The Incredible Pebble Watch and the Free Caddie Golf App and the Pebble Bike App

I play golf, I have a Samsung Galaxy S3 android smartphone. I started to use the Free Caddie app for determining distance to the green.

The problem was that the phone is hard to see in the bright sunlight and it is awkward to keep pulling out your phone to see the distance to green.

Then I discovered that the new Pebble smart watch can connect via bluetooth to the golf app. So I bought one at Best Buy. And I opened it and played a round of golf with it. Yes - it is awesome. It works.

I love the watch and the app. The watch also receives your email and your texts and can control your music. It is shiny and red and cool.

And I discovered now that it's a bike computer too. The free Pebble Bike app works great - tracking your biking mileage and speed, average speed, altitude, ascent, ascent rate and slope (beta) - even when your phone is in the zipper bag under the seat! Nothing more to buy. Wow.

They are rare. Get one right away here at Amazon or Ebay. Or try to Get one from Best Buy.


Is Ice Hockey Jewish?

I never thought of ice hockey as a Jewish sport, even when I played it as a kid in rented ice rinks at midnight or on those rare frozen winter days in central park. There simply were no Jewish professional hockey players that I knew of.

But now my friend Sharon has provided indisputable evidence that yes ice hockey is a Jewish sport (on an amateur level) with her brilliant photos from the Maccabiah in Israel.


Caroline Kennedy: the Daring Swimmer

The Times profiled Caroline Kennedy on the occasion of her nomination as ambassador to Japan, "Caroline Kennedy, Catching the Torch".

In the article we read about a surprising facet of her life. She is an avid open water swimmer.
...A few years ago, Mr. Hughes made an offhand comment that he and his partner, Dr. Richard Friedman, a psychiatrist who directs the psychopharmacology clinic at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital, made a ritual of competing in Swim for Life, a 1.25-mile event in Provincetown, Mass, that raises money for AIDS and women's health charities. "She said, 'Oh, I'd really like to do that,' " Mr. Hughes said.

And so, Ms. Kennedy did. "She just showed up and changed in a gas station and came out and did the race," Mr. Hughes said. "It was pretty choppy, and she did a terrific job. I'm happy to say I beat her. But just barely."

Last year, Mrs. Kennedy and her daughters Tatiana and Rose joined Mr. Hughes and Mr. Friedman in Turkey for another swim, this time a 3 1/2-mile race across the Hellespont, which takes entrants from Europe to Asia.  "Lord Byron went in with a disabled leg and came in with a much faster time than we did," Mr. Hughes said. "But it was extraordinary. It was one of the most terrifying things I've ever done."


New Yorker Cartoon: The Origin of Midrash

Trayvon and the Talmud

According to the Nation of Islam web site www.FinalCall.com you ought to blame the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin on the Jews and the Talmud. The NOI is the organization of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan, Jabril Muhammad and Mother Tynnetta Muhammad, all known for their lifelong anti-Semitism and racism.

It is not a surprise that in the article "Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, the American Legal System and The Jewish Talmud," the "NOI Research Group" published racist anti-Jewish and anti-Talmudic assertions of the NOI.  I cite specifically these offensive anti-Talmudic statements:
In Our Saviour Has Arrived, Mr. Muhammad further identified the society to which we all belong as “the Jew’s civilization,” using the possessive form—meaning that this civilization (its culture, science, industry, and government) belongs to the Jews. So if this is “the Jew’s civilization,” then we are, in fact, under Jewish Law—which comprises the codes and statutes found in the holy book of the Jewish religion, the Talmud...

And ONLY under the Jewish Law found in their Talmud does Trayvon’s murder and George Zimmerman’s acquittal start to make perfect sense....

But Black people should take the hardest look at this book, because the very origin of race hatred and race-based slavery entered the Western mindset by way of the Jewish Talmud...

The Talmudic mentality lives in Florida and in the hearts and minds of its people and their laws...
I sent this feedback to the NOI:
I am deeply sorry about the tragedy of the violent killing of a young boy. But the Talmud had nothing to do with Zimmerman or Trayvon. Your anti-Talmudic and anti-Semitic article offends me. I urge you for the benefit of your own souls to repudiate your baseless racism and to abandon your irrational hatred of the Jews.
You can tell the NOI that you disagree with their opinions by sending feedback to them.

To end hatred and bigotry, we must never practice and spread more hatred and bigotry. We must respond with compassion, with legislation and with justice.


Is Basketball Without Yarmulkas Kosher?

In a post called, "Chief Rabbis, Basketball and Tolerance," blogger Andrew Griffel in Ops and Blogs in  The Times of Israel argues as follows.

Once upon a time long long ago Rabbi Soloveitchik told MTA orthodox high school students that they could play in Madison Square Garden with or without wearing their yarmulkas and tsitsis. It was up to them.

The chief rabbis in Israel are not as tolerant as Rabbi Soloveitchik. Therefore the chief rabbinate ought to be abolished.

We agree with the conclusion, if not with the non-linear logic of the post. And now that the office of chief rabbi has turned 100% nepotistic, the end of the institution is just around the corner. See Israel elects new chief rabbis.

Finally, consider this remarkable video of orthodox couples who are marrying in Israel outside of the regulation of the rabbinate - חתונה בלי הרבנות - הוויה - טקס ישראלי‬‎.

כתבה ביומן בערוץ 1 ביום שישי, על זוגות שמעצבים את טקס החתונה בעצמם בלי הרבנות
עוד על חתונה יהודית בלי הרבנות באתר הוויה


Is the Chief Rabbi of Israel Kosher?

No, the chief rabbi of Israel is not kosher.

Increasingly Israelis are growing tired of their failed institution of the Chief Rabbi. The Times reports on the chief rabbi selection process -- regarding David Stav "currently the rabbi of Shoham" -- "Promising ‘Real Revolution,’ Israeli Jolts Race for Chief Rabbi" that the nuclear option is on the table - namely the dissolution of the institution of chief rabbi.
...All of which has made many here question the very need for the chief rabbinate, an institution with roots in the 17th-century Ottoman era that was formalized by the British in 1921. Once revered as a platform for intellectual and spiritual leadership, the $5.6 million operation, whose chiefs are paid $100,000 a year, has lately been dismissed as an anachronistic patronage farm rife with corruption.

Judaism is famously nonhierarchical, with individual rabbis worldwide having authority to interpret Jewish law for their congregations or communities, but the rabbinate and its religious courts are the only legal authorities here on family law and kosher food.

As many as one-third of Israeli couples marry abroad or live together without marrying rather than follow the rabbinate’s strictures. Jewish law requires that the husband agree to divorce, and about 3,400 women a year are denied dissolution of their marriages. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis, mostly Russian immigrants and their children, are barred from marriage and adoption because they cannot adequately prove their Jew identity; only conversions conducted by rabbinate-authorized rabbis are accepted.

“This institution has to be abolished for the sake of religion, and for the sake of the state,” said Moshe Halbertal, a professor of Jewish philosophy at Hebrew University. “Israel’s identity as a Jewish state has other much more essential components than legislating Judaism.”
We concur and observe that the crooked cannot be made straight -- the Israeli chief rabbinate is not kosher -- it should be dissolved.


Is the Dot-Kosher Internet Domain Extension Kosher?

Some rabbis say yes; other rabbis say no.

Here's a both ironic and Talmudic kosher story to end your week from Bloomberg ("It’s Rabbi Versus Rabbi in $17 Billion Dot-Kosher Battle"). "The Internet’s organizing body, called Icann, is meeting this week in the South African port city of Durban to begin a major expansion of domain names. That may include a decision on who can operate and license “dot-kosher” as a suffix for Web addresses, the same way “dot-com” and “dot-net” are used."

When rabbis engage in a dispute like this one, well that's Talmudic:
Five organizations have banded together to oppose the sole applicant for dot-kosher, Kosher Marketing Assets, saying it seeks to profit from a sacred tradition that shouldn’t be over-commercialized. The two sides, which both are in the business of certifying food as kosher, are at odds over how Internet users will find such products in the future.
And when rabbis say obviously silly things, well that's ironic:
“We think that if the term ‘kosher,’ which has important meaning in the Jewish religion, is commercialized, it will do a disservice to how religion in general should be treated and will harm the kosher public specifically,” said Harvey Blitz, the Kashruth Commission chairman of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, one of the five groups. The New York-based organization oversees OU Kosher, the world’s largest certification agency.
Ironic here because there is no question that Kosher certification agencies have already commercialized kosher supervision.

We sure hope these rabbis work this domain dispute out.
Kosher Marketing Assets is a unit of OK Kosher Certification, a Brooklyn, New York-based competitor to OU Kosher. Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, OK Kosher’s CEO, said he never intended to control the potential domain name unilaterally and said he was open to working with the five groups -- the Orthodox Union, STAR-K Kosher Certification Inc., Chicago Rabbinical Council Inc., the Kashruth Council of Canada, and Kosher Supervision Service Inc., better known as the KOF-K.

Times: Lap Swimming in the NYC Outdoor Public Pools

From The New York Times: "The Water's Fine, and So Is the Competition - Lasker Pool is part of the city's Lap Swim program, where outdoor swimmers can compete."
...It’s no secret that New York has outdoor public pools that are open throughout the five boroughs in July and August. What you generally find are parents and young children, and teenagers horsing around. Lesser known is the Lap Swim program, open from 7 to 8:30, a.m. and p.m. for Early Bird and Night Owl sessions. It’s a quiet, orderly affair, where adults swim laps in roped-off lanes in otherwise empty pools...


Are personal lubricants kosher?

The US-made Wet range of lubes now has eight lines that have been given a religious stamp of approval, including its "Ecstasy" product. This means that rabbis from the Rabbinical Council of California have inspected Wet's 52,000 sq ft production plant and researched the origins of every ingredient to check none comes from items prohibited by kosher rules...

For hundreds of years the Jewish religious establishment has been divided on whether oral sex is allowed as part of a bedroom repertoire; it's still pretty taboo for public discourse – and the rabbis who have approved the lubes haven't spelled out whom their certification will benefit. ...this is the first rabbinic innovation to help kosher oral sex. In eight flavours.
Don't know where the Guardian gets its "divided" information. Maybe from British rabbis.


Rabbi Abraham Rosenfeld's Nachem Prayer for Tisha B'Av

Rabbi Abraham Rosenfeld's Nachem Prayer for Tisha B'Av inserted in the Amidah for Minhah.

From “The Authorised Kinot for the Ninth of Av,” London, 1979. I believe that Artscroll censored out this version in their reprinted edition. This liturgy in our view is more authentic to historical reality.

Click to expand.


The Parable of the Rabbi Who Thinks He's a Cop

New York Magazine has and article that seems to me to be a perfect parable (Beware the Bipolar Rabbi Trying to Pull Over City Drivers by Delia Paunescu).

Actual news story that serves as a parable:

It seems impersonating a police officer isn’t just a recent problem in Queens. As the Associated Press discovered, it’s been a busy summer for Alfredo Borodowski, a city rabbi who’s suspected of trying to pull over other drivers who raise his ire by cutting him off or generally driving too slowly. Though Borodowski has only been arrested once for using a “Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Officer 1338” badge — one authorities have called “totally fake” and which you can see in action here — the rabbi may have been behind at least two other cases around New York City going as far back as April.

PR consultant Peter Moses recognized the rabbi on the local news and realized he’d had a similar interaction with Borodowski between Scarsdale and White Plains:
"He's shouting, 'I'm a police officer, pull over' and he's got this little badge that he's waving at us. I told my wife, 'That's not a police officer.’ Then he's out of his car and he's screaming, 'I can arrest you! I can have you arrested!' I said, 'Fine, call the police,' then he storms back to his car and drives off."

While Borodowski was reportedly fired from his position at Manhattan’s Temple Emanu-El, he remains on staff at Congregation Sulam Yaakov in Larchmont, which said of their rabbi, "No comment. That's his personal life."

Moses added that he and his wife, who was present during the attempted pull-over back in May, want “the rabbi to get the emotional help he so obviously needs.” On that note, Borodowski’s lawyer acknowledged the rabbi's "manic" behavior, for which he has previously been hospitalized, saying that his client suffers from bipolar disorder and is expected to plead not guilty in court this week.


Lately we've noticed that more than one rabbi thinks he's a cop. In fact, as we all know, Rabbis are supposed to be teachers, not cops. Moses' response to the manic rabbi is emblematic of how a person should respond to any rabbi who steps out of his proper professional role.


Team One Family Triathlon Special: Free Kindle Book: God's Favorite Prayers

I swam in the Hudson on a rally team with Team One Family in the NYC Tri this Sunday. Yitz did the whole tri.

So here is my Triathlon Offer: God's Favorite Prayers
Free Kindle Book from now until Sunday Night July 14.

Make a contribution to Team One Family to sponsor Yitz to help victims of terror.

Dear Rabbi Swims in Hudson River on a Triathlon Relay Team

It happened on Sunday, July 14! We did it!

And believe me - it was tough!

Update: Yitz's dad (that's me) swam 1500 meters in the Hudson as part of a relay for Team One with teammates Harvey (bike) and Leiba (run).

Yitz completed all three legs of the tri in excellent time.

Yitzhak Zahavy's Team One Family Fundraising Triathlon EventHelp Celebrate Three Lives with Three Sports.

Yitz Tells What Happened
On October 27, 2002 my platoon in the IDF was attacked by a hamas suicide bomber outside the city of Ariel. Three soldiers, Amihud Hasid, Tamir Masad and Matan Zagron, where killed saving my life and the lives of my fellow soldiers. The One Family Fund is helping their families cope with the difficulties of life without their loved ones.


The Tie Rule is Bad and the Jacket Rule is More Nonsensical

We stirred up quite a controversy with our "Dear Rabbi" column where we offered advice regarding a rule requiring the wearing of a necktie in a local synagogue on the Sabbath in order to receive an aliyah - a Torah honor.

A local synagogue which has such a rule took this as a direct criticism and published an odd rebuttal letter in its bulletin, sent out to all its members. (Yediot Yeshurun, see the scans to the right.)

The synagogue action was strange because (a) they did not publish the original question and my answer, just the rebuttal; (b) they did not mention my name as author of the column; and (c) they did not identify by name the newspaper in which it appeared.

The shul bulletin called me "the columnist" and referred to a "local Jewish newspaper". As I understand the rules and norms of civility, the distributors of a communal bulletin are obliged by professional standards and by common courtesy and fairness to publish in their synagogue bulletin my original article under my name as the original author (Rabbi Dr Tzvee Zahavy) and to list the place of original publication, the Jewish Standard. It is clear that the synagogue has different norms.

The necktie controversy continues this week with this letter from a Rabbi Dr. Wallace Greene to the Jewish Standard.
The mark of a competent rabbinic authority is his/her capacity to seek the advice of another rabbinic authority in cases where the law may not be black and white since it is impossible to master the entire corpus of halakhic literature and keep up with all the responsa (“Dear Rabbi,” June 7). The current brouhaha over wearing ties on Shabbat ought not to be flippantly dismissed. Nor should a synagogue’s right to maintain certain standards be cavalierly denigrated. In fact, synagogue ordinances regarding how Jews ought to dress have a distinguished literary history. In addition, the spring 2013 issue of the “Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society” contains a detailed essay called “Casual Saturday? Dressing Down for Shabbat,” which makes the case, based on clear halachic guidelines, for wearing a jacket and tie on Shabbat.

Rabbi Dr. Wallace Greene
Fair Lawn
Greene misstates and wrongly characterizes the following.

My "Talmudic Advice" column does not purport to be a halakhic decision column. There is no "brouhaha over wearing ties on Shabbat." The question under discussion was addressed to a rule requiring a man to wear a tie to receive an aliyah. There was no flippant dismissal or cavalier denigration of synagogue standards or ordinances. There was no intent to review the "distinguished literary history" (whatever that means) of dress ordinances.

So again this Q and A was not about generally "wearing a jacket and tie on Shabbat." It was about a mean-spirited shul constantly denying without exception a Torah honor over a period of many years to one member who does not ever wear a tie.

Distorting and re-framing my question to "rebut" it and to cast aspersions on me because he does not agree with my advice is not Talmudic -- and well that surely is not the mark of "a competent halakhic authority." It's a rhetorical dirty trick. I am quite disappointed in Rabbi Dr. Greene for doing just that.

It is a shame that nonsensical petty rules in shuls are used under the guise of "halakhah" to "flippantly dismiss" and "cavalierly denigrate" the sensibilities and preferences of honorable and respectable members of a community and that there is so little empathy for that in our local rabbinic community.

But wait. One more thing. That reference by Rabbi Dr. Greene to "a detailed essay" should read as follows, because he wrote the article that he cites:
In addition, in the spring 2013 issue of the “Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society” I published a detailed essay called “Casual Saturday? Dressing Down for Shabbat,” in which I make the case, based on clear halachic guidelines, for wearing a jacket and tie on Shabbat.


Former Students File $380 Million Sex Abuse Lawsuit against Yeshiva University

This is a sad story about the school that I attended for eleven years, from high school through rabbinical school.

An attorney in New York has filed suit against Yeshiva University on behalf of a group of students who were sexually abused while attending the school.

The Forward newspaper reported on this legal filing, "Former Y.U. High School Students File $380M Suit Claiming Sex Abuse Cover-Up".

The 148 page legal filing is detailed and graphic and, as I read it, quite compelling. It can be read below.

Politics Derailed the Film about Cyrus the Great

The Cyrus Cylinder is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, through August 4, 2013. This reminds us...

From my post of 1/29/2010: Cyrus was supposed to be the subject of a historical epic film. We wonder what ever happened to that film. Our best guess is that the film industry has closed ranks and decided that given the current political leadership in that country, there will be no film made that extols the culture of Persia, modern day Iran. Not surprising then, modern reality trumps ancient history.

Here is what we said in a blog post about Cyrus and the film - way back in March 2005...

Critics say that Russell Crowe and the movie Gladiator helped revive the Hollywood genre of the so-called sword and sandals historical epic. Warner Brothers released Troy, an adaptation of The Iliad, with Brad Pitt as Achilles. Universal made a film hurling the Spartans into battle against the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae. Sony Pictures filmed a movie about Hannibal the Carthaginian general from the third century B.C.E.. Dino De Laurentiis produced a movie about Alexander the Great, co-financed by Universal and DreamWorks.

For the Jewish community this trend has been a mixed bag. In February 2004 Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, appeared. It is an epic retelling of twelve days of the life of Jesus. Because it implicates Jews in the death of Jesus, many feared that Gibson's film would be used by anti-Semites to trigger an onslaught of hatred and violence against Jews here in the US and around the world.

But there is reason for Jews and for all proponents of multiculturalism to be more sanguine about this revived sword and sandals fashion in film. In particular, a London-based company, co-owned by Marinah Embiricos, a relative of the Aga Khan and a member of the Greek shipping family that controls the Embiricos Group, has teamed with the Sultan of Brunei to finance a multi-million dollar film about Cyrus the Great.


GulfNews.com: Is ‘World War Z’ a pro-Israel film? Movie-goers in the gulf region share Talmudic views

Paramount Pictures’ World War Z movie, starring Brad Pitt, imagined that the world was overrun by zombies and that Israel, one of the few countries that knew they were coming, built a wall around itself to prevent zombies from invading.

Gulf News has a fairly balanced report about a new zombie movie. Pro-Israel? Some say yes, some say no.
Dubai/Muscat: Movie goers from the region had mixed feelings regarding the zombie apocalypse film World War Z, which has sparked controversy for an alleged supposed pro-Israel bias.

The movie, starring Brad Pitt, imagined that the world was overrun by zombies and that Israel, being one of the few countries that knew they were coming, built a wall around itself to prevent zombies from invading.

People from all over the world took to social media to point out the resemblance between the barrier built in the movie and the separation wall built by Israel in the West Bank to separate it from the occupied Palestinian population, adding that the movie was promoting Israel’s policies.


Alicia Keys Performs in Tel Aviv 7/4/2013 - Video

Hand-held video quality alert - Our neighbor (and favorite) Alicia Keys featuring Idan Raichel performing in Tel Aviv - fallin' - mimaamakim - אלישה קיז ועידן רייכל פוליינג ממעמקים

Hat tip to Alicia for performing in Tel Aviv.

Hat tip to Blog in D Minor for the link to the video.

jStandard: My Dear Rabbi Column of July 5, 2013

My July "Dear Rabbi" column.

Dear Rabbi,

I grew up in a religious home and attend synagogue all my life and kept a kosher home, observed all the holidays and mitzvot. I'm 55 years old now and I realize that I do not believe in God. I've have told just a few people about my loss of faith. One friend with whom I have discussed this insists that it is hypocritical for me to attend synagogue and recite the prayers. At this age I do not want to disrupt my life style. What should I do?

Paramus, NJ

Dear Perplexed,

Your mid-life crisis of belief is not uncommon, and yet, it has no easy solution. You know how thick with activities a religious life can be. It is hard to walk away from your accustomed life, one which is filled with tasks and obligations and appointments in your home and your community and on your calendar.

Admittedly, there is an element of hypocrisy if you practice without belief, if you go through the motions of the prayers when you don't believe in God. However there are many dimensions to collective worship. The synagogue provides for a means of social expression and of interactions which are important to a vibrant life. Participation with family and friends within a community promotes general health and well-being.


Free Awesome Torah and Haftorah Chanting Apps from PocketTorah

Barak forwarded this from Eytan Kurshan (first posted on 4/17/12)...
Hi everyone,

I wanted to let you know that I was involved in the creation of an app which has just launched! It is called PocketTorah and is available here
The app contains a recording of every aliyah in the Torah as well as all Haftorot. If you'd like to hear me, I recorded the parshiyot from Tazria to Acharei-Mot.

There is also a separate module containing recordings of just the trope of Torah, Haftorah, and Megilah....
Congrats to Rabbi Charlie Schwartz and Russel Neiss for putting this all together.

We downloaded and reviewed the apps. They are awesome.

"PocketTorah is an application that  will provide the user the ability to learn the weekly Torah and Haftarah portion anywhere, at any time, on any mobile device or computer for free."

Denominational Alert! These two apps obviously were designed for Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews. There are women Torah readers recorded on the apps, so officially they are not suitable for Orthodox users.

Ads: Talmudic Books for Kindle on the Talmud, Bible, Kabbalah and Prayer
The Kindle Edition of the Classic Soncino Talmud in English

Lawsuit: True Religion is Worth More than $325 Million

Bloomberg reported that the True Religion jeans company agreed to be bought out for $325 million.

A shareholder suit now alleges that the jeans company is worth more than than and that the company erroneously agreed to a below market value buyout.

Our question: "True Religion’s women’s Cameron Vintage “Boyfriend” jeans cost $317 for a pair, while the women’s Carrie Patchwork Flare jean are listed at $323, according to the company’s website." Who buys jeans for more than $300 a pair?

And yes, it looks like True Religion is Jewish, at least that its founder is Jewish. "True Religion was founded in 2002 by Jeffrey Lubell, who began embellishing jeans as a teen growing up in New York. He took the company public the following year, according to its website. True Religion operated 124 stores in the U.S. and 31 international locations as of March 31."

The buyers may not all be Jewish, "TowerBrook is a New York-based private-equity firm founded by Ramez Sousou and Neal Moszkowski, who also serve as co-CEOs. Its previous retail investments include the Jimmy Choo Ltd luxury brand, acquired by Labelux GmbH in 2011."