Bergen Record: Rabbi Shmuley gets controversial again

Our neighbor, Rabbi Shmuely Boteach made the front page of the Bergen Record today because of anti-Arab ads he has taken out in newspapers, "Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of Englewood has thrust himself onto the public stage again, this time in a worldwide arena at a particularly contentious time."

We admire Shmuley's chutzpah and his status as a celebrity rabbi. It's America and there is nothing wrong with being a successful celebrity in the USA in 2014.

When he ran for congress, Shmuley survived scrutiny of his previous activities and has thrived in the world of celebrity personalities. We have to admire that.

The Record says,
Through a foundation he controls, Boteach has launched a series of ads in national and international newspapers to fight what he considers unfair criticism after Israel’s sweeping incursion into Gaza over unprovoked rocket attacks from Hamas.

In the first ad, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel called Hamas a “death cult” and urged “moderate men and women of faith” to criticize terrorists and not Israeli soldiers, “whose terrible choice is to fire and risk harming human shields, or hold their fire and risk the death of their loved ones.”

The second ad, published Friday in The New York Times and due to run in other publications this week, accuses the head of the commission appointed by the United Nations to investigate the Gaza fighting, William Schabas, of being an “apologist for radical anti-Semites and America-haters who call for the extermination of Israel.”
We say to the little rabbi from Northern Jersey, "Go rabbi, go rabbi, go rabbi, go!" (Apologies to the Beach Boys.)

And we wish him all the best in his campaign for the Nobel Peace Prize. Wait, is he up for that?


Download the Entire Talmud in English at Halakhah.com: 30,000+ satisfied customers a month online and it's Free

Download the entire Soncino Babylonian Talmud English translation - at a site that is not anti-Semitic or polemical.

The Talmud in English is free at http://www.halakhah.com/ - serving up 25,000+ downloads each month! 300,000+ each year.


Contains the Sedarim (orders, or major divisions) and tractates (books) of the Babylonian Talmud, as translated and organized for publication by the Soncino Press in 1935 - 1948.

The site has the entire Soncino Talmud edition in PDF format and  about 8050 pages in HTML format, comprising 1460 files — of the Soncino Talmud.

I recommend that on your web site or blog you add a link to this site http://www.halakhah.com.



Was Robin Williams Jewish?

How sad. He is dead. 

Was Robin Williams a Jew?

No. His father was Episcopalian, his mother was a Christian Scientist.

It makes no difference. I mourn.

He was such an amazing talent. A phenomenal energy.

Too young. Too soon. Too tragic.


I'm Proud to Announce the Publication of The Book of Jewish Prayers in English by Tzvee Zahavy

With great pride I'm letting you know that I have published a new Kindle book.
I think you will enjoy my foreword and you will find this book a useful addition to your library.
Please share this post to let people know!

I thought you might be interested in my new book from Amazon.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
The Book of Jewish Prayers in English
The Book of Jewish Prayers in English 
by Tzvee Zahavy
  Learn more  


Can a Woman's Magical Powers Remove the Evel (Kneivel) Eye?

I found this funny ad in the Five Towns Jewish newspaper. Had to comment on whether there is such a thing as the Evel Kneivel eye.

Rebbetzin Aidel Miller claims she can remove the Evel Eye because she is "blessed with tremendous siyata d'shmaya" - with the help of heaven.

Let's see. Who was "Evel" Knievel? He was an American daredevil, painter, entertainer, and international icon," according to Wikipedia. Why of course. Since he was a dare-devil he must have been involved with the Evel Eye!

If the Evel Eye is like the Evil Eye (ʿáyin hā-ráʿ עַיִן הָרַע‎) then it is bound up with the magical idea that there exists a "malevolent look that many cultures believe able to cause injury or misfortune for the person at whom it is directed for reasons of envy or dislike."

The notion behind the typo-hilarious ad is that rabbis and other holy men and women can banish evil forces and demons through the use of their special powers based in knowledge of the secrets of the Torah, the Talmud and the Kabbalah, with the help of G-d.

You might ask, how can we take anything in Talmud seriously if it promotes the idea that there are evil forces of envy and many other invisible demons at work in world? Aren't those magical ideas just ancient superstitions that we no longer take seriously? And if we dismiss such notions, don't we need to dismiss the whole body of religious literature that contains those bad ideas?

That is a good question that Dear Rabbi may have to answer in his next column.

Is Architect Frank Gehry Jewish?

Architect Frank Gehry was once Goldberg.Yes, "the world's most famous living architect," Frank Gehry is a Jew. The Jewish Journal extols him and his new found involvement in Jewish architectural projects in a recent article.

The secret to architect Frank Gehry’s genius? Grandma’s gefilte fish.

Avoiding the press after a slew of praise, Gehry is now completing a number of projects in his Santa Monica offices, including a schematic design for the $130 million Winnick Institute in Jerusalem, a project of the Simon Wiesenthal Center to promote mutual understanding and respect among the world's communities.

It is Gehry's first formal work of public Jewish architecture in his nearly 50-year career, and it has unlocked a host of memories and associations.

"Frank is delving into his Jewish background in a way I don't think he's really done in the past," says Craig Webb, Gehry Associates project designer. Gehry has looked to both the Star of David and the octagonal format of Islamic architecture for inspiration. "We hope this building in any small way can contribute to the resolution of the conflict in Israel and the Middle East."

Considering Gehry's celebrity and Israel's sinking tourism and morale, the project couldn't have come at a better time. The architect's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, single-handedly put the small regional capital of the Basques on the map. A riot of titanium-clad sails and surfaces, the museum was nearly universally extolled when it opened in 1997 as one of the greatest buildings of the 20th century. Already awarded the Pritzker Prize (considered his profession's Nobel) in 1989, Gehry has become the world's most famous living architect.

Is Hall-of-Famer retired commissioner of the NBA David Stern Jewish?

Yes, the retired commissioner of the NBA, David Stern, is a Jew who grew up in my town, Teaneck, NJ.

Stern will be inducted into the basketball hall of fame on 8/8/14. The NBA did not make him wait five years because of his undeniable contributions to building the NBA into the incredible sports powerhouse that it is. The Bergen Record extolled his record:
Stern ended his run as commissioner Feb. 1 after exactly 30 years — he won't say retired, because he's still working — and once thought he would wait five years for induction, or the same as players. But officials from the NBA and Hall of Fame believe he belongs immediately.

"It would be hard to overstate the impact I think David has had on the game of basketball," said P.J. Carlesimo, a former coach in the NBA and at Seton Hall.

"Admitting that I'm prejudiced toward basketball, David Stern could go down in our era as the greatest commissioner of all time in all sports."
The Times lauded Stern, "In a Transition Game, David Stern Is Passing the N.B.A. Commissioner’s Hat to Adam Silver." All accounts of his career extol Stern's achievements.

All that success, and he has a sense of humor. Stern appeared on the Letterman show on TV and did a top ten list segment.


Free Kinnos Kinnot Lamentations Elucidations for Tisha B'Av

Reuven Brauner wrote to us from Raanana, Israel about his publication on the lamentations (Hebrew: kinnot or kinnos) for Tisha B'Av, "Key Notes for Kinnos." The work is available in PDF format for free downloading at http://www.halakhah.com/:

The Tisha B'Av poems of lament, the Kinnos, like all our Piyyutim and Selichos, were written in a poetic language and style containing hinted references to verses in Tanach, stories in the Talmud and Midrashim, and other historical incidents like the Crusades. They are difficult to comprehend and appreciate by even the most knowledgeable modern speaker or student of Hebrew, not to mention those who are not fluent in the Holy Tongue.

What chance is there for most of us to fully understand the depths of their messages of sadness and despair, prayer and hope?

In a modest attempt to rectify a part of this problem, I have selected a few key words and phrases from each Kinnoh and provided a flash of information regarding their definitions and references in hope that the reader will be able obtain a measure of meaning from and appreciation for what he or she is reading during the services of this day of fasting and repentance.


Kinnot Kinnos Elegies for Tisha B'Av free from Reuven Brauner

My colleague Reuven Brauner writes:

Tomorrow night is Tisha B'Av and that means the saying of Kinnos, the special poetic elegies composed for this most tragic day.

Most of the Kinnos are very difficult to comprehend, even for someone who knows Hebrew, and short of having a very good translation, they are virtually unintelligible.

To somehow alleviate the problem, I present my "Keynotes on Kinnos" which has been running on the wonderful site www.halakhah.com for your perusal and downloading.

I have lots of other material there, including the Reformatted Soncino Talmud.  That's free, too.  I think you will find it all to be educational, interesting and very useful. 

Also, please note that I am selling three great (they really are) books, which can be ordered from Judaica Book Centre at jbc@jewishbooks.org.

Shoroshim: $15 (IS 50)
Pirkei Avos: $20 (IS 70)
Sefer Mishlei: $20 (IS 70)

Books are softcover. Shipping and handling vary according to your location.

NEW BOOK! Dear Rabbi: The Greatest Talmudic Advice NEW BOOK!
Kindle Talmud in English @ $0.99
Whence and Wherefore @ $0.99
God's Favorite Prayers @ $2.99


My Dear Rabbi Column for August: Can I make her forget my bad behavior?

Dear Rabbi: Your Talmudic Advice Column

Dear Rabbi,

I am generally a polite, well-mannered person. Yet I feel like my significant other keeps track of any lapse in my behavior when we are together, especially if something that I did embarrassed her in public. I was recently rude toward some noisy people when we were out in a restaurant. Now she reminds me about this occurrence whenever we go out. This makes me sad. What can I do to make her forget about this?

Memories in Mahwah

Dear Memories,

In the personal question that you pose you do raise one of the most complex issues of human culture. Does a person have the right to have acts that he or she commits to be forgotten? If you did something that you do not want remembered, can you get it erased from the record?

The answer to your direct query is there is nothing you can do to make your significant other forget your actions. Our biological memory banks are hardwired to preserve certain data in a special way. We have a prominent place in our psyches where we store information about people or events that we judge harmful to us or dangerous to our well being or survival.

That includes a wide spectrum of events and facts ranging from personal acts between people to more global events and intelligence data about dangerous threats, past and present.

The question you pose operates on an individual memory level. You want your significant other to suppress a particular act of yours from her memory-bank.