Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Practical joke or Sabatoge?

One of my co-workers pointing this out to me and I think it is pretty funny. If you type in the following address on the internet www.aishisrael.com look what pops up. Is this a practical joke or did someone seriously do this? Whats your opinion? Will Aish sue the person responsible for this and try to get the domain name or will they let it slide? Who knows. Like i said I think it is funny since we are all Jews and the joke is on us.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Answer to my friends post about violence in the Torah

This is copied and pasted from a weekly email from Rabbi Aaron Moss in Australia.

Question of the Week:

There is a lot of talk today about the dangers of Islamic violence. But from my reading of the Torah, it is just as violent as the Koran, and maybe more. Can you say that Judaism is a religion of peace if its holy text promotes war?


No one has ever been attacked by a book. Texts are not threatening. Otherwise libraries would be considered high risk areas. If you want to know whether an ideology is dangerous or not, don't look at its texts, but rather look at the people reading the texts.

Holy texts are like joke books. Possessing a joke book doesn't make you a comedian. A joke that is funny on paper may fall flat when said out loud, and a joke that seems corny when you read it can get big laughs when said right. It's all in the way you tell it. Similarly, a holy text that speaks of war does not necessarily make its readers violent, and a religion of peace can also produce people of war.

Anyone who knows anything about religion knows that it's all in the interpretation. While the Torah does describe many wars, these have been understood as historical events rather than an eternal call to fight infidels. The modern application of these wars is a personal one - that we each must wage an internal war against our own inner enemy, we must battle the forces within that prevent us from living a moral and holy life. Selfishness, arrogance, cynicism, laziness, indifference - these are the only infidels that Jews seek to slaughter. This is why the violence in the Torah has not translated into violence by Jews - the interpretations don't allow it. We simply don't read our texts that way.

It was the Koran that described the Jews as the People of the Book. If you want to know what the book is about, look at the people that read it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Membership Decline of Non-Orthodox shuls in Long Island

I want to thank Jewish Blogmeister who posted about this article here about Conservative and Reform shuls in Long Island merging with each other in order to survive. I am going to take a few pieces from this article and comment on them based on my experience with many of these shuls as a former USYer and what i see as really going on.

"Primarily, we've had a course of financial issues which can be directly traced back to our shrinking demographics and membership ..." What are these financial issues? If you pay your Rabbi, Cantor, and Hebrew School Principal or Education director 6 figures as a salary you have to make sure you have the membership to afford it. With shrinking membership and high salaries that makes a higher membership fee. There are some synagogues in these movements that ask to see your tax returns and your membership fee is based on that. There are some shuls that continue to raise membership to prices no one can afford. When this happens most of the time the family does not show up to shul anymore since they are not welcome and if Chabad does not get a hold of them these people might not ever show up in shul again.

"The temples find themselves hurt by the exodus of young people from Long Island, whatever their religion. High taxes and high housing costs are blamed" I don't think that this is a valid excuse. Look at certain towns such as Woodmere, Cedarhurst, Hewlitt, Plainview as well as many more that have plenty of young people moving in. They are all going to orthodox synagogues not the Conservative or Reform shuls. I don't see people moving out of any of the communities with a heavy Orthodox population. I don't see this Exodus. What i see is that people are leaving the Reform and Conservative shuls and they are looking to blame outside sources for the membership decline rather then looking at themselves.

"Right now, we are seeing a flurry of new congregations in the Pacific Northwest. Similarly, five years ago, there were several new congregations in Florida. What's happening on the Island is really a demographic issue." Here is another person blaming it on demographics again. I wonder if this person has ever visited any of these new congregations in Florida. From what I have seen is that many Northeast snowbirds and retirees built these Reform and Conservative shuls, the same way they built them 50 years ago in the Northeast. Young people that live in these areas are not becoming members and if they are its the same thing that it is only for Bar and Bat mitzvahs and once they are finished with that they drop membership. In the article they even quote someone saying, "The Reform movement, with the most members nationally and locally, has also had troubles. Reform synagogues have long struggled with being seen and used as no more than "bat and bar mitzvah mills," as Bloom called them. Many families belong to their local temple only until their children's religious education is completed, Bloom said. Synagogue affiliation rates among Reform Jews are also the lowest among the three major denominations, and Rabbi Stark said they are even lower than normal in New York" In the areas in Florida, Chabad as well as Chofetz Chaim and other Kiruv groups have been very successfull down there because the Jews down there are not affiliating themselves to any shul. So yes there might be a flurry of new congregations but do a census of the average age of the people in these "new" congregations.
With these mergers the whole idea of Egalitarianism has taken center with some of these shuls. In my opinion, the whole Egalitarian thing is a joke and has no place in traditional Judaism. The joke is that the people try to claim "halacha" permits them to do things like this. I stated in my previous posts here and here my opinion on the Conservative movements ideas on how they come up with there rules.
The only way these shuls can actually save themselves is to do something none of them will do. Look within yourselves to see why people are leaving instead of blaming external things. Ask former members why they left instead of trying to figure out yourselves why people are leaving. Realize that the whole reason you are Jewish is because of the Torah, and if the Torah starts to be studied and followed in a proper way it will lead you in the right direction. In Queens many of the Conservative and Reform shuls have merged and closed when Orthodox shuls next door are expanding. Why don't these shuls ask themselves, why are those shuls growing especially if they are in the same neighborhood yet our shul is losing members? Look into yourselves and you will find the answer. Don't blame other things.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Interesting Question from friend who needs answers

I received the following email from a friend. I have tried to answer his as best as I can. He has also spoken to numerous Rabbis who have not been able to give him an answer that satisfies him. He asked me to post this to see if anyone out there can help him out.

would like to post the following on your blog:
I was recently reading Sefer Yoshua, the Book of Joshua. In chapter six it explains how the Jews took over Jericho and then killed EVERY SINGLE person in the city. They intentionally murdered not only men but innocent and defenseless women and children.My question is this: Was that not a genocide? And how is that any different from what Muslims do when they kill today? They kill because they say "God commanded us so." How is that any different from what the Jews did? And don't just tell me its because in that case that's what God really commanded. Also, for the sake of argument lets say God really did command this. If God did command such a thing, what kind of a God is that? Why should one worship such a murderous, violent and unjust God?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Can you wear a Borsalino Black hat on Shabbos? Part 1

Before I go into detail with attempting to aswer this question, I want to direct people to a post by Rabbi Gil Student on his blog regarding this topic here. Once that is read I want to add and question a few things that were not brought up in his post or any of the comments that I was able to read. First thing that I want to point out is that the Gemara here in Eruvin is one that is never or rarely mentioned regarding hats on shabbos. The Gemara always quoted is the one that is in Meseches Shabbos about wearing a hat. I attended an interesting shiur on Shavous on this issue but the Maagid Shiur used the hat issue for an introduction as to whether or not you can use an umbrella on Shabbos.
Getting back to the Gemara in Eruvin, Rashi comments that the hat should be tight fitting so it should not blow off. If the brim is a tefach or larger it is easy for the wind to blow it off of someones head. In one of the popular commentaries for Meseches Eruvin, Perush Chai, the author draws out a decriptive picture of the hats in question and how to wear them properly. In the picture, the brim of the hat is tied down with string around the guys chin as per Rashis explanation. This makes sense to me but apparantly people do not hold by this. In one of the comments on Hirhurim someone mentions the button and elastic string that goes around the black hat. This was originally used to attach to a jacket (hence the slit on the collar of suit jackets) to prevent them from falling off or blowing away. I was told but i have not seen this personally that Rav Shachter Shlita from YU does have a type of string attached to his hat to follow according to what Rashi says explaining the Gemara.
I will continue on my next post on this issue regarding what the Shulchan Aruch says with Mishna Berura's explanation and quoting of the Magen Avraham

Saturday, June 09, 2007

How many Rabbits does it take to make a black hat?

Even thought the title of this post sounds a little bit crazy, this is a real question that i want to know the answer to. Over Shabbos while looking at the nice fancy black borsalino that i have, i noticed that the tag says made from 100 percent Rabbit Fur. Do you think most people who wear these hats know that they are wearing a dead rabbit on their head? Then i remember seeing the following commercial on TV about reattaching those rabbit feet that are dyed and considered good luck charms to Rabbits. With this in mind, I ask is this appropriate for a frum Jew to kill rabbits just so they can have a nice looking hat?
Chassidus teaches the essence in a brocha is taking something that is not holy and raising its kedusha by making a brocha on it. Does someone make a brocha on a hat? If we wear a leather belt or leather shoes, the leather comes from an animal that the meat and the rest of it were used in a holy way. You have meat from a kosher animal, the skin for STAM and other things that make use for you Avodas Hashem and things that brochas can be made on for elevating the kedusha. What kedusha does a rabbit have? You cannot eat the meat from a rabbit since it is not kosher so are you permitted to kill a rabbit for the feet or the fur? Chassidim who wear streimels might have the same issue but i am assuming the fur used on a streimel comes from an animal whose meat has been used for a brocha. If i am wrong someone can comment and correct me since i am not exactly sure what animal they do come from. The same applies to leather watch bands and some belts which are made from pig skin. Is it appropriate for a Frum jew to wear these things. If not, does it fall into the same category as shatnez? These are some things that i was thinking about and would love to hear any answers anyone might have.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Misnagdim and Chabad

One thing that I will never understand is the fighting that goes on between Misnagdim, Litvish, Yeshivish and Chabad. All of the groups mentioned have many problems with Chabad. I can completely understand why people would have problems with Chabad. I am personally not a Lubavitcher because i recognize that many of their customs are different and everything they do is not in touch with mainstream Judaism. At the same time I appreciate what they do and realize that even though they may be different they base everything they do on the Torah and have their sources for everything even though it might not be excepted by everyone. With that in mind, I want to ask the following question. If people have all these problems with Chabad and going around saying you cant eat there food or trust the heckshers or anything else how do you explain the following:
1. Most Italian wines under the OU are supervised by Rabbi Garelick who from my understanding is a Lubavitcher.
2. Almost everyone eats Rubashkin meat which is owned by a Lubavicher
3. Most of the Shochtim from Empire are Lubavichers
4. OK is one of the biggest Kashrus companies in the country which certify popular products such as Tropicana and Snapple and the office is located in Crown Heights.
5. Whenever someone goes on vacation in a not so Jewish place there is always a Chabad house that is there to help them when they need it.

Those five things are only a small examples of the hypocrisy i see with people who have problems with Chabad. When they are home they have no problem using "Chabad" products and when they are on vacation have no problem visiting a Chabad house. If you really have a problem then stand by what you believe in and don't use Chabad and bad mouth them at the same time. To top it off Avraham Fried is probably the most popular Jewish music artist and he is a Lubavitcher. If people have a problem with Chabad why is it OK to listen to his music?

I don't have answers to these questions since i don't understand why this occurs. If someone can explain to me why its ok to act like that please comment but all i see is hypocrisy. I want to restate that i am not a Lubavitcher just someone who doesn't understand how they can be attacked yet used at the same time.

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and the Amshinover Rebbe

This is a great Rebbe video

Satmar Chasuna in Williamsburg 5-27-07

I did not know Satmar sings Yechi also

Kaliver Rebbe from Israel

The following video is very inspirational and I hope that anyone who watches this video will be moved. Its a long video so I could not post it properly on the blog but i am going to attach the link so people can watch it from google


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Welcome to a new blog

I wanted to welcome my good friend Rabbi Seth Nadel to the blogosphere. He is posting his Dvar Torahs on this blog which can be found here. I hope people will enjoy his words of Torah and be inspired.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Top 10 Acapella Albums for Sefirah

After reading some reviews of the Acapella albums that have come out this year for Sefirah and after a comment by Anonymous on SWFM blog, I decided to come out with my own Top Ten list. I do not know how to post pictures yet of album covers but if you click on the album it will take you to a web page to hear clips and view them. After the list I will explain why i rank them this way. These are also only the albums I own since I felt the others were so bad.

1. Yosef Karduner - Osef Lididi Limei HaOmer
2. Yehudah Solomon- Beyond Words 1
2. Yehudah Solomon- Beyond Words 2
2. Yehudah Solomon- Beyond Words 3
5. Chassideshe Otrois- Volume 1
6. Shabbos Tisch
7. Chassidesh Otrois - Volume 3
8. Miami Boys Choir - Around the Campfire
9. AKApella - Premium Blend
10. Beetachon- All

Honarable mention goes to the CDs with the Febrengens of the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt'l. They play these tracks on Shmais Radio and the CDS are available in Crown Heights.

The reason I picked Yosef Karduner as my #1 is because the album is filled with real neginah. It is only him singing with his voice recorded over to create the harmonies. It is also very easy to sing along in harmony and reach some sort of deveykus by focusing on the niggunim on this album.
Yehudah Solomon I put in second but not by far. The amount of research and time put into these albums are amazing. Besides Yehudah's voice, many of the niggunim on these albums are not previously recorded and gives people the chance to learn many niggunim that can be traced back to the Tzaddikim of hundreds of years ago. Just like the Karduner album it is easy to harmonize as well as reach deveykus if you focus on the niggunim.
The Chassidishe Oitrois album was the first CD in an new revolution of Chassidishe niggunim being available on CD which was professionally recorded. Anyone who wants to hear what Chassidim sound like while singing real niggunim must listen to this CD. There are three CDS in this set so far. I think he first one is the best and the third one is very good as well which is why I put it at #7. The second volume is good as well but I think there are other Acapella albums that are out there that are better.
Shabbos Tisch is very similar to the Chassidishe Oitrois album but focuses on different niggunim in following the success of the Lchaim Tisch album which cannot be listened to during sefirah or the three weeks.
The Miami Boys Choir CD came out recently and is definitely an excellent album and is worth all the hype. They sing alot of their old popular songs minus the music. Just like the Karduner and Solomom albums it is very easy to harmonize with the songs which is the case of many of the Miami Boys CD. The reason why I do not have this album higher on this list is because of one thing on the album that drives me crazy. The album is called At The Campfire so Yerachmiel Begun must of thought it would be cute to have chirping and crackling during the entire album to make it seem like you are actually at a campfire. I don't know how that cant drive anyone crazy while trying to listen. I also think they should have put Nikadesh on the album as well. Maybe they will come out with a Volume 2 for the three weeks minus the campfire noise.
The first AKApella album is very creative and fun. I agree that is completely acapella but I think the album is on the borderline on whether or not it is appropriate to listen to during sefirah and the three weeks if you don't listen to recorded music. The new AKApella album i am not going to buy because I do not like any of the songs that are on there and they should have stuck to the same type of format as the first one.
Beetachon is real Acapella. For anyone who was ever on a college campus and attended an Acapella concert, they know what I am talking about. All of the singers have extreme singing talent and they are able to create a few albums that are all very good. The reason I put this at the bottom of the list is just like the AKApella album. It is great music but because of the fun they are having while singing it takes away from the spirit of the Sefirah and three weeks period.
I would love to hear if there are any other albums people felt I have left off this list or have the name of any albums I might enjoy that I have not heard of.

Jewish Interaction with Non-Jews Part 2

In my post here I spoke about an experience I had where I work with the interaction I had with one of my non-Jewish co-workers. In my last two posts as well the issue was discussed about giving tzedaka to non-Jews. As best as I can, I want to summarize some of the things the Rav of my minyan said in his drasha over shabbos which related to these issues that I have been posting about.

This past Shabbos, we read the Torah portion of Shmini. One of the things that this parsha concentrates is the laws of Kashrut and which animals we can and cannot eat. Of the animals we can and cannot eat the Torah is clear on how we can differentiate on what is kosher and not kosher. As an example, a fish which is kosher needs to have scales and fins and one that does not is not kosher and an animal must have split hooves and chew its own cud and those that do not are not kosher. The one exception to the list of these animals is the bird. There is not a clear distinction between the birds that are kosher and not kosher. With this in mind there is a bird mentioned called the Chasidah bird. The name Chasidah has the same root as Chesed and Chasidus. The reason (I believe it was Rashi who was quoted) why the bird is called this is because it does chessed within its own group by sharing food. Even though it shares within its own group the bird does not share with those outside its group. The Rabbi then went further to explain this by quoting the Ishbitzer and saying how we should learn from this bird. The Jewish people are a small group and always helping each other. A persons natural instincts is to be comfortable and want to do Chesed within there group because it what they are comfortable with and what they will get the most pleasure out of. The Ishbitzer says that we have go beyond our comfort zone and help all those around us even though they are not is our comfort zone. This is what the chasidah bird failed to do which is why we need to learn from the Torah we need to go beyond and help all. The Rabbi concluded with an example of a story of Rav Aron Solovechik ZT'L. While walking home from shul on the Lower East Side, Rav Aron saw a drunk man passed out lying in the street. Being that this is New York the typical reaction would be to walk by and ignore this person because of fear and because of the rushing everywhere mentality. Rav Aron went over to this person and asked him where he lived. This drunk replied he did not know. Rather than leaving him there, Rav Aron picked him up and took him to every apartment building in the area until he found someone who recognized this man and was able to get him home. The Rabbi used this story to conclude that we should always go the extra step beyond to help whoever needs it no matter who they are since everyone is Hashem's creation no matter what.

There are some things that were said in addition during the drasha but I only put a few of these things into the post as they related to my previous posts.

Tzedaka to a Non-Jew? Part 2

After reading some of the comments from the first post, my friend wanted me to post the following reply. :

First of all, the sad fact is that many orthodox Jews refuse to give charity to non-Jews. They make excuses and say that until all the Jews in the whole world are taken care of, why should we help non-Jews. So I think Rav Hirsch's comments are very important to note. Also, some orthodox Jews will still claim that there really is not a strong obligation to give to non- Jews, they are clearly wrong and misinformed. They say it is a priority to give to Jews, which is true, but they use this as a rationale to exclude all others. How sad and how untrue this is to the Torah!

As to the subway panhandler, Rav Hirsch says " Never turn a poor man empty away, even if it be only a scrap of bread you give him." To me the word "Never" is quite clear and categorical. There are no exceptions for times when we suspect he might use the money for other things. Nor does the MTA and their cold-hearted signs discouraging us from giving to homeless people take precedence over the Torah. If we don't want to give it is easy to find an excuse and to rationalize.

Remember, when Avraham Avinu saw three strangers in the desert? He literally ran to help them. He did not ask questions. He did not make inquiries. He did not suspect them of not really needing help. He did not make excuses as to why he has no obligation to help them. No. Indeed, he ran to them, despite the fact that he was 99 years old and in great pain from his recent bris. He literally ran to help them and to do acts of kindness. He left the presence of Hashem who was visiting him in order to do an act of kindness for three complete strangers. Well, we all know the story of who those "strangers" really were. This is what it is to be a Jew. It is to do acts of kindness and love that are unconditional and with a cheerful heart and with eagerness and zest and not to make excuses or ask all sorts of questions before we help.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Tzedaka to a Non-Jew?

My friend who will one day be a guest blogger on this blog asked me the following question. Do you think that it is a mitzvah to give tzeddaka to a non- Jew? I answered him that each situation is different and it is possible in my opinion that it can be a mitzvah to give a non-
Jew money. After i answered him that he emailed me the following piece from Rav Hirsch

The Horeb: A Philosophy of Jewish Laws and Observances by Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch. In Section five, chapter 88 (page 428 of the Grunfeld tranlated edition) he says as follows:
"Everyone in need has a claim on your charity; those poor who are not Jewish, even those who practice idolatry, are cared for in like fashion, as are all parts of one all-embracing mankind. However, to the ger-toshav, -- i.e. to the non-Jew who, not practicing idolatry, has undertaken to fulfil the seven general duties, the law accords a claim on your charity fully equal to that of a Jew."

I think my friend was asking me this because he feels that many orthodox Rabbaim today will tell you it is not a Mitzvah to give Tzedaka to a non-Jew and wanted to know why. I cannot defend Rabbaim who will say something like that especially now after my friend showed me a Torah authority who says something else.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Jackets to Shul

This morning when I went to minyan, I did not go to one of the shuls I would normally daven at because I needed a minyan at a specific time. There was one minyan at this specific time so I decided to go there. I have heard rumors over the years that in this particular shul you need to wear a jacket to daven. I never really thought about this because I figured this rule was probably only for the Chazzan or anyone who would be getting any honor during the davening such as an aliyah. When I arrived at the shul this morning, I saw a sign on the door that said the Rav requires everyone to wear a jacket to daven. When I got into the shul as I was putting my talis and tefillin on, the Rav of this shul came over to the area where i was and said," Either put on a jacket or find another place to daven". I thought this was pretty rude and out of line. Especially the tone of voice on how this was said. What if a person like me was a guest to this shul and was not so sure about the rules? Would the Rav rather a person not daven in a minyan at all? He could have come over to me and the other people and asked nicely. He also could have thought that maybe people are not aware and if they became aware next time they go to the shul they would wear a jacket. I used to have a lot of respect for this Rav but now I dont know how to feel. I could understand how a Rav wants a certain decorum for his shul. I think that a dress code for a shul might be a little much, especially when your shul is in a neighborhood where people shul hop for minyanim based upon when they can get to shul. I understand that in the Yeshivish world that a hat and jacket is required during davening but some people dont feel comfortable in a hat and jacket. I am of the opinion that a person should feel comfortable in their avodas hashem and I think that comfort includes the clothes a person wants to wear. I see on shabbos in many sefardi shuls people going in jeans. If thats how they feel comfortable why is it a problem. I bet you in a Sefardi shul no one would stare or say anything to the people wearing jeans either. I will try to avoid this shul from now on and I dont know what my feelings for this Rav is going to be from now on.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Lies and Deception

I never understood why people have to lie and deceive. Especially if you consider yourself frum. When someone lies and deceives the majority of the time someone is going to end up seriously hurt. It is not ethical to lie and it is not ethical to deceive and it certainly against the Torah and all Jewish principles. There are times according to halacha that it is permissible to tell a lie or deceive but these are only specific times and the result is not going to be someone hurt. If you are an honest person and try to live an ethical life why do people need to take advantage? Why does this happen?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Jews and their Interaction with Non-Jews

Today at work, i experienced something which was very weird to me. As someone who came from a pretty secular background, I am comfortable being around non-Jews as well as being friends with many non-Jews. For someone who did not grow up secular but in a closed knit Jewish orthodox neighborhood, interaction with non-Jews rarely occurs and being good friends with a non-Jew is almost never happens.
While speaking with a new co-worker who is not Jewish, a fellow co-worker who is a Chassidic Jew told me that he was going to be flying to the Kever of the Noam Elimelech for his Yarzheit. This non-Jewish co-worker asked me why someone would be going to some town in Europe for only a few days. I explained to her about death in Judaism and how on the anniversary of the death people go to the cemetery to pray by the grave. It was a simple answer to a question this person asked.
Later, a woman who I work with who lives in a Ultra Orthodox enclave started to yell at me in private saying "I can't stand when Frum Jews try to explain things to a Goy". "They don't and can't understand and will use whatever you explain to them against you". I wanna know how can they use an explanation of the Jewish religion against you? If a non-Jew asks a question about your religion, you should ignore them? I just don't understand why there was a need to yell at me and I don't see what harm giving a simple explanation can do. There are plenty of righteous gentiles out there and how do you know the people you are talking to might become a righteous gentile because of the kindness you showed towards them?
I think Charedim should re-think how they interact with non-Jews and realize that many times because of their actions towards them they could be causing a chillul Hashem.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Purim Costumes that Piss Me Off

I think I am a person with a good sense of humor but when it comes to certain things I am very serious. Purim is a joyous holiday and meant to be fun but i think sometimes things are just not funny and pushing it too far. Here are some costumes that I have seen over the years that get me angry. I will start with the one that gets me angry the most.

1- People who dress up like Arabs or Palestinians such as Yassir Arafat, Osama Ben Laden or any other person that would fit into this category. I just don't see the humor in this. Why is this funny? Arafat is a murderer as is Ben Laden. Would someone dress up at Hitler on Purim and walk into a Hungarian Shul in that costume? I don't think so , so why are these costumes acceptable.

2- Yeshivish/Litvish/Misnagdish people who dress like Chassidim. What is funny about that? Are these people jealous that during the year since they dress like goyim on Purim it would be funny to dress like Jews. The way Chassidim dress is funny to them? What about in Shulchan Aruch where is describes how we should wear long coats? Its good to make a joke out of tradition and mock those who want to follow a tradition? Would you ever see a chasid shave his beard on Purim to dress like a misnagid? I don't think so, so why is it ok for them to do?

3- Men dressing like women. I don't find the humor in this. I am pretty sure that halacha does not permit a man to dress in womens clothing as per the Torah and I don't remember seeing an asterisk in the Torah that brings you to the bottom and says excluding Purim. It is especially not funny in America now because people actually cross dress and they are serious about it. Are people who dress like this mocking gays who dress like this? Why is that acceptable.

4- Scary costumes. Many children go to shul on Purim and can get scared of a scary costume. Is it funny and joyous to scare children? I don't think so.

If someone disagrees with me I would love to argue. I could be wrong but I feel pretty strongly about this. There are plenty of happy shatnez free family oriented costumes that are available. If someone is creative they can also create one on there own as well instead of stooping to these levels.

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.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bow Tie

I was curious to see if anyone else noticed this. Everytime on Shabbos when I daven at a large Young Israel or Modern Orthodox shul I always spot at least one guy wearing a bow tie. Who is this token bow tie dude in all of these shuls? Can you imagine seeing someone wear a bow tie on Shabbos in a charedi shul? I just thought that this was weird and that I have rarely been in any of these type of shuls and not see a token bow tie guy.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Follow Up to JTS survey

In my last post, I questioned who JTS was sending the survey to and I why everyone did not get it. This past week, I was at a wedding and was sitting next to a JTS graduate. This graduate is mentioned on the United Synagogue webpage as a former USYer who helped develop a webpage Kosher New York. If the Conservative Movement wants to take credit for this person you would think they would email them a survey on this issue, right? Think again. He didn't get any survey in his email. I spoke as well to another JTS graduate who is living in Israel who did not receive the survey either. Not only is my friend in Israel a JTS graduate, his father is a Conservative Rabbi who graduated from the Seminary and he never saw the survey. As a matter of fact, he asked me to email him the survey because he wanted to see it. I once again went to the JTS webpage and tried to find the survey but was not successful. I am not sure what the result of this survey is but I am sure they did not reach out to the people who care about this issue. I also find it funny that everyone that I know that has graduated JTS that has any form of connection to Yiddishkeit is now Orthodox. What does that say about JTS and the whole Conservative movement? If the movement had any intelligence, instead of surveying people within the movement about how they can increase membership and improve their shuls, maybe they should ask people why they left the movement instead because they might learn something.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Survey on Conservative Movement by JTS

I have learned today from Yid with Lid from his post today that The Jewish Week had an article regarding the Survey JTS sent out via email to find out what people thought about the recent decision the Conservative movement made allowing open Gays and Lesbians to be part of the Conservative Rabbinate. Yid with Lid posted here his opinion on the survey and I added two comments which one of them The Jewish Week quoted. In the article here they quote me as saying the following ,
"Another blogger called Frum with Questions, said he too completed the survey and found the questions straightforward,but he said he did not understand what they are trying to accomplish."
Yid with Lid asked me to explain further what I meant so I replied with the following ,
"The survey was done for JTS to have an excuse as to why they are going to start ordaining openly gay and lesbian students. They know the majority of the people of the conservative movement want this too happen they just need a survey so they can tell the people who are against it, see, this is what the conservative movement wants. Its unfortunate because this survey was only sent to a specific target market and if you would ask Canadians or Israelis you would get a much different answer since they are very traditional conservative when it comes to these issues. I cannot list specifics about the survey since I no longer have it infront of me but the questions were all black and white and they tried to fool people by thinking it is not.
I am going to assume that the article was written after this comment was added so I want to post it hear in case people check out my blog after reading the article. With that said I want to link to my previous post here with my opinions on the Conservatives movement original decision.

Independent Frum Thinker commented on this post saying that the Canadian Rabbis were not going to go by this decision which is true. The Rabbi of the Conservative Shul I grew up in is from Canada and is on thcommitteemmitee of the Conservative movement and voted against it. What doesn't make sense which is what I posted about is that more than one "Teshuva" was selected.

The question that I have about the survey which I did not see anyone ask, is who did they send this email to? My father who is an active member in a Conservative Shul as well as on the JTS Dvar Torah email list never got the email. I forwarded it to him so he can see it. If ou go to the main JTS webpage the only thing you see is this letter from the cuchancellorncelor. If you do a search for survey, nothing comes up either so who did JTS send this survey to and what was the point? I am not sure how I got it. I am on the USY adlistservtservthat's thats about it. I studied at List College- JTS/Columbia for a year and a half so maybe they sent it to me as a former student? I have no idea but I had no problem filling it out. If JTS wanted to ganswerasnwer from their constituents they could have figured out a way to get the survey to every member of a Conservative Shul and every Ramah camper/alumni/staff member. My wife went to Ramah and did not get a survey emailed to her as well as other USY alumni I am friends with.

I truly believe that the Conservative movement has become a political movement. If someone wants to disagree with me, I dare you to go into a Conservative shul and find a Republican or a Conservative. If you are lucky you will find one or two and probably in a Tradition Conservative minyan not one of Egalitarian Liberal ones. The Reform movement is also a political movement that when it feels will support Israel as evidence by the article in the Forward about the reform movements decision to go against Jimmy Carter.

One the main reasons why I am not a Conservative Jew is because of the hypocrisy with what they teach and how they act. After being active in USY and going on their programs and being a board member all of these things became obvious. USY had shabbos but when you went home the Conservative Shul did not. In USY on Shabbos you had Shalosh Shuedos, when you went home try finding one person in a Conservative shul who knows what Shalosh Shuedos is besides the Rabbi who will tell you itnecessaryassary even though they teach in USY that it is. When I was at JTS in the dorms they had different kitchens set up in the dorms. Kitchens for people who wanted to keep kosher and then eveelse's elses kitchens. When I asked the Rabbi who in charge of Jewish Life at the Seminary about this, he could not give me an answer. If JTS wanted to be honest with themselves they should go back to their roots in the Torah as Chancellor Shorsh said in his farewell speech. I just want to add one more thing about the movement and their decisions. OF the Rabbis of the Teshuva against it, most of them were educated in Orthodox institutions or by Rabbi Shaul Lieberman who in many eyes was Orthodox himself. The Rabbis who were for it were mostly products of the Conservative movement and institutionsutions which is evident from their failure to bring in real Torah sources to back up there claims which is why the Conservative Movement is no longer a Halachic movement but a movement of politics and opinion which is more important than true Torah valIts. ITs a question as well if it was ever a Halachic movement within the past 20 years but every year the fall further and further away.

Anyone who wants to comment directly to me can leave me their addressadress in the comments and we can to discuss this further.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Baal Shem Tov

Its been a while since I posted and I want to apologize for that. I have been very busy studying for something and learning DAf Yomi which is very time consuming. Now that the "Holiday Season" is over I hope to have more frequent postings.

There is a famous teaching of the Baal Shem Tov that many people repeat and it was actually in one of the Jewish papers this past week. The teaching is as follows. The Baal Shem Tov says that when you see faults in other people, you see those faults because you have the same ones and it is like looking in the mirror. While this is a great inspirational teaching for someone who is doing teshuva, I want to pose the following questions about this teaching to see if anyone can answer them for me.

If I am sitting in shul and someone starts talking and disturbing my davening how am I seeing a reflection of myself? If I don't talk in shul I cannot understand this.

If I hear someone cursing and think they have a filthy mouth, how is that a reflection of me? I never curse or say dirty words.

There are plenty of things that I know I do and I see those faults in other people as well which I can recognize but the two things I posted are two things that I cannot figure out. Our goal in life is to constantly work on ourselves and try to come closer to Hashem so I am hoping I can figure these things out so I can continue to work on myself and only see good reflections in others.