High Recommendation: Tello Mobile Service - a good idea for existing Sprint Customers

After many many years with Sprint, I have switched to Tello Mobile. They are a discount MVNO for Sprint - a mobile virtual network operator. That means they provide the Sprint network to you for calls and data - at a substantially reduced price. 

Until 11/1/19 you can switch and get your first month of service for $5. I find the $19 monthly plan to be sufficient to my needs. Unlimited text and talk and 4 GB of data.

The sacrifice for this? I gave up an unlimited data plan and free roaming - but I do not think I will miss either of these. I might miss their global roaming - but that was a throttled and limited convenience. Wherever I travel, I use a local sim card.

It's not the savings of money that drove me to switch. I grew tired of Sprint's terrible service. They did not deliver a promised offer after I added a new line. And they started signing me up for services that I did not want. And it took them weeks to unlock a phone for me for use with any sim card.  I was wasting a lot of time trying to get Sprint to do or fix things on my plan.

And it is easy to switch.

You can port your Sprint number to Tello and use your existing Sprint phone and sim card. All you do is supply Tello online with your phone's MEID and SIM numbers - which you copy from your relevant phone setup screens - and give Tello your account number at Sprint and PIN number.

It takes a few hours for Tello-porting to occur, if you start the process on a weekday morning.  When ready, you will know because your calling capability will stop on your phone. Your phone will need to be rebooted by calling a simple code the Tello support team will give you. After a few minutes and a few restarts, you will be a new Tello customer. 


Rude Reader or Right Reader? Your Dear Rabbi Zahavy Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column for October 2019

Dear Rabbi Zahavy
Your Talmudic Advice Column

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

During the lengthy Rosh Hashanah services, I was reading a personal book in synagogue to help me pass the time. A person I know saw me doing this and criticized me for my rude behavior. I feel like he was out of line and want to tell him that I did nothing wrong. What is your advice for the best approach to doing this?

Reader in Ramapo

Dear Reader,

Up front, my advice to anyone who receives unsolicited advice or criticism for behavior that is mainly innocuous is to reply to the critic, “Thank you for your suggestions,” and to avoid further confrontations. So that’s what I suggest here as well, because I am assuming that in reading your book, you were not doing anything distracting or disruptive to others during the services.

In fact, what we do during our synagogue services are mainly activities that we could describe generally as “reading a book.” The sanctioned books that we use, of course, are the siddur for most services, the machzor for the holidays, and the Tanach for the Torah and haftarah scriptural readings.

Now if you want to know if by reading your own book you “did nothing wrong” and argue that viewpoint with your friend, well, that involves some further contextual analysis and some lengthier discussion of social norms.

Context does matter. Reading a book quietly in a public setting ordinarily is not rude or improper. So, you start off with a strong justification of the propriety of your actions. And in a general way, your friend was out of line for nosing into your activity.


Ten years later I still agree. Here is what is wrong with our Jewish prayer book commentaries

After reading in a June 2009 morning at KJ some initial and random comments in the new Koren-Sacks Siddur, I was reminded of what in the past I have found lacking in prayerbook commentaries.

They are not complicated enough.

They portray our services as if they are beautifully woven together and, in the case of the longer services, as if they unfold in a gentle rising crescendo of drama from initial inspiring prayers, through more meaningful and expressive liturgies to our culminating praises and petitions.

When you read our most popular prayer book commentaries, you think the correct background music for our prayers would be say something soothing and nearly seamless, like Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.

I have logged many davening hours and I never saw the Orthodox Jewish services projecting this sort of connected and calm mood.

No I've always thought the services were at best symphonies with abruptly varying movements, often characterized by stark contrasts and even at times by cacophony.

Our Siddur is in fact a complex composite document that evolved over many centuries. Many hands had a role in expressing the values and beliefs that our collective prayers represent. By its own definition, such a work should not be a smooth fabric.

A few times I have attempted to say just this in the modes of expression that characterized our scholarly writings. For instance in a paper I wrote, "The Politics of Piety: Social Conflict and the Emergence of Rabbinic Liturgy," I summarized at the outset a major theme of our more lengthy arguments as follows,
Prayer services do not emerge spontaneously or arbitrarily in a vacuum. They are the public pronouncements of the central values and concepts of the religious leaders who initially propounded them and are social rituals that often emerge out of intense conflict and hard-fought compromise. Specific historical, social, and political conditions contributed to the distinct origin of two major rabbinic services. In the crucial transitional period after the destruction of the Temple, the Shema emerged as the primary ritual of the scribal profession and its proponents. The Tefillah at this formative time was a ritual sponsored mainly by the patriarchal families and their priestly adherents. Compromises between the factions of post-70 Judaism later led to the adoption of the two liturgies in tandem, as the core of public Jewish prayer. But this came about only after intense struggles among competing groups for social and political dominance over the Jewish community at large and concomitantly for the primacy of their respective liturgies. The political, social, and even economic dimensions of the religious life of the synagogues were crucial to the formation of nascent rabbinic Judaism.
I think this is what brings our Siddur alive. It's a story of sharply competing ideas and values all striving for attention within a closed but utterly vibrant religious world. That's the story I'd like to see in some variant form in our prayer book commentaries. It's the narrative of a dialectical theological universe of debate and dispute over which notion we ought to employ to express our most urgent needs before our creator. For instance, do we put our scribal needs at the top of our agenda? Or do we cast our priestly yearnings at the top of our list?

In our Siddur we see a constant flow of traffic, changing of lanes, jostling for position of values and notions, ideas and concepts. And more than this, we see layer upon layer of meaning imposed upon our every practice and festival. Sacred time in our prayer book has mystical, agricultural, historical and Torah-logical importance, all at once. And all of us see different angles of this "lasagna" of religious life.

(When I start using such metaphors, that means uh-oh, I must be getting hungry and it's time to wrap up the post.)

See these among my published writings for more details.

God's Favorite Final Yom Kippur Prayers and the Shofar Blowing that Ends the Fast

Here is what we say in the final pages of my recent book about God's Favorite Final Yom Kippur prayers and the Shofar blowing that ends the fast:

[At]…the final shofar blast at the close of the Yom Kippur fast, …the six disparate synagogue voices coalesce in brief shared characteristic prayers.

So let me recall for you one moment of recurring spiritual grandeur each year—the shofar blowing at the end of Yom Kippur in my unorthodox imagined synagogue.

I stand at the bimah with my friends. We are cleansed of our food and drink, and of our sins. After a day of prayer filled with compassion, we have let go of those negative habits, ideas and actions that separated us from one another. We see each other for who we are, separate personalities with diverse values and goals, united under a roof, in a community, sharing a past and future, and alive together in a productive, vibrant and respectful present. 

Here is my paper, "Yom Kippur: My Day of Compassion" - for your inspiration and enjoyment

Here is my paper, "Yom Kippur: My Day of Compassion" - with some 2017 review and comments.

Use this link if you do not want to go to Academia 

Is Bernie Sanders Jewish?

Yes, Bernie Sanders is a Jew, but the Times (2016) says that, "He Doesn't Like to Talk About It."

I was disappointed in Joseph Berger of the Times for interviewing his brother and not getting Bernie to talk about this.

And trust me, there are dozens of rabbis who would be happy to slam him in the Times for not being a good enough Jew.

The Times didn't give both sides very well and it skipped lightly over the surface of this complex issue

Here is the story:

When Senator Bernie Sanders thanked supporters for his landslide victory in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, he wistfully reminisced about his upbringing as “the son of a Polish immigrant who came to this country speaking no English and having no money.”

While the crowd cheered, Rabbi Michael Paley of New York was among many Jews watching the speech who were taken aback. He said he was surprised that the Vermont senator had not explicitly described his father as a “Polish Jewish immigrant,” a significant distinction given Poland’s checkered history with its Jewish population.

“Nobody in Poland would have considered Bernie a Pole,” Rabbi Paley said.

For 5780 Online Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Kol Nidre services, on Video, on a Live Webcast

Our sincere and heartfelt best wishes to all our readers for a Year of Blessing and Health, Prosperity and Good Cheer.

Rosh Hashanah 5780 - 2019 falls on Monday, the 30th of September and continues for 2 days.

Yom Kippur 5780 - 2019 falls on Wednesday, the 9th of October.

From Central Synagogue in NYC come Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur online services and videos. Scroll down to find the feed and schedule. See the LIVE webcast of Kol Nidre services this year.

The 92nd Street Y also plans a webcast of services.

Rabbis on videos at various places discuss atonement and repentance. There also are holiday video recipes for tzimmes, honey cake and tagelach that you can find online.

And see Video-streamed Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Services.

In these coming Days of Awe all of this is good nourishment for the soul.

Purchase some of these wonderful books for the holidays.


My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy column for September 2019 - Your talmudic advice column - What should I do about our tribal rituals and knowledge

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy column for September 2019
Your Talmudic advice column
What should I do about our tribal rituals and knowledge

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

I was shocked to read an op-ed in an Israeli newspaper by a writer who made radical assertions — seemingly without much evidence to support his assertions — that circumcision (bris milah) was not a central ritual of ancient Israel. The writer, moreover, proposed eliminating circumcision from Judaism, seemingly reflecting his blindness to his own Jewish culture and religion. Is eliminating circumcision now a trend among some secularist Jews? What can we do to stop this trend?

Bris Defender in Bergenfield

Dear Defender,

While many Jews assume that circumcision is a universal practice among their fellow Jews, that has not always been entirely true. In the early days of Reform Judaism in the 19th century, some classical Reform Jews openly opposed all rituals, including circumcision. And today, as you suspect, there are some young Jewish Israeli parents who refuse to circumcise their sons.

I have a devout Jewish friend who was terribly upset when her son in Israel did not circumcise her new grandson last year. I observe that it is trendy now in some progressive communities in Israel not to circumcise baby boys.

The article you cited provides some rationalizations for those people, but it is based on dubious historical claims.


My Jewish Standard - Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Talmudic Advice Column for July 2018 - Let's Fix The Ninth of Av

My Jewish Standard - Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Talmudic Advice Column for July 2018 - Let's Fix The Ninth of Av

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

Our U.S. government recognized Jerusalem as capital of Israel on May 14, 2018, and dedicated its embassy there, moving it from Tel Aviv. I don’t understand how we can continue to commemorate the 9th day of Av as a sad fast day that memorializes Jerusalem as a destroyed desolate city, when the facts of today totally contradict that. Doesn’t the reality of today’s circumstances make it time to abolish the fasting and mourning of that day?

Puzzled in Paramus

Dear Puzzled,

We need to ask in general — why should we cede to religion the ability to legislate our emotions? What is the benefit of making people sad and mournful through rituals? Religion can do this, to a degree. By requiring fasting, by forbidding weddings from taking place, banning music for three weeks, by prohibiting haircuts and shaving, religion can try to manipulate moods and motivations. But why?


Finding Your Existentialist Judaism - Your Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for July 2019

Your Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for July 2019

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

These days I am increasingly unsure of the nature of my Judaism — my religious identity. I know for sure that I am a Jew. Both my parents were Jewish. And I do observe the Jewish festivals and Sabbaths, but now not so rigorously or in accord with any single denomination. I find it more and more difficult to define my affiliation with any specific organized Jewish group. Some of my friends politely tell me that I need to decide where I stand and conform to the beliefs and standards of one of the forms of Judaism. I just don’t know that I can do that anymore. I do want to explore Judaism philosophically, but I don’t know where to start. What is your advice?

Drifting in Demarest

Dear Drifting,

Most folks cannot tolerate too much ambiguity. They look for certainty. It sounds like you are living with uncertainty in your identification with Judaism. And while in our society it is rare for people to overtly butt into other people’s lives and life choices, some of your friends must sense your unease. That’s why they are chiming in that you need to decide.

It is reasonable for people to want to know where their friends and relatives stand regarding Judaism. And they want a label to name your choice and to make the identification clear: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, chasidic, Lubavitch; and in Israel there are category labels like dati, chiloni, Dati Leumi, charedi.


Free download files of the Babylonian Talmud in English

I am proud to provide for you as a gift, a download of the complete Babylonian Talmud English translation.

The Talmud in English is online and free at my site, Halakhah.com, http://www.halakhah.com/ - serving up 60,000+ downloads each month.


This set contains the Sedarim (orders, or major divisions) and tractates (books) of the Babylonian Talmud, as translated and organized for publication by the Soncino Press in 1935 - 1948.

My site has the entire Talmud edition in PDF format and  about 8050 pages in HTML format, comprising 1460 files — of the Talmud.

I recommend that on your web site or blog you add a link to this site http://www.halakhah.com.

Highlights include: A formatted 2-column PDF version of the Talmud at Halakhah.com.


    My Existentialist Zionism Answer in my Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column for May 31, 2019

    Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column for May 31, 2019

    Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

    I visited Israel recently, and from what I saw I admired the continued growth of the country. But at the same time, I felt a deep apprehension about the manifold internal and external dangers that it faces. I am worried that Israel has lost its way and is no longer serving to fulfill its Zionist missions. How can I regain my confidence in the present vitality and the future prospects of the State of Israel?

    Fearful in Fair Lawn

    Dear Fearful,

    I too have spent a lot of time in Israel of late and I do share your concerns. It’s a complex country of more than nine million inhabitants. It faces many internal conflicting points of view and differing aspirations. And yes, it is beset by the external challenges of hostile foes who seek to damage or even destroy the state.

    But my take on the situations it faces is positive and confident, and not simply by virtue of any of the classical definitions of Zionism. I have a personal and original take on the matter.

    Let me explain first a bit about the historical context of past Zionist visions and then tell you how I now formulate my own conception of Zionism for the modern State of Israel.

    The great historians of Zionism tell us about its major forms: political Zionism, socialist Zionism, cultural Zionism, and religious Zionism. I respect and venerate all the past great Zionist thinkers and activists. To some degree the modern state is the successful expression of the four classical forms of Zionism. And to some extent it represents a failed or incomplete implementation of each of them.


    How a Jewish Soul Becomes Immortal Vertically and Horizontally - Remarks for my Father's Yahrzeit

    The seventh yahrzeit of my father, Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy, is tonight and tomorrow.

    At the breakfast at the Park East Synagogue in honor of my dad's first yahrzeit in 2013 I spoke briefly about the dimensions of the immortality of his soul. I explained that by observing the mourning customs and reciting Kaddish for the soul of the departed, we seek immortality on its behalf in heaven above and on earth as part of the eternal Jewish people. I summarized my thoughts on this process as follows below.

    Is the Jewish soul immortal? Yes, tradition teaches us that if the proper procedures are followed, the Jewish soul is immortal. And the immortality is redundant. The soul of a departed loved one lives on in a vertical immortality in heaven and in a horizontal immortality as part of the collective of the Jewish people.

    To guarantee the duplex immortality of a soul, a mourner must say the Kaddish prayer for eleven months in the synagogue. As an agent on behalf of my father's soul, I completed that process in 2013 for the recitation of the Kaddish for my dad, who passed away in 2012.


    Can we take Tainted Charity? Who wrote the Haggadah? My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Your Talmudic Advice Column for April 2019

    Can we take Tainted Charity? 
    Who wrote the Haggadah? 
    My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Your Talmudic Advice Column for April 2019

    Dear Rabbi,

    I am the head administrator at a major Jewish nonprofit in New Jersey. One of our biggest donors has been charged with a crime. We want to remove his name from our building now. Do we need to wait and see if he is convicted or exonerated? It could be years and we do not want to suffer embarrassment in the interim.

    Disheartened in New Jersey

    Dear Disheartened,

    You do not need to wait. But you may not need to disown your disgraced donor, even when he (or she) is convicted and sent to prison. Check with your New Jersey colleagues in the nonprofit sector about the local customs in this muddy swamp. It seems obvious that where big money is involved, creative solutions abound.

    For instance, I can recall several years back, when a big-named donor of a New Jersey Jewish school was sent to prison. It was true that as a result, his name was removed from the school. But resourcefully, the school put up his mother’s name as the replacement. And the family continued supporting its cause.


    Rabbinic Gedolim of RCBC in Teaneck Condemn Esther and Ban Purim

    The Orthodox rabbis of the RCBC in Teaneck NJ issued a proclamation condemning Esther and banning Purim.

    Here is their unanimous proclamation:
    It is reported that a letter is circulating, called Megilas Esther, that has conferred “royalty” upon a woman, has described her as a consort to the King of Persia where she carried out certain traditional queenly functions, and has given her the title of “Queen”. The king has implied in this letter that the bestowal of this title is designed to “make it clear that Esther is a full member of the royal staff, a royal person with the additional quality of a distinct woman’s voice.”

    These developments represent a radical and dangerous departure from Jewish tradition and the mesoras haTorah, and must be condemned in the strongest terms. Any book or letter that ascribes special qualities to a woman in a respected position of any sort cannot be considered kosher. Megilas Esther furthermore mocks men, portraying them as drunks, egotists and schemers. And finally any celebration based on that book, such as the derivative festival of Purim, that recognizes the heroic role of a woman in public life, must be banned.

    Megillat Esther Lesson: A Woman can Save all of the Jews from extinction (but not be counted in an Orthodox minyan)

    Purim is a happy holiday and the book of Esther is great entertainment. But this short biblical book also teaches us some profound lessons about politics, bureaucrats and life. We ought to pay close attention to all its nuances and messages.

    This year we point out that according to the book of Esther a woman can save the Jewish people (but she cannot be counted in an Orthodox minyan - make any sense to you?).


    Arguing about Orthodox Women Rabbis and Finding your Past Lives - My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Your Talmudic Advice Column - March 2019

    Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Your Talmudic Advice Column March 2019
    Arguing about Orthodox Women Rabbis and Finding your Past Lives

    Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

    I have been bothered deeply to read and hear about a conflict among Teaneck Orthodox rabbis over the hiring of a woman in a rabbinical capacity at a local synagogue.

    I think our rabbis ought to set better examples in their behavior and be more progressive in their views about women.

    Tired of tiffs in Teaneck

    Dear Tired,

    I’m sure you realize, first of all, that contention over female clergy is an issue only in the Orthodox world. The Conservative movement has counted women in the minyan for decades and ordained women starting in 1985. Reform Judaism also takes an egalitarian approach to the role of women in their communities. Its first woman rabbi was ordained in 1972.

    Sorry, I fear there is not much I can suggest to you to do to help resolve this Orthodox rift. And I say this not based on an assessment of the contemporary persons and institutions involved in the current spat.


    When will the world end? - My Jewish Standard - Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Talmudic Advice Column for February 2019

    When will the world end? - My Jewish Standard - Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Talmudic Advice Column for February 2019

    Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

    When will the world come to an end?

    Counting Down in Cresskill

    Dear Counting,

    At first glance, that’s a good question. As you may know, that question is a popular meme in imaginative literature, drama and films, and a prominent theme in religious teachings. It’s not automatically an outlandish question. But it raises my concerns that you ask it.

    My first trepidation is that you ask this question because you are in a depressed or agitated disposition and looking for an escape. Take a look in the mirror. Introspect about your own state of mind. Ask people close to you if they have any concerns about your mood.

    Are you unhappy at work or at home? Are you facing medical challenges and seek escape from them? Are you looking for some sort of ultimate external resolutions to your problems? If you detect any of these circumstances in your life, it would be good for you to see a therapist, and not seek to calculate the number of hours left in the existence of the universe.

    Now it may be that you are sound in your mood levels, but perhaps you are looking around at the world and see things that genuinely trouble you, and that you feel you are powerless to control.

    I remember from when I was quite young that my grandmother told me one day in a calm and reassuring voice that she was sure the moshiach — the redeemer messiah that we Jews have been awaiting for millennia — soon will come to redeem us.

    What made her sure were the signs of the times that she detected all around us — particularly what she judged was the precipitous decline of morality among young people in our culture.

    End-of-days narratives come in many forms. Often, they seek to be reassuring, in a strange, unsettling way. In the genre called apocalyptic (meaning: revealing the end), the story told often relates to us that upheavals or cataclysms soon will be upon us, followed by a change in the way the world is run. After that, we powerless people, who face suffering now, soon will be in power.


    What is the Meaning of Life? - Dear Rabbi Zahavy - My Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column for January 2019

    Dear Rabbi Zahavy
    Your Talmudic Advice Column
    January 2019

    Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

    What is the meaning of life?

    Wondering in Weehawken

    Dear Wondering,

    Sure, at this time of the new year it makes sense for a person to wax philosophical and to ask such a big question.

    However, let me consider that perhaps you were not really serious in sending in this question to begin with.

    In that case, I will answer by quoting to you from the epilogue, the last scene of the 1983 Monty Python comedy film “The Meaning of Life.” There the host opens an envelope containing, well yes, the meaning of life. She reads it out loud and here is her profound advice: “Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”

    While that may not be the momentous meaning of life, that is not bad advice.

    Now, let me consider the alternative, and take your question as a serious inquiry and try to reply in kind.