The $9.3 million Talmud - Daniel Bomberg's 16th-century printing sold at Sotheby's New York

The video shows the Bomberg Talmud sold for a bid of $8.1 million. All reports list it as sold at $9.3 million. I suppose there was a 15% commission added on.

The Examiner has a detailed report on the auction.

Art Daily has a version of the story:

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby's set a new world auction record for any piece of Judaica today in New York, when one of the finest copies of Daniel Bomberg's Babylonian Talmud sold for $9.3 million (estimate $5/7 million).* The extraordinary volume was purchased by Stephan Loewentheil for the 19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop. The Bomberg Talmud led the sale of a selection of extraordinary items from The Valmadonna Trust, which totaled $14.9 million and became the most valuable auction of Judaica ever held.** Together with the auctions of Important Judaica and Israeli & International Art, Sotheby's annual December sales of Judaica and Israeli Art totaled $22.6 million. 

The Talmud, or "Oral Law," is a compendium of hundreds of years of rabbinical discussion and debate which expound upon the laws of the Bible. Daniel Bomberg is responsible for the first complete edition of the Babylonian Talmud (1519-1523), universally recognized not simply as one of the most significant books in the history of Hebrew printing, but as one of the great books of the Western world. The record setting Talmud sold today is one of the finest copies of Bomberg's edition – of which only 14 complete 16th century sets survive. 


My Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column in the Jewish Standard for December 2015 - Hanukkah Candles Candor and Single Sexagenerian Sex

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

Chanukah is upon us, and for eight nights I feel I will be lying when I recite the blessing “…asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik nayr shel Chanukah” — “Who sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.” We all know that God commanded no such ritual. The concept that Chanukah candles are a commandment was instituted by the rabbis. I’ve grown up hearing the unsatisfying explanation “Of course God didn’t command this, but it’s just as though He did since He did command us ‘And you shall do according to the word which they (the rabbis) shall tell you.’ (Deuteronomy 17:10).”


Times Sunday Review - An Ironic Juxtaposition of Compassionate Doctors and Greedy Pharma

In the Times Sunday Review today (my favorite section of the Sunday paper) I found an ironic juxtaposition of compassionate doctors and greedy pharma.

Nicholas Kristof describes how a doctor in Nepal has devised a "simple cataract microsurgery technique that costs on $24 per person and is virtually always successful." Dr. Sanduk Ruit has already restored eyesight to more than 100,000 people. 20 million more blind people worldwide can benefit from this. This illustrates medicine in its finest and most compassionate mode.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel of the University of Pennsylvania describes a different scenario in his discussion of a new class of cholesterol lowering agents. Pharma companies plan to charge $14,000 a year for the drugs. And it is not even clear how much benefit these drugs will provide their users.

He asks whether the potential value of the drugs is worth the expense. In this hypothetical cost-benefit analysis, Emanuel implies that big pharma is greedy and it will cost all insured citizens money out-of-pocket in the form of higher premiums to defray the costs that will be generated.

In health care nobody will convince me otherwise: to better our world, we need more compassion and less greed.


Thank You New York Times for introducing me to virtual reality for free today

The Times delivered a cardboard virtual reality viewer to my door today with the weekend paper.

I had no clue what it was or how it worked. I followed the steps and folded the viewer, downloaded the app, put my android phone in the viewer, and played the videos.

It was incredible, magical and mysterious.

Mashable explains:
After an October announcement of a partnership with Google to produce virtual reality (VR) films, The New York Times has launched its new VR app, appropriately titled NYT VR, on Thursday. The app debuted with two feature films, one titled The Displaced tells the story of three children swept up in the world's refugee crisis, and the other shows making of a recentNew York Times Magazine cover.
If you did not get one from the Times, buy yourself a cardboard viewer and try it out.

VR is going to be big.


My November Jewish Standard - Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Talmudic Advice Column - dreams, insomnia, budgets and bereavements

Dear Rabbi Zahavy: Your Talmudic Advice Column

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

I often have vivid and dramatic dreams. When I wake up I remember the details. At times this disturbs me because I don’t know what’s going on in my head and what these dreams mean. Do you have any special Talmudic insights that will help me?

Seeking Interpretation in Tenafly

Dear Seeking,

We Israelites certainly have claimed for ages to have some special insights into dreams. Ancient interpreters among us believed that dreams were portents of the future. And modern Jewish interpreters have insisted that one’s dreams reveal the workings of the unconscious psyche.

If not for the grandiose dreams of our ancestor Joseph, he would never have been sold to slavery in Egypt. And if not for his rise to power after his predictions of years of plenty and years of famine based on Pharaoh’s dreams, our biblical ancestors likely would have perished in famine, and we Jews would not be here today.

More recently, a great Jew, Sigmund Freud, revolutionized psychology with his insistence that dreams provide windows into our past experiences that trigger our fears and phobias. He proposed as well that our dreams can be a source of self-knowledge into our deepest hopes and aspirations. Some believe that dreams emerge from the unconscious mind processing the day’s activities, as well as concerns, stresses and emotional pressures.

The Talmud has a handbook approach to dream meanings in Berakhot. “A dream follows its interpretation,” is one of the sages’ well-known principles. It seems to mean that a person ought to go to a good dream interpreter to get an optimistic forecast for those mini-revelations of personal future events.

According to the Talmudic approach, dreaming about specific rabbis had different meanings. If you dreamed about the patriarch Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, for instance, that meant you’d be rich. Back when I wrote my PhD thesis on the rabbinic traditions of that rabbi, I spent day and night learning about him and certainly I did dream about him. I’m still waiting for the promised meaning to be realized.

You are lucky if what you call “vivid” dreams are in fact lucid dreams, meaning dreams in which you actively participate in adventures as if you were somewhat awake. Few people are fortunate enough to have that kind of interactive dream activity regularly.

My advice is not to fret about finding deeper meanings. Pay no heed to the great interests and impacts of the dream interpretations that came before you in our people’s history.

And although there are rabbinic prayers to recite to correct for troubling dreams, I’m not recommending that you try them, unless you believe they will help you.

You live in the here and now. When you wake up after a torrid night of dreaming – lucid or otherwise – perhaps you can say to yourself with amusement, “Wow, that was an interesting story episode in my personal dramatic series.” Our private dream reveries can be exciting, scary, upsetting, enigmatic or just entertaining. Own your dreams for a few minutes, relish and appreciate them, and then move on to attending to your daily affairs.

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

Often I have trouble sleeping. Some nights I get only 4 hours of sleep. What can I do to fix this?

Wide awake in Wayne

Dear Awake,

I believe sleep is way overrated. You get what you can and, unless you operate heavy machinery or pilot a plane, you will make it through the day with as much or as little as you can get. Even if you get too little sleep and get a bit drowsy at 2 p.m. the next day, you won’t face any real danger.

Sure, there is an idea afoot in our society that you should get seven or more hours a night of sleep. And there is a prevalent notion that modern life and its inventions have made getting “enough” sleep more difficult.

But in a story in the Times published on October 15, “Do We Really Need to Sleep 7 Hours a Night?,” the paper reported on scientific studies of primitive tribes who had no electrical or technological innovations in their societies. The studies found that, “the average amount of sleep in these people was well under what is recommended to us as adequate sleep, and these were very healthy people who are not suffering chronic disease and insomnia.”

Famous insomniacs in our tradition include Achashverosh, who during a sleepless night discovered that Mordechai had been the person who saved his life from an assassination attempt. King David also slept very little, as did the Gaon of Vilna who reportedly slept only two hours a night. In addition, we have mandated sleepless nights – in particular, the first night of Shavuot, when many stay up all night to learn Torah.

So sleep seven hours a night if you can. And, if you can’t, go with flow. Do some crossword puzzles, read a book, study some Talmud, write an advice column, or get up and wrestle with an angel into the wee hours of the morning. There simply is no use stressing out about getting too little sleep.

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

My shul board of directors has become secretive about some details of the annual budget and finances. Recently the controlling group of the board approved spending more than was allocated by earlier budget votes. I feel worried and somewhat angry about the way they are handling these matters. What’s my best course of action?

Ought we Audit in Teaneck

Dear Audit,

A synagogue is most commonly both a communal organization and a not for profit charity. If your shul is such an entity, you are justified in objecting if it is not fully transparent about financial matters and not totally frugal about keeping within the bounds of its voted and projected budget.

If the controlling directors of the institution deviate from those paths, perhaps they have a good reason for doing so. Whatever the situation, you should realize that anger and worry will get you nowhere.

If you feel strongly that your shul is acting improperly in financial matters, you have a few choices. You can accept the messy way things are, or you can walk away and join another shul. Or you can try to fix the situation, to make it right.

If you opt for the latter path, know that your chances of success will be small. Keep in mind the principle that my very favorite biblical verse, Kohelet 1:15, tells us: “That which is crooked cannot be made straight, and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.”

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

After my uncle died my family decided to delay for several days telling my father – his brother – about it because my father was in the hospital after having surgery. I feel that concealing that loss from him was wrong. Shouldn’t we always be upfront, regardless of the circumstances?

Forthright in Fairlawn

Dear Forthright,

Many families have had analogous situations where some bad news was withheld from someone for one reason or another.

Occasionally a story of this kind of omission is quite a public matter. Just recently Kansas City Royals baseball player Edinson Volquez pitched six innings in Game 1 of the World Series. Not until he was done was he told that his father had died shortly before the game.

There may be good reasons to justify withholding bad news. In Volquez’s case, the family decided that he should not be distracted from his life’s dream by bad tidings. They believed he would have ample time to mourn a few hours later.

In Jewish law, in the period before the burial of a dead relative, a mourner is exempt from all mitzvot. It is presumed that his or her grief poses an inescapable distraction, and creates an emotional state that has an immediate and personal impact on the bereaved. In such a state a person cannot and need not perform religious obligations.

It’s not universal, though, that a report of a loss will impede an athlete’s performance or even, for that matter, a sports team’s or a troop of soldiers’ performances.

There is a famous story that football coach Knute Rockne, hoping to inspire his team, Notre Dame, told his players of the tragic death of their hero, the great player, George Gipp. “Win one for the Gipper,” he said, and sent his team out to beat Army in a 1928 game.

In the realm of the military, accounts of heroic martyrs are often used to stir soldiers to bravery and passion in battle, precisely because the dramas can hit emotional chords and trigger strong reactions.

Your family was actively dishonest in withholding the sad news, as was Volquez’ family. In each case they justified the decision not to tell the bereaved.

I hope that Kansas City Royals management did not actively convince the family to delay telling Volquez. A baseball team has a primarily financial motive for having its best prepared ace go out and pitch a good game. That’s not a factor I would want to have thrown into the decision-making process about informing a person about his father’s death.

In the realm of medical practice, truth telling, or veracity, is an important bioethics principle. But so is non-maleficence – or “do no harm.” When the two principles conflict, sometimes it is appropriate to withhold information that might affect someone’s health and well-being.

My bottom line advice is that we do not always have to be honest if it may cause harm. Sometimes physical and emotional health, or a person’s life’s dreams, or the national honor may be at stake. Each situation should be examined with a cool head, keeping the well-being of the bereaved at heart.

Tzvee Zahavy earned his PhD from Brown University and rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University. He is the author many books, including these Kindle Edition e-books available at Amazon.com: “The Book of Jewish Prayers in English,” “Rashi: The Greatest Exegete,” “God’s Favorite Prayers” and “Dear Rabbi Zahavy” – which includes his past columns from the Jewish Standard and other essays.

The Dear Rabbi Zahavy column offers timely advice based on timeless Talmudic wisdom. It aspires to be equally respectful and meaningful to all varieties and denominations of Judaism. You can find it here on the first Friday of the month. Please mail your questions to the Jewish Standard or email DearRabbi@jewishmediagroup.com.


The Times Misunderstands Mindful Classrooms

The Times covers a new trend and it misunderstands what mindful classrooms are all about. Elizabeth Harris writes about what's going in NYC schools and gets it wrong at many key points.

For starters, the title misleads. In the print edition it is, "City Classrooms Give Pupils a Moment to Turn Inward." Well, that is not what mindfulness is all about.

And so, perhaps someone figured that out by the time it got online and there the headline became, "Under Stress, Students in New York Schools Find Calm in Meditation."

And even that is not the essence of the practice of mindfulness. Most people who have not practiced mindful meditation misunderstand what it is.

Here is one bad part of the article:
Donna Hargens, the superintendent of the Louisville district of Jefferson County’s public school system, said that in classrooms a teacher’s reflex is to say, “ ‘Focus! Why aren’t you focusing?’ But what does that really mean, and have we given them any tools to help them do that?”
Mindfulness is not about focus. It's about awareness of everything around you and inside of you. It's the opposite of focus. It's openness. Knowing and recognizing what is going on in your head and near your body. And then, taking control of that environment and those forces and letting them go!

When you do that, and you must do that, then you can turn to the essentials in front of you and feel their presence without hearing all the noise that deters you from it.

So the Times gets it wrong. See that, hear that, read that, and let it go.

Can't sleep? The New York Times says not to worry

Do We Really Need to Sleep 7 Hours a Night? asks the Times' Anahad O'Connor.

I believe sleep is way overrated.

You get what you can and, unless you operate heavy machinery or pilot a plane, you make it through the day with as much or as little as you can get, without any real danger.

We have been hearing lately that Americans get too little sleep.
Among sleep researchers it is widely believed that people sleep differently today than they did 150 years ago. Many argue that the invention of the electric light bulb in the late 1800s — and all the artificially lit environments that followed — dramatically changed our sleep patterns. Exposure to artificial light at night, whether from light bulbs or computer screens, throws off the body’s biological clock, delaying and reducing sleep, experts say.
This Times article says it is not so.
...a new study is challenging that notion. It found that Americans on average sleep as much as people in three different hunter-gatherer societies where there is no electricity and the lifestyles have remained largely the same for thousands of years. If anything, the hunter-gatherer communities included in the new study — the Hadza and San tribes in Africa, and the Tsimané people in South America — tend to sleep even less than many Americans....
In fact the evidence is accumulating to support the notion that I hold.
“There is this concern in the Western world that we need more sleep and that if you get less than seven hours you’re liable to suffer from obesity and diabetes and heart disease,” he said. “But the average amount of sleep in these people was well under what is recommended to us as adequate sleep, and these were very healthy people who are not suffering chronic disease and insomnia.” 
So sleep if you can and if not do some crossword puzzles or read a book. Stop stressing out about getting too little sleep.


My Missing CRACKER JACK Prize in 1965

How disappointing when the promise of a prize in your box of cracker jack goes unfulfilled.
Back in the Summer of '65, we helped the prize girls be more careful.
The Cracker Jack Co.

August 19, 1965

Mr. T. Zahavy
Atlantic Beach, N. Y.

Dear Mr. Zahavy:

Thank you for your letter which brought to our attention the absence of a prize from a package of CRACKER JACK. We regret this error.

Our company recognizes the great disappointment experienced by anyone not finding a. novelty in a box of CRACKER JACK. We appreciate the importance of its presence in every package.

The only manual operation in the manufacture of CRACKER JACK is performed by our “prize girls.” They drop prizes into the packages as they move on conveyors in the production department. The girls are cautioned about he necessity of a toy in every box, but they may miss one should their attention be diverted. We have circulated your letter to remind them that a missing prize means a disappointed person. We are sure it will help them to be even more careful.

Enclosed, with our compliments, is a small assortment from our current selection of prizes which we hope you will enjoy. Thank you again for taking the trouble to write us.

Very truly yours,
E A Winters
Sales Manager


Division of The Borden Company, 4800 W. 66th St., Chicago, Illinois 60638, POrtsmouth 7-6800


Are Intermarried Rabbis Kosher? The President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College replies Yes to the Editor of the Forward who said No

Are Intermarried Rabbis Kosher? Previously not. Up until now it has been a given that, regardless of what the realities of the community are, rabbis must marry Jews.

Reconstructionist Jewish leaders have invalidated that assumption with a change in policy that allows their rabbinical students to be married to non-Jews.

The President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Deborah Waxman, replies Yes, they are kosher, in an op-ed responding to the Editor of the Forward who said, No, they are not kosher in her editorial this week.

This is a hot-button issue. So be sure that we will be hearing more about this controversy in the coming months. Here is Waxman's brief and confident reply to Eisner.

Why Fighting Intermarriage Is a Lost Cause - Opinion – Forward.com
In her editorial, Jane Eisner clearly states her difference of opinion with the recent decision to allow inter-partnered candidates to apply to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC), where I serve as president. If I understand her point correctly, it is that intermarriage represents a lack of commitment to Judaism by Jews and that we need to hold the line in condemning intermarriage for the sake of the future of the Jewish people. We certainly understand this line of reasoning, and I think many Jews would agree with the basic assessment that we must continue the fight against intermarriage.

Here is the problem. For those of you still fighting, the battle was lost years ago. The Pew report, citing that 58% of marriages since 2005 are intermarriages, has disabused all of North American Jewry of the notion that Jews intermarrying can somehow be stopped by pressure from families, rabbis, or editorials from editors of Jewish publications.

At this point, the Jewish future in North America depends, in part, on our ability to engage intermarried Jews, unless we are willing to write off so many of us. If we continue to alienate them by saying that their partnering with a non-Jew means that they are no longer legitimate in some way as Jews, then we create a self-fulfilling prophecy and drive them away.


Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, How to Defeat Religious Violence - WSJ

Rabbi Sacks' new book is excerpted in the WSJ in an essay adapted from his new book, “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence,” which will be published by Schocken on Oct. 13.

He speaks eloquently and intelligently. He also at times lapses into a kind of universal homiletics and we can debate whether anyone listens to that kind of discourse, for instance:
Now is the time for us to say what we have failed to say in the past: We are all the children of Abraham. We are precious in the sight of God. We are blessed. And to be blessed, no one has to be cursed. God’s love does not work that way. God is calling us to let go of hate and the preaching of hate, and to live at last as brothers and sisters, true to our faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith, honoring God’s name by honoring his image, humankind.
My mainly academic blog posts on religious terrorism, deriving from a course that I taught at the university, are linked to this post, and other relevant posts can be found here.

Here is the extended blurb of Rabbi Sacks' book:
In this powerful and timely book, one of the most admired and authoritative religious leaders of our time tackles the phenomenon of religious extremism and violence committed in the name of God. If religion is perceived as being part of the problem, Rabbi Sacks argues, then it must also form part of the solution. When religion becomes a zero-sum conceit—that is, my religion is the only right path to God, therefore your religion is by definition wrong—and individuals are motivated by what Rabbi Sacks calls “altruistic evil,” violence between peoples of different beliefs appears to be the only natural outcome.

But through an exploration of the roots of violence and its relationship to religion, and employing groundbreaking biblical analysis and interpretation, Rabbi Sacks shows that religiously inspired violence has as its source misreadings of biblical texts at the heart of all three Abrahamic faiths. By looking anew at the book of Genesis, with its foundational stories of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Rabbi Sacks offers a radical rereading of many of the Bible’s seminal stories of sibling rivalry: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, Rachel and Leah.

“Abraham himself,” writes Rabbi Sacks, “sought to be a blessing to others regardless of their faith. That idea, ignored for many of the intervening centuries, remains the simplest definition of Abrahamic faith. It is not our task to conquer or convert the world or enforce uniformity of belief. It is our task to be a blessing to the world. The use of religion for political ends is not righteousness but idolatry . . . To invoke God to justify violence against the innocent is not an act of sanctity but of sacrilege.” Here is an eloquent call for people of goodwill from all faiths and none to stand together, confront the religious extremism that threatens to destroy us, and declare: Not in God’s Name.


What to do about Joking Rabbis and Repetitious Chanters. My Jewish Standard - Times of Israel - Column for October 2015

What to do about Joking Rabbis and Repetitious Chanters. My Jewish Standard - Times of Israel - Column for October 2015

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

My rabbi often cracks jokes in his sermons from the pulpit. I feel this is wrong, mainly because his jokes are sarcastic and sound more like biting attacks on people of whom he does not approve.

What’s your take on this?

Ha Ha in Ho-Ho-Kus

Dear Ha Ha,

I was tempted to reply to your inquiry with a variant of the old Henny Youngman joke, “Take my rabbi… please!”

But seriously, I learned long ago that using humor in a religious context can be risky, and it can backfire on the would-be comedian. I lectured once at a prestigious Catholic university, and in the midst of my talk I made a rather bland joke and then I looked up at the audience. I could see instantly from the dour expressions on the faces of the pious faculty members that in the mere act of telling any joke I had committed a faux pas.

Religion is serious business, you see. Joking around about faith is frowned upon.

Out in our complex religious worlds, though, there are clerics who try to be funny at times, and there are clerics who are constantly serious. It’s a matter of personality and speaking style. The somber clerics may fear the potentially subversive nature of humor. And so they conclude that it’s best to suppress all forms of the expression. The humorous ones walk a tight rope. They risk inadvertently insulting someone, or telling a joke that falls flat.

Some clergy tell jokes perhaps because they feel they must compete for attention in a world where entertainment and amusement can saturate our lives via the many forms of instant media -- YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, TV on demand, and the like.


Attention: Rabbi Sacks has a New Book & Rabbi Steinsalz has a New Book

Lessons in Leadership: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible
by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

In this companion volume to his celebrated series Covenant & Conversation, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks mines the weekly Torah portions for insights into the nature of power, authority, and leadership. Based on the understanding that no man is born a leader, the book explores the principles and perils of becoming one. In a world divided by struggles of power and authority, often under the guise of religious fervor, Lessons in Leadership shows not just how to learn from the past, but to build from it towards a better future.

View introduction and sample chapter here.

Talks on the Parasha
by Rabbi Adin (Even-Israel) Steinsaltz

Talks on the Parasha recreates the warm, intimate atmosphere of a personal encounter with Rabbi Steinsaltz. While providing insights that are meaningful for the Jewish collective, it speaks to every individual as well.

To Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, the Torah contains within it many worlds. The themes, the language, the myriad ways in which to understand and interpret it - all of these are worlds that both exist independently and are connected to one another, inextricably linked from within and from without.
What emerges from the totality of the Torah's manifold shades of meaning is that the Torah is essentially "the book of the chronicles of man." The Torah - addressing, in particular, the Jewish people and the individual - helps the reader understand not only what happened in the past and what ought to happen in the future, but also the meaning of his or her own life.

View introduction and sample chapter here.


Was Hall of Famer Yogi Berra Jewish?

Was Hall of Fame baseball player Yogi Berra a Jew? No Yogi Berra was not Jewish. He was a Christian. According to Wikipedia, "Berra was a Roman Catholic, and he attended South Side Catholic, now called St. Mary's High School, in south St. Louis..."

An MLB article summarizes his amazing career.

Given his name it would be fair to ask, Was Yogi Berra a Hindu? According to the MLB article, "Bobby Hofman, a childhood friend who eventually played shortstop for the New York Giants and worked for the Yankees, hung the nickname Yogi on him after noting Berra's resemblance to a Hindu holy man the two had seen in a movie."


חדשות 2: פרסום ראשון: אוניברסיטת בר אילן סילקה סטודנט מהמעונות כי לא חבש כיפה No Kippah - No dorm room - Bar Ilan U. evicts student who goes kippahless

כתבה שפורסמה בחדשות 2 ועשויה לעניין אותך.
פרסום ראשון: אוניברסיטת בר אילן סילקה סטודנט מהמעונות כי לא חבש כיפה
סטודנט בפקולטה למשפטים באוניברסיטת בר אילן לא יוכל להמשיך להתגורר במעונות בתוך הקמפוס לאחר שאב הבית הבחין בו כשהוא ללא כיפה, כך נודע לחדשות 2 Online. "הוא ראה אותי פעם אחת ממש מזמן", הדגיש הסטודנט, אך באוניברסיטה מתעקשים: "הוא התהלך מספר פעמים ללא כיפה, יוכל להתגורר במעונות מחוץ לקמפוס"
מתן חצרוני
י', סטודנט למשפטים שהתגורר במעונות הדתיים באוניברסיטת בר אילן, התבשר אתמול (ראשון) כי לא יוכל להמשיך להתגורר במעונות בשנת הלימודים הקרבה, כך נודע לחדשות 2 Online. הסיבה: אב הבית ראה אותו מסתובב במעונות כשהוא לא חובש כיפה.
רוצים לקבל עדכונים נוספים? הצטרפו לחדשות 2 בפייסבוק
"מדור מעונות הודיע לי שאני לא מתקבל למעונות של בר אילן מכיוון שלאורך השנה החולפת לא הקפדתי לשים כיפה בשטח הקמפוס. אב הבית אחראי על ההחלטה הזו", סיפר. י' הוא סטודנט שבא ממשפחה דתית, למד בישיבה ושומר על כשרות ועל שבת.
"אב הבית ראה אותי פעם אחת יחידה ללא כיפה וזה היה ממש מזמן", סיפר. "אני גר בנהריה אז אין לי פריבילגיה לנסוע מהבית וגם לא להשכיר דירה". זמן קצר לפני תחילת שנת הלימודים האקדמית ייאלץ כעת י' למצוא מקום מגורים חלופי.
"מצהיר בזה כי אני מנהל אורח חיים דתי"
מי שזכאי להגיש בקשה לדיור במעונות סטודנטים באוניברסיטה חייב לעמוד בתנאים הבאים: בוגרי בית ספר תיכון דתי המנהלים אורח חיים דתי, סטודנטים מן המניין לתואר ראשון, ועליהם לעמוד במינימום שעות לימוד אקדמיות. לדבריו, אין לו אפשרות להירשם למעונות שמפעילה האגודה כי ההרשמה תמה.
בנוסף, בזמן ההרשמה על הסטודנטים לחתום על טופס שבו נכתב בין היתר: "אני מבקש להגיש מועמדות למעונות המיועדים לשומרי אורח חיים דתי ומצהיר בזה כי אני מנהל אורח חיים דתי. ידוע לי שבאם לא אנהל אורח חיים כזה, שבו יש בין השאר הקפדה של שמירת כשרות, שמירת שבת ומועדים, לבוש צנוע והתנהגות צנועה לא אוכל להמשיך להתגורר במעונות אלה".
מאוניברסיטת בר אילן נמסר בתגובה: "מעונות הסטודנטים בתחומי הקמפוס מיועדים לסטודנטים השומרים על אורחות חיים על פי ההלכה. כל סטודנט המבקש להתגורר במעונות של האוניברסיטה חותם על התחייבות לשמור על אורח חיים דתי - וכיפה היא חלק מאורח החיים הדתי. בנוסף להתחייבות בכתב, המחויבות הזאת גם מובהרת לסטודנטים במהלך הריאיון עם אחראית המעונות לגבי הנהלים.
האוניברסיטה לא מעירה ובוודאי שלא מסלקת סטודנט לאחר פעם אחת שהלך ללא כיפה. במקרה הזה, למרות ההתחייבות שעליה חתם, הסטודנט התהלך מספר פעמים ללא כיפה ולא פעם אחת כפי שטען ולא שעה לפניות של אב הבית בעניין.
לנוכח זאת הוחלט השנה שלא לאפשר לו לשוב למעונות המיועדים למי ששומרים על אורח חיים דתי. הסטודנט יוכל להתגורר, אם ירצה בכך, במעונות מחוץ לקמפוס שבהם אין התחייבות כזאת".
יש לציין שבשיחה עם חדשות 2 Online הכחיש י' את טענות האוניברסיטה והדגיש כי מדובר היה במקרה חד פעמי.
לפניות לכתב: MatanH@Ch2news.tv
הצטרפו לעמוד הפייסבוק של מתן חצרוני
חדשות 2 - איתכם בכל מקום

NPR's "On Being" addresses The Refreshing Practice of Repentance

It is always nice to see the good things that one of your students has been doing.

Louis Newman, who got his masters at the U of M and then went off to get his PhD at Brown, now teaches at Carleton.

He nicely addresses a variety of issues pertinent to this season of the High Holy Days in a broadcast called, The Refreshing Practice of Repentance on the NPR series,"On Being" with Krista Tippett.

The show originates from the Twin Cities and covers a wide variety of spiritual topics. [Hat tip to KS.]

I haven't dealt with repentance in any systematic way. Most recently I did write a bit about apologies in general and compassion in the Kol Nidre ritual.

My favorite moment from the show was when Krista quoted Louis' reference to Rabbi Soloveitchik who says in one of his works that the practice of repentance is so bewildering that even the angels to not understand it: "Repentance cannot be comprehended rationally. It does not really make sense. Even the angels do not understand what repentance is."

Newman cites the Talmud's statement (in Berakhot 54a) that repentance was created at twilight just before the first Sabbath, which means to him that repentance is a miracle that God placed in the world.

Newman published a fine book about repentance in 2010, reviewed here.

Postscript question for 5776:
This year I am reflecting on the marathon nature of the Yom Kippur services and rituals. As an active person, as a rule I work out every day. I swim laps in a pool. I do not swim the English Channel, not even once a year. I do not engage in marathon runs or triathlons. Would it not be better for the soul and the psyche for most people, I wonder, to practice serious but smaller and more manageable rituals of repentance on a daily basis? Self reflection and improvement should be ritualized and actualized as a continuous process, shouldn't it?


The Most Popular Online Shofar Blowing Video

An Amazing Shofar Ram's Horn Synagogue Service
Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg
Uploaded to YouTube on Sep 20, 2007
Sound - not that great
Nearly 700,000 views
That's a big shofar!


My Jewish Standard "Dear Rabbi Zahavy" Column for September 2015 - Going In and Going Out of Our Community

Note to my readers about the new name for my column. 

Because of the "furor" over my bikini advice last month, my column has been renamed by the editor of the Jewish Standard. A prominent rabbi from Englewood had complained to her that the former column title, "Dear Rabbi" insinuates that all rabbis agree with my advice. Accordingly my editor offered to rename the column "Dear Rabbi Zahavy" to remove all ambiguity. The important rabbi from Englewood was not pleased with this proposed solution. LOL.

Here is my September column.

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

My 20-year-old son, whom we brought up Orthodox, has decided to move to the Upper West Side and lead a secular life. My spouse and I, though disappointed, respect his decision. But my friends insist on offering me consolation for my loss, because my child has gone “Off the Derech.” I feel hurt when that label is used to describe my child. And I do not feel any sense of loss. What should I say to my friends?

Pained in Passaic

Dear Pained,

To be clear to my readers, “Off the Derech” means “Off the Path.” In recent years it’s been used to describe those who leave the fold of Orthodoxy. It’s likely that of all the words in this label it’s the innocent little word “the” that is most hurtful to you. The implication and intent of OTD classification clearly is that there is one and only one acceptable path through life. In the Torah True town there is one street on which to travel. When you leave that street you are off the road. And without proper direction you are lost.

This categorization of your son may be hurtful to you for two reasons. First, no doubt there’s a value judgment built into that OTD label. One lifestyle is kosher. All others are not only treif, they are path-less. And you don’t want your child to be branded in that way. He has chosen another path.

Second, though you may not realize it, you are hurt by the realization that your community has created a metaphoric label based on a factually incorrect model of the world. Obviously, our open, modern, pluralistic society abounds with a myriad of paths, streets, highways, and byways through life. Most of them are productive, not destructive. To say that only one is valid and viable and worthy is a blunt denial of reality. It hurts you to realize that your community bases its thinking on that kind of skewed worldview. It hurts you to realize that your community believes and says there are only two ways, the way of Torah and the way of those who “sit idle.”

This worldview is expressed most clearly in one of the prayers recited at a siyyum, the celebration of the completion of the study of a book of the Talmud:

“We are thankful before you God, our God and God of our ancestors, that you have made our portion from among those who sit in the house of study and you have not made our portion from among those who sit idle. For we wake early and they wake early. We wake early for words of Torah and they wake early for idle words. We strive and they strive. We strive and receive reward and they strive and do not receive reward. We race and they race. We race toward the afterworld and they race toward destruction, as it says: ‘And you God will bring them down to destruction, men of blood and deceit will not live out half their lives, and I will trust You.’”

Right there in our liturgy is a rigidly provocative dualistic narrative depiction of the world.

Those who offer you consolation imagine that everyone must lament when a child leaves the community. In their view, the child has gone over from a pure Torah-observant life to a crude existence without direction, one that is permeated with sex and violence as portrayed by Hollywood, TV, popular music, and other expressions of modern culture.

They also expect you to grieve because they anticipate that children who leave may no longer share with their families the joys of the holidays, Shabbat, and family-based rituals and life cycle events that are cherished and make life meaningful on many levels. Your friends exhibit a genuine concern for you and your child, and may also worry lest their own children will follow suit and opt to leave the one true path.

But a comprehensive talmudic review of the world must conclude that there are many varied, wonderful, creative, and constructive valid paths through Jewish life and life in general. There are many different organized paths within Judaism: charedi, chasidic, modern Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist. Some styles may seem more secular, but all are suffused with meaningful elements of faith and observances.

Beyond those official streams, alternative paths offer a Jewish life through affiliation and identification with the Jewish community in other ways — through charity work, JCCs, classes, travel, activism, and political support for various causes. These too are vibrant Jewish paths.

So if you wish, you can tell your friends something like this. Though your son has decided to leave their path, he has found another. It will be his own road, he is on that derech, and it is well-paved. He is not lost. You have prepared him well to contribute to the betterment of humankind, and you are confident that his road will take him in a fine and proper direction.

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

I come from a classical Reform Jewish background. My sister has become a baal teshuva and now keeps strictly kosher. She won’t eat in my house anymore. How can I deal with this?

Boycotted in Bergenfield

Dear Boycotted,

First of all, you need to understand the nature of your sister’s choice.

The Orthodox idea of the baal teshuva is based on the belief that all Jews remain members of the tribe, no matter what lifestyle they live. At any moment a Jew leading a secular lifestyle can have an awakening and decide to repent — do teshuva — and return to the Torah-true way of life.

At one time, social scientists used the term reversion for such a decision. That label and the baal teshuva label both imply that a person has chosen to return to a previous state, practice, or belief.

These are of course metaphoric fictional ways of describing becoming Orthodox as a return. In most cases that’s not what’s going on. The person making the choice was Jewish previously, but never was Orthodox.

The choice to become frum is in fact a bold new choice of life direction, a break with a past path and a selection of a new one. That is the fact, and that is likely how you see it. And it makes you uncomfortable that your sister won’t eat with you now.

She sees it differently. She has awakened and returned. You unfortunately have not, at least not yet.

She has left what she might describe as the emptiness of a secular life, and now lives in the fullness and meaning of a busy Orthodox existence. Her life is now governed by a myriad of detailed practices that may baffle you, including all of the complex laws of a kosher kitchen.

Understand this. Your sister may once have spent her Saturdays in a perfectly proper manner of leisure. Perhaps she went shopping or maybe she had her nails done on Cedar Lane, then listened to NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” then went in the summer to swim and sit out by the pool.

But now that she has chosen another path, her Saturday is Shabbos. She goes to shul, then to Kiddush, then to the Shabbos meal, and perhaps to a nap or to a class in Chumash study (Bible). And there is no shopping, no nails, no radio, no pool.

She has opted to leave behind her previous routines for a more rigorous and structured cycle of life, governed by religious norms and prohibitions. She found her earlier life lacking and her new life more meaningful and ultimately more consequential.

And with her new way, she has decided that she now may eat only food that is kosher, prepared in utensils that are kosher, and served on dishes that are kosher. If you want her to join you in your home for dinner, you must respect and accommodate her wishes. Ask her how you can do this for her on an ad hoc basis, so that she will feel comfortable eating in your home.

It might mean you have to buy her prepared kosher food and serve it on disposable plates. There are degrees of kashrut, and you need to know her level of expectation.

Perhaps ask her to invite you over to her home so that you can see firsthand what she does to create her kosher cuisine.

If you cannot reach a negotiated mode of having her join you for dinner in your home or hers, and you do want to dine with her, then try taking her out to a nice kosher restaurant. There are many fine convenient local options for kosher dining in Teaneck and the surrounding towns.

As your question and the previous one illustrate, our community is dynamic and diverse. We need to better understand and embrace the movements in and out, and respect all of the options that are out there for living satisfying Jewish lives.

The Dear Rabbi column offers timely advice based on timeless Talmudic wisdom. It aspires to be equally respectful and meaningful to all varieties and denominations of Judaism. You can find it here on the first Friday of the month. Please mail your questions to the Jewish Standard or email DearRabbi@jewishmediagroup.com.

Tzvee Zahavy earned his Ph.D. from Brown University and rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University where he studied for two years with Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and for four years with Rav J.B. Soloveitchik. He is the author many books, including these Kindle Edition e-books available at Amazon.com: “The Book of Jewish Prayers in English,” “Rashi: The Greatest Exegete,” “God’s Favorite Prayers” and “Dear Rabbi” — which includes his past columns from the Jewish Standard and other essays.

Read more: Dear Rabbi Zahavy @ The Jewish Standard 


Haaretz Op Ed: Iran Deal on Nukes is Good - I agree

Amazing how American Jews have become experts in Iranian Nuclear politics. Truly it is a miracle.

Haaretz writer explains why Obama is right on Iran. I agree with him:

Jewish Americans are going through a harrowing dilemma. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been calling the nuclear deal with Iran a mistake of historical proportions. He has made opposing it the shibboleth of whether you are a good Jew and a true friend of Israel, or whether you let Barack Obama throw Israel under the bus. So Netanyahu keeps repeating it: By cranking up sanctions even more, a better deal with Iran can be reached, but Obama and the P5+1 group have been weak and defeatist.

Netanyahu's tactic has created enormous problems. He has dealt further blows to Israel's relations with the United States, created deep rifts in the U.S. Jewish community, and worst of all, he has turned the discussion into whether you are for Israel or against it. He has turned it into good versus evil: Care about the Jewish people or be willing to let them perish in the next Holocaust.

The shrillness of the debate has made many forget that dealing with Iran is not a matter of ideology but rather carefully balanced probabilities. Get the best deal under the given circumstances, and the best deal isn't a matter of rhetoric but careful calculation.

This is my call to U.S. Jewry. Turning the Iran deal into a partisan issue is about as wrongheaded as checking your doctor's political convictions rather than credentials and experience. This is why it's best to listen to top Israeli security officials, who have both the professional competence and dedication to care about what serves Israel best.

U.S. Jews might therefore wonder: Why are there no prominent Israeli voices supporting the Iran deal? Well, the noise has drowned out the fact that a phalanx of security chiefs has publicly supported the deal.


Hebrew National Hot Dogs are Really Truly No-Kidding Kosher

Yes. Hebrew National Hot Dogs have been kosher since 1905. And Target sells them!

I have eaten them. But I know some more-kosher-than-thou types who won't partake. Those are the Jewish folk who answer to an even "higher authority" than Hebrew National.

Kenneth Lasson, writing in a Baltimore Jewish Times cover story in 2009, weaves together reportage about the hot dog industry, the kashrut supervision industry and baseball parks to come up with a fascinating fabric of a story, "Hebrew National and Kosher Politics - What’s kosher about answering to a higher authority?".

For years there have been some super-glatt-orthodox who whisper about whether the supervision of Hebrew National was "reliable." Lasson covers this controversy and says for instance,
...As to Triangle K, Rabbi Abadi wrote on the kashrut.org Web site, “Rabbi Ralbag is a G-d-fearing man and if he says it’s kosher, you sure can eat it. I can’t say the same for many of the other labels out there.”...more...
The Talmudic question is of course, can we trust the writing of Kenneth Lasson. Is he reliable? Is he glatt kosher? /repost from 7-9-09/


Maimonides and Pictures of Topless Women

Mitchel First (author of Esther Unmasked) alerted me to the fact that a Marc Shapiro found topless women adorning holy books - and indeed he had in his new book, Changing the Immutable, "a whole chapter there about the printing of Rambam's and other halakhic works that had illustrations of topless women on their title pages and ... this was normal at some point!"

That snip above is from the title page (TP) of Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Amsterdam 1702. Here is the whole title page.

The work was printed by the Athias printing house:
In the middle of the seventeenth century, Joseph Athias established a combined Hebrew-Dutch printing house in Amsterdam, which turned into a success. His son, Immanuel Athias took over the management of the Hebrew printing in 1685. In 1702, he published Maimonides' Mishneh Torah in four volumes. The edition was dedicated to Moses Machado, army purveyor of King William III of England, who gave financial support to the printing house for buying new printing equipment.
I do not think that Artscroll Mesorah publishers or any Orthodox publisher would approve today of such a depiction in any of their books.

And honestly, I don't know why. I cannot explain when and how some Orthodox Jews became Puritans. 


NPR: A Brief Historical Survey of US Bathing Suit Rules (Not the Jewish Ones)

The NPR history department did a story on a Brief Historical Survey of US Bathing Suit Rules (Not the Jewish Ones). Hat tip to KS.

Thank goodness it concludes:
...as the 1930s wore on, restrictions on swimwear began to wear off. Stories about beaches posting dress — or undress — codes seemingly disappear from newspapers. By 1939, the city of Hammond, Ind. — apparently reflecting the relaxing attitudes of many American towns — had thrown all bathing suit rules out the window. "The city will establish no rules on type of bathing suits to be worn," the local Times reported on June 16, "just so bathers are garbed in some fashion."


Swipe Your Mobile Phone for a Jewish Date: My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Column for August 2015

Dear Rabbi,

My twenty-something daughter told me that she went on a date with a boy she met via a smart phone app called JSwipe. I gather that apps like that are meant to help people find casual hook-ups, and are not intended to lead to a serious relationship. Am I justified to be concerned?

Worried parent in Wyckoff

Dear Worried,

Although many of us have smart phones by now, most of us do not know how an app like JSwipe works. When I got your question, I didn’t. So I loaded the app onto my phone to see how it works. From what I gather reading about the app, it is a knockoff of the much more popular app Tinder. The premise of JSwipe is that it targets a subset of the population — Jewish people.

If you have a Facebook account, you can log in to the app with your ID and password and it pulls in your photos and other information from that site. You answer a few basic questions about your Jewish preferences (e.g., kosher or not, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or a few others). You can be swiping actively through pictures of potential matches with the app in a matter of minutes.

There is no learning curve. You look at a picture of a possible date and swipe left to reject it or right to accept it. If you swipe right and the other person does as well, then you have made a match. You then can chat with your match in the app and possibly make a date.

Several shortcomings of this technology jumped right out at me. When I tried it out, the app did not actually screen who I was. I downloaded it, signed in, set some values, and was ready to swipe. That should worry both young users and their parents. If the new user wants to meet a Jewish date, you should know that the other JSwipe user might not be Jewish even if they say they are. And yes, Jewish or not, there is no way to know if they are stable or reputable people.

Once you get the app on your phone your activity in it is limited mainly to looking at pictures — many of which are the grainy snapshots that people use for their Facebook accounts. A small percentage of users put in additional descriptions of themselves and their interests.

A user can set some preferences — but not many. You can tell JSwipe the age range you want to see and the geographic proximity to potential matches and set a few Jewish preferences.

I certainly hope that people who match through the app and agree to a date will meet in a safe public place, to get a chance to validate somewhat that their match is a suitable person.

Does this system help people find proper matches? I’m no specialist in the sociology of Jewish dating. But I seriously doubt that this type of superficial app produces many fulfilling relationships or even enjoyable dates. To use totally non-analytical terms, at first blush, to me the system seemed simplistic, rude, and creepy.

Should you be worried if you find out that your child uses the app? A little. Most kids have common sense to be cautious about whom they meet and date. So you need not be that worried. But the superficiality of the choice process and lack of vetting of the population using the app are big drawbacks.

Well okay then. Is there anything you can do to help your kids find suitable dates? Parents I spoke to agree that trying to set up your child with a shidduch is not at all welcomed in the more liberal segments of our Jewish community. Apart from the ultra-Orthodox, who deem arranged marriages desirable, it’s common that children will not want your meddling at all into their social lives. Young people spend a great deal of effort to establish their own identities and their independence.

What I recommend, then, is that you help enable your children to find and join communities of like-minded peers, where they will have a better chance of meeting a suitable date or mate in person. Synagogues, community centers, artistic and cultural groups, charity activities, sports activities, and the like are valid starting points.

Try to be patient and let real human processes of meeting and making dates and establishing relationships take their course.

Bottom line, as you can tell, I’m not impressed with a dating methodology based on swiping through tiny pictures on a phone.

Tzvee Zahavy earned his Ph.D. from Brown University and rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University. He is the author of many books, including these Kindle Edition ebooks available at Amazon.com: “The Book of Jewish Prayers in English,” “Rashi: The Greatest Exegete,” “God’s Favorite Prayers” and “Dear Rabbi” — which includes his past columns from the Jewish Standard and other essays.


Recommended Book: The Book of Jewish Prayers in English by Tzvee Zahavy

This is an exceptional book by Tzvee Zahavy from Amazon Kindle. I recommend that you buy a copy today. This outstanding volume presents the Jewish prayers in English with accompanying essays about the basis of prayer, prayer as visualization and the piety and devotion of Jewish life.
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Is British Open Winner Zach Johnson Jewish?

No Zach Johnson is not a Jew. He is a devout Christian.

CNN reports, "The Open 2015: Zach Johnson -- 'I'm just a blessed boy'".
St Andrews (CNN): It was news to Zach Johnson that he'd won the Open Championship.

So focused was the 39-year-old that when Louis Oosthuizen's crucial birdie putt missed on the final hole it was his caddie Damon Green that broke the news to him.

A deeply religious man, Johnson was busy reciting scripture to keep his concentration, and when he'd finished he'd added the Claret Jug to his 2007 Masters triumph...

Is master of sex Actor Lizzy Caplan who plays famed sexologist Virginia Johnson in Showtime’s "Masters of Sex" Jewish?

Is master of sex Actor Lizzy Caplan who plays famed sexologist Virginia Johnson in Showtime’s "Masters of Sex" Jewish?

Yes Lizzy Caplan is a Jew. TOI reports:
Although she has fond memories of her Reform upbringing, bat mitzvah and Jewish summer camp, back in 2005, Caplan told American Jewish Life magazine that she had “kind of strayed away” from Jewish involvement.

“I think once I have a family I’ll be back into it,” she said. “I love being a Jew, but I’m not Super Jew.”

But last year, the Emmy-nominee blamed her lack of confidence in winning an award for outstanding lead actress on her cultural outlook.

“I don’t think it’s fair to assume that at all. I’m Jewish, so I’m predisposed to assume there’s no chance in hell that’s going to happen,” she told The New York Times.
TOI continues, "The series opens with the depiction of the pair’s release of their groundbreaking 1966 book, “Human Sexual Response.”

Indeed if you have published a book, you will love this episode.

It captures the sacred moment when the doctor receives the galley proofs from his publisher and depicts the reverence with which they are treated. Most authors know these feelings.

And in a wonderful interleaved scene that pops in and out of the episode, it portrays the fear and the fantasy that each of us authors has after we cast our books out to the public - that they will be criticized mercilessly or that they will be received as brilliant and revolutionary.

[Hat tip to ISW.]


To my Jeremiad preaching colleagues: I am grateful to Barack Obama for completing an agreement with Iran to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons

Hey all my Jeremiad preaching friends: I am grateful to Barack Obama for completing an agreement with Iran to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons.

Let's hear your long, mournful complaints and lamentations and your list of woes, oh you Jeremiahs. This is the season preceding Tisha B'Av and it is a religious obligation to recall the woes of the ancient prophets, to lament and to mourn.

However, I'm not joining your moaning and groaning. I am rejoicing.

This deal with Iran is a major step forward towards the stabilization of the middle East and a good thing for peace in our the world. Here's some of the news from the NY Times.

Deal Reached on Iran Nuclear Program; Limits on Fuel Would Lessen With Time

VIENNA — Iran and a group of six nations led by the United States reached a historic accord on Tuesday to significantly limit Tehran’s nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions.

The deal culminates 20 months of negotiations on an agreement that President Obama had long sought as the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency. Whether it portends a new relationship between the United States and Iran — after decades of coups, hostage-taking, terrorism and sanctions — remains a bigger question.

Mr. Obama, in an early morning appearance at the White House that was broadcast live in Iran, began what promised to be an arduous effort to sell the deal to Congress and the American public, saying the agreement is “not built on trust — it is built on verification.”

He made it abundantly clear he would fight to preserve the deal from critics in Congress who are beginning a 60-day review, declaring, “I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.”...


Orthodox Judaism Escalates its War on Women

The Orthodox war on women is not an accidental element in the religion and culture of Orthodoxy. It is an essential defining fact of Orthodox belief and practice. 

An Orthodox "rabbi" in my town has escalated the war. He wrote proudly last week on his blog about how Orthodox Jews won the last battle against women. They kept the women in the back of the shul behind the mehitza. Now he says, they will win the next battle against women. They will prevent women from becoming rabbis.

The evidence is clear across the board. Orthodox Judaism without any doubt preaches that God wants women held in second class status. It teaches that God says that women must be discriminated against and denied civil rights and equality.

The Orthodox segregate women in synagogues, schools and streets and buses. 

Women cannot sit where they wish in synagogue or lead the prayers. Women cannot testify in Jewish courts. Married women cannot divorce their husbands. Women cannot sing for men. Women cannot become rabbis. Women cannot study in Yeshivas. 

The Orthodox segregate women with clothing rules. They say that women cannot wear the clothing of their choice. 

And this war on women is getting more intense. Orthodox men now refuse to sit next to women in public transportation on buses and airplanes. In Orthodox neighborhoods women are told where to walk on public sidewalks and what length their dresses and blouse sleeves must be when they go out of their homes.

Orthodox Judaism denies women the right to divorce their husbands. And there is more.

This war directed against women has been going on for centuries and continues to gain momentum now in 2015.

I have been writing in exasperation about this subject for many years. I originally wrote an essay in 1987 to analyze and characterize some of the darker clouds that I saw on the horizon within Orthodox Judaism's belligerent attitudes, especially its war on women.

These teachings about women are false. Orthodox Judaism is a beautiful religion.

What shall we do to stop this war?

Here are some other of my articles, reviews, independent study courses and more... 

[An earlier version of this post appeared here 10/28/10]. 


Is Bernie Sanders Jewish?

Yes, Bernie Sanders is a Jew. He is a senator from Vermont and a candidate for president of the United States.

Wikipedia reports on his early life:
Bernie Sanders was born on September 8, 1941, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Eli and Dorothy (Glassberg) Sanders. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland whose family was killed in the Holocaust. His mother was born to Jewish parents in New York.

Sanders attended elementary school at P.S. 197, where he won a state championship on the basketball team. He attended Hebrew school in the afternoons and had his bar mitzvah in 1954. Sanders attended James Madison High School, where he was captain of the track team. While at Madison, Sanders lost his first election, finishing last out of three for the student body presidency. Sanders's mother died in June 1959 at the age of 46 shortly after Sanders graduated from high school. Sanders went to Brooklyn College for a year before transferring to the University of Chicago. While there, he was active in the Civil Rights Movement, and a student organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. One of the actions he took was the coordination of sit-in protests against segregated campus housing. Sanders also participated in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He was a member of the Young People's Socialist League, the youth affiliate of the Socialist Party of America.

He graduated from the University of Chicago with a bachelor of arts degree in political science in 1964. After graduating, Sanders spent several months on an Israeli kibbutz, and he moved to Vermont in 1968.


Why I cannot Fathom Frum Fashion

T. H. Lurhman wrote an op-ed in "The Appeal of Christian Piety" in The New York Times trying to fathom why religious women seek out a piety that segregates them and negates their human rights, i.e., that acts against their basic self interests.

She did not succeed - as I see it - in finding any sane rationale for this behavior.

Take a look at her column and let me know please if I have missed something.

I mean fashion to include the type and style of clothes that women wear.

And I mean frum to denote in this case Haredi and other fringe Orthodox groups.

I am offended that anyone would claim that God wants women to wear one specific type of clothing.

If you do believe in the divine revelation of the Torah, look at the beginning of the biblical book of Genesis. God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden without clothes. 

And we pray that all of our deceased relatives find eternal rest in the Garden of Eden. Without long sleeves, I presume.


The Star Spangled Banner Hebrew Scroll from 1914

It's not clear if there was a Hebrew version of the Star Spangled Banner in 1914. It's hard to tell from the brief description of the Smithsonian scroll. If anyone knows the content of the patriotic hymn of this historic scroll, please let me know.

Smithsonian Mirror of America--"Star-Spangled Banner" scroll, 1914

This scroll, donated to the Smithsonian in 1921, symbolizes how Jewish immigrants adapted their cultural traditions to fit their new lives in America. Inside the scroll are a patriotic hymn in Hebrew, written by the donor, Israel Fine; portraits of Washington and Lincoln; excerpts from Lincoln's second inaugural address; and the phrase 'E Pluribus Unum.' "


Preview of the Jewish Standard Partnership with the Times of Israel

It's coming! The Jewish Standard has entered into a partnership with the Times of Israel. Here's how it looks so far. Stay tuned for fine tuning.

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My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Column for July 2015: Boring Shouting Apocalyptic

Dear Rabbi,

I have Facebook friends who are not personal acquaintances, but people in broad circles, friends of friends. Like me, many of them are staunch defenders of Israel. We share personal and public events related to Israel and news reports about the country. Lately, though, I noticed that a vocal minority in my circles has become louder and shriller about their defense of Israel against all criticisms. And beyond that I see a steady stream of apocalyptic pronouncements, statements that assure me of cosmic threats to Israel by numerous nations, and the catastrophic consequences of this or that. An example of recent note is a continuous drumbeat of the doom that awaits Israel (and the world) if the U.S. makes a bad deal with Iran on nuclear development. I have started blocking some of my friends from appearing on my feed because I do not want to participate in their doomsday fear fests. Have I been unfair to my friends?

Fearless In Fair Lawn

Dear Fearless,

On the one hand, your descriptive term apocalyptic does capture the character of some of the rhetoric that we hear at times from those who believe they ought to speculate about the fast-approaching fate of the world.

Genuine apocalyptic literature is a fascinating imaginative genre, a form of speculative theology and a characteristic of some fringe political thought. In Jewish tradition, the visions in the book of Daniel in the Tanach are classic examples of that mindset. The famous vision in Chapter 7 begins: “Daniel said: ‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.’” The Dead Sea Scrolls also contain conspicuous examples of the apocalyptic imagination.

This inventive thinking and writing often anticipates a high drama that posits that we are close to the end of days, that a great conflict is imminent, and that colorful mythic creatures — as stand-ins for nations of the world — will be part of the horrifying spectacle.

Given the history of anti-Semitism, it is not entirely far-fetched to imagine a world full of evil empires that target the Jews for elimination. And it is always meritorious to be on guard against the potential onslaught of our enemies.

But the dire predictions of disaster that you are reading on Facebook in obvious ways are not similar to ancient apocalyptic preaching. Those classic visions often cleverly encoded the message of the secrets of the end times. Only a select few knew the full meaning of which symbolic beast referred to which great world power or nation.

The shouting posts on your Facebook page are almost certainly totally transparent and obvious in their references to their specific targets. They are loud and shouting, not subtle or encoded or shrouded in any secret.

Bottom line: What you did by blocking the content was correct. Keep doing it. Turn off the noise. Stay focused. Do not be too distracted by others who constantly catastrophize about the future of the Jewish people or by those who claim with little basis some special or divine inspiration that with little nuance or imagination, enables them to express troubling and alarmist opinions about the destiny of our people.

Try to stay attentive to the here-and-now, and to find positive meaning in the rich content of your own present-day Judaism.

The Dear Rabbi column offers timely advice based on timeless Talmudic wisdom. It aspires to be equally respectful and meaningful to all varieties and denominations of Judaism. You can find it here on the first Friday of the month. Send your questions to DearRabbi@jewishmediagroup.com.