Sunday, November 30, 2008

Av HaRachamim

At a time like this, it is difficult to continue spewing out regular Bloggerai where we all push our personal agendae.

Klal Yisroel has lost some of our most saintly members to the the blood soaked arrows of Yishmael and swords of Eisav, YSh"V. These tzaddikim were people who voluntarily ventured far away from the homeland to enable so many other Jews to remain or become close.

In my years in the diamond business I knew many associates who would travel to Bombay (Mumbai), and though I never needed to travel there myself (thank G-d I was never successful enough for that) it helps me understand what a precious gift and sacrifice it is for young idealistic Jews to establish a base for Torah ,Tefillah, and Chessed in such a religiously barren environment. This was a couple who suffered so much in their personal lives and compensated for it by being moser nefesh - literally, לא עלינו - for all of us. Add to these, two Talmidei Chachamim who leave their wives and children to travel to bereft places to ensure that the food on our plates meet Halachic standards. And, no less, the other Jews who died because, even while in India, they kept to the behavior and places that identified them as Jews.

I am not worthy to say anything about these lofty souls and I do not need to . In this situation, there is no more befitting tribute and tefillah than that which is expressed in the אב הרחמים prayer that we recited yesterday. So many of us recite this and do not appreciate what we are saying. As such, I am printing an English translation of Av HaRachamim לעילוי נשמתם:

The Father of mercy who dwells on high in His great mercy will remember with
compassion the pious, upright and blameless the holy communities, who laid down
their lives for the sanctification of His name.
They were loved and pleasant in their lives and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles and stronger than lions to carry out the will of their Maker, and the desire of their steadfast God.
May our Lord remember them for good together with the other righteous of the world and may He redress the spilled blood of His servants as it is written in the Torah of Moses the man of God:
"O nations, make His people rejoicefor He will redress the blood of His servants He will retaliate against His enemies and appease His land and His people".
And through Your servants, the prophets it is written:
"Though I forgive, their bloodshed I shall not forgive When God dwells in Zion"
And in the Holy Writings it says:
"Why should the nations say, 'Where is their God?' "Let it be known among the nations in our sight that You avenge the spilled blood of Your servants.
And it says: "For He who exacts retribution for spilled blood remembers them He does not forget the cry of the humble".
And it says:"He will execute judgement among the corpse-filled nations crushing the rulers of the mighty land; from the brook by the wayside he will drink then he will hold his head high".

ה' ינקם דמם - תהא נפשם צרורות בצרור החיים

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Shidduchim Part III - Is the Yeshiva World Ready for Web Cam Dating?

The Eisek of Pirya V’Rivya

I entered Lakewood Yeshiva in Ellul of 1981 (it was allowed to come in Ellul then). I had two primary objectives in mind: To fulfill the directives of the gemara Shabbos – (1) קבעת עתים לתורה and (2) 'עסקת בפרי' ורבי.
After 4 ½ years at not excelling at either task, I was compelled to enter the workforce. I wound up being mekayem נשאת ונתת באמונה and צפית לישועה instead.

I learned one thing from the experience: עתים לתורה is something קבוע. But 'פרי' ורבי is an עסק (an ordeal). And what an eisek it is. Every date was a 24 hour affair. At the end of morning seder, the gemara was closed. The kvius was over and the eisek began. Lunch, a quick nap, obtaining a car, packing an overnight bag, showering, shaving, and then…shlepping. And shlepping. And shlepping. And shmoozing, and shmeicheling, and shpatziring. And then…more shlepping, some shluffing and finally, re-shuffling the deck. And for all this, we are shelling out. Sheeeesh!

Many things have changed since the 1980s. Many things haven’t. Some of the things that have changed are good. Others are not so good. Many things that have stayed the same are good. Others are not so good. In the early 1980s, we never heard of a Shidduch crisis.

That was good.

Now we do hear of one.

Not so good.

In the early 1980s there was absolutely no alternative to dating except to physically travel to whatever nook and cranny in the greater NY metropolitan area. Or to Baltimore, or Monsey, or Philadelphia, and on occasion to fly out to Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, Chicago, or Los Angeles.

Not so good.

Today, there may be one.

That is good.

I think it is worth checking out.

I opened this series of posts with a tongue-in-cheek critique on Parshat Chayei Sara. I noted that Yitzchok Avinu had the luxury of staying home in the "daled amos shel Halacha" while his well-to-do poppa fetched a wife for him from his hometown. What service! Just get your servant out by netz and – voila! – you'll have a wife in time for mincha.
Yaakov Avinu was not so privileged. He had to close his gemara and travel to one of the most depraved neighborhoods in the region to find a wife (or two). This took till way after maariv. And there were plenty of nisyonos (pitfalls) along the way.

While there are still some Chassidic circles that maintain the Yitzchok Avinu method, the misnagdisha crowd seems to have fallen in with the Yaakov Avinu method. And we face many of the same nisyonos. A brief listing of the pitfalls of the Yaakov Avinu method includes:

  • Bittul Torah – Like Yaakov Avinu, the gemara closes for up to 24 hours. And you know the old saying, "אם תעזבני יום, יומים אעזביך ".

    Back in my days in Lakewood, this anecdote was told (but probably never happened):

    One Sunday afternoon a non-local visitor to Lakewood wanted to have a look inside the Yeshiva’s Bais Midrash. When his eyes beheld a large proportion of empty places he was taken aback. He asked a nearby lone Talmid, “Where is everybody?”

    The Talmid perks up and says, “Just be thankful for Cherem Rabeinu Gershom or else half of the yungerleit wouldn’t be here, either.’

  • Great Expense – Yaakov Avinu's trip up north wound up costing him a bit more than he expected. By the time he reached the girl's house, he had spent so much on gas and "tolls" that he didn't have enough left for a glass of Coke. Fortunately for him, he had a very understanding potential mechutan who was willing to lay out the expenses for him to be paid out over time.
    When I was doing the Big Apple in the early 80s, a simple date ran a minimum of $50. Now, it's hard to beat $100 and it can easily run higher. That's a sizable investment to invest in a shidduch venture and it is quite taxing on the boy and his folks. It may be a contributing factor why girls who deserve second dates (and even first dates) don't get them. Especially those who live a little further out. And today's economic crisis is not helping. This may be one of the most serious issues that I need to address.

  • Personal Safety risks – Yaakov Avinu met up with some shady characters along the way. One in particular was ready to do him in but was nice enough to merely relieve him of every stitch of clothes which included his pockets and everything in them.
    Today, we have other dangers. One of my brothers in law had a very short tenure in Lakewood Yeshiva. After he was learning there for about 2 weeks, he was driving out to LW from NY and was a bit on the tired side. He woke up with his (father's) car wrapped around a pole and his right foot in the glove compartment. Boruch Hashem, that was the worst of it and we can laugh about it now. Things could have been worse. I have no idea how many serious incidents may have occurred over the past 20 years involving bochurim who over-exerted themselves, but any amount is too many.

  • Kedusha Issues - There are no shortage of spiritual risks as well. Some of the most common ones:

    A) Shemiras einayim and environment. Manhattan is full of so many wonderful sights and sounds and very colorful characters. Especially in the warm summer evenings. When I was going out, I made a note of which hotel lounges were staffed by more respectably attired servers and tried to stick to those. I used to quip that if my attention was more tuned to the server than to the girl, the girl is not for me. It really isn't funny.
    B) Yichud and Negiah: Though these are usually avoidable if we behave ourselves, they are not as avoidable if we do not.
    C) Kashrus: Watch out for those sliced lemons in the Cokes! Though this issue may be the least of it, going out on the town can cause many of us to make compromises – or mistakes – that we don't need.
And finally, one occupational hazard that we do not discuss much:
  • Lingering Intimate Feelings – Although Yaakov Avinu married the second girl he met, he just couldn't get the first one out of his head. Even though he had the option of marrying her, as well – a privilege we are denied – the relationship in his first marriage was a bit tarnished.
    When we go on a shidduch date, to some extent, we are "playing" husband/wife for 3 to four hours. Even though these short fleeting relationships become quickly buried in the morass of what happens next, they do not always totally evaporate. Old flame syndrome can crop up out of even a few dates because these dates were conducted as serious marriage evaluation. The brief meetings can forge a relationship that never totally dies even after the two go their separate ways. For more details, consult Willie Nelson.
Yaakov Avinu was able to stand up to his nisyonos (well, I am not sure about the last one). Then again, it's natural to have a more mature outlook when one is 77 years old. Since we generally take on these challenges at a much younger age, we need to be more cautious. הלוואי, we could rely on the Yitzchok Avinu system of staying put and letting our barsherts come to us.

Well, perhaps we can – thanks to modern technology.

To appreciate this idea, we must come to terms with some realities that we are already aware of:

  1. The Internet is here to stay.
  2. Most of us are connected to it.
  3. Those of us who use Internet for business and connectivity do so because the benefits are indispensable.

In other words, in spite of the acute awareness that the Internet is fraught with serious hazards, the benefits and productivity that can be realized from it are too valuable and too vital to be dismissed. In short, the frum society has reached a stage that forces us to face up to the reality that if the Internet can be used to reduce Bittul Torah, overwhelming costs, personal safety risks, spiritual safety risks, and help alleviate the Shidduch crisis, it may be irresponsible not to take advantage of it. Not only may the benefits be so valuable as to overshadow the risks, it may actually solve some longstanding issues of frum dating that have plagued us for decades.

My idea is to take something that is already being done in non-religious or non-Jewish circles and to formalize it for use within the Torah community. I am talking about using web cams for dating in the initial stages. This means to facilitate and encourage yeshiva bochurim to conduct the first few dates of every new prospect via a web cam. Only when the situation advances to stage 2, do they actually begin to see each other in person.

Obviously, this plan will require a lot of cooperation on the part of the major yeshivos and the yeshiva communities. In my plan, the yeshivos need not do anything themselves. Rather, they will authorize a resourceful Yungermahn to – under their guidance – establish a facility with video-enabled computer stations in booths. When a bochur is to conduct an initial encounter, he sets a time with the girl and goes to one of the booths to hold a web cam shidduch date. The bochur will pay a nominal fee for this service, let's say $25 per session, which will be a fraction of the cost of an actual date and a source of honest, kosher, and to'elles-diga parnassah for the avreich who is operating it. If, after 2 or three such dates, the couple sees potential for tachlis, then they procede to date the old-fashioned way and meet in person.

Of course, there will have to be a video-enabled station on the female side of the spectrum as well. So firstly, let me state what we probably all know, anyway, that a good many Bais Yaakov maidels are already on line with email and Facebook and if they don't already have a web cam at home, it's just a $50 part. Secondly, for אלו שאין להן , a local shul or community organization – perhaps the local branch of Agudas Yisroel or something similar – could oversee the establishment of such a facility in a kosher environment. And thirdly, one who does not have a web cam and cannot get to one is no worse off than not implementing this whole plan so there is no disadvantage in that sense.

Now, let us review the pros and cons of this proposal. On the plus side:

  • Firstly, it will address every issue that was raised above – Bittul Torah, money, kedusha, and safety. The boys will not be required to leave the Yeshiva as often. The time and money invested will be a fraction of the norm and the listed "kedusha" and personal safety risks are totally eliminated.

  • Secondly, it will make location, which is so much a factor in today's system (hey, if there are so many good prospects in Brooklyn, Queens, and Lakewood, why schlep out to Monsey, 5 Towns, Philly or Baltimore?), into a non-issue. This alleviates a whole slew of location related issues, such as:

    A) A boy can meet a girl from Detroit, Los Angeles, Australia, England, Eretz Yisroel, etc. at no cost and no waste of time.

    B) Pursuant to the above, it will level the playing field for the girls. So many girls are disadvantaged at meeting boys because of their locations. With this system, there will be more opportunity and hope for girls who live in far out places, on the periphery of NY (who, ironically, may suffer more than out of towners who have lodging in NY – these girls fall between the cracks), and for girls who do not have favorable options for locating themselves in the East coast.

    C) Thirdly, it may help the survival of yeshivos and community institutions that have traditionally had trouble because of their unfavorable location. Also, it will help Torah Jews such as Rabbanim, Principals are the Roshei Kollels in places like Pheonix, Houston, Cincinatti, Richmond, etc. Choshuva people are reluctant to take positions in these places because they will become pillars of the communities and attach roots there and be unable to leave, but their daughters will reach marriage age and be in limbo.
    As an example, my wife's cousin is the Rav of an isolated community way out West. He is loved, respected, influential, and otherwise essential. Now, their oldest daughter is reaching perek HaIsh Mekadesh and they are at wit's end. Do they have to exile her to the five boroughs of Sodom to even have a chance? It is a tremendous sacrifice and it affects the possibility of getting qualified people to assume these positions.
    With a system like this, we can get qualified people to be more wiling to make these sacrifices.

  • Dates can be conducted at unusual yet practical time slots such as erev shabbos.

  • Nobody actually has to take a shower!

Of course, such a system is not without its hazards and drawbacks. But I think it is a list we can deal with. Here is what I came up with:

  • The Treife Internet: It means a more formal acceptance of Internet usage within the Torah community. This is a bitter pill to swallow. Nevertheless, most of us, including anybody who is reading this post on-line, are already there. The 2 biggest issues of Internet usage are Bitul Zman and Kedusha. My position is that with contemporary dating, bitul zman and compromising kedusha is a given – a ודאי. Misusing the Internet is a ספק. Actually, in a controlled environment (with filters and 2nd party monitoring) it is relatively secure. Consequently, אין ספק מוציא מידי ודאי .
    Incidentally, America was also known as the "treife medinah" but it saved Klal Yisroel (and it's still treife!)

  • Appearance of subjects: It can be claimed that a web cam image does not do justice to the natural chen of people who may not be so photogenic. Of course, this can work both ways – perhaps for some people, a web cam image will hide some blemishes. Also, the parties can (and should) work on an assumption that in real face to face –should it reach that stage – the other person probably looks even better.

  • Privacy issues – This is to me the most (or only) really serious issue. With today's computer technology, there is always a possibility of recording and distributing sessions. This can obviously be ruinous to people's lives. Imagine if an on-line dating session pops up after somebody is married (to a different person). In my plan, boys only conduct these sessions in official monitored facilities. This may alleviate the problem from that side. Still this plan has no provision for controlling the girls who may be at home. A computer savvy and unscrupulous maidel can make a big mess out of things – so for all those "buyers" out there: caveat emptor!

  • Cheapening the dating experience – The beauty of this plan is that it makes it cheap and easy for a boy to say "Yes". Unfortunately, it also makes it cheap and easy for the boy to say, "Let's try somebody else tomorrow". It can develop into a "speed dating" syndrome. Though this is an issue, I consider it a minor one in the face of it's advantages.

  • Reverse discrimination: May cause boys to overlook locals. Solving the distance barrier may come at a price to nearby prospects. The grass is always greener...But, you know what they say: Every problem has a solution and every solution makes new problems.

  • Girl has to buy her own Coke.

  • Nobody actually has to take a shower!

Such a plan will not come without resistance. Especially from the female side of the mechitza, many of whom do not appreciate the investment of time and money as well as the physical and spiritual risks that a ben Torah must undertake for each and every date. When I mentioned this idea to my in-the-parsha daughter, she recoiled in shock before recovering with the standard "No way, Jose!" response. But, as telephones stand silent and Sunday nights stand unbooked for longer spells, the attitude may change.

Doubtless, personal dating is still necessary but why not push it off a bit until it the prospect is more l’maaseh?

I am not trying to fix something that ain't broke. We do have a shidduch crisis on our hands. As I said earlier, the crisis in our circles is primarily one of demographics (imbalanced gender population) complicated by geographics (location) and economics (gelt). This system would solve the geographic issue and lighten the economic issue which may, in turn, alleviate the demographic one. Add to this the physical and spiritual safety risk issues which are becoming increasingly more severe.

Yes, we need hadracha from our Gedolim in terms of what is acceptable in the eisek of pirya v'rivya but, clearly, for many years we have been “looking the other way” with regard to the current system despite many aspects שאין רוח חכמים נוחה מהם. My dating career was in the pre-Internet 1980s and, for the most part, there was nothing we could do about them. Web cams give us the opportunity to avoid many of these issurim and nisyonos.
Why not take advantage of them?

I sincerely think that we need to take a serious look at such a system. My instincts tell me that I am not the first person to think up something like this though I have never seen it suggested in a Torah-oriented forum. My instincts also tell me that in the course of time, this method will come to fruition in some form no matter what I write. The circumstances are all but demanding it.

And let's keep those Bais Midrash seats filled on Sunday afternoon.

It is time to change the "eisek" into an "eis laasos".

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ger V'Toshav - Which is Which?

I know that the conversion issue is beaten to death - but it always comes back to life. The Jerusalem Post seems to find the opinions of three non-religious tzeklopta hoshaanas (has beens) as newsworthy. I am reprinting last Thursday's JPost item and interspersing the thoughts that came to my mind. I wonder what anybody who read that item thinks about the mental acuity of these three "officials" and of the Jerusalem Post in general:

Conversion must be taken out of haredi hands, officials say

Comment: This is the title of the piece. Frankly, I had no inkling that conversion was in haredi hands. For more, click here.

The three Israeli officials most involved in relations with the Diaspora called on Wednesday to remove the country's conversion process from the "hands of the haredim."

Cabinet Secretary Ovad Yehezkel,

Comment: Remember him? Check this out (here).

Diaspora Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog

Comment: He's from Labor if you didn't know.

and Jewish Agency chairman Ze'ev Bielski, all outgoing

Comment: And we will sorely miss them.

as the country goes to elections and Bielski takes a leave of absence to compete in the Kadima primary, said the conversion process was too inflexible and harmed aliya and society.

Comment: How so?

The final legal authority on conversion is Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, a follower of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Speaking at a Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting in Jerusalem, Yehezkel said the current conversion process was "stuck" because of the demands of haredi political parties that converts "adopt a haredi, not merely observant, lifestyle after their conversions."

Comment: What is the difference? Did you notice any Conversion Authority stipulations for converts as to which hechsherim to eat or if they can rely on Hetter Mechira? Did any body (even Dayan Sherman) make an issue over what kind of kippa the convert wears or even if the woman covers her hair?
Neither did I.

Moreover, didn't Yehezkel say in March that the problem was requiring a convert to keep any observance at all? Did he get so much "frummer" over eight months?

The failure of the Conversion Authority to deal with some 300,000 non-Jewish olim who came to Israel as family members of Jewish olim "is not an administrative problem," Yehezkel told The Jerusalem Post. "It is a political problem. If the haredim don't begin to show flexibility, the moderate Orthodox establishment in Israel will begin to independently convert many thousands of Jews.

Comment: Where have you been? Haven't they been doing it since 1993?

In the end, the State of Israel will be forced to recognize these conversions regardless of the desires of the Chief Rabbinate or the official Conversion Authority."

Comment: This is unclear. The Law of return already is not based on Halachic standards. One does not need to be Halachically Jewish to be a citizen. The only ramification of conversion is for marriage. The state may decide to secularize marriage but they will be converted to State of Israel Jews which will be a separate class.

By the way, why is it called the "Conversion Authority" if it has no authority?

Bielski warned at the meeting that "the [overly] stringent conversion process could delay the decision of potential olim to come to Israel."

Comment: Hasn't yet. Also, if they aren't Jewish, why do we want them? (I know the answer, to give the waning Left more voter power).

Only a government coalition without haredim could enact the necessary reform to the conversion process, Herzog said.

Comment: Thank goodness he's outgoing.
To sum up, what these three stooges are trying to do is to legislate conversions and force the Rabbinate to accept non-Halachic conversions. This is as effective as legislating that a pig chews it's cud. It won't happen no matter who is in the coalition.
If you want to eat chazer, go eat chazer. If you force the Rabbinate to put a hechsher on chazer, nothing will change. Those who don't eat chazer won't eat it with a hechsher and those who will eat it, don't need a hechsher.

A conversion court judge who preferred to remain anonymous responded to the criticism by noting that the vast majority of his peers were religious-Zionist, not haredi.
"But I guess that from their [the officials'] point of view anyone who is Orthodox is automatically haredi," he said.

Comment: Couldn't agree more. and the upshot of what he is saying is that doing away with "hareidi" standards is just a more PC way of saying doing away with "Orthodox" standards.

"It just goes to show that they do not appreciate the differences of approach between religious-Zionist rabbis and haredim."

He did, however, question "why Rabbi Amar appointed 10 new conversion judges, most of whom are haredim.

Comment: Doesn't this mean that some of them aren't? And if the vast majority are religious Zionist what is he worried about?

The chief rabbi has to decide whether he has a lenient or a stringent approach to conversions."

Comment: I think he has.

Also on Wednesday, Kadima's candidate for prime minister Tzipi Livni told the thousands of Americans and Canadians in Jerusalem for the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities that rabbis should not determine the Jewish nature of the state.
"A Jewish state is not a monopoly of rabbis," she said.

Comment: Maybe so, but I would imagine that a Jewish state should be a monopoly of Jews. I am not sure it is even that.

"It's what each and everyone feels inside."

Comment: In other words, it's each man for himself with no unifying criteria. This certainly sums up Kadima in a nutshell. I heard people cheered at this statement. I am not sure if they knew exactly what they were cheering.

"It's not about learning Hebrew or about joining the army, it's about Jewish tradition, Jewish history," Livni said.

Comment: Now she's talking like a chareidi...

"We need to keep the nature, the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state because this is - excuse me for using the French - the raison d'être of the State of Israel."

Comment: And she hopes to accomplish this by showing Shas who's boss and shunning the haredim and importing as many goyim as possible and calling them Jewish so she can redefine "Jewish tradition" and "Jewish history" as "learning Hebrew" and "joining the army".
In any case, she is clearly talking out of both sides of her mouth which is - excuse me for using the French - quite gauche.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shidduchim Part II - Lost and Found

The Wisdom of Rav Nachum, ZT"L

I was a student at Mir in Jerusalem for only one year. This was 5741 (1981) and it was the last year that Rav Nochum Pertzovitz, ZT"L, had the strength to deliver shiurim. Although I was able to attend Rav Nochum's shiur, his shiurim were lacking in depth due to the severity of his failing health. I came to the yeshiva too late to benefit from the true Rav Nachum. Perhaps, this is called "seeing him from from his back" (Eruvin 17a).

As was the trend in the Litvisha yeshivas, the Yeshiva maintained a fixed cycle of masechtos - what are know as the "yeshivisha masechtos" - to be studied. Many of the insights that Rav Nachum would commonly expound as the various masechtos in the cycle were repeated became legendary.

Thus, it is told over by his students that each time the Yeshiva studied Masechet Kiddushin, as the shiur reached the end of the first daf and they would study the following passage (Kiddushin 2b) :

We learn in a baraitha that Rabbi Shimon says:
Why does the pasuk say "When a man takes a woman" and the pasuk does not word it, "When a woman takes herself to a man"?
This is because it is the nature of the man to pursue after the woman and it is not the nature of the woman to pursue after the man. This can be likened to a man who lost an aveida (a lost object). Who goes looking for who? The baal aveida goes looking for his aveida (The owner goes looking for what he lost).

Rav Nachum would always remark on this passage:

So we see that the entire ordeal of finding a wife is just like someone looking for something that is already his but was lost - an aveida. Naturally, the owner will recognize his lost property the moment he sees it, so there should be no problem for a man to find his "aveida", his lost object.

So why is it that we see many young men who do not have such an easy time?

It is because they are seeking a metziah (a find) and not an aveida!

Parshat Chayei Sara: Part I - Shidduchim Then and Now

Parshat Chayei Sara is upon us. This parsha is traditionally acclaimed as the Torah's Guide to Matrimonial Protocol. We are expected to learn from Avrohom Avinu the ideal procedure for marrying off our sons. (In two more weeks, we will learn from Lavan HaArami the ideal procedure for marrying off our daughters).

Thus, we learn from this parsha that the ideal method of dating is that the boy should never leave the yeshiva. He should continue learning and merely send a servant with 10 camels and loads of gifts and jewelry to Boro Park or wherever the girl lives and cajole her to drop everything and come and move into the boy's mother's tent. We also learn that he should seek a beautiful virgin, the younger the better - as young as 3 years old - even if he is pushing 40. We also learn that the quaint trick of poisoning the servant and keeping the camels, jewelry, and gifts does not always work – though it may be worth a try.

Alas, circumstances have changed ever so slightly in just a mere 3,700 years whereas it may not be so easy to emulate the ways of our forefathers. For one thing, Camels now come in packs of 20, not 10, and most women prefer Newport Lights. Secondly, there are contemporary legal restrictions against pursuing 3 year old virgins. In fact, our rabbanim have been advising us to pursue older virgins as more and more of them are pushing 40. Thirdly, I have a premonition that one of the many great "changes" that we can expect from the upcoming Obama administration is that it may become a bit harder to obtain reliable Kanaani servants. And, finally, one ramification of the worsening economic situation is that we may have to cut back drastically on camels, jewelry and gifts. Let's face it, not all of us were "blessed with everything." Most of us don't even have enough to load up one pygmy llama – forget about 10 camels.

So now we do things differently – the particulars of which I plan to elaborate on in a forthcoming post.

Because of these slight changes, many claim that we have lost our sense of direction when it comes to pursuing shidduchim. And we are finding ourselves in the midst of a shidduch crisis. Or, at least, that is what everybody is calling it. And we are looking for ways to "fix" the system. Currently, we are getting all kinds of advice from every Jon, Shmilik, and Harry.

But is it really broken?

Jonathan Rosenblum doesn't think so. And neither do I.

To explain this, let me state that there is something deceptive about this debate and this is that the parties are oft-times comparing apples to oranges. This is because there are 2 distinct problems. There is (1) the singles problem that plagues the Westernized non-chareidi world and there is (2) the demographics problem that is plaguing the chareidi world.

The crux of the chareidi "problem" is that marriageable girls far outnumber the boys. As the Beach Boys (and Philly boys and Passaic boys and Fallsburg boys and Chaim Berlin boys and Telzer boys, etc.) so aptly put it:
And we're goin' to Surf City, 'cause it's two to one
You know we're goin' to Surf City, gonna have some fun
You know we're goin' to Surf City, 'cause it's two to one
You know we're goin' to Surf City, gonna have some fun, now

Two girls for every boy

Or, close to it.

This creates what every businessman knows is a "buyer's market". And a buyer's market can be cruel.

Accordingly, there is no problem with the "system" - it works fine. Boys are finding wives without much difficulty. And in the yeshiva world, most people who get married…stay married. All this talk about asking about dress sizes and tablecloth colors are meaningless but automatic symptoms of the buyer's market. People ask these questions because they can afford to. In the old days of pre-war Europe there were more Yeshiva boys than there were girls prepared to marry them. It was a seller's market. So, in a seller's market, no buyer can afford to be fussy about dress sizes and tablecloth colors. That is why so many Yeshiva men went so far as to marry women who were not amenable to covering their hair.

So, don't worry about the symptoms. If we can cure the disease (the buyer's market) the symptoms will disappear.

Unforunately, this is one aggressive disease. If anybody has read my baby-boom posts about Maayanei Hayshua and Kaplan (don't think that Shaarei Tzedek or Maimonides and Long Branch are hurting for customers, either) then we know that we will not solve the "buyer's market" problem in the foreseeable future.

This problem is a different one than the long standing singles problem that has been plaguing the non-chareidi world. This is what Shmilik is talking about. There, nobody asks about tablecloth covers or dress sizes and still there's a crisis. In this world, people employ a more Westernized system for searching for mates. This is not the system of parshat Chayei Sara. It is more the system that the Rambam describes as "before mattan Torah" (Hilchos Ishus 1:1). Though many will swear by this system, more will swear at it.

Thus while R. Jon(athan Rosenblum) is talking about one crisis, Shmilik is talking about another. And Harry is trying to mix everything together.*

Now, my proposed solution for the non-chareidi shidduch crisis is the simple pre-packaged one that nobody wants to hear (especially Shmilik):

Sign on to the chareidi system.

I don’t mean just for shidduchim. I mean for every facet of life. In more palatable terms, I mean stick to the prescription of Vayikra 26:3 or get with the “One Above” scene. (Details in my handy dandy manual).

As for the chareidi demographic crisis, finding a solution is much more challenging. Up until about 3 years back I could claim I was doing my part by fathering 50% more boys than girls. I even tried to widen the margin but, somehow, the girls managed to pull even. I should have listened to Forrest Gump’s mother (You never know whatcher gonna get.).

There is no quick fix to the demographic problem. And that, in turn, is creating a “buyer’s market” that impairs the shidduch system. But, intrinsically, the fault – in chareidi circles - does not lie with the “system.” Marriages abound. The system works. But I think that maybe we can make it work better. And maybe we can relieve some of the symptoms of the dreadful demographic disease. This is because we have some tools now that we didn't have 3,700 years ago.

I plan to discuss it but it won’t be shorter than this post and this post is long enough.

Stay tuned for: The Eisek of Pirya V’Rivya

*No, I did not read Dr. Michael Salomon's book. Perhaps, if more people bought mine, I could afford to buy his.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

If Noach Lived in a Democracy

I received this in an email from my friend, Sruly. The email included pictures but I am just posting the text:


In the year 2008, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in the United States, and said:"Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see the end of all flesh before me."

"Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing along with a few good humans."

He gave Noah the blueprints, saying:"You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights."

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard - but no Ark.

"Noah!," He roared, "I'm about to start the rain!Where is the Ark?"

"Forgive me, Lord," begged Noah, "but things have changed."

"I needed a building permit."

"I've been arguing with the inspector about the need for a sprinkler system."

"My neighbors claim that I've violated the neighborhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard and exceeding the height limitations. We had to go to the Development Appeal Board for a decision."

"Then the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving powerlines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark's move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it."

"Getting the wood was another problem. There's a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl."

"I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls - but no go!"

"When I started gathering the animals, an animal rights group sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodations were too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space."

"Then the EPA ruled that I couldn't build the Ark until they'd conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood."

"I'm still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I'm supposed to hire for my building crew."

"Immigration and Naturalization are checking the green-card status of most of the people who want to work."

"The trades unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only Union workers with Ark-building experience."

"To make matters worse, the IRS seized all my assets, claiming I'm trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species."

"So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark."

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine,and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked,"You mean you're not going to destroy the world?"

"No," said the Lord."The GOVERNMENT beat me"

I think Noach must have been living in Postville, Iowa.

The Proud Govoha Indians

Long ago, before the Europeans reached the New World, in what is now central New Jersey, lived a great tribe of Indians. These were the Govoha Indians. The Govohas were a very proud tribe and considered themselves the highest tribe upon the continent.

Legend has it that the Govohas grew out of a very small tribe that was exiled from the White Plains. The Govohas were not a homogeneous nation. They would accept young braves from other tribes as long as these tribes were descendants of an ancient sect of Native Americans known as the Litwaukee Indians. Many came from the long beaches of Nassau, from Ramapo and the Spring Valley, the Phila delta where the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers meet, from the Scranton tribe on the banks of the Susquehanna, from Chesapeake Bay, from the Cuyahoga plains, and even some from the Great Lakes region and the Western territories in the Colorado Rockies.

Though they were a very friendly tribe, the Govohas kept to themselves. They would have nothing to do with the Irigoys whom they considered to be of another creed.

Even from among their creed they also had some rivals with which they were constantly at war. Among their opponents were the members of the loathed Mizrache tribes. Another opponent was the Lupapache Tribe that originated at the crowning Heights of the Eastern Darkway and, from there, spread to the West, East, North, and South. Their leader was the revered Chief Son of Two Lights who they referred to as Chief Oil on Head the Immortal Savior. He was renowned as a master of Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge. He would sit at large gatherings and hand out fire water and green tobacco leaves that would be valued today at around one dollar. His spirit is long departed but there remain many legends. Even after he had not been seen for many, many rains, some Lupapache elders claimed that his body and spirit still walk. This group would imbibe on peace pipes and fire water. Many Govohas shun them as they do the Irigoys.

Their most fiercest opponent were the M.O.hicans whose empire stretched from the lower Hudson Valley near Fort Washington and Fort Lee, all the way North to Plymouth Rock and Massachusetts Bay where the great warrior Chief Jay Bear of the Solapachik tribe once reigned. After Chief Jay Bear’s spirit departed, his brother, Arrow Horn, former chief of the Skokies, was summoned from the Blackhawk lands on the shores of Lake Michigan to lead the tribe. Though claiming to be a true M.O.hican, Chief Arrow Horn of the Solapachiks was noted to display tendencies that mirrored the Govohas such as prohibiting the November Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock because the grains of the new harvest cannot be eaten until the following spring and opposing the ancient Indian custom of surrounding the villages with totem poles joined by thin ropes to unite all the teepees as one. As such, Chief Arrow Horn was not accepted by all. Aside from Chief Arrow Horn, his tribe was inspired by his main follower to whom he gave his daughter's hand, Chief Shining Rock. However, Chief Shining Rock exiled himself across the great water. Thus, the tribe was left under the leadership of Chief Deer Slayer who had made peace with the Govohas. Still, since the death of Chief Jay Bear, the tribe has never been able to produce a warrior capable of filling his MOccasins and so he is known as "the last of the great M.O.hicans."

The Govohas were a relatively primitive people who shunned ideas and philosophies that were foreign to their ancient lifestyle. They would spend most of their time discussing the origins of their tribe and their ways. How to practice their rituals, how to settle disputes, and the Laws of the Squaws. Of major concern was how to deal with the crazy ideas and newfangled devices that many of the rival tribes were picking up from the abominable white man. Often these discussions would escalate into fiery debates and trigger one of their frequent pow-wows.

The Govohas were great hunters and traders. They fished in the lakes and hunted in the woods. One of their rituals was to dip all their arrows, hunting knives and tomahawks in Lake Carasaljo before initiating their use.

The most precious commodities were the scalps of their enemies and dark hats made of rabbit and beaver furs. The scalps would adorn the heads of their wives and many competed to obtain the fairest scalps. No price was too high. The Govohas would often travel up the trade routes to do business with the white men in New Amsterdam. Early attempts to establish trade routes met with failure, but they had great success on the 9th attempt - and so, for many generations, they traveled mainly on trade route number 9.

Of great interest is the family lives and mating rituals of the Govohas. There were actually two classes within the Govohas. One who had not yet taken a wife was a brave and one who had a wife was a worrier. The braves lived in large caves full of bats, foxes, raccoons, and other loathesome creatures. The worriers lived with their wives and children in individual teepees in colonies. Typically the openings of each teepee faced another teepee so everybody could know what's going on in everyone else's teepee. Some of the worriers were in a Golden state but most weren't.

The Govohas were generally a monogamous tribe. Only the great Chief Milky Eel* (please see note below) was allowed two wives (this, by a special counsel of 100 elders). In a bit of historical irony, his first wife was descended from the same Solapachik tribe as was Chief Jay Bear. Chief Milky Eel has called upon the great warrior, Chief G-d's-Gift-to-the-World who is known to have the wisdom Solomon to inspire the tribe.

The Govohas had some unique mating rituals. One was that they would store up snow and ice from the harsh winters. When a new brave was accepted into the tribe, he would be packed into the ice for a period of four months or until the first signs of spring in the full moon of the month of Shawatte. Only after this ritual was he allowed to unfreeze and search for a squaw. The motto was, "No squaw until after the thaw!" To thaw them out, they would need large doses of fire water. So they would head northward up the trade routes to the area near Fort Hamilton or the Great Spring Valley where there were plenty of maidens. Indian maidens from every corner of the continent would congregate there for it was a great privilege to be chosen as a squaw for one of the Govohas. They would choose a maiden and bring them to the Island of Manhattan. (The name Manhattan is derived from the word manahachtanienk which in the Munsee dialect of Lenape means: "place of general inebriation" - Wikipedia). There they would drink much fire water to thaw themselves out and to win over the heart and the gold of the maiden.

The Govohas also had a belief that a mouse is impure. And as such, anyone or anything that is attached to a mouse is impure. Even touching a live mouse would make the one who touches it impure. To rid themselves of these mice, they would try to trap them in nets. Of course this would immediately render the Net impure. When they did trap a mouse in the Net, they were required to inform a special band of witch doctors that "I have a mouse In the Net!" and the witch doctors would use special incantations and spells to rid the Worrier of his impurity. The Worrier would be required to detach himself from the mouse and the Net. If he was unable to do so, he would have to dwell outside of the village until he could be free of the Net. In extreme cases, his children would not be allowed to the village schools until he expunged the mouse and the Net.

Such were the ways of the Govohas. All this was before the White man came and drove the Indians out. The Govoha tribe is now extinct. But what a proud nation they were. There is a memorial to the Govohas between the Forest and Private Way close to where Squankum Trail meets the old trade Route number 9. Some of the white men still have the rabbit fur hats and adorn their wives with those prized scalps. And so, their legacy lives on.

* Obviously the term "Milky Eel" is a play on words that was too seemly to pass up when I wrote it.  Much later, it occurred to me that this can be understood as a vulgar double entendre. This is no way my intent and I am totally renouncing such a viewpoint. I am only trying to be "cute" with this post and I am in no way trying to be mevazeh anyone, chas v'shalom.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More on the Baby Boom - Was it That Cold Last January?

This item was on the Arutz-7 Web Site today:

Record Births at Kaplan

Cheshvan 13, 5769, 11 November 08 05:10

( Staff at Kaplan hospital in Rehovot said Monday that a record number of babies were delivered at the hospital in October — 544, 20 percent more than in October of the previous year. The hospital averages approximately 480 births a month.

Hospital staff attempted to explain the new record and suggested it was linked to the unusually low temperatures recorded in January. However, other hospitals in the area reported only standard increases in the number of births, making the theory unlikely.

© Copyright

20% in one year!

Kaplan serves Rechovot, Lod, Ramle, Nes Tziona and the general vicinity. There are Jews and Arabs, Chilonim, Datim and Chareidim.

Who are having all these babies?

I can't answer this question - I don't know any midwives at Kaplan. But I can venture a guess.

I think that those journalists who report a reduction in birthrates since the cutbacks in child allowances have been polling old age homes and not hospitals.

Incidentally, there have been plenty of colder Januarys than last year's. Take my word for it. Perhaps it has more to do with resolving last year's "mikvah attendant" salary crisis.

Once again, I sure wish I was in the pre-fab caravan business.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Who Did the Land of Israel First Belong to After the Flood?

והכנעני אז בארץ

Rashi (Breishis 12:6) explains this pasuk to mean that:

The Kanaanim were progressively conquering Eretz Israel from the descendents of Shem, for the land fell within the portion of Shem when Noach apportioned the land…thereupon "And He said to Avram, 'To your offspring I will give this land…' ", i.e., I am destined to restore it to your offspring as they are the descendants of Shem.

I consider this Rashi as one of the most troublesome in all of Chumash, and I am not alone. For one thing, as Ramban points out, the Chumash clearly demarcates the borders of Kanaan in Parshat Noach (Breishis 10:19) which intimates that these are legitimate borders of the sons of Kanaan approved by Noach.

Secondly, Rashi seems to contradict himself profusely as follows:

Rashi in the first pasuk in Breishis (1:1) writes that the purpose of detailing the Creation as a preamble to the Torah was so that…

…if the nations of the world will say to Israel, "You are thieves, for you conquered the lands of the seven nations!", we will respond that "The entire earth belongs to HKBH. He created it and gave it to whom he saw fit. By his will, He gave it to them and by his will He took it from them and gave it to us."

This passage seems to imply that Rashi recognizes that the land was originally in the possession of the Kanaanim no less legitimately than it was later in our possession.

Further, in Bamidbar (13:22) Rashi confirms this sentiment by quoting the gemara in Sota (34b also Kesubos 112b) which says that it does not make sense to say that Chevron was built before Tzoahn of Egypt because "Does a man (Cham ben Noach) build a town for his younger son (Kanaan) before he builds one for his older son (Mitzraim)?" This clearly implies that Cham was the original master over the land of Kanaan and it was his right to build there.

Numerous commentators make note of this contradiction and at the forefront is Rabbenu Eliyahu Mizrachi (RE"M) who makes a note of it in all three spots (Breishis 1:1 and 12:6 and Bamidbar 13:22). And he repeats the same mantra throughout: These are contradictory aggadoth and Rashi acknowledges both. In Breishis 1:1 he points out that Rashi is prone to doing this in multiple instances in Chumash.

Two things bother me. First, the minor one and that is that to say "aggados chalukos" is always a last resort solution (kind of like אין מוקדם ומאוחר בתורה ) that we prefer to avoid. But, secondly, and more acute, I can accept the idea of contradictory aggadoth if there actually are two contradictory aggadoth – similar to the Talmud Bavli vs. Midrash Tanchuma issue I discussed previously about Ruth. However, in this case we know that Rashi's commentary on Bamidbar 13:22 is a gemara stated in 2 places. But what he says in Bresihis 12:6 (our pasuk) that Noach granted the land to Shem – where does he get that from?

It's not a Bavli, Yerushalmi, Midrash Rabba, Tanchuma, Yalkut or anything. How can we say aggados chalukos if it's not an aggada?? (Note - there are places that Rishonim quote Midrashim that are not found in the classic sources – see the famous Tosafot in Bava Basra 119b about the wood-gatherer that likewise has no known source.)

The best we have is a Toras Kohanim in Vayikra (Parsha 10:17) referenced in Ohr HaChaim (Breishis 12:6) that merely says:

והיא אינה אלא חלקו של שם ואתה בניו של שם.

That the land is the portion of Shem. It does not clearly state that Shem received the land when Noach apportioned it. Perhaps Toras Kohanim only means that it was destined for Shem but that Noach actually awarded it to Cham? And even if it was awarded to Shem from Noach, there is no mention about how or why it came to the hands of Kanaan. If this is Rashi's only source, it is only telling half the story. How does Rashi know the other half?

To summarize, the Talmud Bavli, Rashi in Breishis 1:1, and the Chumash in Breishis 10:9 all seem to indicate that Cham was the original legitimate sovereign of Eretz Israel. Yet, Rashi here (12:6) insists that Shem initially inhabited it and Cham stole it from him!

Who was here first?

Let us look at another troublesome pasuk.

The Chumash (Breishis 14:1) tells us, “And it was in the days of Amaraphel the king of Shinar, Aryoch king of Elasar, Kedarlaomer king of Eilam…”

Rashi tells us that Amaraphel was in actuality Nimrod. And we sure know who he was! He was the biggest, meanest king on the face of the Earth. Nobody messed around with Nimrod. He was Numero Uno. This is presumably why he is here at the head of the pack.

But wait! This is the last time Nimrod gets first billing. And he is only mentioned in this story one more time – batting third! What happened to him?

Only 3 pasukim later (Breishis 14:4) the pasuk says: “For 12 years they served Kedarlaomer…”

Kedarlaomer? Where did he come from? Oh yeah - Eilam! Where’s that?

Why were they serving Kedarlaomer? Wasn’t everybody subservient to the great and despotic Nimrod?

And in the next pasuk (Breishis 14:5), here he is again. He seems to be at the head of the pack.

Why him?

Rashi tells us: Because he was the “baal maaseh” (instigator) he entered into the thick of the frey.

Excuse me, but why was he the “baal maaseh”? Wasn’t he batting third at the beginning of this story?

With the help of Sefer HaYashar (a book of Midrashim of dubious authenticity) and the Oznayim L’Torah (Breishis 14:2 s.v. Asu Milchama) we can put a new spin on this story and perhaps an answer to the contradiction in Rashi.

You see, Nimrod was a tough mean guy. Probably the toughest and meanest there was. And he was a fierce king. He did not need to answer to anybody – except for one person: Kedarlaomer.

Yep, as great as Nimrod was, Kedarlaomer was greater. This is because Shem was the elite of Noach’s sons. He got first pick (even though Yefes was the bechor, Shem was born circumcised – Rashi, Breishis 5:32). And Eilam was Shem’s first born. He got first pick at everything. And Kedarlaomer was the favorite son of Eilam, the king. And a great king he was. Even Nimrod shuddered from him. This is because Noach made the sons of Cham servants to Shem (see Sanhedrin 91a).

When Noach apportioned the new world to his sons, he awarded the prime real estate – Eretz Israel – to his prized son, Shem. Shem in turn granted it to his first born, Eilam. However, Eilam did not want to take possession of Eretz Israel for himself. I can only venture a guess as to why – but I will suggest that the klal of ארץ ישראל נקנה ביסורים applied even from day one. So he chose to set up his kingdom in southern Iran instead (Shushan HaBira was in Eilam). But, so as to maintain sovereignty on this precious land, he had a great plan: He will “allow” his underlings, the slave nation of Kanaan, to settle the land; BUT – they must pay him an annual tribute. Among other reasons, this is so nobody should forget that the land is really his.

Of course, he didn’t want the dirty work of collecting taxes from these deadbeats – so he gave the job to his Numero Duo – his chief “enforcer” the invincible king of the sons of Cham – Nimrod. It was Nimrod’s responsibility to see to it that the Kanaanites pay their taxes to Kedarlaomer. Nimrod dealt directly with the populace, took his cut, and funneled the rest up to the boss.

For 12 years this arrangement worked just dandy. The people paid their taxes; to who? – to Kedarlaomer. Just they did it via Nimrod. Finally, for the next 13 years they staged a tax rebellion. Nimrod wasn’t happy but Kedarlaomer seemed not to notice so things dragged along. Finally, after 13 years, Kedarlaomer told Nimrod that enough is enough and that Nimrod had better talk some sense into these savages. Thus, initially Nimrod led the crusade into the Holy Land and Kedarlaomer just came along for the ride. As such Nimrod and his deputy Aryoch went first and Kedarlaomer and his pal Thidal came after. But in reality, it wasn’t Nimrod’s battle. It was Kedarlaomer’s. He was the real feudal lord of Eretz Israel, it was his land, not Nimrod’s. That is why he was the “baal maaseh”.

When the battle heated up (imagine the temperature in Sodom), Nimrod wasn’t getting the job done. I would surmise that Nimrod had mixed alliances as he was truly a Chammite and Kedarlaomer was a Semite. Nimrod didn’t want to wipe out fellow Chammites and in truth he was an anti-Semite. So, Kedarlaomer, who knew it was his fight, had to take charge. That is why in pasuk 14:9 his position is moved up ahead of Nimrod’s (as Rashi says) and again he is the only king named in pasuk 14:17.

Now, if we take all this as the real story (up to you) we can resolve the apparent contradictions in Rashi. Firstly, we will have to presume the following:

  • Noach did not apportion the new world the day after they stepped out of the Ark. He first waited for his sons to produce a few generations of people to do some populating. When he finally did it, people such as Eilam and Kush and Nimrod and Kedarlaomer were already up and around.
  • Immediately upon the apportionment of the new world, Shem received Eretz Israel, and he immediately granted it to Eilam who was ruled by Kedarlaomer, and he immediately sold Nimrod and the Kanaanim building rights in Eretz Israel. This was at the same time as Egypt was awarded to Mitzrayim son of Cham. As such, Cham had the initial building rights to both Kanaan (Eretz Israel) and Mitzrayim even though technically Eretz Israel never belonged to him. It was only his on loan.

With this approach, we can say that our Rashi (Breishis 12:6) understands that Noach actually awarded Eretz Israel to Shem but Shem immediately “sold” to Cham (Kanaan) the rights to “conquer” it. When Rashi says they “were progressively conquering it from the sons of Shem”, he didn’t mean they occupied it by force, but rather with permission granted to them from the sons of Shem (Oznayim L’Torah 14:2).

Now, it is no longer difficult that the Torah (10:19) acknowledges to Kanaan defined borders. These were the borders that were allocated to them in their contract with the sons of Shem.

Likewise, we can answer the Rashi in Breishis 1:1 that even though the land was the true inheritance of Shem, since the Kanaanim were the first to settle it, and it was done without force, it appears as if it was originally their land. We could truly answer the nations that the land always belonged to us (also, we can answer in the manner of the Talmud in Sanhedrin 91a) but since it will not satisfy those who only know what they see, we need an alternative response that the whole world belongs to its Creator.

And finally, the gemara in Sota and Kesubos (Rashi in Bamidbar 13:22) is justified in asking why Cham built Chevron for Kanaan before Tzoahn for Mitzrayim and it did not give the obvious answer that Chevron was built by Shem. This is because even though the land belonged to Shem, Cham was “sold” the license to build there.

Thus, in spite of what seems to be a major concession in Breishis 1:1, Breishis 10:19, and Bamidbar 13:22 – if we stick with the Rashi that we see here in Breishis 12:6 we can proudly assert that the land always was, is and will remain the property of the sons of Shem.

Now, wasn’t Yishmael’s mother Egyptian?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Response to Readers: Drawing Water from the Same Well

Just recently, an Anonymous commenter posted this comment on my original post about the autistics:

Um, I'm kinda confused. The message of these kids seems to differ from the message of your book. I don't remember the exact pages (I read the book right when it came out) but I remember you saying that being Chareidi is not related to your kippa or whether or not you wear t'cheiles. It means accepting the values listed on page 217. Now suddenly, you are promoting (and saying this was the intent of the book all along) the definiton of chareidi alluded to when you say "there's chareidi and there's chareidi" or the definition used by your bekeshe laden friend on page 218. The guys at mekaz ha'rav are chareidi according to your definition but not according to the definition of the second definition.I'm confused.

I will certainly do my best to clear up the confusion. I will try to make this as simple as I can:

The message of my book is that all Jews are obligated to live up to Vayikra 26:3 which, according to Rashi and Toras Kohanim means "keeping the mitzvos and toiling in Torah study." If we do so, things will be pretty good and we will merit the blessings of the following 10 pasukim. If we do not, we are in for a very rough ride (such as the following 33 pasukim).

The message of the autistics is that all Jews are obligated to live up to Vayikra 26:3 which, according to Rashi and Toras Kohanim means "keeping the mitzvos and toiling in Torah study." If we do so, things will be pretty good and we will merit the blessings of the following 10 pasukim. If we do not, we are in for a very rough ride (such as the following 33 pasukim).

Don't you love Copy /Paste?

Are we together on this to this point?

Now, I chose to call anybody who lives up to Vayikra 26:3 chareidi because I believe that this is what Yeshaya HaNavi had in mind.

As such, anyone who does so is chareidi no matter which Yeshiva he learns in.

Neither I nor the autistics are interested in what type of kippa one wears or whether they wear t'cheles (the page that you refer to is 67).

As much as I focus on Vayikra 26:3 there is another focus on Vayikra 19:2 which I mention briefly on page 95 but do not go into detail. Still it is every bit a part of the 1A7B credo. This is the part about Kedoshim Tihiyu which Rashi explains as "havu perushim min haarayos..." and the Ramban explains as not being a "naval b'rshus haTorah". I consider Kedoshim Tihiyu as an intrinsic part of Im Bechukosai Telechu so the same ultimatum (we keep it - good; we flout it- bad news...) applies.

The autistics seem to take an extremely hard-lined view of Kedoshim Tihiyu. Still, it is a reflection of the attitudes of chazal. Since I am trying to be as inclusive as I can with my definition, I am not actively promoting such a hard-line view. I am having enough trouble selling ameilus b'Torah so I leave it to them to push the strict Kedoshim Tihiyu. The autistics are not trying to be overly inclusive in their "One Above" list so they can get away with it.

Bottom line is: We are drawing our water from the same well.

I hope I have cleared up some of the confusion but, truth be told, I am a bit confused myself. I am not sure in what way I was "suddenly" promoting another definiton. Perhaps you can clear that up for me.

In any case, if you need more clarification - you know where to find me.



Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Reference in the Torah to Jewish Blogging

I have noticed and noted that the Jewish blogosphere is the lawless "Wild West" of cyberspace where the rule is "e unim pluribus" - from one come many!

Some of my earlier posts have revealed my affinity to finding relevant concepts encrypted in the Torah following the precedents of the Baal HaTurim and other sefarim that I have referenced. That said, I was wondering if there is a remez where the Torah alludes to the ruthlessness and lawlessness of the Jewish blogging experience.

Well - here goes (this is my own Purim Torah - there is no one else to blame):

There are no occurrences whatsoever of the word ישראל (as I just spelled it) in a consecutive rashei teivos or sofei teivos sequence in all of Tanach!

Nevertheless, there are about 5 occurrences in the Torah of the word ישראל in rashei teivos but not in proper order. The very first of these occurrences comes from last week's parsha (Breishis 11:7):

הבה נרדה ונבלה שם שפתם אשר לא ישמעו איש שפת רעהו

Let us go down and disorganize there their languages so that each one will not hear (alt.: listen to, comprehend, accept) the language of his comrade.

And the rashei teivos of these five words spell out the word ישראל all scrambled up.

I have never seen a better description of the Jewish blogosphere (and perhaps, Jewish dialog in any medium) than this!

E unim pluribus!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Redistribution of Wealth - Does it Make the Grade?

More political wisdom from my brother-in-law:

----- Original Message -----

Subject: Fwd: Food for Thought before November 4th

Father-Daughter Talk

A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat, and was very much in favor of 'the redistribution of wealth concept touted by the Obama campaign. She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch Republican, a feeling she openly expressed. She felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the addition of more government welfare programs. He responded by asking how she was doing in school. Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew.

Her father listened and then asked, 'How is your friend Audrey doing?' She replied, 'Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies, and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over.'

Her wise father asked his daughter, 'Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct a 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0. That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA.'

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, 'That wouldn't be fair! I have worked really hard for my grades! I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!'

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, 'Welcome to the Republican Party!"