Is Muslim Prayer in the End Zone Kosher?

NFL says ref botched call on player's Muslim prayerNo it's not kosher to pray at any time in an NFL game. But then there's politics.

From the CNN Belief Blog - CNN.com Blogs

Husain Abdullah celebrates after scoring a touchdown on Monday night.
NFL says ref botched call on player's Muslim prayer
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor 

(CNN) – Husain Abdullah can kneel and pray pretty much anywhere in America he wants. Except, perhaps, for an NFL end zone.

The Kansas City Chiefs' safety and devout Muslim was flagged for "unsportsmanlike conduct" after sliding to his knees in prayer to celebrate a touchdown Monday night. 

On Tuesday, the NFL said the referee botched the call.
"Husain Abdullah should not have been penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct," said Michael Signora, a league spokesman.


Daf Yomi Alert October 6: Babylonian Talmud Yebamoth Yevamot Yebamot Yevamos for Kindle or PDF or HTML for free

Purchase the Kindle edition: Soncino Babylonian Talmud Yebamoth.

Or get the Babylonian Talmud Yebamoth Yevamot Yebamot Yevamos HTML or PDF for free. Yebamoth (Sisters-in-law: 16 chapters, 122 folios, 871 pages) Yevamoth.PDF... Introduction to Yebamoth — Rev. Dr. Israel W. Slotki

Two column reformatted - Yebamoth (Sisters-in-law24a Yevomos 2a-19b | 24b Yevomos 20a-40b | 24c Yevomos 41a-63b | 24d Yevomos 64a-86b | 24e Yevomos 87a-106b | 24f Yevomos 107a-122b

The Soncino Babylonian Talmud Yebamoth was translated into english with notes by Israel W. Slotki with a foreword by J. H. Hertz, "MARRIAGE, DIVORCE, AND THE POSITION OF WOMAN, IN JUDAISM" and "INTRODUCTION TO SEDER NASHIM" by the editor Isidore Epstein.

The tractate of Yebamoth has its origin in the following Scriptural passages from which branch out the numerous laws and regulations, the arguments and discussions that cover its hundred and twenty odd folios.

"If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not be married abroad unto one not of his kin; her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother unto her" (Deut. XXV, 5).

Book Serialization Part 4: Perfect Prayer + FREE BOOK!

Book Serialization Part 4:  I presented my recent book in serial format on my blog in 2013 - God's Favorite Prayers... and the kindle book is free Sept. 30 - Oct 4!

Perfect Prayer

ast forward now to a particularly intense stage of my spiritual life, in 1978. I was on a leave for six months from my teaching and went to live in Jerusalem with my wife and two young children. I decided on an ambitious program—to try to pray at least one time in every one of the synagogues in Jerusalem, the most sacred city in Judaism. That capital city of Judaism has dozens of varieties of shuls for all kinds of worship styles of the various and sundry communities who live there, side-by-side, mostly with mutual respect and in harmony with one another.
During that phase of my life, I imagined in an especially colorful way that I was engaged in a big international quest for a perfect religious experience. In a particularly fanciful fashion, I saw my professed search as a parallel to the one Bruce Brown catalogued in the great film Endless Summer. This famous 1966 documentary film follows two surfers, Michael Hynson and Robert August, on a quest to find the perfect wave. The film documented the two boys searching the globe for simple perfection in their quasi-mystical sport. The movie site IMDB sums up the story of the film, “Brown follows two young surfers around the world in search of the perfect wave, and ends up finding quite a few, in addition to some colorful local characters.”
Back then, the film spoke to those of us who were young seekers, as it did for many others of that idealistic age. Of course, the core of the sport of surfing is the wave and, no doubt, the lover of surfing wants to embark on the quest for the best possible wave. To find and surf the perfect wave is to experience the performance of the quintessence of the sport. I adored that classic Bruce Brown film, with its humor and charm that thinly cloaked a more serious story of sportsmen seeking a form of ultimate perfection in their beloved pastime.


Lots of New Yorker Jewish Content 9/29/2014

by Alice Gregory

Leon Botstein - Jewish!

by Jeffrey Toobin
Why Europe's highest court ruled that the right to privacy trumps the Internet.

Remembering everything - Jewish!

by Joyce Carol Oates
Martin Amis imagines the Holocaust's middle managers in "The Zone of Interest."

Holocaust - Jewish!


And finally... Amazon's transgender TV show - Jewish!
...Excitingly, it's also the most Jewish show I've seen on TV. The Pfeffermans make Holocaust jokes, then get offended when other people make Holocaust jokes. Ali orders "tofu schmear" at a deli. "I'm so glad to be rid of that wig," Maura remarks, when a friend helps her style her gray hair. "I felt like I was wearing a sheitel"—an Orthodox head covering. As a member of the tribe, Soloway is free to critique a certain generational strain of urbane self-obsession, one that merges self-love with self-loathing. All the characters are sharply drawn, but in the first four episodes the one who feels the most original is Josh, a hip music producer who struggles with his younger girlfriend, his story flipping from funny to sad and back. Both Duplass and Hoffmann are amazing screen presences, charismatic weirdos who throw their bodies into sex scenes as if they were bendy straws. There's something impressively tough, too, about Soloway's refusal to sentimentalize the wild, abrupt selfishness of Sarah's affair, which comes across as equally manic and liberating.


Is Bruce Levenson Jewish?

Yes Bruce Levenson is a Jew. He is the team owner who has decided to sell Atlanta Hawks over a racist e-mail that he wrote in 2012. He admits that he, "wrote an 'inappropriate and offensive' email concerning African American spectators."

Levenson is a highly visible and communally active Jew. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports:
Levenson is a noted philanthropist who has been acknowledged for donating to organizations such as Birthright Israel, the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Youth Philanthropy Institute. Levenson has supported BBYO, the Jewish-American youth movement says on its website, adding that he also served as the Aleph Godol of Brandeis AZA.

Levenson was also among 100 prominent American Jews who sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in April, urging him to “work closely” with Kerry “to devise pragmatic initiatives, consistent with Israel’s security needs, which would represent Israel’s readiness to make painful territorial sacrifices for the sake of peace.”

Levenson accompanied his NBA team on a tour of the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. in April, and took his Holocaust survivor mother-in-law along with him.


My Dear Rabbi Talmudic Advice Column for September: What About Slow Pray?

Dear Rabbi,

I have been attending a 6:30 daily morning minyan at my local synagogue for many years. Right after minyan I rush out to catch a bus and go to work in the city. Many others at the minyan are on tight schedules and must connect with car pools or take their children to school. We always have completed our services at 7 promptly to satisfy our schedules.

Recently a man who is a mourner in shloshim (the first thirty days of mourning after losing a relative) was asked to lead the services, as is our custom. He recites the prayers clearly and accurately but there is a problem. He goes too slowly and sometimes finishes at five or ten minutes after seven. I have had to leave several times before the service is completed so that I could get to my bus.

I want to ask the man to speed up his davening. My friend says that is rude and I should not approach him. What is your advice?

Slow Pray in Bergenfield

Dear Slow Pray,

I play a lot of golf. So please allow me to describe a somewhat parallel question involving slow play that I encountered one recent day in that more profane activity. I was playing on a local course with three friends. The group in front of us was playing way too slowly. After several holes we all became antsy waiting for the foursome ahead of us to hit and move forward.

One of my friends insisted that we talk to them when they are on the next tee, to implore them to play faster. I argued that was poor etiquette, and if we wanted to get the pace quickened we had to speak to the ranger on the course and ask him to reprove the slow players.

We debated the point back and forth in our foursome for a while and eventually we did find the ranger and asked him to intercede. He spoke to the slowpokes, play picked up, and we did not have to confront the offending players.

Of course, slow play is not the same as slow pray. But you need to balance your desire for a steady and predictable speed with the needs of the community of praying people. You probably have a gabbai, a member of your minyan who is in charge. It’s best in a big minyan if you speak to the gabbai about the delay and let him approach the mourner who is leading your services.

If your minyan is small and friendly, you may take a chance on explaining your schedule-needs directly to the slow shaliach tzibbur (leader). It’s likely that he will not be offended and will make efforts to pick up the pace.

I do hope that you find helpful this brief Talmudic analysis and advice for the day-to-day reality of the pace of our contradictory world, where one person’s slow pray may be another person’s perfect day.

Tzvee Zahavy has published several new Kindle Editions at Amazon.com, including “The Book of Jewish Prayers in English,” “Rashi: The Greatest Exegete,” “God’s Favorite Prayers” and “Dear Rabbi: The Greatest Talmudic Advice” which includes his past columns from the Jewish Standard and other essays.

My Dear Rabbi Talmudic Advice Column for September: Troubled by Demons

Dear Rabbi,

I’ve been studying the Talmud and have come across some passages that take seriously things like demons, demon possession, and exorcisms. This got me thinking and asking: If the Talmud promotes primitive superstitions that I reject, why should I take seriously anything else that it teaches?

Possessed in Paterson

Dear Possessed,

You are correct to be concerned about this content. The Talmud’s Jews lived in Babylonia 1500 years ago, in a world that was filled with shedim, mazikim, and ruhot — demons and spirits, some evil, some not. The Talmud’s Jews believed that demons lived all around them, in trees, in bodies of water, on housetops, and in latrines. The Talmud cautions its readers that it’s a good thing that demons were invisible since, “If your eye could see them, you could not endure with them around. They surround a person. They are more numerous than people. Each person has a thousand demons on his left side and ten thousand on his right side.” So yes, demons appeared persistently throughout the Talmud and in the midrashim.

That cultural fact reminds us vividly of something that most observant Jews would prefer to forget — that the wisdom of our ancient books comes along with the naive baggage of a less scientific, less philosophical era.

So what are your options? Sure, you can insist on a take-it or leave-it approach to the Talmud. Since part of it is superstition and you reject that, then you may say let’s toss away the whole work.

As a rabbi I am obligated to remind you that we believe the religious and theological wisdom of the Talmud provides a profound and meaningful basis for our spiritual lives. It’s part of the extended Oral Torah that derives its authority from what God gave to Moses at Sinai.

And so does that mean that we rabbis today believe that the demons spoken of in the Talmud were, and are, real entities?

Some fundamentalist rabbis, even today, will say that yes, demons are real, exactly as described in the sacred texts.

More modern rabbis will suggest to you that there are sophisticated ways to handle this issue.

The traditional nuanced believer’s response will be to remind you that for centuries great scholars and sages have distinguished between the halachah (the legal and ritual content) and the aggadah (the folklore and legend) in the Talmud. Serious sages have agreed that we need not accept the aggadah at literal face value. And teachings about demons are part of the aggadah that can be glossed over or taken symbolically.

A common modern and somewhat trite and obvious explanation based in this free approach to the aggadah is the idea that demons are merely metaphors. We can say that we all have our own personal “demons” of one sort or another, demons with which we struggle. In this frame of interpretation we affirm to take hold and keep the aggadah, including what it says about demons, but with a grain of salt and a heap of free associations.

What’s my advice to you then? Talmudically, I see three possible paths. First, if you have already decided to reject your faith and community, you will conclude that you must be utterly consistent and throw the baby out with the bathwater. A second path open to you, if you have decided to continue in your community, is that you accept the traditional answers that distinguish between that which we consider to be authoritative and that which we no longer need to heed.

And a third path for you is that you continue to explore and struggle with the metaphoric use of talmudic ideas like demons. I know one person who spends several hours every month with a professional therapist trying to deal with the personal issues of his life in a modern behavioral way. Yet on occasion he finds it most helpful to concretize an issue that he faces, and to imagine it takes the form of a demon, and then to actively banish it from his life.

Whatever path you choose, I hope this question does not haunt you much longer and that the paths of your life not be beset by demons.

Tzvee Zahavy has published several new Kindle Editions at Amazon.com, including “The Book of Jewish Prayers in English,” “Rashi: The Greatest Exegete,” “God’s Favorite Prayers” and “Dear Rabbi: The Greatest Talmudic Advice” which includes his past columns from the Jewish Standard and other essays.


Is Surfing Kosher?

Yes Surfing is kosher. There's no reason for anyone to argue that it isn't.

And yet, the Times is genuinely surprised that a rabbi can surf, perhaps based on the artificial assumption that surfing is not a kosher sport, and a rabbi would not engage in it. It's a contrived bias and it also shows how narrow the conception of rabbis and rabbinical lifestyles has become.

The article is "A Rabbi’s ‘Spiritual Playground’ Extends to the Surf - NYTimes.com" and the author is astonished that a rabbi could be interested in or participate in surfing. [Hat tip to Yitz!]

There is no basis for the assumption. See my surfing posts on this blog.

I've been interested in surfing since I was sixteen. I use surfing as a metaphor in my book, "God's Favorite Prayers" where I speak about the "perfect wave of prayer" that I sought in my travels around the world.

My cover design for that book is based on the iconic Endless Summer poster.

Talmudic analysis: A slow news day at the end of the summer resulted in a silly straw man story about a rabbi who breaks the imagined mold and engages in a cool activity.