Video: Andy Statman Trio with Ricky Skaggs at a Nashville Bluegrass Stomp

Great music. Tablet Mag has a new podcast on the Statman - Skaggs recordings. (Hat tip to Blog in Dm). Andy is an Orthodox Jew. Ricky Skaggs is a Christian who has won two Grammy awards for "Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album."

Times' Ethicist Tackles Is SABBATH SHMOOZING Jewish? and Is it Kosher to Hand Out $50 Bills During Kaddish?

Signs of a slow ethical quandary day. The ethicist at the Times, Ariel Kaminer, has to be scraping the bottom of the moral barrel with a question like the one he covered this past Sunday from one "NAME WITHHELD" writer. Read it in all its gory details and you will see why anonymity is so essential.

My synagogue is interviewing four rabbis. One, who lives nearby, comes every Saturday to pray and glad-hand. The other three can’t, because they don’t travel on the Sabbath. Isn’t it unethical of him to take advantage of his proximity? NAME WITHHELD

Attending those services isn’t unethical; it’s sensible. If you applied for a job at a bookstore, would you refuse on principle to visit until they made their choice? But if you find the rabbi’s behavior in the synagogue to be inappropriate (if, say, he hands out $50 bills during the mourner’s prayer), then cast your vote accordingly.

By the way, I get a lot of rabbi questions; priest and imam questions, not so much. Clerics of the world, tell us your quandaries!
A few Talmudic observations.

In a cold and nasty shul that we know, friendly glad-handing by anyone, including a rabbinic candidate, would be considered out-of-place, surely a negative in any search. And further, most people agree that it makes no sense to consider it an "advantage" for a candidate to appear in shul to campaign for a job. We all know that the rabbi with the most relatives on the board of directors will get the job no matter what. And what indeed is "inappropriate" about handing out $50 bills in synagogue? Are we still talking during Sabbath prayers here? Does Kaminer mean it is too little or too much for someone to hand out money in synagogue. And is it especially egregious to hand out money during the Kaddish? We'd think during the Shema or the Amidah would be a more questionable time to distribute cash.

Now lots of people complain about the Times' awful coverage of Israel. This ethicist query is a new low in their coverage of synagogue matters. We are considering canceling our subscription!


Heebow Video Parody of NFL's Tim Tebow

Here is a silly parody of the Tim Tebow football phenomenon -- Heebow. Worth a few good laughs.

Huff Post: Best Paid Pastors

Jaweed Kaleem writes in the Huffington Post about the top earning pastors in the US. He explains,
From church closings and foreclosures of houses of worship across the nation to the limited number of clergy jobs for new rabbis, imams and pastors, the recession has hit religious Americans just as it has affected the tens of millions of the country's jobless.

Even before the recession, most spiritual leaders of small towns and big cities across the United States earned meager salaries, with annual pay for Catholic priests and imams ranging from $25,000 to $30,000 and the average Protestant pastor making $40,000 a year, according to a recent survey.

Yet, even in difficult times, some churches and pastors are soaring. While not a definitive guide, HuffPost Religion has has compiled a slideshow of some of the best paid pastors in America. For several, their high income comes not only from employment as pastors, but also from TV appearances, book sales and charity management.

For the lucky few, being a pastor can mean being a multi-millionaire.
We like the description of how Rick Warren "reverse tithes." Warren is one of Barack Obama's friends,
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, has made tens millions of dollars off his books, such as "A Purpose Driven Life." He's made so much that, in 2005, he returned 25 years of salary to the church and stopped accepting new paychecks. Warren and his wife say they are "reverse tithers" who give away 91 percent of their income to charity and live off nine percent.
In our understanding, the reverse of giving 10% of your income would be taking 10% of something or other. Ah well, imprecision, whatever.

Mitt Romney's Phoney Florida Jewish Support

According to Sam Stein in the Huffington Post, "Mitt Romney's Reported Rise In Support From Florida's Jewish Voters Appears Fabricated".

He explained, "A report purporting to show potentially historic levels of support from Jewish voters for Mitt Romney in a general election matchup with Barack Obama appears to be either profoundly flawed or simply fabricated."


Dov Linzer Blows It in NY Times Op-Ed

Op-Ed Contributor Dov Linzer wrote, "Lechery, Immodesty and the Talmud" in an Op-Ed in the Times, asking to start with, "Is it possible for a religious demand for modesty to be about anything other than men controlling women’s bodies?"

While we agree with the egalitarian ideal underlying this essay, that men and women ought to have equal standing in all aspects of life, we are uneasy with Linzer's critique of Orthodox Jewish attitudes towards gender separation and roles for men and women.

To the opening rhetorical question of his essay cited above, we must say yes, it is possible for religious "demands" for "modesty" to be about many things, including modesty itself. Why would Linzer not know this? We have said previously (and humorously) that gender rules in Orthodox Judaism can assert the male Jews' tribal territorial rights over the females. Any number of equally viable reductive explanations can be adduced regarding the prominent gender laws and customs in Orthodox Judaism.

Linzer fails to accept that blunt gender differentiation is at the crux of some of those prominent forms of Haredi Orthodox religion that teach that women are different and are subject to different rules. Such gender differentiation is not subject to reductionism, to making it sound as if these rules are hiding some sinister program of male domination over females. The rules define core values and practices of the religion. (Do we debate such internal issues now in the Op-Ed columns of the Times? Shouldn't Linzer be writing directly to the offending Orthodox leaders?)

Linzer also fails to accept that religion in the US, and in Israel, is an entirely voluntary association. Women, children, and men, can opt to skip the synagogue, to walk out of Orthodoxy and never come back, without any formal repercussions in real-world legal or civic terms. As a result of such actions, those who go out will not starve, nor will they be shot.

Haaretz : Cedar's 'Footnote' nominated for Oscar

We saw it  at the NYFF and we predict this film will win the Oscar in its category.
Joseph Cedar's 'Footnote' nominated for Oscar
Film to compete against entries from Iran, Poland, Belgium and Canada in the 84th Academy Awards ceremony, to be held at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on February 26.
Joseph Cedar's film, "Footnote," was nominated yesterday for the Academy Award's best foreign language film for 2011. Four Israeli films, including Cedar's "Beaufort" in 2007, have made the short list for the prestigious prize in the last five years.


Our Work is Published in the World's Most Expensive Jewish Books: $970 or $1,004

These may be the World's Most Expensive Jewish Books. And they have our work inside.

The Law of Agriculture in the Mishnah and the Tosefta Translation, Commentary, Theology ($970 if ordered from Brill) ($1,004 from Amazon)

Our contributions are Berakhot (pages 398-574) and Hallah (pages 2601-2627).

The book set is not titled accurately. Tractate Berakhot, the first in the book, is about prayer, liturgy (the Shema and Amidah) and blessings. The rest of the tractates are about agriculture and many other topics.

The listing for this book set from the publisher does not properly credit any of the contributors.

Publisher's Book Set Description - This project presents in three volumes the Mishnah's and the Tosefta's first division, Zera'im (Agriculture), organized in eleven topical tractates, together with a systematic history of the law of Zeraim in the Mishnah. To the exposition of the Halakhah on the chosen topic, the Mishnah-tractates are primary but complemented by the Tosefta's presentation of its collection of glosses of the Mishnah's law and supplements to that law.

The Mishnah's and the Tosefta's tractates are integrated, with the Tosefta's complement given in the setting of the Mishnah's rules, and the whole is given in English translation. The presentation in each case encompasses an introduction, a form-analytical translation and commentary, a systematic integration of the Tosefta's compositions into the Mishnah's laws, an explanation of the details of the law, and an inquiry into how the Halakhah of the Mishnah and that of the Tosefta intersect, item by item.

Readership: All those interested in Jewish prayer and liturgy, agricultural law, Mishnaic law and Tosefta.

Product Details
Hardcover: 2112 pages
Publisher: Brill Academic Pub
Language: English
Publication year: 2005
Series: Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 1 The Near and Middle East, 79
ISBN-10: 90 04 14503 6; ISBN-13 (Brill)The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) on 1 January 2007: 978 9004145 03 0
Cover: Hardback
Number of pages: Vol.I, xxii, 800 pp.; Vol. II, xiv, 975 pp.; Vol. III, xiv, 1013 pp. (English)
Number of volumes: 3

Daily News: Teaneck's Rodda Center WiFi Name is “F--- All Jews and N----”

It should be easy to find out who set up the racist name on the WiFi router at the Teaneck rec center. Not many people can have access to it and the knowhow. Sounds like a kid's prank to us.
WiFi signal with racist, anti-Semitic slur in Teaneck, NJ sparks police probe; signal came from rec center router

Mom of two shocked, dismayed as iphone flashes hateful WiFi signal as daughter danced
By Michael J. Feeney / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

A bigot named their WiFi signal “F--- All Jews and N----” — and now cops are investigating.

The hateful signal I.D. popped up on the iPhone of a 28-year-old mom inside a Teaneck, N.J. recreation center, where her 3-year-old daughter was attending dance class.

The offending signal was coming from a router connected in the Richard Rodda Community Center in the the township, located 10 miles outside New York City....
Teaneck FYI is less than 4 miles from NYC, which starts at the center of the GW Bridge, not 10 miles away.


Talmud Scholarship Links

Online Scholarly Tools for the Study of Talmud
We spent many days poring over manuscripts, limited edition photo-reproductions and microfilms in libraries to check manuscript variants back in 1976 when we were completing our PhD at Brown. Things are different today. Here are a few useful links:


    Can You Read a Book on the Sabbath?

    Centuries ago, when the codex first came out and began to replace scrolls, it took the rabbis years before they permitted Jews to use a codex on the Sabbath. The Torah is still read in 2012 in the synagogue from a scroll.

    So too with the Kindle.

    And this reminds us of a funny Norwegian video, a call to the medieval monastic codex help desk. With the famous Talmudic objection, "Are you sure I won't lose any text?" from the show "Øystein og jeg" on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) 2001.

    Orig. post 2/07.


    Daily Beast: Is there a moderate islam?

    We don't know what the question means when people ask, "Is there a moderate Islam?" There is no denying that Islam lends itself to radicalism and part of that agenda is deeply embedded in the Koran.

    Sure, we wish to encourage moderate politics in Islam, especially when radical Islam is aimed at the US. But wishful thinking must not replace scholarship and analysis.

    Chris Dickey writes that prominent Dutch politician, "Geert Wilders Says There's No Such Thing as Moderate Islam." He opines, "Can't Someone Tell Geert Wilders to Stop His Anti-Muslim Diatribes Before Somebody Gets Hurt?"

    Is Dickey worried about Wilders getting hurt? That is not clear to us. In some ways there is no denying that Wilders is right. Moderate Islam exists when Muslims actively ignore core preachings of their religion.

    It's much like Modern Orthodoxy in Judaism. To live it, you have to actively ignore deep seated essences of the rabbinic religious tradition.

    Review of "God's Favorite Prayers" in the British Interfaith Magazine "Common Ground"

    Our book, "God's Favorite Prayers" was reviewed in the new issue of "Common Ground" -- the flagship British inter-faith magazine of the Council of Christians and Jews. The magazine is produced twice a year and features articles by a number of prominent figures in the Jewish and Christian communities. It is downloadable here.

    The Council of Christians and Jews was founded by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple and Chief Rabbi, Joseph Hertz on November 14th 1941. Today it is the UK’s oldest and leading interfaith organisation with a national programme of projects as well as 38 branches in the regions. They say, "Her Majesty became our Royal Patron in November 1952. We have been deeply honoured and are grateful that Her Majesty has graced us with this Patronage for 60 years."

    In addition to the review of our book, this issue contains an article by Lord Sacks, the chief rabbi.

    Forward.com: The Oy of Orthodox Sex

    Our current working premise is that Orthodox (mainly Haredi) attitudes and regulations towards women are essential to their Judaism, not accidental. That means that you cannot tell the Haredim to remove or change these components of their religion and more than you could tell them to stop venerating the Torah or observing Yom Kippur.

    Elana Sztokman wrote, On Teaching Talmud and Sex Toys, a review interview with Jennie Rosenfeld, co-author of the sex guide,  “The Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy,” which the Forward reviewed tepidly previously here. Sztokman says that the book, "explores the most intimate topics with no restraint, topics such as female orgasm, masturbation, and varieties of sexual positions." And although we have not seen the book, we are pretty sure that there are plenty of "restraints" in this sex guide. Sexual restraint is part of the essential regulation of Orthodox life. It's not peripheral. It is a governing aspect of Orthodox life.


    Is the Volkswagen Jewish?

    In the Book Review section at WSJ, the article, "The Extraordinary Life of Josef Ganz" in Thinking Small explains that yes certain aspects Volkswagen has Jewish connections through the Jewish engineer Ganz, and no in other views, it does not.

    So, is Volkswagen Jewish, turns out to be quite a complicated question.

    Gerson's Church of Copimism hits the New Yorker

    We still do not get the joke that Isak Gerson in Uppsala is playing on us. He has achieved church status for his software piracy group. Yes, if Sweden thinks that all religion is a joke, then this is a natural progression.

    Whatever. New Yorker sent someone to do a story on Copimism and they delved, as they do, into the details. We gag on this. Some people can live in total disrespect of property and of faith. Not us. In the middle of the New Yorker article we found this poetic gem,
    When Gerson talks about Kopimism as a religion, his tone is good-humored, but he also comes off as disarmingly sincere. Even if this religious-registration business is just a bit of political theatre, there’s no doubt that there’s an honestly and deeply held conviction at its core: the free exchange of information as a fundamental right. But is that enough to make it a genuine religion? When I asked Professor Bäckström, he hesitated. “Today you can believe in anything, so I suppose the idea of belief is a minor issue in a Northern European setting,” he said. “Belief can be a very wide concept.” He admitted, though, that he suspects that Kopimism is primarily an activist prank.

    Are Goldman Sach's Islamic Bonds Kosher?

    Reuter's reports that some Islamic oriented bonds issued by Goldman Sachs may be overstating their "rabbinic" certifications ("Goldman Sachs in new flap over Islamic bond suspected to be not 100% halal"). Whoops.
    Goldman Sachs’ controversial $2 billion Islamic bond programme faced a fresh challenge on Wednesday as it emerged that at least two scholars named as potential approvers had not even seen the prospectus.

    Asim Khan, an adviser to Goldman on the issue which needs approval from sharia scholars to proceed, confirmed media reports that three of the eight scholars listed as potential approvers had not responded to requests to endorse the issue, but he said their lack of co-operation had no bearing on its sharia credentials.

    Goldman’s first sukuk, also the first by any U.S. bank, is already facing suggestions that it may contravene religious principles by using proceeds to lend money to clients for interest, accusations rejected by the bank’s adviser.


    Why Women Can't Even Say Thank You – it's the Beruryah Code

    William Kolbrener lives in an Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Israel. Writing in the Forward he expresses his frustration that his neighbors are not polite to him. In his essay, "When Women Can't Even Say Thank You," he is surprised, and he is sad, and finally he decries that the, "Stifling Modesty Code Prevents Everyday Acts of Civility."

    As his article explains further, "No Contact Allowed: Ultra-Orthodox Israeli women are taught to avoid all contact with men, even if it involves something as simple as saying, ‘Thank you.’"

    Kolbrener laments that "Common sense civility in the public sphere" is missing from the Ultra-Orthodox. He concludes that "chivalry is dead" and worse, that women in that community live in a "repressive culture of silence."

    Bill, we all have repressive rules. There is no place that we know of where you can walk up to a woman on the street and ask her if she would like to have sex with you (well maybe in some parts of Hollywood, but that is another story). The question is where you mark the ball on the field, how far away from the goalposts.

    Bill, you do not like the Ultra-Orthodox rules. You find them to be rude and insulting. That's fine. You are entitled to your opinion.

    But you also need to look more analytically at the culture in which you live. Distinctive rules of conduct for women are essential to that culture, not accidental. Women are valued tribal territories. They are protected by strict fences and borders. Bill, you see this, but you do not like it. So you insult it, calling it names like, "repressive" and "stifling."

    Make your value judgments and move on then, Bill.

    But others may want to understand how deeply rooted is this rabbinic code of conduct for women. It is old, and strong, and influential within the religion of the rabbis and the Talmud.

    The stories and traditions about one famous woman named Beruryah encapsulate some of the basic attitudes. In one anecdote, she mocks a rabbi who asks her directions, telling him not to ask her which way is it to Lod, just to say, Lod?

    But in that story you can see a castigation of Beruryah's mockery, not of the rabbinic code of conduct.

    True, in other places Beruryah is depicted as emotionally sensitive, shielding her husband from grief, and morally superior, urging her husband to reconsider his anger. Yet, these too are easily seen as aspects of the code. Women must learn to recognize and manage their husband's moods.

    Finally, when a student of her husband seduces her on a dare, this just proves that all women are sexually flighty, even the wife of the great rabbi, and that the rabbinic code must be rigorously enforced.

    See the texts here, they are worthy of some close study. And they constitute the entirety of the "Beruryah code."

    The upshot for us in brief here is that the Beruryah code of conduct for rabbinic women is old and venerable and influential. It did not just start yesterday on a bus in Jerusalem. We see these facts in front of our eyes. For many Orthodox, these rules of conduct for women are essential to their definition of religion, even if many other Jews believe that they are based on false, outdated and rude premises.

    Kolbrener, if it hurts you to be subjected to the rudeness of a neighborhood, don't go down that street. As the New York City Police tell people who get beat up at the local tavern, learn to recognize which bars are too rowdy for you and do not ever go in there for a drink. It's a rough city. If you do go in and you do get beat up, don't come crying to the police.

    Talmudic Tempest: Did Triumphant Tebow Transgress a Taboo?

    The Denver Post reports on a "Talmudic" controversy over a play that won a football game for Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. Was the team lined up for the play in an illegal formation? And if so, should that not have invalidated the touchdown?
    Was Tim Tebow's game-winning touchdown pass for Denver Broncos an illegal play?

    Were Tim Tebow's final-play heroics for the Broncos against the Steelers divine intervention or inaction by the officials during Sunday's playoff game?

    Upon further review, it appears as though the Broncos may have been lined up in an illegal formation.


    Anti-Women Israeli Air Force Rabbi Forced to Resign

    The ideas of chain of command and military discipline were not taught at his rabbinical school: "A top Israeli military rabbi resigned on Tuesday after making comments that appeared to condone allowing ultra-Orthodox troops to avoid contact with women..."

    Reuter's FaithWorld reported that,
    Lieutenant-Colonel Moshe Ravad, chief air force chaplain, who was in charge of enlisting ultra-Orthodox Jews, said last week he feared for the volunteers’ “piety”. His comments, leaked to the media, were widely interpreted as a rejection of the orders requiring soldiers to attend mixed-sex events.

    In an online newsletter, the military said Ravad “apologised for the way in which his view was made public in recent days” and tendered his early resignation to the air force commander, who reprimanded the rabbi for his conduct.
    Looks like the rabbi did not get the memo that explains modern rigorous military regulations supersede ancient anti-female Talmudic customs.


    Link to the Reformatted Soncino Talmud in English Online at Halakhah.com

    The Reformatted Soncino Babylonian Talmud English translation is online.

    Download this newly reformatted edition of the Talmud in English free at http://www.halakhah.com/indexrst.html

    This new edition was reformatted by Reuven Brauner of Raanana Israel in 5771. It is in PDF file format in two-column pages.


    This edition 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 the newly reformatted easy to read PDF format.

    The earlier edition in one-column format in PDF and HTML is also available on the site.

    Please add a link to the site http://www.halakhah.com on your web site or blog.


    The Mystical Maggid of Rabbi Joseph Caro of Safed Israel

    Rabbi Joseph Caro (1488-1575) was one of the most influential rabbis in Jewish history. He was the compiler of the Shulkhan Arukh, the best known code of Jewish law, and other distinguished books of rabbinic interpretation.

    Caro was also a kabbalist, a mystic who received intruction from his own personal muse, or maggid, as it was called in the rabbinic tradition. We currently are studying his mystical diary and commentary, published in part as the Maggid Mesharim. A standard edition is available at HebrewBooks.org (three editions, here, here and here), and a scanned Hebrew-Aramaic text is online at an amazing Czech mystical text site and on wikitext.

    Since studying with a mystical maggid is not a usual mode of rabbinic learning, in 1949 several scholars and doctors put out a book discussing Caro and his mental state, "The Maggid of Caro: The Mystic Life of the Eminent Codifier Joseph Caro as Revealed in His Secret Diary" edited by Hirsch Loeb Gordon.

    Thinking about Caro made us focus in on rabbinic ordination, a mechanism that Caro wanted to revise. What we call "semicha", i.e. the ordaining of rabbis, is not really "semicha", i.e. the laying on of hands in the full-fledged transfer of charismatic powers. Our ordinations are certificates, diplomas of education achievement. Most such diplomas certify that the "rabbi" bearing the certificate studied the laws of "the prohibited and the permitted". Based on that "pseudo-semicha" certifying educational accomplishment, rabbis exert a claim to communal leadership. Real semicha ceased to be given, some say in the fourth century CE due to Roman prohibition of the act of Jews arrogating authority.

    All rabbis since that time have received at most a "pseudo-semicha."

    Together with Rabbi Jacob Berab of Safed, Caro wanted to restore actual "semicha" as a religious ceremony investing a rabbi with formal authority. Berab and Caro and a few others claimed to have revived the ancient formal semicha. But other rabbis of the time objected and the project failed (see for example the last 100 pages of Levi ibn Habib's responsa volume, known as his notebook on semicha).

    Today in Israel, rather than building up the eminence of ordination, many rabbis appear to be bent on eroding the authority of semicha once again. It's a problem. Discuss.


    Isak Gerson's Church of Kopimism Recognized in Sweden as a Religion

    We don't get the joke. Copyright violation is a crime.
    Press release from the Church of Kopimism

    The Church of Kopimism is recognized by the state of Sweden

    Just before Christmas, the Swedish governmental agency Kammarkollegiet registered the Church of Kopimism as a religious organisation. This means that Sweden is the first country to recognize kopimism as a religion.

    The Church of Kopimism have tried to become registered as a religious organisation by Kammarkollegiet for more than a year.

    - Since Kammarkollegiet has been strict with formalities, we had to apply three times, a happy Gustav Nipe - board chairman for the organisation - says. He continues, I think it might have something to do with the governmental organisations abiding by a very copyright friendly attitude, with a twisted view on copying.
    For the Church of Kopimism, information is holy and copying is a sacrament. Information holds a value, in itself and in what it contains, and the value multiplies through copying. Therefore, copying is central for the organisation and its members.

    Being recognized by the state of Sweden is a large step for all of kopimi. Hopefully, this is one step towards the day when we can live out our faith without fear of persecution, says Isak Gerson, spiritual leader of the Church of Kopimism.

    The Church of Kopimism is a religious organisation with roots from 2010. The organisation formalizes a community that's been well spread for a long time already. The community of kopimi requires no formal membership. You just have to feel a calling to worship what is the holiest of the holiest, information and copy. To do this, we organize kopyactings - religious services - where the kopimists share information with eachother through copying and remix.

    Copy and seed.
    Link http://kopimistsamfundet.se/
    Isak Gerson, spiritual leader: 0046731585745
    Gustav Nipe, board chairman: 0046760188918
    Isak Gerson is involved in the Christian student movement in Sweden (which is anti-Israel), so despite his Jewish sounding name, he is not a Jew.

    On his web page he explains further:
    A "Kopimist" or "Kopimist intellectual" is person who has the philosophical belief that all information should be freely distributed and unrestricted. This philosophy opposes copyrights in all forms and encourages piracy of all types of media including music, movies, TV shows, and software. The term kopimist originates from the root word, kopimi, meaning 'copy me'.
    As a writer who has been the victim of copyright violation, we do not find this activity humorous.

    As a professor who takes religion seriously, we in no way agree with this declaration by Swedish authorities.


    Is the smiling Taoist vinegar taster Jewish?

    No, the Taoist vinegar taster is not Jewish, and not Talmudic.

    A friend of mine a while ago sent me a quote from Lao Tzu, which reminded me of a wonderful book that I read several years ago called, "The Tao of Pooh."

    My interpretation most days is that the smiling taster is glad that the vinegar tastes the way that it should. But you ought to read the parable and decide for yourself. Here is the excerpt from Benjamin Hoff's wonderful book:
    Vinegar Tasters

    "You see, Pooh," I said, "a lot of people don't seem to know what Taoism is..."

    "Yes?" said Pooh, blinking his eyes."

    So that's what this chapter is for - to explain things a bit."

    "Oh, I see," said Pooh.

    "And the easiest way to do that would be for us to go to China for a moment."

    "What?" said Pooh, his eyes wide open in amazement. "Right now?'

    "Of course. All we need to do is, lean back, relax, and there we are."

    "Oh, I see," said Pooh.

    Let's imagine that we have walked down a narrow street in a large Chinese city and have found a small shop that sells scrolls painted in the classic manner. We go inside and ask to be shown something allegorical - something humorous, perhaps, but with some sort of Timeless Meaning. The shopkeeper smiles. "I have just the thing,", he tells us. "A copy of The Vinegar Tasters!" He leads us to a large table and unrolls the scroll, placing it down for us to examine. "Excuse me - I must attend to something for a moment," he says, and goes into the back of the shop, leaving us alone with the painting.


    Is the Orthodox Spell Broken? Is Haredi Gender Segregation Harrassment and Self-defeating?

    Is the Orthodox spell broken? Is in fact Haredi gender segregation in Israel both illegal sexual harassment and also totally self-defeating?

    Such is the claim of Zvi H. Triger of Israel's College of Management Academic Studies (COMAS) School of Law. He has published a closely argued and well documented 49 page paper with 244 footnotes that you can download and read at SSRN.

    He examines numerous sides of the question: the historical, the ideological, the complicity of women in the segregation, and closely parses the legal modes of sexual harassment that the practices entail. His logic and rhetoric seem to us to be impeccable.

    "Gender Segregation as Sexual Harassment" appears in the Tel Aviv University Law Review, Vol. 35, 2012. The abstract explains:

    Times' Rave Review of the Met's Enchanted Island with the Met Videos

    The Times raves some more about the Met's "Enchanted Island" which we enjoyed immensely on New Year's Eve.

    The only remotely Talmudic connection we can find in this thoroughly pagan fantasy is the re-purposing of a Handel anthem from Zadok to Neptune, as the review explains:
    What would a Baroque pastiche be without a star turn? This one had the tenor Plácido Domingo, no less, as Neptune: by his count, his 136th role (and first full-fledged god). Neptune, with flowing beard and silver raiment, is introduced in a dazzling underwater scene with an aquatic chorus of courtiers singing “Neptune the Great” (using “Zadok the Priest,” a Handel coronation anthem). Four mermaids float above. And Ariel, come to seek Neptune’s help, arrives in deep-sea diver’s gear.

    Music Review Shiny Bibelot From Shakespeare, Handel & Co.


    HuffPost Video - Laura Zigman Pokes Fun at the Toyota Prius

    We just got a nice new Prius. And now here's a funny satire on the car from Laura Zigman: "I'm Angry That Your Prius Is So Quiet" - The Huffington Post

    But seriously, this is one unbelievable automobile.

    Happy New Year from the Met Premiere of Enchanted Island


    My date
    It is funny, fantasy and baroque at the Met. What could be a better way to spend New Year's Eve with 3,800 of your "friends"? And a world premiere of a new opera with Plácido Domingo as the god Neptune and a host of wonderful singers.

    The Times called it a Baroque mash-up and gave it a mainly rave write-up, explaining in part,
    ...Most of the “Enchanted Island” score is drawn from the operas, oratorios and cantatas of Handel, with a few of his hit tunes offset by more obscure excerpts. Many of the remaining vocal pieces are by Vivaldi. The works of the French Baroque composers Jean-Philippe Rameau, André Campra and Jean-Marie Leclair were mined for choral music and descriptive instrumental bits, at which the French excelled...

    Mr. Sams modeled the tone of his libretto on the 18th-century English pastiches and masques written by John Dryden and Alexander Pope. Essentially “The Enchanted Island” is Shakespearean fan fiction. It takes place in the otherworldly realm where Prospero, hero of “The Tempest,” lives in exile with his daughter, Miranda. Who should turn up but the two pairs of honeymooning lovers from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” coincidentally shipwrecked on that very isle. When Ariel, Prospero’s sprite, replicates the bumbling mischief of Puck, the madcap mix-ups of “Midsummer” are reprised to both humorous and poignant effect. The plot is further thickened by the sorceress Sycorax, mother of the evil Caliban and archenemy of Prospero. She is merely mentioned in “The Tempest” but here becomes a star turn created for Ms. DiDonato...
    Alas, we did not stay for the gala dinner and dance ($1690 per person). And no, we did not go to Times Square to see Lady Gaga at midnight.

    "God's Favorite Prayers" yet another Baroque Mash-up