8/31/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 66a-b - translation by Tzvee

H.           [66a] On what principle do the Tanna from the house of Rab [in F-G] and the Tanna of the house of Ishmael [VII.2 C] dispute? In the case of [a locust that has] a long head they dispute. The Tanna of the house of Rab reasons [as follows]: “[Yet among the winged insects that go on all fours you may eat] those which have legs above their feet, [with which to leap on the earth]” (Lev. 11:21) — this is a general rule. “[Of them you may eat:] the locust according to its kind, the bald locust according to its kind, the cricket according to its kind, and the grasshopper according to its kind” (Lev. 11:22) — this is a specification [of the rule]. Where you have a general rule and a specification of the rule, you can only subsume under the rule what you have in the specifications. [This then means] if it is of the same kind, yes [you may subsume it under the rule]. But if it is not of the same kind, no [you may not subsume it]. And we encompass [in the rule] all [kinds] that match it in all manners.

8/30/11

StarTribune: Minnesota Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison calls for release of Israeli Soldier Gilad Shalit

This is good news all around. Shalit should be release soon, based on this important activity.
Ellison leads call for Israeli soldier’s release
by JEREMY HERB

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and a group of high-profile U.S. Muslims have sent a letter to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal urging the militant group to release an Israeli soldier held captive since 2006.

The letter, an effort spearheaded by the Minnesota Democrat, calls on Hamas to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by invoking the Qur’an and the spirit of reconciliation at the end of Ramadan.

“Hamas’ inhumane detention of Shalit undermines the Palestinian people’s legitimate aspirations for human rights and a state of their own,” the letter said. “We believe Hamas’ harsh treatment and five-year detention of Shalit is wrong.”

The letter is an attempt by top U.S. Muslims to make a direct plea to Hamas, which has said it will release Shalit only in a prisoner exchange. The soldier’s imprisonment has been followed closely by Israelis since he was captured, and it remains a serious roadblock to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The letter draws on a coalition of 11 Muslim leaders, including the two Muslim members of Congress, Ellison and Indiana Rep. Andre Carson, as well as former Pakistani Ambassador Akbar Ahmed and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf , who is heading up the mosque near ground zero in New York.

“It’s important that American Muslim leaders speak out on the issue of Gilad Shalit and terrorism more broadly,” said Haim Malka , senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But the letter is unlikely to have a direct impact on Hamas’ complex decision-making process.”

Hamas, which controls Gaza, has indirectly negotiated unsuccessfully with the Israelis numerous times over Shalit.

Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, told the Star Tribune he hopes the letter will help change someone’s mind, though he isn’t optimistic. Ellison met with Shalit’s family in 2007, he said, and was prompted to act in part by the recent anniversary of the capture.

“It just seemed like a humane, decent thing to do,” Ellison said of sending the letter. “I don’t think [Shalit’s captivity is] helping the Palestinian people get a state, which I earnestly pray that they get. I think it hardens Israeli hearts and makes it more difficult to move the ball.”...more...

Talmud Bavli Hullin 65a-b - translation by Tzvee

G.            But then consider this: “[In the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar,] Ched-or-laomer [king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim]” (Gen. 14:1), where the scribe left a space between the two words, will you say that here too there are two separate names [in the verse]? You could say [there is a difference between the two examples]. Here he left a space between the two words. He did not put them on two separate lines. But there he even put them on two separate lines. [So there is more justification in the former case to say they are separate names.]

8/29/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 64a-b - translation by Tzvee


D.            And it was taught on Tannaite authority with regard to eggs: These are the tokens [of cleanness] for eggs: Any [egg] that is arched and rounded, [that is] with one end broad and one end narrow, is clean. [Any eggs that have] both ends broad or both ends narrow are unclean. [Any egg] with the white on the outside and the yolk on the inside, is clean. [Any egg] with the yolk on the outside and the white on the inside, is unclean. [T. has this version: Any [egg] that is arched (on top, not pointed) and rounded, one may be certain, derives from an unclean bird, and any that is not arched and rounded, one may be certain, derives from a clean bird [T. 3:23 C].]

E.            [If we have tokens of cleanness for eggs, why then does the hunter need to state that the eggs come from a clean bird?] It is necessary for him to state it for eggs that were cut up [and the external tokens would not be visible anymore]. But then let him inspect the white and the yolk [to see if the egg is clean]. [He cannot do this if we speak of a case where the eggs were already] scrambled in a bowl.

8/28/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 63a-b - translation by Tzvee

Said Samuel, “The redwing thrush [lit.: wine-drinker] is prohibited. And the mnemonic for this is: `Those [priests] drunk with wine are invalid' (b. San. 22b).” And said Samuel, “The lapwing is prohibited. [63a] And the stock pigeon is permitted. And the mnemonic for this is: the power of the offspring is greater than the power of the father [b. 49b].” [The literal meaning of the Hebrew names are: wine-mixer and daughter of the wine-mixer.]

M.           Said R. Judah, “The pink flamingo with long legs is permitted. And the mnemonic for this is: murzama [i.e., another permitted pink bird with long legs (Rashi)]. And the pink flamingo with short legs is prohibited. And the mnemonic for this is [the legal principle]: the dwarf is invalid [M. Bekh. 7:6 T(5)]. The green flamingo with long legs is prohibited. And the mnemonic for this is: If they are green — they are invalid [M. 3:3 C(6)].

8/26/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 62a-b - translation by Tzvee


V.2
A.            Said R. Nahman [62a], “[To] one who is knowledgeable of them [i.e., the various kinds of birds] and their names, [a bird that has] one token is deemed clean. To one who is not knowledgeable of them and their names, [a bird that has] one token is deemed unclean. [A bird that has] two tokens is deemed clean.”

B.            [And that is so] as long as he can identify a raven. [Does this mean that he needs to be able to identify] just a raven and no other [kind of bird]?

C.            But lo, it was taught on Tannaite authority: “Every raven [according to its kind]” (Lev. 11:15) — this means the raven itself. “[Every raven] according to its kind” — R. Eliezer says, “This subsumes [under the category of the raven] the starling.” They said to R. Eliezer, “But lo, the people of the village of Tamrata in Judea used to eat [starlings] because they have crops.” [The raven does not have this token.]

Talmud Bavli Hullin 61a-b - translation by Tzvee

V.1
A.            And the tokens of fowl have not been so stated [M. 3:6 B]. Have they not? But lo it was taught on Tannaite authority, “The eagle” (Lev. 11:13) — [61a] just as the eagle is distinctive in that it does not have an extra claw, [and it does not have] a crop, and [the skin of] its gizzard cannot be peeled off, and it mauls [its prey] and eats it, [and the eagle is] unclean. So too all [birds] similar to it are unclean.

B.            “Turtle doves” (Lev. 1:14) — they have an extra claw, [and they have] a crop, and [the skin of] its gizzard can be peeled off, and they do not maul [their prey] and eat it, [and they are] clean. So too all [birds] similar to it are clean. [Apparently, the tokens of clean fowl are in the Torah.]

C.            Said Abayye, “The specifics [of the tokens] were not matters stated in the Torah. Rather they were matters stated by the scribes.”

8/25/11

Forward: Lawrence Grossman Reviews a New Book about Rav Soloveitchik

In the Forward this week, Lawrence Grossman reviews a new book about Rav Soloveitchik, Rabbi in the New World: The Influence of Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik on Culture, Education and Jewish Thought, edited by Avinoam Rosenak and Naftali Rothenberg.

Grossman's review, "Modern Orthodoxy's Human Pillar: Evaluating the Role of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik" is an essay in its own right on the Rav. Grossman is a major Jewish thinker and disciple of the Rav.

He makes a polite yet firm assessment of the collected essays in the book. He calls some of the articles "least important" - those that speculate on the influence of other theologians on the Rav. We agree that showing surface similarities between the Rav's theology and other who preceded him doesn't get us far in understanding the Rav's ideas and methods.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 60a-b - translation by Tzvee


E.            The Caesar said to R. Joshua b. Hananiah, “I want to see your God.” He said to him, “You cannot see Him.” He said to him, “Really! [60a] Show him to me!” He went and pointed him towards the sun during the season of Tammuz [i.e., the summer]. He [Joshua] said to him, “Look at it.” He said, “I cannot.” He said, “The sun is one of the attendants that attend the Holy One, blessed be He. You say you cannot look at it. All the more [is it impossible to look at] the Divine Presence.”

F.             The Caesar said to R. Joshua b. Hananiah, “I want to make a dinner for your God.” He said to him, “You cannot.” [He asked,] “Why not?” [He said,] “Because he has too many in his entourage.” [He said,] “Really! [I insist!]” [He said,] “Go set it up on the widest banks of the great sea.” He worked for the six months of the summer [preparing the dinner]. A storm came up and washed it all into the sea. He worked for the six months of the winter. The rains came and washed it all into the sea. He said to him, “What is the meaning of this?” He [Joshua] said to him, “These [storms] are like the [workers] who sweep and wash in preparation for his arrival.” He said to him, “If that is the case, then I cannot do it.”

8/24/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 59a-b - translation by Tzvee


G.            What is the root of crowfoot [listed by T.]? Said R. Judah, [59a] “The root of succory (Cashdan).”

H.           Said R. Judah, “Any person who eats three tiqlas of asafoetida on an empty stomach will shed his skin (Cashdan).Said R. Abbahu, “It once happened to me that I ate one tiqla of asafoetida and had I not immersed in water I would have shed my skin. So I fulfilled for myself the verse, `[For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money; and the advantage of knowledge is that] wisdom preserves the life of him who has it' (Qoh. 7:12).”

I.              Said R. Joseph, “Any person who eats sixteen eggs, forty nuts, and seven caperberries, and who drinks a quarter [log] of honey during the season of Tammuz [i.e., the summer] on an empty stomach — he will have a heart attack [lit.: snaps his heart strings asunder (Cashdan)].”

8/23/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 58a-b - translation by Tzvee


G.            Said Amemar, “Regarding these eggs laid by a bird that was deemed terefah [58a]: the first batch [produced after the bird became terefah] are prohibited. [Any eggs produced] thereafter are deemed to fall under the principle of two antecedent causes [i.e., the prohibited-mother and permitted-father produce the offspring] and [therefore the eggs] are permitted.

H.           R. Ashi raised an objection to Amemar, “[The Mishnah rules:] But they agree that an egg from a bird that is terefah is forbidden, since it grew in what was forbidden [M. Ed. 5:1 F].” [That ruling makes no distinction between the first and subsequent batches.]

8/22/11

JTA: Obama Reading David Grossman on Martha's Vineyard

Obama vacation reading includes Israeli novel

NEW YORK (JTA) -- President Obama's vacation reading list includes the best-selling Israeli novel "To the End of the Land" by David Grossman.

According to a White House statement, the novel is one of three that Obama took to his 10-day vacation on Martha's Vineyard, in Massachusetts. Since arriving on the island he has bought two more books, according to reports.

Published in 2008 in Israel to enthusiastic reviews, "To the End of the Land" became a bestseller in the United States and Germany. Finished after the death of Grossman's son in the 2006 Lebanon War, it tells the story of an Israeli mother to a soldier who leaves home on an extended trip so as not receive the possible news of her son's death.

Does the Times' Roger Cohen Make Any Sense at All?

After reading his recent op-ed, "Jews in a Whisper," we wonder out loud, Does the Times' Roger Cohen Make Any Sense at All? And we conclude, no, he does not.

Roger opines that British Jews whisper the word "Jew" in their polite conversations. Or so he imagines. Talk about seeking after a hidden mannerism! Harumph.


But what makes no sense is how he somehow thinks this imaginary trait relates to the need for Jews to be "vociferous" (oh, there is a Britishism) in another way. To wit, Cohen says, "The lesson is clear: Jews, with their history, cannot become the systematic oppressors of another people. They must be vociferous in their insistence that continued colonization of Palestinians in the West Bank will increase Israel’s isolation and ultimately its vulnerability."

In rhetoric lessons we learned that when you say something like, "the lesson is clear" that signals a weak argument which you are trying to cover over. Here it announces that nonsense follows.

Roger. If you are reading our blog, just FYI, we don't whisper "Jew" here on our blog or in any restaurant or in any other venue. So your basic facts are wrong, your personal anecdotage is counterbalanced.

And oh yes, just one more thing, the Israelis, and by your act of association, we American Jews are not now, nor have we ever been, "systematic oppressors of another people." That's just name calling and you are not whispering it. You are writing in the New York Times. Cut it out. Roger you are not making any sense at all to us.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 57a-b - translation by Tzvee


II.2
A.            A certain Aramean [alt.: Roman, but from the context: illusionist] saw a certain man fall from the roof to the ground. His abdomen burst and his intestines protruded. He brought the man's son and created the illusion that he was slaughtering him [the son] before him [the father]. [57a] He [the father, upon seeing the apparition,] swooned and sighed deeply and drew [his intestines] back into his abdomen and they stitched up his belly.

III.1
A.            (6) [If] its legs are broken [M. 3:4 E]. A certain basket of crippled birds was brought before Raba [for a ruling]. Raba inspected them at the nexus of the sinews and he declared them fit.

8/21/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 56a-b - translation by Tzvee

                [56a] This includes [by inference] the skin of the pudenda [of an animal that he slaughtered with intention to eat it] outside of its proper place, it is invalid but there is for this no punishment on account of extirpation. [If he did so with intention to offer it] after its proper time, it is refuse and they are liable to punishment on account of extirpation [cf. T. Zeb. 2:3 H-I].

Haaretz: Jerusalem Light Rail Running, Finally

We saw the light rail running without passengers in May of this year. Finally, yesterday it opened for passengers.
Jerusalem's little train that almost could
After 11 years of delays, Jerusalemites finally got their long-awaited light railway on Friday, but security concerns cast a pall on launch day.
By Ilan Lior

On Friday, the first day that the Jerusalem light rail ran, everyone wanted to ride it - Orthodox and secular, Arabs and Jews, tourists and locals. The fact that it was free was also quite an incentive. "This is historic," some passengers said, smiling and snapping photos to preserve the memory. Others were less excited, only welcoming the fact that after years of infrastructure work, the train was finally serving the city's residents and not only making their lives miserable...more...

8/20/11

GPS for traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway: Google v. Garmin

Like the Times, we've been comparing the GPS traffic features of our Garmin device (1490T) and our Google navigation app on our mobile phone (Sprint Samsung Epic 4G).

The phone produces maps with red lines on them which indicate slow traffic. We need to know, coming from Queens, if the Cross Bronx is backed up before we get to the turn-off to the Bruckner. We have a shortcut via the Bruckner that will save us up to half an hour when the Cross Bronx is really bad.

In the past few months, nine out of ten times, the Google navigation app has been accurate in indicating bad traffic on that one road. We do have to scroll and squint to see it. But if the red line is there on the Cross Bronx, we turn off before getting stuck in it. If it is green, we take a chance on the Cross Bronx.

We just upgraded to a Garmin GPS with traffic reporting as a feature via an FM antenna in the power cord. It's been disappointing in several ways. By the time it indicates that there is a tie-up, most of the time, we are in it. And  for that feature, we joke that we already have a wife to serve (when she is in the car) to announce that we are in traffic.

The positive Garmin feature is that when set for a trip destination, the GPS will tell us in a little icon how many minutes traffic will delay us. But the bad side to that is that it is mostly wrong. To be fair, the Cross Bronx may be one of the most difficult and complex routes in the US to predict. It by far is one of the worst roads. Without traffic, it is less than 10 minutes from the Throgs Neck to the GWB. With bad traffic it can take, on the worst day, over an hour.

For a more detailed comparison of how these systems compare in LA, see the Times article, When an Android Phone Becomes a GPS Device, By ERIC A. TAUB.

Thinking Cap: Preventing Groupthink - NYTimes.com

Do Jewish legal processes prevent group-think? That's the claim of two psychologists, Eliezer Schnall, a psychologist at Yeshiva University, and his student, Michael Greenberg, as summarized in the Times: Thinking Cap: Preventing Groupthink - NYTimes.com.

We think that the case in point is fully ironic. Religion relies on many forms of cultural agreements and mechanisms of authority that resemble and encourage all the elements of groupthink. To assert that religious laws discourage it in some settings sets up a stark contradictory contrast that may be correct, or may just be wishful thinking and creative interpretation.

Hat tip to the Shabbat Shalom newsletter of the Rabbinic Alumni of YU.

Jewish Press: Is The Talmud Anti-Christian?

No the Talmud is not anti-Christian. That is a grossly anti-Semitic accusation that continues to be circulated by bigoted racists. The Talmud is not a polemical document.

We've studied Talmud for years and never found a single anti-Christian word in it. A worthy article on this subject has appeared in the Jewish Press - Is The Talmud Anti-Christian? by Steven Plaut.

Is Chivas Regal Scotch Whiskey Kosher?

A few weeks ago in June 2011 a Conservative Jewish group representing synagogue men’s clubs in the US declared a boycott of some scotch whiskey as a response to some local Scottish boycotts of Israel in 2009. The Israeli press has picked this up and played up that the fact that the scotch does not have rabbinic approval as kosher, did not bother the Conservative group. As a matter of fact, most rabbis do not require whiskey to be certified as kosher. The article describes how 250 synagogues, via the men's clubs, have taken on Chivas.
בתי-כנסת נגד "שיבס"
טל יחזקאלי
עדכון אחרון: 20:39 , 15/08/2011
זה מספר שבועות שמותג הוויסקי "שיבס" מוחרם ע"י למעלה מ-250 בתי כנסת בארצות-הברית. התנועה המסורתית גילתה כי המותג מיוצר במחוז סקוטי המחרים את ישראל מאז מבצע עופרת יצוקה, ומאז - כ-25 אלף מחברי התנועה נמנעים משתיית השיבס. היבואן: "אי-אפשר לשייך את השיבס למחוז ספציפי אחד"


אם מחרימים לא שותים: לתנועה המסורתית בארצות-הברית, הזרם הדתי קונסרבטיבי ביהדות, נמאס מההחרמות על ישראל. לכן הקהילה המסורתית באמריקה החליטה לעשות מעשה, ומזה מספר שבועות, כ-25 אלף מחברי התנועה מחרימים את מותג הוויסקי "שיבס", המיוצר במחוז בסקוטלנד, שמחרים את התוצרת הישראלית מאז מבצע עופרת יצוקה.

הרב אנדי סאקס, מזכ"ל כנסת הרבנים וראש הלשכה לשירותי דת בתנועה המסורתית, אמר בראיון לתכניתנו "מה בוער" עם רזי ברקאי, כי "החברה המייצרת את שיבס כבר קיימה מגעים עם התנועה במטרה לשנות את המדיניות הקיימת בחברה".

למרות שהוויסקי אינו נמצא בהשגחת הרבנות, סאקס הסביר כי רק המחמירים ביותר נמנעו משתיית ויסקי. "בכל הקשור להשגחה בוויסקי, יש מגוון של דעות", הוא אמר, "אך אם לא מתייחסים לדעות של העולם החרדי, יהודים שומרי כשרות שתו שיבס ללא השגחה מאז ומעולם. המנהג התחיל בכמה קהילות אורתודוקסיות בצפון אמריקה. קבוצת גברים קמים אחרי קריאת התורה, ופשוט שותים ביחד את הוויסקי".

יואש בן אליעזר, משנה למנכ"ל טמפו, הזכיינים של יבוא שיבס לישראל, שמע על החרם של הקהילה האורתודוקסית באמריקה, ולדבריו, החליט מיד כי הוא רוצה להבהיר מספר דברים בנושא. "אני חייב להגיד שהחרם הפתיע אותי מאוד. ליצור של שיבס אחראים כמעט חצי מסקוטלנד", הסביר אליעזר, "המשקה הספציפי מורכב מ-40 עירבובים של סוגי וויסקי, ויותר - לכן קשה מאוד לשייך את השיבס למחוז ספציפי".

8/19/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 55a-b - translation by Tzvee


D.            Come and take note: [As to] the smallest [size] of earthenware vessels: their [rimmed] bottoms or their sides [that can] set without supports [are unclean if] [55a] their measure is as much [oil as needed for] anointing a small finger of a child. [And this measurement applies to vessels that, when whole, hold] up to a log [M. Kel. 2:2 A]. Do we not conclude that a log is the same as any amount below this measure? No. [We conclude that] a log is the same as any amount above this measure.

E.            Come and take note: [If, when whole, such vessels held] from a log to a seah, [the uncleanness will persist if the remnant may hold] a quarter-log [M. Kel. 2:2 B]. Do we not conclude that a seah is the same as any amount below this measure? No. [We conclude that] a seah is the same as any amount above this measure.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 54a-b - translation by Tzvee


C.            Said R. Pappa, “R. Bibi bar Abayye posed the question: [54a] The gullet — any amount of piercing at all [renders it terefah]. Any amount of mauling at all [renders it terefah]. The windpipe — a piercing the size of an issar [renders it terefah]. How much mauling [renders it terefah]?”

D.            After he posed the question, he then answered it: In either case any amount at all [of mauling renders it terefah]. What is the basis for this view? The venom [of the animal from the mauling] will continue to burn [a larger hole even after the mauling itself].

8/18/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 53a-b - translation by Tzvee

XXVI.3
A.            R. Kahana posed a question to Rab, [53a] “Does the rule of mauling [that renders an animal terefah] apply to a cat or not?” He said to him, “The rule of mauling applies even to a weasel.” [He said to him,] “Does the rule of mauling apply to a weasel?” He said to him, “The rule of mauling does not apply even to a cat.” [He said to him,] “Does the rule of mauling apply to a cat or to a weasel or not?” He said to him, “The rule of mauling applies to a cat but not to a weasel.”

B.            And all this is not contradictory. That which he said, “The rule of mauling applies even to a weasel,” [refers to a case where it mauled] birds. That which he said, “The rule of mauling does not apply even to a cat,” [refers to a case of] large sheep. That which he stated, “The rule of mauling applies to a cat but not to a weasel,” [refers to a case of] kids and lambs.

8/17/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 52a-b - translation by Tzvee


. [52a] Fine sand, we do not suspect; coarse sand, we do suspect. Dirt from the road, we do suspect [because it too hardens].

E.            [If it flew into] straw that was bundled into sheaves, we do suspect [injury]; [straw that was] not bundled, we do not suspect. [If it flew into stacks of] all the various types of wheat, we do suspect [injury]. All the various types of barley, we do suspect injury [some var.: we do not or the phrase is omitted].

F.             All the various types of legumes — they are not subject to [suspicion that if a bird flew into a pile of them] there is hidden injury to its limbs, except for fenugreek. For chick peas, we do not suspect there is hidden injury to its limbs. For lentils, we do suspect there is hidden injury to its limbs. This is the general rule for this issue: For any goods that are slippery, we do not suspect there is hidden injury to its limbs. For any good that are not slippery, we do suspect there is hidden injury to its limbs.

8/16/11

New Book Published: "God’s Favorite Prayers"

"God’s Favorite Prayers" (ISBN 0615509495) is a new published book that unlocks the personalities behind the prayers. Author Tzvee Zahavy introduces readers to the archetypes within Jewish liturgy in this engaging new volume.

"God’s Favorite Prayers" invites the reader into the heart of Jewish spirituality, to learn about its idiom and imagery, its emotions and its great sweeping dramas. The author invites the reader to meet six ideal personalities of Jewish prayer and to get to know some of God's favorite prayers.

According to Zahavy, Jews recite and sing and meditate prayers that derive from six distinct archetypes. He labels those six personalities: the performer, the mystic, the scribe, the priest, the meditator and the celebrity.

What Explains Jewish Achievement?

We received a new book, The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement, a paperback by Steven L. Pease.

It's a handsome and worthy publication.

The publisher tells us about it:

"The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement chronicles the astonishing record of one people's disproportionate achivements and the causes behind it. The stunning performance of Jews over the last 125 years can only be compared with that of the Italians during the Renaissance, the Greeks during the era of Pericles, or the Dutch during their own Golden Age.

Is Brooklyn Literary?

Yes, Brooklyn is a literary mecca, as explained in a new book by Even Hughes, reviewed in the Times.

LITERARY BROOKLYN - The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life
By Evan Hughes
337 pages. Henry Holt & Company. $17.
by Patricia Wall/The New York Times
...For generations — long before it became fashionable — Brooklyn has taken in writers fleeing from Manhattan’s steep rents and steeper pretensions. In the first sentence of “Sophie’s Choice” (1979), William Styron’s narrator, Stingo, turns out his pockets and says, “In those days cheap apartments were almost impossible to find in Manhattan, so I had to move to Brooklyn.” 

It’s been a refuge too for those who simply needed some quiet, a place that had human scale and dirt under its fingernails. “Young men were writing manifestos in the higher magazines of Manhattan,” Thomas Wolfe said in the 1930s about his years in the borough, “but the weather of man’s life, the substance and structure of the world in which he lives, was soaking in on me in those years in Brooklyn.” 

As anyone who has paid attention to the Book Review, Styles and Dining sections of The New York Times is aware, things have changed in Brooklyn. Over the past decade or two it has filled with heat-seeking young writers, editors, artists and chefs, so much so that it’s become the butt of unfair but funny anti-hipster tirades. The novelist Colson Whitehead was compelled to cool the warm jets in 2008 by writing a witty essay in The Times titled: “I Write in Brooklyn. Get Over It.”
 
What American writers have sought and found in underdog Brooklyn across the centuries, from Walt Whitman and Marianne Moore through Norman Mailer and Jonathan Lethem, is the subject of “Literary Brooklyn,” Evan Hughes’s intelligent but poky first book. He traces how Brooklyn has grown to become fully, as its borough president, Marty Markowitz, puts it, “New York’s Left Bank.” 

Mr. Hughes is a young journalist and critic — he’s written for good magazines and book sections...more...

Talmud Bavli Hullin 51a-b - translation by Tzvee

XXIII.1
A.            The omasum or the second stomach [reticulum] which are pierced on the outer edge [M. 3:1 H]. The rabbis taught, A needle which is found in the thick wall of the reticulum [M. Hul. 3:2 C6], when it protrudes from one side, it [the animal] is valid. [When it protrudes] on both sides, it is invalid. If there is in its place a coagulated drop of blood, [51a] one may be certain that [the needle was in place] before slaughter. [If] there is not in its place a coagulated drop of blood, one may be certain that [the needle was in place] after slaughter. [If] the surface of a wound formed a scab, one may be certain that [it was there] three days before slaughter. [If] the surface of a wound did not form a scab, [then] he who makes a claim against his fellow must bring proof [that the animal is invalid] [T. 3:11 B-D].
               
B.            And why is this [case of the needle in the reticulum] different from all other [instances of] piercing where even if there is no blood the master may declare it terefah?

8/15/11

Is Ralph Branca Jewish?

Yes the Brooklyn Dodger pitcher who achieved notoriety for throwing the home run pitch to Bobby Thomson in a 1951 playoff game against the New York Giants, Ralph Branca is a Jew - technically according to Jewish law - because his mother was born a Jew.

Wikipedia recalls that, "Branca entered the game in the ninth inning and surrendered a walk-off home run known as 'The Shot Heard 'Round the World' to Bobby Thomson, giving the Giants the National League pennant."

The Times reports that Branca was brought up Catholic and did not know his mother was a Jew until shown evidence recently by a writer. His mother Kati converted to Catholicism when she married Branca's father John.

Branca has added the fact of his Jewish roots to his new book, due to be released in September 2011.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 50a-b - translation by Tzvee

Which is the himsa and which is the bar-himsa? Come and take note: For said R. Nahman, “They [in Israel] eat it. [50a] For us, should it not serve to seal [a hole]?”

F.             [The fat of the abomasum] on the greater curvature, everyone agrees that it is forbidden [to eat it]. Concerning what do they dispute? [Concerning the fat] on the lesser curvature. [See above, the dispute at XVII.1 F.]

G.            There are those that state [another version of the tradition]: [Concerning the fat] on the lesser curvature, everyone agrees that it is permitted [to eat it]. Concerning what did they dispute? [Concerning the fat] on the greater curvature.

8/14/11

At Your Huppah, Dear Mike and Susie

[Today my niece Susie, a law student, married Mike, a doctoral student in Mathematics. I had the honor of officiating as mesader qiddushin and offered the couple this little blessing.]

At Your Huppah, Dear Mike and Susie

Let me review the seven blessings you will hear under the Huppah and for the next seven days.  And then please allow me to add to them a short blessing of my own.

1.         You are blessed … who created everything for his glory.

We start the blessings of our wedding service with the invocation of the universe and creation and the glory of G-d.

2.       You are blessed… creator of humans.

We move in to focus on the creation of humanity. Still quite universal. Theological and global.

3.       You are blessed… who created humans in His image, in the pattern of His own likeness, and provided for the perpetuation of his kind.  You are blessed, Lord, creator of humans.

We talk about the image of G-d and the perpetuation of the human species. Continuing to be philosophical, scientific and distant.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 49a-b - translation by Tzvee

And why is this different from the case of a needle that was found [49a] in the thick wall of the reticulum. [With regard to that we say if it protrudes] from one side it is valid; from two sides it is terefah. And we do not say let us take a look to see whether the head points toward the exterior or toward the interior. We may say there that because food an drink pass through, it makes sense to say that the food or drink pushed it [into the wall of the reticulum and it is not of any use to inspect to see whether the head points inward or outward. It is terefah only if it pierced all the way through].

E.            A certain needle was found in the large portal vein of the liver [of an animal]. Huna the master the son of R. Idi declared it terefah. R. Ada bar Manyomi declared it valid. They went and asked Rabina [which view to follow]. He said to them, “Take the mantles [of authority] off those who declared it terefah.

8/12/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 47a-b - translation by Tzvee

[47a] And said Raba, “These two cysts [on the lung] that are adjacent to one another are no subject to inspection. [They are definite symptoms of an underlying defect.]

I.              “If there is one [cyst] that looks like two, we take a thorn and lance it. If [the fluid] flows from one to the other, it is one [cyst] and it is valid. If not, it is two [cysts] and it is terefah.”

J.              And said Raba, “The lung has five lobes. Facing the animal, there are three on the right and two on the left. If there are fewer or more or they are reversed, it is terefah.”

Talmud Bavli Hullin 48a-b - translation by Tzvee

If its womb was missing [48a], it is valid. If its liver became worm-infested [the law is unclear]. [Regarding] this [case] was an incident where the residents of Asia Minor came up on three occasions to Yavneh [seeking a ruling on the matter]. On the third [occasion a decision was rendered] that permitted [such a case] for them.

XIII.1
A.            Said R. Joseph bar Manyomi, said R. Nahman, “[Regarding] a lung that adjoins the wall [of the chest cavity], we are not concerned [that it is a sign of a terefah]. If ulcerations erupted [on the lung near the place it adjoins the chest], we are concerned [that this indicates it is a terefah].”

8/11/11

Time to end the George Washington Bridge toll

It's time to end the George Washington Bridge toll altogether. The bridge needs to be free.

Give us back the tolls and really, we will create jobs.

The Bergen Record reported that there is a plan to raise the toll on the bridge by $4.

Toll hike? Hell No! That is not what we want or need.

No tolls. None. Take the toll booths down! Do that and we will hire a gardener and window cleaner. Real jobs creation, not  the phoney jobs that Republicans promise while they stash away billions of dollars offshore. We will hire real people to do real jobs in Bergen County NJ.

Just take the toll booths on the GWB down!

Thank you for listening to our real rant.

New for God's Favorite Prayers - LOOK INSIDE! and 4 for 3 Sale

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Talmud Bavli Hullin 46a-b - translation by Tzvee

R. Huna the son of R. Joshua posed a question: [46a] [Does Samuel in his ruling mean] up to and including [that place in the spinal cord] or perhaps [he means] up to but not including [that place]?

D.            R. Pappa posed a question: If you wish to say that [Samuel means] up to but not including [that place], then what is the law with regard to [severing at] the point it branches off? [Cashdan: the point in the cord where the first pair of sacral nerves is given off.]

E.            R. Jeremiah posed a question: If you wish to say that [Samuel means] up to and including [that place], then what is the law with regard to [severing in] the point it branches off itself?

F.             Come and take note: The branch is judged [to have the same rules] as the meat [of the animal, not as an organ]. Does this not mean the first or the second [point of] branching? No, [it means] the third [point of] branching.

8/10/11

James Woods in the New Yorker Reviews George Levine's "The Joy of Secularism: 11 Essays for How We Live Now"

James Woods in the New Yorker reviews with enthusiasm George Levine's "The Joy of Secularism: 11 Essays for How We Live Now".

The book appeared five months ago, so New Yorker as usual is slow  to comment on the new. The gingham cover design of Levin's collection  recalls another book, "The Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book" although we first thought it was imitating "The Joy of Cooking" but it is not -- and anyway what is that fluffy art all about? We take covers much more seriously after conceiving and designing our own day-bright art for our new book.

Can we leave aside the cover and consider the contents? Woods does so with poetic elegance. His review is virtually an elegy for secular living.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 45a-b - translation by Tzvee

When they sent something to R. Zira [from the Patriarch's house,] he would not take it. And when they invited him [for a meal] he would go. He said, [45a] “They receive honor by honoring me [so when I go it is not a bribe for me].”

VII.1
A.            Said R. Judah, said Rab, “If [the windpipe] was pierced [with a number of perforations] like a sieve, they combine them together to constitute a majority [and render the animal a terefah].” [Holes combine to constitute the measure for a tear in the windpipe.]

8/9/11

Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi's Posthumous Story Gilgul in the New Yorker

New Yorker has published fiction by Professor Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi. It reports that “Gilgul” is a “short story in which a man in crisis consults a medium and considers the transmigration of souls.” The story begins:
“You know,” she said almost shyly, “that I have the ability, if you wish, to look into your eyes and tell you when you will die?” “No, I didn’t realize you could do that.” He hesitated for a moment.
Professor Yerushalmi passed away in December 2009. A New York Times obituary  said about him,

“An elegant writer and mesmerizing raconteur, Dr. Yerushalmi earned his reputation as one of his generation’s foremost Jewish historians by plumbing eclectic subjects like the history of the Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal in the 1490s, messianism, the intellectual history of modern German Jewry and Freud’s relationship with his religion.”

The new magazine story closes with a reference to a narrative of a Jewish physician who wanders widely but never makes it to Israel. This may be a thinly disguised bookend of sorts for Yerushalmi, closing his career as a writer and thinker. The Times says that, “Dr. Yerushalmi received a bachelor’s degree from Yeshiva University in 1953 and a doctorate from Columbia in 1966, writing his dissertation on Isaac Cardoso, a 17th-century Marrano physician.” He published the dissertation in 1971 as, From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto: Isaac Cardoso: a Study in Seventeenth-Century Marranism and Jewish Apologetics. Wikipedia tells us that, “Isaac… ridiculed the kabbalistic, Pythagorean doctrine of the transmigration of souls.” In this fiction piece in the New Yorker the conflicted main character, Ravitch, consults a self-assured psychic, Gerda, at the her home in Jaffa Israel.

It strikes us as somewhat ironic that that this story titled the Hebrew word for the transmigration of souls appears now, nearly two years after the author’s death, embodying how his creative spirit, has move on to its next gilgul, the immortal archives of the New Yorker.

If you subscribe to New Yorker, by the way, you can download the iPad app for the magazine and sign up to read every issue on your tablet at no extra cost.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 44a-b - translation by Tzvee

In general the law is in accord with the House of Hillel. But one who wishes to act [consistently] in accord with the words of the House of Shammai may do so. [One who wishes to act consistently in accord with] the words of the House of Hillel may do so. [One who wishes to act in accord with] the leniencies of the House of Shammai and the leniencies of the House of Hillel is evil. [44a] [One who wishes to act in accord with] the stringencies of the House of Shammai and the stringencies of the House of Hillel, about him Scripture says, “The fool walks in darkness” (Qoh. 2:14). But [it is proper] if one follows the House of Hillel [to follow both] their leniencies and their stringencies and if one follows the House of Shammai [to follow both] their leniencies and stringencies [T. Suk. 2:3].

8/8/11

Is Ben Bernanke Jewish?

Yes, Ben Shalom Bernanke is a Jew.

He was named "Person of the Year" for 2009 by Time magazine, which said about him, "He didn't just reshape U.S. monetary policy; he led an effort to save the world economy."

Bernanke has been Chairman of the Board of Governors of the United States Federal Reserve since February 1, 2006.

Bernanke was born December 13, 1953, in Augusta, Georgia, and grew up in Dillon, South Carolina.

His family, one of the few Jewish families in the area, attended a local synagogue called Ohav Shalom. As a child, Bernanke learned Hebrew from his maternal grandfather Harold Friedman, who was a professional Torah reader and Hebrew teacher.

His paternal grandfather, Jonas Bernanke, immigrated to the United States from Austria after World War I and moved to Dillon from New York in the 1940s. (Reposted.)

Talmud Bavli Hullin 43a-b - translation by Tzvee

[43a] Rather those two categories that you took out [above at Q and T], you should not take them out. [Then you are left with eighteen categories.]

II.1
A.            Said Ulla, “Eight kinds of terefot were stated to Moses at Sinai: [An animal with an organ that was damaged when it was] pierced, or severed, [of if the organ was] missing, or deficient, torn, or mauled, [of if the animal] suffered a fall, of suffered a fracture.”

8/7/11

CNN: Diana Nyad Started Her Cuba to Florida Swim

Diana Nyad has begun one of the boldest attempted sports feats ever.

We pray for her to succeed.: "(CNN) -- Diana Nyad's personal test has begun. At 7:45 p.m. ET she jumped into the water and began her 103-mile swim between Cuba and Florida...."

See "Nyad: Today's swim shows 60s 'not too late' for goals," by Matt Sloane, CNN.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 42a-b - translation by Tzvee

But this is obvious. [42a] What might I have said? If it was the case that she gave birth, that is announced. [Since we know nothing about a child, then the slaughter of this animal must be a valid act on an unconsecrated animal.] It makes the novel point [that the slaughter is invalid] as we could say that she had a miscarriage [and was obligated to bring a sacrifice].

I.1 discusses Mishnah's precepts. II, III, and IV sketch the circumstances that apply to Mishnah's rules.

                K.            R. Judah says, “One mauled by a wolf, in the case of a small beast, and one mauled by a lion in the case of a large beast, one mauled by a hawk, in the case of small fowl, and one mauled by a falcon, in the case of large fowl.”
                L.            This is the general principle: Any the like of which does not live is terefah.

PW: Tensions Grow as Amazon Begins Publishing and Bookstores Worry

Publisher's Weekly says the obvious, "All Eyes on Amazon Publishing: Agents and booksellers look warily at the e-tailer’s foray into publishing," by Rachel Deahl.

As Amazon begins publishing books, worries accelerate about its massive impact on the industry.
...Given the tense relationship between bricks-and-mortar stores and Amazon, a number of agents expressed concern about the reach Amazon could have with print distribution. Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch told PW the nation’s largest bookstore chain would stock Amazon Publishing titles, with one major proviso: that it can sell both the print and the e-book. “We will not stock physical books in our stores if we are not offered the available digital format,” Lynch said. “Given Amazon’s recent push for exclusivity with agents and the authors they represent, we feel it’s important to be very clear about our position on content going forward.”

8/5/11

Jewish Standard Story on Yitz's Triathlon Fundraising


A great story about our son Yitz in the Jewish Standard.
Triathlon tribute: Bergenfield resident races to honor slain compatriots
by Heather Robinson

Yitzhak Zahavy is competing this Sunday in a grueling sports event because he can. He can, he says, because three of his comrades gave their lives to save his. He is competing to honor them.

Zahavy, who was born in Rhode Island, moved to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces. In October 2002, he and three friends confronted a suicide bomber as they were waiting for a bus near a gas station outside the west bank town of Ariel. Matan Zagron, Tamir Masad, and Amihud Hasid lost their lives in an attempt to prevent the bomber from detonating his device. In giving their lives, Zahavy says, they saved his.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 41a-b - translation by Tzvee

[41a] But for any other sacrifice this would not be the case. [The forbidden acts would not all take effect with the same action.] And if [we hold the principle that] a person cannot render forbidden an object that does not belong to him, why specify that it refers to a sin-offering of a bird? It could refer even to a sin-offering of an animal. [Since he cannot render it forbidden, the animal remains a valid offering and he is liable for slaughtering it outside the Temple, on the Sabbath, and for idolatry.]

E.            [We must therefore hold the principle that] because he acquires atonement [through the sin-offering], it is as if it is his. [Then by his act he does render it forbidden. Hence we must conclude that the case is a sin-offering of a bird with half the windpipe defective.]

Talmud Bavli Hullin 40a-b - translation by Tzvee

2:8
                A.            He who slaughters (1) for the sake of mountains, (2) for the sake of valleys, (3) for the sake of seas, (4) for the sake of rivers, (5) for the sake of deserts —
                B.            his act of slaughter is invalid.
                C.            [40a] [If] two take hold of a knife and perform an act of slaughter,
                D.           one for the sake of any of the forenamed, and one for the sake of a valid purpose,
                E.            their act of slaughter is invalid.

I.1
A.            [In the cases specified in M. we say the slaughter is] invalid, yes, but not like sacrifices of corpses.

B.            And we raised this contradiction: He who slaughters (1) for the sake of mountains, (2) for the sake of valleys [M. 2:8 A]... He who slaughters for the sake of the sun, for the sake of the moon, for the sake of the stars, for the sake of the planets, for the sake of Michael, prince of the great host, and for the sake of the small worm [Shilshul] — lo, this is deemed to be flesh deriving from the sacrifices of corpses [T. Hul. 2:18].

8/4/11

Do you need a Kindle to read the Free Sample Chapters of God's Favorite Prayers?

No, you do not need a Kindle to read the free sample chapters of God's Favorite Prayers by Tzvee Zahavy in seconds. And you do not need a Kindle to read the full Kindle Edition in seconds.

Indeed, no Kindle Device required here, just get yourself a free app. We have a Kindle. But we read most of our e-books on our iPad Kindle app.

You can read any Kindle book or book-sample on one of Amazon's Free Reading apps for PC, MAC, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry or Android Phone. You can move your Kindle books around to different devices at any time with the Amazon Whispersync technology.

Of course you can buy a Kindle, or here are your links to the free apps for so many devices and computers.

Take your pick, and pick your app: iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, PC and Mac.

Welcome to the brave new world of God's favorite e-books!

Talmud Bavli Hullin 39a-b - translation by Tzvee

[39a] And R. Eliezer comes along to say that we do derive [principles regarding the validity of acts] outside the Temple from [the rules that regulate acts] inside the Temple.

F.             And R. Yosé comes along to say that even inside the Temple we do not say that this one thinks [to invalidate] and this other one performs the service [that is thereby invalidated].

I.2
A.            It was stated: He who slaughters an animal in order to sprinkle its blood for idolatry, or to burn its fats for idolatry — R. Yohanan said, “It is invalid.” R. Simeon b. Laqish said, “It is permitted.”

B.            R. Yohanan said, “It is invalid.” [He holds the principles that] (1) we do take account of [the intentions he has] for one service [i.e., sprinkling for idolatry, and we apply it] to another service [i.e., the act of slaughter]. And (2) we do derive [principles regarding the validity of acts] outside the Temple from [the rules that regulate acts] inside the Temple.

8/3/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 38a-b - translation by Tzvee


B.            [38a] If it lows, or makes an excretion, or twitches its ear, lo this is considered to be jerking.” [Any of these is enough of an indication that the animal is still alive. He did not rule in accord with Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel that it is invalid unless it jerks a foreleg or hind leg, M. 2:6 B.]

C.            He said to them, “Did Abba [i.e., Rab] require it to twitch its ear?” [This is a big expectation (Rashi).]

D.            For I [Samuel] say, “Any [movement at all] that is not one of the motions caused by the death itself [is a sufficient sign of life to render valid the act of slaughter of an animal at the point of death].”
E.            What are these motions caused by the death itself? Said R. Anan, “Mar Samuel explained it to me. If its foreleg was bent back and it stretched it forth, this is one of the motions caused by the death itself. If it was stretched out and it bent it back, this is not one of the motions caused by the death itself.”

8/2/11

Times: Rabbis Mull Over Gay Weddings

The Times' Joseph Berger has summarized brilliantly and with great judgement the state of the question for Conservative rabbis who are mulling over the issue of whether to perform weddings between two gay persons. Here is part:
...All but several Orthodox rabbis, from Modern to Hasidic, oppose same-sex marriage largely because of the explicit ban against homosexual sex in Leviticus and would never officiate at a Jewish wedding ceremony, while most, but not all, Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis will do so.

The Reform movement and the Reconstructionist movement, an outgrowth of Conservative Judaism, have allowed or encouraged rabbis to officiate at same-sex ceremonies since 1993. A Reconstructionist manual offers suggestions on how to perform wedding ceremonies for gay couples, and the Reform rabbinate provides a listing of possible vows.

The Conservative movement’s committee on Jewish law and standards struggled with the issue and in December 2006 came up with two advisory — but not compulsory — rulings that, with classic Talmudic paradox, seemed to contradict each other. One ruling, by Rabbi Joel Roth, said rabbis “will not perform commitment ceremonies for gays and lesbians”; the second, by Rabbis Daniel Nevins, Elliot Dorff and Avram Reisner, said that “stable, committed, Jewish relationships” were necessary for gay and straight people alike and should be celebrated.

The latter opinion, however, fell short of explicitly authorizing an authentic Jewish wedding for same-sex marriages.

But the movement, which believes that Jews must conserve traditions yet also holds that laws must evolve to meet the shifting realities of modern life, has long given individual rabbis in its 700 congregations in North America the authority to make many decisions for their communities under a privilege known as mara d’atra — authority for a place...more...

Talmud Bavli Hullin 37a-b - translation by Tzvee


M.           [37a] What then? Does the veneration due sancta [enable the offering] itself to become invalid, but [we should] not reckon for it [the ability to transmit uncleanness] in the first or second degree? Or does it make no difference? [Cf. III.3, 36a.]
N.           The question remains unresolved.

8/1/11

Paul Simms at New Yorker Imagines God's Blog

Paul Simms at the New Yorker Imagines God's Blog. Check out the pseudo-comments.
Shouts + Murmurs
God’s Blog
by Paul Simms

UPDATE: Pretty pleased with what I’ve come up with in just six days. Going to take tomorrow off. Feel free to check out what I’ve done so far. Suggestions and criticism (constructive, please!) more than welcome. God out.

COMMENTS (24)...more...
Meanwhile, we imagine that we are one of God's Favorite blogs, and we further imagine that we know which are God's Favorite Prayers...

Talmud Bavli Hullin 36a-b - translation by Tzvee


G.            [36a] You might have thought that it makes sense to say that since they are prohibited in the use of their shearings and in working with them, their blood must be buried [and not used for any benefit]; it makes the novel point [that you may use the blood].

III.2
A.            It was taught by the House of R. Ishmael: “And drinks the blood of the slain” (Num. 23:24) — this excludes the blood that spurts out [at the time of slaughter] for it does not render seeds susceptible to uncleanness.

B.            Our rabbis taught: He who slaughters and spurts blood on the gourd [of heave-offering] — Rabbi says, “It is rendered susceptible to uncleanness.” R. Hiyya says, “We suspend judgment.”