with what went on in Albany yesterday is that it puts in the public spotlight Jew versus Jew. It also puts in public view of a Jewish Governor who is trying to end corruption in Albany which is a positive thing and a Speaker who is trying to continue with the corrupt ways of the State Assembly. I am not trying to challenge Silver's Jewish beliefs and affiliation but isn't Judaism especially Orthodox Judaism supposed to set an example of good ethics and anti-corruption?
The whole controversy started when Alan Hevesi, another well known Jew was caught in a cab scandal which he was using state money to chauffeur his wife around which ended up forcing him to resign after he won the election. After his resignation, Elliot Spitzer thought it was in the best interest to set up an independent group of former Comptrollers to narrow down a list of candidates to fill the position. When this group presented the three people they thought would be best for the job, the people up in Albany under the leadership of Sliver did not vote in any of the three people chosen and picked a fellow assemblyman from Long Island with no experience to take the position of Comptroller. The law states that it is up to the assembly to choose the replacement so there is nothing Spitzer can do about this. Spitzer was voted in to the position of Governor to end corruption by a huge mandate by the people of New York to end corruption and Silver keeps it going. This is a very big deal in New York and Spitzer is not going to let this go.
Because Spitzer is not going to let this go, just like he attacked Wall Street he is going to go after the Assembly and try and nail them on their corruption. What I fear is that because of this, any corruption is likely to have involvement of Silver because of his title and power and might cause a bigger Chilul Hashem than already occurred. I hope for the sake of the Jewish people Spitzer does not do this but you never know what a person is going to do as revenge.
This is not the only thing that has happened in the Jewish political world recently. Dov Hikind was being investigated for an ad campaign he put in Newspapers using tax payer money to for these ads trying to remove Olmert as Prime Minister of Israel. As a frum person shouldn't Hikind know that tax payer money should go to the community not a political campaign about an International issue that does not involve a local community which does not live in Israel? Those are the questions the secular news was jumping all over when this story came out.
We all know what has been going on with Jack Abramoff and the scandals he was involved in. When he showed up in court with a nice Borsalino hat it showed the whole country that once again an Orthodox Jew was involved in corruption. The blogosphere was all over this issue because of a Jewish Press editorial stating that it was because he didn't grow up frum that he acted this way.
Mark Green (another Jew) when he ran for mayor got caught up saying a few stupid things that ended up costing him any hope in winning the democratic primary. Yesterday, Jewish Congressman Gary Ackerman was caught saying something about gays and lesbians to Condeliza Rice which was all over the news causing further embarrassment to the Jewish communities. We had orthomom talking about the local school board politics in the 5 towns area when the Orthodox families don't even send their children there.
There are a few good Jewish politicians who have not yet embarrassed themselves by saying anything stupid or by showing signs of corruption but everyday is a new day in politics and you never know what is going to come out in the news. I believe our Great Rabbis have taught us that a Jew should not become involved in politics. Look at the result of what happened in Germany when the Jews were involved in that Government. Look at some the results of what is going on in American politics both Domestic and local. The Jews need to stay out of politics. It is important that the Jewish communities be represented so the Government provide us with what we need, but it is more important that we do not cause all of this Chillul Hashem which is going on currently. Secular through Orthodox, it does not erase the fact that you are a Jew and everyone knows that. Orthodox are held to higher standards but the Jewish people as a whole should all stick to the ethics we are taught from the Torah. Democrat , Republican, Independent or whatever you are stay out of the public eye and stop causing all of this Chillul Hashem.

Gay Rams?

This morning, I finished reading the February 5th edition of Time Magazine. In this magazine, there is one article that is pretty anti-Israel. This article basically says all settlers are illegally living in occupied Palestinian land and should leave. Besides being far from the truth, I cannot believe an article like this would be able to go without a critique from Honest Reporting or CAMERA. Maybe they did do something about this article and I just missed it.
A few pages after this article on page 54 there is an article titled, "Yep, They're Gay" This article discusses how scientists have studied and found out that 8 percent of Rams are gay. When we read Parsha Noach in Bereshis we were told that in his generation everything was upside down, especially the sexual orientation of both humans and animals. Last year there was a study in San Fransisco about pigeons being gay as well as in Asia a report of a dog and cat breeding. With the recent decision of the Conservative Movement which I wrote about in previous posts and the actions and behaviors of animals recently how can we defend ourselves from Hashem who sees this? Is our generation any different from that of Noach.
With this in mind, what happens with the shofar? If the shofar comes from a Ram, will their sexual orientation have to be checked in order for the shofar to be deemed kosher? If the Ram is gay, will the meat be kosher? Does this change the halachic status of the animal or is this just going to be a crazy new chumra that people won't eat meat from a gay animal? This may sound funny but this might be what is happening. There have already been questions asked about kashrus and cloning and the milk that can come from a cloned animal.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Can You Be a Torah Observant Jew Without Change?

Can one consider themselves an Orthodox or Torah Observant Jew If one is unwilling to change. If we look at our ancient tradition, one of the things that separates a Jew from a gentile is our constant need for self improvement and repentance. In Christian tradition, one can go to Church have a confession and be over with whatever they confessed about. On the other hand, Judaism does not have a confession but rather we should recognize ourselves what we did and what needs to be changed.
With that in mind I want to discuss Mitzvos (Commandments) and living and creating a Jewish household and how change is necessary. While trying to keep all the mitzvos it is always important to see which mitzvos you can improve on. Its also important to try and do everything necessary to improve on the relationships you have with the people around you which also is a mitzvah. With that said, if someone does not follow this approach and says that they are happy the way they are and don't need to change or improvement, are they orthodox? Are they a Torah observant Jew? Are they following the Jewish way. I think the answer to these questions is no but I am not an expert on Jewish behavior and observance.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Motzei Shabbos Zemiros

Rabbi Moshe Shur wrote a niggun to Hinei Anochi Sholeach Lachem es Eliyah Hanavi which is a Pasuk in Tanach (I don't have a Tanach in front of me so I cannot site the actual pasuk. Someone please add in the comments if they know). From what I hear is that this niggun is sung every Motzei Shabbos on Moshav Moodin in Israel before Havdala. Since I have never been there, I cannot confirm but only repeat what I heard. This niggun was recently re-recorded by Shlomo Katz and put on his new album. I don't like the way this niggun is sung on this album but that is not what this post is about. Whenever Ben Tzion Solomon, Rabbi Shur or anyone else sings this niggun, they sometimes have to stop people from singing because they sing Eliyahu Hanavi. When they stop singing, they usually give a Dvar Torah, explaining why the Pasuk says Eliyah Hanavi and not Eliyahu Hanavi. With this going on, I always wondered why this happens. After all if a Jewish person is knowledgeable in Tanach and this is a common Pasuk sung Motzei Shabbos, people would know that it is Eliyah and not Eliyahu.
When I was listening to a Deveykus album, the root of this problem became clear. Deveykus has a niggun to this pasuk and they sing Eliyahu Hanavi. When I have heard people sing this niggun as well they sing Eliyahu Hanavi obviously the same way as the recording. How did this error happen? Next time i see Eli Kranzler I plan on asking him. He is the only one I know that was actually in Deveykus. With this topic brought up, I want to ask a question to all those people who rip into Reb Shlomo Chassidim for not being knowledgeable in Torah and just partying all the time. Who has more Torah knowledge in this case. Abie Rotenberg who I assume composed this or the Shlomo chassidim who sing a niggun to the correct words in the pasuk? I am curious if anyone can give me a good answer. Shavua Tov, Gut Voch.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Parents and Denial

One of the things common in today's overall society not exclusive to the Jewish Community is parents in denial when someone tells them there is something wrong with their child. Many teachers go through this during parent teachers conferences as well as counselors at different summer camps. I experienced this problem when I was tutoring a child in Hebrew. He had some sort of learning disability that prevented him from remembering what he was learning week to week. The mother of this child was upset because he was still at the beginning of a book when he should have been on the book at the next level. In the Jewish community this problem of parents being in denial can lead to bad things happening to children because these problems are not recognized addressed and fixed. If someone is depressed and it is not taken care of it can lead to suicide chas vishalom. If someone has a learning disability and it is not addressed a person can drop out of school due to frustration. If someone in the Jewish community has psychological problem that it is not treated it can prevent someone from recognizing G-d and the beauty the Jewish religion has to offer. Unfortunately many who are off the derech is because of issues they had that their parents were either blind to or ignored rather than addressing. I pray that the Jewish community will address this problem and be able to heal those in need of healing and help parents recognizing that they shouldn't be embarrassed if their children have problems that need to be treated.

JTS Survey Conclusion

As some of you know, I posted my feelings here and here. I am not going to say much but that JTS released the results of this survey through an email from Chancellor Eisen sent to the JTS email list which I am not on so someone forwarded it to me. You can see more on this discussion on the Jewschool blog here. I am not surprised by the results but the full results were not released just a summary. I would be curious to see what the actual numbers were but I am not going to waste my time with it since I no longer daven in a Conservative shul so it does not effect the way I am going to live my life.