Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chanukah Sameach

I think I may start a trend of checking in to say hello every Yom Tov.

So, until Purim (perhaps) ...

For the nostalgiac readers I offer my Golden Oldies Chanukah posts:

Fumbling the Ball in the Red Zone

Yefes in the Tents of Shame


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shanna Tova

To all my loyal readers - and if you are reading this, then you a definitely a very loyal reader - I just want to say that despite my inattention to my blog, I am still around and am still devoted to One Above and Seven Below and to all the Jews in either category!

I just want to wish everybody a Kesiva V'Chasima tova - a year of health, parnassah, and peace and a geulah shleima.

One thought for Rosh HaShanna: Many people have the custom not to do any sins on Rosh HaShanna because the Hebrew word for "sin" - חטא - has the same gematria as the word חטא which means "sin"! (Amazing but true!) וסימנא מילתא היא.

שנה טובה ומתוקה

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Weighing Judgment Kilo for Kilo

I will divulge a secret as to part of the reason that I haven't written many blog posts over the past months.

Though I have stated that I am busier than I had been previously, I had never given out any specifics (except that work picked up). What is a bit more significant is that I have found myself entangled in a very messy Din Torah (nothing to do with my book and thank G-d it's not shalom bayis). And I 've been having the time of my life. Now, instead of writing blog posts in my "spare" time, I am writing letters to dayanim and beligerent lawyers.

Now, there's an old Dale Carnegie rule: when you get stuck with a lemon, make a lemonade. This means that even when you get a bum deal, there is usually some feature you can still cash in on.

In the FAQs section of my book (page 10), I tell the reader that I intend to write a second volume to deal with specific aspects of the Jewish/Chareidi world and one of the items on the agenda was a discussion of Beis Din and Agunah issues. Now we all know that I am far behind schedule in my second book but, to make a lemonade out of a lemon, my recent experiences have taught me more than I thought I would ever know. In fact, they have taught me more than I ever wanted to know. And they have certainly proven to me first hand something I wrote in a previous post: writing about Beis Din cannot be done in a single chapter. It requires a complete book. And what I have learned from my experiences give me more than enough material.

So perhaps there will be a complete book about the workings and failings of a rabbinic Beis Din - even before there is a book 2.

And what inspired me to write about this subject in the midst of the Pesach cleaning I should be doing? It is a story that was just now emailed to me from a dear friend. A story that involves a Din Torah and making a lemonade out of a lemon. And here is the story:

In a quiet shtettle in Poland the town milkman is suddenly approached by the gabbai of the local dayan. He is summoned to a Din Torah the upcoming Tuesday.

A Din Torah? The milkman knows that he has always been a very straightforward and honest person and has absolutely no desire to benefit from ill-gotten gains. Who could possibly want to call him for a Din Torah?

Well, the town baker was one of his customers and would purchase butter and cheese for his dairy paistries. He had an accurate scale in his facility and when he brought back his butter and cheese order, he would doublecheck the chunks that were supposed to weigh a kilo.

They never weighed a full kilo. Someimes 900 grams sometimes 950. He even had an occasion where the chunk only weighed 800 grams but never did it weigh a full kilo.

The baker was incensed. He approached the village dayan and told him that not only was the milkman cheating him but he was very likely cheating everybody in the town. We must put an end to this. This scoundrel must be brought to justice!

And so, the baker filed a claim in the Beis Din and the milkman  was summoned to appear. And appear he did. Albeit a bit nervous and confused.

"Do you have a reliable scale in your workshop?" he was asked by the dayan.

"No, I do not."

"Then how do you ascertain that the chunks of butter that you deliver to the baker weigh a full kilo?"

"Oh, that's simple. I don't have a scale but I do have a simple balance. When the baker comes, he brings me my bread order. So I take a full loaf of fresh bread which he tells me weighs a kilo - (and he has a reliable scale) - and I put it on one side of the balance and I weigh out the butter on the other side. I always make sure that my butter slightly outweighs the bread."

The dayan took one quick glance at the baker and immediately dismissed the case as the baker's face turned as white as the butter.

So remember:

כל הפוסל במומו פוסל

and what's more:

אל תדין את חברך עד שתגיע למקומו ...שאולי באמת כבר הגעת למקומו

Monday, March 7, 2011

Common Sense of a High Order- a book review

Nonsense of a High Order by Rabbi Moshe Averick

Emunah - Belief in G-d.

It is everything.

I wrote as much in one of the (9) most fundamental chapters in my book. The one that is entitled Getting to the Heart of the Matter. For it truly is the heart of the matter.

To briefly summarize, I expounded on the Maharsha's explanation on a fundamental chazal at the end of Gemara Makkos. This chazal is the primary Talmudic source that our Mosaic traditon is composed of 613 mitzvot. But the gemara does something strange.

After informing us that the proper quantity of mitzvot is 613, the gemara adds on that King David came along and reduced the number to eleven. Then came his great grandson Yishaya and reduced the number to six. Comes the prophet Michah and further reduces it to three. Back comes Yeshaya to reduce it to two, and finally comes the prophet Habakuk and he reduces it to just one - וצדיק באמונתו יחיה .

Just one.


The Maharsha explains that all the 613 mitzvot are divided into 2 categories: 248 positive ones and 365 negative ones. At the head of the 248 positive ones is the King commandment: Anochi Hashem Elokecha. At the head of the 365 negative ones is the Queen commandment: Lo yihiyeh lecha elohim acherim. All of the mitzvot are "servants" of the King and Queen so, in effect, there are only 2 mitzvos: Anochi Hashem and Lo Yihiyeh Lecha.

But these two mitzvot themselves are really only conveying one two-sided idea: Anochi = believe in Me and Lo Yihiyeh Lecha = do not believe in any power but Me. Or, in other words - have complete unequivocal EMUNAH in HKBH.

And this is what the prophet Habakuk said: וצדיק באמונתו יחיה .

This is Kol HaTorah Kula (which I can type while standing on one foot)!

So our entire challenge in life is our Emunah. And it is no small sack of potatoes. In our exothermic world of void and chaos which is rapidly expanding into more void and chaos, our biggest challenges are our tests of Emunah. And it challenges all of us.

My forays on the Internet hashkafa sites and blogs have revealed a frighteningly exhorbitant picture of how extensive this issue is. How many people among us who are steadfast and solid on the outside are brittle and crumbling on the inside. It's scary, it's devastating and it's contagious. None of us are immune. For "these are times that try mens' souls".

The Rambam enumerated for us 13 principles of Emunah. And for most of us religious minded folk, the bigger challenges come in the later innings. Are we really sold on the words of the prophets? Do we truly believe in Hashgacha Pratis and Heavenly reward and punishment? Do we anticipate Moshiach and Techiyas Meisim?

Understandable. But there are those who falter right at the starting gate with principle numero uno - does G-d really exist?

Comes Rabbi Moshe Averick to the rescue by giving us a baseline for Emunah in HKBH without a word of mussar. Without an interminable barrage of Talmudic epithets and poetic passages from Kohelles, Mishlei and Iyov. No Maharsha in gemara Makkos. Not a hint of Moreh Nevuchim, Kuzari or Chovos HaLevavos. No deep esoteric essays from Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler or Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin or the Baal Hatanya. Not even the "wonders of creation" antics of Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak and Zamir Cohen.

Rabbi Averick uses one weapon and one weapon only. A weapon that is surely not in the arsenals of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Moammer Kaddafi, Barack Obama and, I daresay, the IDF.

Common sense.

Along with a sense of humor (no extra charge).

R' Moshe has written a monumental book that infiltrates the strongholds of skepticism and atheism and lays waste to its moorings using the very weapon they lack.

Cold unmitigated logic.

He calls it: Nonsense of a High Order

R' Moshe reviews the writings of such notable renowned godless thinkers such as Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Steven Weinberg, Will Provine, Sam Harris, Leslie Orgel, Carl Sagan, Francis Crick, Paul Davies, Robert Hazen, Christian DeDuve, Stuart Kaufman, Frank Sonleitner (and others that nobody has thought of yet) and exposes them for what they are - Nonsense of a High Order.

Rabbi Averick points out that this kind of convoluted delusional thinking could not possibly have come about among earlier life forms but rather has slowly developed over millions and billions of years until it reached the sophistication it now enjoys.

True to his Jewish heritage, R' Moshe does convey a bit of cynicism and sarcasm but not without wit. In that sense I feel he is a soulmate. (If not for a few years, he might have been a classmate. Let's just say we grew up drinking the same water.)

I am quite impressed by this book and a bit envious that I did not (and most likely could not) write it myself. His book is barely out a few weeks and I can see that it is an immediate success. It's already been attacked.

Don't be fooled that this book was written for the gentile masses. It was written for us. This book should sit on every Jewish bookshelf and nightstand - right next to mine but with none of the dust.

I recommend this book to Jew and non-Jew alike. But a word of caution. Since his book is mainly a comparison between nonsense and common sense, it is only beneficial to those who can tell the difference. And in our endothermic world of reality, this is a rapidly shrinking population.

Oh, and while you're in the bookstore you may want to check out another book about the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the origin of species (or is it the origin of spouses?) - In Laws: It's All Relative by Leah Shifrin Averick (with Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski). That's his Mom.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Related posts:

Doubting Thomases...and Yosselas

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Yeshiva University Seforim Sale

For all those Manhattanites who yearn to read One Above and Seven Below (and don't know how to use Amazon), I am happy to announce that the book is being featured in this year's YU Seforim Sale which is currently running from Feb 6-27 at 2495 Amsterdam Ave.

Of course the book is still available at Tiferes Stam on Coney Island Ave. in Brooklyn and also at Yeshiva Shaar HaTorah in Kew Gardens, Queens. I also have a distribution point in Lakewood (currently out of books but more on the way). Please email me at 1a7b.author@gmail.com if you would like to purchase the book in Lakewood.

משנכנס אדר מרבים בשמחה

Saturday, January 22, 2011

It's About Time!

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't had much to say over the past two months. At least one person did (is that the grand total???). On January 14 he posted a comment to my last post (from Nov 18) as follows:

2 months dude?????

And my response was (for those who are too lazy to go and look themselves):

Well, not for another 4 days.

Still, it is gratifying that there is at least one anonymous person out there who misses my blog. You are so far the first and only person to speak up.

In any case, I currently have been unable to devote much attention to my blog for various reasons. One of which is that since there is no money in it, it takes a back seat to ventures that do. I do hope to revitalize it at some point.

But I did appreciate your comment.

Of course it would be nice if my blog posts were to be profitable (does anybody want my Paypal address??) but it is quite obviously not the main issue. More accurately, when people would hear me explain my 1A7B project, or more recently, if they would look at my posts, I would typically hear (whispered behind my back) the same response:

That fellow's got way too much time on his hands!!

Well, I am happy to report that this is no longer the case. My schedule has gotten much busier of late. So the real story is not that I haven't had what to say as much as that I haven't really had the time to say it. Which brings up another comment I have heard (said to my face):

Your posts are much too long.

And if you think it takes a while to read them, imagine what it takes to write them. A good post is like a good meal. It can take hours to cook up and only minutes to eat.

This being the case, if I have no time to cook, I am left with a few choices for my customers: (1) throw something into the microwave, (2) feed them leftovers, or (3) let them go hungry.

Options 1 and 2 did not seem too appetizing and I really did not want to turn my blog into a series of reruns so for the most part I defaulted to option (3). But since I don't want the blog to go totally defunct (just yet) and this is the week between Parshat Yisro and Mishpatim, I will go into rerun mode and refer my loyal readers (if only the anonymous fellow from Jan 18) to one of the most fundamental and insightful as well as fascinating Torah essays that I have written:

Ad K'dei Kach

It explains what G-d really wants from us in 10 easy lessons. Don't pass it up!

There is some fresh material (on stale topics) that I still hope to write but I need more time (and money!) Yet, there is some light at the end of the tunnel: if we don't see some action from our primary customer and soon, our company may fold.

Then I'll have plenty of time.